It took a letter from the principal and some serious selling on my part to get an educator card from Barnes & Noble. I think the fact I’m in there so much helped my case. I was there to buy a book for a student. One book. I left with more than one book, as you can see.
This week I experienced what I think will be one of the top 10 moments of my life. Those of you who know me in real life have already heard this story (several times) so now is the time for you to check twitter or Facebook. The rest of you: prepare for gushing.
There are several students who aren’t strong readers for various reasons. Some hide it, some don’t. One 7th grader told me at the beginning of the year that he didn’t like books or reading, so there was no point in him checking out a book. Bless his little heart; he had no idea who he was up against.
I may be a naive optimist, but I truly believe there is a book for every kid. I also believe that the job of an elementary school librarian/media specialist (even a volunteer like me) is to find that book, and I’m not going to find it shelving books or sitting behind a desk stamping cards. It’s taken me months, but I’ve learned the likes and dislikes of most of the kids in 1st through 7th grade by talking to them about anything and everything. I have a pretty good idea of their hobbies, what they watch on TV, and their favorite subjects. I know who most of the girls have a crush on and which boys are utterly, totally clueless when it comes to girls. <----Most of them. Getting to know the kids has made everything easier. When a second grader turned in a Puppy Place book, I put it to the side for J. in 1st grade because he loves dogs. E. is in The Nutcracker every year, so I put Portraits to the side when I found it one day while dusting the shelves. If you casually mention someone’s crush really liked a book, that book is as good as checked out.
It took me months of failed attempts, unread books, and casual conversations to figure out this boy liked goofy, funny plots in books and movies. Slowly, I started finding books and putting them to the side for him. Three weeks ago, a parent donated a box of books, all of them awesome. James Patterson’s Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life was in the pile. I immediately put it to the side for him and that week convinced him to give it a try. He did, grudgingly. The next week he came into library and asked to check the book out again because he wasn’t finished. I may have started clapping and squealing. He may have rolled his eyes and turned red. And smiled.
The week after that, he walked in and told me he finished the book, and that it was the first book he has ever read that wasn’t part of an assignment. I’m not sure how true that is because I think he’s read the Wimpy Kid series, but that’s what he claimed and even so it doesn’t really matter because I was so happy and so proud of him that I immediately started squealing and clapping (again) and ran over to him and gave him a huge side-hug, breaking my own (the school’s, really) “no hugging the older boys” rule. He turned a million shades of red, but it was a happy red, and I wish you could have seen the look of pride on his face. He glowed. He even let me take his picture, and he hates taking pictures. I told him every five minutes that I was so, so, so incredibly proud of him; that I knew he could do it; that he has always been a great reader and just needed to find his book; that he would always remember that book; and did he realize what an amazing thing he did? I was so flooded with emotion that I almost started crying. I, the woman who never cries, got stingy eyes over a 7th grade boy reading a book. I blame Buster and my 40s.
I showed him the small pile of funny books I found (how I wish I had an electronic catalog I could search!) and he checked out a book just like that.
At the end of class, as they were all walking out, I pulled him aside and held him at arm’s length by both shoulders. He stood there looking down at me–yes, I was wearing heels–with his books held out in front of him, already turning red, already smiling. “You understand how proud I am of you, right? And how wonderful I think you are, no matter what you do or don’t read, right?”
“Yes, Mrs. Kendall.” Eye roll. Shoulder shrug. Foot scuff. Blush. Smile.
“Good,” I said. “See you next week.”