Several times last school year, a particular fourth grade student asked me if she could be a library volunteer, to come in before school and help with any tasks that needed to be done.
I have to say this pulled at my heart strings. Not only because, here is a student asking, repeatedly asking, to be allowed to help but also because as an elementary student, I did this exact same thing. I begged our school librarian, Ms. Hewlitt, to allow me to come in and help her with anything. Just to be working in the library. Eventually, I got everyone on board and was allowed to work in the media center during recess once a week. (I wrote about this experience in another post, Jar of Sunshine.)
Unfortunately, we couldn't get a schedule in place last year to accommodate our fourth grade request. But this school year (the one that just wrapped up) that fourth grade/now fifth grade student approached me the very first week of school with the same request and I was ready for her. I spoke with her teacher and set a day of the week for my helper to come in before school. She soon convinced me to increase her time to two mornings a week and we stuck to that for the entire year. She was remarkably and impressively punctual and reliable and by the end of the year had recruited 4 additional helpers (as well as requests from fourth grade students to be considered for next year).
Our library helpers put up bulletin board decorations, selected books for book displays, pulled books to fill requests, and kept shelves orderly. I saw so much growth in these students throughout the year as they felt more and more comfortable and creative in giving their opinions and suggestions.
As the year came to a close, I asked all five helpers to come on their last regularly scheduled morning for a fun activity and treats. I brought a small basket of treats as well as supplies to personalize these pocket sized composition books. I pre-filled the first page with a thank you note.
As we cut and glued and wrote in our notebooks, we talked about our favorite library projects we'd worked on this past year. Although they'd worked in the library with me all year, this was the first time we'd all sat at a table and chatted while we worked and it was so fun! If I'm able to continue a helper program next year, I'll include more time for this connected collaboration.
I showed and talked about Alison McGhee's book Snap to introduce the notebook project. In the book, the main character, Eddie, makes lists for everything in her life. It helps her feel in control. Any writing can be therapeutic, Writing lists can provide a comforting sense of order. Only one of my helpers had already read the book but thought she had been too young and would like to read it again. We talked about rereading books at different points in our lives and how we can be affected differently because of what we know and what we've experienced.
We decided to make our first list on the second page of each notebook; a list of book recommendations for each other to read over the summer. We passed our notebooks to the left, wrote a recommendation and then passed it on again. I recommended Snap. The recommendations my five fifth grade helpers wrote on my second page are:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane
Wish by Barbara O'Connor
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
And guess what? I have never read any of these titles. A few of them (especially the top two), I probably should have read by now but...I haven't. So, I bought and checked out these five titles and, with much gratitude in my heart, am ready for my summer reading!