The Honorable Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School Celebrates Reimagined Library

On Friday, February 2, the Honorable Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School celebrated the grand opening of its redesigned library space with a read aloud and ribbon cutting ceremony for faculty and staff, students, school and district leadership, and other friends.

“Here at Marín, instruction is one of our highest priorities,” said Principal Amanda Jones, a 2022 Neubauer Fellow. “Having our library reimagined has been a gamechanger for our students and getting them to discover a love of reading.” 

Creating the culturally responsive space—which features walls of books, organized by section and reflecting the diversity of students served at Marín; cozy nooks for reading; decorations celebrating reading; anchor charts supporting students in learning how to read, building the skills and strategies that can transfer back into the classroom; multiple interactive stations throughout the library; and even puppet theater and puppets to encourage play and communications skills—was a two-year project made possible by a $10,000 grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation and supported by countless hours from a dedicated Library Committee made up of more than two dozen staff and students.

In fall 2022, Jones approached Marín Reading Specialist Colleen Comey with the idea, aligned to the school value of high-quality instruction and the schoolwide goal of efficiency in literacy.

“We want to make sure that we are achieving the district’s demand for literacy, but it’s also about recapturing a joy of reading for our students,” said Jones. “The library is a space for students where they can open a book, start practicing words, and get excited about literacy, which will help move our achievement.”

Data indicates Marín students’ scores are improving in English Language Arts. From the fall to winter STAR Assessment, all grades except one decreased the percentage of students scoring as needing intensive intervention and all grades (Kindergarten through 5th) decreased the percentage of students scoring as needing intervention. Jones is looking to continue to decrease the percentage of students scoring as needing intervention and to increase the percentage of students scoring at or above benchmark, particularly in grades 3 through 8.

“This library is a remarkable testament to the passion of our school leadership, our mission, our vision, and student-centered approach by our school community,” said Comey, who worked with Jones to survey staff and students as they collaborated and brainstormed a vision for the space. Comey then spearheaded the Library Committee’s efforts as they gave of their time, energy, and resources to build the space from scratch.

“Research has shown providing literature-rich environments where phonological awareness can flourish correlates to successful readers,” said Comey. “This reimagined, vibrant, child-centered library at Marín affords our diverse population of students an opportunity to develop a lifelong passion for reading, nurtured through explicit instruction and exploration in a cozy space.”

“Literacy is truly the foundation of all learning,” said Jermaine Dawson, EdD, Deputy Superintendent of Academic Services for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). “Having a library, a media center, where students can come to do research and reading, to achieve the level of understanding, with all kinds of genres, fiction to nonfiction, all areas of interest, the level of energy and engagementI can only image the excitement students have to spend time in this room.

“Superintendent Watlington’s goal is to continue to advocate for adequate and equitable funding for education so that historically underfunded districts like the School District of Philadelphia will have the resources necessary to provide all students with access to 21st Century learning environments that include libraries and media centers like this wonderful room at Marín,” said Dawson.

“There are very specific, evidence-based approaches to how we teach children to read, but what children read matters,” said Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, EdD, SDP Chief of Curriculum. “This space exemplifies that what children have in their hands actually matters to them. I’m excited about all the wonderful things that will happen in this space.”

“Pages are turning, words are being read, and new ideas explored,” said Comey. “The love of reading is being nurtured by the entire school community … The library has ignited a spark of joy in our children.”

Luis Munoz Marin library ABCs