It’s no secret: I love children’s books, and I love the library. So when I started as a school librarian, I expected the library to buzz with energy and excitement of students debating and discussing books.
In short, this did not happen.
Being hired late, in mid-October, meant I had little relationship with students or staff. Add to that the logistical nightmare of a library in it’s own building, away from the hustle and bustle, and I knew I had to take drastic action to learn about my students and get people in the doors. But how?
Enter Children’s Book Week (CBW). This was in 2004, when CBW was celebrated in November. Halloween was over, and shops were clearing out old costumes and props. Out of nowhere, I had an idea: what if I dressed as a character from a children’s book? What if I wrote “Guess Who?” clues and had kids try to figure out who I was? And what if I did this Every Single Day during CBW?
I wanted kids to come to the library. I wanted them talking about titles, debating over characters, buzzing over books. So I went for it. And I didn’t ask permission.
On the Monday of CBW, I walked into school dressed in a black pointed hat and black gown, with a wand in hand and gray hair. It was the first day of CBW. No one else knew this but me. To them, it was random Monday.
Until they saw me. In costume. And they wondered, “What on Earth is she doing?”
Teachers and students came to the library. All week long, they came. They read the clues, debated over characters, and made guesses. As the week continued, we had opportunities to talk. Students suggested costume ideas and made predictions on upcoming characters. This was the dream. This was the goal realized. We were talking, connecting, buzzing over books.
And it was all thanks to Children’s Book Week.
It’s been 8 years since I last celebrated CBW in costume – entirely too long. So today – May 4, 2016 (CBW is now celebrated in May) – I’m renewing this tradition. The costume is dusted off. The clue is printed. No one knows this is happening. And I am ready.
I can’t wait to hear the buzz.
PS: In keeping with #ThankORama, I am indebted to my former principal Betsy Hill, who thought showing up for work in book character costume was the Best Thing Ever. Prior to her passing, I thanked her for believing in my ability and encouraging me to always dream big.