January 22


The Bookmark of a Reader by Kirsten LeClerc

In my four and a half years as a teacher-librarian, I have discovered a number of items crammed into returned books. Regular bookmarks, of course. The adorable and witty kind that can be purchased at a Scholastic book fair. But those aren’t what interest me the most. I love finding all the things accidentally left behind. The thinking tracks, the doodles, the random notes and breadcrumbs that readers tuck away.


Sometimes bookmarks are personalized for a certain book. Notice the specificity of the yellow bookmark that came back in a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and the lovely drawing of Mo Willem’s Pigeon from The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!. (It actually looks more like Pigeon found a taco. So, Mr. Willems, in case you’re looking for a new idea for another Pigeon book, I’ll just leave this right here…)


Post-it notes are one of my personal favorites. They’re cheap and stick to a page, with the added bonus that they can be written on.


I also love upcycled bookmarks. I found this shiny oval in a returned copy of Jazmin’s Notebook by Nikki Grimes, and turned it over to find that it was actually the pull-off top to a box of tissues.


Sometimes bookmarks evoke a particular memory, like these two that came back to the library recently and reminded me of amazing author visits.


Most of the items left behind in books end up in the recycling bin or trash can, but I do occasionally track students down and return things that might be of personal value: family photos, Pokemon cards, invitations to upcoming birthday parties or certificates from a teacher.


But marking pages isn’t always pretty or cute. I never seem to have bookmarks on hand…they are like socks in the laundry that disappear into some kind of vortex. I am a page creaser. A dog-earer. Apparently I’m in the minority, according to a survey done by Debbie Ohi.


In this new year, I resolve to be better, to break the dog-earing habit. I also hope to find a few of those rare, perfect kind of books: the ones that don’t need a bookmark, because they are too good to put down.



Kirsten LeClerc is a writer and teacher-librarian in Asheville, NC.  Find her on Twitter @kirleclerc .