BUCKHANNON – Most of us have fond memories of books as we were younger including our favorite characters and stories – and lots of people remember snuggling up with our grownups and listening as those books were read aloud to us. Once starting school, learning to read was magical and opened up many doors for learning and using our imaginations.
As we continued to adulthood, some people continued to enjoy reading for fun and learning while others say they felt reading was difficult, especially when assigned to read certain pieces.
Every April, school librarians celebrate National School Library Month, and this year, April 4-10 was National Library Week. In order to celebrate the key role libraries play in learning and to encourage a love of reading for pleasure, one local school librarian worked hard to reignite the joy of reading books for her students and all Buccaneers at the school.
Buckhannon-Upshur High School Librarian Angie Westfall did so by offering many new books which are focused on subjects high schoolers enjoy; by offering incentives and recognitions for reading; by making reading fun and enjoyable; and by celebrating April as School Library Month.
This year to mark the occasion of School Library Month, B-UHS School Librarian Angie Westfall worked with West Virginia Read Aloud Executive Director Dawn Miller, who helped Westfall secure books to put into the hands of Buckhannon-Upshur High School students.
Miller said West Virginia Read Aloud donated the books for the students, 400 of which were distributed on the first day.
“One of the things West Virginia Read Aloud does, besides helping get volunteer readers in West Virginia school classrooms, is distribute books and motivate kids of all ages to read for fun,” Miller said. “When people read for pleasure, they read more and when you read more, you get better at it. It reinforces everything people learn in school.”
Miller said they put volunteers in classrooms to read to kids as well as distribute books for students to read and enjoy.
“This past year, we really bulked up on book distribution because we knew volunteers would not be able to be in the schools,” she said. “Some volunteers were reading virtually but that did not suit everyone or every class – so we really doubled up on books to distribute -especially those for the older kids.”
Miller said the Upshur County Chapter of West Virginia Read Aloud is excellent.
“I knew Westfall is very involved and so I called her and said we are rich in high school aged books and asked if she wanted to do something,” Miller said. “We hatched this plan and sent up more than enough books for each student so even the one at the end of the line has plenty of choices. She has worked hard to display these books and give B-UHS students a chance to browse and pick out a book.”
Miller said allowing the students to browse and select their own book is very motivating when it comes to reading for fun.
“Sometimes the act of assigning reading makes is less motivating for students,” she said. “This is all about giving the students something to read and enjoy. Research shows that if children read over the summer, it prevents summer reading loss. There is actual evidence that a handful or half a dozen freely chosen books given to kids with energy and excitement at the end of the school year does more to prevent summer learning loss than summer school.”
Miller said in a good year, Read Aloud West Virginia distributes approximately 10,000 books to students.
“Since January 1, 2020, we have passed distributing 23,000 books,” Miller said. “Because the kids were cut off from schools and cut off from libraries, we knew everybody needs more. So, we have really leaned into that this year.”
Books available for the students to select from included books on zombies, graphic novels, Anime and non-fiction books. Along with the book donations, Buckhannon-Upshur High School Title I instructor Denice Jeran also had book markers available for all students.
“This is the first year we have had Title I at B-UHS,” Jeran said. “We have had parent involvement activities and provided instructional materials for students as well as professional development for teachers. We are excited to have it here – we provided the bookmarks for today’s event.”
B-UHS Principal Jonathon Pollock said the event and celebration of School Library Month is huge.
“One of the reasons is, we know youth literacy has been on the decline for some time and events like this get students excited to read again,” he said. “These are relevant materials that the students will enjoy. You can see the excitement on the kids’ faces. It’s just nice – these kids can have a book and take it with them.”
Kloey Chapman, who is a B-UHS junior, said she really appreciates the opportunity to select a book to read.
“I am pretty excited,” Kloey said as she selected her book. “It looks really good. It makes me want to read for the first time in a long time.”
Bella Weatherholtz said the event was a great opportunity for students to get new books to read.
Olivia McKisic said she selected ‘The Darkest Minds’ as her book.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” Olivia said, adding that not all students may have the opportunity to purchase books they want to read. “Books are a little bit pricey these days, so it is nice to be able to get these books.”
Once the books were received at the B-UHS Library, Westfall, the Read Aloud coordinator for B-UHS, said she enlisted the help of students to display them so students could browse and select their favorite.
“In a normal year, I do book tastings which encourages reading throughout the year,” she said. “We decided to get books this year because it is such a nice way to celebrate Library Week and School Library Month. That is how this came to be.”
Westfall said they received approximately 1,000 books.
“The goal would be for all B-UHS students to have a book,” Westfall said. “We have something for everyone.”
Seniors Emily Adams and Hunter Cohen helped unbox and display the books available for selection by students.
“I love books,” Emily said. “While unpacking, I got to see all the books, which was amazing. We organized the books by series, and we placed them out in the library.”
Emily said she and Hunter created invitations to attend the book distribution with their students.
“We had candy and we created little puns and put them in the teacher’s boxes,” Emily said. “We made close to 1,000.”
Emily said the selection of books offered to the students was excellent.
“There are true crime books, fiction, books for students at lower and higher reading levels, Disney books, autobiographies, comics and graphic novels,” Emily said. “When I was little, I was alone a lot. I loved reading because I was able to create my own fun by reading. I have a high reading level because I read so much as a small child.”
Emily said her favorite book genre is true crime and her favorite author is James Patterson. She said the book she selected is “Bad Call,” which is about a group of teenagers who go camping in the woods and disappear one by one. Hunter said he selected “The Murderer Next Door.”
“My favorite book by [James Patterson] is ‘Zoo,’ Emily said. “I enjoy that his chapters are short, and he writes lots of books in different genres.”
Emily and Hunter worked for about three weeks to make the displays and set up the books for the event.