Five years ago in Springdale, Jones Elementary teacher Justin Minkel was looking for ways to improve the reading levels of his struggling second-grade students. After discovering the correlation between the number of books in children’s homes and kids’ long-term academic success, Minkel began the Home Library Project.
The Home Library Project encourages students to build their own collection of books at home. The program provides students approximately 20 books a year and allows students to bring a book back to school to swap it for a new one. Students’ home libraries have varied from decorated shoe boxes to designated shelf space on an existing bookcase. Minkel personalizes the program for each child, encouraging them to choose, and be excited about, their books.
Minkel began the program out of his own pocket and quickly witnessed the acceleration of reading and the love of books in his classroom. Minkel also started holding family literacy nights and buying books that were bilingual and in Spanish, so families could read together even if they did not speak English.
The Home Library Project quickly led to the most positive gains that Minkel has seen by students in one school year. By the end of the project's second year, his students had exceeded the district’s expectation for growth by an average of nine levels on the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) and five points on the computerized Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) reading test. These results led the principal to expand the Home Library Project to other classrooms throughout Jones Elementary School by partnering with Scholastic and using discretionary school funds to cover the costs.
The Home Library Project also gained recognition from Farmers Insurance’s Dream Big Challenge. The program, which gives grants to teachers who have made a positive difference in the lives of their students, awarded Minkel $100,000 to expand the project throughout Jones Elementary School and 11 schools in the region. The grant will provide almost 50,000 books for students’ home libraries.
Currently, Minkel is looking to expand the Home Library Project to a digital platform and a starter kit, making it easier for teachers that are newly implementing the program to receive support. Minkel’s goal for the program is to help children “live the life they dream.”