When I was in 2nd grade, I got into trouble for “refusing” to line up when my class was leaving the school library. No, I wasn’t a troublemaker. I didn’t hear my teacher say, “Line up, class.” I didn’t see my peers forming the line. I was simply lost in a book, curled up comfortably in a beanbag chair behind a row of bookshelves.
As a 5th grade teacher, whenever I saw a student curled up in a corner, silently reading, I felt nostalgic. I quietly approached the student and told him or her it was lunchtime or time to switch classes. No trouble. Just information. Each student would wave me off, saying, “Hold on,” or “Just a sec.” The scene reminded me of…me.
I became a reading specialist after years of teaching all subjects in elementary school. I wanted a change. I wanted to read again – spend time reading and teaching reading. I worked with two students in particular I remember well. One was a young girl, just like me, who wanted to read and learn all she could. She loved reading, but she needed help. I introduced her to Building Up, a short text in our curriculum materials about skyscrapers. She fell in love with buildings and structures, and ended up studying Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, the famous design architects, for research projects.
The other student couldn’t read on grade level, but he wanted to try new books anyway. When we read together, he was happy — he learned about disgusting foods, and how people “croaked”, and fell in love with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793.
I attended an NCTE annual conference and was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson in person that year. She talked about research for her historical fiction books, her writing process, and her love of students and teachers. I found out what it felt like to be “in the know” – meeting a favorite author and sharing a love of reading. I shoot a quick picture every time I see Laurie now, to show my students. “You know her?” they ask. I giggle, pinching myself as I take my love of reading and spread the “book love” through the schools where I work. (Thanks to Penny Kittle for the phrase.)
After (finally) receiving my school librarian certification in 2016, I was hired for my dream job – librarian at a middle school in my community. I love being a librarian — it’s the best way to spread the “book love.” But then, the unthinkable happened. That middle school dream job was cut. The school closed in June 2018 due to consolidation efforts in the district. I was devastated. How could I go back to teaching in a classroom, when I had finally reached my career goal?
Becoming a librarian brought new possibilities and new opportunities to my life. I started professional development sessions called “Picture Books are Perfect” – a series of sessions about how reading aloud and independent reading changes lives, and how picture books can help meet state standards, even in middle school and high school. With joy and relief (after nervously searching all summer), I also accepted a school librarian position at our district’s fine arts academy middle school! I continue living the dream as a school librarian, and I am happily employed again as the “book lady” for three schools today.
Libraries are important in schools, and certified librarians are needed to bring joyful and meaningful reading opportunities to children. I continue to advocate for real reading of books in schools. It is my pleasure to be able to provide literacy learning for students in my schools. I love the smell and feel of new books in each library shipment; I turn the books over and over in my hands, marveling at the cover art, reading back cover descriptions, perusing the first few pages, and searching for awards stickers. I’ve taught my students to do the same. We discuss plot, characters, perspectives, and theme in the library. I talk about meeting authors and attending author visits in the community. I invite my students and their parents to head to our new indie bookstore in town, and I pick up books to share at school.
I love being a librarian. But there’s something I love even more…
I love watching students fall in love with reading.