Elementary program that lets kids choose, own books expands to entire district

Elliot Weinbaum
Photo credit Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Kids, of course, have access to their class textbooks and school library, but with the launch of a project in 10 Philly schools, kindergarten through third-graders have been able to pick out books they're truly interested in — and keep it in their personal home library.

Now, with a $1.3 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, the program is expanding to all 150 elementary schools within the School District of Philadelphia over the next four years.  

"We have supported the building of classroom libraries. This takes it to the next level and gives students the opportunity to choose a book that they're really excited about," explained Elliot Weinbaum, program director for the William Penn Foundation's education program. "To make it their own, to bring it home and to build those home libraries."

The program — run by the Book Trust, a Denver-based nonprofit — allows young students to pick one to three books every month of the school year from a select list.

During the 2017-18 school year, the Book Trust delivered approximately 900,000 books to 55,000 students across 21 participating states. 

Book Trust President and CEO Tiffany Kuehner announced the grant expansion at Gilbert Spruance Elementary School in Oxford Circle Monday, where she said owning a book is a powerful experience for children.

"Once they open that book and understand that those books are theirs to keep — that they own something at a very early age — we see that it really creates that inspiration for reading and learning and allows them to become lifelong learners," she said.