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Students sort picture books for underfunded elementary libraries

Zoe Bodovinitz and Kate Inge, News Editor and Sports Editor
Originally published January 15, 2019


Julian WhitworthPicture books sorted by theme are shelved in the "Makerspace." Themes include "Responsibility" and "Girl Power."

Julian Whitworth

Picture books sorted by theme are shelved in the “Makerspace.” Themes include “Responsibility” and “Girl Power.”

High school kids and picture books. Probably a pair most people wouldn’t put together. Librarian TuesD Chambers would beg to differ. With a new assortment of children’s books obtained from the Seattle Public Library, students can now enjoy the nostalgia that books like “Curious George” and “The Giving Tree” bring, while additionally benefitting elementary school libraries.

The idea is that students will read these picture books in designated class time and determine what kind of meanings are being presented. From there, the books are organized by theme and can be distributed to elementary school libraries that don’t have the budget for new books.

“We put the books that are about empathy and kindness, compassion and bravery in stacks and give them to schools that needed those books. [Students have] already gone through them and you’ve decided that these are the good ones,” Chambers said.

Language arts teacher, Taryn Coe, tried this new approach to understanding themes in her freshman classes.

“I thought it was good practice for [students] to look at simpler texts and try to plot the messages because I’m always asking them to do that with more complicated texts, but this was something that was accessible for everyone,” Coe said.

Participating teachers didn’t know how students would receive the activity, but the reaction from students turned out to be surprising as many seemed to enjoy the idea of reading simple books aloud to their classmates. Many enjoyed using their knowledge to discern which books were worth giving to younger children.

“I think one of the things they liked about it was that they knew that their work meant something,” Coe said. “So there were days that we would deliver the books to Ms. Chambers and she would say, ‘okay these are going right over to Northgate Elementary,’ so they felt like it had a real world impact which was probably the most important thing.”

Through sorting book for book exchanges, Chambers hopes to not only build communities in classrooms and with elementary schools all over Seattle, but to bring to light the depleting libraries in schools across the city.

“One, we advortize that all libraries need funding, and two, we build communities through stories,” Chambers said.

The importance of grouping books and giving back mirrors the morals found in the picture books students read. “We should still be good to people, we should still be brave, we should still try and be strong for others, all of that still exists ” Chambers said.

DAM time teachers are encouraged to participate in this project and the library is open for students to who want to lend a hand.

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Students sort picture books for underfunded elementary libraries