Teacher aims to hook budding bookworms

South San Francisco — Getting students at Parkway Heights Middle School interested in books may be a struggle, but one new teacher is on a mission to do just that.

At the school where almost half of the students are English learners, language arts teachers Swaicha Chanduri and Trish Isaac today will open a student-run bookstore in hopes of improving literacy levels.

“It’s extremely important to get high-interest books into their hands to keep them reading as much as we can,” she said, pointing to the thick textbook on each desk. “This is not making them lifelong readers and we don’t have books we could provide them so they can believe that reading is fun.”

Two months ago, Chanduri, who is a new teacher at Parkway Heights, received a grant from Schoolwide, an organization that helps schools set up student-run bookstores and sell books for under $3. Equipped with a setup kit for a store, seed money and donations enough to buy 200 books, the school is opening the store tonight.

“The bookstore is a wonderful opportunity for our kids,” Principal Jay Rowley said. “I’m optimistic that it will work — if the content is interesting, I’m convinced kids can get hooked on books.”

Teachers said the bookstore is especially important to Parkway Heights — the school has been underperforming on state tests for the last seven years. Isaac said improving English skills and general literacy are a key element to raising the performance of the entire school, where 45 percent of the students are English learners and more than half come from low-income families.

Although the school has a library, most of its books are outdated. Rowley said the students use the library to hang out during lunch, not to do homework or check out novels. Their families also often don’t have time to take children to the public library.

Even students thought the bookstore may do the school some good. Eighth-grader Adele Rios, who will help run the bookstore, said she thought the selection of more than 200 books — most with glossy covers and intriguing titles — will catch the interest of her peers.

“I am an honor student and I want others to become honor students as well,” she said.

Her only regret is that the store will open only two months before her graduation.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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