Ten Minutes With Carmine Rau // Literary Matchmaker and Puppeteer

By Denise Briggs-Potter

Carmine Rau loves a good story. If you ask her to tell you her favorite book, she’ll say it’s like asking her to choose which child she loves most—impossible. As children’s librarian at the Kitsap Regional Library on Bainbridge, Carmine has enchanted young readers with storytelling (check out her “Where the Wild Things Are” puppets) and book recommendations since 2006. She knows how to enthuse even the most reluctant readers with books that capture their imaginations.

What led you to the Bainbridge Public Library?

I grew up in a place called Lincoln Creek, near Centralia. I went to Evergreen College and received my master’s degree at the University of Washington. Librarianship is one of those careers that you can come at from many angles. My undergrad degree was in liberal arts, which I think is excellent preparation—we’re interested in everything.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

People. I like to hear people’s stories and talk to kids about books. It’s not just a job, it’s a social outlet. It’s also a career where you can learn new things all the time. I was an avid reader as a child. This lets me be among books, and I’m always discovering new authors.

How did you develop a passion for reading?

My family was unbelievably poor, so we went to the public library a lot because it was free. That’s one of the reasons I’m a big believer in public libraries. Some people call it “the poor man’s university,” and it is. There’s no membership fee to get in here—it really is for everybody. I also had a teacher in 3rd grade, Mrs. Winningham, who fed me books. She was that teacher who would say, “Have you tried this? I think you’d like this book.” If a child has a grown-up in their life that does this, it’s huge.

How do you choose a book for a young reader?

In our profession, there’s something called “the reader advisory interview.” You have a conversation to draw out what a child’s interests are, what books they’ve read and loved, and what their reading level is. You play matchmaker. How about a reluctant reader? It’s similar to when you try to develop a toddler’s palate—you put out 12 different kinds of food and see what they graze on. I tell parents to grab a bunch of books they think their child will like and leave them around the house like salt licks. Reluctant readers are like timid deer. The other technique is to share your passion for reading. Passion is contagious. If there is a book you loved as a child, read it to your child. Read aloud to your child for as long as you can.

As a storyteller, have you ever had a tough audience?

Well, yeah, everybody does. But kids are usually the most forgiving audience. They don’t mind if you sing out of tune or make a mistake. I think they are looking for fun. And if you look like you’re having fun, they’ll be willing to go along with you.