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Guest Blog: Salt Lake City School District

The Panda Cares Foundation partnered with Reading is Fundamental to support first grade reading in the Salt Lake City School District for the winter holidays. Students at Riley Elementary received new books and a book bag to take home over the holiday break. Riley is a high-need elementary school in the heart of Salt Lake City serving 325 students and more than 60% of the student body are English Language Learners. 

At the holiday book celebration, students read Corduroy by Don Freeman and Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold with the school librarian. Next, each student got to choose books to keep as their own from over 20 titles. The children were excited and took their time looking through books to make the perfect choice. Volunteers overheard lots of cute comments from the students including, “I love sharks” and “this is the best book ever!”.

Michele Edgley, librarian at Riley Elementary, was happy to see students excited to read and take home their own books. Edgley commented, “I asked how many of the students had their own books at home and there were only 3 or 4 out of 27 students in the classes. It means so much to be the owner of a book!” 

Students colored book marks and read one last story, The Santa Thief by Alane Adams. Then each got a book bag to take their new books home. One of the students gave the librarian a hug and said, “this is the best day ever!!  I love my books.”

The impact of the books was evident when we started school again in January.  Students reported reading and rereading their books with parents, grandparents and siblings. The RIF and Panda Cares book celebration event was so successful that a grant was also received from a local company, Great Dane of Utah, to get books into the hands of all the other students in the school from preschool and Head Start up to fifth grade. Edgley has been getting gently used books into the hands of students each month for them to take home and share. “We will continue to read and share books for students to own.  Book ownership is important and changes you as a reader for the better.” Thank you so much Reading is Fundamental and your amazing partner Panda Express for getting new books into the hands of our bright and curious students!

Salt Lake City Students