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Medlin’s Literacy Lounge provides specialized reading support for students

After a year of dedicated planning by teachers and administrators, Medlin Middle School’s Literacy Lounge is officially open.

“The purpose of this lounge is to provide a special place for our students that may not be completely in love with reading yet,” said Paige Cantrell, the principal of Medlin Middle School. “Last fall, we began talking about how some middle school students continue to struggle with reading or just simply don’t enjoy it. We decided we just couldn’t keep doing the same thing we had always done, but that we needed to add another layer of help for our kids.”

Officially known around campus as the “Lit Lounge,” the invite-only space allows students — working toward their targeted reading goals — to obtain reading assistance in a relaxing, inviting and specialized atmosphere. 

“These students who have been invited to utilize the space have unique stickers on the back of their identification badges that give them ‘backstage access’ to the lounge,” said Gailanne Smith, the library media specialist at Medlin. “They flash their ID stickers at me or one of my aides and stroll in like it's a special VIP area.”

The lounge is not only stocked with cool décor, but also houses a FitDesk exercise bike — funded through a Northwest Education Foundation grant — fun seating and snacks, a wall where students sign their names and plenty of books that are organized appropriately by reading levels, allowing students to remain engaged.

“Before the Lit Lounge was created, these rooms were once used for office and workroom space, but we felt like the students could benefit more if we transformed the space into something they could utilize,” said Smith.

Next to the Lit Lounge sits a smaller library, where teachers have access to countless books —organized by reading level — and a small workspace, providing an area adequate for small group or one-on-one instruction.

“We have students coming in every morning before school to utilize the lounge, as well as during lunch times and during times when those students are in the library with their ELA classes,” said Smith. “Some of the groups of students have come in and have checked out the exact same book so they can read it together!”

Students that check into the Lit Lounge are asked to follow simple expectations, which include only using the space for reading or working, keeping the space quiet for others and logging reading minutes appropriately.

“We will continue to do this work and check in on how our students are improving,” said Cantrell. “Just seeing their excitement and using the space is worth it, but we definitely want to keep it going. It's been so wonderful to watch the students smiling, with a new book in hand!”