100 Scope Notes
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The Glory of the Personal Pan Pizza: An Interview with Tom Angleberger about Book It!

What’s the best pizza I’ve ever had? The personal pan pizza I earned in 2nd grade through the Book It reading program. I talked with Book It Author Ambassador Tom Angleberger about my two favorite things: books and pizza.

Travis: Some of my earliest pizza memories are digging into the personal pan I earned through the Book It! program. How did you get involved?

Tom Angleberger: Well, let’s just face the hard truth: I’m too old to have been a Book It! beneficiary as a kid. In fact, I’m not sure the personal pan pizza had even been invented yet . . .

Travis: We were deprived, man . . .

Tom: . . . but when Book It! asked if I wanted to  join in the present day fun, I knew enough to say YES immediately! They even gave me some pizza!

Travis: A little pizza payment? Sounds like they know what they’re doing. How is Book It! different from other reading programs?

Tom: What’s great about Book It! is that the concept is immediately clear to kids. Reading books = eating pizza. But what they may not realize is that Book It is giving their teacher all of these other resources — like author videos, book recommendations, printable activities, materials for parents and on and on. 

I was very impressed when I visited the Book It folks at Pizza Hut HQ. The company really takes this aspect of it seriously. (They put me right to work, making how-to videos!)

Travis: Any advice/suggestions for teachers looking to use Book It in their classrooms?

Tom: The upcoming Give Me 20 challenge is a great excuse to read aloud to students. And the theme of music and movement could generate some interesting book choices… Maybe Phil Bildner’s basketball books? Or Linda Urban’s Crooked Kind of Perfect? Or for younger kids Duncan Tonatiuh’s Esquivel! or Heather Lang and Floyd Cooper’s Queen of the Track?

I often ask students what their favorite book is. It often turns out to be the book that the whole class experienced together because their teacher read it out loud. That experience is a great one… but there are few opportunities for it in adult life. I think the hours I spent listening to a teacher read us A Wizard of Earthsea may have been some of the happiest times in my not-always-happy elementary school days. 

Read alouds may not seem important in today’s test-based system, but teachers are giving kids something really special when they read a story to the class.

Travis: Agreed. Okay, last question: What do you feel it the most underrated pizza topping?”

 Tom: Not just underrated, but hated: the anchovy. So small, so salty, so good. (I might need to write a book about anchovies!) 

Travis: Angleberger and anchovies seem like a good pairing. Thanks, Tom!

Teachers can enroll their class in Book It! by visiting bookitprogram.com.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.