By Joani Selement, AIBF Founding Member
Young Adult author Lois Lowry stood in the auditorium of Fernandina Beach Middle School in 2004. What motivated her to stride onto the stage, unzip her jacket, and stand there, so silently?
Moments passed. Then, as one, the kids shot to their feet, clapped, and cheered loudly.
I watched from the back row. Of course I’d hoped AIBF would introduce kids to the rewards of reading. But their spontaneous excitement was overwhelming.
How did it come about? First, Librarian Director Janet Loveless called me months before, asking: “Would you like to know how to reach Ms. Lowry by phone?” Then I asked Ginny White, a teacher at the middle school and Director of the “Authors in Schools” program, “Would you be interested?”
Ms. White reached out to all FBMS English classes, promising if they read Ms. Lowry’s book, The Giver (which won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold over 12 million copies worldwide), Ms. Lowry would come to FBMS and they could meet her in person.
As it turned out, all the students read The Giver to its final sentence where they learned Jonas turned his sled downhill towards a house and distant colored lights. The end.
Did Jonas reach safety? Was he led into warmth?
No one anywhere knew the answer to that question until Ms. Lowry unzipped her jacket that morning to reveal the T-shirt underneath. It read: Jonas Lives.
Literacy is important when we need to read street signs, fill out forms at work, and catch up on the news. We should be literate—and more. FBMS students picked up The Giver to learn about a place that created a “perfect” world, and what could get lost in that process. As the kids cheered that morning, I learned along with them the thrill of reading for the pure joy of it.
Joani Selement, AIBF Founding Member