The Right Book

by Stefanie

When I was growing up, it was just a given that my brother and I would be readers. My mom took us to the library once a week and set us loose in the stacks. I can’t think of a time when I ever questioned how much fun it is to read, or ever felt like reading was something I had to be coerced into doing.

Okay, maybe that’s not true. I was reading for fun at home. The books we were assigned to read in class – those were a different story. Particularly in high school and college, while I might have enjoyed some of the assigned novels to a certain extent, there just isn’t as much joy in reading The Great Gatsby or War & Peace for a grade. And I was an English major. I CHOSE to have reading assigned to me.

There’s just something extra special about getting to choose the books yourself, about coming to reading on your own terms.

 

One of the difficult and controversial aspects of working with children as a librarian is helping them locate books that are both appropriate and interesting for them. The controversy lies in those situations when the books a child is interested in might be considered by a parent of teacher to be inappropriate for them.

There are multiple reasons this could happen. One reason is based on reading levels. As kids are learning how to read and are growing as readers, their reading “level” grows with them. This level helps guide the child and their parents to books that will challenge them without pushing them too hard. This is certainly valuable from an educational standpoint. But as a librarian, I’m a little biased against reading levels. They are definitely a valuable resource, but they can also be relied on too heavily. If a kid wants to try to read a book that’s past their current skill level, what’s the worst thing that will happen? If it’s for a school assignment, it might not fit with the expectation for their class, and if it isn’t, they might attempt it and realize they’re not ready for it. But what’s the harm in trying? So many of the best experiences in life come from thinking outside the box everyone once in a while.

Another reason is the possible inappropriateness of the book’s content. This is slightly more complicated. As a parent myself, I fully understand and appreciate why a parent might choose to keep their child from reading books that contain certain themes or content that’s a little too “adult.” It’s up to every parent to make this decision for their families.

 

 

But as a librarian who was once a kid, I remember how magical it felt to be able to select my own books from the shelves and check them out without my mom second-guessing them. I’m sure if I had grabbed anything truly well beyond what I should be reading, she would have stepped in. And I’m also sure I was just wary enough of her reaction that I wouldn’t have pushed my luck too far. But this way, the library books I checked out got to be MY thing. I got to control it, and having a sense of agency is so important and so valuable for a child.

 

Many parents come to the library trying to figure out the conundrum of their child’s reading preferences, feeling totally overwhelmed. I would never suggest there’s an easy solution to this challenge, because there are as many reading challenges as there are children. However, as we try to get kids reading by rewarding them for doing it, I suggest taking a slightly different view of things. Instead of rewarding them for reading, make reading the reward. Let them pick out books of their own choice no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched them seem. Let them push boundaries a little bit. Maybe even let them think they’re getting away with reading by flashlight under the covers after bedtime. Give them a chance to make reading their extra special thing. And demonstrate how special it is by rewarding yourself with reading, as well. Show them how much you relish your time to just sit down and relax with a book, and maybe they’ll learn to do the same.

 

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Coming Home

Guest post by Tricia Slavens

I grew up in the Alvah N. Belding Memorial Library. Well, not literally, but that would have been cool.

I remember being really excited when my family moved two blocks away from the library, and not just because it would shorten my walk. A self-professed bookworm, it was one of my favorite things to spend an afternoon in the children’s library downstairs (despite the rumors amongst my classmates that it was haunted) picking armfuls of books off the shelves to browse through. My sisters and I would explore the foot-beaten path behind the library by the river. Neighborhood kids were always around to play “Mother May I” on the steps.

As a broody teen I would sit in the chairs reading for hours or just walking along the rows of books. I just liked being there. I loved the smell of the books and the quiet. Growing up with four younger sisters meant quiet was a luxury not easily found in my house. After the school libraries closed for the night I’d take my homework to ANBL. I’m old enough to remember when the library got computers, then the internet. I spent many days agonizing over when it would be my turn to log on and chat with friends or play online games.

Like some kids do, I grew up and moved away.  As an adult I visited the libraries in the new cities I lived in but it wasn’t the same. Don’t get me wrong, some of them were very beautiful. Others were a little lack-luster. But none of them were my hometown library.

As it happens, I ended up back in little old Belding. One of my first stops after getting settled in town was to bring my daughter to the place that had been such a big part of my adolescence – the library.  We immediately got ourselves library cards and I was so happy to see that some things hadn’t changed. The feeling of being completely awed as I walked through the door was still there.

library back night

It was to our mutual excitement to find that the downstairs children’s library was greatly expanded and positively enhanced. ANBL continues to expand with the Overdrive App, which lets patrons access eBooks and eAudio books, which I could not live without. There are also so many free programs to join and activities to attend.

Now my daughter will get the benefit of having this library be a part of her life. With the evolution of the technology and social media, it’s nice to have something as awesome as ANBL in common with her.

 

The Library is so grateful to Tricia for being willing to write this guest post for our blog. We love hearing about the role the Library plays in the community!

Top 5 Reasons Why I LOVE Library Fines

by Janelle Franz

(The Library is so grateful for enthusiasts who are occasionally willing to do guest posts.  This gives our readers a whole other perspective into library usage and value.)

This post originally appeared on Invent Your Story.  See the original post here.  (Seriously, check it out.  The blog is super fun!)  So, without further ado, and with great thanks, here is Janelle’s blog post about the Library:

 

The library. I’m not always a person of great focus or grounding, but when it comes to my local library, I can commit. I carry the free canvas bag from this year’s summer reading program kickoff. A library swag mug hosts my coffee most mornings. I had to beat the crowds to be one of the first 100 people to sign-up and win that puppy.

I’m not joking.

I commit.

That’s why I have five legit reasons to love library fines. If you currently have a library fine and feel like yuck about it, STOP NOW. Read. My. List.

 

TOP 5 REASONS TO LOVE LIBRARY FINES

Reason # 1:

You went to the library.

Pat yourself on the back. Like yourself on Facebook. Give me a virtual hug and high five, because you took time to enrich your life FOR FREE with books and programs found only at the local library. You’re a smarty-pants. Admit it. And you want more out of life.

Reason #2:

You checked out a book too long. 

Did you read it twice? Never finish it? Never open it? As I write this, I have four library books in my truck, two more at home, and some in oblivion. Whatever happened to your book – you checked out a BOOK! (Or a movie you’re not afraid to tell your mom about.) You didn’t hang out on a computer all day or linger in the land of indecision. You went for gold – and you got it. Extra-long. It’s worth the couple dollars or cents to invest the time at home learning something valuable and new.

Reason #3:

You now have camaraderie. 

The first time I paid a library fine, the clerk assured me, “Don’t worry. I work here, and I still get them.” The second time I paid a library fine, a different clerk assured me, “I’m here every day, and I forget too.” Welcome to the club of imperfect, yet pretty fantastic people who use the library. My best walk-of-shame was when I returned a school library book to the public library, and they gave it back to me saying, “it happens all the time.”

Reason #4:

Your mom couldn’t give you a better fine.

If your car is parked on the wrong piece of asphalt too long, you’re going to get a decent fine. If you’re speeding or your tail-light is out, you’re going to get a hefty fine. If you overdraw your bank account five bucks, you’re going to pay back much more for your mistake. But keeping a library book too long? That’s like mom saying, “If you use bad language, you’re going to have to put a quarter in the swear jar.” Okay, mom. Fair enough.

Reason #5:

You can now invent something new. 

Because inventing is kind-of my thing – whether it’s making up a story, creating art, or constructing fun inventions that enrich kids’ imagination and learning – to have a problem like a library fine is a great opportunity to invent a solution. You can make a library book box and decoupage the outside. You can do a calendar countdown between trips. There are a lot of fun ways to keep your family library-fine free with some ingenuity.

But, at the end of the day, if you still have a library fine, don’t sweat it. Go talk to your local librarian about it, and they’ll probably cheers your coffee mug. Sure, it’s twenty-five cents in their pocket. They’ll probably use it to better the community somehow. In the meantime, remember this:

You didn’t have to put it in the swear jar.