Instilling a love for reading

Along with his reading teammates Allison Masangkay and Joe Landoni, Wilson Eiland read thousands of pages of books this past summer, but didn't know he'd get a prize.

"What? We get an award?" Eiland asked incredulously when informed by his teammates that each of them would receive a $25 Barnes and Noble gift certificate for reading a total of more than 16,000 pages, the most out of any middle school group that participated. "I would have done it anyway!"

That's what Jo Chinn likes to hear.

Sequim Middle School's librarian since 1979, Chinn is in her element among the 10,000 books in the school library, which is tucked away across from the bustling cafeteria. She said she loves connecting the "energetic" sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with what they're interested in.

"She supports us in what we're doing," Landoni said of his librarian. "She knows us and she helps us find things we'd like."

Chinn also works closely with the teachers at the middle school to build a library session for the students centered on what their focuses are in classes.

"I get to know who's in what class and the personality of the classes," Chinn said. "Every lesson I teach is in collaboration with a teacher ... I am always in communication with the teachers."

That rapport is important, Chinn said, because she has no direct colleagues - as with most school librarians, she is the only one in her building.

It is this connection she forges with students and faculty alike that prompted the Washington Library Media Association to award Chinn with the Outstanding Teacher-Librarian of the Year 2008 award, which Chinn will collect at the conference in Portland on Oct. 10.

"Letters of support for this award came from an SMS administrator, a student and teachers," said award chairman Betty Marcoux in a letter. "Jo is a teacher, a catalyst for improved learning and teaching and a leader in her school."

Aside from her regular teaching duties, Chinn began an after-school book club last year for avid readers and more than 20 students were regulars, Chinn said. They met once a week to discuss what they were reading - a favorite was the Redwall series, which culminated in a Redwall-themed feast at the end of the year.

"It was so much fun, I had as much fun as the students," Chinn said.

This year, Chinn said 15 students attended this year's first meeting, a promising start.

Chinn also works hand-in-hand with the Sequim branch of the North Olympic Library System.

"It's very important for all of us to work together for the students," Chinn said, adding that director Paula Barnes has especially reached out to Chinn in recent months.

For Eiland, who said he frequents both the Sequim library and the SMS library, books are a wonderful escape and Chinn is his guide to them.

"Mrs. Chinn is really the best," he said. "She's the best librarian I've ever had."

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