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“Reading quality books makes for quality learning” is the message West Shore Community College’s students taking the Winter Reading Methods class used as their theme to successfully earn $1000 in new library books for the Shelby Middle School library. The WSCC students applied for a grant from the Oceana Community Foundation to acquire the books, making a compelling case that learning social studies can be much more powerful and effective if students have engaging books to read.

“The research my students have done clearly shows that great books can make a huge difference,” said Seán Henne, WSCC professor of english and education. “I’m very proud of them!” Henne gave his students the grant writing assignment after meeting Shellie Dorman, Shelby Middle School’s special education teacher, at a Literacy Network meeting last fall. “Shellie was so passionate about the need to get help acquiring good books and strengthening the library,” Henne said, “and she was wonderful meeting and working with my students to facilitate the grant.”

Henne’s students spent the month of April researching what kinds of text-based practices best supported the teaching of social students. As requested by Jessica Danielson, the SMS principal, they focused specifically on books to aid the learning of history and geography. “I am so excited for our students to have access to new print materials that will aid in their learning,” stated Danielson. “We appreciate the students of WSCC writing this grant for us, the financial donors of the grant, and to Ms. Dorman for her leadership in making student learning our top priority here at Shelby Middle School. Our students and teachers will utilize these materials to enhance educational practices.”

Lillian Mickevich led the project as WSCC’s Future Teacher’s Club president. In her part of the grant-writing, she wrote, “[textbooks] can be hard to understand because [they] contain gaps, but historical fiction allows for a smooth flow of understanding, knowledge, and imagination. As the child reads the story, they get immersed in the culture and events, which allows them to truly understand what is happening in that time and place.”

In awarding Shelby Middle School, the grant attracted support from two Oceana Community Foundation donor advised fundholders, Gary & Mary Ann Peterson “Grandpa & Grandma Pete” Memorial Fund and the William R. Lathers Foundation Fund.

“It’s quite lovely, really,” Henne said, “all the layers of partnership that made acquiring these books possible, from the generous donors, through the Ocean Community Foundation itself and its Youth Advisory Council, the SMS staff, and the cheerful energy of my students who worked on it.”

This coming fall, Shelby Middle School and WSCC plan to partner on a “Literacy Night” at the middle school to unveil the books and introduce them to the school’s staff, students, and the wider community. Dorman says, “It’s exciting to offer students a new variety of books. When they read more, they learn empathy for other’s differences.”

To learn more about the Oceana Community Foundation, visit oceanafoundation.org. To register for classes, visit westshore.edu.