NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- John Schumacher’s job keeps him on the road about 200 days out of the year.
“My job is to tell teachers and librarians and principals and superintendents and parents about the power of letting kids read the books that they want to read,” Schumacher said.
With a boundless enthusiasm, the 35-year-old librarian may be the foremost advocate for school-age reading in the country, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.
We were with him when he visited the Kendall Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois, where there are plenty of page-turners and enthusiastic readers.
“Being in the library, being in this magical sacred place is one of the most rewarding things,” Schumacher told students.
Schumacher’s actual title is ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, and as such, he tours schools all over the country. But even that broad label is too narrow for his impact.
“As you’re reading the book, your heart is growing. As you’re reading the book, your soul is billowing out,” Schumacher told students.
“The library is the heart of our school. Students are excited to go. And without the library I’m just not sure how a school could function,” third grade teacher Veronica Donovan said.
Not every school is so lucky. According to a recent survey, 39 percent of school principals nationwide reported not having a full-time librarian.
“Many schools are under severe fiscal challenges and they have to make hard decisions. … That has affected many school libraries,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said.
“It shouldn’t be viewed as a privilege. It should be seen as a right,” Schumacher said. “We cannot cut school libraries.”
But even if librarians are on hand, it’s doubtful they’d be quite like Mr. Schumacher.
“Do you all love to smell books?” Schumacher asked the kids. “There is nothing — there is nothing better than the smell of books.”
Over the years, he’s given away more best-smellers than he can count.
“His work is so important because he’s giving inspiration to school librarians,” Hayden said. “It’s not an oxymoron — a rock star librarian.”
Schumacher, who reads about 800 to 1,000 books a year, says growing up, he had little use for the school library — because it was the place where he was always being “shushed.”
“I actually would ask to go to the nurse a lot on library day because I just, I knew I was going to be miserable when I got there,” Schumacher said.
That changed when he spent time as an educator and saw what a good book could do.
“By putting a book into the hands of a child, we can put hope directly into that child’s hands. We can put love directly into that child’s hands and we can show them, look: you have the power to make this world better,” Schumacher said. The joy that came off of the kids that we met today will carry me through the next month.”
And on to the next good book.