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Local Junior High teacher starts "iRead Revolution" and reopens school library

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A Junior High teacher & Principal decided to reopen a school library, and recruited volunteers from the community and area businesses to help make it a space to help students & teachers (WSYX/WTTE)

For quite some time at Harvest Preparatory school, students K-12 were sharing a library. Then, just before this academic year started, 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teacher Kelly Boggs and Upper School principal Andrew Mills decided to re-open the Upper School library just for students 7th through 12th grade.

“I didn't realize the task that we were taking on,” Boggs admits.

But beyond having the space and a few bookshelves, they were starting from scratch.

“Just going through books to reorganize was a big step that required lots of manpower because we were carrying books and moving them across the room, moving bookshelves. Just a lot of manual labor,” Boggs said.

She enlisted help from her family and recruited volunteers using Instagram.

“I just posted a picture on Instagram and said, ‘Look what we're doing in the library.’,” she explained. With each social media post she gained a new offer to volunteer from friends, staff, student’s parents and even former students.

“Just one volunteer after the next started coming in. And that's really how this happened because I couldn't have done it by myself.”

These volunteers did everything from organizing books, to scanning them into the computer, to assembling furniture.

Local businesses even stepped up to help. Yoders Inc. donated furniture and Floor Decor donated hardwood for the “poetry stage”.

In addition to traditional library items, they updated the space with smart boards and an iPad bar making this more than just a library. It’s an Academic Research Center (ARC).

“Teachers can bring their classes down here and they can work on group activities and group projects,” Mills said, “Plus, the ARC provides the opportunity for students to visit before school, at lunch, after school, during school, to basically conduct their own research as well.”

Eight months after their initial conversation, Boggs and Mills hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially mark the opening of the Harvest Preparatory School’s brand-new Academic Research Center.

“All the volunteers made this happen. We had no idea it would be this grand back in the beginning,” Boggs said.

Harvest Preparatory School (HPS), a private school located in Canal Winchester, is affiliated with World Harvest Church and was founded by Dr. Rod Parsley in 1986. Parsley, who is Mills’ uncle, cut the ribbon at the ceremony with his son Austin.

During his remarks, Parsley praised Boggs and Mills for their commitment to education and for encouraging students to open a book. “God believes so much in words and books, that He called His only begotten Son, the Word and gave us a book by which to live,” Parsley said. “I know if students learn to love these books, they will love His Book.”

For Boggs and Mills, opening the library is just part of a larger movement they began this school year called iRead Revolution. This initiative is focused on inspiring students to read for pleasure.

Boggs said she and Mills talked to the principal on several occasions saying, "My kids don't read, and, "How can I get them to read?"

Boggs said she realized what she should do only after reading Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.

“[Miller] just really inspired me to get kids reading in the classroom, to allow classroom time for them to read. Because if we give them time, they'll see that it's valuable and they'll be more likely to make time for reading at home.”

Mills agreed and, now, each day for 20 minutes during class, Boggs’ students read a book of their choice. If they have trouble finding a book they like, Boggs suggests different genres and books based on what she knows about them.

She even hosted a “Boggs Book Cafe” book tasting, complete with checkered tablecloths and a waitress uniform. She explained on Instagram that during the “tasting” her 8th grade students decided which Holocaust biography catches their attention.

It’s this type of creativity and commitment that has gotten her results.

“Well, I have kids that came in on the first day of school, you know. And I asked them, ‘What do you like to read? What's the last book you've read?’ “ Boggs reminisced. “Several of them said, ‘I don't like to read. There's nothing that interests me.’ She made a point to “feed them books.” Non-fiction and fiction and books in different genres to say, "Try this. You don't like this, try that."

Now, she says, because of the daily in-class reading requirement, she has noticed the students are “actually reading” in class.

“The awesome reward is when the kids that said at the beginning of the year that they didn't like to read that they now say, ‘Mrs. Boggs, I think I might like to read a little bit.’ And I'm thinking, "Yes! [The work I’m doing is] worth it. It's worth it."

Boggs, a wife and mother of two elementary school aged children has this advice for other parents who want to encourage their child to read:

“One thing that I do is read in front of them. If you're always saying, ‘You need to read, you need to read,’ they never see you read, then your child is going to think it’s unimportant. Read with your child. Have them read out loud. Take turns reading. Discuss what you’re reading at dinner or while you’re making dinner, on the way home from school. Chances are, your child will find it important if you find it to be important.”

For more information about Harvest Preparatory School visit HarvestPrep.org.

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