At the end of the last school year, I was faced with a rather large dilemma that boiled down to two questions: What do I want to cover? And how am I going to get the materials? These may seem like simple questions that experienced teachers would be able to tackle with confidence and adeptness, but they posed quite a challenge for me as a fairly new teacher with only 3 years’ experience. You see, the State of Tennessee Department of Education had just added a new course elective for ELA, Genre Literature, which I was scheduled to teach the coming fall semester. Being optimistic and rather easily excitable, I saw this opportunity as a small way to begin instilling within our students a love and passion for reading by exposing them to books they would normally never have access to or cover within the required English courses. As I saw it, my goal was to, fingers crossed, change the perception of reading—which is generally responded to with long, painful moans of exasperation—within the school a handful of students at a time. In my mind, I could see this passion for reading spreading through the school like the flu right before finals week. I was thoroughly thrilled.
After tackling my first question and coming up with a workable answer, I began working on my second question. Where was I going to get the funds to buy the classroom sets of books for my twenty plus students? I could see no feasible option, but then I came across the Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grant information on the Society’s website while looking up scholarship information for our upcoming seniors. Even though the grant specifically funds classroom libraries, I felt that the intention was the same, fostering literacy through exposure to reading materials which was my goal for the Genre Literature course. I applied and waited hopefully.
When I received the award email, my excitement knew no bounds. I could not wait to purchase the books for the class as well as books for my classroom library. If I purchased used books in good condition, I felt I could do both, really stretch every dollar. So a trip to McKay’s used book store and several orders from used book websites later, we began the semester. Though there were several times when I had to reassess my focus to work toward breaking down the resistance to reading, I felt that incremental movement was being made in at least some of the students. I could see small sparks of happiness and excitement during reading and discussions, igniting what I hope would begin a fire. Slowly but surely, the transformation was happening. At first, barely flickering, but by the end unmistakably kindled. The students in the class were talking about contemporary literature with the same ease as a social media post.
Now, sitting here reading over the course review responses my students completed after the final exam, I am again thrilled. Thrilled for the next opportunity to teach this course. Thrilled that I can see movement slowly toward my goal to change that perception schoolwide. Without the help of funds like those provided by the Classroom Library Grant through the Society, I would not have the chance to make my small contributions toward fostering literacy within our school and eventually our community.
Sigma Tau Delta Classroom Library Grants
Sigma Tau Delta’s Classroom Library Grants are designed to enhance the Society’s goals of
- promoting interest in literature and language in the surrounding communities;
- fostering all aspects of the discipline of English, including literature, language, and writing; and
- serving society by fostering literacy.
The Classroom Library Grants are also intended to support our members who have entered the field of teaching and need material support to help achieve these goals through their work in the classroom by providing their students with a library in their own classrooms, especially where access to school or public libraries or to books in the home may be limited.
The Society will award up to five grants of $400 each per year to help members of Sigma Tau Delta who have been teaching in the classroom for five years or fewer. That is, applicants may or may not be recent college graduates; the Classroom Library Grant is intended to help new teachers, whether in their first years out of college or in the first years of a second career, to build a classroom library for their students.
Criteria For Selection
In choosing recipients, the Classroom Library Grant Committee will consider the following criteria:
- lack of economic and geographic access to books at your school, or another demonstrated need;
- the explanation of how the classroom library envisioned will support your goals in alignment with the Society’s goals; and
- supervisory endorsement of your classroom library project.
Deadline and Dates
The deadline for 2020 applications will be November 9, 2020, 11:59 p.m. CST. Awards will be announced December 7, 2020.