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MDE and Local Districts Celebrate Diverse Classroom Libraries

March is Reading Month Activities Promote Literacy

LANSING – Local school districts and the Michigan Department of Education during March is Reading Month are highlighting what’s being done to create diverse classroom libraries.

Superintendents from three school districts in different parts of Michigan presented at this month’s State Board of Education meeting how their schools are creating diverse classroom libraries featuring books with characters and by authors who are like the children.

“We see the emergent need to get the books in our students’ hands and to share books that mirror our children,” said Dr. Kelvin Butts, superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools. The school district will be assembling mini diverse classroom libraries in all 32 of its elementary classrooms while teachers receive Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading Spelling (LETRS) training from MDE. 

“I know our students – and I’ll go as far as saying my students – deserve to have and are eager to read these books that mirror them,” Dr. Butts said.

In Port Huron Area School District, 24% of the children are students of color, said Superintendent Theo Kerhoulas. The district has spent $340,000 in state and federal funds refreshing its diverse school and classroom libraries in the last three years.

“In Port Huron, we take diversity in literature seriously,” Kerhoulas said. “We believe all students should be reflected in what they read and see themselves and others in who they read.”

East Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Dori Leyko said diverse classroom libraries align with the district’s mission to nurture each child. When students feel included and valued, she said, it supports their mental health and sense of well-being and belonging.

“We know that we have diverse students in every classroom,” Leyko said. “And we know they want the opportunity to see themselves represented in the classroom libraries.”

In addition to celebrating diversity in literature, MDE this month is highlighting the how (learning to read) and why (reading to learn) of literacy and encouraging literacy engagement not only in schools during March, but year-round beyond school campuses.

MDE Superintendent Michael F. Rice read to students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Benton Harbor this month to share the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Dr. Rice created a diverse classroom library as a young teacher in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools.

“In those early years, I read and built my diverse classroom library, as I geeked out – and geeked kids – on diverse literature,” he said. “I could see the power of diverse literature in my kids’ engagement, interest and excitement.”

Years later, he was superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools as the district created its own diverse classroom libraries in 17 elementary schools.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed March is Reading Month in Michigan.

In honor of March is Reading Month, MDE has invited educators to submit their March is Reading Month plans and celebrations through the Michigan Reads! School Celebrations Form, closing on March 15. MDE will compile the responses received and share them statewide so educators can learn from one another. All submissions will be entered into a drawing to receive special recognition and a commemoration keepsake.

MDE is also offering schools the opportunity to request MDE guest readers to come to their classrooms in March and beyond. To request an MDE guest reader, MDE has asked that districts complete an MDE Guest Reader Request Form by March 15. More information is available by emailing

Dr Rice with Benton Harbor students March 2024 02


Dr Rice with Benton Harbor students March 2024 01

State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice is shown with students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Benton Harbor during a March is Reading Month visit.

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