Entering West Oso Elementary School’s new library for the first time, third grader Penelope Lopez gave it a 10 out of 10.
“Reading is my favorite subject,” said Penelope.
On Thursday night, the school unveiled a refurbished space with colorful wall murals, games, puzzles and dolls, art space, reading space and of course bookshelves.
“We love it so much,” Penelope said enthusiastically, leaning over the chessboard with her little sister.
“Especially this room (the main library) and the playroom,” said Ellany Lopez, who won’t be attending school until next year but is already excited about the library.
Oso West Elementary School was one of several libraries in the region celebrating renovations this month. Others include Shaw Corpus Christi ISD Elementary School and RA Hall Beeville ISD Elementary School.
Schools in Corpus Christi, Aransas County, Banquet, Driscoll, Freer, George West, Odem Edroe, Pawnee, San Diego, Three Rivers and Tuuloso Midway ISD will also be celebrating completed projects in the coming weeks and months.
All of the projects that will continue over the next two years at 54 schools in South Texas are the result of a grant to the Center for Educational Services, Region 2. Seventeen of them will be completed this year.
Last year, the Regional Service Center received a three-year, $8.1 million LEARN IT grant from the US Department of Education’s Innovative Literacy Program. LEARN IT stands for Excellence in Literacy and Academic Readiness to Nurture Innovative Thinkers.
ESC-2 spends about $2.6 million a year – about $125,000 for repairs. Schools also receive an additional $10,000 to purchase books and study materials.
“It’s completely different than it used to be,” said West Oso Elementary School librarian and media specialist Deborah Gibbs. “If something wasn’t already attached to the wall, it was moved.”
Gibbs looked at the students to decide which books to buy. The children completed their wish lists with the authors and genres they were most interested in.
For about a year, while the library was closed for renovations, a constantly changing collection of books was kept in the classroom for the students to enjoy.
If they have requested a particular book, Gibbs said they will be the first to review it.
“They’ve been waiting for this all year,” Gibbs said. “They asked when they would get the books.”
Fifth grader Jessalyn Fillmore, who says her favorite book of late has been a book about Martin Luther King Jr., is also a fan of the new library.
“I love it because I can read here and have fun,” Jessalyn said. “(Books) give me more details about real life stories.”
In the corner of one room there are steps with plush toys placed at the top. Jessalyn said this would probably be her favorite place to read because it looks quiet and peaceful.
Fifth grader Sophia Gonzalez works as a library assistant at the school, which means she saw the library a little earlier than her peers when she volunteered to unpack books.
“It was big, it didn’t have all the furniture yet, and the shelves were torn off the walls,” Sophia said.
Parent Jennet Gonzalez was impressed with the new library.
“Reading is fundamental to everyone,” Gonzalez said. “(The library) is very spacious and has a lot of places to read.”
ISD West Oso interim superintendent Kimberly Moore said the library is designed to encourage children to read.
“One of the most important determinants of success in school is a student’s ability to read, and I’m telling you that the library you see tonight will make kids want to read,” Moore told parents at an event on Thursday.
The promotion of reading and literacy is the main goal of the ESC-2 library’s efforts.
“The importance of renovating the library is to support students by creating a friendly, inviting environment that encourages children to come, sit down and learn to read,” said ESC-2 Executive Director Esperanza Zendejas.
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