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Inside Practically Paradise

Diane chimes in (and hopes you will too)

Susan mused about why her students love the library. I can think of a few additional reasons. OWNERSHIP, OPPORTUNITY, and BELONGING are three of the big ones.

Our students hear me state continually “This is your library, not my library.” Then we go to work teaching what ownership of a space means including maintenance, establishing rules and procedures they want & need, determining what items to buy and to weed, and generally learning how to make decisions.

Opportunities exist for students to select materials for themselves, for other teachers who call & email requests, and for future purchases. There are always tasks to complete and plenty of work for anyone seeking the opportunity. No matter how bad a student’s past experience in school may have been, the library gives him or her the opportunity to begin again. Don’t forget about the opportunities to learn about anything a student can dream about. Technology opportunities help diminish the gap between those who have and the many students who have none. A student who wants to be involved finds that opportunity in the library which leads to belonging.

Belonging to something, being part of something special, giving part of oneself to a school, identifying with something good. These are all things that students have talked to me about when asked why they wanted to be in the library club or to be a volunteer. They want to be valued and recognized for their contributions. They want to be connected.

Libraries are places of learning. Not all learning is academic. The emotional and social growth occurring is also important to middle school students.

Why do you think students love the library?


  1. I think the library is often an escape for children, especially those who have a miserable home life…case in point: Gary Paulsen.

    It was a cold Minnesota winter’s day that caused Gary Paulsen to duck into a building and flee the harsh weather. The building happened to be a library and when the librarian offered him a book and a library card, magic ignited. Paulsen discovered his passion for reading, and books became his escape from a less than ideal home life.

    It’s no wonder Paulsen fell in love with book–they helped quench his need for adventure. When he was just a fourteen-year-old boy, he ran away from home and joined a traveling carnival; later he has served as a soldier and after that he raced the Iditarod…twice! For those who are unfamiliar with the race, the Iditarod is not for the weak. It’s a sled race with 15 mushers that spans over a 1000 mile course running from Anchorage to Nome. But you don’t need to spend the $250,000 it cost to train for the event to know the thrill. A fan can experience every drop of Paulsen’s blood, guts, and tears when they read his entertaining books on wilderness and adventure.

    Perhaps Paulsen feels compassion for the young man he wanted to be or for kids who desperately need a break from their world. He has dedicated countless hours writing for young people and has given us more than 175 books. Gary Paulsen is considered one of the most important people in children’s literature. In addition to the numerous awards he has won, three of Paulsen’s novels were Newbery Honor Books — Hatchet, Dogsong, and The Winter Room.


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