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Principal’s Corner: Birthday books: The gift of literacy for children

Principal’s Corner by John Mahal

When a student at Hawthorne Elementary has a birthday (or half birthday due to a summer birthday), we make sure to provide special recognition by announcing their name over the intercom and also provide them with a new book. We know that having a birthday to celebrate while at school is a big deal for our young learners and receiving a book with their favorite characters or interests brings the joy of reading whether they are at school or at home!

John Mahal

After a student’s name is read over the intercom, I will typically deliver to each student a variety of selections to choose from where we have a chance to connect over their interests, topics or other genres of reading. I’m also able to connect with the student personally to build and/or extend our relationships — this is truly one of my favorite things to do each day!

Our Hawthorne parent/teacher organization (PTO), has been terrific in donating money to this cause each year that allows us to purchase high-interest books that are also reading level appropriate for the student. The donations come from our fall and spring book fair revenue that our parents attend while coming to parent/teacher conferences.  The area where all of the Scholastic books and other fun items are is a very popular place for families to celebrate or reward their son/daughter’s hard work and effort!

This program also tries to instill a culture of readers within Hawthorne that matches the vision of Albert Lea Area Schools of ensuring individual academic, social and emotional growth that leads to engaged citizens and lifelong learners. In Albert Lea and at Hawthorne, we value reading and want to be intentional about how we can get more books in our students’ hands as they continue to move forward in their educational journey. Birthday books are just one way we are trying to do just that and give the gift of literacy!

John Mahal is the principal at Hawthorne Elementary School.