Cindy: When I was a kid, long before the Black Friday stampedes of today, I couldn’t wait for the Sears Wish Book to arrive in the mail. My brother and I grabbed notebook paper and stretched out on the floor, turning each page of the toy section while we made our Christmas lists. Santa never brought most of the things we wanted—money was just too tight—but it was fun to dream and browsing the catalog was half the fun.
A few weeks ago, one of my reading intervention teachers gave her students the Tab and Scholastic book flyers along with scissors, glue, and a sheet of paper that said simply, MY BOOKSHELF. The sheets also had some horizontal lines representing empty shelves. She asked them to browse the flyers and cut out the cover art of the books they wanted to own. They went to town, cutting and gluing, perhaps judging some of the books by their covers. Who doesn’t? The teacher gathered them up and gave them to me, grouped by class hour because they were coming for book talks the next week.
Over many years of holding book fairs, I’ve seen
an increase in the number of students who don’t
have money to purchase a book.
I rounded up the books I had, ran to the local bookstore for a few that I didn’t, and gave the students their bookshelf papers back as I booktalked the titles each hour. It was one of the most successful sessions we’ve ever had. Many of these students don’t have money to purchase their own books, or would not choose to spend their money on books, but they got the message that the library can provide them. And I had a better idea about what they might want me to booktalk after viewing their ideal book shelves. The teacher reported high satisfaction with their selections a few days later.
This teacher’s project fits nicely with an offer I make during our schools’ book fairs. Over many years of holding book fairs, I’ve seen an increase in the number of students who don’t have money to purchase a book. So, as I make announcements about the fair during each class’s visit, I also make this offer: “If you see a book you want to read but you don’t want to spend your money on it, check the library catalog as we have many of these books. If we don’t have it, you can recommend it to me to purchase with our book fair profit and you can be the first to read it, because that is the beauty of libraries . . . you can read for free.” I keep sticky notes on hand and have the students put their name on the books they want me to buy. Several students an hour take me up on my offer and are happy to know they will get to borrow the book they want instead of wandering away disappointed after watching other students buying books. We librarians get to shop for books for our libraries with other people’s money, why shouldn’t our students as well?