Lorain Bilingual Academy Prioritizes Literacy Skills and Partners with Library

Bilingual Academy of Lorain believes in the importance of literacy.

Every two weeks, fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Gassman brings her class to the main branch of the Lorain Public Library System, 351 W. Sixth St., one block from the school campus.

“I want kids to be exposed to different types of books since we don’t have a lot of books in our classrooms,” Gassman said. “We have the challenge of reading 40 books this year, and I hope we will reach that goal.”

Teacher Jennifer Gassman’s fourth-grade students choose books from the main branch of the Lorain public library system. (Aliah Kimbro/The Morning Paper)

Gassman started the initiative during his freshman year at school.

“This is my third year at the academy,” she said. “The first year I was here, I asked our manager for permission to take them on a field trip and he agreed as long as I had someone to go with me.”

Melissa Roberts, title teacher at Lorain Bilingue, accompanies them as another chaperone.

“It’s a great idea because it encourages them to start reading for fun and find what they love,” Roberts said.

Lorain Bilingual Academy director Jay Saez says literacy is a priority.

“It’s extremely important to us,” he said. “I appreciate the support of Lorain Library as we don’t have a library in the building so we rely on that relationship.”

Saez says that at the beginning of the year, the library issues a card to each student.

“Students take a form to fill out at home, and then the library activates each card and sets up a special area for them to view the books,” he said. “It’s very quick and convenient for us.”

He said that several classes use the library as a resource for reading material.

The Lorain Bilingual Academy has been open for four years, Saez said.

“We are a charter school that offers Spanish as a second language to students,” he said. “They receive daily Spanish lessons and instruction.”

The school, located at 307 W. Seventh St. in Lorain, has classes from K-8.

Students in Jennifer Gassman’s fifth grade class read books. (Aliah Kimbro/The Morning Paper)

Saez said about 60% of young people enrolled are bilingual and 15% don’t speak English at all.

“We have a very strong ESL program,” he said. “The program is designed to support the community of children who do not speak English at home and provide them with as much help as possible.

Saez has been with the school since its inception and says that was a motivating factor for the opening of the academy.

“We knew the Spanish-speaking community in Lorain was not getting the support it needed or deserved,” he said. “We found that other schools didn’t give children the opportunity to learn English from the basics or develop Spanish literacy for native speakers.”

He said he looks forward to the school’s continued growth.

“I was here at the very beginning, and we opened with 90 kids, and now we have just over 300,” Saez said. “My goal has always been to be a real language academy and to offer a variety of languages; it takes time to build, but we focus on what’s important.

Dwight E. Schulz