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Books to Treasure

Tulsa City-County Library
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Innovation Summary

Books to Treasure/BTT is a special partnership between the Tulsa City-County Library/TCCL and Tulsa County schools. Its goal is to connect every 2nd grade child in Tulsa County with books and the library, and to inspire a love of learning and reading.

Problem Statement

It was the desire of the Anne and Henry Zarrow Family Foundation to put a book in the hands of every second grader and encourage them to become lifelong readers and library users. In 2003 they approached TCCL with this ambition and a willingness to fund such an enterprise, and from those discussions library staff developed the Books to Treasure program. Since its inception in 2003, BTT has had several goals: 1) Present second grade students with an age appropriate book representative of quality literature; 2) Bring a noted illustrator to TCCL; 3) Partner with all public and private schools in Tulsa County; 4) Launch a publicity campaign to encourage families to read; 5) Promote the beauty of children’s literature to the community; and 6) Conduct library card sign up promotion for 2nd grade students. The program accomplishes these goals by giving every second grader in Tulsa County a copy of a featured book, an opportunity to get a special author-illustrated library card, and a chance to meet a prominent children’s book author. Making a connection with our schools is taken very seriously, with our Youth Librarians visiting every elementary school in the County in person to make a connection with TCCL, the BTT program and overall library resources. Selecting a BTT recipient is another task not taken lightly by library staff: the books (both illustration & text) must appeal to 5 to 8 year old readers, especially second graders; the illustrator must have a substantial body of work with several titles in paperback; the books must be quality literature with lasting value that second graders will read again and again; and finally, the illustrator must be an engaging speaker who appeals to children and adults.


For many children, meeting authors can spark a real connection between books and their daily lives and inspire them to be creative! Every year a well-known children’s book illustrator is invited to Tulsa to participate in Books to Treasure. A featured book is selected from among this illustrator’s work and a copy of this book is given to every second grade student in Tulsa County. In 2011, over 10,300 books were distributed to these children. Every student also receives a bookmark and bookplate featuring illustrations from the featured book. TCCL librarians create lesson plans using that year’s featured illustrator’s books, focusing on curriculum areas such as reading, math, writing, science and social studies. These are posted on the BTT website for easy access. Past year’s BTT winner’s materials remain available on the site as well. TCCL Youth Librarians visit each of the county's 141 schools twice schools during the month of October to speak to students about this special book and the illustrator and encourage them to get a library card. They also tell students about the importance of reading and the library. All second graders have an opportunity to get a special library card featuring artwork from the featured book. In 2011, over 4,400 children received library cards as a part of the Books to Treasure program! In early November, the featured illustrator comes to Tulsa and visits second grade classrooms at three schools. They also give a public presentation and book signing at the Connor’s Cove Children’s Theater at the Hardesty Regional Library. This is an amazing opportunity for children to witness the creativity and passion that goes into the writing and illustration of a book, and to get to meet a favorite author!


When the program started in 2003 it was only available to second graders in the Tulsa Public Schools and less than 2,000 children. 2012 marks the 10th Anniversary of Books to Treasure. The Anne and Henry Zarrow Family Foundation have funded this event since its inception and members of the Foundation participate in many of its activities. Tulsa World, our local newspaper has been a partner in our promotion of the event since its inception as well. In 2011, over 10,300 copies of Lissy’s Friends by Grace Lin were given to second grade students at 139 Tulsa County schools, with several hundred additional books going to classrooms, school libraries and to homeschooled second graders. An estimated 4,400 second grade students received the specially illustrated Books to Treasure library card and 190 students at the University School, Mills Elementary, and McKinley Elementary had a school visit from featured author Grace Lin. Over 350 people attended the public evening author event with Grace Lin on Friday November 4, 2011. Every year, at the conclusion of the program we survey participating school librarians and teachers to learn what worked and how to improve next year’s activities; the program continues to evolve. Quotes from the 2011 survey indicate BTT is a phenomenal success. “Our parents, teachers, administration, and students love this program. It is a second grade right-of-passage in our school. Many of our students, who are now in high school, still comment on their special library cards.” -School Librarian, Summit Christian Academy “This opportunity for 2nd graders to obtain their own library card that no one else in their family has is so special. I wish I could get one too! The book and "meet the author" signing also leave quite an impression on these young readers.” -2nd Grade Teacher, Union Public Schools