As I get closer to my due date (34 days left! Holy cow!) I have been reflecting on how the library has influenced me throughout my life and how my mom is probably solely responsible for this love of reading. From how having access to a public library shaped me, to how I was treated by librarians versus other teaching staff, to not being censored from material I wanted to read, libraries and my mom have been key.
Expect a lot of tangents in this post. Sorry.
I have received several children’s books from friends and family members and which everyone coming to visit the nursery/library (they are currently the same room lol) I have been asked a couple of questions that I thought were interesting. Such as “are you really going to allow your son to read THAT book?!” (They pointed out my collection of Grimm Fairy Tales/Harry Potter/etc.)
This question threw me off guard because I had never thought about censoring my child’s, or any child’s, reading. I was never censored in my reading which, if you knew my parents you would be kind of surprised. My mother was very religious and wouldn’t let me watch certain TV shows because she felt that they were not appropriate. For example: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Beetlejuice, Salute Your Shorts, etc. Which wasn’t too much of a problem for me because I would rather have been reading anyway. (Although my husband loves to tease her about this! I am sure it drives her crazy!)
She would take me to the Public Library every weekend and let me pick out as many books as I could hold and I remember being so excited when I got my own library card with MY name on it! It was bright lemon yellow and the Librarian was so excited for me! I remember her face and her smile. It was one of the best days ever! But I digress.
My mom would walk me to the children’s section and sit in the tiny chairs with her textbooks and study Biochem or whatever she was taking at the time, while I sat and touched every book, pulled them out and looked over them, and gently placed them back. They were magic to me! I could learn anything and hear stories from people whom I had never met, go places I had never been, and make friends with the protagonist. As I was a painfully shy child this last point was very important.
After about two hours or so I would have a stack of books I could barely lift by myself and be ready to go. We would check out and I would spend the remainder of the day in the back yard or in a sheet fort reading. I learned about fairy tales, monsters, historical events, drawing, and so much more. I loved reading.
In the 3rd grade I was reading at an 8th grade reading level. This sounds amazing, but presents a problem. As a 3rd grader reading at a much higher reading level, what do you read? Nothing is technically “age appropriate” at that point. My school librarian realized this and would go out of her way to always have a book recommendation for me. I can’t tell you how special this made me feel. She knew me by name and knew what I liked to read. Even though there were hundreds of other students under her care she cared enough to help me.
Eventually it got to the point where I had read all the age appropriate books in my school, and I was bored and sad about it. So what did the Librarian do? She sent me home with a note to my mom explaining that I had practically read everything a 3rd grader could read and would it be ok if she started lending me books above my age. And then she wrote that she would like to recommend the book The Giver. My mother wrote back to her giving her permission to lend any book that she thought I would like whether or not it was appropriate for my age.
There was a caveat however. My mom sat me down and told me basically this: “I have given permission to the librarian to lend you any book you want. This is a big responsibility for you though, so you have to be careful. You have to choose what kind of information you put into your brain, whether it is good or bad is up to you. If you are reading something and don’t understand it or it makes you feel bad or sad or upset in anyway I want you to come to me. We can talk about it. If there is a situation that doesn’t make sense, come to me and we will discuss it. But you are now in charge of what you read, make sure you pick wisely.”
That talk empowered me. It also made me realize how powerful books were. The information that is in them has the power to change minds and influence people! If that isn’t a superpower I don’t know what is.
So I talked to the Librarian, and she told me about The Giver and how she thought I would like it, and that at one point in time it had been banned from the school. I had no idea a book could be banned! And that started a whole new obsession: reading banned books, which is a post all of it’s own!
Now that I am an adult, I still get excited when a librarian remembers me and recommends books and I get even more excited when I recommend stuff to others. This is probably why I started my own local book club.
But as I get closer to motherhood I can’t help but wonder how I will react when my son wants to read my favorite books, or wants to read something that I hated, or how I will react if he hates reading all together. I like to think that I will have the same approach as my mom: hands free. Give him free reign of the library and my own book shelves and let him make up his own mind. At least, I will try… Although I have been slowly purchasing all my favorites from my youth to stock the shelves in my personal library. 😉 I can’t help it.
I will finish with this thought. I was mature for my age (at least I heard a lot of adults tell me this) and it always made me feel like a real person when the librarian or my mom would talk to me like a person, like an adult, like an equal. My teachers typically didn’t do this, but my mom and my librarians did, and it made me want to impress them, to live up to the expectations they had of me, to be better than what I was.
So, to all you children’s librarians, know how important your presence is in each child’s life you encounter. That library card you give to them is gold in their eyes and you are a super hero! Treat them like people instead of children because they will respect you for that! And moms (and dads!) know your children and understand where they are at! Kids are way smarter than we tend to give them credit for. Think back to your childhood and how adults made you feel and be the adult that you think young you needed!
That is the end of my “mini” lecture 🙂
Librarians, THANK YOU! And I am so proud to be one of you now!