Going for the Gold: Transformative School Library Partners

Olympic Rings

Valarie Hunsinger challenges librarians to think creatively in order to transform their library, you never know where it will lead. For Hunsinger, it led directly to Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas.

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Icely, a sixth grader in the Bronx, New York, can’t stop reading! It is impossible to find her without a book in hand. In the first few months of school, she has already read over fifty-four books and one million words! When asked why her reading has become so ravenous compared to the previous year, she says that she never wants to miss a “Gabby Douglas opportunity” again.
Many fellow students feel the same way. In 2012, students at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx (Hyde-Bronx) celebrated the Olympics by striving to “Go for the Gold” in their academic pursuits. Students who completed their summer reading journal started the year by receiving a reading gold medal from Ben Bratton, who was the youngest member to win a gold medal for America at the 2012 World Championships in Fencing.

Millionaires’ Challenge
After Bratton’s visit, the library launched a millionaires’ challenge. Students were challenged to read a million words, and I promised to find an Olympian to celebrate their huge accomplishment. As more and more students joined the Millionaires Club, the harder it seemed to find an Olympian, until one day my friend and corporate partner, Debra Braganza from City National Bank, called me and said, “I found an Olympian for you.” Little did I know that she had found one of the biggest Olympians—two-time gold medalist of the summer games, Gabby Douglas.
On May 1, 2013, fifty millionaire readers not only met Gabby Douglas at Barnes & Noble, but also received a signed copy of her newest book, Raising the Bar, thanks to City National Bank and Barnes & Noble. (The story can be found at: http://bronx.news12.com/news/students-in-hunts-point-soundview-meet-olympic-gold-medal-winner-gabby-douglas-1.5177727). Maria, an eighth grade student who read over five million words, said it was a day she would never forget for the rest of her life. It was also the day that I realized that in my library I must dream BIG and, even more importantly, I realized that to change the lives of my students, I needed partners that believe in big dreams! Continue reading “Going for the Gold: Transformative School Library Partners”