Mountain Statesman | Rotarians helping to expand the minds of tomorrow at TCMS

PRUNTYTOWN—A school library is so much more than a place to look at books, it serves as a jumping-off point for students to expand their minds and escape their normal lives.

Noting the importance of having a variety of books for students to engage their minds, the Grafton Rotary Club recently made a donation of $2,000 worth of books to the Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) Library.

“One of the seven areas of focus in Rotary is basic education and literacy,” said Rotarian Ed Westfall. “So, this was an easy fit.”

Through grant funding, the Rotary Club was able to purchase and provide TCMS with 125 new books, that would help students in growing their minds.

“We were able to do this with a matching grant through the Rotary foundation,” Westfall explained. “We received a grant for $1,000, and we, the club, matched that with another $1,000 that we made during our annual jelly bean sale, the sale of French fries at the Taylor County Fair or our other fund raising projects that club holds.”

Once the funding was secured, Westfall reached out to the TCMS administration to seek approval for the project.

The green light was given and contact was made with the school’s librarian Lynn Conti, who provided a list of both wanted and needed books to Westfall, who then made the purchases.

“Mrs. Conti did a great job of selecting books that she needed and soliciting other needs from the rest of the faculty to help pick out books,” Westfall voiced. “Based on her needs for her library, she picked out almost all nonfiction reads, because she thought that was where the library needed some extra help.

Conti noted that when she took over as librarian, the focus was to bring in fiction pieces that would appeal to the youths at the school, however now that genre has been built up, her focused changed once again.

“When Principal [Scott] Hage and I came in over the summer to first talk about this, he asked where our older books were and what our greatest need was,” Conti revealed. “And I actually paused, and I said ‘well, the nonfiction section,’ and that’s where we decided to focus.”

With selections centered on math, science and history, TCMS students can continue to learn and excel in those subjects. Conti also chose some books that boast West Virginia folklore, facts and even ghost stories, as well as a various other topics.

“This would have taken me years to accumulate this number of books,” Conti disclosed. “We have a little bit of everything, and we always have a running list of ‘do you take ideas’ books.”

She explained that teachers and students will come in to ask about specific types of books, and she complies a list of books to try and secure.

In fact, the literature that the library had concerning trains was old and in poor shape, so through this program, she was able to obtain new, large volumes about the topic.

“I mean, how do you live in a place rich in railroad history and not have adequate books about trains,” she jested.

“I’m just excited to have books that I think are engaging, because we had some older books on our shelves, and there’s nothing wrong with older books, but for the students, there’s also that aesthetic visual draw and these bring that,” With you voiced.

In fact, when eighth grade students had visited the library, they had already started to stake their claim over some of the new books, something that Conti shared was thrilling for her.

She said the middle school years are a crucial turning point in the lives of students where recreational reading is concerned, so having books that would engage them was vital.

“When they come up from fifth grade readers, they’re still very eager, but as they age, sometimes the desire fades,” she explained. “Middle school is where we lose our readers, and to have them fuel that fire, in grades fifth through eighth, now you’re starting to talk about lifelong readers.”

Westfall shared that TCMS was their school of choice for this particular project because he felt that it held the age groups where the biggest impression could be made.

“I just like the collaboration with the Rotary Club and what it’s doing for our students, and I love that you guys are willing to give back to us and that we’re here for you to give back to,” expressed Hage. “I’m just so glad that we have kids that are willing to come in and put hands on books, and that’s all because of what Mrs. Conti is done and the environment she’s created in the enthusiasm she brings every day.”

Conti shared she was beyond happy to receive the generous contribution from the Rotary Club of Grafton.

And while 125 new books are an amazing addition to the library, Conti revealed that there is always room for new literature. In fact, she has created an Amazon Wish List that individuals may use to donate books.

Those wishing to make a contribution to the minds of tomorrow may do so by visiting https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2TSEEYIWCAFGE?ref_=wl_share.

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