Middle School Teacher Achievement Award winner, Kimberly Thompson, Eastside Middle School (Bullitt County)

Kimberly Thompson, the library media specialist at Eastside Middle School (Bullitt County), is making reading more accessible to all students at her school.

Thompson, a 2024 Kentucky Teacher Achievement Award winner, said more than 70% of students at her school say they prefer reading physical books. However, she knows that the world is becoming increasingly digital, so she now emphasizes teaching students how to access e-books and audiobooks.

Some of the most checked out books at Eastside’s library are manga books, or Japanese illustrated novels that are similar to comic books. Thompson said these books have become more and more common in her library in recent years.

“In the past, manga and graphic novels held an extremely negative connotation at my school and were not considered reading by LA (language arts) teachers,” Thompson said. “With the help of students, booksellers and research, I became not only an advocate for manga and graphic novels, but a warrior for my students who loved them.”

Eastside now has the biggest manga and graphic novel collection in the county, and Thompson is proud of the students that changed the culture around this type of reading.

Thompson is always looking out for more ways to “create a culture of reading” at Eastside. She encourages all teachers to talk about reading in their classrooms, even those who don’t teach English. She suggests finding a reading colleague for motivation and accountability, as well as creating class goals to inspire everyone to read.

“Ask teachers to keep a book on their desks so they can model reading during study hall or bellringers. A few minutes is enough. Let students see that reading happens everywhere,” she said.

Thompson said encouraging all types of reading will inspire students to read more and read more broadly. If all staff members inspire a culture of reading, students will expand their horizons and connect to new books and texts of all kinds.

“Not everyone will support you and you may feel disheartened at times,” Thompson said. “Don’t give up. You can encourage new readers among students, even among your faculty. Stay consistent and show students that you love books.”