But Kieran, 6, plans to learn all about the Cy Young Award winner thanks to Osborn Hill's traveling bookmobile, which made its debut at the Stillson Road elementary school Tuesday morning.
Kieran said he likes baseball and was inspired to choose "You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?" by Jonah Winter and Andre Carrilho because of his interest in America's national pastime. The book features a rendering of Koufax in his baseball uniform on the cover. "I never heard about him before and I wanted to learn about him," the boy said.
The cover of "Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love" by Lauren Tarshis was also the reason that first-grader Mallory Smith, 6, chose that book from among hundreds of books on the bookmobile, which was parked outside the school's entrance. Drawings of birds are on the book's cover, and Mallory said she chose it, "Because I like birds a lot."
Mallory said she'd never been on a bookmobile before and liked it.
Addie Lunn, a 7-year-old first-grader, agreed. "It's fun because you get to go and pick out books," she said.
Osborn Hill's library, gymnasium, language arts center and restrooms were closed before the school year began due to PCBs discovered in those areas of the school when the Board of Education began a project to replace windows at the school.
Staffers at the school were able to take about 300 books out of the library before it was closed, and they placed those books in bookcases outside the school's main office. But some genres, such as nonfiction and books that feature cats and dogs, are pretty limited, said Denise Rehder, the school's library media specialist. "We only had so much time to pull out from the collection. We weren't able to get all the favorite books kids like," she said.
Rehder said the bookmobile, a partnership between Osborn Hill School and the Fairfield Public Library system, was a good supplement. "It's a great opportunity for kids to choose from someplace else. We have a lot of readers here, and they just love books, and it's been a limited collection for quite a while," she said.
Osborn Hill students are allowed to check out one book from the school library's collection and also one book from the bookmobile until they return it to check out a new one. The bookmobile was open to kindergarten and first-graders on Tuesday and was to be open for second- and third-graders Wednesday and fourth- and fifth-graders Thursday. While the Osborn Hill library remains closed, the bookmobile will make regular visits to the school three days a month.
Rehder said Osborn Hill, which has 519 students, is the largest elementary school in town and that it's important for students to have a wide variety of books from which to choose.
Mary Sorhus, head of children's services at Fairfield Public Library and Fairfield Woods Branch Library, agreed. "If they're able to pick out their own books, it really empowers them to read," she said.
Deputy Town Librarian Nancy Coriaty said the bookmobile visits came to fruition after Anna Cutaia-Leonard, the school district's director of elementary education, called and asked if the town's library system had a bookmobile. Coraity said the library didn't, so Cutaia-Leonard found a school bus and staff at both libraries selected about 850 books to stock the bookmobile.
"We're all part of the same community. It's important that kids and students are able to check out books at school and access a collection," Sorhus said.
Frank Arnone, the school principal, said, "Everybody saw our need and they came together to find the answer."
On Tuesday, students went in groups of five to six through the bookmobile, pick out a book and leave down portable stairs at the back of the bus. They then went into the school's lobby, where Sorhus and Cheryl DelVecchio, the children's librarian at Fairfield Woods, checked out the books.
Sorhus said Osborn Hill students can keep the books for three weeks and return them at either of the town's libraries or at the school. She said books on the bookmobile are fairly evenly divided among grade levels. "We have picture books, beginner readers, fiction, which are the chapter books, and non-fiction," she said.
Coriaty said parents received both a letter about the bookmobile and a library card application. Sorhus said about 100 children applied for a library card because of the bookmobile, which Coriaty said would be parked at Fairfield Woods Middle School when it's not in use at Osborn Hill.
Megan Scully, an Osborn Hill parent at the school for the bookmobile's debut, said parents are "very thankful the school and the town have come together with such a creative idea to help the students while our library is closed, which could be a while."
"Really, I think the school, the staff here has done a great job making this time very seamless," Scully said.
Jennifer Brady, an Osborn Hill parent, also thinks the bookmobile is a great idea. "I think they've gone above and beyond to make sure the kids have all the resources they need in a creative and exciting way," she said.
"We're going to be here as long as needed," Sorhus said.