The Devil's Backbone author and Arkansan, James Babb, has shared his story of being a reluctant reader at a few conferences around our state. During the Arkansas Association of School Librarians Summer Conference in July 2016, James shared his story and insight with school librarians. Many left in tears, inspired by heartfelt struggle with reading and how he came to fall in love with books. As conference chair, I cannot count the number of people who approached me after his session telling me how wonderful and inspiring he was (many with mascara streaked faces).
Right now, school librarians are on the cusp of not knowing what will happen to our programs. School libraries are losing certified school library media specialists to state-granted waivers for the position. With ESSA on the brink of being fully implemented, now is the time to advocate hard for our students and our programs.
I asked James to share his story with me so that I could share it with you!
The library/media center is the heart of all schools and a qualified media specialist keeps that heart beating in a steady rhythm. They create programs that encourage students to read, train kids how to research correctly, collaborate with teachers, and schedule important events. While there are many more things that media specialist do, one of the most important things is putting books in the student’s hands, not just any books, the correct books!
Media specialist interact with nearly every kid in school, they learn the likes and dislikes of each student. They know which are reluctant readers, which are struggling with grades, which are suffering from peer pressure or problems at home, and they find the appropriate books at the right time and get them in front of the student’s eyes.
I was a reluctant reader as a child, until the right book was given to me at the correct time. As an author, I’ve worked with many media specialist. They cannot be replaced with unqualified help who would rather play games on their phone than make a difference in a child’s life. They are invaluable. They are irreplaceable.
Please, speak to your stakeholders about how important having a certified school librarian at each campus is to your students. Ask your students to share why they love the library, what they have learned, or even what they would do without one!