I think the seed was sown about 5 years ago in a Youth Toefl class. A student asked for a book to read in her spare time. I was a little surprised at this: this request was probably the first time she had addressed me directly. In fact, I had hardly heard her voice at all. She was young for the class (only 14) and not particularly interested in the social dramas that were taking place around her. All in all, she seemed a little lost.
I thought , “Why not — even if the book doesn’t help, the action of bringing it in will show that someone’s paying attention,” went home and realized that I had shelves of YA novels that my kids had recently outgrown. Rather than impose my own choice on her, I shoved them all into an Ikea bag (librarians wince!) and brought them in. I left them lying around the classroom and the student quietly worked her way through them.
At the end of the session, this apparently disengaged student wrote a note about how much she had enjoyed her time in Toronto. She specifically mentioned the books (I think the word “wonderland” featured somewhere in that sentence.)
This got me thinking. The summer program is very much geared to extroverts — every minute of the students’ days is planned for interactive and communicative language learning. I get it: immersive language programs don’t work if the participants just sit in their rooms reading fantasy novels. However, many writers on introversion have pointed out that introverts do better if they can have time alone to recharge. Having English language books available would give them a way of doing that without completely disconnecting from the program.
I let that sit for a while, but I’m back at the Summer Program this year and I’ve been thinking about ways to enrich the student experience.
Driving to work through the Annex, seeing all the Little Free Libraries in their charming library houses
I sent round an email to the instructors asking for books, attempting to present this as an opportunity for a KonMari experience. Books have been trickling in
and it’s been quite a revelation to see who produces what.
I’m still working on the actual structure. It turns out that the little bookhouses people set up on street corners cost $350 if you order them ready-made. While I think that building one would be an excellent class project for the more hyperkinetic 12 year-olds, no teacher has volunteered. I think we’re going to resort to this: it’s bright and jolly; it will provide good book visibility, and it’s on wheels.
Next step: clean up the structure, find a new home for the toys, and somehow transport it to school.