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Patricia Kennish, Librarian, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
By Heather Villars

Patricia Kennish says she felt destined to work in a school someday, and with her love of books, what more appropriate place than in a school library? Patricia is the librarian at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, a Catholic elementary school located in south Anchorage. She teaches library research skills and technology and computer classes, all while sharing her own love of reading with her students.

Patricia Kennish grew up in a small town nestled in southern New Jersey, where the only library was open for a mere two hours each Friday afternoon. The library was not close to Patricia's home; each week she hoped that one of her parents would be able to drive her to the library so she could stock up on reading material for the coming week. If she could not find a way to the library, Patricia would have to cope through the following week -- book-less.

Patricia Kennish
Patricia recalls a time in her childhood when she craved Nancy Drew books, a popular mystery series for young adults. When she first wanted to read them, her home-town library did not have any. Young Patricia requested them, and the two elderly women who ran the library obtained a few for her to read. She was delighted. From a young age, Patricia learned that a library is indeed an access to "treasures."

Patricia enjoys working with children and encouraging them to read, and she loves all the things her students teach her. Once hers was a profession focused primarily on reading and books; now librarians must be up to date on multimedia and technology information as well. A large part of Patricia's job is teaching students how to conduct effective research, which necessitates that each student develop a strong foundation in the use of computers and the Internet.

That does not mean all the focus is taken away from reading, however. Patricia has found ways of integrating technology and reading.

Reading Counts and Reader's Challenge

Reading Counts and Reader's Challenge were developed for use at St. Elizabeth by Patricia with the help of parents, to get students interested in recreational reading by offering interactive "quizzes" on the computer that pertain to specific books.

Reading Counts is a computer program available for sale to school libraries, like the one in which Patricia works. It features an electronic bookshelf that highlights certain books students can read and then take quizzes on. The difficulty and number of questions varies depending on the grade level, and with special software Patricia, teachers, and parents can write their own quizzes. Reader's Challenge is a similar program, using the same software as Reading Counts. In grades four through six, classes read the same books, and the quiz questions become the material for competition between classes, with student teams showing what they have learned. Patricia says she has watched many a student go from being a non-reader to an excited, voracious reader simply because of the excitement generated by Reading Counts among their peers.

Patricia is a busy woman, coordinating programs and teaching classes in her library. She believes that "Readers are Leaders!" and loves her work-- giving students something she yearned for as a child -- and sharing the "treasures" of the library.

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