Targeting Education

Last month, T.A. Brown Elementary School in Austin received a very special gift---a new library. It was one of 42 schools selected nationwide by the Target School Library Makeover project to receive a $200,000 grant, a package that included 2,000 new books, a complete technology upgrade with iPads, and new eco-friendly furniture, carpet, and shelves.

The revamped library was unveiled at a ceremony attended by 200 Target volunteers and a crowd of eager kids, parents, and grandparents. Working with the Heart of America Foundation, Target provided every student of Brown Elementary and any siblings who might have tagged along seven books as well as twenty pounds of food for their parents to take back home.

The Target School Library Makeover program is part of Target’s commitment to give $1 billion toward education by 2015, with the goal of helping more children read proficiently by the end of their third grade year. The food provided under the Target Meals for Minds program is an acknowledgment that adequate nutrition is essential to a learning atmosphere.

“Making sure that the kids have food comes before the books. How do you have the energy to read if you haven’t eaten?” asked Brown’s principal Veronica Sharp, who has big goals for the library. “We wanted more space for the community, for the children. We wanted a warm environment for them to read and to learn. A library that will help provide their parents with parenting information, and even help the unemployed parents find an effective way to search for jobs.”

The school’s proud librarian, Christina Nelson, added: “We want the library to be a welcoming space.” She sees the improved library as a way to give children and their families, who might otherwise have limited resources, the chance to learn computers and become internet savvy. “I just want to bring the kids up to date, show them the resources that are out there. Not everyone has access to all this technology, and we have to close the gap.”

Sharp affirmed the importance of reading for her students’ development. “Anytime you see a child you should ask what he or she has read that day,” she said. “What I hoped for with this renovation was to bring that kind pride to the children, just to let them know that when they come here they can be themselves.” Sharp wants the community to understand the necessity of reading, “how it is a foundation for everything,” including math and science, “but look, just telling stories to kids is important. If you can’t read to your children, just make sure to tell them stories.”

By Roberto Ontiveros