Pioneer Park Elementary receives grant from SBT and JustWorld International

BELLE GLADE — Pioneer Park Elementary (PPS) has received a grant from two national nonprofit organizations to implement a reading enrichment program in pre-kindergarten through third-grade classes, bringing our children a love of books and a love of reading.

StoryBook Treasures (SBT), a Virginia-based program founded by Teacher of the Year Denise Corbo, in partnership with JustWorld International, based in Wellington, have joined together to bring Pioneer Park a $15,000 grant to support 300 students in grades pre-kindergarten through third. SBT is a powerful literacy enrichment program designed by teachers to close the literacy gap among our nation’s neediest students. The all-inclusive program includes backpacks, books, treasures, curriculum, classroom materials, family engagement resources and professional development for teachers.

Pioneer Park Elementary is just one of 44 schools in Palm Beach County with a poverty rate of between 90 percent and 100 percent. This means that 90-100 percent of the children attending the school come from homes where a family of three makes less than $20,160 per year. One hundred percent of students qualify for the free lunch program, and students’ language arts proficiency is only 40 — 28 percent of students are learning English.

Five times during the school year, teachers will receive lesson plans for each book, as well as advice for parental involvement activities, and students will receive materials to use in the classroom to bring home and all of which each student can keep. According to Pamela Buckman, principal at Pioneer Park: “One of the most valuable components of StoryBook Treasures is the opportunity for students to be able to take the books home. Many of our students do not have print-rich environments, so this is a luxury for them. We loan them our books, but these books they get to keep, hold onto and share with their younger brothers and sisters or older brothers and sisters, so it really becomes personalized.”

Denise Corbo, the founder and president of StoryBook Treasures, is a national board certified teacher with endorsements in administration, gifted specialist, PK-8 and vocational education. The organization’s leadership team comprises about a dozen volunteers, all with backgrounds in education.

Recently, Ms. Corbo drove from Virginia to visit the school, introduce the program to the pre-kindergarten through third-grade teachers, and provide professional development training on how to implement the program. Teachers were able to view the books and treasures available for this school year following her presentation. They also learned of the required pre- and post-surveys for teachers and parents to take to support the effectiveness of the program. “Every child deserves the opportunity to enjoy the personal ownership and love of books,” Ms. Corbo said. She thanked JustWorld International for its partnership and support in funding the program. “With continued monetary support, we hope to sustain and even expand the program to other grade levels,” Ms. Corbo said.

Reading on grade level by third grade is an important milestone in students’ academic careers and a major factor in determining their success. At this point in their academic careers, students transition from “learning to read, to reading to learn,” and those who cannot read proficiently fall behind. Not only do they struggle to keep up with their peers, but they are then also less likely to graduate from high school and are more likely to have behavioral and social problems as a result.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/PPS
Pioneer Park Elementary teachers take a moment from their busy schedule to celebrate the SBT and JustWorld International grants that gives students books that they can take home and keep.

SBT was introduced to Pioneer Park Elementary last year as a trial and was so successful that JustWorld collaborated to fully implement the program for students in this fundamental stage of their education. Ms. Buckman elaborated, “We first started off doing this program with our kindergarten and first-grade students and this year I’m happy to say that we’ve added on pre-kindergarten, second and third. It is very important to repeat this program throughout the grades because it becomes a part of the culture in our building. It’s going to enhance our students’ love for reading and also give them that feeling of pride in themselves that they can pick up a book and read it.”

The first shipment of program supplies to Pioneer Park was delivered last week, and additional shipments will be delivered monthly until the last month of school in May. Materials for parents are available in Spanish and will be translated into Creole so that all families can support their children’s progress. With each book, parent receive a bookmark with questions to help engage their students in the stories they read, and surveys are collected at the beginning and end of the year for feedback. Teachers who ran the program last year shared, “The parents love the books and they love the little [treasures] that went with them. Many told me they read the book with the child over and over and over again.” It was also stated, “Not only the parents, but also the siblings got involved as well. A lot of them have siblings that are older or younger and they were waiting on the next book to come out because second grade, for example, did not have the program and they were using the books at home, too.”

If you are interested in supporting the reading enrichment program, visit or to make a donation to support the StoryBook Treasures program at Pioneer Park Elementary.

About StoryBook Treasures
StoryBook Treasures Inc. (SBT) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to putting the best children’s books in the hands of children. We use the most sought-after children’s literature to help children create vital lifelong literacy connections. Our proven program makes children love books and love to read.
StoryBook Treasures is currently giving more than 15,000 books to 3,000 children at 22 schools nationwide.

About JustWorld International
JustWorld International is a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization that finances life-changing education, nutrition, health and hygiene and leadership and cultural development programs for impoverished children in Cambodia, Honduras, Guatemala and the United States.
JustWorld International is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States and a registered Association 1901 in France. Tax-deductible donations are accepted in Switzerland and JustWorld’s supporters may send their donations to Foundation Philanthropia, a Swiss public-benefit umbrella foundation. JustWorld International has no political or religious affiliation.
Justworld International and Storybook Treasures are registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling toll-free 800-435-7352 within the state. registration does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation by the state.

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