Judy Kuwatani: 'I want to make it where kids want to come'
J.C. Crumpton Elementary School
When you step into the hallway of J.C. Crumpton Elementary School and make your way toward the library, you begin to be transported someplace special and that is exactly what librarian Judy Kuwatani hopes.
“School libraries can be kind of an uninviting place,” Judy says. “I want to make it where kids want to come and transport the library into someplace like another land … that makes them want to read.” And, that is exactly what she has done at Crumpton - turned it into a magical Harry Potter themed oasis.
Judy grew up in Tokyo, Japan. Her dad was in the service and by the time she was in 9th grade she had moved to Okinawa, Japan. She moved to Kentucky for most of her high school year, and was uprooted to finish her senior year at Seaside High School. She found herself in the library most of the time as it became a secure space for her.
That time inspired her to create a safe haven for students today. “I see some kids by themselves on the playground and I make the library comfortable to come here. The door is always open and when one comes in, then another comes and soon they have a friend. The library is used to meet other people and become friends.”
The door to the J.C. Crumpton library is always open. Easy day begins with guest readers that begins at 8:30 a.m. Story readers come and read to students and then students have the opportunity to check out books. By the time recess and lunch roll around the library is abuzz with students playing games with friends, such as checkers, participating in embroidery lessons, sitting and reading. “I keep the library open all day, even lunch and recess, so students can come and relax,” she says.
Not only does Judy create an inviting environment for students, she also has a knack for bringing staff together. Judy says that in addition to the students that the Crumpton staff is one of the highlights of her job. She enjoys bringing her colleagues together over food. Oftentimes, teachers and staff can find fresh coffee brewing and bagels in the library waiting for them. Judy also hosts a breakfast at the beginning of the year to bring everyone together and even makes homemade bento boxes once a month to share.
“I love what I do. I just love what I do,” beams Judy. She enjoys seeing students who have been promoted from Crumpton come back when they are in middle and high school to visit her. Some have even gotten married and have kids of their own. “This makes me happy that I knew them in kindergarten and look at them now.”