'We all need a break from screens': Barrington school librarian gets creative to deliver books
If students can't go to the library, the library will go to the students.
That was the thinking of Taryn Parise, a teacher librarian at Hough Street Elementary in Barrington, who about two weeks ago started a "mini bookmobile" of sorts. Parise loads a small wagon with books from the school library and pulls it through the school's neighborhood, so kids learning from home can pick up reading material.
"I had been feeling bad that I have not been able to get books in the kids' hands. I know that they have iPads ... but really there is nothing quite like the experience of holding a book," she said. "Plus, we all need a break from screens."
Parise borrowed the wagon from a teacher who normally uses it to keep lunchboxes. She fills it up with about 120 books along a computer and scanner.
"I can tell you it's awfully heavy going uphill," she said, chuckling.
So far Parise has done it twice since mid-November: The first time four kids came by -- either alone or with their parents -- and the second time a whopping 30+ kids showed up.
"That was amazing. I couldn't believe it," she said.
The location of her stops is announced via schoolwide emails. Parise's goal is to continue doing it twice a week unless it's raining, snowy or too cold. Other teachers have volunteered to join her, she added.
Parent John Haradon, who accompanied his young daughters to pick up books from Parise, called it "a pretty smart idea."
"We haven't gone to our own (public) library from the concern of going anywhere in person," he said. "To have the school step up and bring the books to the kids is pretty exciting."
His daughters agreed. "I liked the books that the librarian brought. I like how she got books for all ages," said Cecilia, a third-grader.
"It was cool that our librarian was in our neighborhood," added her sister, Genevieve, who's in the first grade.
Parise, who lives in Elgin, has been a teacher for 16 years. She is in her first year at Hough Street Elementary, whose principal, Zach Ernst, praised her initiative.
"She's constantly thinking about how she can go above and beyond, and outside the typical role and responsibility of a teacher librarian," he said.
If book requests continue to grow, he might explore ways to broaden staff participation.
"We've been struggling to get books in the kids' hands, and this lent itself so well to being an easy opportunity to so many kids," he said.
Parise said she relishes the chance to see students face to face -- with masks and social distancing -- during the pandemic. "It's definitely a highlight of my day."