By ROB W. ANDERSON
The mind can be a limitless source of imagination when reading a good book.
It’s National Book Month, and people are urged to visit a title of interest and find out why using the imagination to bring life to an author’s words can be exhilarating.
Every year, schools host book fairs to raise money for the library or community needs while using the opportunity to remind students how reading can change their lives.
The Tahlequah Middle School Scholastic Book Fair runs through Oct. 16 under the theme “All-Star Readers,” which denotes the school’s earning the first-place prize for last spring’s Scholastic Book Fairs National Middle School Student Crew Contest.
“I had seven members of the library staff who were the actual crew, but we had many, many participants,” said TMS Media Specialist Dr. Brenda Maddan. “There were 200 kids who participated in that book fair. They drew fish. Their teachers helped. Mr. [Tony] Scantlin made our ‘Jaws’ [cutout] where the kids could walk through it. The whole school helped. Tahlequah Middle School gets behind the book fair. They’re really dedicated to getting the kids to read.”
Official crew members of the under-the-sea themed “Dive into Reading” book fair included Marisella Sierra, Kenzy Hammons, Tyler Hooper, Jonathan Medellin, Joshua Dick, Courtney Walker and Austin Jones, who will be in the picture selected to highlight TMS in the Scholastic Book Fair resource book that is sent to schools across the country.
“It’s really a great honor to be able to win the [national Scholastic Book Fair contest],” he said. “The library is an important room in the school. People not only come here to check out books, they come here to study. They come here to do all kinds of things. The library is very fun to me because I love reading, and we have so many books. We have the newest and coolest books.”
With the nationwide victory, TMS earned $2,000 in books and merchandise from the children’s publishing, education and media company, as well as an Oct. 16 visit from award-winning author Roland Smith, who will be on hand to answer questions and sign autographs in two separate assemblies.
“He’s also going to have breakfast with the crew,” said Maddan. “I don’t think, at least to my knowledge, that’s ever been done here before. No one’s ever won a book fair contest. It’s pretty awesome. It speaks volumes for my students. They worked hard. We decorate, we go all out. If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly. I can’t help it, that’s just one of my deals.”
Maddan’s crew plan and conduct the book fair, including coming up with the theme, creating contests, designing advertising campaigns, and hosting activities aimed at attracting interest in reading among their peers, as well as adults. Proceeds from this year’s donuts for donations activity, which raised money last spring for books that went to underprivileged children in the community, will go to help rebuild the library in Mannford, where several community members lost their homes or businesses due to a widespread of uncontrolled grassfires.
“The class that raises the most money gets a day of movies and popcorn,” said Jones. “It’s really funny to see the teachers come in and donate so much.”
And creating a sense of home and community in the library is exactly what Maddan wants.
“As far as the library goes, I’m not one of these [quiet] libraries. We’re a library. We’re the hub of the school,” she said. “I want kids to come in and feel comfortable, and not feel like they can’t speak.”
Regardless of detectable reverberations in the room, reading is important, said Cherokee Elementary Librarian Lori Smith.
“Book fairs and special months help to excite students, parents and teachers,” she said. “Book fairs help in two ways. First, the students love the opportunity to shop for new books. They get to look for what they like. This helps to get books into each home. Second, by purchasing books, money is earned for our library. Using these funds, we can buy literature and equipment for our school.”
Greenwood Elementary Librarian Julie Crittenden believes National Book Month is a great opportunity to put reading in the spotlight and remind everyone how essential it is.
“Reading is the single most important tool a child will gain in school. Once a student masters the skill of reading, it opens up the door to all other subjects such as history, science, mathematics, geography, and makes it easier to learn about them,” she said. “Having a month devoted to books and reading helps us remember that when it comes to education, reading is where it all starts.”