School Libraries, A Gift to Students – or Thank you, Ms. Smith

By JuLe Maxwell

Thank you, Ms. Smith. Reading, books, librarians and libraries have meant everything to me, as a child, an adult and a parent.

I spent five of my elementary years during the 1970s in Special Education challenged by dyslexia. Back then, students with disabilities of any kind were segregated from the rest of the school population. Library visits were not part of my school experience until one day, Ms. Smith, our school’s new librarian, invited me to her library. Ms. Smith put in my hands A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. This is the first book I read all by myself at age 10. Eventually, I read all the books in this series. Ten years later, I found myself reading aloud this same book to children during story hour at a small independent bookstore in East Dallas.

A librarian who repeatedly asked my daughter in middle school her thoughts about the book she just read empowered her to form opinions and express herself verbally. She became her ally in reading. Like all of you, this same librarian strives to be impartial in all topics of discussion and she is forever championing the right for unrestrictive access.

Librarians today teach our children how to discern credible sources in fact gathering and are constantly on the cutting edge of what is trending. When I attend the TLA conference every year, I’m amazed by the field of seminar topics a librarian can attend and how all of this continuing education works to make reading and research relevant to our children. Honestly, I don’t know of another profession that is so motivated in helping our kids.

My esteem for librarians is similar to Brazelton’s Touchpoints for infants. Librarians offer children that first entry of independent and group reading that can launch their love of reading for the rest of their lives and perhaps their careers.

To suggest that Ms. Smith is responsible for my thirty years as a bookseller and for my advocacy for reading is not an understatement.  Ms. Smith was my Mr. Falker (Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco), and I suspect that all of you, every day, make that difference in the lives of our children. So, thank you. Thank you all. School libraries are a gift to students.

Jule Maxwell,
Library volunteer at the Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School,
Dallas ISD


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