Inspiring A New Generation of Readers

Posted by Lori Villarreal on 10/22/2020 9:40:00 AM

boy reading

Allison Bryant, a second-grade teacher at Dodd Elementary, hadn’t told her students that she applied for a grant from the Wylie ISD Education Foundation until the day Foundation representatives appeared at the door with a giant $800 check for new classroom books.

“It would be so awkward to tell them and then not get the grant,” Bryant said. “The day the Foundation showed up with a big group of people got them excited.” Although, at that point, they were unsure why.

Surprised faces softened into pure excitement as she explained how this check would turn into new books and an expanded library that reflected the students in her class across an array of genres.

The grant Bryant received was a part of the Grants for Teachers, launched in 2001. Wylie ISD Education Foundation started in 2002 by the District and its Board of Trustees to support enhanced educational opportunities in Wylie Independent School District. It solicits, manages, and distributes funds for enrichment purposes in areas otherwise not funded by the District.

Bryant was so intrigued she applied for Grants For Teachers after coordinating with her school’s learning specialist, librarian, and other staff to discuss the needs of the students. The Family Literacy Center[1] released that more than 37 percent of fourth-graders are not reading at the basic level in their grade. By the time these students get to high school and early adulthood, U.S. government researchers found that 50 percent of unemployed youth ages 16-21 are functionally illiterate with no prospects of obtaining good jobs. Developing a passion for reading has to start earlier.

With Dodd Elementary being a highly diverse school representing many backgrounds and cultures, Bryant wanted to inspire a new generation of readers by providing her students with books that looked, sounded, and felt like the students she teaches.

She remembers clearly the moment she pulled “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family” out of her box to read to the class.

 “I think back to my student who inspired me to read it because I wanted him to have a connection finally to something we were reading in class,” Bryant said. “As soon as I said the word hijab, his eyes lit up.”

Others students asked him questions and the book opened a great forum for organic conversation on culture, diversity, and inclusion in the classroom.

Two years later, her students are still reading and discussing the books provided by the grant. Bryant has applied for several additional grants and earned more than $6,000 for her school. She hopes that more teachers will follow suit.

Wylie ISD Education Foundation has given more than $1,654,900 through its Grants for Teachers program, $428,000 for Scholarships For Seniors, and supports the District in an array of other ways. A great testament to the value of the program that puts money back in teachers’ hands to enrich education is the fact that approximately fifty percent of teachers, administrators, and school staff give back annually to the Foundation that supports these efforts.

 Written by Krisleigh Hoermann, Board Member