Inspiring a generation of readers

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T.O. Rusheon Middle School librarian wins Laura Bush Foundation grant

Claire Hernandez has a passion for books and reading.

She knew from an early age that she wanted to be when she grew up and she’s made her way from the classroom to the library. Now, she’s sharing her passion with the students at T.O. Rusheon Middle School in Bossier City.

“I enjoy getting the kids who don’t like to read interested in a book series and seeing them find what they like about reading,” Hernandez said. “They are required to have [Accelerated Reading] points so why not get them with books they actually enjoy.”

Last year, Hernandez stumbled across a library grant through the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries. With declining budgets across the state, every little bit of money helps.

“I thought ‘let’s try it. It doesn’t hurt to ask’,” she said.

The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries chose 219 school libraries nationwide to receive $5,000 each to expand, update and diversity their library book and magazine collections. Hernandez was notified in April that she was one of two selected in Louisiana to receive a grant.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” Hernandez said. “It’s really, really exciting.”

Hernandez said she plans to purchase more books as well as update several areas of the library. Not only will it benefit the students, but the teachers as well.

The mission of the Laura Bush Foundation is to support the education of our nation’s children by providing funds to update, extend and diversify the book and print collections of America’s school libraries. Hernandez said she is grateful for this opportunity, one she said the school “may never get again.”

“It’s very exciting to have this amount of money. $5,000 can buy a lot of great things,” she said.

Hernandez was told to expect the money sometime in May, giving her the entire summer to plan, order and prepare the library for the new school year. Although she received the grant, Hernandez said the real winners are the students and teachers of Rusheon Middle.

“The more you read, the more you know,” she said. “Reading is the core for how well students succeed in school. It doesn’t matter read, just read. It will help you immensely.”

Hernandez thanked Principal Judy Madden and curriculum coach Afiya Code for their support and help with the grant application process. She encourages other teachers and faculty members to check for grants in their education field and to just give it a shot.

“Sometimes all you have to do is ask,” Hernandez said.