School hits on a novel idea

Student's project brings e-readers to 11 classrooms at R-5 High

R-5 High School student Dennis Page, 16, reads from an e-reader in a classroom at the school. A classmate of Page’s, Ezra Fortner, came up with the idea for e-readers for the school as a project for his social studies elective class. Instead of making more space at a school that has no room for a library of its own, Fortner decided to build a library that would take up hardly any space at all: a digital one.

A trip to the library involves a nine-block hike to the public library for students at R-5 High School.

The two-story, 16,000-square-foot alternative school has no room for a library of its own. Finding storage space for novels and other works of literature is tough, which limits the amount of books students can access at school.

R-5 student Ezra Fortner decided to tackle the problem this spring as a project for his social studies elective class. Instead of making more space for books, he decided to build a library that would take up hardly any space at all: a digital one.

Fortner proposed the idea of purchasing a half-dozen e-readers for each of R-5’s 11 classrooms. Each tablet-like device can store more than a thousand books while taking up less room than a single copy of “War and Peace.” Classic titles can be downloaded to the readers for free and copies of other books are often $20 or less.

Fortner presented the idea to Palisade’s Sunrise Rotary Club in April and the club agreed to donate $1,000 toward the cost of purchasing the e-readers. Palisade Sunrise Rotary President Mark Liff said the club offered that amount because they were touched by Fortner’s presentation.

“With Rotary in general one of the big things is literacy, so it worked hand-in-hand with us,” Liff said.

Armed with matching funds from an unified improvement grant R-5 has, Fortner began shopping around for e-readers. Kindles were less expensive, but R-5 Principal Anna Goetz suggested Fortner check with her friend at Barnes & Noble, Laura Mettauer, a community relations manager. Mettauer was able to offer R-5 a discounted price of $79 for a Nook e-reader and the school purchased 33 of the readers. R-5 teachers pooled money to buy covers for some of the Nooks and Barnes & Noble employees raised money for eight more covers, according to Mettauer.

The Nooks arrived over the summer, the same time Fortner left the school to live with his dad in North Carolina. R-5 senior Julia Weaver took over the project three weeks ago and plans to raise money for more Nooks.

The 18-year-old said she personally prefers the feel of turning a page in a physical book to holding a Nook, but she believes the e-readers will inspire more of her fellow students to share her love of reading.

“I think they’re going to like the technology and that they don’t have to get up in front of everyone in class to get a dictionary,” Weaver said, referencing a feature that allows students to tap and hold the Nook’s screen to automatically see a word’s definition.

R-5 social studies teacher David Edwards, who has overseen the project with both Fortner and Weaver, said he uses the Nooks in class to help struggling readers gain confidence. He said the devices take away peer pressure to pretend to read faster because no one can see which page a student is on.

R-5 has purchased 70 books for the Nooks and can load up to six copies of one title on multiple Nooks. The devices are mostly used for pleasure reading and novels at this point, Edwards said, but they can eventually hold textbooks and magazines.

Dennis Page, a 16-year-old R-5 sophomore who has used the Nooks in class, said the modern Nooks have encouraged him to read.

“I don’t like reading paperbacks, but I like technology,” he said.

Anyone interested in making a donation to R-5 to buy more Nooks can send a check to the school at R-5 High School, 310 N. Seventh St., Grand Junction 81501 and write “Nooks” in the memo line.


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