Just Another Book in the Wall

One new teacher gives students an opportunity to strengthen or find their love for reading


PHOTO Alyssa Trapp

English teacher Sarah Andersen hands senior Landon Mikulenas a new book to start reading during her classes’ sustained silent reading.

When English teacher Sarah Andersen came to Fenton from Clio High School, she brought with her a young adult literature collection so extensive that for some of the students at Clio, who don’t have a library, it was their library and she was their librarian.

“I know I have 1300 books,” Andersen said. “I don’t know how much the number has gone up since the last time I counted, but I plan to keep on collecting.”

Behind every shelf, every genre, every author and every book in Andersen’s collection, there is a story, her story. The time line of her life-long love for reading and literature started in her early years.

“I’ve liked reading ever since I was a little girl,” Andersen said. “My parents would take me to the library and my grandmother would read to me.”

While Andersen developed her love for books early in her life, her amount of “free time” reading material diminished once she hit high school because of the increased workload. In college, however, Andersen renewed her love for books, this time because of the workload.

“In college we had to read 20 books in six weeks,” Andersen said. “I was really excited about it and I have not stopped reading since then. I took a break from it, I guess you could say, but reading for class really sparked my love for reading again.”

College reading was not enough to gather the 1300 books in Andersen’s collection; Andersen was on a mission at that point. She hunted down the books she loved.

“I started buying books,” Andersen said. “People started giving them to me as gifts, I would look for book stores and gift cards.”

The books continue to roll in today. The books she teaches and the additional ones she buys increase the number of volumes on the wall as she tries to develop her students’ love for reading as well.

“It has been really positive,” Andersen said, “I saw a lot of kids find a love for reading this year.”

One student connected to the books on a more personal level. After reading “Breathing Underwater” by Alex Flinn, which is the story of an abusive boyfriend told from the boyfriend’s point of view, one student found that he shared certain traits with the main character.

“It scared him,” Andersen said. “He didn’t want to be like that.”

Andersen had read this book herself, so she was able to talk to the student and help him sort out his feelings.

Andersen’s story of her collection is still being written today. Word of her library is spreading, starting an infestation of book worms. Even students who are not in her class have been checking books out, or have asked about her collection, wondering how they could get their hands on one of the hundreds of books on the wall.