An unlikely partnership, yes. But the collaboration between Collingswood Public School District's first-graders and Mayor James Maley is founded on a common mission: literacy.
During Monday night's commission meeting, Maley announced his partnership with the district in a new project, called The Mayor's Book Club. And the club's success could bring $1,000 for new books in the district.
Collingswood was invited to join the incentive by New Jersey League of Municipalities' (NJLM) Educational Foundation, Inc., and Rowan University.
According to NJLM, The Mayor's Book Club initiative—in its third year—has area mayors partner with their public school districts to offer first-graders a challenge.
Beginning in February, first-grade students will have four months to try and read 1,000 books.
At the end of May, if the 1,000-book mark is reached, Collingswood Public School District will receive $1,000 from NJLM—funded by its Educational Foundation, Inc.—with which to purchase more books.
Where does the mayor factor in?
"(Next month), I'll be going to every (elementary school) in the district and reading to first-graders," said Maley, who says that, in his free time, he's an avid reader. "This will encourage them to read. If they read 1,000 books, we'll win $1,000 to buy more books for our first-graders."
According to NJLM's official release, Maley must, "Visit the schools on at least three different occasions to read to students. Students will keep a log on the Mayor’s Book Club Log Sheet.
"Parents and teachers will be responsible for recording all books read. Each school will collect and verify the total number of books read. At the conclusion of the program, each student will receive a book. Each school that has read at least 1,000 books will be given $1,000.... to be spent on books for their first grade classroom libraries."
With parental permission, first-graders may choose to participate in the club.
Participating students must read a total of eight books—either independently, or by having adults read aloud to them—at the end of four months.
According to NJLM, this project is aimed at putting "books into the hands of children."
"The early years of a child’s life are crucial to learning and healthy development. Children who grow up hearing fewer words—(who are) read to less frequently—are less likely to enter school ready to learn, than (those) who grow up (with) greater support for early literacy," said NJLM officials. "Research suggests that children who fall behind (in reading) by the end of third grade may never catch up to their peers, or achieve grade-level reading proficiency."
Maley said he's currently finalizing project plans with Collingswood Public School District Superintendent Scott A. Oswald.
"(While discussing how probable reaching 1,000 books will be,) Superintendent Oswald told me, 'It shouldn't be a problem at all. The kids have been reading that many books anyway,'" said Maley, chuckling.
Oswald said first-graders from every Collingswood elementary school may join.
"We have applied to be a participating district through each of (the borough's) five elementary schools," said Oswald.
Collingswood's participation is among many mayor-district alliances in NJLM's The Mayor's Book Club. Other mayor-district teams from Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem and Camden counties will participate.