Moderation state
Grant Applicant
Katie Santos
Grant Category
Grant Date

“Students will read if we give them the books, the time, and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so. If we make them wait for the one unit a year in which they are allowed to choose their own books and become readers, they may never read at all.” ― Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.

Middle schoolers at SELS have proven to be voracious readers. We have adapted ideas from Donalyn Miller’s book The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child to open up the world through literature. It has been wildly successful, with the average reader completing a book per week, some even more. The real key to success is having a library full of diverse and engaging literature from all genres to share and intrigue students. With students reading so many books from so many different genres, we are finding that we need more variety to keep up with their pace.

I have carefully vetted a list of books to add to our library. We use a free checkout system called Booksource, which inventories the classroom library and then suggests books to balance the library for ethnicity, subject matter, and freshness. I also took a look at which genres I am requiring students to read but don’t have as wide of variety to offer to them. Lastly, I gave the students a say in what books they have read, enjoyed, and would recommend to their friends. This last source is by far the most powerful.

Benefits of Program

Every middle school student at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School will benefit from a middle school library. When given the freedom to choose their own books, even the most resistant students become readers! These books are a source to be shared with the whole middle school. While we store the books in the 7th-grade room, I have 6th and 8th graders picking through the library and borrowing books. Giving students the agency to choose what they read gives them the desire to read more. The requirements to read from many different genres provide them with the challenge and variety to push past ruts and niches. They learn that there are many kinds of books they enjoy beyond where they naturally gravitate.

Success of Program

The students know my two goals for this challenge very well: first, they would read A LOT, and second, they would ENJOY it. Inevitably at the beginning of this challenge, I have students and at least one parent explain to me how they can’t do it. They tell me they are not good enough readers or don’t enjoy reading, so they will fail; after all, reading a book per week is a huge undertaking. At the end of the year, when asked if they met the two goals, every student can verify that they read more this year than ever before and found many books that they enjoyed. Students appreciate being able to read whatever books they want and being given the time to do so. As a teacher, it delights my heart that the students’ preferred reward is time to read. “As soon as you’re finished with this assignment, you can read your book” is a consistent motivation to finish work in this classroom.


Using techniques described in The Book Whisperer, students will be asked to challenge themselves to read about one book per week.  Students are allowed time and space to read at their own pace.  Students are allowed to choose their own books but will be asked to read at least one book from each of the following genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Traditional Literature, Poetry, Informational, and Biography/ Autobiography/ Memoir.

Students are also required to write about their reading. They can choose from a wide variety of prompts to engage with their reading and play with language. These prompts include arguing for or against the character’s choices, rewriting the end of the book, and giving the characters advice in difficult situations. Students have other assignments, such as writing book recommendations on Common Sense Media for the general public to use.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

This library will be accessed and used by all students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade crews.  Students are begging for more books to share, and we anticipate needing to have 70-75 novels checked out at any given time.  In addition, these books will serve students in our middle school for years to come and will be added to throughout the coming years.

This grant will be fully sustainable. Our class has a good start to the library but needs updated books. This grant is to be used to diversify the library. For example, I have many World War II books in historical fiction, but not many from the medieval period that we study. This grant will also be used to freshen up the library and get recently released titles.
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$480 - Books (See PDF for individual titles and prices)
Other funding sources

Yes- I talked to the principal, and he suggested this grant. We will also use the money raised in the annual Bear Walk. This money is used for any extras that we need for classrooms and is limited, especially at the middle school level where we earn considerably less than at the elementary level.