Inspiring youngsters to read

Russellville Elementary librarian Tina Kauffman helps fourth graders during a “Dewey Hunt,” a play on duck hunt as part of the year’s incentive theme based on the A&E reality television show “Duck Dynasty.”

Russellville Elementary librarian Tina Kauffman helps fourth graders during a “Dewey Hunt,” a play on duck hunt as part of the year’s incentive theme based on the A&E reality television show “Duck Dynasty.”

RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — Reading is an adventure that has been taken to the swamp level in Tina Kauffman’s library.

Elementary and middle school students at Cole County R-1 Schools are greeted by a life-sized, cardboard cutout of Si and an entry decorated to match the A&E character from the reality television show “Duck Dynasty.”

The fourth-year librarian coordinates with classroom teachers each year to create a reading theme.

“I’ve found the golden ticket,” Kauffman said.

The themes are just one more incentive to encourage good reading habits.

The Duck Dynasty-themed incentive, including picture with Si Robertson on the wall and an orange “Happy, Happy, Happy” T-shirt, has had phenomenally higher results.

“I have more kids on ‘level one’ than ever in the past, to get their picture taken with Si,” Kauffman said.

The success of this year’s incentive theme has been a blessing, she said.

“It gives justification, that I am making a different,” Kauffman said. “That is the best feeling in the world.”

Coming from 10 years in a kindergarten classroom, she was able to combine her love of reading and her love of working with children.

Twenty years ago, Kauffman said she only saw herself as a classroom teacher. But with young children of her own, she thought the librarian position would be a good change.

“I love it, because now everything is tied to a story,” she said.

Kauffman has found the position of librarian also means she is a resource for the community as well as students and teachers seeking more information.

“I’m kind of the hub,” she said.

That means she needs to keep up with a variety of topics. And she gets to know each student’s interests to guide what books she orders in the future.

“If I find a series I know the kids are interested in, I do what I can to get it in here,” Kauffman said.

The current favorites are Rick Riordan’s “Olympians,” “Hunger Games” and “39 Clues.”

As she visits with librarians from other school districts, Kauffman is grateful for the community support through donations, the Parent-Teacher Organization and the Russellville School foundation.

She chooses books carefully and would not recommend a book she wouldn’t offer to her own children.

Finding age-appropriate content in the highest reading levels can be as much of a challenge as motivating the student avoiding reading all together.

The new tablet technology has helped in that area. And with two school computer labs located in the former shop classroom with the library, she becomes a de facto IT person, too.

Ironically, working with books all day leaves little time for personal reading, except in the summer, she said.

“During the school year, I’m reading for other people,” Kauffman said. “But some of the young adult stuff is pretty good.”

She reads children’s books at home with her own children, too.

One of the key benefits to this job is her availability for her family.

Her two oldest attend St. Martin’s Catholic School, which offers them more independence and personal space than if they came to school with her, she said.

“It gives us something to talk about in the evening,” Kauffman said.

Because she and her husband, Tim, made a conscious decision that she would be a mom first and have a career second, she keeps other involvements simple so she is available to their kids.

“It’s such a balancing act,” Kauffman said. “I’m constantly scheduling and planning meals ahead of time.”

The Kauffman family eat and pray together nearly every night.

“I didn’t realize how rare that is,” she said. “But that’s important to us; we make time.

“It keeps us together as a family.”

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