Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mario Update

Mario visited the library today with his class. The students had three tasks to complete. 1) Check out, renew, return books, making sure to have three books for the next week. 2) Complete vocabulary activity from class the previous day. 3) Post on student blogs and/or visit the Skirball Center's website to preview exhibits for an upcoming field trip. During this independent work time, the teacher conferenced one-on-one with students to review their reading progress so far this year and to make goals for the remainder of 8th grade. I helped kids choose books to read.

I was walking by Mario's reading conference when I heard the teacher say, "Congratulations, Mario. You are at the top of this class when it comes to reading!" Mario is up to 28 books this year. Upon hearing this, I ducked into one of the rooms where I keep a secret stash of books, to see what I might have in the way of prizes.

You see, there are a lot of books floating around this school that are not titles I can add to the library collection. Every once in a while, an English Department Chair, a Literacy Coach, or some coordinator gets the bright idea to order hundreds of copies of a single title. This is usually part of a grand plan to have a whole grade read the same novel, or maybe the entire school. This is not a bad plan, per se, except for the fact that in most cases, the person ordering the books has not read much YA literature. So s/he relies on some outside source (vendors, most likely) to select the books and, in the end, many of them go unused. These are not bad books, of course. Well, sometimes they are bad books. Most of the time, however, they are simply books we already have in the library. Sometimes they are dated. Sometimes they are not the best books by a great author. Sometimes they are the third in a series for which we cannot offer the first or second titles. These books make up my secret stash. Prize books. Giveaways. Help the kids build a personal library, I say.

I chose six books and presented them to Mario with a flourish, telling him that I had a second stash if none I chose were of interest. Ten minutes later he approached the counter and gives back 2, saying the others look great.
"Miss, I've been collecting books from your free cart [where we place books to give away because of age/wear] and now I have a big stack. I'm going to ask my mom if she'll get me a bookcase!"
Remember - 8th grade boy. Tall, cute, funny. Wants a bookcase. I swoon.
I tell Mario that the only place in my house without a bookcase is the bathroom (to show my approval of his plan) and he replies:
"Miss! What if they do like in Fahrenheit [he means Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which all of our 8th graders were forced to read this year....by the Literacy Coach. I have a million extra copies]? What if they bust into your house at night to get your books?" He walks away cracking up at his literature-based joke.
I call out "They'd better not even try it!"
He returns to the counter to ask, "Miss, did you say there are more books I could have?"
So I show Mario the second secret stash, where he remains for a long time, making careful choices. His teacher tells me later that another boy asked Mario why he didn't just take them all. Mario replied that he didn't want to be greedy. The teacher said he said it in a way that implied, "Duh, I wouldn't want to be a hog, you moron!".
I got a big thank you and a smile as he left. I think I'll enjoy imagining his bookshelf for a long time. What color will it be? Will there be things on it besides books? Will he rearrange his books by size, author, title, color? As someone who has contemplated the infinite possibilities a single bookshelf can offer, I really hope that Mario's mother says yes to his request. What a kid.


katiesmurphy said...

He sounds like a great kid! I wonder what happens to all those unused books in schools without librarians? Or without good ones to share them with their Marios?

tashikitten said...
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