Have you ever wondered who decides which books to purchase for our clinics? Or who organizes our book drives and deliveries? Meet Janice, our book coordinator of over 15 years. She’s responsible for purchasing, organizing, and managing the delivery of over 83,000 books to our 51 partner clinics. Recently, Janice joined us to talk about her important role as RORKC’S book coordinator.
How did you first get involved with RORKC?
My family moved to Kansas City in 1997 and one of my sons became friends with the son of Laura Gregory, the chair of the Community Council at the time. She mentioned that she was involved with this organization and asked if I would have any interest in serving on the Community Council. After joining the council, I was offered a 10 hour a week position helping Jean Harty, co-founder and medical director, as a book coordinator. Gradually, the time commitment increased to the position as is it is now.
How do know which books to purchase for our clinics?
There are a number of different things that help me decide which books to purchase for our clinics. While I have a degree in early education and special education, I believe that my better qualifications for this job are that I have kids and grandkids. I’ve seen them grow up with books, so I have an idea of what they read and enjoyed.
In addition to my knowledge, I do spend time reading the research and book reviews on what is best for the different age groups. For example, we know that children around the age of 6-12 months love to see other babies faces in their books. So for our 6-12 month-old books, we focus on purchasing books like the “Baby Days” series, that are full of cute and engaging faces.
Physically, the quality of the book also matters. Sometimes I’ll look at the paper and think to myself “oh, this isn’t going to last long”,
so I try to stay away from those books. This may be one of the only books the family has, so we need to give them something durable and long lasting.
It’s also important that we focus on purchasing books in multiple languages and that feature diverse characters. We know the families and their kids need to see themselves represented in what they are reading.
Medical providers also weigh in on which books we provide. I ask them how the books are received in the clinics, and their opinions on the books. They are the ones who are directly providing the books and get to see how the families respond, so we love hearing their input.
Ultimately we just want to give the children and their families good books.
What are “good” books?
It’s certainly all of the classics like Good Night Moon, or books that have received critical praise like the Caldecott Award, but really it’s a book that the families will read with their children. A book is a good book if the family shares it with their child and if the child pulls it off the shelf to read with mom and dad. A good book is one that engages the family and encourages them to read aloud together.
What are your personal favorites?
I love the classics, like Brown Bear Brown Bear, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and all of Sandra Boynton’s books, but I also really like the smaller Dr. Seuss board books that we provide. They are a little less cumbersome than the regular Dr. Seuss books, but they are still full of rhyming and are very sturdy.
What is the best part of being our Book Coordinator?
I think it’s knowing how many families we are reaching. I love the organizational aspect of it and managing these types of tasks, but in the end, it’s that all of these Kansas City families are receiving books and literacy advice.
Thank you Janice for all that you do for Reach Out and Read Kansas City!