As librarians implementing the AASL Standards, we often find inspiration in those who work around us and among us. We celebrate the work of other librarians and find joy in being part of an effective, innovative profession. Making connections between the AASL Standards and literature is something that school librarians do very well. In this blog post, I wanted to share one such example. It involves a school librarian who is committed to celebrating the diversity in all of us, who has a passion for showing every child that they are special, and who has a special gift for bringing literature to life. And, it involves a book.
Meet Lauren Lynn
Lauren Lynn has been the librarian at Huntingtown Elementary School in Huntingtown, Maryland, for 5 years. She has held different teaching positions in her career, but librarian is by far her favorite. She wanted to use literature to explore the idea of the concepts of wants and needs, sharing and friendship. She decided to pursue the idea of creating a school-wide read-aloud event using a single book for grades kindergarten through fifth grade. To make this effort successful, she knew she needed to provide teachers with all of the resources they would need, and so she ordered enough paperback copies of the book to go to every classroom teacher.
After much research, Lauren decided on the book Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. The book is about a young boy named Jeremy who has a problem. He really wants the shoes that “everyone” has at school. His grandmother tells him that they cannot afford those shoes, but they can afford the winter boots that he needs. The story goes on about the decisions that Jeremy has to make and the way he finds out who is friends are and are not.
With the support of her administration, a day was chosen in which Those Shoes would be read at the same time in every classroom. The hope was that students who were siblings would be able to share their ideas about the book with each other and at home with parents, and that students across grade levels would be able to chat and discuss with each other.
As part of the discussion process with students, teachers shared items that had been important to them as children: charm bracelets, a letter jacket from high school, a very old pair of loved Adidas tennis shoes, and more. Some classes used a shoe template to write about how they can help people in need, and these templates were displayed around the building.
Thinking about Multicultural Books
When choosing a book for this school-wide read, Lauren realized that a view was held by some staff that a book about equity and diversity had to be about struggles with racism or about history.
“A lot of people think that a multicultural book has to talk about an experience of someone who is African American or another group. But a multicultural book can be a book that simply has characters of different skin tones living their regular lives.” –Lauren Lynn
Lauren said that it was eye opening to some of the staff that a book can dive into equity, diversity, and be a multicultural book without addressing topics such as slavery or immigration. Therefore, Lauren was very precise in her choice of books–reading a book featuring everyday life and problems but that featured characters of diverse backgrounds. Her administration is wonderful and realized quickly that Lauren had the expertise to pick the perfect book for this school-wide project.
After the school-wide reading of Those Shoes took place, Lauren surveyed the teachers and the students about their feelings surrounding the activities and discussions of the book. She reports that the responses were overwhelmingly positive. For many teachers, it brought back memories of what it means to want but not need something. For students, it caused them to think about necessities versus things that they would like to have.
Teachers were able to keep the book as part of their classroom libraries. Lauren loves that adding Those Shoes to the classroom libraries will add yet another multicultural title to the collection.
Taking It Further
With the success of the school-wide read at Lauren’s elementary school, our district is hoping to roll out a district-wide school-wide book in the fall of 2020. Thanks to Lauren for her leadership in this arena and for being willing to sit down and chat with me so that I could write about the experience for this blog.
If you have done school wide books in the past or have suggestions for great school-wide reads at any level, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020
January 31, 2020 is Multicultural Children’s Book day! You can learn more and request materials by visiting the website: https://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Join in and #readyourworld.
Author: Jennifer Sturge
Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 26 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL and is President Elect for the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2019-2020. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow. Most recently she is the chair elect for the Supervisor’s Section of AASL.