Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Beep! Beep! I need Sheep in a Jeep!

The Accelerated Reader (AR) program has an admirable mission and all public libraries want to help. As public institutions, we purchase materials for the public, but out of necessity, we have added extra AR paperbacks to the collection. Why? The demand is great and the elementary schools libraries do not allow children to check out.

Picture little Betty coming home and telling mom she needs to read Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw for school. Time always of the essence, big Betty fires up the car and heads to the public library. They greet the happy librarian who takes little Betty by the hand and shows her Sheep in a Jeep and others in the sheep series. Meanwhile big Betty pulls out the AR list and begins the search for four more.

So, what is the big deal? Well, as the Betties leave with their five AR books, no time for any extra books, they pass Joe and Joe Jr. Yep, Joe has the same list and Sheep in a Jeep just departed with the Betties. Joe Jr. is in little Betty's class and eventually all these easy reading mates will visit the library before the week ends. The holds list for Sheep in a Jeep just jumped to fifteen.

It is a difficult situation to force a public library to buy multiple books because of school assignments. Really, with shelf space concerns, one hardback or two paperback copies of Sheep in a Jeep is enough. It might not be so bad if you are working with just one school. In our area there are three different elementary schools, which have bought, and brought different AR lists.

As a public library we have a special mission to supplement the school curriculum as much as feasibly possible. We just look unprofessional come the third, fourth, and so on kids we cannot serve because of demand. You can see why the schools prefer their books sit on their shelves.

My answer is to give these kids more time with AR books while in school. Provide 20 minutes in the morning and possibly take the test after lunch. We as librarians can also be sure to add silly, just for the heck of it, books to their AR pile.

"Miss Betty, have you read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?"