105 Ways to Give a Book

Back to Work

I didn't intend to take a summer-long blog break. It just sort of happened. Some part of it can be attributed to a big life change of sending my eldest to college. I will admit that I spent time sort of staring at her as if she were a great work of art. And really, it's not far from the truth. But my girls didn't dominate my attention in the way they did when they were children - negotiating playdates, refereeing squabbles, fixing snacks, and making endless trips to the pool. They were self-sufficient. The eldest with her job and college-bound friends. The younger with music/theater classes and play rehearsal. But I relished the time I could spend with them, even if it was simply sharing the same room.

A bigger part of my blog absence is due to working at the library among children's books, which seems counter to expectation. But this was the busiest summer for me that I can remember. Mostly because we were continually understaffed and my work shifts were intense. When I wasn't answering endless questions at the information desk, I was shelving yet another influx of the new returns and replenishing the displays that I had just filled that morning. I'd leave the day tired and literally sweating.

While it was exhausting, I was happy to see so many library patrons and summer reading participants. I was excited to help kids find books they wanted, and I loved the attention from kindergarteners who stared at me wide-eyed before shouting, "You came to my school!" I was a minor celebrity in this little world of books.

But sometimes it could be draining, with a fair number of the summer crowd who were starting from scratch in the library. Now they wanted to know what their kids should read. But when I asked what they had been reading or liked to read, I got blank stares. Many of the parents - a diverse selection - had absolutely no idea. Occasionally I'd hit on a series like Magic Tree House or Harry Potter that helped me make a suggestion. When able, I'd turn to the child and could always find something suitable.

I was glad that they were using the library. I loved finding the books that they liked. But the interactions left a lingering discomfort of the parental role in reading. And these were the ones who came to the library and asked for help. Has recreational reading been completely outsourced to school and the teachers?

Knowing that these parents, the ones who cared enough to come to library, didn't know about books or what their child might be reading made it hard to write about books. Maybe, I wondered, no one really cares. The parents don't want to leaf through suggestions. They want lists, preferably by grade and/or Lexile score. They aren't interested in which books transcend the genre. They want to know the DRA level. They often didn't want to know what was good, just what was here - on the shelf.

So much of my summer was bittersweet. Spending time with my girls who are growing up and moving on. Spending time among my favorite books, knowing that the specifics of quality that I invest myself in finding is probably less important to most parents that what book has the right Lexile score or happens to be handy.

How does that change what I'm doing? I don't know. If my revelations and soul-searching was bittersweet, well, I tend to focus on the sweet. So I'll do that


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3 comments:

Freya Hooper said...

Thank you for your piece. I too have had moments wondering if parents have outsourced their kids reading. It gets me down at times, and I appreciate that I am not alone in feeling that way. If one more parent simply went down the summer reading list looking only for those books I thought I might scream. But then I meet that parent that engages in an amazing dialogue with me and I am renewed with a little hope! Thank you for your thoughts and enjoy the sweet of what you do!

alibrarymama said...

I hear you on the frustration of the Lexile level! And the blank stares when I suggest that Lexile might not be the be all and end all of what makes books the "right level", or that reading just for fun is important, especially in the summer... agh! I live for the parents who let their kids have their own conversation with me about what they want to read.

Sheila Ruth said...

Welcome back! Actually, I ended up on unplanned blog hiatus for most of the summer as well. Right before that I was happy that I was in a groove on posting for the first time in a long time, and then bang, life happened.

That's disappointing about parents. I remember so many happy times sharing books with my son, and it's too bad that many parents are missing out on that, and missing the point.