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From left, Marlboro Elementary School parent Jess Weitz, school librarian Rochelle Garfinkle, and Principal Francie Marbury are helping develop programming for “The Year of the Book.”

Town and Village

Marlboro Elementary School wins literary grant, plans ‘Year of the Book’

For more information or to participate in the programs, contact Jess Weitz at

MARLBORO—Marlboro Elementary School staff are planning a rich roster of events for 2016 and 2017 to celebrate the Year of the Book.

In March, the Marlboro Elementary School won a $25,000 literacy grant from the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) for the 2016/2017 school year. The “Year of the Book” grant provides funding for literacy programs, events, support, professional development, and new books.

Parent Jess Weitz is coordinating the Year of the Book events with Principal Francie Marbury, Rochelle Garfinkel, librarian and tech support at the school, fifth/sixth-grade teacher Pam Burke, and parent Robin MacArthur.

A wide variety of reading-friendly events and educational activities are in store for students.

As part of the programming, Garfinkel is working on a “book-tasting” event, where she will pick books from a wide range of interests, arrange them on a table in the library, and set a timer. Students will have a few minutes to begin reading whatever book is in front of them. At the end of each round, they can note whether they want to return to the book after the event. Then they pass the book on to the next student.

It’s kind of like speed dating, but the intended love affair is between children and books.

During the first week in October, the students will travel to the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington for a collaborative program called “Words Come Alive,” Weitz said.

The program uses movement and theater in a kinesthetic learning experience “to help kids get into the book” by involving their whole body in the experience, Weitz said.

On a similar note, Garfinkle plans to hold a “story walk,” where she and the children will “deconstruct” a book by turning an area in the school into the setting of the book, allowing the kids to “walk through” the story.

“We can do ‘Hansel & Gretel’!” Marbury suggested. “I’ll be the witch!"

In a news release, CliF said the sponsorship “supplements literacy curricula at schools with high percentages of students scoring below state standards on reading and writing tests and high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The grant aims to build a culture of literacy in these communities by working with schools, families, town libraries, and even local businesses to inspire a love of reading and writing amongst children."

CLiF, founded in 1998, is a nonprofit organization with a mission to nurture a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural children in New Hampshire and Vermont. Marlboro Elementary was one of nine Vermont and New Hampshire schools to win this year’s grants from the Waterbury Center organization.

Weitz noted Marlboro Elementary “is a very small school to get this grant,” but the award amount “is the same size for us as it would be for a larger school."

“It’s a huge amount for such a little school,” Weitz said.

An aspect of the grant Garfinkel, Marbury, and Weitz said they were most impressed by is the hands-on nature of CLiF.

They were invited to a conference to learn about the grant and meet other past and current recipients, the school received a “big binder” filled with low-cost literacy projects for schools, and CLiF representatives will visit Marlboro Elementary in the coming year to work with staff and students.

“They want to extend this relationship beyond the [grant] year, and keep literacy going” in the school, Weitz said.

In addition to the new relationship, Marlboro Elementary’s library will receive $1,000 to buy new books, and each classroom will get $700 in new books.

“CLiF sends boxes of high-quality new books,” Marbury said. “These books are not based on television shows or toys."

As an organization, CLiF “stays on top of the research in good books,” Marbury said.

“Nearly every month, the kids go home with a book,” funded by the CLiF grant, Weitz said, noting that by the end of the year, each student will have 10 to 12 new books for their home library.

For some children, those may be the only books they have, she said. The town has no public library, and for many families, the cost of joining Brattleboro’s Brooks Memorial Library as an out-of-towner is prohibitive, Weitz said.

“We would love to generate enough interest” through the Year of the Book, and the school library’s summer hours, “to maybe have a public library,” Marbury said.

Many of the Year of the Book events will weave into yearly school traditions, such as Hogback Day, held in May, when students visit the mountain to learn about their surroundings in the natural world.

Weitz said local author, illustrator, and naturalist Jim Arnosky will work with the classes in preparation for 2017’s Hogback Day.

“The Year of the Book is not an add-on,” Marbury said. “We’re connecting it to things already happening. It’s the icing, not the cake."

Other activities the grant team is planning include author/illustrator visits and residencies, some of which may be like seminars, Weitz said, where parents and students can come to the school for a free meal and the chance to meet the author.

After the presentations, students will be able to take home the authors’ books for free.

“CLiF supports food and prizes to help generate enthusiasm for the event, and to create the warmth and connection of reading books,” Weitz said. “Even if folks don’t feel enthusiasm for books, they can show up for dinner and get drawn into the books."

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Originally published in The Commons issue #360 (Wednesday, June 8, 2016). This story appeared on page C3.

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