A Library Grows at EASTCONN Bridges Community School
Earlier this spring, teachers at the newly rebranded Bridges Community School opened a cozy library, where students can check out titles, curl up on bean bag chairs to read, or gain experience as library “workers” by cataloging, sorting and restocking the shelves.
Thanks to donations from EASTCONN employees and community members, the library continues to grow. From among shelves of carefully labeled books, staff members now curate weekly titles to fit their students’ interests and capabilities. Student workers learn job skills they might not otherwise be exposed to, while young readers learn valuable life lessons through tasks like checking out books and following library rules.
“They have just been so happy to be here,” Tracey Neumuth, a Speech-Language Assistant at Bridges Community School and the library’s founder, said of her students. “You see it on their faces. That type of engagement, we hope, is something that will help them when they go out into the community with their families and are able to have exposure to the town library.”
Clifford the Big Red Dog, Thomas the Tank Engine and the lovable, forgetful Froggy all feature prominently in weekly themes like “weather,” “animals,” “vehicles” and “seasons,” which target students’ language and vocabulary goals. Borrowers can also access read-aloud, visual experiences of each Book of the Week using assisted technology and QR codes.
One of the library’s objectives, Neumuth said, is to provide an inclusive, accessible experience for all Bridges students. “A student who might not be as independent otherwise will have more independence by some of the services we’ll be able to provide in our library, so we’re really excited about that,” she said.
When the idea first came about, Program Director Erin Crosby said she never could have imagined the number of learning opportunities that would happen in the space. “Beyond helping to foster a love of learning, our library has provided the opportunity to practice many important vocational skills and social skills as well,” she said.
Early on, when Neumuth posted to her town’s Facebook page requesting book donations, the volume of positive responses were overwhelming.
One community member donated a rainy-day jar of cash found among her late mother’s – a career teacher and librarian – possessions. “When she saw my post, she said, ‘I know exactly what I want to do with it,’” Neumuth said. “She said it would give her mother such joy to have something, a part of her, in a school library.” The donation paid for a wooden display bookcase that serves as the library’s centerpiece.
One Bridges student shared that “our school makes me happy because I can borrow books about Pete the Cat!”