A little explanation as to what this is all about. Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is a wonderful program that allows all the kids in school to get one free book three times a year. I have been running this thing for the last 6 years. It is a lot of work during the week that it runs but it is so worth it. Out PTA gives us a budget of about $7000 to get enough books for 900 kids. The government chips in about $500. For that $500, the governement gets to tell us how to do things.....what catalogs we may order from, how many books we have to keep on stock, how we must account for kids who are absent onthe days we runthe program and various other nit-picky crap. Personally, I'd like to say, "Keep the $500, we can manage this quite well on our own, thank you very much." but I am not the one who gets to make that decision.
In any event, after all the ordering, sorting, and setting up of books, securing of volunteers, organization of classroom schedules, and verification of class lists for 900 students RIF days arrive and the kids come into the library to pick their books. This confuses some of them like crazy. "Um, I'm in the library, there are tables covered with 1000s of books and you're telling me I get to pick one to take home and keep? Forever? And I don't need money?" Yep, kiddo. that's exactly what I'm saying. "Wow! Cool! Any book I want?" Yep, any book you want. Then a face lights up. It's great, makes my whole day!
Some of these kids you just know have never owned a book for whatever reason. Maybe their parents don't encourage reading, maybe they do but can't afford it. Some kids come in knowing exactly what they want. "'Scuse me, RIF lady, where are fantasy books?" "Do you have any 'Captain Underpants'?" "Do you have the third 'Harry Potter'?" Other kids come in having no idea what they want and wander around until something grabs them. Some have a hard time deciding between a few favorites and walk around with 3 books under their arm trying to decide. Sometimes they ask me to put one aside for next time (that's 3 months away and I have 900 kids! no reserves kiddo, sorry)
Once we had a fight break out over the last copy of a particular book. That was interesting. I told them to work it out decently or neither one of them would get the book. They both decided neither one really wanted it and tossed it back on the table where another kid that hovered quietly waited to snatch it up a nanosecond after it landed.
There was one kid yesterday that really got to me. He was a big guy who came up with a very girlish book. Sometimes the boys do that just to be funny. Every now and then I've had a boy slip one of these books to me and whisper that they like this stuff even though the others rag on them. This kid did not seem to be doing so for humor's sake or because he had a genuine interest in the subject. I asked if this was for him. He said no there was a book he wanted but this was for his sister "who would kill him if he came home with something for himself but not for her." I told him she'd have her own RIF day. He brightened for a moment and ran off to get his book. Then he came back with the same girlish one. I asked where was the one he wanted. He said, "on the table, but I think this is probably better for me. My sister is bigger than me." by then his teacher was hustling the class out the door and the next wave was hitting. I was trying to find out which book he WANTED because THAT is the one I wanted to put in his hand, not the book that would assuage big sister's temper. Dang it.
I also get bugged when teachers tell a kid, "you can't have that book." There is one teacher every year who lines her class up and makes them come to her to approve every selection before they bring it to me. And every year I tell her it is the kids who decide what book they take home. And every year she tells me she wants them to have something they can read independantly. And everyear I tell her, if something attracts that kid to that book let them have the book. My son read 'The Hobbit' in second grade. I thought it would be too hard for him, but he wanted to read it. Ok, knock yer socks off, buddy. The kid read it and was able to relate the entire plot to me and interpret different things. Motivation is a wonderful thing. I will see this teacher today. We will do the same dance.
I will see 400 kids today too and most of them will be glad for a book. Some of them will be bummed out I don't have the book they want. Some will discover a new book, maybe check out a new genre or subject. Some will be grinning ear to ear, and tickled to get a free book. I can't wait.