Laura Bush Foundation awards $6,000 grant to Green Forest school library

Friday, June 3, 2016

Green Forest Elementary School has received a $6,000 grant from the Laura Bush Foundation to update its library.

Bush, the former first lady, announced May 16 that the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries would distribute more than $831,000 to 130 school libraries from 30 states across the country this year.

Elementary librarian Carrie Reece said Green Forest is the only Arkansas school to receive the grant this year.

"I was thrilled to find out we received it. I applied back in November or December and kind of went on with my business," she said. "I was a little emotional when I found out we got it."

A press release says the foundation provides grants of up to $7,000 to help schools in need extend, update and diversify the book and print collections in their libraries. The goal of the project, the release says, is to encourage students to develop a love of reading and learning.

Reece said the grant will be helpful for the elementary library because the books get loved to death by the students. Many of the books are worn out or outdated, she said, especially materials on science, math and computers. Reece said she reached a point where the funds needed to replace and expand the library's collection went beyond what the regular school budget provides.

"I wanted to make sure this library stays vibrant, dynamic and up to date, so I decided to go ahead and write a grant to the Laura Bush Foundation," she said.

Reece said she had never written a grant before and did not expect it to work out as well as it did. She said she had to specify how much money the library needed and how she would spend it. The foundation also takes demographics into consideration, she said, such as the number of free and reduced-price lunch students at a school.

"I requested $6,000, and that's what they gave us. After looking at the recipients from last year, I thought we had a one in five chance," Reece said. "When I found out we got it, I just couldn't believe it. It's a wonderful gift."

She said updating the library's collection will help her with the classes she teaches. Reece said she has every student once a week so having access to the kinds of books she needs and the number she needs will improve her ability to give them learning strategies and lessons to expand their literacy, content knowledge and writing skills.

"These are skills they need to start developing now so by the time they get into high school and college they're ready to go," she said. "I worked in a college library for some time, so I've been on that end of it and this end."

Reece continued, "We really need to help students feel comfortable about writing and accessing information in an appropriate and effective way, and this is where we need to start."

She said she has not yet announced the news to the students because it was going to be her big surprise in the fall when she unveils the library's new books. Reece said she expects the students will clap and cheer over the news.

"I'll probably get hugged a lot. I wish the people that made this possible could get a hug, too," she said.

Reece continued, "These kids are at an age where they think libraries and books are awesome, so we want to keep that going. They're going to be thrilled."

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