Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
Being an author is only one of the jobs involved in getting books into the hands of young readers. Professional librarians are crucial in matching the right kid with the right book and instilling a lifelong love of reading. How very sad that so many schools, in an effort to cut costs, are eliminating this important link.
I have the honor of knowing and working with many outstanding librarians, and one of the best is my dear friend Julie Reimer, a media specialist at Turtle Lake Elementary in Shoreview, Minnesota. Knowledgeable, passionate, and thoughtful are three of the words that spring to my mind when I think of Julie. She's a staunch advocate for bringing authors into the school. She is also a master baker, and like the other authors who have worked with her, I've been the fortunate recipient of many of her incredible baked treats.
Here are Julie's answers to a few questions that I asked her earlier this week. I especially appreciated her advice to authors.
What do you like most about being an elementary school librarian?
I love looking out at the children's faces as I am reading aloud or doing a book talk. They watch and listen attentively so that their whole bodies seem engaged. I know I am building upon their literacy foundations and helping to form connections for experiences they will have with information and literature in the future.
What is the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is finding time to include time for literacy in the midst of increasing demands to focus on technology. Though I feel we do a great job of spending time on both activities during library and information literacy time, it is the time I spend fixing things (e.g. printers, projectors, computers) that I resent. Those things take away from time with students.
How do you decide which books to buy for your library? Do reviews make much difference to you?
I try to read everything before I purchase anything. The public library is a great source, and I spend time at local bookstores as well. Sometimes the purchases are driven by specific curriculum needs (e.g. monarch books for kindergarten or urban/rural books for third grade social studies), and sometimes the books simply provide independent reading options. Reviews are important; they are the initial source at times for even looking at a title. That said, I may not always agree with a reviewer's point of view, and despite a positive review by a source, I still may not purchase the title.
Do you notice any differences between the way kids are reading now and the way they were reading ten years ago?
I think people would expect a librarian to say there are differences in the way kids read today versus ten years ago. I just can't say that is the case with the students I see each week. Though graphic novels are certainly popular, they are no more popular than Garfield or Calvin & Hobbes. Students are still looking for good books. When they come to me and ask for specific recommendations, they are not looking for the latest in a series or the newest graphic novel. They want a good story. Many times I will choose older titles as my read-aloud selection for the week. Despite its age or lack of flashy color, that book will be on reserve at both our library and the local public library branch for weeks. A good example of that would be Ann Jonas's Round Trip. Kids still ask for that book, and I read it a year ago! The point is that readers get enthusiastic about reading something that has been recommended to them in a positive way. That will never change.
If you could tell authors one thing, what would it be?
Give children credit for realizing the nuances, humor, inferences, and feeling found in stories and information. They discover far more than people realize. They LOVE listening to books. Take the time to read aloud your own work to hear what it might sound like in the ears of young listeners. If you like it, they will most likely share your opinion.
Tell us about something funny that has happened in your library.
When students return books, softcover books go in a basket on top of the desk for safer handling, and hardcover books go in the book drop. This morning, one kindergarten student came in with a para-professional. The man asked the boy whether his book was hard or soft. The child banged the book against his head and replied, "I think this is hard."
I'm not sure it's funny, but there is a certain irony to the fact that most books damaged by dogs (by chewing on them, of course) are usually books about dogs!