Happy Weekend! We have another Sound Off Sunday post this week, because of another conference! Both of us had an incredibly busy but educational time with conferences on back to back weekends. We love to continue to grow and learn, which is why we absolutely loved talking with Sarah FitzHenry, who is the brains behind Fitz Between the Shelves. Sarah gave us an amazing list of books to check out which will you have running to your local library too! We hope you have as good of a time learning more about Sarah as we did!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!
Sarah FitzHenry: Hi! My name is Sarah FitzHenry, but my students call me Ms. Fitz. I’m a school librarian working with grades K-8 at an independent school in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m the voice behind Fitz Between the Shelves, my happy little corner of the internet where I talk about the power of school libraries, diverse stories, dynamic teaching and learning, and the amazing impacts these things can have on childrens’ lives. I’m also a tech geek, aerial yoga instructor, lifelong learner, lover of animals, puns, and board games, and a very dedicated and messy mistake-maker.
TTA: What are you passionate about?
SF: How much time do you have? I’m passionate about the way the right book at the right time can change a reader’s life. I’m passionate about the fact that libraries and librarians are critical tools for helping to create the next generation of leaders that will shape our world. I’m passionate about doing whatever it takes to make libraries safe, exciting, and nurturing spaces for every single child. I’m passionate about diversity and
representation in children’s’ literature, because every child deserves stories that act as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. I’m passionate about empowering kids to show up, stand up, and speak up – to make sure they know that they’re never too young or too small to use their power and drive to make change. There’s more, but you probably have other things to do today, so I’ll wrap it up.
TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!
SF: Books are such powerful tools to help kids think curiously and critically about the world around them, especially when they’re shared and discussed with a trusted adult. I’ve been working on a Family Book Club series designed to bring families together to talk about complex or sensitive topics that might normally be avoided around the dinner table, but that kids need guidance to understand. This fall we read Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper. At our Family Book Club meeting, we heard from Kara McClurken of Bennett’s Village, and she really lit a spark in my students about making Charlottesville a more inclusive place where all kids can play together. They are now determined to help build a playground that’s accessible and fun for everyone. They’re working on fundraisers, design projects, marketing strategies, and more. At our last lunch meeting, I watched them pitch a school-wide fundraiser to administration by explaining why the mission of Bennett’s Village is important. It has been really incredible to see how Bennett’s story has inspired them! I am continuously moved by my students’ big hearts and limitless empathy.
TTA: How can people support you on your journey?
SF: I’d love for you to join the conversation on Fitz Between the Shelves, or to introduce yourself on Instagram or Facebook. The more people I connect with, the more I learn! Offline, we can all join in by reading books by and about people that are different than us in every conceivable way. Families, read ‘em together and talk about the big stuff (your kids can handle it, and it will make them better people). Ask questions, and actually listen to the answers. Use the libraries in your community. And never be afraid to change your mind and your behavior as you learn!
TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?
SF: You know you’re asking this question to a librarian, right?! I read almost 300 books per year (not including picture books)! I’ll have to break it down into categories for you.
Books that I share with my readers over and over again, that they always love:
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Books that have moved me the most in the past year, not including the titles above:
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Forever or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
Pretty much anything by Gary D. Schmidt or John Corey Whaley
TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
SF: There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that is always in the back of my mind:
“Do the best you can,
until you know better.
Then when you know better,
This coming year, I look forward to knowing better, so that I can do better, in a million new ways.
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Fitz Between the Shelves!