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May 11, 2007

Books to be distributed to first-grade students in professor's memory

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Faculty and staff from Purdue University's College of Education will distribute books to Lafayette and West Lafayette first-graders May 14, 15 and 22 in memory of a professor who died in 2005. 

Susan Nierstheimer, a Purdue assistant professor in literacy and language, died Dec. 19, 2005, after battling cancer for two years. This is the second year for the book distribution.

The books were purchased with the proceeds from the Susan Nierstheimer Book Fund, which was created after her death to provide children's books for first-grade students participating in Reading Recovery, an early intervention program that helps first-graders who are having difficulty learning to read and write.

Each child will receive four books selected from a range of current children's literature, said Tonya Agnew, communications director in the College of Education. The books will build upon the reading skills developed through their participation in the Reading Recovery program and first-grade classroom instruction. Included in the selection will be a book they will be able to read easily; two chapter books that are more challenging, and one book at a higher level that they can read with assistance.

The books will carry the inscription "A gift for you from the Susan Nierstheimer Book Fund, providing books for children who have participated in the Reading Recovery Program."

Books will be distributed to 113 children - more than double the number of children that received books last year. The books will be presented to Reading Recovery students at Wea Ridge Elementary School at 9 a.m. Monday (May 14), Cumberland Elementary School students at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday (May 15) and Klondike Elementary School students at 1 p.m. May 22. A presentation date and time has yet to be determined for Oakland Elementary School.

Book presentations already took place May 4 at four elementary schools in the Twin Lakes School Corporation. Reading Recovery students at Eastlawn, Meadowlawn, Oaklawn and Woodlawn elementary schools in White County received books for their participation in Reading Recovery. Nierstheimer's husband of 36 years, Norm, helped distribute the books.

"Susan's wish was to put books into the hands of children," said Susan Gunderson, an instructor in the College of Education who was a colleague and close friend of Nierstheimer's. "She truly believed that all children can learn to be readers. She wanted to make sure that the children who are recipients of this gift receive books that they can read and that they can share with their families."

In the future, the fund will provide books on a rotating basis for students in Reading Recovery Purdue-affiliated schools in other surrounding areas, Gunderson said.

Nierstheimer's passion was helping children who have difficulty learning to read, and her doctoral dissertation focused on the Reading Recovery program, Gunderson said. She co-authored a reading textbook for college students in addition to publishing articles in various reading journals.

Before coming to Purdue, Nierstheimer taught for a number of years in public elementary schools. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Illinois State University and in 1996 earned a doctorate from Purdue's College of Education.

Nierstheimer taught literacy courses to future teachers at Purdue for two years, then at Illinois State for five years before returning to Purdue in 2002.

Those wishing to make a donation to the memorial fund can make checks payable to the Purdue Foundation, 403 E. Wood St., West Lafayette, Ind. 47907-2007.

Media contact: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Tonya Agnew, (765) 494-0568,

Susan Gunderson, continuing lecturer, (765) 494-7936,

Jennifer Jeffries, director of advancement, College of Education, (765) 496-3545,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


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