Category Archives: Librarians

not either/or, but: and/both

Remember the first book you checked out from the public library?

I do! I was in kindergarten. It was a Babar book—which title, I don’t recall; I wish I did!

What I do recall is that the font of that book simulated handwriting. And although I couldn’t read many words in any font, much less in script, I still remember how proud I felt walking down the library steps clutching that book, feeling very grownup.

More than the joy I felt carrying that book, I remember how grateful to my father I felt. And although I recall only one or so more times that he drove me to the library, that first time was memorable enough for an entire lifetime. I loved books, and I loved him for gifting me with choosing from a library-full of them!

(Ironically, when I was in high school, instead of walking home from the bus stop on cold and rainy days I waited—at the branch library!–for my father to stop as drove past the library on his way home from work.)

All of this reminiscence is to say that September is Library Card Sign-up Month, and I’d like to send a message to teachers and school librarians: please encourage parents to frequent the public library with their children. Not only so that the children can borrow books, but so that the children can associate reading with their parents’ love.

To parents, I implore: please, if at all possible, bring your children to the public library. Your children will associate your love for them with love of reading. Transferring the feeling of being loved to the love of reading is the best foundation you can give your children for a lifetime of learning.

To everyone I say: taking children to the public library isn’t an admission or intimation that the school library is inadequate. No. Each library has its role and purpose in a child’s education. Going to the public library with one’s parents is a different kind of experience from going to the school library with one’s teacher.  It’s not a matter of school or/instead of the public library, but the school and the public library.

No matter how many different sorts of cards a grownup carries in a purse or wallet, none provides as many endless possibilities for parent-child bonding and a lifetime of shared and independent learning as does a public library card. If you don’t have one, please!, now is the time to get one!

And whether you are a school or public librarian, parent of school-aged children, or teachers and administrators, why not ask and arrange for a public librarian to have a library card sign-up table in full sight at each back-to-school night, as a gift to the children and a courtesy for their parents?

p.s. When I think about the timing of my first public library visit with my father, I’m thinking that it was September, and my kindergarten teacher likely recommended the visit. ..Oh, and did I mention? …When I grew up, I became a school librarian.

Do you have favorite library visit memories, either as a child yourself, or as an adult, with children?

Miss Rumphius…anew

Yesterday, I learned about a loving husband who planted four and one-half miles’/ 400 acres’ worth of sunflowers in honor of his deceased wife, whose favorite flower the stately giant flowers had been.

Referring to his wife as the “Sunflower Lady” of the neighborhood, who brought happiness to those she met, the husband credited his wife as the inspiration for the planting of her favorite flowers. He cited how, before her death, she had suggested raising and selling sunflowers to generate money for cancer research and patient care, as a way of paying back the goodness she had received during her multi-year battle against multiple myeloma.

Before even reading the news story, just as soon as I read the headline (Husband Plants Four Mile Stretch of Sunflowers in Tribute to Wife Who Died of Cancer), I immediately thought of the “Lupine Lady,” author Barbara Cooney’s great-aunt, a.k.a. “Miss Rumphius,” who made three promises to her grandfather, including the pledge to make the world a more beautiful place.

Miss Rumphius did that by scattering lupine seeds, near and far, since the purple wildflowers were her favorite, and she wished to share her joy in beholding the flowers with everyone who lived in the neighborhood or visited the vicinity of her beloved house by the sea.

Although every day is a wonderful day to ponder the beautifully written and illustrated Miss Rumphius, as a librarian, I shared Ms. Cooney’s story in honor of Earth Day. Students liked that the main character was a librarian, mostly, I think, because they thought I took special delight in that work role connection with Miss Rumphius.

I liked that the students responded to the story with a multitude of ideas about how they, individually and collectively, could make the world a more beautiful place, including by simply smiling.

In terms of the sunflower planting in the news story, I like that the sunflowers stand tall, in silent testimony that death does not have the final word. Faith, hope, and love do.

If you would like to read the news story, here is the link: Sunflower Tribute

The more I reflect on both stories, the more I wonder if the “Sunflower Lady” knew the “Lupine Lady,” given that both women lived the charge to leave the world a more better place; both using flowers to make a loving statement.

Did the “Sunflower Lady” read Miss Rumphius when she was a child? As a mother, did she read Ms. Cooney’s inspirational story to her own children?

…I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the answer to any either or both questions were a resounding Yes!

What do you think?

Owen & the Busybody Neighbor

Guaranteed, in more than one school across America, librarians will be introducing a new group of students to Owen, the endearing main character in a Caldecott Honor book by the same name, authored and illustrated by the popular and prolific Kevin Henkes.

Students easily identify with Owen, who finds it rough to leave home, as he starts kindergarten, without his favorite security blanket (literally) to hold onto.

In the end, a compromise between Owen and his parents leads to an ingenious solution that delights students, rooting, of course, that Owen gets to keep and take his blanket with him.

As a former kindergartner, and now an adult reader and mother, the character who most catches my attention every time I read this book to students is the busybody neighbor.

“Mind your own business,” I want to tell her. “He’s not your child. Don’t voice any judgments.”

It is in part succumbing to the neighbor’s insinuations into their business that Owen’s parents take action. Every story, I know, needs an antagonist, an archenemy, a villain, and I guess it is better to cast a neighbor, rather than the parents, into that role.

Still, it bothers me. Makes me think, too, in these days when school is about to begin (or has already begun) that often parents push their children because of “family pride” social standing concerns or social pressure from other adults.

Even if Owen’s parents intended to take action apart from the neighbor’s criticism, I wish they would have stood up for their boy.

I remember once, when I was Owen’s age, being outdoors in the neighborhood with my mother when, by chance, we encountered an acquaintance of hers–a woman, her age, that I had never seen before.

Talking to my mother as if I weren’t there (maybe that was the start of my often feeling invisible), the acquaintance said, “How’s your Nervous Nellie daughter?”

An only child, I knew there was no one else the acquaintance could have been referring to—not unless my mother had another child she had kept secret.

Although I never heard of “Nervous Nellie,” I knew what nervous meant. I knew that description fit me—and now I had a name to describe me: Nervous Nellie.

Yes. I was a very anxious child—and still am a very anxious adult. (Unlike Owen, I never carried around a security blanket; maybe that’s part of my problem.)

I don’t ever remember seeing that acquaintance of my mother’s again. No matter, I didn’t need to. Even now, decades later, I see her face. I hear her voice. “How’s your Nervous Nellie daughter?”

Stand up to the neighbors. Tell them nicely, but definitively, what you tell your children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say (charitable, constructive intervention, excluded), don’t say anything at all”—especially not in the children’s earshot.

The teacher, mother, and child in me thank you!  …Go, Owen!