This past year, as strapping men and women in hard hats frequently traversed our library's
grand staircase in pursuit of a 38,000 square foot addition to our marvelous school, the librarians decided (wisely, we thought) to lay low. No matter how many beautiful articles Laura Bishop might pen about the value of school-wide reads, 2017 didn't seem like the right moment to dream big in terms of our library program. Nevertheless, our eyes glistened (with excitement? tears?) when the charismatic Head of Middle School Humanities approached us with the idea of launching a new type of summer reading program for our middle schoolers (grades 4-7).
Upon their return to school, Chapin’s middle school students will be clustering to discuss a common theme (kindness) as it appeared in the books they chose to read over the summer. The hope? To give seventh graders in their last year of middle school the chance to be leaders in mixed-age discussions while reinforcing two cherished community norms (reading + kindness!)
As I sit at home awaiting my own participation in these "Choose Kind" breakout sessions, I thought it might be -- well, kind, really -- to briefly share what I learned from getting this not-quite-Book-Day program off the ground.
• Never be anything short of super-enthusiastic about a new community program, no matter how ill-timed it seems. Negative chatter is the bane of any school. I indulged in it briefly and got called out on it by a beloved colleague. Until then, I didn’t realize how desperately administration members relied on me as a standard-bearer of positivity. Lesson learned.
• Put most everything else aside -- and by that, I mean all those nagging everyday tasks -- recataloging and weeding come to mind -- and focus on the new program instead. In the end, you’ll never be remembered for your perfect collection….but a new program? Yes. Or, at least -- hopefully.
• Set up a time for the kids to physically interact with books that support the new program. In my case, it was hosting a book tasting of books that met the “Choose Kind” criteria. This was in the final days of school (no small scheduling feat given all the end-of-year activities) but the girls were so eager to mingle and write their shortlist on a homespun bookmark. In the end, I was able to guilt most of my colleagues into giving up 15 minutes of their classes that final week so that the girls could each choose a book appropriate to their personality and reading level.
• Keep reading this blog and attending HVLA’s wonderful meetings. It’s a great way to force yourself to dream big and stay open. And the post-meeting social always reassures me that no, I’m not going crazy, our job really is that complicated.
Hope to see you all at our next event!
Natasha Goldberg, Middle School Librarian, Chapin