Back To The Library

It’s Upper Fort Stewart’s first guest post, by my wife, Kelli…

INSIDER INFO: Ian went to the Library again, with his wife (me) and child–for a Saturday family outing!

I have to agree with Ian and his low opinion on libraries. Admittedly, I spent most of my time in the children’s section, so I will try to comment only on it. I cannot believe that there are so many pointless children’s books! I am not of the opinion that a child reading is better than a child not reading. I think everyone should take the vow “First do no harm”, especially when it comes to children.

I come from a small town with a small library. It was located in a building that was built as a prototype for post offices all across Canada. It overcame this handicap however, and made the best of things, on what I could only assume was a small budget. The kids books were all displayed neatly on the shelves, covers out. There weren’t many, but they were all good. I remember my hand hovering above the row, passing the best in children’s literature; books decked out with shiny metallic stickers displaying the awards they had won, stopping over a copy of an Eric Carle book, wondering if I was old enough to touch such a pretty book. The librarians read from this small selection in an after-school program comprised mainly of their own children. The books were chosen with the foreknowledge that the selection they made would have to captivate the last little bit of attention left in a kid after a full day of school, or there would be chaos and cacophony. Undoubtedly, the librarian would be held personally accountable for the success or failure of the book. They never failed.

It was from this prime collection that the book mobile filled its load, servicing rural students unable to make it into town. It was a known fact that the bookmobile had the school library beat hands down. When it pulled its wheels into the parking lot a loud cheer rang out, jackets and boots were left undone as we raced to be the first one on, our little hands grabbing whatever was available, knowing none would disappoint. We would return victorious, books raised like a trophy lording it over the town kids. It was a good day to live in the country.

Perhaps big city libraries also need a tight budget and personal accountability for their purchases so they would never even consider purchasing a dumb book. My son and I read one such book while at the Library. At the end, I flipped through it again to look for the pages that I had missed to discover there were none– that was it, a book with no resolution, with more time spent on the formation of rhyme than plot, with characters whose only contribution was the sound at the end of their name. It was not even entertaining. This book was left on the table for children to pick up and read, along with many others of the same quality. Imagine if that was a child’s first experience reading independently. They struggle through sounding out each word and then straining their little brains to make sense of the words as a sentence and then as a story, only to discover that all that they have invested is for nothing. They would walk away thinking reading is a stupid waste of time. Or worse yet, they may think that they have missed something (being new readers and all) and think that they are the ones who are stupid.

It is the business of a child to form ideas and opinions based on their experiences. This is their learning. When they read at a library, they are about this business. Should the library really be so careless? Perhaps my home town should have been a prototype for libraries instead.

4 thoughts on “Back To The Library

  1. “Imagine if that was a child’s first experience reading independently. They struggle through sounding out each word and then straining their little brains to make sense of the words as a sentence and then as a story, only to discover that all that they have invested is for nothing. They would walk away thinking reading is a stupid waste of time.”

    No kidding! That’s a very good point.

  2. It must be tough for children’s writers knowing they have so much power over their little readers. I mean, every kid’s book is someone’s first, second or fiftieth and every one has the power to either turn a kid on to reading or turn them off. You’ve got to think an author is going to worry about that.

    I would. But then I worry about everything.

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