Bubble Wrap by Mollee Holloman
Do you bubble wrap your books?
During Picture Book Month in 2015, the one and only Mr. Schu read Amy Dykeman’s Wolfie the Bunny, to a class visiting my library via Google Hangout. At the end of our engaging choral reading, my students inquired about his interactions with Ivan the Gorilla. John was talking to us from his home office and was able to show students where he keeps his beloved copy of The One and Only Ivan. Gently lifting it from the bookshelf, he unwrapped several layers of bubble wrap before revealing the thumbprint signature of Ivan inside. Students oogled over his prized possession and left the library that day with a little more appreciation of how some books are truly treasured by their readers. Since that day, I often think about Mr. Schu’s copy of The One and Only Ivan.
I don’t just mean the Newbery Award-winning book. I have 3 copies of that book on my own shelf at home. A first edition. One signed by Mr. Schu. Another signed by Katherine Applegate. There are 10 more copies on my library shelf. And I’m sure John has a handful in his carry-on bag to hand out Oprah-style in whatever airport he’s traveling through. But I think about that book he has on his shelf, wrapped in protective casing. For over two years since that chat with my class, I’ve been considering which books I would keep in bubble wrap.
I was one of the lucky ones who grew up owning books, and as an adult, have an understanding husband who continually adds bookshelves to our home library, accommodating my habit. On the top shelf, perched with highest honors, sits a first edition of each book in the Harry Potter series. My students know I love those books, but I wonder if they know I would place bubble wrap around the friendship of the famous trio, because they were the friends I needed in school? More titles have been added to that prime bookshelf real estate since becoming a children’s librarian: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. Beekle the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. But the first book I’ve ever put in bubble wrap is Alan Gratz’ Refugee.
Alan visited our district in October 2016 and built a relationship with our local independent bookstore, Downtown Books. The store owner wanted to bring Alan back to the Outer Banks, NC in the Summer to launch Refugee. Thanks to a grant, 80 students received their own copy of the book and attended the mid-July launch with Alan to hear him discuss the inspiration and process for writing it. Additionally, school librarians hosted meetings to discuss the book and engage in activities to better understand the challenges and courage of refugees. I purchased a stack of copies for Alan to sign, then sent them (in bubble wrap!) to educator friends in various states, hoping the book would build compassion in their classrooms, just as I saw happening in my own community. When I recall the young readers surrounding Alan, clutching Refugee in their hands, I have hope for our future and the influence these kids will have on the world as they read powerful books such as this. I have bubble wrap around the memory of that day.
My goals for our school library program evolve with the students I serve and the classroom curriculum, but every year, I place highest importance on students exercising choice in what they read from the library. I believe nothing will turn students into lifelong readers like having the freedom to choose their reading material.
The picture book section of our library has been transformed to help my youngest readers find books based on subject (it’s a modified genrefication, which I’ve shared on my blog). To help them navigate beyond the Dr. Seuss shelf, I introduce new authors and illustrators every few weeks. After a unit on Ezra Jack Keats, one of my students, Ethan*, shouts the author’s name at a volume not quite library-appropriate each time he spots me in the hallway, on the playground, or in the dismissal line. It makes me believe he’d put bubble wrap around The Snowy Day.
My older students search our genrefied fiction section to find what they are interested in reading, but need a nudge toward nonfiction. Last year for Women’s History Month, we focused on biographies. Bella* already knew the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai and, based on her adamant recommendation, I had to buy additional copies to keep up with the demand from her classmates. Bella read about Elizabeth Blackwell during our lesson and declared she, too, would like to be a doctor that saves lives like Malala’s doctors saved hers. I imagine Bella has bubble wrap around her copy of I Am Malala.
I don’t know Ethan’s or Bella’s reading levels. I’m not sure how much growth their last benchmarks indicated, nor did I check Refugee’s Lexile level before handing it out to readers during Alan’s book launch. But I do know that someday, Ethan will be reading chapter books, and I won’t stop him from checking out The Snowy Day if he wants it. And Bella will be encouraged to re-read I Am Malala as many times as she desires, if it continues to inspire her. And I hope that Refugee speaks to the hearts of kids who read it to themselves, and even more so to the parents who read it aloud.
Reading levels, test scores, and other measurements of growth and proficiency are tools to help adults advance students through their schooling, but they will never measure what it takes to inspire students to become lifelong readers. We need more bubble wrap and book talks and student-choice to ensure that we’re inspiring reading, not simply requiring it.
What books do you keep in bubble wrap and how will teach your students to do the same?
Mollee Holloman is a K-5 school librarian in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she enjoys beach life with her husband, Chad, and Beau the lab. Being Dare County Schools’ Teacher of the Year provided experiences and perspectives that have become the core of her professional goals, including librarians as leaders, focusing on digital literacy, and bringing joy to reading. Find her on Twitter, @MolleeBranden, and expect tweets on children’s books, YA book club chats, all things Tar Heels, @-ing authors, conference hashtags and gifs galore. Her blog, obxlibrarian.weebly.com, is a hot-spot for help on genrefication.