Most library classes at the Blackstone Library begin the same way-- twenty or more students file in, place their books in the “return” bucket, and take a seat on the rug. If the class is kindergarden, there is usually a little bit of squirming on the rug. If the class is third grade or older, at least one student might inquire about the status of the library’s most popular collection,The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Once the class is comfortably seated on the rug, one of the librarians will read to them. For the older classes, read alouds might include a chapter of the Roald Dahl book the class is reading together. For younger classes, the story might be a Mo Willems picture book that even has the teacher laughing. Following the read-aloud, the students have time to look through the collection and select one to check out for the week.
The library currently sees nineteen classrooms on a weekly basis, from the three-year-olds in K-0 to the fifth grade, the oldest grade at the Blackstone. The librarians are all volunteers; they are each committed to overseeing some of the thirty-minute library classes that happen every day of the week. Yet--and not surprisingly--the most popular member of the library team is a knit red dog mascot named Clifford. Students are very interested in his book selections, even though he usually has has his nose in a book about himself or other dogs. The library is also a space shared by other programs at the Blackstone School, including Big Sisters and Starfish, City Year’s after school program.
This year marks the sixth year of Blackstone Library, the product of the thriving partnership between St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and the Blackstone Innovation School. Previously, the school did not have an operational library and the space the library currently occupies was a dusty, musty space used for storage. Once the Blackstone made the need for a library known, St. Stephen’s, along with Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, came together to clean the space, collect and organize books. Leaders worked with the school’s staff to integrate the library into the Blackstone. Volunteers from Wellesley and Simmons College were also instrumental in the foundation of the library. The library officially opened on March 2nd, 2010. The ribbon cutting ceremony was part of the Blackstone’s Read Across America Day celebration, a holiday that coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday!
At the launch of this school year, the library welcomed a new Library Coordinator, a new Blackstone Partnership Coordinator, and a handful of new volunteers! These volunteers include a group from the Emmanuel Gospel Center, located across the street from the Blackstone. One EGC volunteer shared how happy she was to be involved with a neighboring school on a regular basis and how much the staff, including their director, enjoyed interacting with their class. Because of their support, an additional kindergarten class is able to regularly come to the library! In addition to welcoming more kindergarten classes, the library is hosting Multiple Disabilities classes for the first time this year. The library is also working to add more Spanish language books to its 10,500 volume collection.
To volunteer as a classroom reader during this year’s Read Across America Day Celebration at the Blackstone on Friday, March 4th from 1-3PM, or to learn more about ways to get involved with the Blackstone Library, contact Maureen Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.