In the final days of her 35-year career in education, Ann Marie Burley coordinated a gift for 300 students at Glyndale Elementary that she hopes will have a lasting impact on their literacy education.
With the support of a grant funded by the Literary Guild of St. Simons, Burley and other volunteers created individualized bags of KEEP Books for students in kindergarten and in first and second grades to take home for the summer.
The books are research-based, leveled books created by Ohio State University.
KEEP Books encourage students to add their own colors, and Burley’s gift for each student included a pack of pre-sharpened color pencils.
“I have used these books for over 20 years,” she said.
As an EIP (early intervention programs) teacher at Glyndale Elementary, Burley provided students with extra support in math and reading.
She also volunteers with the Literary Guild on St. Simons, which funded the grant in time for students to take the books home for the summer.
“They were very generous with their time,” Burley said. “They looked at the grant prior to the deadline so that it would coincide with students leaving with books in their hands. Typically the timeline for grants, they’re due in the summertime, and that didn’t coincide with our school calendar.”
Burley worked with Mary Jo Swiger, literacy coordinator for the school district, to determine the best use of the grant funds.
“She really thought it was important, and so do I, that the kids had a range of books so that if they did need a little bit of extra support over the summer or if they continued to read then they can move up and they would have books that were available in a range of levels,” Burley said.
Many students Burley worked with at Glyndale did not have books on their reading level at home.
It’s critical that students have access to books on their level, she said, especially when they’re out of school during the summer.
“For a lot of parents … even if they do have books in the home, to find books that are on their child’s independent reading level, that’s difficult to do,” Burley said. “So that was the main idea — to get books in their hands that they could keep.”
Students in second grade and younger are typically learning to read, whereas afterward they’re reading to learn new information. Reading teachers aim to make that transition possible by ensuring that students have access to books on their reading level.
The pandemic, which forced many students to spend months learning from home, may have led to some setbacks in the learning process of students.
“With COVID, it was just an extra stress on parents this year, especially last year when our students left in such a rush,” Burley said. “It was difficult to get those books in their hands.”
The literary guild also runs a book store at the St. Simons Island Casino and hosts a book sale twice a year. Supporting those efforts, Burley said, will benefit the St. Simons Library and other literacy education efforts in the community.
“The SSI Literary Guild generously funded the grant and accommodated the school calendar by considering the grant before students left for the summer,” Burley said. “I am grateful to President George Ragsdale and grant chair Susan Aronson for ensuring that students left with books in their hands. Both face-to-face and virtual students were included in the proposal.”