Updated 26 August 2016 with info regarding various ways to donate & assist. All pertinent details are at the bottom of this verbose post.
Update 28 August 2016 to include more donation info. Be sure to subscribe to keep tabs on all of the joy!
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
Anyone who knows me knows that To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite book (as well as my favorite film). That masterwork has become such an integral part of my life. If I could be any fictional character, it would be Atticus Finch. I share a birthday with Harper Lee. I once played Boo Radley in a community theatre production. In fact, I have the Radley tree tattooed on my arm. If my son Henry was to be a girl, we had planned to name him (her?) Scout. I’m even listening to Elmer Bernstein’s film score as I write this.
All of this meandering is to reinforce the power of books & reading in my life, & this is only in reference to one book. There have actually been countless ones that have left their imprint on me, & like others similar to me, many of those impressions were made during my childhood. Whenever I think of what the future might hold, I recall how Harold forged his own path with his purple crayon. When I need to be reminded that there is happiness in contentment, I reflexively envision Ferdinand, that daring pacifist, sitting underneath his tree.
Now that I’m an adult, I still indulge in children’s literature. This is partly because of my profession as a teacher (& now school librarian), but mostly, it’s because of one big reason. Kid’s lit is where it’s at.
It was in college that David Wiesner changed the way I thought about reading & comprehension (&, ok, life in general) with Flotsam, & on a kaput hard drive somewhere, there is a picture of the two of us, me grinning an absurdly large grin. It was also in my teacher training that I was introduced to Katniss Everdeen (thanks Anna!) & the best final line of a first chapter ever (I’ll wait while you go check your copy). Here I met Chrysanthemum, Jesse Aarons, & Hugo Cabret.
As an educator, I tripped over myself daily trying to share all of the wondrous works available. Kids had to experience Last Stop on Market Street, one of the best & most important books of the century (yeah, I said it). As long as Jacqueline Woodson & Kate DiCamillo kept dreaming up incredible dreams & spinning them into delectable yarns, I would pull muscles & go into debt in order to have those stories become parts of students’ lives. Students who felt unloved would meet Ada in The War that Saved My Life. Those who had been belittled but still knew grit & grace would journey alongside Annabelle in Wolf Hollow. Children who understood the value of a friend would surely love Sophie’s Squash. There will always be Oliver Buttons, & books are the best way to support them.
This is how I show my students that I love them — by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, & finding books that tell them, “I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, & even though we may never speak of it, read this book, & know that I understand you.”
The above Donalyn Miller quote is placed within my email signature. The 2016-2017 school year was to be my first in a school library rather than a classroom. Oh, the plans that I had! I couldn’t wait to booktalk new classics by Rita Williams-Garcia, Tim Federle, Jewell Parker Rhodes, & Pam Muñoz Ryan. There were library card contests & reading challenges to experience. Some serious reading was about to take place.
We were at school for 2 days, & then, the rains came. You might’ve heard.
In the spirit of school, I have to tattle on myself to say that I broke the rules. After the water receded, I sneaked inside the building to check on the status of my library. I knew that there was damage. I knew that it was likely that over 500 of my own personal books — years of classroom library building & Scholastic points — would be ruined, unusable, destroyed. I was expectant that the box of books that I had begun gathering for my next Milk + Bookies drive would never be unpacked. In my mind, I knew all of this. In my heart, I was unprepared for the visual confirmation.
As I tried not to fall down in what was surely sewage water, I began to take note of the titles that made themselves known to me amid the destruction. The books were telling me something.
Steeled by the encouragement of these works, I turned to take one last glance at my desk, & who should be there but Judy Blume, offering a smile that spoke to my soul.
Lest you thought the real Judy Blume had shown up in flood-ravaged Louisiana like some kind of fairy godmother (though, do we really doubt that Judy Blume could not do such?!), it was a miraculously spared photograph. During my undergraduate work, I was privileged to attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival (SMTTT). Judy Blume was the festival’s medallion recipient during this time. When I took this photo in 2009, it was to brag. Little did I know that, in 2016, it would save me.
I grabbed Judy & fled the scene. When I returned to the library over a week later, there were no more lessons to be learned. Reality had set in.
The books were gone. I would have no chance to save titles on higher shelves such as my signed edition of Dear Hank Williams from when Kimberly Willis Holt visited my school or a brand new copy of Counting Thyme that I bought for the library after tearing through it on the beach this past summer or all of the graphic novels I’d spent the last year collecting because my students couldn’t get enough of El Deafo, The Dumbest Idea Ever!, Roller Girl, & Sunny Side Up. I don’t want to talk about the ones that I haven’t even gotten to read yet like The Seventh Wish or Jack & Louisa: Act 2. I tried to tell myself that they were “only books,” but anyone who has ever loved a book knows that there is no such thing as “only books.”
So, why am I writing my first blog post in over 10 years? Why am I reminiscing about every wonderful book that comes to mind? Why am I tearing up as the strings in Elmer Bernstein’s orchestra swell to perfection, conjuring up a young Mary Badham complaining to Gregory Peck about school? The answer is simple. I need help.
We are relocating. We’ve been ushered over to a building that was built in 1937. That means my new school is the same age as And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. It also means that, in my first year as a librarian, I have a library without any books.
Access to books is the key to educational success. Our library doesn’t have books. Our classrooms don’t have books. Many of the homes of our students don’t have books. Like the tears that rolled down our faces both in silent & violent measures, they became a part of the flood before being swept away as we looked toward rebuilding & recovery.
How does one recover without books? I know not the answer to this, & so, I plead to you. Help us. There are kids in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that are hungry for knowledge & desperate to know that good remains in the world.
If you are an author/illustrator/publisher & would love to have your books in the hands of readers, please consider sending us those books. (Incidentally, if you are inclined to include an autographed copy for the librarian, I’m sure that he would happily accept.) If you are someone with a generous spirit that doesn’t happen to write children’s books, we are in need of new or like-new books, both fiction & nonfiction, that would appeal to readers in PreKindergarten through Grade 5. If you are someone who would prefer to help in a pecuniary fashion, be assured that your funds, directed through the proper channels, will help to revitalize the library with magazine subscriptions, music, films, & chocolate. All others, feel free to send good thoughts. After this emotional & literal depletion, we are in dire need of good thoughts.
It has taken me over a week to muster the determination to conjure up this post, & while it’s possibly — ok, almost certainly — of an absurd length, it is my heart on display. It is a written manifestation of what I feel every time I walk into my public library — that there is a place for me, that there are others who care, & that the world is a naturally good place. I know all of these things to be true because of books (& family & movies & music & honey buns).
When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth & opens.
That’s what Anne Lamott said, & when Anne Lamott speaks, I listen. This is me sending forth my tiny ripples of hope into the world. If you are able to receive them, I look forward to witnessing the repercussions of hope reverberating among people who care for books &, among all else, each other.
2401 72nd Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70807
This is the address of our temporary location.
Bound to Stay Bound: S.O.S. Library. Bound to Stay Bound books are books with a special library binding that helps keep them in better condition & on the shelf longer. All of the titles listed here are award-winning & will be the true backbone of our library’s permanent collection.
Amazon Wish List: This is a personal wish list that I’ve had for a few years now, but it is a list of desired titles that can be put to good use.
We are working on getting another DonorsChoose project approved! In the meantime, you can gift us an amount on their website.
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