The other day several friends who read my blog observed I must be enjoying my volunteer hours in the library. I took that to mean that I talk about it often, perhaps too much, here and on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s true; I do. I’m aware that I’ve become a bit one-note as of late, but try as I might I can’t seem to stop talking about the library because this is the happiest I have ever been. I love, love, love my days in the library.
What I love the most is what surprises me the most. I love my time with the kids. All of them, even some of the 6th and 7th grade boys who sometimes tempt me to shave their heads so I can check for horns. I’ve always thought that I was pretty good with kids, but more of a “I like my kids, not so much other people’s kids” kind of person. It turns out that philosophy only holds true for play-dates and babysitting, because in front of the class I just can’t get enough of them.
I love that the younger class is so tiny. I feel tall! I love that I can make them laugh at the stupidest jokes. They are such an easy crowd. I love that they trust me to help them. They look to me like I am Pythia of the Library. There is no question I can’t answer, no book I can’t find. One 6 year old walked up to me today and asked me for a book on Saint Francis and stood there staring up at me like he knew I had a Saint Francis book in my pocket, right next to my white rabbit and never ending length of tied silk kerchiefs. I ended up finding him four books on Saint Francis. He checked out a book on penguins.
I love that I know many of the middle school kids, since many of them are Mikey’s friends or the children of my friends. They walk in and give me this sly smile as if we share a secret. I know their books best of all. I know their tastes best of all. I know their section of the library best of all so with them I feel the most confident as I help them find books.
I especially love the junior high kids, which surprises me most of all. I talk to them like they are adults and love listening to their thoughts on what they’re doing, reading, watching. (Full House is hot among the girls!) Some of them are so big, so tall, that I forget they are barely in their teens. The 6th grade is a rowdy bunch, a little difficult to control. The first week they were terrible, last week they were better. I’m hoping to see a steady improvement as we get to know each other. I like to think that I’m fun and easy going, but it’s still my show I’m running. I’ve noticed that when I talk, really talk to them, they sit like little mice and listen. Silent reading isn’t as successful, so I think I’m going to read aloud to them this week and venture into some (very easy) critical reading and thinking and see how they do. I think they’ll like it. I hope they’ll like it.
Silent reading hasn’t been successful with many of the older kids because our library features many of the classics. Lots of Newberry award winners from years past, lots of books you and I adored when we were kids. We have our Goosebumps, Geronimo Stilton, Junie B. Jones, et al, but the young adult section is what you would expect in a parochial school. There is no The Hunger Games. There is no manga, zombie graphic novels, or paranormal romance.
It’s an uphill battle selling old books to kids who have grown up on shiny and new, but I have a plan. It might take me a year, but I’m going to figure out a way to hook these kids on the great books we have in the library. If I hear one more kid tell me they loooooooove fantasy but have never read C.S. Lewis or Madeline l’Engle, I’m going to have to issue a reading challenge. If I hear more boo-hooing about The Hunger Games while The Giver and Lord of the Flies collects dust on the shelf, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Maybe I’ll donate a series of their choosing if they read the classic series that inspired the contemporary author. (Thinking out loud.)
The other day I came home so happy that I told the Mister I was worried my big mouth would get me in trouble and that I would be stripped of my volunteer position. I’m opinionated, a perfectionist. I take my jobs seriously, even when I’m not being paid, obviously. Maybe the parents will get upset with some of my lectures I give the children, or maybe I’ll step on some faculty toes. I have to be careful to remember that not everyone feels as passionately about reading as I do, and that it wouldn’t be smart to suggest to the principal that he allocate 50% of his budget to new books. 40% is a much more reasonable place to start.