Taking teacher-led projects to scale
Justin Minkel teaches at a high-performing, high-poverty school where 85% of students are English language learners. As he looked to improve low literacy rates for many kids in his class, he wondered if his students’ lack of access to books at home was part of the problem. His solution was an innovative approach: provide every student in his class with 40 books — tailored to their reading level and interests — over two years to help establish a personal library of books at home. By every measure, the project made a meaningful impact — reading skills improved dramatically among his students. “I had seen the most reading growth I’d ever experienced with a class,” Minkel said.
With the help of a $100,000 Dream Big Challenge grant from Farmers Insurance, Justin’s one-classroom project expanded to create home libraries for 1,800 elementary school students and their families. Over the next two years, Justin worked with more than 70 other teachers to implement a program that gave children in their community books to call their own.