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For the Love of Books
For the Love of Books
Posted on 09/12/2019
North Buncombe High reading guru and English teacher Jenny Zimmerman will help you find your perfect book.By: Benjamin Rickert, BCS Communications

Zimmerman stands with boxes of books sent by the Book Love Foundation.Jenny Zimmerman is a match-maker… of books! At North Buncombe High, the English and journalism teacher is known by all as the reading guru who will find that next special author in your life. It’s not only because she loves books that she’s thrilled to help, but because she believes that reading makes the world better. Now, thanks to a highly-competitive grant from the Book Love Foundation, Ms. Zimmerman’s already impressive classroom library is even larger, adding momentum to her match-making efforts.

“When you walk into an English and Language Arts classroom, you need an environment that matches what you believe in,” Zimmerman said. “I believe in reading books to become a better person. The shared experience of reading- and talking about books and issues- is something our world needs.”

Sophomore Mario Bravo explores a stack of books on his desk.Sophomore Mario Bravo described himself as someone who has never really liked reading or pursued it in his free time. But after only two weeks in Zimmerman’s class, he has found a connection with a book called Hey, Kiddo.

“I got really into it and I’m almost done with it, actually,” he said. “I like it because it shows how life treats people differently. Since I’m almost done, I’ve been looking around for what I’m going to read next and I think I’m going to try that one over there by Tupac.”

On the first day of school, Zimmerman helped her new students develop a list of titles they thought they might like to read. After school, she pored over the lists and used her 15 years of teaching experience and personal library of about a thousand books to make a custom stack for each student. Her aim was to include their top few picks and several others they might enjoy, taking care to include genres that might not otherwise be explored. Students were thrilled to walk in the next day to find a curated collection waiting on each desk.

“It’s my most cherished and prized role,” she said of helping a student find the perfect book. “Helping them find a love for reading is one of the things I care most about.”

Sophomore Jalyn Penland read in Ms. Zimmerman's English class.The Book Love Foundation shares this passion.

“We believe in you and believe in your work,” wrote Book Love Foundation president Penny Kittle in an email to Zimmerman this past June.

Kittle explained that her foundation looks for grant applicants who see results, possess a vision others need, and are committed to increasing the volume of reading in the classroom. All were true of Jenny Zimmerman and she was chosen to receive a $2,000 grant to expand her classroom library!

Zimmerman was elated and her chosen books arrived just in time for the new school year.

“It gave me a lot of confidence and validation that this work is worth doing,” she explained. “This is a grant for people who have dedicated a significant portion of their time, career, and resources into establishing a classroom library.”

As Zimmerman and other North Buncombe teachers have invested in classroom libraries and incorporated individual reading into daily lessons, the effect on the school’s media center library has been noticeable: students are checking out more books!

“It makes it easier to read when you have something you enjoy. Before I started this class, I really didn’t enjoy reading that much, but now I enjoy it quite a bit.” - Montana Webb, Junior

“She got me to read my first full book since fifth grade. She picked out stuff I liked, and then let me pick from those.” - Jalyn Penland, Sophomore

“Some people think they don’t like to read, but that changes if they find that perfect book.” - Kyle Sprinkle, Sophomore

At the end of each semester, Zimmerman celebrates her students’ reading journeys by photographing them holding the books they discovered. These photographs are then added to her classroom’s “shelfie” wall.

“It’s all about, ‘what is success for you?’” she said. “For some, reading two books is an accomplishments, and for others it’s thirty. It’s a different story for each student, but helping them find the right books is probably the most individualized thing I can do for them.”

“She motivates you in a way that is different,” added Mario.

Ms. Jenny Zimmerman us a National Board Certified Teacher and holds both an undergraduate degree in English and a Master of Arts in Teaching from UNC Chapel Hill.

Learn more about the work of the Book Love Foundation.

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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