The Kira Dell Library and librarian Ms. Evans are at the heart of UT Elementary School (UTES). Our library allows our children’s minds to explore new worlds and cultures and Ms. Evans is the guide who opens the kids to exploration and teaches them to use libraries to access information. Ms. Evans works closely with teachers to support the classroom lessons by choosing books that align with each teacher’s lesson plans.
With carefully chosen picture books that Ms. Evans reads to our students during their library time, her lessons are integral to the Social-Emotional-Learning (SEL) program at UTES. Every month, a new SEL value is highlighted by the stories and discussions Ms. Evans shares with the students. For example, October’s SEL value is “adaptability.” To help the students better understand this concept, Ms. Evans chose the book “Perfect Square” by Michael Hall. In the story, a square takes what life gives it: such as being torn in pieces or having holes punched in it, and the square adapts, making the best out of the changes and becoming something surprisingly beautiful.
Ms. Evans has been with UTES since its start. First as a teacher, then 12 years ago becoming our first and so-far only, librarian. In 2014, when the UT Elementary School joined with the UT Charter Schools (UTCS) to become the UT Charter School System, Ms. Evans realized she had an opportunity to help even more children.
One of the UTCS sites is at Helping Hand Home for Children. Helping Hand Home (HHH) is a home for children in the foster care system who are healing from abuse, neglect or abandonment. Ms. Evans realized that UTES could help our other school by offering their students access to our library with 6,000 books and her supportive lessons.
For five years, HHH students have been visiting the UTES library on Fridays in the afternoon. Ms. Evans has story time with them, they check out books from the library, and as a special treat, they get to eat lunch from the UTES cafeteria. Their trip is rounded out with an art project and sometimes a little time on the playground. The HHH kids are thrilled to have this field trip and the kids always look forward to it.
When we host the annual spring and fall Scholastic Book Fairs, the HHH students are not left out. From sales at the book fairs, Ms. Evans earns points. She uses the points to have a supply of books that she can give to students from HHH as well as UTES.
This is one of the many ways that UTES is having a community impact beyond the students directly served at the school.