Van Wert Middle School/High School Librarian/District Media Specialist Nellie Schmidt (center) is dressed as Professor Pomona Sprout from the Harry Potter series. Posed beside her as mandrakes are library student-teacher Brittany Kroeger (left) and library assistant LeAnn German. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Monday kicked off Read Across America Week, a week that celebrates the importance of reading. This year, Van Wert Middle School and High School are also celebrating Teen Read Week at the same time. Librarian/District Media Specialist Nellie Schmidt, library student-teacher Brittany Kroeger, and library assistants LeAnn German and Lorrie Decker worked all weekend long to turn the Van Wert High School library into a Harry Potter-themed paradise. Library helpers Lexie Thomas and Allison Moore also helped in planning the theme and decorating the library.
“Every time we do this, we pick a theme and we try to decorate grandly so that it draws attention to the library,” said Schmidt Monday morning. “It’s neat because the decorations attract a lot of kids that don’t normally come into the library. This morning, lots of kids were coming in to walk around and look at the decorations.”
In order to get students interested in reading, Schmidt noted it’s important to attract them into the library so a conversation about reading can be initiated. She also explained that the library has changed over the years in a lot of ways and students may not always know that there is a lot more a library has to offer than printed books.
“It’s important to show students that a library is no longer just checking in and out books; there’s more that goes into it now,” explained Schmidt. “We also have electronic resources. We do events, contests, and activities. We’re in the process of building a 'maker space' area where kids can go to build, create, and experience things that they may not have an opportunity to on their own. I need to get them in the library so they can know what we have.”
Through an electronic system, students can check in and out e-books any time of the day and any time of the year, including summer when school is out of session. One major benefit of the electronic system is that when Schmidt requests an e-book, she is able to get it delivered the next day.
Schmidt said she is passionate about reading and getting students to love reading because it is essential to everything they do in life. She said that with practice, struggling readers can become strong readers.
“No basketball player goes out and is a great basketball player [the first time]; they spend time every day practicing basketball in order to become good,” said Schmidt. “It’s the same thing with reading. No one just picks up a book and starts reading it. They have to spend time every day reading in order to become good.”
Schmidt encourages students and adults alike to set time aside every day to read in order to become more proficient in reading. Reading is a great stress reliever and escape, said Schmit, and also allows for students to gain a new perspective or learn new ideas they may not otherwise learn.
Other benefits of reading include vocabulary expansion, mental stimulation, improved writing and comprehension skills, stronger analytical thinking skills, improved concentration, and more.
When Schmidt encounters a struggling reader, she helps them find the right book that will engage them. Often, she has a conversation with students to see what interests they may have to point them in the right direction of what book they might enjoy.
“Part of the way to get kids reading is to get them in here and comfortable so that we can start having conversations about books and introduce them to things,” said Schmidt. “It’s really important to me to get students in here so that we can build those relationships. We want them to feel comfortable coming into a library space, especially for when they leave the public school system so they are comfortable going to a community or college library.”
For the Harry Potter theme, many activities will be held in the library throughout the week. Students are able to play a form of Quidditch, a popular sport in the Harry Potter series, and the Dobby Sock Toss (corn-hole). Students are also able to make their own wands and bookmarks and put together a 3-D puzzle.
All eight of the Harry Potter books are available at the Van Wert Middle School/High School library in physical copies as well as e-books and audiobooks.
Schmidt and her team worked diligently to keep the theme a secret. On Friday, each student was given a letter that invited them to the library on Monday and placed them in a Hogwarts house. The theme decorators also created trading cards that feature teachers, like the cards found in the Harry Potter series. Students can either buy the cards, which come in a chocolate frog case, or they can earn cards throughout the week if they are “caught” reading or doing something exceptionally nice.
Some of the cards also feature prizes from local businesses. Brewed Expressions, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, Bob Evans, Ragers Original Sausage Sandwich, and Olympic Lanes all donated prizes.
Other businesses that contributed to the week are Midwest Sportswear, who designed special shirts for the staff to wear throughout the week, and Sears, Van Wert Bedrooms and Kitchens Inc., who all donated boxes which were used for decorations.
During the week, students will also be making signs sharing their favorite books to put on their lockers.
Original article courtesy of Times Bulletin