By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Children in Kindergarten classes throughout Reavis Elementary School, 834 E. 50th St., laughed while singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as volunteers read “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall for the Jane Averill Community Reading Day.
On Nov. 22, Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms throughout the Kenwood and Hyde Park participated in the Reading Day, named after a beloved Ray elementary preschool teacher who died in 2015. The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council organized the event. The day focuses on literacy and strengthening community support for local schools.
Volunteers from the neighborhood and two local politicians, Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) and Rep. Kam Buckner (26th), arrived at Reavis early in the day to read to students, tour the school with Principal Gail King and meet with educators.
This year’s community reading day was very special for Reavis’ school community because it was the re-opening of its school library. After losing its librarian a few years ago, Reavis did not utilize its library. After last year’s community reading day, Hannah Hayes — a member of Reavis’ Local School Council — and a few volunteers joined together to start the process of opening a new library. From being trained by Chicago Public Schools to learn how to operate a library to finding new books for students to read and organizing a book drive with 57th Street Books, it has been a labor of love for everyone involved. The library is stocked with books and features a space for classes to read books together or for students to do research projects.
“The Jane Averill Reading Day is about connecting the community with schools in the way that Jane did,” Hayes said. “Jane was so connected to the parent of her children and such an important person in the community. This is symbolic that [the library] came out of the Jane Averill reading day.”
“She was my son’s preschool teacher. He was in her first class and she was a very dear friend,” Hayes said of Averill. “In fact, when he went to kindergarten and was stressed out, Jane had us over to her house for tea. She was just that type of community person, so I think her legacy lives on in projects like this and the Hyde Park Community Action Council, which spearheaded this as well. I’m happy for all this.”
Nicole Owen, library aide and parent of Reavis, is excited to look after the new library. She said, “Books are a good way to keep students’ minds involved besides technology. This school is based on reading. We want children to know how important it is to read.”
Owen and King hope that the library becomes a community library, not just a school library.
“I am excited about having the Reavis library up and running, it’s ready to go,” King said. “Students are able to come in and check out books. It is my goal to have it available to community members as well, who can come in after school hours and do some reading or do some projects.”
The Reavis school community is looking forward to watching the library grow and to the next Jane Averill Community Reading Day.
“This event is something that is part of Reavis now and I’m looking forward to next year,” King said.