Their hook about their love for books: “We are A.R. superstars. Read to succeed. That’s who we are.”
When you’re an Accelerated Reader (AR)* superstar like Peyton Forest Elementary’ s five-member Biker Boys group, you get to perform an original rap song (with a book in tote) about how you improved your Lexile levels at the grand opening of your school’s new media center.
On Feb. 15, Peyton Forest Elementary School unveiled its new 21st Century Learning Space, a transformation Principal Cynthia Gunner says was two years in the making.
In her first year as principal, Gunner says she focused on building an excitement for and culture of reading through school-wide initiatives. Word Wall Wednesdays has become a big hit. On the wall outside of media center, there are a slew of words at various reading levels. On Wednesdays, a student who approached an administrator and uses a word from the wall in a sentence is given a quarter to use at the school’s gumball machine.
In her second year as principal, Gunner says it’s all been about transition. Now that students were excited about reading, she wanted to take it up a notch. During the morning announcements, Gunner enthusiastically highlights a new book each day, thus encouraging students to visit the media center and check out books. Next, Gunner set her eyes on revamping the space that many students have come to love.
“The old media center was not child-friendly. It was not a collaborative space for kids. It was a place for adults to gather. My vision was a place that was a kids’ version of Starbucks,” Gunner said.
Media Specialist Lynair Alston can barely keep books on the shelves in the Free Little Library outside the school’s front entrance. Thankfully, Alston has enlisted the help of student book managers, who help restock the shelves and keep the library neat and clean.
The new 21st Century space includes an E-Book Station, where students can scan books to read on tablets; the WPFES News Station, where senior editor Brianna Chamblin (4th grader) edits the morning announcements; Tech Tourney, where students work on audio production and animation; a Book Club corner, where students are currently reading Matilda; and lots of nooks to simply read.
About 10 school leaders, including Kimberly Elementary principal Joseph Salley, Perkerson Elementary Principal Tony Ford, and Finch Elementary School Principal Forrestella Taylor, attended the grand opening to gain greater insight on how they can transform their media center into a 21st century learning space.
“If 75 percent of our kids read below grade level, how can it not be a priority,” Gunner said to her fellow school leaders. “If we’re saying reading is a priority, then our action and budget and goals have to be aligned.”
*Accelerated Reader is a computer-based program that monitors reading practice and progress. It helps guide students to books that are on their individual reading levels. Students take short quizzes after reading a book to access comprehension.