CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every child who attends the new West Side Elementary School, or Stonewall Jackson Middle School, will receive two free books to take home -- an initiative supported by an American Federation of Teachers grant.
At a news conference on Monday morning, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the West Virginia Federation of Teachers and its partner organization, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, were among five organizations nationwide to receive this year's AFT Innovation Fund grant.
"What we're trying to do is make sure there's books in the library for kids to have, but also books at home for kids to have," Weingarten said.
Debbie Cannada, the librarian at West Side Elementary, will also receive a $1,000 budget to order books for her students.
Judy Hale, president of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers, said the state group has partnered with First Book, a nonprofit organization that connects community organizations with book publishers to help get books in the hands of needy children.
Books like "Love That Dog," "Chang's Paper Pony," "Lunch Lady" and, of course, "Charlotte's Web," covered a table in the new West Side Elementary School's library on Monday.
Hale said the WVFT could keep receiving grant money for up to three years if the effort proves successful.
Weingarten, Hale and other state and local leaders joined state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, who is acting as governor, at the news conference.
Weingarten, who leads the national teachers union that represents 1.5 million pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers, also discussed the community-school concept underway on Charleston's West Side.
"Community involvement in schools is essential for us to grow a nation," Weingarten said.
At a roundtable discussion earlier Monday, community leaders and Kanawha County school officials talked about the direction the new West Side Elementary School has taken.
Kanawha Superintendent Ron Duerring said that some parents might not feel comfortable talking to teachers or administrators because they had a bad experience in school. School staff members reach out to family members, but there's also the "community office" located on the school's campus.