GNMS media specialist gets creative to promote literacy

Published 9:45 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

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Paige Woody said her love of books and academics led her to become Gardner Newman Middle School’s media specialist.

Now in her first year as a media specialist at GNMS, Woody said she worked as a paraprofessional in the center for two and a half years before stepping into the new role.

“I love the academic world,” Woody said. “I used to be a Montessori teacher, and I’m also a minister. I loved being in both worlds and when this position opened up as the paraprofessional, I jumped on it and fell in love with it.”

Woody said as a minister she worked with middle schoolers for 10 years. When the chance came up to continue working with them, she took the opportunity.

“For middle schoolers, it’s that awkward time when they are figuring out both themselves and the world, and I love that because you get to see big differences in them from grade to grade,” Woody said. “They’re asking more questions and are curious about not just themselves, but about others and the world, I love that time in their life.”

Woody said her favorite part of her job is helping kids who are big readers see the library as a place they can feel welcomed in.

“We have a big variety of students and sometimes the library can be intimidating if you’re not a strong reader. To remedy that, I have been working to bring in more books that are high interest, but maybe low level, to get those students more comfortable coming into the media center and not feeling intimidated,” Woody said.

“I work hard to make the media center a welcoming space for them where they can come in and play checkers and do puzzles and just come into the media center. I feel like if they can see people reading and checking out books, it makes the space feel inviting for those students who may feel intimidated walking into the space.”

To help promote literacy, Woody said she has created a few opportunities for the kids to get creative when talking about books they have read.

“I’ve been working with some teachers about doing book trailers — one-minute videos made by them, highlighting things in a book they’ve read and doing narrative writing assignments — where they look at photographs, and I give them a word bank for them to start writing a story about that picture. We’re trying to find those fun and unique ways to get kids thinking about reading and writing and just being interested in it and being OK with getting ready for testing,” Woody said.

She also said creating book trailers allow kids to get creative if they enjoy talking about a book rather than writing about it. 

“It’s interesting to see those students who aren’t big writers make a video about a book that they’ve read and how they can introduce that book to someone else,” Woody said. “I remember one student read a book about the military, and he put in little snippets of a warship and had music in the background as he talked over the video — it was so well done.”

As the students prepare for GMAS, Woody said the smaller projects the library does with them help get them to get ready for the test.

“This is a place where we can get them interested in reading, start somewhere and maybe gravitate toward something a little challenging, but with a book they’re going to be successful. Kids need to be challenged in reading, but they also need to feel successful,” Woody said. “With smaller projects, it gets them prepared for larger, more intense projects. So, when something like GMAS comes along, they feel a little more confident in their skills and are a little more prepared for what they might see on that test.”

To further promote a love of reading, Woody said she loves getting the opinions of her students on books they’d like to see.

“Our eighth-grade group is quite large. They like to come in with their lunch, and we sit for 20 or 25 minutes, talking about the book and what else they are reading,” Woody said. “It’s not always quiet in here. I want this to be an active place so the kids can come in, explore, hear or listen to what other people are reading and finding out what they’re reading about.”

Woody describes the library as a home base for reading filled with content for everyone.

“The media center is a place that encompasses everything, whether it’s science or English, or social studies, but we can also talk about art and agriculture and bring in all of the subjects together and see how they connect with our students. I think it’s a good hub of the school for kids to come in and ask questions. If you don’t know, you can always ask your librarian,” Woody said.