I admit I have wanted to respond with a mean, smart-aleck remark when a student says, “I can’t find a good book,” or asks, ”Do you have any good books?”
However, I just smile and ask, “What do you like to read about? Let me help you find a ‘just right’ book.”
I might have to pry it out of them, but soon I know that Susie likes a book with bunnies in it and Josef likes sports, especially football. Annie wants to learn more about art and artists, and Sam, well, he really likes to read but loves to ride bikes and “are there any stories with bikes in them?”
How do I know which books will help spur these students on to a lifelong love of reading, and, in the process, learning and growing? Well, I’ve read almost all the books in the school library! Not a hardship for someone who loves reading and is hardly ever without a book.
I also arrange for an author to visit the school each year. We have assemblies, and I contact our local independent bookstore, Copperfield’s, to provide books for sale. You should see the children’s faces when they get their book personally autographed! In recent years we have invited Kate and Sarah Klise, Matthew Gollub, Megan McDonald, Daniel and Robert San Souci, Denys Cazet, Ed Emberley. This year Mac Barnett came, and all his books have been checked out every week since.
Some kids are easy. Give them a Melanie Watt or Mo Willems book, and then you see them head right for that shelf each visit until they’ve read them all. But what about that timid little girl who shrugs her shoulders and gives you a wide-eyed look? I receive great joy if I can get her to smile, perhaps with an Amy Krouse Rosanthal or Patrick McDonnel book. The greatest challenge is with the reluctant reader. I have had success recommending The Ballpark Mysteries by David A Kelly and The Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.
The Islander by Cynthia Rylant, The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer, and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech are the books I give to a child and say, “Read it. Trust me.” When they come back to me and say, “Do you have more like this?” that’s when I remember why I love my job.
Lorraine has run a summer reading program at her small school since 2004. Last year she had over 500 circulations and partners with the Napa County Library’s summer program. She is one of the more experienced clerks and often is asked to mentor new hires.