Students in Courtney Johnson’s sophomore English class at Fort Arts and Academic High School are given an amazing opportunity to become lifelong literature lovers. Through Courtney’s tireless work, her students are highly educated, prepared for leadership and service and empowered for success as citizens in a global community.
Courtney, a librarian, teacher and advocate for education was the recipient of a competitive $5,000 grant from the Book Love Foundation, empowering her to transform her classroom into a library. Her bookshelves offer an impressive array of contemporary and classic literature.
Students spend time reading at the beginning of every class. She partners with students one-on-one to discuss what they are reading and helps them select books that will ignite their interests. Courtney shared she is fortunate to have certain level of freedom at Fort Hayes, giving her the opportunity to create a non-traditional model for teaching English where students select their own literature. Students read short pieces as a group to learn how to analyze and think critically. Then they journal, collect new vocabulary words and capture thoughts to share from books they read. Courtney estimates her students read between 20 and 40 books each year.
Courtney strives to maintain a collection of items that will appeal to each student. She constantly reads about new books, consulting other teachers, Good Reads, Facebook, book lists and students. Her goal is to “know the kid, know the book and make the match.” She particularly strives to represent diversity in literature and sees a strong need for more diversity.
Courtney’s library is organized by subject, including graphic novels (a great gateway for reluctant readers), “quick picks” (easier books), peer student recommendations, fiction, sci-fi, LGBQ and sports.
This month, Courtney embarks on her third year of teaching with a classroom library. She is excited to introduce new students to the joy of reading. She also plans to apply for another Book Love Foundation grant for the whole school. Her vision is for each classroom to have its own library. When students are immersed in books, it’s hard for them not to embrace reading.