By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This is the week Denny International Middle School librarian Jeff Treistman has been working toward all year.
When the week’s over, he hopes to have put thousands of books in the hands of hundreds of Denny students to get ready for summer reading.
But they’re not from a list of required reading.
Treistman believes the solution to the dreaded “summer slide” – backsliding in progress, when school’s not in session – is choice.
So, by rounding up donations and grants for a year-long Home Library Project, he has put together a book fair this week that’s more like a book carnival – he’s calling it the Book Bazaar. Not just traditionally text-dense books, but even comic books! And whether their families can afford it or not, participating sixth-graders will end the week with books to take home and keep.
We visited the Denny library to talk with Treistman after a staffer at another school told us about his project. He’s in his ninth year as librarian, after three years as a math teacher. He explains that his project had its roots when he dealt with a challenge of supporting about 100 “reluctant readers.” As he “got deep into reading motivation,” he realized that “the most powerful thing is reading for pleasure.” So he set out to figure out how to support that – somewhat antithecal to the standard “here’s what you WILL read” assignments.
So that kids could get books to keep, not just borrow, he needed some funding. Grant-writing hadn’t been in Treistman’s wheelhouse before, but his first attempt – from the American Library Association – was a success and that gave him confidence to try more, ultimately bringing in $18,000! He also secured donated books from publishers and authors (including Nicola Yoon‘s “Everything, Everything”), and as he got ready for the Book Bazaar, a corner of the Denny library was brimming with boxes of them.
Will the summer-slide theory pan out? He says they’ll find out in the fall, and is confident they’ll “be able to measure some kind of impact … If I can prove it, I have a really strong advocacy piece!”
So here’s what he’s doing all week: The Book Bazaar is open to everyone in the library throughout the school day. Tomorrow evening, they’re having pizza, and more than 20 students will read poetry. Wednesday and Thursday are when Comics Dungeon will join the party, setting up in what serves, the rest of the time, as the computer lab.
Bottom line, Treistman hopes the Book Bazaar will provide the answer to what he’s ultimately asking those “reluctant readers”: “Do you hate reading, or just hate reading what the teacher assigned you?”