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The average age of the books in the library at Kirkman Park Elementary School date to 1972, but there are many that are even older. Books on presidents end with President Eisenhower. Atlases include maps of the USSR instead of Russia. Space books discuss “future space travel” that actually occurred more than 30 years ago.

“That means many of the books in the library are older than the parents of the students,” principal Jamal Crawford said. “In the 21st century, that is unacceptable.”

In her second year as the librarian at Kirkman Park, Mary Nifong knew something had to be done and applied for and received a $23,000 grant from the High Point Community Foundation to upgrade the library.

“Our students and staff deserve a library collection which is current, relevant and appealing,” Nifong said. “The current library collection does not support the curriculum or meet the leisure reading needs of students.”

The grant will allow the school to purchase 1,000 new books.

“The physical condition of many of the books is appalling,” Nifong said. “Books have been mended so many times that the books are literally falling apart in the students’ hands.”

Crawford believes the school library should be the center of a school’s reading initiatives, and at the moment, his school is not set up that way.

“With the constant reduction in school funding from the state and local level, school dollars simply cannot keep up with the growth in demand,” he said. “I am always excited when I get the opportunity to improve my school and the access to up-to-date materials, whether it is books or technology, for my students and staff.

Nifong said the school will purchase a variety of non-fiction and fiction books which support the curriculum. Nifong also surveyed students to determine the types of books they like to read and is purchasing graphic novels, books written by favorite authors, Spanish books and books on subjects such as snakes, sports, jokes, cooking, dinosaurs and drawing.

“The students will be ecstatic when the new books are actually in their hands,” Nifong said.

Books should begin arriving in January and will be circulating before the end of the school year.

“To become strong and avid readers, children must live in print-rich environments,” Nifong said. “With this grant, we are going to provide them with the books they need and want to read, and we will also be giving teachers the tools they need in order to teach their students.”

Nifong is also pursuing other grant opportunities in hopes of overhauling the entire library collection. In the fall of 2014, 6,199 books in the library were published before 2000, with some books having a copyright date as far back as the 1930s. Only 417 books in the library were less than 14 years old.

Crawford agrees that this first grant is just a beginning.

“One thousand (books) is a good start, but we are not done,” he said. “I would like to completely turn over the collection within two years, an ambitious goal, but my students and staff deserve no less.”

Article first published in the High Point Enterprise.

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Principal Jamal Crawford Addresses Grants Luncheon participants