WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Roosevelt Middle School Library is swimming in books about sports, thanks to media specialist Meara Franowicz’s request for donations and an extra $419 from Sonic Drive-in, after the company launched a matching donations program in May in honor of Teacher Appreciation Month.
Franowicz was reevaluating the collection of books at RMS when she realized the nonfiction section was short on books about sports, and the ones that were on the shelves were so outdated that the seventh- and eighth-graders at the school wouldn’t recognize any of the athletes featured in them. So she posted on donorschoose.org, a website that allows educators to raise money for projects the school can’t fund, asking for donations to buy books about current NFL and NBA teams.
“One of the tasks that I have is to read through the current collection and get rid of things that are out of date or not useful anymore,” Franowicz said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on July 15. “When I was going through the sports section, we had very little in general. Sports teams change so frequently with new draft picks and other players, so a lot of students didn’t recognize what we had.”
She asked for $502 to cover the cost of books about the professional football teams, and $343 for books about the history of many NBA teams. Community members chipped in, and Sonic was able to match what was already given, allowing Franowicz to order all 42 books she had her eye on.
“Teachers more and more are having to reach into their own pockets to fund their classrooms, and we want to help with that,” Kyle Lankford, the communications manager at Sonic, said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on July 12. “We watched what people were donating to, and were able to match it. We got to reach individual teachers, and we really love that.”
According to Lankford, Sonic has donated $13.1 million to 33,177 classrooms around the country, impacting 995,310 student, 30,791 of them in New Jersey. In Essex County, Agata Amaral, a math teacher at Maplewood Middle School, and Julie Ann Nolan, a teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, also had projects funded through the program.
Franowicz said the sports books were flying off the shelves before the end of the school year, and she expects them to be popular again in the fall, giving students who are looking for nonfiction something to read.
“There are kids who say they don’t like to read; they only like sports,” Franowicz said. “But when they start reading books like this, they love them. They just don’t know what they want. So for kids who like nonfiction, they’re great. A lot of them were surprised when they found them, and our basketball coach and P.E. teachers were really excited too.”
In addition to piquing the interest of students who love sports, the books about pro teams can help the middle schoolers learn how to do research when they head to the library for their class projects. According to Franowicz, teachers who bring their classes to the library for research encourage the use of books as resources rather than the internet, and students who are looking for information on sports or specific players can use the new books.
“Then they get drawn back to the section, because they say ‘Oh, you have books on other football teams I like,’” she said.
Even with a budget, Franowicz said it’s hard to keep the library stocked with everything she wants the RMS students to have access to.
“We have a budget, and I’m very appreciative to the school district and the taxpayers, but it’s just not possible to keep updating without extra help,” she said. “This helps us get the resources we need, and allows people to see a concrete place where they make a difference.”