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BANNER, March, 2015: The Power of Making Choices

Library time supports and empowers our Lower School readers

Storytime. Young children spellbound, listening as a librarian reads a well-loved classic or perhaps the latest release by an up and coming young writer. It’s an iconic scene of childhood.

And yes, it’s a scene you often find in Brookwood’s Shlopak and DiCroce Libraries, where Brookwood’s Lower School students visit each week. While Librarian Sheila Geraty’s read alouds are favorites among students, the library is also often bustling with activity, research, and children exchanging book suggestions.

“The beauty of our library program is that it places children at the center of literature,” says Lower School Head Nancy Evans.  “With library bookbags in hand, children are invited in and are inspired and supported as readers to pursue their individual interests.  Our librarians share access to a wide variety of collections - the classics, new books and of course, a wealth of research material.”

Reading is something Lower School students, of course, do daily and they all have access to books at anytime in their well-stocked classroom libraries. Yet Library period each week remains special.

“I think Brookwood kids have a phenomenal love for library, that I didn't see in my school growing up, partly because the love of books and reading is palpable in what we do daily, and also because Sheila is such a warm and supportive facilitator for all Lower Schoolers,” says Grade 2 teacher Suzy Light. “Every year, my class LOVES going to library – they love her read alouds, the flexibility she allows them to pour over books and the feeling of ownership they get from taking their own choice home.  I think library time reinforces children as "experts" in their choices, and they take more joy in recommending books to each other (‘You would really like this one . . . .' 'Can I check that out next when you're done with it?’).”

Empowering a community of readers is a strength mentioned time and again if you ask Lower School teachers about Brookwood’s libraries.

“Sheila has a great knowledge of literature and can help to make strong matches between each student's reading level and his/her interests.  The school library provides access to a much wider variety of titles and also provides a great opportunity for students to get a first hand look at how a library functions and is organized,” Grade 3 teacher Kim Tolpa points out. “It is important that students understand what a great tool that the library can be for pleasure but also for research and related tasks.”

Sheila and Library Associate Becky Keller also organize a number of special activities that teach children both about books and libraries. For example, they do a unit with second graders on the Caldecott Medal, the prestigious award that annually recognizes the preceding year's "most distinguished American picture book for children.” After discussing the criteria for winning the award and explaining who decides and how books are judged, she gives the students a chance to be the Mock Caldecott Committee.

“Sheila is great about exposing students to what's new in children's literature. She is also invaluable when it comes to helping second graders find a series with which they can really become engrossed. Second graders have loved being part of the Mock Caldecott Committee, reading the books that are nominated for the award, analyzing whether the author's medium goes with the text and then choosing a favorite. The actual winner is never the same as the winner the second graders choose!,” says Grade 2 teacher Elise Koretz.

Quoting Emily Dickinson in saying “There is no frigate like a book,” Grade 3 teacher Jen Cunningham-Butler sites another less concrete but priceless contribution Sheila and the library make to this community. “Library class gives kids the time to immerse in lands far and near. Library enhances our teaching of a diverse and globally connected curriculum, as Sheila is on the pulse of new books and titles that reflect not only whom we have in the building, but also who we do not. This allows kids to explore cultures and realms otherwise out of reach. Important work!”