Paula Boston, media specialist at E. Rivers Elementary, a public Buckhead school, is working to make the library the star of the school, transforming it from a quiet space to a place of collaborative information.
Boston, who was nominated as “Exceptional Educator” by school Principal John Waller, has also partnered with a group to bring in trained therapy dogs for students to practice reading aloud. The activity is hoped to make any student a more confident reader, Boston said. Trained therapy dogs are used because they have been screened for behavior and temperament.
She’s implemented “maker space” activities, which include a variety of craft activities from web coding to cardboard activities.
Boston has been at E. Rivers for five years. She has been a media specialist for eight years, following a 13-year career as a classroom teacher.
Q: Why did you decide to start the therapy dog reading program?
A: I have always wanted to have a therapy dog at school. This year I was contacted by Merilee Kelley from Reading P.A.W.S. One of her volunteers, Sis O’Hearn used to work at E. Rivers as a speech teacher. She really wanted to do the Reading P.A.W.S. program at E. Rivers. I was so happy to say yes!
We are hoping Reading P.A.W.S. will help our readers become more fluent in their reading abilities. We have collected reading achievement data before the program and will collect data at the end of the program. We are hoping the program will yield reading progress and fluency. Research says that reading to a dog is less intimidating than reading to a human.
Q: How do you think libraries/media centers in schools have changed in recent years?
A: Media centers are not the quiet libraries of the past. They are vibrant places where children can explore, build, design and imagine new things. They are collaborative places to share ideas and learn from one another. I am currently working to change the furniture in the media center to encourage collaboration. Libraries are a place for exploration through books, technology and hands-on manipulatives. I compete with the morning “Power Up” class in the gym, where lots of exciting games are played before the 8 a.m. morning bell.
Q: What keeps you going year after year?
A: I love trying new things. A few years ago I worked to set up the media center with maker space activities; last year I added the Lion’s Tale Book Clubs for Kids; and this year I am tackling bookmaking with students. Changing things up keeps things new and exciting for everyone! I also love finding books that children are excited about reading.
Q: Why did you decide to work in a media center?
A: I had gone back to school for a master’s in educational leadership, but I realized I still wanted to teach children. I found out that being a media specialist was a combination of administrative work and teaching children in the media center. It was the best of both worlds.
Q: What are you most proud of in your career?
A: I love helping students learn how to choose a book that is just right for them. I love helping students become readers. I love helping students find books they will love to read! I love having books in the media center that kids want to read.