by Sierra Wingate-Bey, Fletcher Fellow, A.J. Fletcher Foundation
Volunteering as a personal shopper for Books on Break has been the highlight of my year, and that’s not an exaggeration. There’s something really special about the bonds that we create with children’s books. They are the first stories we really come to know and love on our own, and even as we become advanced readers in adulthood, those bonds never really go away.
Matilda, for example, is just as important to me today as it was when I was in elementary school, and being able to find that book and pass it on to a child that’s never read it before warmed my heart more than I ever expected. Doing that over and over again, book after book, student after student was the best way I could have spent my afternoon. Watching first graders go nuts filling their backpacks with books that I’ve loved my whole life only made my appreciation for those books grow. I know that their summers will be filled with adventures to far off places inside those stories, just like mine were, and I think our community will be better off for it.
There is nothing better than seeing the pure enthusiasm for reading that was on display from the moment I walked into YE Smith. I really appreciate that the students were given the option to chart their own course for finding the
stories that would fill their bookshelves come summertime.
My favorite moment was when a second grader realized that by choosing a treasury of fables with 26 stories inside he had technically superseded the allotted amount of books. We sat in the corner and counted all the stories in the table of contents and laughed and high-fived because he had won the jackpot but hadn’t broken any rules.
That type of excitement about reading is infectious and I’m just glad I could be a part of it.
I got the opportunity to return to the elementary school I attended as a child, which only made the experience more personal. The media center where we helped the students choose their books was the very same place that I had spent so much time learning to love reading. I can only hope that Books on Break helps inspire that love of books into the kids I volunteered with on Wednesday. But lets be real, I saw the looks on their faces as they counted up their ten books each, I’m very certain that it did.