By: Danielle DuPuis, Media Specialist, Hammond High School, Columbia, Maryland
Each week, I spend some time browsing our library collection to pull books that students have requested or books that I think a particular student will like. I load up the titles onto two carts: one smaller cart with a wooden shelf crafted by one of our Tech Ed teachers and a larger cart where I can stock up plenty of books for students to browse – some shelved, some outward facing and on display. At approximately 12:35 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday, a small excited group of students from our Academic Life Skills program along with their teacher, come to the Media Center, ready to take on their role as “Book Buddies” for 5th and 6th period and travel the school with me, where we visit classrooms and check out books to students and teachers.
Each week the Book Buddies trade off jobs of scanning books, stamping due date bookmarks, and pushing the carts. It took a little time to train the students as they rotated through each of the jobs each week, and I had some unfounded worry about being a disruption to classes as we came by with our Book Buddies entourage. However, the program has been welcomed with open arms and both students and teachers at Hammond look forward to our visits. Not only are most teachers excited for the interruption to give students a brain stretch, but many teachers will come out to the hallway to talk books, talk to the Book Buddies, and check out a book – showing their students by example, the importance of reading. Prior to Book Buddies, I had been in a bit of a recommendation rut as it was becoming a challenge to get students to come into the Media Center due to their increasingly demanding academic schedules. But now that I have the opportunity to visit classrooms and talk one on one with students every week, I’ve found a renewed love for the job.
Since October when the Book Buddies program began, we’ve visited classrooms 140 times and checked out over 396 books to students and staff from off of the Book Buddies carts. While these statistics are a fantastic start to our new program (which we hope to expand next year), what has really been amazing is seeing how our students from the general population have embraced this inclusive program. Students we had never seen before Book Buddies now make it a point to not only check books out from the cart, but regularly visit the Media Center to check out additional titles, ask for recommendations, and just to say “hello.” Book Buddies has given us all the chance to get to know one another on a more personal level and gives all of our students the chance to meet a new friendly face and the opportunity to check out a book during their already very busy school schedules.
For those of us who work at or attend Hammond High School, we pride ourselves on our school motto, “the place where people are important.” We serve a wide range of learners from various backgrounds and have an extremely caring staff and student body. Book Buddies has helped to highlight and put our motto into practice while also tying in equity and inclusion.
This week while on my way to the front office to drop off some paperwork, one of my Book Buddy friends saw me coming in the hallway as he was entering the building. He held out his arms and walked toward me to embrace me in a big hug and greeted me with a, “good morning, how are you? I like you Ms. DuPuis!” While our Book Buddies program has put hundreds of books into the hands of our students, it’s also brought other benefits much less tangible and even more valuable to our school… respect, joy, and most of all, love.
Check out the Book Buddies on Youtube.