Pictured is a small reading group at Pine Trails Elementary. (Photo provided)

Perrigo provides books for classrooms

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Classroom libraries at two Allegan County elementary schools just got a big boost.

The Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation announced last week it was donating $63,182, split evenly between Pine Trails Elementary School in Allegan and Fennville Elementary School.

“Bottom line, we’re just grateful this program was put in place, because I love the innovation around it. It’s so simple and so striking, and yet needed some resources to make it happen,” said Thomas Farrington, executive vice president chief information officer as the foundation’s president.

He’s referring to the High Impact Leadership literacy program, a federally funded initiative designed to energize teachers and principals and provide resources to increase literacy rates in high poverty schools in west Michigan.

Perrigo’s donation will dovetail with those efforts, creating a direct influx of classroom books.

Allegan superintendent Kevin Harness said, “If you have the appropriate book right there, ready to go at the appropriate level, it’s going to have a major impact on that student’s eagerness to read and eagerness to learn. It’ll impact their education for many, many years.”

He said students’ abilities to read is crucial beyond just their school years and helping them reach successful literacy was a monumental task.

“The HIL grant is providing a great deal of support in terms of personnel and expertise to accomplish that, but another part of that is having appropriate reading material.”

He said instructors now break down reading ability to 26 levels among students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.

“Providing books on subjects that students are interested in at each level—that’s a lot of books,” Harness said. “And when you figure in fiction and nonfiction, the number gets even larger.”

He said Perrigo’s donation will help Pine Trails stock hundreds of books of all the various reading levels in each classroom.

“We greatly appreciate what the Perrigo Foundation is doing to help us supply those books,” Harness said.

The donation would be spent somewhat similarly in Fennville, but there it would also help leverage its Book Trust program.

Fennville Elementary principal Albert Lombard said a partnership of local business leaders contributing to support from the National Book Trust to provide books monthly to students. The district has had funds to support books for kindergarteners through third-graders; Perrigo’s donation allows them to leverage more national funds to expand it through fifth-graders.

“Each month they get to order from the scholastic catalogues they get a $7 allowance,” he said. “The power is in their choice. If they want the new Dogman book or a particular graphic novel. When that book comes in a couple weeks, they want to read that book.

“The day the book boxes come in, every kid has a book (or two or three, depending on how they spent their allowance). And those kids are so excited. Some won’t put it down for the rest of the day.”

He said that doesn’t happen when they go to the library, which might not have 10 copies of a popular book.

“That choice gets them to read more, and they can impact their own learning,” Lombard said.

Fennville will also use part of Perrigo’s donation to provide additional professional development for teachers.

Farrington said, “The thought that we just needed to get a larger array of books in front of kids—what a concept. Why wouldn’t we do that? To help get these kids past the third-grade cliff, the data was overwhelming to say do it. It was a no-brainer for the foundation, and that’s why it was so exciting.”

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