Last summer Shannon Pizzuta applied for eight grants, one for each school in the Deptford Township district.
She ordered books from Scholastic’s website and organized them by grade level in her living room to provide the schools with little libraries, book nooks that are the result of a nationwide book sharing program.
“I divided them into eight boxes to make sure each library had a range of reading levels,” said Pizzuta, a sixth grade teacher at Oak Valley Elementary School.
The libraries currently have new pre-K through high-school reading level books that tackle a variety of different topics, including diversity and inclusion, social justice, equality, and mental health.
Pizzuta, who is also the Deptford Education Association’s second vice president, ordered the little libraries through LittleFreeLibrary.org.
“The purpose of these grants is to create a partnership with Deptford community members to ensure that families feel safe, welcome, and supported in our schools, ultimately increasing student achievement,” she explained.
The libraries were funded by the Deptford Education Association and New Jersey Education Association through a FAST grant, which stands for Families And Schools Together work for children. They took just over a week to complete and were installed by DEA members.
“Anyone in the community is welcome to walk or drive to the libraries anytime,” Pizzuta said.
Students and citizens can not only borrow a book from the library, but donate titles as well. Books are borrowed through the honor system, meaning people are trusted to return the books when finished without supervision.
Pizzuta has continuously made sure reading is a priority in Deptford. With the assistance of DEA members and more FAST grants, she also spearheaded 13 Drive Through Book and Breakfast events this year at the early childhood and elementary schools. Students were able to receive a free book as well as a bag of breakfast snacks.
“This has been a very tough year for everyone,” Pizzuta acknowledged. “We want to make sure our students know they are so loved and that we are incredibly proud of their hard work this year.”
The Deptford Middle School Library will be installed next year.
Upcoming FAST events include a Drive Through STEAM Night on Wednesday, May 26, at Pine Acres, and a Drive Through Family Game Night in June, with a date to be announced.
For more information about the libraries and upcoming events, visit the website at https://deptfordea.org/ or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DeptfordEducationAssociation/.