About a week ago, Zach came bursting into my office. “Mr. Ball, I need a book!” he bellowed, his backpack slung over his shoulder.
I looked up from the paperwork I had been studying before this boy had stormed my office. There was Zach with this head turned sideways, scanning the books on the shelf nearest the door to my office. The thought crossed my mind to tell Zach I was busy, to tell him to come back perhaps after school.
But no way was I going to do that.
Here was a kid who needed a book! I find matching a kid to a book to be both one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences in my profession, although I will admit it rarely goes the way I think it will go. That day with Zach was no exception.
“Well, what are you ready for, Zach?” I asked him. “You finished the Michael Vey series, right?” This is how I had met Zach. He was not my student, but had come to me upon the recommendation of his seventh grade English Language Arts teacher to pick up the most recent Richard Paul Evans installment of the popular character, Michael Vey. I remembered he had read and returned the book within two weeks, lamenting the fact that no book seven existed yet.
I stood up and circled my desk so that I could approach a different book shelf. Now, the book selection in my office is quite limited, so I worried that I might not be able to help Zach. I began to scan the mental files in my brain. Hmm…What to recommend?
Suddenly, I heard Zach’s voice. “I’ll just read this one.” He held up a book from the shelf he had been searching.
Now, I am not familiar with this book. It was one of the many books I inherited when I moved into this office four years ago. With that being the case, a few thoughts crossed my mind. Thought #1: I should not let this kid have this book. Thought #2: If I do allow Zach to take this book, at least one of his teachers will want to let the air out of my tires to seek revenge. Thought #3: I should make him pick something else.
But a core belief inside me took over at that point, a belief that choice really matters when it comes to growing and nurturing young readers. Perhaps this book wouldn’t have been my choice for Zach, but it was his choice. So he signed it out and was out the door. “Thanks!” he uttered over his shoulder as he ambled into the hallway.
That was a week ago. Then yesterday, Zach, once again, shuffled into my office with his backpack and returned the book to my hands. “It was really good,” he reported. “Thanks!”