The Joy of the Book

October 28, 2015 - 9 minutes read
Julie Hunt shares some quiet time together with student Beatrice Audain.

Julie Hunt shares some quiet time together with student Beatrice Audain.

Julie Hunt, first a teacher, and then a teacher-librarian with West Vancouver Schools, wants you to reveal your reading strategies with her. As a life-long reader who loves to share the joy of books, Hunt has many pearls of wisdom to convey to parents and students.

“Helping students become excited about reading, especially if they were reluctant readers, getting the ‘just right’ materials into their hands, and being part of the amazing learning inspired by passionate teachers is the most rewarding part of my job,” says Hunt.

Starting in the district in 1989 after having worked in Mission for two years, Hunt began as a classroom teacher working with children in grades 3-6.

“Being a teacher is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” says Hunt, who now splits her time at West Bay and Westcot elementary schools as a teacher-librarian. “A classroom teacher develops a special relationship with her students and parents and gets to dive deeply into learning. However, being a teacher-librarian allows me to see every child in the school and to see their growth over time — I love connecting kids with books, helping guide their research, and making the library a positive part of their day.”

Inspired to teach from high school, the library is also a natural home for Julie.

“I took a locally-developed peer tutoring course and I realized that I really enjoyed breaking concepts down into understandable chunks, helping people learn, and celebrating their accomplishments. As for moving into the library, that was a natural fit – I was the kid who maxed out her borrowing at the public library each visit.”

Hunt followed her passion to the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, where she earned her B. Ed and a diploma in Teacher-Librarianship respectively.

Her days, though time is always in short supply, are busy, productive and happy.

“There’s a whole layer of behind-the-scenes work that people don’t see – having a broad curricular knowledge trying to source materials that best fit the needs of the students and teachers, organizing volunteers, and accounting related to library expenditures,” explains Hunt. “In addition to that, between my two schools there are 85 staff members and 725 children, many of whom will have questions or requests of me. I open the library at 8:30 and students come in for quiet reading or homework.”

Once the official day begins, Hunt has scheduled library classes and collaborative teaching blocks, meaning she can see up to ten different groups in a day, ranging from kindergarten to grade 7. The time may involve reading stories, book exchanges, guided reading groups, helping students investigate their inquiry questions, teaching information literacy, and various team teaching opportunities. She also helps find resources that will assist support teachers as they teach their units, touches base with library helpers and occasionally processes some of the new materials. When the Reading Link Challenge partnership begins with the West Vancouver Memorial Library, one or two lunch hours a week are spent with book clubs.

“I work with everyone,” says Hunt. “I love collaborating and connecting with so many different people – with the children, parents, teachers, support staff and admin, and networking with other teacher-librarians. I love the enthusiasm that children have for their learning and the passion teachers have for their job! There is never a boring day at work!”

Related to her work in the library, Hunt has an educational role with community partners, including parents and public libraries. For parents, she suggests that the most important thing they can do to help their child learn to love reading is to model and value it as part of family time.

“There should be time in everyone’s day to read what he/she enjoys (magazines, the newspaper, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels….),” says Hunt. “Don’t get too caught up in your children’s book choices as long as they are engaged and they are enjoying their books (they are not going to be reading Captain Underpants and fairy rainbows Rainbow Magic when they are 12). Don’t believe me? Check out Stephen Krashen’s research on free voluntary reading.”

She says parents should be patient and understand that different books appeal to different readers.

“Some children read widely, while for others it takes time to find books that hook them. Want to nudge them towards new things? Consider reading and discussing books together, even when the children can read on their own,” says Hunt.

By choice and for the longest time, Hunt’s family did not have a DVD player in their car.

“On long trips, I wanted my kids to look out the window and see the scenery, to have certain “road trip” tunes cemented in our family memories. However, there’s only so much forced family fun we could have before the inevitable “are we there yet” and bickering would begin in the backseat. The magic cure? Audiobooks. We would listen to 12 disk CD novels read by wonderful narrators … and my children would beg us to keep driving, even when we were prepared to stop and stretch our legs.”

Hunt was a critical member of the team planning for the new Learning Commons at West Bay, assessing changing needs and planning for the space to support that.

“Our district is continually striving to improve our practice and to be innovative in our drive to enhance learning,” explains Hunt. “To that end, teachers and staff are encouraged to grow professionally and be forward thinking – just look at the involvement and diversity of the innovation teams to see this in action.”

Funniest day at work?
“Besides my husband setting up an inflatable pool, beach chairs, and snacks in my classroom on the last day of school one year, complete with the “school’s out, sun’s in” banner, that would probably be the curriculum night when a colleague split his pants just as the teachers were going out of the gym and he whispered, ‘Cover me, Julie,’ so that he could get to the classroom and sit down before anyone noticed.”

Hunt and her husband have two sons, aged 16 and 19. “Everyone is going in different directions a lot of days,” she says, but she treasures (almost) nightly walks with her husband and the dogs and time with her boys. She has a deep love for her family. She enjoys reading, of course, but also travel, hiking and tennis. Her church is very important to her too, and she’s involved in a number of programs there, including a choir of almost a hundred members.

She is sheepishly intrigued with the 200+ Pez that she has on display, mostly at her Westcot library. Keep up the great work, Julie. We love Pez, and we love books at West Vancouver Schools.

If you have successful family reading strategies that you’d like to share, Julie Hunt invites you to email her.

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