Rowland Unified School District

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New School Library is a Real Wonder

New school library is a real wonder

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer (Highlander 10/11/2007)


"We read, read, read, read, read, read, read in our library the whole day through.

"To read, read, read, read, read, read, read is what we like to do."

Snow White and the seven dwarfs may not be singing this song at the Oct. 11 opening of the Wonder of Reading Library at Villacorta Elementary, but they certainly helped pay for it.

Or to be more precise, Disney helped fund the shiny new library in the Rowland Unified School District.

"This is the second library we've helped. Last year, we sponsored Burton Street Elementary in Panorama City," said Joan McCarthy, director of community relations for Disney Worldwide Outreach.

"A love of reading is important. Storytelling is what Disney is all about," McCarthy explained.

Too bad Snow White and the dwarfs couldn't attend the grand opening.

The little men would be impressed by the towering new bookcases lining the walls. Well, most of them would be — Grumpy doesn't like anything.

And Bashful might be a little too timid to check out some of the $10,000 worth of new books purchased to fill the massive book shelves.

Happy would love all the stuffed animals sharing shelf space with the toddler's tomes. And Dopey would be glad to know that the library plans to train 50 volunteer tutors to read one-on-one with the students.

Doc would be pleased with the expansive collection of books reflecting off his glasses. Sneezy wouldn't have anything to sniffle at in the spanking clean library.

Sleepy could nod off with a good book in the cozy reading nook. And Snow White would definitely be charmed by the neat, orderly appearance of the whole facility.

Seven Villacorta students who stopped by for a sneak peek at the latest Wonder of Reading facility definitely were amazed about Disney's benevolence.

"This is much better than our old library was," said a happy Jasmine Ye.

The 10-year-old fifth-grader from West Covina added that reading is much more interesting than television and video games.

Her pal Adrian Chavez agreed, as the girls selected two "Harry Potter" books and read them on the reading steps that teachers will use for story time.

Eleven-year-old Alyssa Ramirez wants to become a "doc," well, actually a veterinarian. The sixth-grader proudly noted that she's already read nine chapters of her 36-chapter book.

The animal section of the library also intrigued 10-year-old Isaura Gonzalez. The sixth-grader loves animals, especially her pet Chow named Chowchy.

Stephanie Buenafe, 10, of West Covina couldn't wait to check out her first books. She was impressed with the wide selection.

"Books let you use your imagination. They take you into another world," said the fifth-grader, who likes to read about wizards.

Steven Hermosillo thinks that wizards are a little dopey. The 10- year-old prefers to read about sports and Scooby-Doo.

Librarian Barbara Wallace will play "Snow White" to the 700 students at Villacorta Elementary in La Puente. She will keep order in the new library.

"I never imagined that the new library would be this beautiful," said Wallace, who has been the school librarian for eight years.

"Our first library was tiny and didn't have many books. This one will have 4,000 to 5,000 books for the kids to choose from," Wallace said.

Principal Elaine Ganiko explained the district gutted two old classrooms to make the library. Construction began shortly before school let out last summer.

Ganiko said Villacorta applied for a grant from The Wonder of Reading group a year ago. This nonprofit organization is helping elementary schools throughout Southern California.

The groups uses a 3R Program: Renovate, Restock and Read. First, it renovates a school's library, doubling the library space to include story steps for group reading, individual work stations for tutoring, and a cove for quiet reading. The renovations include new carpet, paint, window treatments and book shelves.

Then it restocks the library's collection with $10,000 worth of new books.

And finally, it helps the school train volunteers to read one-on-one with students who are struggling readers. Volunteers help students an hour a week during the school day for the entire school year.

"Even my retired husband, Danny, has volunteered to read to our students," Ganiko said.

The whole school has been busy raising money for its new library. In the Bucks For Books campaign, the school raised $1,000 by collecting loose change.

Students who raised more than $15 had their names added to a bookplate in front of a new book. Alyssa proudly showed the book "Double Trouble" that had her name in it.

Vice Principal John Martinez raised money by dressing up as the "Cat In The Hat" for pictures with the children.

And parents can join the Birthday Club by purchasing a new book for the library. A volunteer will then go to their child's classroom to read a birthday story.

This is the third Wonder of Reading library in Rowland Unified, with more to come. By the end of the year, the Wonder-ful organization will have renovated 187 libraries, purchased more than $2 million worth of books, and trained more than 5,000 volunteers.

Now that would make even Grumpy smile.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801

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