We hope to teach our children to love to read, to treasure the written word (no matter what it’s form these days.)
Stories are how children form their identities and find their interests and passions. That’s why we have public libraries full of books of every size and shape. And it’s why our schools need them and there are countless drives to collect used books so another pair of eyes can enjoy the stories.
So when I read about the book drive for James Island Elementary School, I was fascinated that the books given to the school are not going to stay at the school. They are going home with the students to help build personal libraries at home.
Who can forget that most of us had a few books at home that we read over and over again.
For my sister as a toddler, “One Fish, Two Fish,” by Dr. Suess always made her laugh. For me at age 8, it was the tale of a black horse’s life in “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell.
Those books were well-loved, and the covers worn by the time they were relegated to a shelf in the bedroom. And those books are still in our home library, passed down to another generation.
But some books are just too treasured to be passed on. They hold a special place in our hearts, one where the story resonants for years after the reading.
There were plenty of books that our family checked out of the library, but some were so important, we wanted to keep them. What was the difference?
I asked Beth Hale, a media specialist at James Island Elementary, what she thought was important about sending books home with children.
“You want to grow a student’s home library. If they are bored, reading a book is a great way to pass some time.”
It makes sense that anyone is more likely to read a book if it is lying around close at hand. Or when you want some uninterrupted time alone. But what is the difference in owning it?
Hale thinks it has to do with how your brain gets involved when you read a book.
“I tell students that reading is like watching a movie, but you are in control of the characters in your brain. You control what they look like and you get to watch them as you read. You are much more actively involved than when a movie or the TV does it for you.”
It’s why a great book is so satisfying to read, and so hard to read the words “The End.” I’ve always wanted to know what happened next, and when you own the book, you can go back and reread sections of the book so your imagination can play. Keeping “Black Beauty” meant keeping and treasuring the story for myself, giving me a guide to that imaginary world.
Hale said that at James Island Elementary, not only are they trying to build literacy by having a great collection of books in the school library for students to check out, but they also do book giveaways as rewards. They want to get books in children’s hands. They want reading to become natural to them.
During Book Week starting Nov. 12, the school will have a Book Swap where students can bring in books they are finished with and exchange them for new ones. But there also will be 200 additional books going home to new owners, some of whom might not have books at home, thanks to the Charleston Young Professionals Organization who collected books. They were part of the community giving back to students through the Be A Mentor Program.
Maybe one of those children will be inspired by an old classic tale, or amused by Dr. Suess — and go back and treasure the story over and over again.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.