GF K-8 libraries named Outstanding Media Program of the Year
By Kelby Newcomb
The Arkansas Association of Instructional Media (AAIM) has announced that the Green Forest K-8 media centers and library media specialists Carrie Reece and Vicki Brown have been named the Outstanding Media Program of the Year.
According to the press release from AAIM, this award is given to members of AAIM who have initiated or promoted an outstanding media usage program. Reece and Brown’s program was nominated by elementary principal Danette Chaney and intermediate principal Chandra Anderson, the release says, and the principals wrote in their nomination that Reece and Brown “provide a wealth of reading engagement opportunities to build readers and support reading at school, home and the community at large.”
The release says Chaney and Anderson also commended how Reece and Brown “work closely together to provide seamless K-8 services as they bring the world to our students and our students bring their world to what they read.”
Reece and Brown were presented with their awards Monday, April 29, at AAIM’s annual conference awards luncheon in Rogers.
“I’m still really overwhelmed,” Brown said. “I never thought we would win after writing everything down and documenting what we do at K-8. We do a lot of collaboration between buildings and we try to make everything seamless, but we never once dreamed we would be chosen.”
Chaney said Green Forest faculty has a great team spirit.
“A lot of times we focus on what the teachers do,” she said, “and we forget about our extra activity teachers, but they bring a lot of academic instruction into the library. A lot of times people think students go there to check out a book and away they go.”
Chaney said Reece will coordinate with the teachers and plan her instruction around what they’re doing in their classrooms.
“They have all the kids,” Anderson said. “There are very few of our students that they don’t see.”
“We have them for several years, which is important,” Reece said. “We get to know them very well and get to understand their needs very well.”
Anderson said they provide great opportunities for the students, such as bringing in authors or having Skype visits with them.
“That’s something that is really impactful and meaningful to those kids,” she said. “First, they get them excited about some of the books that they’re reading, and then they let them meet the authors who wrote them. That’s a really neat thing.”
With the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE), Brown said the goal is to make sure she and Reece are putting a book in children’s hands when they bring authors to the school.
“Statistically, if a child has more books at home in their own home library,” she said, “they will read better. Our goal is to make sure we get books in the home.”
In addition to handing out books at the author visits, Brown said they coordinate with the principals to send books home with students at the end of the school year.
“We make sure with our principals that we have books going home,” she said, “so we don’t have the summer slide.”
Reece said she and Brown also help the students develop research skills, beginning with some hands-on activities in elementary.
“In third grade, we start writing about it,” Reece said, “and by fourth grade they’re ready for Vicki to go more in-depth and expand and deepen that research.”
Chaney and Anderson said Reece and Brown work great together and bring that coordination to the K-8 media program.
“If Carrie is not in her library doing something,” Chaney said, “I know she’s probably over at Vicki’s library and they’re working together.”
“I see them together all the time,” Anderson said, laughing.
“They don’t leave each other out either,” Chaney said. “If something is going on in [Reece’s] library, she’ll say ‘This is what we’re doing, and you might try to incorporate it this way.’ ”
Reece said she keeps track of her students even after they leave the building and enter Brown’s program.
“If she thinks there are a few where I need to have a little peek into their world before they come to me,” Brown said, “I come over and meet with them.”
She said her relationship with reading had a rocky beginning. During her elementary years, Brown said she was placed in the Blackbird reading group for low level readers. She said she was “bit by the reading bug” in high school when she signed up for two magazine subscriptions and a book-of-the-month club on a whim. Brown said she “was instantly hooked and never looked back.”
Brown said she believes strongly that anyone can succeed when they are given the opportunity to increase their vocabulary and research on their own. She said she builds this confidence in her students by allowing them to “pave their own literary path with primary resources, self-selected reading, self check-in and check out, author Skype sessions, micro-bits and book clubs.”
Reece said she developed a passion for reading, writing and books early on, and, with her mother’s help, put words to her first illustrated story at age 4. She is also a budding grant writer. In 2016, she was a recipient of the Laura Bush Foundation Grant and last spring received a Carroll County Community Foundation Grade Level Reading (GLR) grant, which enabled her to facilitate an after-school literacy-based science enrichment program that served 233 students.
She said she “loves her students with all her heart” and is deeply committed to moving them forward with regards to their literacy, academic, cognitive and socio-cultural needs and interests.