Every November, my school library jumps on the Picture Book Month bandwagon. I highlight gems in this genre via bulletin board and displays. Classes visiting the library are introduced to a variety of picture books, and children hopefully leave my domain with a greater appreciation of this wonderful literary form. I enthusiastically share incomparable books such as Patti Lovell’s Molly Lou Melon stories, the Other Side of the Story fractured fairy tales, and Snow by Uri Shulevitz.
However, this year I was not content to merely promote published works. Remembering the enthusiasm generated a previous school year when students were encouraged to write and illustrate their own picture books, this librarian decided to repeat the project. I envisioned it being similar to the earlier venture, in which the participants received a certificate and a prize.
When I approached our new principal (who doubles as a first grade teacher) with the idea, she waxed enthusiastic. After a bit of brainstorming, this wonderful educator came up with the idea of a “publishing party” for all the authors and illustrators and their classmates. In short, the entire elementary school would celebrate. So, with our cook baking dozens of cupcakes, the date was set for the big event: January 6, 2014. Each grade would visit the library on that day for a publishing party.
The whole school. Coming to the library in one day. Before I had a chance to think about the possibility of really pulling this off, I got into action. Knowing that the authors and illustrators would like to take home a memento of the event, I designed and printed certificates to give each one. After marathon sessions of cutting them out, reading the picture books the children submitted, and planning the details of each party, it was time to celebrate.
The initial class was none other than our principal’s first grade group. The kids, no doubt encouraged by their teacher, were beyond enthusiastic. I read a few of their books, the children dug into the cupcakes, and–wonder of wonders–there was actually time for them to return and borrow library books. As the happy youngsters left the library, with authors and illustrators clutching their certificates, there was no time to congratulate myself. It was recess (with its onslaught of eager readers), and the second party would commence shortly afterwards.
To my delight, the next party was as successful as the first. And the next. However, before party #3 began, a fifth grader came into the library. I had not planned on her class having a party, as there was only fifth grade picture book, and her teacher had never brought her students to the library. But here was this girl, asking what time the class should come. There was one available time slot–immediately following the next gathering. Unsure whether the fifth graders would show, I began planning as soon as the happy fourth graders departed.
It was a good thing, for history was made: this teacher’s fifth grade class visited the library. With only one picture book to share, there was an opportunity to invite the rest of the kids to become authors and illustrators. I took advantage of the presence of this group in the library, and gave students library cards so they could borrow some fantastic books. I like to think this teacher was impressed by the visit, and that she will be back.
However, there was no opportunity to celebrate the success. There was one more party. This last but not least group of partygoers turned out to be the most boisterous. When their celebration came to an end, it hit me. I actually pulled it off. Five successful parties in six hours.
Now I can rest on my laurels. At least, until the next time I come up with an idea for a schoolwide project.