The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

A Visit from the Urbana Free Library

One of the indicators that the end of the year is nearly upon us is the arrival of the children’s librarians from the Urbana Free Library. They come to the school each year to announce the library’s summer reading program. I honestly have no idea if summer reading programs at public libraries are a universal practice or just something that happens around central Illinois, but I love them and hope that they do get offered everywhere.

When I was a kid, I always participated in the reading program; at least, for as long as I can remember I did. I don’t remember Mrs. Walker, our children’s librarian, coming to the school to announce the program, though. It seemed like it was just a given that we would be signing up and participating as soon as it was offered. But then, my best friend and I spent a lot of time at the library throughout the year anyway. The library was roughly halfway between my house and his, so it was a convenient place to me. And, of course, we couldn’t meet at the library without going in, finding books, playing games, watching movies (old filmstrip movies that were old adaptations of classic books, usually), and just hanging out with Mrs. Walker. We even helped her tidy up the library from time to time.

I distinctly remember the last year we were allowed to participate in the summer reading program. Most students dropped out after elementary school, but we were allowed to participate in middle school, too. And even though we knew we were going to be reading anyway, we wanted to participate so we could get the free donuts from Ron’s Donuts & Bakery, which just happened to be down the street from my best friend’s house. At the end of eighth grade, we were told that we could participate one last time. Because it was the last year, we wanted to make it special.

Instead of setting a reading goal of 25 or 50 books, which is what most of the big kids did, we decided to go all out and set a reading goal of 100 books. The librarian had set a rule that children reading chapter books could count every sixty pages as a book, which means my best friend and I each had to read approximately 6,000 pages. Easy as a pie!

When librarians came to our school, I made sure to tell my students about this story as further evidence of my passion for reading. I would love for each of my students to participate in the library reading program. As I reflect on how this year has gone, I can think of a lot of things I would have done differently, but there is one thing I think I have done very well: I have passed on my love of reading to my students. Not all of them want to read as often and as long as I want them to, but far more of them want to read than don’t. This is a signal that I’ve done something right this year. I just hope that this love for reading continues onward!

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One response

  1. This is wonderful. Our city libraries are great, but we haven’t yet made a solid relationship with them at the school level. But my high school students — after much encouragement — are getting library cards before the summer and saying things like, “The library is great! Why don’t people go to the library?”

    May 17, 2012 at 11:59 am

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