CLiF’s Year of the Book program is designed to increase enthusiasm for reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural kids, improve schools’ literacy efforts, increase family engagement in reading and writing, and create a community-wide culture of literacy. Each year, we award the grant to five elementary schools in New Hampshire and five schools in Vermont. This year, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Keene, NH was one of the schools chosen for the Year of the Book.

In their application, they wrote, “Students at the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School come from one of Keene’s poorest neighborhoods and are at higher risk than most. In addition to universal challenges with promoting and improving literacy, many of Franklin’s students face more trouble than most: 63% are on free or reduced-price lunch; 3.5% are homeless; many students experience or are exposed to trauma at home… All of these regularly reduce students’ availability for learning and can limit the support they receive at home in developing proficiency and interest in literacy skills.”

The Year of the Book provides creative ways for schools to promote and improve literacy skills, from field trips and special literacy initiatives to family events and LOTS of new books! The program provides new books for classrooms, the school library, the local public library, and ten new, high-quality books for each student to choose! Benjamin Franklin Elementary chose the theme of “Book a Trip: Reading Can Take You Anywhere!” to promote learning about different cultures.

During this school year, Benjamin Franklin students have experienced storytelling with Duncan McDougall, an event promoting the local library with author Sy Montgomery, a family literacy event with author/illustrator Marty Kelley, author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s Storykeepers genealogy workshop, and a visit from local author Sandra Neil Wallace.

Franklin Media Specialist Julie Odato says, “Right before school shut down, Franklin School was fortunate to host a visit with local Keene author Sandra Neil Wallace. The students were thrilled, not only by the book she shared, but by her life. They were impressed that she wanted to be an Olympic athlete, but changed her dream and became a reporter for ESPN. They were excited to wonder about who they would want to interview if they were a reporter. Several of the students expressed their surprise and disappointment that Ms. Wallace was bullied just because she was a woman. It was inspiring for Franklin students to make a connection with an author living and working in their own community. We were so fortunate to have Ms. Wallace come and visit.”

Due to COVID-19, the school’s scheduled visits with authors John Steven Gurney and Steven Swinburne aren’t happening this spring, but we look forward to continue to provide storytelling (though it may be virtual), books, and literacy support once school recommences.

Though it may look a little different next school year, we’ll still be bringing the Year of the Book to ten schools in New Hampshire and Vermont in the 2020-2021 school year. Check out our Year of the Book partners for next year.

Watch this video to learn more about the Year of the Book!

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