By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — The brand new books poking out of an orange bucket in Jamie Chan's classroom were as irresistible as presents stuffed under a Christmas tree.
"Coming into this school year, I knew that creating a classroom library was just the highest priority," said Chan, who smiled as her students eagerly sifted through the bucket's contents Tuesday morning. "This is such a gift."
Titles such as "Hey, Little Ant," "Watch Me Throw the Ball," "The Polar Express" and many more had students saying, "Oh! Look!" and "Wow!" as they pointed to familiar titles and ones they had yet to explore.
"They're fun to read," said first-grader Gemma Lightfoot-Ward, who couldn't wait to read "Biscuit," an introduction to Alyssa Satin Capucilli's series that follows the adventures of a yellow Lab puppy.
The books were gifted to Chan's class through the Adopt A Classroom Library program of Opening Books, Opening Doors. It’s a community partnership with a commitment to ensuring students from kindergarten through third grade have access to books, which in turn fosters a love and ease of reading that will help them be successful in their academic and personal lives.
"Just adding to the variety of books is going to be exciting for them," said Chan, in her first year of teaching first grade.
Chan's was the ninth classroom to be "adopted" by a sponsor to help build classroom libraries in local schools. The donation was a gift from the American Association of University Women, represented by retired North Idaho College instructor Kristine Wold.
"A lot of us are retired teachers, so we really value education and reading," Wold said. "It's just so important that they have the early reading experience."
Reading is a crucial skill for students to have down by third grade, when they’re no longer learning to read but reading to learn.
"They are loving the new books. They are excited for reading time and getting to pick out books out of my library," said Winton Elementary third-grade teacher Cody Hensley, whose classroom library was recently adopted.
"I really do feel that the books have made an impact. It has given the students so many more options of books that they can read," he said. "Before I received the books, my library was really bare and the kids weren't overly thrilled about choosing books from my options. Now they have tons of options and books that they are truly interested in."
"It’s so fun to see their reactions,” said Marie Nail, project coordinator for CDA 2030 and Opening Books, Opening Doors.
"It’s so important to have choices in classroom libraries. Last year, my daughter had a teacher who was a brand new teacher and had a very minimal library, so it really is near and dear to me to be able to provide books for teachers who don’t have the budgets," she said. "And it’s super fun to see everybody’s reactions."
Opening Books, Opening Doors launched in 2017 and is anchored by a $600,000 grant from Innovia Foundation and other funders. Program manager Amy Voeller, who carried the books into Chan's classroom, said the looks on the kids' faces when they see the books "is amazing."
"It is exhilarating and reminds you why we’re all in this together," she said.
Ten more local classroom libraries are in need of sponsors. To donate or get involved, contact Nail at 208-415-0109.