Buy the book: St. Rita Catholic School library awarded $5,000 grant
FORT WORTH — The first chapter of this story begins with a comment from a visitor.
Kristy Webb, director of Catholic school development with the Advancement Foundation, visited St. Rita Catholic School and mentioned to librarian Robin Bolliger and Principal Mary Burns that the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries offers a $5,000 grant to schools for library books.
Burns said to Bolliger, “Write that down.”
The two looked into the grant and found good news and bad news. First, Catholic schools were eligible, but the January 29 deadline loomed near.
Bolliger and Burns enlisted help to write the grant application. Burns said Emily Harrison, an alumna, school parent, and former language arts teacher at St. Rita, had in-depth knowledge of the school that helped depict the school’s substance and needs.
After submitting the application, they waited. Award winners were to be notified in April.
On April 29, Burns received an email informing her that the school would receive the grant. She was so thrilled that she interrupted the faculty meeting to share the good news.
Librarian Robin Bolliger’s eyes light up and her words tumble out quickly when she starts describing what $5,000 will do for the library.
“We don’t get a lot of new books, unless they are donated,” Bolliger explained. That’s why the $5,000 grant will have a big impact on the library shelves at the east Fort Worth school.
The grant’s timing is especially opportune. In a normal year, St. Rita’s small library budget derives from proceeds of book fairs. In a pandemic year, no book fairs were scheduled.
Equipping a library for children from pre-K3 through eighth grade is a challenge at any school. A collection ranging from picture books to teen novels is required to match interests and reading abilities as students develop.
According to Burns, St. Rita has a couple of extra challenges.
The diversity at St. Rita makes for a beautiful community that Burns and Bolliger want to reflect in its assortment of books. In addition to native Texans, the school educates multicultural students with backgrounds from Vietnam, Africa, Latin America, and Myanmar. Bolliger plans to purchase some books written by or about those cultures.
A second challenge, Burns explained, is that some students who enroll at St. Rita in the higher grades arrive with reading deficits. “We want books that draw in the struggling reader,” said Burns. “Our teachers are great at finding out what their hobbies are, their interests, their passions, then trying to find the right book for the student.”
This story won’t conclude when the school year ends. In conversations with her pupils throughout her career, Burns has determined that many students have few books at home. This year, like every year, St. Rita school library keeps summer hours so students can read happily ever after.