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A New Grant Fills Denton County Schools With Books

Marci Pritts
United Way of Denton County
Rivera Elementary staff and students with their new books.

Schools in Denton County just received a $17,000 grant that will re-stock library shelves at 42 low-income schools and childcare centers. The program called the OMG Book Grant will put almost 5,600 new volumes into circulation.

The grant came about from a collaboration among the United Way of Denton County, First Book, the Denton County Workforce Success Leadership Team and the Early Childhood Coalition.

“As one of the fastest growing counties in the country, our community faces educational challenges related to at-risk students reading at grade level,” Gary Henderson, UWDC President and CEO, said. “Third graders reading at level has been on the decline which is alarming because this metric predicts high school graduation rates and overall success. With the help of First Book and United Ways of Texas, our collective partners are thrilled to get students excited about reading.”

Some schools will expand their libraries, replacing beat up books and adding new titles. To encourage reading at home, some of these books will go to students directly.

More than two dozen elementary schools in Denton ISD and Lewisville ISD, plus five childcare centers in the area, received gift certificates ranging from $300-$500 that allowed educators to select books best fit for their students. Each school and childcare facility received more than 100 books covering fiction, nonfiction, and topics like educational, social and emotional learning.

Librarians said the grant also helped them purchase Spanish-language books.

“The most exciting thing as a librarian was that I was able to get a large number of Spanish language books, that are hard to come across,” said McNair Elementary librarian Michelle Heidrich. “I was so happy and so were my students.”

Credit Marci Pritt / United Way of Denton County
United Way of Denton County
Oak Point Elementary Librarian Ashley Strahan looks over the books she received.

A dozen lower-income elementary schools in Little Elm ISD, Northwest ISD and Lake Dallas ISD also received new books — 900 altogether. 

“I was so overwhelmed and excited to get them in the kids’ hands,” said Oak Point Elementary librarian Ashley Strahan. “They are going to love these books!” 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.