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Chris Peeler receives AASL Inspire Special Event Grant

CHICAGO – Chris Peeler, library media specialist at Heather Ridge School in Frederick, Maryland, is one of five school librarians from across the country receiving a 2021 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Inspire Special Event Grant. Made possible by the generosity of AASL member Marina “Marney” Welmers, the grant program provides funds for public middle or high school libraries to plan a special event to enhance student learning.

An alternative school within the Frederick County Public School System, Heather Ridge follows the National Education Association’s Community Schools model and is focused on the emotional and physical well-being of the students, staff, and community. Peeler has contributed to creating a supportive, safe space by making the school library a welcoming space for students and staff. The school is part of the Project Lit Community and strives to provide a diverse collection of books so learners can see themselves and others in the books they read.

Peeler will use the grant funds to host an author event, something the students at Heather Ridge have never experienced. She hopes to inspire her reluctant readers by introducing them to an author who is an advocate for reading.

“The Inspire Special Event Grant could make a difference at Heather Ridge because ‘inspire’ is exactly what I want to do for my students,” wrote Peeler in her application. “I want to introduce them to a diverse author, who understands my students where they are right now, who can inspire my students to want to read so that they can learn and grow and be successful in life. My students are survivors. This grant would provide me the means to inspire them to do more than just survive.”

“It has been a difficult year for libraries and the committee took note of that when looking at grant submissions,” said Zandra Lopez, grant committee chair. “A special event might mean something different to individual libraries. School librarians wanted to make connections with students and provide them with opportunities within the library environment. Whether that included virtual author visits, improving collections, or creating makerspaces, each submission focused on student engagement. In a year with many restrictions, the ability to provide a special event for students truly captures the spirit of this award.”

The AASL award winners will be recognized during the 2021 AASL National Conference taking place October 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The American Association of School Librarians,, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

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