Teacher Raises Test Scores with Fun Books and Apple Cider

How did teacher Mairead Beane see her 10th graders progress their reading levels by two years? She gave them a comfortable space to read books they enjoyed.

Mairead Beane taught 10th and 11th grade Literature at Minneapolis College Preparatory School, where many of her students would be the first in their families to attend college. Though the school aims to be a college pipeline, limited resources often make that difficult. After a year of working hard, more than half her students were reading below their grade level. Mairead realized something needed to change.

“It’s really difficult when kids are not successful. That’s what started this idea to have a reading center,” she said.

With the help of a grant through Farmer’s Insurance “Thank America’s Teachers,” and money out of her own pocket, Mairead created a reading nook for her classroom, as her school does not have the resources for a library.

“My school doesn’t have a library so this year I really wanted to build a space where kids could come and read fun books, read books at their level,” Mairead said. “I contributed a lot of my own money to building that space.”

The mission of the reading center is to expose her students to more books so they can practice reading in a more comfortable and empowering environment. Mairead aims to immerse her students in books, and to help them fall in love with reading.

From the first day she built the reading center, students were eager to get started. “I had my 11th grade class pretend like it was Christmas morning,” Mairead said. “A couple of my students were really excited assembling things.”

For Mairead, the reading center represents future possibilities for her students. “More resources for my students mean more opportunities. More opportunities to have what the schools in wealthier suburbs of the Twin Cities have. We can’t support a library, so having a classroom library here means that students have access to better books, to more books so they can be competitive when they go to college,” she said.

Creating a reading center filled with fun books may not be the most traditional approach to increasing literacy test scores. But the results are impressive. Last year Mairead saw two years growth from her 10th grade class, bringing her pass rate above the district average. “The more they read the higher their reading levels are,” she said. Mairead is confident that in the coming years her students will only be more successful.

“AdoptAClassroom.org has helped to create a space where they can feel successful. A lot of my students see a traditional classroom and think ‘oh, this is where I get F’s…this is where I get D’s,’” Mairead said. “Just having a couch to come sit on and a cup of good apple cider while they’re here after school reading a book turns that into ‘I want to do this and I can be successful here.’”

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