The cafeteria at Beulah Elementary School was packed Friday morning with students and their parents, grandparents or other caring adults who braved the autumn morning to enjoy books and breakfast together.
The event, Book & Breakfast, is offered six times throughout the year at Beulah Elementary, and about 250 people usually attend, Title I teacher Robin Dougherty said.
Students in pre-kindergarten through third grade attend and bring adults, and are able to choose a free book to take home with them from the event.
Lead Title I teacher Michelle Clements applied for and won a $7,392 First Book grant that will pay for 3,996 new books, or six books for each eligible student this year.
Children can choose between hard and paperback books, Dougherty said, and many of the books are winners of the Caldecott Medal for children’s book illustration.
Clements said she saw a combination of new and returning parents in the crowd, and the program may have broken its attendance record Friday.
“Beulah has a lot of good things going on here,” said Linda Rector, the school system’s Title I instructional specialist. There is a lot of parent involvement, she said.
This is the third year Clements has applied for and received the grant for Beulah, she said. She first heard about the grant through word-of-mouth, she said, after Dougherty ran into Trish Reed of First Book at Ukrop’s.
“Our mission is solely to provide children with books,” Reed said. “First Book helps children to build their own, personal library.”
“And, having their own books – it’s been shown to be such a huge factor in their future,” said Cindy Fentriss, also of First Book. “And, I’m so impressed with how many parents are here.”
The grants have allowed Beulah “to expand our literacy connection with home,” Clements said. “Parents, we feel, are truly appreciative of it,” she said, and, in the days leading up to a Book & Breakfast event, students can often be heard asking each other whether they’re going and who they’re bringing.
Student NyRiian Jiggetts was eating breakfast with his father, Ryan Jiggetts, Friday morning. Jiggetts said he usually comes to the Book & Breakfasts to support NyRiian’s reading.
“He reads every night,” he said. When asked if he had a favorite book, NyRiian flashed a shy smile and shook his head “No.”
Student Noah Comer, 5, had breakfast with his little brother, Jack, and his parents, Bob and Emily Comer. When asked why he wanted to come to the event, Noah said:
“Because we get to listen to a story and eat donuts. … and I even got my own book, and it was a Halloween book.”
Bob Comer said he was “blown away” by the event and the number of people in attendance.
“It’s exciting that he [Noah] has it [this event] and it’s also exciting that so many people are taking advantage of it,” said Emily Comer, a former teacher. “You need to read for everything.”
“And it’s so much better for creativity than watching TV,” Bob Comer said.
After the First Book grant was presented to Clements, Fentriss read a story to the students. Clements said parents often come to the school because “there’s a problem,” but the Book & Breakfast “is such a positive interaction.”
First Book is always looking for volunteers, Fentriss said, and those interested can contact her or Nancy Harmon. More information about First Book – Greater Richmond is available at www.firstbook.org/richmondva.
Clements said Beulah Elementary is also looking for volunteers to read to students.