The rhythmic sound of a playground ball bouncing outside my office window was something everyone warned me about when my office moved at the beginning of this school year. Your window is right outside where the kids play after school and in the summer! The noise will drive you crazy!
True, the playground balls were noisy, but it was not the only noise that caught my attention. One day, while kids were playing outside during the after school program, three students were peeking in the window. Then, one of them knocked. I opened the window and said hello!
“You are the book lady, right?”
I immediately answered, “Yes, I am!” Who wouldn't want to be known as the book lady? Given my role as the PK–5 Humanities Curriculum Administrative Supervisor for the Stoughton Public School District in Massachusetts, the students recognized me from bringing books to their classrooms. These three girls proceeded to tell me that they had been looking into my office and had been watching all the book deliveries go in and out! We talked through the screen of my window for a few minutes about what they were reading. It was then that I had an idea.
I ran over to my bookshelves, grabbed three books that I thought they would be interested in and slowly handed them through the tiny screen opening. Jumping up and down, the girls squealed with excitement over the new books. They looked at me and asked if the books were theirs to keep. I said, “Yes, but you have to promise to pass them along to someone else when you are done!” The girls went on their way and I went back to my work.
The next day, instead of thumping, I heard knocking. I turned around to find two other students at my window. I opened it again and one of them said, “I heard you pass out books through your window. Do you have anything for us to read?” Once again, I ran to my bookshelf and carefully squeezed two new books into the hands of the readers who knocked.
This pattern continued every afternoon with new readers coming to say hello. Then, I was out of the office for a few days. When I returned, my colleagues jokingly said, “Kids have been knocking at our window every afternoon asking for books! What have you started?!” Laughing, I apologized and set up a book bin in the office so we can all hand out books to anyone who comes knocking at the “Drive-Thru Book Window.”
In 2017, our district collaborated with Scholastic to research the benefits of building students’ home libraries and engaging families in summer reading activities. The results of the study can be found here.
Since increasing access to books for our students, and encouraging reading year-round, Stoughton Public Schools has seen the culture of literacy in our district—and our students’ overall interest in books—grow. What I love most about the new Drive-Thru Book Window in my office is that students come to me on their own with genuine interest in exploring books and wanting to read.
With the weather change, and kids going outside for recess less frequently, we haven’t had as many drive-thru customers lately, but I now have a book bin fully stocked and ready to go. When the weather warms up, our window readers will not only have more access, but also choice. What better way to cultivate lifelong readers!