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Alameda County Library

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Bookleggers: Home


Volunteers Wanted:

The Bookleggers are a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting independent reading by children. They do this by visiting classrooms, and introducing books that kids simply can't resist. Not just any books are used... these books that are chosen by the Booklegger Steering Committee are the gems, the best of the best, the well-written yet exciting adventures, suspenseful mysteries, hilarious comedies and eye-popping non-fiction. Volunteers are needed for Booklegger programs in Fremont and Castro Valley.

Booklegger volunteers literally come from all over the globe, and from every background imaginable. They have in their ranks a pizza maker, an accountant, several retired teachers, librarians, an editor, a computer engineer, a dental hygienist, a BART engineer, an ex-KrazyGlue salesperson, moms, dads and grandparents. All have in common a great love of bringing books and children together.

Training sessions are held once or twice a year to introduce new volunteers to booktalking, reading aloud, and storytelling skills. Volunteers then take their show on the road in elementary school classrooms in Fremont or Castro Valley.

The gift of the love of reading is such an important one. Overwhelming statistics indicate that illiteracy is a great problem, not only in children but also in adults. The surest cure to adult illiteracy is to instill the love of books in the child, and that's where the Booklegger Project can make a difference. Booklegger books are checked out 3 times more frequently than those not booktalked - obviously the message is getting through!

Children in Fremont and Castro Valley have elevated Bookleggers to near folk-heroine (and hero!) status, can point them out on the streets and can recount their booktalks to friend and parents. Please contact the Fremont Main Library or Castro Valley Library for more information about this award-winning program and to sign up for the next training session.

Fremont Main Library Booklegger Program

Elizabeth Gamell


Castro Valley Booklegger Program

Chelsey Roos


Frequently Asked Questions

Who can be a Booklegger? Virtually anyone, provided they are available during regular school hours (8:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday). The main qualifications are a love of reading and desire to share that love with children. There are no educational prerequisites or financial requirements. Books on the Booklegger list are provided by the Alameda County Library.

What schools and what grades are visited? How often? In Fremont, Bookleggers visit elementary school classrooms, grades K to 6. In Castro Valley, Bookleggers visit elementary school classrooms, grade K to 5. The frequency of the visits is determined by the number of active Booklegger volunteers.

What is the time commitment involved in the program? During training, class time is 2.5 to 3 hours weekly, and homework time is about the same. After training, the time commitment varies depending on the grade level and school district.

Who chooses which school and which grade level a Booklegger will visit? Bookleggers indicate their preferences for grade level and school sites. The volunteer coordinators make every effort to honor those preferences.

Who chooses which books will be used? There is a select list of books which the Alameda County Library stocks in abundance for the Bookleggers to use. Bookleggers have a wide variety to choose from within this list, but are strongly urged not to use books outside of the list. The books for this list are chosen by the Booklegger Steering Committee, which is made up of 9 members, librarians and Bookleggers. They carefully screen books for their "salability", and avoid choosing award winners (which are too well publicized), over popular series (Animorphs for example), curriculum books, or classics (which are taught in the classrooms already). The book list is updated annually with fresh new winning books.

How well are the books received? Do kids really like the program?Booklegger books are checked out 3 times more frequently than other children's books. Our greatest successes are with non-readers. We frequently hear from students who have never enjoyed reading before, and are now hooked! It is interesting that though adults view the Booklegger program as a literacy project, children regard Bookleggers as entertainment. This is probably because there are no assignments associated with Booklegger visits. Students are never forced to read these books, they can choose to read them in their recreational time. They always great their Booklegger guests with smiles and cheers - it's a wonderful greeting!

How long is training? When and where does it take place? Training takes 6 to 8 weeks depending on the school district. Each class is about 2.5 to 3 hours long. For more specifics please contact the Fremont or Castro Valley Booklegger program.

What is taught in class? What presentation skills are assumed? The Booklegger training class assumes nothing - all the skills necessary to be able to make an exciting classroom presentation are taught! We'll teach you effective methods of storytelling, how to booktalk, how to use props if you should choose to do so, how to mix genres, what books are effective at which grade levels, how to work with gifted readers, reluctant readers, and readers functioning below grade level. For several sessions we have experienced guest speakers give their tips and expert advice for successful booklegging. We'll have you practice your new skills in the training class and you'll be able to visit actual classrooms full of kids!

Who runs the program?  The Fremont Booklegger program is based at the Fremont Library. For more information, contact Elizabeth Gamell, or 510-745-1424. The Castro Valley Booklegger program is based at the Castro Valley Library. For more information, contact Chelsey Roos, or 510-608-1142.