I’ve been bringing home children’s books to review and showing them to my husband. I already know the topics that will interest him, and I caught him flipping through some that I conveniently placed where I knew he would see them. He is not a quiet reader. The first thing he does is look at the cover art. Next, he says the title out loud. Then, he will say something like, “Now that looks like a cool book.” That is where everything stops, however. He is not very confident in his reading nor his writing, and he tries his best to get me to read things for him. I don’t usually fall for it. Instead, I keep quiet until he makes an attempt. The other day I asked him to write “chicken” on our scratch pad on the refrigerator as a reminder to cook the one we bought at the store. He asked me to spell it, and I told him that he could write it any way he wanted, and that I would figure it out. I think he enjoyed it, knowing that he wouldn’t be corrected or judged.
The importance of providing support to blossoming and beginning readers-actually, readers at any level, has hit me over the head recently. At story time, the kids come up and want to touch the pages of the book that I am reading. Parents usually try to collect their kids and get them settled back by them so they don’t block others from seeing the books, but I don’t see the harm in allowing them that freedom. I remember one fellow librarian that used to call on children during story time who were obviously excited and squirming and ask “Do you have something to say?” I loved that, and have added it to my routine.
There are the children that are just beginning to spread their wings as readers. Then there are those I’ve met that have a strong sense of who they are and know just what they like to read. These children need our presence too, even if it’s just to show respect for what they have come to do. You know the ones-mature for their years, and just waiting for their years to match what is already in their minds. I don’t mean that they are growing up too fast; rather that they are very focused on their goals. We as librarians get to be there for them. We get to point them in the direction of the possibilities of their dreams.
I wonder if kids that have supportive parents or grandparents really understand that not everyone has this. Not every child has someone that is really into him or her, and wants to see her or him achieve success. I don’t worry about the children whose parents will bring them to library programs and make a big deal over getting a brand new library card. I think about the ones who can’t get here or there and get the exposure that is found in the world of books. They will be exposed however, and it may not be to the things that create rich inner or outer lives.
There is a teacher that walks her preschool class over (through a not-so-nice neighborhood) to turn in all of the class reading logs for the 1000 Books before Kindergarten program. Not only is this teacher bringing her class and making a big deal, she has managed to light a fire under the parents, so that when they take a walk to hand in their logs and get their stickers and see their stars put up on the 1000 Books bulletin board, much of the work has been done by the parents. It gets wild and woolly and loud and raucous, but these kids are seeing that someone cares and supports them.
A little dude named Liam, who is usually sitting up under his grandmother, approached me just as story time was about to start one day, to tell me in the softest, barely audible voice, about the construction happening on his street. It was crazy because it was time to get story time going, but there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity. His grandmother said “He was dying to tell YOU.”
Going back to my husband, it’s not that no one cared for him; he was actually the spoiled and adored oldest son. When it came to reading, however, his parents were not able to support him the way he needed in learning to read. Reading at home, or anywhere, was just not a value. I am proud to say that he chose on his own to begin his reading journey, even before he met me, and had a tutor that turned into a lifelong friend.
I guess I just wanted to encourage you all, to encourage myself, to keep doing what you do for the kids. Keep being the person that fits into that network of support and helps expose them to the paths of their dreams.
Thank you. This is authentic, meaningful, deeply caring and very encouraging writing. I love this. Thank you. “I think about the ones who can’t get here or there and get the exposure that is found in the world of books. They will be exposed however, and it may not be to the things that create rich inner or outer lives.” Yes.
Needed this today. Thank you.