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Book bounty

Gina Stetter stands along a row of book shelves
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Gina Stetter, Peter Muhlenburg Middle School principal, stands along a row of bookshelves and books that were part of a project that put 500 news books in about 20 locations throughout the school. Rich Cooley/Daily

A line of some 500 books
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Some of the books grace a library shelf at the school. Rich Cooley/Daily

Rotary Club grant helps stock bookshelves around Woodstock middle school

By Preston Knight-pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- If you've read it once, you've read it 3,000 times -- Peter Muhlenberg Middle School's leadership puts an emphasis on literacy.

The number 3,000 means a lot to the school now, as it was the dollar amount of a grant secured by the Woodstock Rotary Club that enables classrooms to have their own miniature libraries. A combination of newly purchased books and shelves, 11 of which were built by Boy Scout Troop 575, Rotarians and one of Derek Ritenour's classes at Peter Muhlenberg, will be in about 20 locations throughout the school, including the boys' locker room, Principal Gina Stetter said.

"Within the building, we've worked real hard to build a culture of reading," she said. "The things you can learn and experience through books, you just can't get anywhere else."

Stetter and library media specialist Krista Heres were recognized by the Virginia Educational Media Association this year for their work at Peter Muhlenberg, and reading is at the center of it. The principal wrote Shelley Schechtel, a member of the Rotary Club, in July asking for assistance to reach more classrooms and more pupils by adding books for classroom libraries and building small shelves.

The club had $1,500 left over from last fiscal year and decided to designate it toward reading at the middle school, Schechtel said. The grant it applied for and received required a local match, bringing the total to $3,000.

Schechtel said teachers at Peter Muhlenberg have had to pay for books in their classrooms out of pocket, and newer hires do not always have the resources to do so.

Heres "wheeled and dealed" in buying approximately 500 books thanks to the club's generosity, Stetter said.

Nine Boy Scouts, six of whom are students at Peter Muhlenberg, worked on the shelves, also getting some assistance through a club from Massanutten Military Academy, Schechtel said. The Scouts earned a new badge marking 100 years of carpentry.

"It was a fun thing that they could make a personal connection to," Schechtel said.
Stetter said a theme at the school has been building relationships, and reading has been a popular way of carrying it out. Teachers and their students have connected by discussing books both have read, she said.

"It can be a two-, three-sentence exchange," Stetter said. "The kids see how valued reading and literacy is. I just see lots of real, authentic conversations happening between kids and teachers over books."

With the addition of the classroom libraries, which are slated to be celebrated on Dec. 2, the opportunity exists for more chatting. The parties involved will first need to find time away from their reading to do that.

"Reading is not something you do because you have to do it," Stetter said. "If something looks interesting to you, pick it up and read it."

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