A couple of years ago, a student I didn't know came by my room looking for a book. He was looking for the final few books in the Percy Jackson series.
I didn't know this kid--I mean, I had never seen him before. But, in my building, I am "The Book Lady" and everyone knows it.
I maintain an extensive classroom library of young adult literature (mostly culled from the nearest Goodwill) of about 2,000 books.
This kid, let's call him James, had been sent to me by his English teacher.
James explained to me that Percy Jackson had basically saved his life. He said he had been a terrible reader and a terrible student before he found this series. He was adamant that his success as a student rested solely on the shoulders on this single series of books.
I was, not surprisingly, touched.
I didn't have the book he was looking for, but I had some Scholastic credit leftover from spending a ridiculous amount of money at the last book fair and I had no plan for spending it.
So I bought him the rest of the series. It didn't cost me anything and it seemed like a good idea.
James was asked to report to my classroom when I got the books. I didn't say much. Just handed them over and watched.
James almost crawled out of his skin with excitement. He was buzzing. He hugged me hard, grabbed the books, and took off running to tell, well basically everyone he encountered, that he got the rest of the series from me.
That kid has greeted me with "thank you thank you" every time I have seen him since the day I handed over that pile of books.
And he is now a super star. He has excellent grades, is a positive leader, is a proactive member of the Social Justice club, and is heavily involved in Systems Thinking with Washington University.
I can take no credit in the success James has experienced or how he has changed. I saw a chance to support a kid with books and I took it.
This story isn't really about what I did or my interactions with James. It is about how a single book changed the academic life and future of a self-avowed non-reader underachiever.
Anytime that happens, it is a good thing!