Beth Bullock loves books, not just the stories they tell, but the whole experience books provide. “There is a smell and crispness when you’re the first person to open a book,” says Beth.
The Library at Rogers Elementary where Beth is the school’s librarian is just what you’d expect from someone who loves books. It is a fairy-tale story land. Decorated ceiling to floor, a jungle of trees and wildlife transports readers to another time and place. Last week, as she unpacked boxes in anticipation of this week’s book fair, Beth was herself transported to another time and place, feeling like a kid at Christmas. “Every time we unpack a book fair, it’s so fun. It takes forever because I have to stop and look at all the books as we go.” Beth gets pretty animated describing it. “I can look at some of them and think ‘Oh, this would be perfect for this student or that student.’ It makes it exciting to see students enjoy the books just like I do.”
For the second year, Rogers 5th graders get to peruse and then pluck the perfect read from a smorgasbord of books, as many as they can buy within a $45 limit. For most of them, that’s about eight books.
“The learning of reading comes when the love of reading is already there.”
The all-they-can-hold book buffet is the answer to a situation that in years past would leave Bullock and the rest of the Rogers team longing for a different outcome. “It is disheartening when we watch videos showing all the great books that will be available at the book fair and then when it rolls around, some of the students are not able to get the book they want,” says Beth. “They look at the book, hold the book and they’re really excited about the book, but they just can’t get it.”
Principal Terri Huseman came up with the funds to change that. With a $45 spending limit and volunteers to help them shop, this week every Rogers fifth grader will handpick their own personal pile of page-turners to take home. Students in other grades will have the same opportunity in the spring, supplying them with a stack of summer reading material. Says Beth, “Last year when we did it, they rushed back to the classroom and were reading, reading, reading. What we’re doing is promoting their love of reading and keeping them interested in it.”
For Beth and all of Rogers’ educators, their novel book fair approach is money well spent now, with a payoff in the future as these students grow to become thinkers, communicators, collaborators and contributors. “We need to work hard on the love of reading,” says Beth. “The learning of reading comes when the love of reading is already there.”
“I think this makes their day,” she adds. “I know it makes mine.”