Summer Reading School Visits

everyherohasastoryEvery year around this time, Children’s Librarians in my library system venture out into the local elementary schools to promote the public library summer reading club.  I just finished my visits last week and wanted to put forth my thoughts on how they went.

I visited three schools in one week.  In one school I was on the morning announcements and for the other two schools I was able to speak to each grade at a time for 25 minutes each, either in the school library or the auditorium.

As you might think, being on the morning announcements was the easiest.  Because the theme for this year’s Summer Reading Club is superheroes, I came dressed in plain clothes, but then quickly put on a superhero mask and pulled open my shirt to reveal a giant, blazing “B.”  Yes, I was Book Man!  I stated that Book Man’s greatest arch enemy was boredom and that the best weapon against it was to join the library’s Summer Reading Club.  I then proceeded to rattle off the sheer awesomeness of the club.

The other two school visits were more challenging.  Because I knew that I had 25 minutes with each grade (gulp!), I prepared a good deal of material ahead of time.  I wrote down some book talks and even created a short reader’s theater.  When I was actually in the auditorium with the first group, however, I abandoned almost all of this material.  Because it was the last week of school, the kids were rambunctious and book talks were simply not going to cut it.  I ended up telling them a story from my own past about how I grew to love reading and then performed the Jack and the Beanstalk string story–because Jack was one of the world’s first superheroes!– done by storyteller David Novak (giving David credit for it of course!).  Luckily I had memorized this story in the past, so it was not a big deal for me to do it.  I finished my presentation by having 4 volunteers come to the front–I always try to make my school visits interactive if possible–and quizzing the audience on the details of the Summer Reading Club.  If they got the answer right, I placed a funny article of clothing on one of the volunteers.  It could be a clown wig, pirate hat, silly glasses, etc.  The kids loved seeing their friends looking silly.

I learned from these school visits that you really need to bring the big guns.  Booktalks won’t cut it in front of large audiences in the last week of school.  I’m proud that I was able to make the school visits successful even with these last minute changes in my presentation.  Let the summer reading madness begin!

“Stick Dog” by Tom Watson

The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Stick Dog lives in a pipe that runs under Highway 16.  His favorite pastime is playing with his four friends Karen, Stripes, Mutt, and Poo Poo.  One day when the dogs are out playing, they catch a whiff of hamburgers being grilled over in the park.  This starts an adventure in which the 5 friends try to find a way to snatch the tasty hamburgers from the humans.

My Take:  This is a funny book!  Tom Watson has a writing style that initially appears quite simple–and that mirrors the childish drawings–but that breaks out into elevated vocabulary at unexpected moments.  When one of the dogs–not one of which is known for being exceptionally smart by the way–tastes a new kind of potato chip, she describes it as a “powdery combination that is both enchanting and invigorating.”

Kids will appreciate the light hearted humor and relentlessly positive spirit of Stick Dog.  He is a character that suffers under the circumstances of fate and the dim wittedness of his good friends, while always looking to win the day.  Or, in this case, hamburgers!

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to his website, Tom Watson once worked in politics for U.S. Senator John Glenn and the Governor of Ohio.

“Snoop Troop: It Came From Beneath The Playground” by Kirk Scroggs

The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less: Logan Lang is a 4th grader super sleuth at Murkee Elementary who loves solving crimes almost as much as she loves reading about them in the school library.  Gustavo Muchomacho is a fellow student who was raised on crime fighting TV shows and has a set of specialized disguise mustaches.  When the merry-go-round at nearby Hurling Rivers Amusement park disappears into the ground, Logan and Gustavo are on the case!  Events heat up when an army of moles begins demanding the lunch money from students at Murkee Elementary.  Will Logan and Gustavo crack the case before the students lose all of their money to the underground rodents?

My Take:  In line with his earlier book series “Wiley and Grampa’s Creature Features” and “Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet,” Kirk Scroggs blends outrageous humor with zany illustrations.  Never taking itself seriously, “It Came From Beneath the Playground” makes references to ancient custodial burial grounds and moustaches that sprout nostril lights.  Kids with shorter attentions spans will appreciate these funny, snappy books.  Ages 7+

One Interesting Note About the Author: Kirk Scroggs was born and raised in Austin, Texas and studied film at the University of Texas.