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Traveling librarian spreads joy of reading at Blue Mountain

John Schumacher, better known as Mr. Schu, danced, pranced and entranced kindergarten and first grade students at Blue Mountain Elementary East during a November presentation encouraging “The Gift of Reading.”

Holding the attention of kindergarten and first-grade children is never an easy task, but Schu made it look easy as he kept the students spellbound with his energetic readings and words of encouragement. Constantly interacting with his young audience, Mr. Schu had the students responding with laughter, giggles and shouts of affirmation.

Schu kept the teachers smiling too as he handed out some of his favorite books to them. He invited kindergarten teachers Cathy Seibert, Ann Lucarino and Daun Corse-Phillips to read with him, giving them each a different part from his book.

Mr. Schu talks about reading and the value of libraries to students at Blue Mountain Elementary East. Schu holds one of his favorite books, “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena. (Janis McGowan)

Corse-Phillips, a Title 1 reading specialist at Elementary East, was especially excited to have Mr. Schu visit.

“He is the first visitor we’ve had in the building since COVID,” Corse-Phillips said. “We were looking for someone to motivate the students after coming off COVID, and we couldn’t have had anyone better than him to promote the joys of reading.”

Corse-Phillips said she had been working on writing a grant for three years. She and co-worker Ann Lucarino were awarded a $4,000 grant by the Blue Mountain Eagle Foundation as part of its Educators in Residence program.

“Usually, we have authors come in and you can buy their books,” Corse-Phillips said, “but with the pandemic and everyone struggling financially we thought it would be better to have someone motivating come in be positive about reading.”

Schu originally was scheduled to come to the school two years ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic and scheduling issues delayed his arrival. He visited all three elementary schools in the Blue Mountain School District Nov. 15, 16 and 17, giving separate presentations to each age group.

The gymnasium at Blue Mountain Elementary East was all decked out to welcome John Schumacher, better known as Mr. Schu, to the school in November. (Janis McGowan)

A renowned expert in children’s literature, Schumacher hails from Illinois. He began his career as a third- and fourth-grade teacher. He went on to work as a school librarian for nine years and has become the ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic Books, traveling to more than 200 cities throughout the nation each year, as well as teaching in Japan and visiting Europe. All for the love of reading.

Schu is the author of books including “This Is a School,” “This Is a Story” and “The Gift of Story,” which will be published shortly.

Corse-Phillips said she was thrilled with the presentations and the enthusiasm of the students.

“The kids have just been amazing throughout this whole COVID pandemic,” Corse-Phillips said. “Our kids responded so positively to Mr. Schu at every grade level.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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