I have the best job of all at Heather Ridge School (HRS): I am the librarian. HRS is a small, alternative school within the Frederick County Public School system in Frederick, Maryland. I love my students, staff, and community and work hard to provide a warm and welcoming space for everyone.
My main goal has always been to instill in my students a desire to read and learn. That’s not always an easy task. Many of our students have more pressing life issues that put reading on the back burner for them. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. Every chance I get, I am striving to find that one book that will hook them on reading forever.
When I heard about the AASL Inspire Special Events Grant, I thought to myself how wonderful it would be if my students could meet an author in person. I thought if the students could hear from someone other than me about how important reading was, that it would have a bigger impact. The grant would allow me to give the students and staff something that they would not ordinarily be able to afford. So I applied and was awarded the grant!
After some research, I found the perfect choice for our school. His name is Desmond Hall, author of Your Corner Dark. While this book takes place in Jamaica, it resonates with American teens today. Frankie, the protagonist, is a high school senior with a scholarship to earn an engineering degree in America. Sounds perfect until his father is shot by a stray bullet. Frankie is left with a hard decision: join a gang to get the money to pay for his father’s medical expenses or go to America and pursue his dreams.
Desmond Hall understands how challenging life can be for kids. During his author visit, he was able to share with them the importance of reading and working hard for what you want in life. Desmond also worked with them on a writing assignment. The students created a character and their forces of antagonism. I was curious to see how this exercise would go. To my surprise, just about every student in attendance worked on it. Not only that, but most of them stood up and shared their work with everyone else! It made my heart happy and I was proud to see them work so hard on it, to see them unafraid to ask Desmond questions, and to work on the exercise with him.
At the end of his presentation, Desmond took the time to sign their books—writing something special for each one of them. I don’t know exactly how many students will be reading more because of this, but I am optimistic. At least one student said that Desmond Hall’s books were the only ones he could relate to “because growing up ain’t easy.” That’s what books do. They make you know you’re not alone.
Thank you, AASL, for allowing me to provide this opportunity to my students. Thank you, Desmond Hall, for your visit and your patience and your love for our students. We will never forget this event.