How often do you have the opportunity to make and receive a gift on your birthday? Every year, dozens of Belinder elementary school students leave their mark on the school library through the birthday book club.
Its structure is simple. Parents donate $ 15 to the school library through the PTA. In the correct birthday month, the child chooses a book from the club car. His or her name is on an ex-libris dedication in the book.
The birthday child can then borrow the book longer than normal, and when the book comes back it becomes part of the regular library inventory that anyone can use.
School librarian Wendy Oviatt said students were thrilled to find a book with a teacher’s name in it last year when their teacher was a student at Belinder in Prairie Village.
Oviatt selects a range of books to add to the cart, from classics to popular series.
“I listen to topics that kids are interested in that we might not have in the library just to add some depth to the collection while meeting some of their needs,” said Oviatt.
Fiction, non-fiction, picture books, chapter books – they’re all there.
âThey’re usually very excited to be able to choose their own book. Some of them are very careful, going through every book cover and spending a lot of time looking for just what is right, âsaid Oviatt.
She’s not sure how many birthday books are in the library at this point, and the program is older than her time at school.
The ability to add so many books each year through the club makes a huge difference to what the library has to offer.
âIt really helps. (With) our budget it almost doubles what I get from the district, âsaid Oviatt.
On summer birthdays, Oviatt looks to the child’s half birthday to make the club donation. Whenever they participate, the children have fun doing it.
âIt brings some flair to reading. It creates that reading program support and lets kids know that reading is also a great thing to celebrate, âOviatt said.
Not everyone wants or can participate. This year, the parents of 137 von Belinders registered around 480 pupils. Some parents have donated enough to allow 12 more students whose parents may not have the money to attend.
The club is in partnership with the PTA, but due to the pandemic, volunteer parents cannot come into the building to help.
Carrie Kruse has chaired the PTA committee for three years. She has three daughters in school, in kindergarten, in fourth and sixth grades. Before the pandemic, she took the cart with the children every month.
“When I was able to go to school and bring the book trolley to the canteen, the children are so excited when they see the book trolley coming,” says Kruse. ââ¦ To see how children get excited about a book is pretty wonderful. It’s just a special way of honoring their birthdays and adding to our library collection and of course fostering a love of reading. “
When your children borrow books from the school library, they always check whose name is in the front.
âSometimes it’s a friend or a neighbor – current students or from years past. It’s a fun way to remember past students and build that sense of community, âshe said.
Now Oviatt has to do all the practical tasks, but Kruse still keeps track of all donations and who is allowed to select books each month. There were 167 regular book club attendees in the 2019-2020 school year, along with 24 additional books donated for other children.
Oviatt said she knew other schools in the district have similar clubs, but she wasn’t sure how many.