You’ve probably seen those viral pics of Mundelein High School’s hallways, which transformed the school with book cover hallways. The Chicago suburban high school has made headlines all across the country and even across the pond.
Parents and teachers all want to know: How did the high school create such a literary thing of beauty? Being book-lovers ourselves, we wanted to know what inspired this biblio-tastic stroke of genius—so we went to the source. “I think I initially saw an image on Pinterest with large paintings of books stacked like a bookshelf in a hallway,” English teacher Ryan Buck told New Jersey Family. “I remember thinking that it would be perfect in our hallway since our department promotes books and reading all the time through our reading choice reading program. One day, I happened to notice how the entryway walls to each of our classrooms could look like books. So I had the idea of having art students paint them so the spine of the book showed on the outside and the cover faced towards the door. Using the wraps became the better option after talking with our administration about the idea.”
Besides looking amazing, he hopes the book displays will get students excited to talk about reading. “We converse with our students about books all the time, so we hope that these murals help to expand the conversation beyond the classroom,” Buck told us. “Having students walk by and say, ‘Hey, I read that book!’ or ‘That book looks interesting. Where can I get a copy?’ could continue to spread what we’ve been working on for the past few years now: falling in love with reading.”
“Any promotion of reading is good,” he adds. “However, I’d encourage schools to ensure that they expand their commitment to reading beyond the hallways. Students will read when we allow them opportunities to choose great books. I got sick of knowing my students fake read, so, after reading Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher and Nancie Atwell, we decided to create a reading program that empowered students to make reading choices and enhance their skills through developing reading volume and stamina.”
Mundelein High School chose six classic novels for its book cover hallways, including Fredrik Backman’s Bear Town, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, Lesléa Newman’s October Mourning, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys. “The books in my doorway are two of my favorites,” he continues. “Born to Run transformed my mind and body. All American Boys challenged my point of view about important social issues. Both these books frequently make their ways in and out of students’ hands.”
And the students are definitely paying attention. “I think our students are used to their teachers being book fanatics, but I’ve noticed the glances and comments from students as they come down the hall and enter our classrooms,” says Buck.
Choosing what book covers to feature sounds like the fun part. The more difficult one: figuring out how to execute the project. “Our school works with a group called VIP (Visual Image Photography) for many projects. Our principal, Anthony Kroll, recommended using them for a more realistic and professional looking display,” Buck says. “Over holiday break, I checked my email and there was a picture of the vinyls on my doorway and then I later saw it spread on Twitter. I could not be happier with how these images turned out. I’m convinced that they would not have received the response they have if they were just painted on.”
According to the school’s public information officer, Ronald Girard, the vinyl wraps cost around $400 a piece and were made by Visual Image Photography. Depending on your budget, it may be more cost-effective to enlist art students rather than outsource to create book cover hallways.
There’s been a lot of love for the school’s winter break project—especially from some of the novel’s authors. “I am a HUGE fan of all of the work of each author from the books in my doorway, so when Christopher McDougall tweeted to Jason Reynolds and Jason Reynolds tweeted to Brendan Kiely, and they remarked how awesome the murals looked and how they wanted to come visit as a result, I was blown away,” adds Buck. “Chris McDougall wants to come out in the fall and hoping Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely can make it too. That way, the students, and teachers, who love their work can meet them and be even more proud of their school.”
— Jason Reynolds (@JasonReynolds83) January 5, 2019