Last year, KDL asked patrons to nominate individuals and organizations for KDL's Literacy Champion Award. The submissions were so inspiring!
Carrie Davies, a Teacher Librarian at North Oakview Elementary and Highlands Middle School, was a finalist. Carrie has worked in education for 20 years, 10 years as a classroom teacher and 10 years as a teacher librarian. She is passionate about connecting readers with books and ensuring that students can see themselves in the books on the shelves of their libraries.
Carrie has been a fantastic teacher librarian from day one at Northview. She reads new books constantly, in order to be able to recommend things to students. When I last stopped into her library, she was packing up a big box of books to read over the summer. She has made an effort to diversify the book collection at the schools, so that every student can see themselves in books, as well as read about kids whose lives are different from their own.
She instituted mock Newbery and Caldecott awards at the schools. The students read the nominated books, have discussions with each other debating the various titles, and end with an awards breakfast. She has even gotten some of the authors to join via Skype for discussions or the awards. Speaking of authors, Carrie has arranged for multiple author visits for the students, both in person and via Skype. When KDL brought author/illustrator Floyd Cooper to Grand Rapids several years ago, I had him visit some of the Northview schools. I was very impressed with Carrie's students, who were clearly very familiar with Mr. Cooper's work. They asked great questions and were very excited to meet him.
Carrie hypes the kids up every year for summer reading with an energetic assembly. She shows video book talks, has a librarian from KDL come talk about the Summer Wonder program, and gives away books as prizes. It is fantastic to see so many kids excited about reading and books. Carrie clearly loves her job, and it shows. I love it when kids come into the public library very excited about some book that Mrs. Davies talked about at school. She never misses an opportunity to promote and connect with the public library.
Tell us about your favorite library memory.
The stage was set for my favorite library memory in my childhood but has occurred now in my role as a Teacher Librarian. I am incredibly fortunate that my mom has always been a lover of books and reading and surrounded my sister and I with many rich literacy experiences as children, which included countless trips to the Plainfield Library. I have many fond memories of bringing home stacks of books to devour, with the promise of returning them when I was finished, only to be able to get more. (Where else does that happen?? What a magical place the library is!) I still have my very first library card, signed in my 6-year-old attempt at cursive (which I clearly had not learned yet), and bearing the scars of years of book checkouts, including worn off lettering in places, dirt and smudges, and even a few cuts and tears around the edges. The card still sits on my desk in my school library. It is a daily reminder to me of the magic of libraries, the power of a library card and the gift I have been given that I now get to come to work in a school library each and every day.
As a Teacher Librarian, each year, I have the great joy of bringing first grade classes on a field trip to visit the very same Plainfield KDL Branch Library where I fell in love with books as a child. As part of that field trip, they get to experience storytime activities, hear about many of the services KDL provides, and spend time exploring the children's area of the library. The highlight, however, is many of those first-grade readers getting their very first library card. To see the reactions and hear the comments made about receiving their very own library card touches my heart every time I have the privilege of witnessing it. I share my own very first library card with my first-grade students each year before we go on this field trip. It brings back my own wonderful childhood memories of visiting the library and provides a great perspective on seeing the experience through my first graders' eyes now.
Which book do you find yourself recommending most often?
It's so hard to choose just one! I recently read and loved Jasmine Warga's latest middle grade novel A Rover's Story. It follows the journey of Resilience, a Mars rover, from being built to launching to exploring Mars, over many decades. Res finds himself experiencing human emotions, which complicates things for a rover designed to collect and analyze data to make decisions. Interspersed throughout the novel, we also get letters from the daughter of one of the scientists written to Res and learn so much about her and her mom through those letters as she grows up.
I simply couldn’t put it down! The story itself was unlike anything I had ever read before. It was full of adventure and heart and curiosity and empathy and courage and resilience. So much resilience! Jasmine Warga gives such life and heart and feeling to inanimate, fictional robots and it is truly an incredible feat. This is a book I would highly recommend to any reader 4th grade and older (including adults!) and would make a great family read aloud. It is also currently on our Mock Newbery list in Northview, and it has brought up some great discussions and insights from those 6th grade readers, too!
The library's mission is to further all people. How has the library furthered you?
While KDL has impacted me in many ways throughout my life, I think the way it has furthered me most is in my role as a parent. My own children are currently 14 and 12 years old, and as I look back, I am incredibly thankful for all the opportunities KDL has allowed me to engage in with my own kids through services, programs and the collection of books they offer. As infants and toddlers, I was able to bring them to countless Storytimes. It was something we all looked forward to each week and was a time for sharing stories and songs together. After the program, we spent time playing with toys in the children's area, letting them pick out books to take home, all while connecting with other families in the community.
As they grew, I was able to connect with my kids through a wide variety of programs and services, from gingerbread house making to bike safety and helmet giveaways to animals visiting the library and everything in between. To have these opportunities through KDL provided time and space to connect as a family and have experiences we most likely wouldn't have sought out otherwise, especially since they were provided at no cost.
Currently, I have gotten the chance to continue growing as a parent and connect with my kids and their friends through the Battle of the Books program offered through the Grandville Branch. Both of my kids have participated in BOB, and I have had the chance to coach my daughter's team. This offering for students in grades 5-8 has allowed us to continue to connect as a family at a time when my kids' worlds are expanding, and they are being pulled in a wide variety of directions and activities. To have read 5-6 of the same books provided common ground to discuss our thoughts, reactions and feelings around those books.
The collection itself continues to be a draw, as even now, my kids always leave a quick stop I have to make at the KDL where they "don't need anything" with armfuls of books, Playaways or video games. As a parent, I have also been able to access resources, including books about topics in parenting, as well as books as an outlet and to read for enjoyment. I am thankful for the way KDL has supported and furthered me as a parent through every age and stage so far!
If you would like to nominate a person or organization for the 2023 Literacy Champion Award, please visit kdl.org/literacychampion. Winners will receive two tickets to the Literary Libations gala, $1,000 and a crystal trophy.