Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Time for the Annual Spring Book Fair for Ballou High School Library!!!

And we are back!

As longtime readers know, this time of year we here at GLW get hard at work to help librarian Melissa Jackson at Ballou Sr High School in Washington DC fill her school's shelves. From our previous efforts, starting in 2011, we have helped Ballou move from a library that had less than one book for each of its 1,185 students to a ratio now of FIVE books per student. While this is all kinds of wonderful and something we are quite proud to be part of, the American Library Association advocates eleven books for each student. Ballou is still operating at a serious literary deficit and so we are staying with them until they are busting that minimum standard and knee deep in all the reading these students could ever want or need.

The most exciting news for Ballou is that a new structure is in the works for the school and should be completed by January 2015. As the existing building dates to the late 1950s and is in disrepair, to say the project is overdue would be a vast understatement. But while the new Ballou is going to be a great and wonderful thing, it is not the answer to all its students' problems. The bright and shiny 2015 Library and Media Center will be 5,800 square feet of awesomeness but there is no money in the budget - nothing from the DC public school system - to actually provide books for its shelves.

Wrap your head around that fact for a moment, please. The library space will be grand, the library contents...not so much.

The main problem for Ballou's library, the thing Melissa Jackson is constantly working on, is getting new books. Her students want what all teen readers want - popular and newly released titles that speak to them. Specifically, the Ballou teens are asking for science fiction, romance, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, thrillers and realistic fiction.

Sound like basically every other teen you know?

So while there are plenty of congratulations all around to DC for building the new school, the walls and windows will do nothing to actually get books into the hands of these kids who happen to be smack in the middle of one of the most challenging environments in the country. On the city's most recent standardized tests, only 22 percent of Ballou 10th-graders were proficient in math, and just 18 percent were proficient in reading. To improve their lives, we need to make books an easily accessible part of their school experience and, just as important, we need to make sure these are books that will get them excited about reading.

So, you know the drill - a wish list has been created at Powells books that has been vetted by both Melissa and her student literary leaders. We continue to partner with Powells because they do a killer job of getting the books out fast, they offer lots of sale titles (be sure and watch for those) and their "Standard" used copies a pretty much like new. Plus, we are supporting a bricks and mortar store in the fine city of Portland, Oregon which is nice way connecting both sides of the country in one outstanding literary effort.

Yeah, we love Powells.

Our 2013 Wish List for Ballou, (here's the link if you want to embed it in a post:, has a lot of manga, urban fiction, poetry, paranormal titles and a boatload of big sellers. (Margo Lanagan, Ellen Hopkins, Sherman Alexie, Cassandra Clare, Paolo Bacigalupi and Walter Dean Myers are all front and center.) As a fan of nonfiction I'm delighted to see books like Courage Has No Color, The Elements, How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial and The Pregnancy Project on the list and there is also a healthy collection of adult crossover titles like Here, Bullet, (Brian Turner) The Grey Album (Kevin Young) and The Intuitionist (by Colson Whitehead). There is also a lot of urban fiction, as requested by the students, and since Melissa is working with a reading population that varies in literacy levels from 5th grade to college prep, we have liberally mined the resources of the ALA Quick Picks list to discover books with older teen appeal but manageable reading levels.

You can check out the list, make your selections for the school and please know while we prefer new it is perfectly fine to purchase used copies of a book (more bang for your buck). But check and make sure the book is in "standard" used condition and not "student owned" (you will have to click on the title and leave the wish list to check this). The "student owned" copies are very cheap for a reason - they are written in and thus not a good choice for this effort.

Once you have made your selections head to "checkout" and you will be prompted to inform Powells if the books were indeed bought from the wishlist. This lets the store know to mark them as "purchased" on the list. After that you need to provide your credit card info and also fill in the shipping address. (If you have already done this in the past the info will be saved to your Powells account.) Here is where the books are going to:

Melissa Jackson, LIBRARIAN
Ballou Senior High School
3401 Fourth Street SE
Washington DC 20032
(202) 645-3400

It's very important that you get Melissa's name and title in there - she is not the only Jackson (or Melissa) at the school and we want to make sure the books get to the library.

After that you pay for the books and you're done! Please head back over here when you get a chance and leave a comment letting us know who you are, where you're from and what you bought. Also be sure to follow @BallouLibrary on twitter where Melissa will be updating on books as they arrive and student reactions. You can also let her know what you have ordered via twitter - I'm sure she will be delighted to let the kids know what's coming their way.

The list will be open for two weeks - until April 28th. EXTENDED through May 5th!!!

As always, the crew at GLW and especially me personally, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us in this effort. The book fair is one of the best examples of what we all believe in - getting as many books as possible into the hands of kids who need them. Books matter so much - actual physical books that can be checked out and shared and read dozens of times over by kids for whom owning an e-reader is a distant dream. The Book Fair for Ballou is all about letting kids in a tough spot know that someone out here, someone they will never meet, wants them to read great books and is willing to put forward some of their own hard-earned dollars to make that happen. This level of caring is a powerful thing folks, and it can change the world in significant ways.

Buy a book, send a tweet, post on your blog or at facebook. Spread the word for Ballou and never doubt how much your help is appreciated. And now, enjoy a few recent pictures from the Ballou Library facebook page showing just how much this library is appreciated!

Toriko! Vol 2 is on the list! (And we would be happy to add many more in the series... :)

Chess Club getting serious in the library

Annual African American "Read In"

Women's History Month celebration


  1. As I posted at my blog, I am ordering 21 books this year. One in honor of each of the Sandy Hook kids, who didn't get to go to high school.

  2. Who do I contact to donate a signed book? Is there an e-mail?

  3. Thanks Heidi - I hope that you connect with Melissa Jackson at Ballou. :)

  4. sending 2 of the "Cutting Edge" series books.

  5. I sent in Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Al Marrin, Way to Go by Tom Ryan, and Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles.

  6. Thanks so much Seth & Melanie - we really appreciate it!

  7. Oh, and Kelly - YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!!!!!

  8. In addition to donating books, is there any way to volunteer to help out?

  9. The best thing to do with more questions on the school is contact Melissa Jackson directly - she's on facebook & twitter (@BallouLibrary). Thanks!

  10. I sent Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill, both awesome titles. :)

  11. It has frustrated me in the past to be broke when we do these Fairs - but then, we do another one, and I can help. It's a weird happy/sad that we keep having another chance...

    Pavement Chalk Artist: The Three-Dimensional Drawings of Julian Beever, because that sounds so cool;

    Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet, by Andrea Cheng, because... ART;

    Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball's Color Line, by Tom Dunkel, 'cause 'tis the season of the boys of summer - and the girls - any color.

  12. Thanks guys - and yes, T, that pavement chalk artist book is unreal!

  13. Saw a tweet about your blog post and decided to donate. Any school can never have too many books. I remember how much fun it was when new books arrived. We would take turns checking out the same books so we all could read and talk about the stories.

  14. I sent Pinned by Sharon Flake, Panic by Sharon Draper, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, The FitzOsbornes at War (Montmaray Journals #3) by Michelle Cooper, and Stringz by Michael Wenberg.

    I'm so glad Ballou's book-to-student ratio has gone up as a results of your bookfairs the last couple years, and really glad you kept them as the recipient -- it's gone up, but they still are way under what the ALA says they should have. Thank you!

  15. Thank you guys so so sooooooo much! We really appreciate you helping us kick it into high gear!


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