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Hyper-Local Library

Featured Photo from Hyper-Local Library

Stenstrom Elementary teacher builds a library where her students need it the most.

Stenstrom Elementary School teacher Nicki Clausen-Grace saw a need and decided to meet it head-on. Nicki estimated that about 10 percent of the students at Stenstrom faced a serious literacy challenge, one that put their entire futures at risk. A huge proponent of family involvement with a background in literacy, Nicki wanted to find a better way for the students’ families to easily gain access to books over the summer and throughout the school year.  

In order to help provide a large resource for reading opportunities, Nicki received a grant from the GFWC Oviedo Woman’s Club and built a lending library in the apartment complex where many Stenstrom families live.

To make the library even bigger, Nicki spread the word about her lending library idea via social media and reached out to local publishers. Nicki received more than 1,000 book donations that now line the library’s shelves. The lending library was a popular stop over the summer, and Nicki says the response has been amazing. 

“There is nothing better than to see kids excitedly looking through a bookshelf and feeling competitive about getting the titles they want,” says Nicki. “That’s the coolest thing ever.”

“Nicki has done an incredible job getting donations and organizing an onsite library,” says Janet Garzia, Stenstrom’s principal, who has supported Nicki’s effort from the beginning. “We want to give all our students the opportunity to have equal access to books and reading. Providing an onsite lending library makes books accessible and convenient for our families living in the apartment complex.”

In addition to the lending library, Nicki, Janet, and a team of Stenstrom teachers recently hosted a Family Literacy Night at the complex. The event provided tips on reading engagement, and another Literacy Night scheduled for September will focus on how parents can create a positive learning and homework environment in their homes. 

“Many of the families in the area cannot attend evening events at the school due to transportation or babysitting concerns,” says Janet. “Our onsite Family Literacy Night events will provide these families an opportunity to learn ways parents can help their children be more successful in school.”

Stenstrom staff also hopes to provide families with donated school supplies so they will have all the resources they need in their learning spaces at home.  

Looking ahead, Nicki and her team plan to continue Family Literacy Nights throughout the school year. 

“We want to promote the eagerness to read and provide time without technology where the children are relaxed and reading,” says Nicki. “We want to make sure children understand what a difference it makes when you read every day, especially over the summer, and how much better they will do when school starts.” 

Nicki will also continue to keep the lending library full with book donations. She also plans to further promote the library to other children who live nearby. 

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