From hosting book launch parties for local authors to providing a gathering space for local groups, community is at the heart of Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read. Now a grant is giving the Fort Smith company a shift to grow this community foundation.
The Binc Foundation, along with Penguin Random House, honored Sara Putman, owner of Bookish, with the Indies with Impact Award on December 15. Binc is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping booksellers in need.
The prize helps strengthen the ties that bookstores have with their neighbors by funding the winner’s community initiative. The inaugural year of the two-year grant program was 2019.
For Putman, the prize was the right avenue for a program she has been trying to launch in Fort Smith in recent years.
âWhen I was teaching, I knew the power of putting a good book in the hands of my students and how that helps ACT scores, self-esteem – everything,â Putman said. âIt was really important to me to have a diverse and relevant collection of books in my classroom that the kids can take as they please. ”
Putman has taught full time for 15 years and currently teaches at the Future School in Fort Smith.
With the funds from the grant, she plans to create a program that teachers in the Fort Smith public school system can apply to. Putman is not yet sure of the exact logistics but hopes to put them in place on a semester basis, with one or two teachers chosen each semester.
Those selected will then be able to shop for their specific classrooms and choose books that are relevant to their students.
By being able to choose books for their particular classrooms, Putman hopes it will help celebrate the diversity of the community.
Putman’s desire to create shelves that are diverse and relevant to her classroom has grown over the last four to five years of her work as a full-time teacher.
âI have invested a lot of time and money in my classroom library,â Putman said. âWe spent at least 10 or 15 minutes a day reading. And not just reading, but also talking about the books we were reading. We shared books with everyone and kind of built this little bookish community in my classroom. ”
Putman is hopeful that the community seeing the program and what it offers students will create new avenues for continuing it after scholarship funding ends.
âI think if we create a joy to read in our young people, our children, and they do it for the rest of their lives, you really strengthen your community,â Putman said.
If she can continue the program, Putman would like to expand it to other schools in the community, especially the smaller and more rural ones that may not have access to other people’s level of funding.
“As a teacher, it’s hard enough to feed your family, let alone look after every child in your class,” Putman said. âIt’s only a small part, but if you can help a teacher put a relevant and thoughtful book into their student’s hands, it is life changing. ”
Abbi Ross is the company and featured reporter for the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross @ swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss