The students at Kimberly Elementary are fortunate to have an opportunistic principal like Joseph Salley looking out for their best interests.
Two years ago, The Buis Book Foundation sent out emails to multiple elementary schools in order to provide free books to the students. Principal Salley was the only one to respond, and the students at Kimberly Elementary have been benefiting from his initiative ever since.
“I happen to be the principal that responded, and it’s been phenomenal,” Salley said. “The Buis Book Foundation is giving our kids an opportunity to build their own home classroom libraries, which is so exciting and necessary for our kids so they can read each and every day.”
The Buis Book Foundation was founded by Dr.Kirk Buis, a retired Gwinnett County teacher with a love for reading. Toward the end of his teaching career, he noticed his 10th grade students’ reading level was on a 7th grade level.
“We know that reading is the key to academic success,” Buis said. “Reading is the most important skill they can develop to become successful in middle school, high school and in the future.”
This realization motivated Buis to start The Buis Book Foundation to help raise students’ literacy by focusing on overcoming reading loss. The donor list is mostly comprised of his family members, and he continues to serve as a substitute teacher to help fund the foundation.
“If we’re ever going to expand to more schools, we need someone with deeper pockets than we have,” Buis said. “It costs around $9,000 per year to provide these books which we have done.”
This year, the foundation brought more than 4,000 books for the students to choose from. Students from kindergarten to 5th grade had their chance to browse thousands of books in the school’s auditorium. The piles of books had familiar classics, mystery novels, science fiction, biographies and more. Each student received seven free books.
“We really feel like this is a worthwhile event supporting students who need books. If we give students books they want to read, they will read,” Buis said. “Being able to choose the books makes a difference. If you hand a child a book that he doesn’t want to read, it’s going to become a paperweight.”
The only rule for the students was that they couldn’t get multiple books from the same author. A challenge set by the foundation to hopefully broaden the horizons of the young readers.
“Hopefully it opens them up maybe to some areas they didn’t know they were interested in,” Buis said. “Who knows? Maybe 5-10 years from now they maybe understanding Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet. We want them to branch out.”
As the school year comes to an end, it’s important to keep students academically engaged over the summer. Last winter, The Buis Book Foundation gave Kimberly Elementary students three books each so they would have books they wanted to read during the holiday break.
“We always focus on our kids and tell them they need to read 30 minutes a night, every night. They hear that message every day during the school year, but they don’t hear that as often during the summer,” Salley said. “That summer slide can be offset by kids continuing to read every day. If they’re not coming to our academic recovery program, at least they’ll have books at home that they’ll be reading every day.”
Opportunities for personalized learning, where students take ownership of their own learning and growth, is one of the five tenants that make up the APS 5. Over the summer, students can read at their own pace and maximize understanding and retention.
“If we can get these kids to read, the testing worries will disappear,” Buis said. “That’s what I absolutely believe. If we can turn them into readers, their whole academic future will improve.”