June 21, 2017

Add this great story to the list of reasons you love librarians


Not all children’s librarians give out poodles, but all are heroes.

Today’s feel-good story comes from  Carolyn Johnson, librarian extraordinaire at Saint Francis International School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

What did she do? Oh, she just collected 2,000 books (yes, that’s 2,000 books) to give away for summer reading to the largely economically disadvantaged students at her school. As reported by Donna St. George in the Washington Post, Saint Francis, serves pre-k through eighth grade, and has nearly 400 students, with more than sxity percent living near the poverty level. Most are the children of immigrants.

The school’s first book giveaway came five years ago as a way to get extra books Johnson was not shelving in the library into the hands of families who might appreciate them, and the idea has expanded since then. This year, donors included a D.C.-based literacy nonprofit called An Open Book Foundation and St. Elizabeth’s school in Rockville. Other supporters pitched in along the way, and Johnson hits thrift stores to round out her collection.

Students take home three to 13 books, depending on the stock for each grade level.

“I tell every student, ‘This is just a start,’ ” she said. “I’m really hoping every student will have some adult in their lives take them to the public library on a regular basis.” But she adds that she also likes the idea of children starting a book collection.

“I just don’t think a child can have too many books,” Johnson said. “The families we serve, many struggle from day to day, and I just want the children to have books.”

I could cite the statistics of how kids are helped by reading, and how they read more when there are books at home. But, really, wouldn’t you rather just hear how happy the books make these kids?

As the Great Book Giveaway opened at his school, Theis [Williams] clutched a favorite by author Eric Carle close to his chest.

“I always wanted a dragon book!” said Theis, 4, thrilled at his luck.


Nearby, Jayden Taylor Covington, 7, picked a “Magic Treehouse” book that included volcanoes, which got him imagining eruptions of lava.

“I wish I could fall in it without even getting hot,” he said.

Ariana Campos, 8, looked for both scary books and those about ponies. She liked the idea of keeping the books — and not having to pay for them. One day, she said, she might share those she selected with her baby sister.

“If she would get bigger, I would read to her,” she said.

Meron Tewodros, 8, said the good thing about owning the books is having the chance to read them more than once. “Sometimes you can forget all about them,” she said. “Then you can go back and read it all over like it’s a new book.”


Thank you, Carolyn Johnson, hero librarian!



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.