Roar for Open Window School Library!
Welcome to Library Lions Roar! Celebrating libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest Lauren Richey.
Hi, I’m Lauren Richey, brand new librarian and current library assistant at Open Window School library in Bellevue, Washington. As a recent MLIS graduate from the University of Washington, I am just starting in the library profession. After a number of years working for the federal government, I knew I wanted a job that provided interaction with young people and left me feeling like the work I did actually mattered. When I began my graduate program, I knew I wanted to work in a school library setting, which helped me focus my coursework, projects, and seek internships that would be beneficial to my future and with those I would work.
At OWS we see Kindergarten through 5th Grade weekly in Library Class, so there are many opportunities for me to teach, get to know the students, and learn how to best meet their needs.
I love when a student wants to share what they are reading and their thoughts on the plot or characters whether it’s in class or passing in the halls. Seeing their eyes light up because something they’ve read sparked an interest is so fulfilling. Creating trust between myself and students is important so that they will know they can ask me for recommendations in the future. One of my favorite moments was a handwritten thank-you-note from a middle school student for giving him a good book recommendation!
Recommendations-my favorite book of last year and a childhood favorite
I also enjoy the insights students have into the books we share in library class. They are often thinking more insightfully or critically than I might expect and I find that it helps the way I look at a situation and helps me be a better teacher.
Recently we read Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan out loud to our 4th grade classes and their excitement throughout the story was infectious.
Student drawing “Mrs. Richey reading to the class.”
When we got to the resolution in the story, the students cheered they were so captivated. Even months later I had one student tell me how much she enjoyed the book, gushing about how much she liked the characters and plot.
Roar for the Importance of School Libraries
Having a library in the school helps students expand their knowledge, exercise their independence, and use their imaginations. The best thing about our students is their curiosity. Some students, especially the young ones, aren’t yet skilled enough to use the internet to find information, so having access to books in a school library is so important. Subjects that might seem random to me might actually be helping them broaden their understanding from their other classes. Their curiosity is especially apparent when I help them find books during “check out time” and the student pauses to think (sometimes a long pause because they don’t have one in mind to begin with) and then they exclaim some seemingly random subject. Some past inquiries that come to mind include: bats, Ancient Egypt, kitten care, crystals and gems, William Shakespeare, levers and pulleys, Japanese cooking, submarines, not to mention any authors the students were learning about in their other classes (e.g. Mo Willems and Grace Lin) and anything princess, fairy, and mermaid related.
Our older students have access to databases both through our library and the excellent public library system (King County Libraries) but they also have access to librarians who can give focused attention and assistance with research. We can work closely with teachers and students to help elevate research projects to be more inquisitive, thorough, and overall higher quality. I also feel that because our older students have had such a great foundation and base in reading for pleasure that many of them know there is a good selection in our Middle School collection and they continue to come for books even if their homework load is heavy.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
One of my favorite programs we did during the months of December and January was put together by OWS’ main librarian, Laura Simeon, it was a Mock Newbery Award challenge. She chose five books that had good reviews and critical attention and ordered multiple copies. We then created a wall display that would show the students’ progress as they read the books.
Students who read two or more were then eligible to vote for a book to be awarded our Mock Newbery. All votes had to be on the Friday before the actual winners were announced at ALA. Our students are obviously very insightful because they chose the 2017 Newbery winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, as our winner!
We have a variety of programs to get the students excited about reading. Bingo was really popular this past fall, it promoted various genres and story types that students might not seek out on their own (e.g. “set in another country” or “historical fiction” or “realistic book about someone who doesn’t look like or live like you”). It was really fun to watch our students get excited about completing Bingo.
For Halloween, we dressed up as book characters. (Lauren R. and OWS librarian, Laura Simeon)
We just started a “Lonely Books” contest to see if some of the less circulated books can start circulating again. Every time students finish a book; their name is put in a drawing for a prize.
One of my first days at OWS was helping a 5-year-old boy find a book. I expected him to want a book on a “boy” subject like race cars or Star Wars or a silly story. When he asked me to help him find a book on cats my mind immediately went to lions, tigers and other large predator cats. When I clarified he shyly explained, “Like kittens?” As we walked to the cat section I asked if he had a new cat at home and he explained very excitedly that he just “looooves” cats but his mom was allergic. I definitely learned that our students are not necessarily stopped by what might be gender specific topics. I especially love when girls check out “The Big Book of Boy Stuff” or boys check out “Super Cute: 25 Amigurami Animals.”
Readers Roar: Let’s hear from the kids!
“Our library has so many good books! I told my brother he had to check it out when he came to visit the school.” Sam, 6th Grade
One of the kindergarteners drew a picture to the class, which feels like a huge stamp of approval of the library and our library classes.
One Last Roar
Changing careers was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love getting to know our students, finding out what types of books they enjoy and what excites them. I love having students wave to me as I walk down the hall or kindergartners yell my name and run across the playground to tell me hello. When I work in afterschool care and a student asks me to read them a book, I know they trust me as their librarian and as their teacher.
When I think of my primary school education, the library plays prominently in my memories: I remember author visits (a very happy 8-year-old me had her cast signed by Louis Sachar), book fairs, class visits to the library, and discovering book series that I could share with my sisters or friends. I think school libraries and browsing the physical books in a school setting adds a richness to a child’s education that cannot be completely fulfilled in only the classroom or at home.
Thank you, Lauren, for the terrific interview sharing OWS library programs with us!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet via the Contact page on this website to set up an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.