Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: Rita Painter and Rachel McInnes

Photo above, library nerds, from left: Rita Painter, Don Tate, Rachel McInnes

This week, the SCOUNDREL of the TEXAS SWEETHEARTS (Don Tate) is thrilled to feature Rita Painter and Rachel McInnes. Rita Painter is the librarian at Menchaca Elementary school in far south Austin, Texas, and Rachel is the library clerk. Rita and Rachel are highly energetic and inspiring — the absolute best at what they do. Of course, as a Menchaca parent, I’m a bit biased.

Rita, in the age of Nintendo and Wii video games, The Cartoon Network and smart phones, how are you able to break through all the noise and motivate children to read?

Rita: Everyone likes to be entertained, especially kids. But it's easy to motivate children with quality literature. Students can soar with Amelia Earhart, cry with Travis in Old Yeller, and travel to distant lands to experience different cultures. I love introducing children to the exciting adventures that can be found in books!

What do you like best about your job? Highs and lows

Helping the kids find that book they were looking for…it may be for a class project, a chapter book that their friend just turned it and they want to check out or a book about an animal they are obsessed with. I enjoy pulling books for teachers. They come in and ask for books to back up what they are teaching. They may have a few specific books but I enjoy perusing the shelves to find something else that might be helpful.

Rita: There have been SO MANY positive events in my career: the proud parent who is relieved that his or her child is finally hooked on reading, the excited students who can't wait to read the next book in a series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, anyone?), or introducing authors and illustrators to my students so they can understand the importance of editing their work and can hear the stories behind the books and illustrations they create. The only lows I've experienced have all been budget-related: lower funding for books and technology, and the recent cuts to our library staffing. Librarians will continue to advocate for certified librarians in every school!

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Rita: I absolutely loved all of the Dr. Seuss books! My Mom joined a monthly book club, and
we'd receive two of his books every month. My favorite was Green Eggs and Ham. I read it to my campus every year on Dr. Seuss' Birthday. I also enjoyed reading all of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still recommend Little House on the Prairie to my students as one book they should definitely experience!

Rachel: I can’t say I had a favorite author except maybe Carolyn Keene and Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I do have strong memories of certain books…. Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, How Fletcher was Hatched by Wende Devlin, Miss Twiggly’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox.

Who are some of your favorite authors and illustrators of children’s books?

There are so many good authors these days it is hard to select just a few. My favorite authors are Phil Bildner, Laura Numeroff, Jackie French, Doreen Cronin, Laurie Keller, Kevin Henkes, Susan Stevens Crummel/Janet Stevens, Kate Dicamillo, Peter Reynolds, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This only scratches the surface. The reasons these authors and books are necessary additions to my home library are about as varied as the authors themselves. Each one has a unique God-given gift for the written word and I have spent many hours with my own children pouring over the pages of these books…maybe that’s part of what makes them special to me. My children really enjoyed their books. My favorite illustrators (a whole different can of worms): Eric Carle, Kadir Nelson, Felicia Bond, Janet Stevens, Don Tate, Peter Reynolds, Laurie Keller. I am amazed at the diversity in styles and the beauty that is captured by paper and pencil.

Rita: Wow, I have so many favorites! I love the books by Jon Scieszka (humor), Kate DiCamillo (appeals to both boys and girls), Phil Bildner (historical fiction/sports), Rick Riordan (fantasy), and Dr. Seuss (rhyming). My favorite illustrators are Brian Selznick, Kadir Nelson, Don Tate, and Eric Carle. These illustrators draw the reader into the story with their beautiful pun intended!

What are your thoughts about e-books?

Rita: I think e-books are another tool to get kids excited about reading. I don't think books will disappear because of e-books, but I do know that libraries and librarians have begun to incorporate the technology required to access them. But there will always be storytimes with books!

Rachel: I feel that young children need to get their hands on as many different books as they possibly can! The more the better!! There is something special about sitting with a child and reading them a book, turning the page to discover what happens next and having your eyes feast on the illustrator’s interpretation of the author’s words.
E-books will have their place, but in an elementary school the demand for some books is so high that the cost of e-books plus the technology to support them would make it almost impossible to maintain the same quantity. I think we are seeing the transition from paper to electronic but I am praying that the picture book never goes away.

What do you do when you're not library-ing?

Rita: I love to go to the movies, hunt for bargains at thrift stores, and spend time with my family at the many festivals that Austin has to offer. My husband and I enjoy visiting book stores (thank goodness he loves books as much as I do), and we both collect autographed copies of books from our favorite authors. My teens keep me busy driving them to various activities, so I always carry a book in my purse!

Rachel: My time away from school is spent with my family—my husband and 2 middle school children and their activities (which are many). I also love crocheting and photography.

Thanks Rita and Rachel!


  1. You are not the only scoundrel, Don! And we all know you are really a sweetheart...