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updated: 4/4/2011 3:44 PM

Oak Brook's 'Xtreme Librarian' wins national honor

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  • John Schumacher, library director at Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook, is nationally recognized for his innovative approach to getting kids to read.

      John Schumacher, library director at Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook, is nationally recognized for his innovative approach to getting kids to read.
    Courtesy of Butler Elementary District 53

  • The 2011 Movers and Shakers are featured on the cover of Library Journal.

      The 2011 Movers and Shakers are featured on the cover of Library Journal.

 
 

The kids call him "Mr. Schu," as in shoe.

But a national publication recently gave Brook Forest Elementary School's John Schumacher a new tag: Xtreme Librarian.

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The 29-year-old Oak Brook school librarian takes a high-energy, innovative approach to get kids reading.

He puts book lists on any blank surface he can -- even in the bathrooms. He teaches his students about wikis, glogster and QR codes (bar codes that are read two-dimensionally by a camera on a smart phone.) He stops by Anderson's Bookshop several times a week so he can "put new books in kids hands almost daily."

Schumacher read 1,710 books last year.

"My formula is I read between 200 and 300 picture books, 12 to 13 middle grade books and two Young Adult novels every month," he said.

And even though he has only been a certified librarian for a year, he's already been featured three times in the publication School Library Journal.

Recently, the national Library Journal named him one of its 2011 Movers and Shakers. He was the only school librarian in Illinois honored.

"John is truly the whole package," said Brook Forest Principal Nina McCabe. "He has that very rare combination of being intelligent, wonderfully child-centered and amazingly creative."

Schumacher worked as a third-grade teacher at Brook Forest while earning his master's degree in library science at Dominican University in River Forest.

He was a voracious reader as a child.

"I always played school, and I always played library," he said. He had pockets in all of his books, and used to check them out to other children in the neighborhood.

He believes children should have a voice in the types of books they want to read.

"He's not a shushing librarian," said colleague Marie Grygienc. "He believes students should discuss books, collaborate and be active in their book selections."

Schumacher works with Anderson's to bring authors from around the country to discuss their books and the writing process with children. He partners with a school librarian in Iowa on projects to promote literacy, with Skype visits between the schools.

But it's his use of technology to promote reading that has attracted the most attention, according to Library Journal.

For example, Brook Forest students write book reviews and lists, which their classmates can find using QR codes.

He even lets students use his own iPhone -- while in the library -- to read them.

Schumacher and the other 2011 Movers and Shakers are featured on the cover of Library Journal. They will be honored in June during the American Library Association's annual convention in New Orleans.

Schumacher is recognized as an advocate for children and for school libraries.

"The library should be the heart of the school," he said. "It can change people's lives."

Follow him on Twitter at @MrSchuReads or find his blog at mrschureads.blogspot.com.

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