POLLOK, TX (KTRE) - It is getting harder for parents to pry their kids away from the TV or computers, but books are flying off the shelves at Central High School. Their librarian may deserve some of the credit.
Librarian Donna Cook is on a mission to teach that reading is more than just books on shelves."Knowing how a teenager makes him or herself into an adult. How they navigate the rough waters and difficulties of teenager life and on the other end, they come out being the person they can be."
Her students at Central High are evidence of her passion. She pushes them to be lifelong learners. Senior Justin McRae said, "She not only encourages us to read by recommending good books. She encourages us to read by giving us the tools to help ourselves pick good books."
Cooks connection with her students was noticed in a big way. She was chosen to an elite group of nine librarians who selected this year's recipient of the highest honor in young adult literature, the Printz Award. "There were about 700 books submitted to us. We read probably close to 50 each. We got together and then just started voting and discussing until finally the best was chosen," Cook said.
Not every book will catch on with every student. "Finding out what you don't want to read is sometimes just as important," said Cook.
The school uses an innovative program called "Reading Counts." It is changing the way students read in the classroom. Senior Fallon Cullum said "It's what you're interested in, not just what a teacher thinks you should read. It's a lot easier to get lost in a book that you picked out."
Cullum once steered clear of the library. Now she's a leader in this new trend."(My friends would ask) what book did you read? Help me check out a book. Help me with my test, I'm going to fail my test. I get that all the time." Cook said, "Students are helping each other choose books and things. I thought, my work is done here."
For Cook, each day brings a new student, a new mind to inspire.
Numbers back up the reading trend. Out of 500 students enrolled at Central High, Cook said it is rare if she checks out fewer than 1,000 books in a month.