Dryden library media specialist receives bears, books to help young readers with their skills


DRYDEN — Deanna Knox is always looking for ways to offer elementary school students new and better opportunities to learn.

The library media specialist spends every morning teaching K-6 grade students library instruction. Once a week, the students visit in the afternoon for tech instruction.

Sometimes, some of the younger kids—early readers just getting a grasp on the skill—benefit from a little extra care.

Knox found just that, in the shape of a bear. Earlier this month, she received a grant from the Build-A-Bear Foundation’s Literacy Charity Program.

Dryden Elementary School Library Media Specialist Deanna Knox in a sea of stuffed bears she received through a grant from the Build-A-Bear Literacy Charity Program.

After submitting an application, Knox learned that Dryden Elementary School met the Foundation’s qualifications. Forty stuffed bears and $200 to purchase books for K-2nd grade students were shipped off to the elementary school.

“I always keep an eye out for ways to improve, so when I found out about the opportunity at Build-A-Bear Foundation I thought it was worth a try,” she says.

The bears—and of course the books—help young readers feel empowered as they learn. The bears become the kids’ “reading buddies.”

“The idea is that the stuffed animal is like a safe way for them to build confidence in reading,” Knox says. “With the bear the kids are not as frightened to jump right in and start, even if they’re not sure of a word. Often, they won’t do that if they’re reading to an adult.”

While it sounds simplistic, “reading buddies” help youngsters learn in a variety of ways. Reading alone or to an adult can be dull. Reading to a stuffed animal or a trained reading dog is fun, and encourages kids to read. According to some studies, youngsters who read out loud to a dog or a stuffed animal have marked improvement in their reading skills over time.

Knox sees the benefits weekly. Sixth-graders were paired up with kindergarteners, and read to them once a week. She says teachers at the elementary school often participate in something similar, which helps the kindergarteners learn. She hopes the bears will have the same positive impact.

“It’s a ‘thinking outside of the box’ thing, and I thought this could just be another way to get the kids reading,” she says.

Knox is grateful to the Build A Bear Foundation and its Literacy Charity Program.

“I am thrilled about receiving the bears and their donation, and that their donations help schools that are Title 1 schools that they’re equitable,” she says. “We need more companies and more foundations doing that.”