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Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest School Librarian Carol Matheson!
(Pictures of Carol by Redmond Elm. PTSA President, Elena Savage)
Carol is a Teacher Librarian at Redmond Elementary in Redmond WA.
I met Carol last year on one of my Read Across America school visits and knew at once I wanted to interview her for Library Lions. Welcome Carol!
Roar for Lion Cubs
Last year on my visit I noticed that your students are Very involved in the library. Can you tell us about that, Carol?
I like to involve the students in decisions about our school library. I have a suggestion box for kids to recommend good books they’ve read that aren’t in the Library. I buy as many of the suggestions as I can and the kids love it. They’re listened to. They’re part of the Library. I also periodically do a survey asking kids what they like about the Library and what they would change. We’ve changed a lot including
~ How many books they can check out
~ How long they can check them out
~ When they can check out (almost any time they want to—recesses, before and after
~ They wanted the Library to be brighter so we added posters to the wall which they
I work very hard to make sure that what I teach is meaningful to our students. In primary I focus on introducing them to a wide variety of picture books—we read Classics, Folklore from around the world, books reflecting Lifeskills (which is a big focus in the classroom for primary students), and even books demonstrating the 6-Traits of Writing. In intermediate we focus on research skills from doing a research project on birds to an extensive unit on what resources to use (and trust) for different kinds of projects.
The Skinny: Briefly, what do you love most about your work?
I love the kids. I love getting to know them, teaching them, encouraging them to read, encouraging them to be the best person they can be. Some of my kids face big challenges: some are homeless, some don’t have enough to eat, some move frequently, and some have behavior and/or learning challenges. I’m amazed some of these kids can even make it out of bed in the morning and yet they come to school to learn, make friends and start believing in themselves.
I also love the people I work with. They are an amazing group who try to help the student who struggles with everything and challenge the student that everything comes easy to. They are compassionate, hard-working, caring people with good senses of humor!
I feel like I do one of the most important jobs in the world. It’s hard. I put in long hours and go home much more tired than I did in the business world (I was in marketing for 15 years before becoming a teacher). But, I know what I do makes a difference and the rewards are big: An “AH HA” moment, a hug, a smile from a face that came in sad, a junior high or high school student that still stops by to say hi . . . .
We are the Redmond Hawks so above the check-out desk the students chose to have pictures of Hawks. One of them is a beautiful photo of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. I have a 6th Grader who loves turtles and insists that this hawk looks like a turtle. He takes polls of everybody who walks through the Library. We have now banned the dreaded “t” word during class because it was causing a bit too much disruption but it can be discussed during check-out time. It has made a very fun bond between me and the kids in that class, especially with the turtle lover.
Turtle or Hawk??? Kids check the photo out.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
We have a wonderful program at this school which was started by a 5/6th Grade teacher who enlisted me. It’s called Hawks Read.
(Artwork by Paula Randolph)
The 6th Graders (and the 5/6 Split) read to the Kindergartners and First Graders every Friday at 1:00, right after lunch recess. The Library supplies the books (pulled by a student volunteer in the morning). The teacher got the idea from a reading program sponsored by Target. Our kids weren’t eligible for the Target program because they were too young so we contacted Target and explained what we were doing. They were amazingly generous with a big celebration about reading last year to help kick the program off and money for books in the Library. They gave us another grant this year.
We also have another program call Donuts for Dads and Muffins for Moms.
Once a month we have donuts, muffins, fruit, juice, etc. and kids come in with their families to read books. We have people in every corner of the Library eating and reading (despite the fact we tell kids not to read and eat at the same time). It is very fun and much loved. We’re fortunate to have the PTSA and the Neighborhood School House help sponsor this.
Readers Roar: (Let’s hear from the kids!)
~ I like coming to the Library to read at recess sometimes because it’s calm and quiet.~ Varsha, Grade 4:
~ I love to read all the fantasy and adventure books. Mrs. Matheson even lets me come in after school almost every day to check out books. ~ Alex, Grade 4:
~ I like Mrs. Matheson because she is really nice. I come to the Library because of her and I really like to read a lot.~ Jared, Grade 6:
Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
I’d love to tell you about a wonderful award winning book that I can’t keep on the shelf but . . . at least they’re excited about reading.
~ Graphic Novels—it doesn’t matter which one. My section was decimated the first week of school and I’ve been working hard to add as many books to that section as possible.
~ Harry Potter—the last movie set off another year of checking every one of those books out.
~ The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series—Given the competition for these books when they’re actually in the Library, I’m amazed how well the kids peacefully work out who gets what and nobody complains!
Library Lion’s Roar: ONE LAST BIG ROAR
I’d like to roar about my PTSA. Given this is a school with almost half of our students on free and reduced lunch, our PTSA performs miracles. They have been amazingly supportive of the Library program and have worked with me to fund wonderful new books which have helped almost double our circulation since I came five years ago. A roar to all those wonderful people who put hours into supporting our teaching, making sure all of our kids get to participate in special programs and helping our school be an even better place.
Thank you, Carol for your terrific interview!
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Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org for an interview.