Across the city, many classrooms lack what Alison Walters has cobbled together from 10-cent yard sales, book-club deals, and the proceeds of side jobs she works "to support my teaching habit": a colorful, voluminous classroom library.  City and school officials want to change that.

On Tuesday, Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and 30 other leaders gathered at Clara Barton School to launch a $3.5 million fund-raising campaign aimed at placing libraries in every Philadelphia School District elementary classroom.

The need is great, especially in a system where few whole-school libraries remain, and fewer than a dozen librarians are on staff citywide.  Walters wonders how she'd do her job without the classroom library that delights the first graders in Room 209 at Barton, in Feltonville.  "I want my kids to be in a beautiful place, with all kinds of resources," said Walters, who has taught in Philadelphia for 21 years. "The classroom library helps them move forward faster."

The citywide effort is being driven by the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the nonprofit philanthropic arm of the school system. To celebrate, the 30 guest readers fanned out across classrooms to read to students.  "Getting the right books in the right hands at the right time is critically important," said Hite, who has made early-literacy work a hallmark of his administration. "The more confident children feel reading, the more they will read."

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