Many in the kidlit world know John Schumacher aka Mr. Schu from his blog and Twitter, where he discusses his favorite kid’s books and authors. After 12 years as a third grade teacher and teacher librarian at Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook, IL, Schu left that position to join Scholastic in the position of Ambassador for School Libraries. I sat down with Mr. Schu to find out more about his new role and his favorite books on the horizon.
You recently took a position with Scholastic with the title “Ambassador for School Libraries” What exactly will you be doing?
Don’t I have the coolest title? I still smile from ear to ear whenever I see “Ambassador for School Libraries” written after my name. It sounds so official and diplomatic.
In my new role at Scholastic Book Fairs, I will help evangelize the power and relevance of independent reading by speaking at conferences, developing and leading workshops, visiting schools, and spreading book love in person and online. I see myself as an enthusiastic cheerleader and advocate for children, reading, and authors.
Do you get to wear a medal like the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature?
Great question! I tried convincing Jon Scieszka [children’s book author who served as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature] to let me borrow his medal. He wasn’t up for it. Maybe Kate DiCamillo (Newbery winning author and current Ambassador for Young People’s Literature) will let me wear her sash and medal during “The Power of the Newbery” session at NCTE.
You work for Scholastic. Will you still be able to promote non-Scholastic books?
Absolutely! I love that Scholastic curates and distributes books from all major publishers through the Book Fairs and Reading Clubs. I will continue to blog daily, facilitate the #SharpSchu Book Club with Colby Sharp, and tweet about books and materials I want to get into the hands of young readers, teachers, and librarians.
You will be working side by side with Donalyn Miller, former elementary school teacher in Fort Worth, TX and founder of the annual #bookaday event and co-host of the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk. What is her position and what will she be doing?
Will someone pinch me now? I am honored to call Donalyn Miller a friend and a colleague. As Scholastic’s Manager of Independent Reading and Outreach, she helps raise awareness of the importance of independent reading. Teachers, librarians, and parents are lucky to have her as a champion for what’s best for children.
What was the reaction of your students when they heard you would not be returning?
I know there were some tears shed, but I have received many encouraging and lovely email messages from former students and their parents. I will keep in touch with families and continue sharing books and breaking news in the world of children’s literature.
What will you miss the most about being an elementary school librarian?
I will miss delivering daily book talks, giving away galleys and F&Gs, and watching my students grow as readers. Thankfully, this ambassador role allows me to do all of these things—it will just look different.
What upcoming books are you particularly looking forward to reading?
Thank you for asking this question. How much space do I have? (See below.)
Where can School Library Journal readers expect to see you in the coming months?
I am looking forward to meeting with librarians and teachers at the AASL national conference in Ohio, the New York City Department of Education Office of Library Services fall conference, and the NCTE national convention in Minnesota. Oh, and you’ll see me on an upcoming episode of KidLit TV.
Surf’s Up (North South) by Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Chuck and Woodchuck (Candlewick) by Cece Bell
Where’s the Party? (Roaring Brook) By Ruth Chan
Little Elliot, Big Family (Holt) by Mike Curato
Barnacle is Bored (Scholastic) by Jonathan Fenske
Zen Socks (Scholastic) by Jon Muth
Twenty Yawns (Two Lions) by Jane Smiley; illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Be a Friend (Bloomsbury) by Salina Yoon
Early readers/chapter books
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party (Candlewick) by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather (Little Brown) by Grace Lin
Dance! Dance! Underpants! (Hyperion) by Bob Shea
Elephant and Piggie: I Really Like Slop (Hyperion) by Mo Willems
Crenshaw (Macmillan) by Katherine Applegate
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook (Harper) by Leslie Connor
Raymie Nightingale (Candlewick) by Kate DiCamillo
The Doldrums (Greenwillow) by Nicolas Gannon
Audacity Jones (Scholastic) by Kirby Larson
The Key to Extraordinary (Scholastic) by Natalie Lloyd
Unidentified Suburban Object (Scholastic) by Mike Jung
The Seventh Wish (Bloomsbury) by Kate Messner
Pax (Harper) by Sara Pennypacker
Save Me a Seat (Scholastic) by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Among a Thousand Fireflies (Candlewick) by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (Little Brown) by Lindsay Mattick; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound (Roaring Brook) by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Bird and Squirrel: On the Edge (Graphix) by James Burks
Nightmare Escape (Dream Jumper, Book 1) (Scholastic) by Greg Grunberg and Lucas Turnbloom
Comics Squad: Lunch! (Random House) Edited by Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Firelight (Amulet #7) (Graphix) by Kazu Kibuishi