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Love of Reading Week and Tucson Festival of Books: Two Inspiring Events!

by Yamila El-Khayat, MALS
Outreach Services Librarian, Arizona Health Sciences Library
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ

Love of Reading Week, occurring February 13-17, 2012, was a national celebration promoting an appreciation of literature among students and adults through author readings, special presentations, and other literary activities. During this time, students had the opportunity to interact with different professionals in various fields, to hear about the importance of reading in career development, and to share reading a book that will leave a lasting memory. This has truly become a wonderful experience for grade school children in helping to explore new career fields and inspiring them to continue their education.

On February 16, 2012, I was invited to read to children at an elementary school and talk to them about the importance of reading as a medical librarian. I had the opportunity to read to all classes ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade. All the students were intrigued by my career and many had not heard of the medical librarian field. The students really enjoyed the story I read to them, Gregory, the Terrible Eater, by Ariane Dewey, one of my favorites as a child. It was a pleasure to read to the children at this school, especially because it was my elementary school and brought back many memories. The children asked questions about my career and many were fascinated by librarianship, and by the fact that I was an alumnus of their school. The students thought that being a librarian solely encompassed shelving books and checking them out. They were very interested in what I had to say to them, much of which pertained to their nutrition classes from a few months earlier. The most rewarding moment was hearing a 1st grader tell me that he now wanted to be a medical librarian after hearing what it was all about. It’s moments like this that inspire me to continue my work as Outreach Services Librarian!

The following month, on March 10-11, the Tucson Festival of Books was held on the University of Arizona main campus. I had heard so much about this event, the number of people it attracted, and the variety of exhibit booths that were present. This year, the Arizona Health Sciences Library had the opportunity to sponsor a booth at the event, which allowed me to see first-hand how popular this event really was, and the amount of community participation involved. This event was amazing, and thousands of people attended! Ages of participants ranged widely, from the elderly to little ones in strollers. The event kicked off at 9am on Saturday and went on until Sunday evening, although we were only present on Saturday morning. Presentation topics ranged from insects to statewide collaborations such as Arizona Project WET (Water Education for Teachers). They were conducted from a stage that was near our booth. The university campus was an excellent site to accommodate exhibit booths featuring an excellent array of topics, including optical sciences, E-readers, the natural world, the science of food, and our own booth, brain and body connections.

Image of Mr. & Mrs. Skeletoni

Image of Littletoni

Bringing the festival’s audience to the campus was a marvelous way to introduce children to a university setting, with its many events and amenities. People were attracted from many parts of the state, including Phoenix and Flagstaff, to attend this big event. In preparing for the exhibit, librarians at the Arizona Health Sciences Library thought about what could really encourage children to come see our booth and learn more about the resources we had to offer, as well as the brains that were in the booth next to us! As an incentive to visit our booth, we came up with the idea of Mr. and Mrs. Skeletoni, accompanied by Littletoni for the little ones (a simpler version of Mr. and Mrs. Skeletoni). These skeletons would be made out of noodles, in order for children to learn about bones, and hopefully encourage them to learn more about other health issues. Kits that we thought would take us a couple of hours to prepare instead took us days to prepare! But it sure was a total success, reaching out to approximately 575 families in a matter of a few hours (9am-1pm). Kids were reeled in by the Mr. and Mrs. Skeletoni kits and were very interested in hearing our talks about how to search and find trustworthy health information, in case they one day decide to become doctors. Participants were introduced to MedlinePlus, KidsHealth, and BAM! (Body and Mind) from the CDC. This event really showed how much of a difference you can make in childrens’ lives. Many of them expressed interest in becoming part of the medical field!

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