An abundance of books, successful literacy programs and the staff's obvious love of literature earned Ruch Community School the Exemplary Reading Program Award, an Oregon Reading Association official said.

An abundance of books, successful literacy programs and the staff's obvious love of literature earned Ruch Community School the Exemplary Reading Program Award, an Oregon Reading Association official said.

The school was one of six statewide nominated by ORA councils for the honor.

Carol Folk, a retired teacher and former ORA president, said she was impressed with how the staff's love of reading filtered down to the children.

In January, Folk and two other ORA officials visited Ruch to evaluate its literacy programs.

"When we walked in the office, there was a stack of books on the secretary's desk," she said. "There were children sitting in the waiting area reading and a rack of books for kids."

Every few weeks, Ruch Principal Julie Hill hosts a book club during the lunch hour, in which she and students enjoy healthy snacks and discuss a classic.

The morning of the ORA visit, Folk heard Hill tell her students there were 10 copies of Jack London's "White Fang" in her office for those interested in joining the discussion group.

"When we came back to the office two hours later, every book was gone," Folk marveled.

After being nominated for the award late last summer, Hill was asked to complete a comprehensive application with examples of how the school's reading programs facilitate student learning, how its students demonstrate success in reading and how its teachers provide leadership and vision for the reading programs, among other things.

In the application, Hill noted that last year the number of Ruch fifth- through eighth-grade students who met Oregon's reading requirements exceeded the district average for those grades.

Ruch's award included $500 toward a reading project and an invitation to present at the ORA Winter Institute in Portland, as well as the International Reading Association's annual conference held this May in New Orleans. Ruch teachers also received free ORA membership.

Hill said the school will use some of its winnings to pay for a digital storytelling event. Middle school students will interview and film longtime Applegate residents, edit the footage and present it at a community celebration in May.

— Teresa Thomas

Read more in Saturday's Mail Tribune.