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13 READS: Teacher growing classroom library to foster students' love of reading

"But to see themselves in a main character role dealing with things that are familiar to them is important," said teacher Matt Harrison.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Matthew Harrison knows the way reading can positively impact lives and expand worlds. 

But that was not always the case. Like many of his students, he did not love to read in high school. That all changed when he read "All Quiet on the Western Front."

"It just got me thinking that all it really takes is one, right?" said Harrison. "One book that you connect with."

Then he realized many books read in school do not always have protagonists that reflect the students. 

So, he began creating an inclusive classroom library.

"If you don't see yourself in something, you're going to be less apt to explore it," said Harrison, "but then once you do explore it, and you start discovering some things that you didn't think were there in the first place. Hopefully, that fuels a deeper and wider exploration into other things more unfamiliar to what you were used to. To see themselves in a main character role dealing with things that are familiar to them is important."

He has been buying books with a wide range of authors and subject matter. However, the library is not complete. He has still not met his fundraising goal for the library.

"My overall goal is to have my students get in touch with me 20 years later, and tell me how they're still reading," said Harrison, "and that they're reading to their kids, and that they see the importance of it, and that they've discovered the same love I discovered in it." 

These books are not part of the classroom curriculum, but students are able to take them home and read them. Harrison will then have a discussion with them about the book. 

"It's kind of a loose library," said Harrison, "because if a kid wants, if they really liked the book, like I did when I was a junior, take it. Take it all. I'll buy another one."

To donate to Harrison's library initiative, you can do so on the GRPS Foundation website.

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