Reading advocate visits Pine-Richland schools, shares love of books

Sunday, April 7, 2019 | 1:30 AM


John Schu is an advocate for school libraries, and when he speaks to students and teachers, his exuberance for children’s literature and reading is palpable.

Schu, whose official title is ambassador for school libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, travels around the country more than 200 days per year sharing his passion for books and reading. On April 3 and 4 he stopped at all three elementary schools in the Pine-Richland School District.

“I do this because I love going out into the world and reminding people of the joy that we can experience through story, and I love reminding teachers and librarians why they became teachers and librarians,” Schu said. “And (to remind them) to share their hearts with their students and to be genuine articles in the work that they do. I feel so lucky that, in the past year, I’ve met over 100,000 kids, which means that I know that 100,000 students know about (author) Kate de Camillo, ‘The One and Only Ivan’ and Dav Pilkey’s story from when he was a child.”

Schu, who was an elementary school teacher and librarian himself before being tapped by Scholastic Book Fairs three years ago, shared Pilkey’s story with the second and third graders at Hance Elementary on Wednesday afternoon, several hours after doing the same at Richland Elementary. Schu was at Wexford Elementary on Thursday morning.

When Pilkey was in second grade, Schu told the students, his teacher ripped up a comic he was drawing and told him he had to stop wasting his time. Pilkey would go on to turn that comic into the best-selling “Captain Underpants” series. Schu then gave away two copies of the latest in Pilkey’s “Dog Man” series to a pair of students.

“You’ll hear a question I ask the kids, ‘what do you love reading right now?’” Schu said. “Or more specifically what is a book of your heart? What is a book that helps you better understand yourself? What is a book that better helped you understand someone who is different from you?”

Throughout the presentation, he talked about his favorite books and what he loved about them and gave out copies to a number of lucky students and teachers.

Wexford principal Kelly Gustafson said that Schu’s visit to the three elementary schools was a gift from Scholastic Book Fairs because of their work to promote children’s literacy.

“They recognized our community, and we have a community of readers,” Gustafson said. “So we’re excited.”

In the children’s library world, Wexford Elementary librarian Maria McCormick said, Schu is like a rock star.

“The joy he finds in reading the children’s books and in sharing that joy, I think that’s what the kids pick up on,” McCormick said.

Schu is active on Twitter, with more than 62,000 followers, and other social media platforms as well as his blog, mrschureads.blogspot.com, on which he reviews children’s books. Schu said he reads about 900 books per year.

“I’m so lucky to be able to go out and spread the good word about the importance of story and the power of independent reading,” he said. “And the importance of honoring the child’s reading tastes and reading preferences, which is something I think a lot of us forget.”