Another fun day of interning with CRRL consisted of a visit to Walker Grant Middle School. I teamed up with the CRRL staff worker who serves as the liaison between the public schools and the local library. We were to meet with the middle school librarian and help run Café Book, an extracurricular academic group for students interested in reading outside of class.
I was happy to see the higher security exercised as I entered the school. I had to use the intercom, get buzzed in, and check in at the front desk before I could even get into the rest of the school. It may not seem like much, but it is better that being able to walk in without restraint. It is important, considering America’s history, to be safe and have procedure.
The Walker Grant library was beautiful. World flags hung silently from the ceiling, and the books loudly waited on the shelves, begging for students to give them a tickle.
When the first group of 7th and 8th graders filed into the library and sat at the open tables, they stared at me. The liaison introduced me, naming me and my status as a senior at the university. One of the girls spoke:
“What are you studying?!” she piped.
“I am a double major…” The students grew considerably wide-eyed. “I study English Literature and Classical Civilizations. So I love books, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and of course writing.” I was honestly surprised and happy that the kids were interested in me – and I thought that in some ways I was advocating for college, asserting how worth and fun it is. I told them so much.
The Café Book meetings (there were two, one for each lunch period) were relaxed and pleasant. I liked talking with the school librarian and CRRL’s liaison. The kids were interesting and smart – I even saw one of the girls I helped tutor at Hazel Hill the year before.[i] I loved the fact that the students who showed up for the Café Book meetings were there because they wanted to be, not because they were going to receive a grade or because they were required to participate.
At the end of the second session, one of the 8th grade girls asked the school librarian if there was a Café Book in the high school. The school librarian said there was not. I spoke.
“Why not start one of your own?” The girl looked at me, replied, and the last thing I heard as she scurried off after her three friends she had sat at the table with was “Hey guys! What if we started…” I hope I planted a seed. I saw my purpose in that moment, and I hope I moved someone.
[i] Hazel Hill is a government subsidized living community in Fredericksburg. I volunteered at the community center for three semesters, tutoring and helping K-8th graders with their homework and projects. I became familiar with the local middle and elementary schools in the Fredericksburg area because of this volunteering, and it actually helped me later when I worked on the book project with the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL and discussed the schools the books would be sent to.