Sunday, February 13, 2011

Things I love, Children's literature

Shelf now in my "grand kids room" of the characters from
Children's Lit that I have collected over the years

I am a true bibliophile! I love books. I don't remember ever not loving books. Learning to read was a glorious experience. I even loved Dick, Jane, and Sally.

Fortunately my mother also felt that one's own library card was a needful thing. My elementary school bus always stopped by the high school on our way home to pick up the high school students who also lived along Moody Road (they were terrifying but that is another story.) There was always a few minutes before the Sugar-Salem High School's final bell rang, so I would go into the community library located inside the school and return a book and check out another EVERY day. My progression was something like this, Bobbsey Twins to Nancy Drew with a few Hardy Boys thrown in for good measure and then Anne of Green Gables. It's pretty easy to read a book every evening when your family does not own a television.

Later when our family owned a dairy on the northern outskirts of Rexburg, I became the owner of a Madison County Library card. The family spent many hours at the dairy with chores for all, but we also had time to roam. One of the places we would walk to in the warm months was the library to return and then select new books.

After moving to Arizona I quickly found the library at Gilliland Junior High and soon became a library aide who usually took home a new book most every day.

So it is not surprising that I was eventually able to put together a library of my very own. In the Spring of 2001 I left my 4th grade classroom at Sonoma Ranch Elementary in Gilbert and was hired to open the new library at Augusta Ranch Elementary in Mesa, but still a part of the Gilbert School District. The school was still under construction during the summer and Glen and I would drive the 12 miles on occasion to check the progress. There were times when I didn't think it possible that the school would be ready for an August start. Meanwhile, I sat at my computer at home and ordered over $100,000 of new library books.

The library was not ready to go at the start of school. I decorated the hallway windows with yellow caution tape, displays of some of the new books, and signs announcing "Library Under Construction." I went from classroom to classroom for their library time that first rotation with a cart full of books and a traveling story time.

The other unfortunate thing was that the library space had become the "inbox" or warehouse for all incoming supplies because final locations were not yet finished. The library, the true hub of the school, at least had carpet. The library became home not only to boxes of new books, but things so diverse as toilet paper to stoves, new iMacs to empty file cabinets.

After that first rotation, I begged a rotation off from giving teachers their specials time and drew a "line in the sand." No more deliveries were to be made to the library unless it was library books or library supplies. My wonderful athletic sister Becky joined me in turning the hallway next to the library (which had little traffic as it housed the pre-school nursery and special ed rooms) to Warehouse 101. We started taking apart the puzzle that had become the library space and were pretty surprised when we unearthed the iMacs under the toilet paper.

We soon had bookshelves organized, tables and chairs arranged, and a story corner prepared. I had help getting the computers set up and by the next rotation students were able to visit the library.

Daughter Janae took these pictures on one of
my last days in my beautiful library with family

Over the next few years it truly became one of my favorite spaces, full of light and books and imagination. It became my second home. There were many hours away from home for the school was overcrowded from the day it opened. By the time I decided to take an early retirement and be a wife, mom, and grandma again there were 9 portables or 18 additional classrooms on the playground. It had become exhausting and overwhelming. I checked out over 20,000 books a month and taught over 40 classes per rotation. (Augusta was the largest in the district with over 1400 K-6 students.) My last year there an additional teacher was hired to teach classes a couple of days, but we had to teach during the same time periods sharing library space.

I never stopped loving books or the students. I so enjoyed opening their eyes to the wonder that is children's literature and to the knowledge and joy that could be found in a library.

Each year, the library would sponsor Scholastic Book Fairs. It was a way to get more library books as well as funds to decorate and improve the library. Most GPS elementary school libraries had murals on their walls and I knew I wanted one, I just didn't know exactly what kind. I would visit other libraries at monthly meetings of all the librarians. I finally entered a school in central Gilbert and knew that I had found my artist. I got her contact information and she and I brainstormed.

The funds had been raised and I was able to leave behind a library graced with this beautiful mural.

Diane painted as the children came to the library. They would watch her with awe and delight as some of their favorite literary characters made an appearance.

I was a bit worried about artist and students in the same space, but if the scaffolding was covering a needed shelf, the children would simply move on to another.

I loved the way the pages of a book opened to release beloved characters and nuances such as Franklin reading a copy of "How I Became a Pirate."

It was beautiful and more than I could have "imagined."

And so it was that my beautiful young friends, the students, could leave their Arizona desert home and through books and their imagination, travel through time and space and other worlds.


LaNell said...

Talk about a childhood dream come true. Your library is beautiful! What a treasure to have so many pictures to remember it by.

Susan said...

Brings back memories. Your library was such a fun place to visit. I'm glad you have pictures to help you remember it.

Lucero Santa Cruz said...

Hi, congratulations! Your library is beautiful. I would love to see it, all. Can you post more pictures?