Principals “Get Caught Reading” A Description of the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library Project Suzanne Miller, photographer <firstname.lastname@example.org> The Idea: …To make celebrities (local heroes) of the elementary school principals of Shawnee County. …By their example, to encourage children to enjoy reading. A “Get Caught Reading” magazine ad of Diane Sawyer was o ur initial inspiration. We planned to photograph the principals of the 22 elementary schools that are visited by Topeka & Shawnee County’s children’s bookmobile, the Adventuremobile. We would then make posters of the photos for display on the Adventuremobile. After the children had had a chance to see them, the posters would be donated to the schools for display there. During the first ten or so photo sessions, we were impressed by the amount of enthusiasm and creativity the principals showed. Our idea grew to include all of the elementary principals in the county. Each of them would receive a poster for his school. Duplicate posters would be hung in or near the youth services area of the public library. Contacting the Principals We called each principal to explain “Get Caught Reading” and our project and to set up a 15-minute block of time for a photo session at the school. It was emphasized that this was to be a fun project and something they could do for their students to encourage reading. Principals were to use a favorite children’s book or one that complemented their choice of props. Props were encouraged, especially those that reflected something that their students knew them for, or a personal hobby or interest. Principals were asked if they had any ideas for what they might do. Ideas that were similar to those already used (Cat in the Hat, for example!) were discouraged. Ideas for funny or unusual props or locations were applauded. The principals were very enthusiastic about the project, in general. We were thrilled that all but one of the fifty- five principals agreed to participate! Making the Posters Our library is very fortunate to have a graphics designer who agreed to use Adobe Photoshop to add the “Get Caught Reading” logo (available for use from the website) and principals’ names and schools to the photos. The posters were printed in- house on photo paper using a color laser printer and mounted on foam board. A poster was also created of all the principals in each district to be displayed in the school district’s office. For those who are unfamiliar with using Photoshop or similar programs, Microsoft Word Graphics or MS Publisher could also be used to create posters. An area high school, college or vocational school computer class or instructor might be encouraged to become involved in the designing of posters from your photographs. Another idea: Besides (or instead of) making posters, photos could be put on the library or school website under a “Get Caught Reading” heading. Whatever you decide, before producing your posters the Association of American Publishers would like to see your design to ensure that its “Get Caught Reading” logo is being used correctly. The AAP staff persons are friendly and encouraging to those contacting them. They love to hear about “Get Caught Reading” projects! The will want to know about your project and could publish information about it in their newsletter to motivate others to join the campaign. The Reception To allow principals and their guests to see all of the posters and to pick up their own poster, our library held a reception. Principals were informally polled in advance to determine a date when most could attend. Invitations were mailed, requesting a response for planning purposes. Light refreshments, a floral centerpiece donated by a Topeka florist, an area music student playing soft classical piano, and an ongoing slide show of all of the photos were featured. The posters for the principals were displayed around the perimeter of the reception room. Principals could also visit the Youth Services area of the library to see the library’s poster display. The reception was held between 4:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on a weekday to allow the principals to attend just after the school day. Library managers and board members were in attendance. The director of our library, David Leamon, spoke briefly to welcome the guests. The loca l media was invited in order to publicize the project and the library. The Outcome The outcome has been extremely positive. The library received coverage from two television stations and the city’s newspaper. The principals have expressed their delight and thanks for the project, the posters and the reception. They indeed felt like stars at a time when educators can feel questioned and criticized. Children have expressed excitement at seeing their principals on posters. One principal emailed that a little boy in her school had gathered around her poster with other children. When she approached, the boy said, “A lot of people really like your picture.” The other children eagerly joined in with their own comments, but the boy apparently still felt he hadn’t made his point strongly enough. “I mean, a LOT of people!” he exclaimed. When students on the Adventuremobile see their principal’s poster, they seem quite impressed and often talk about the book the principal is reading. The library’s poster display is quite popular with children and their parents. They can be seen gathered around the posters looking for their principal. A number of library visitors stop to look at each of the posters, commenting on the books and laughing about the props. Through the “Get Caught Reading” project, bonds with area schools have been strengthened. In addition, a strong statement has been made once again about the library’s commitment to literacy and the enjoyment of reading.