‘Library Godmother’ honored at ALJHS

A.L. Johnson High School’s “Library Godmother” visited each class throughout the day on May 9, sharing her loves of books in the library she transformed.

Elsa Brulé, a philanthropist in New York City, has long made child literacy her passion. After ALJ Librarian Katie Poole posted a book donation project on the website donorschoose.org, Brulé contacted her and offered to help.

Elsa Brulé donated hundreds of books and supplies to A.L. Johnson’s library, one of which was a “Reading is Groovy” standing sign displayed near the front desk.

Brulé filled the library with hundreds of new books for every age level. She also bought reading sets for classroom use and other supplies, such as reading chairs, globes and maps. At the end of the school year, Brulé sent each student home with a few books and an activity set

When she visited the students, one class at a time, in the library, Brulé read to them, taught them how to draw an elf and encouraged their love of reading. Students excitedly shared their favorite books with Brulé.

“There are certain things we do in life that comfort us, and reading is one of them,” Brulé told ALJ’s fourth grade class as they spent the class period with her.

Having lived in a rural area herself, Brulé has donated to many more rural school libraries all over the world. Children as far as Cambodia and Nepal and as close as York, Alabama, have books to read thanks to Brulé.

While visiting the children, the Marengo County Board of Education set up for a lunch reception and a surprise. They presented Brulé with not one, but two resolutions expressing their gratitude for her donations and support, one being from the BOE and the other being from the State of Alabama.

“What you’ve done is special, and we want you to know how much we appreciate it,” Board President Chester Moore told her as he presented the BOE’s resolution.

Before Brulé, most of the books at the school’s library were donated after other libraries cleaned out their own shelves, meaning that many of the students were reading discarded books.

Brulé scoured Amazon, keeping in mind which books she loved when she was younger and which books are popular today.

“We have to start with the cool books. The kids are cool, and they want what’s new,” she said.

Brulé also bought newer copies of classics found in libraries, explaining that kids have a “radar for insincerity.” They won’t read books that they know the adults wouldn’t even read.

Fiction, non-fiction and reference books for all ages fill ALJ’s library. Brulé didn’t just consider the age ranges and popular titles when purchasing books. She researched the area and bought books with ALJ specifically in mind. Students can also pick up books inspired by the state, Rooster Day and even a bearded dragon, one of the class pets at the school.

She said a rotation of new books in libraries are needed to engage the students and increase reading levels—another reason why she donated the books. “It is an organism. It needs to be fed. And if it is just old books, you become a bad museum.”

According to Poole, who referred to Brulé as “The Library Godmother” in the state’s resolution, many students have been reading more books and more advanced books.

ALJ Principal William Martin said that the students are now inspired to read at an early age.

“It has sparked all of our students’ interest in reading. I can just see how much more they love to read.”

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, May 29 issue of the Demopolis Times.)