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Reading My Library

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Children's Book Librarian Offers Encouragement

I think Children's Book Librarians are pretty darn special. They have great patience. And usually great imagination! I can't verify the imaginative side of one of our favorite children's librarians, Miss Dana, but I suspect.

Miss Dana (can you hear my southern influences coming out?) kindly gave us some of her valuable time last Saturday to talk a little about the library, the publishing industry and about reading to children.

I walked away with a lot of food for thought and figured I'd just highlight some points that were important to me and would be of some encouragement to you as well. Ok, maybe it was more encouraging just to me but consider this -

When Bookworm1 was born, I read to him right away. From Day 1 we had a book in our hands and we cuddled and snuggled with books. I so looked forward to doing the same thing with Bookworm2 when he arrived. But it has been very clear that Bookworm2 was not read to when he was born or for any of the months following. He hasn't seemed to know what to do with books. He's rather a mover and shaker type! Definitely a kinesthetic learner - without a doubt! While we've been learning each other, we've also been learning what books are. Some days are better than others. I MIGHT have read four books total to Bookworm2 since he became a part of our physical family. Mostly, he just tosses books around and plays while Bookworm1 and I read aloud. I figure at the very least - Bookworm2 is listening.

I was telling Miss Dana about this situation and asking for her thoughts and advice on the matter and she spoke some encouraging words to me on the topic. She said that librarians consider children to be learning to read a book when they are holding it and flipping through it. If a child is given the opportunity to explore books, they can absolutely turn into readers of them. She said that they consider it a success when a young one will learn to hold a book and flip through the pages. No matter how fast they might be flipping, if they are learning the idea that you open a book and turn pages, then they are in the process of learning how to read.

Baby steps, essentially.

1. Hand the baby a book.

2. Show baby how to turn pages.

3. Don't worry about reading the actual story.

4. Let baby have book and discover it.

Check! Ok. Bookworm2 can do that and I just need to learn to relax. And make sure he has board books (he's a fast flipper of pages)!

Thankfully we have board books in abundance and there are plenty of opportunities for Bookworm2 to play with them. I'll keep making them available to him and snatch any opportunity he gives me to tell him the stories inside.

It should come as no surprise that I'm a lover of books and it is my heart's desire that my children learn to love to read as well. I had become a little discouraged about Bookworm2's lack of interest and so it thrilled my heart to hear that our local librarians saw progress in what my little guy is doing with books. Sometimes it takes an outside source to tell you that everything is alright and you're doing great! So chalk it up for our local librarian offering book suggestions AND encouragement to parents!

A few items of note that kind of dovetailed off of this conversation:

1. I asked how librarians deal with the idea library books being ripped and mishandled in use. Of course, I'm thinking of Bookworm2's handling (I typically don't let him have library books because he's kinda rough with them! Instead I offer him books from our own home library which belong exclusively to us and therefore I don't worry so much about him tearing into them.) and wanting to make sure that my children are respectful of books in general. Miss Dana said that the librarians at our library do not put any restrictions on children reading books. They are not particularly fond of the idea of children being punished away from books, which kind of makes sense. For example, they wouldn't be excited about a parent saying, "You ripped this library book therefore you are not allowed to check out anymore books!" Instead, they encourage careful guidance on the part of parents as they are reading books with their children. They would prefer to see children who are handling books in a rough manner be scooped up by the adult and read TO - to learn by example how we should treat books. Guidance. Patience. Care. Good things for both parent/adult and child to be learning when it comes to books!

2. Our library has a hearty selection of board books for parents of young children to check out. These books are not checked out in the regular manner. Get this - you can take as many as you like on the "honor system." When we have made use of this resource, I've walked away with 10 board books and they merely count how many I'm taking and shoo me out the door! It's seriously up to the library patron to return them (which, of course, is expected!!!) There's no due date. And if you lose one or it gets destroyed, well, I guess you have nothing to worry about necessarily! It's a very freeing program to encourage parents to read to their young from a very early age. Miss Dana said that the library goes through $2-4,000 of board books a year. Isn't that amazing? Does your library do that or is that something that is exclusive to ours? I think that is very impressive and generous.

Before Bookworm2, I honestly never gave a thought to having to "teach" someone how to read a book. It was just something that we did. Now I put a great deal more thought and effort into finding books that I think will appeal to him in some way. It's a whole new world for me and I'm learning a lot. In the meantime, I'm grateful for librarians and friends who encourage us to keep reading - even when it looks like there is no interest. I have to remember to count it all joy just to see him holding a book! And I do. I really do!


  1. Very cool photo up there- I love the 'curving' look on the edges!

    And I have to say that you have an incredible children's librarian, and I would agree 100% with her advice. Of my three, Pudge was the one who didn't care much for reading at first like JAM and Red did. He would toddle around while Red and I read board books or simple picture books, and one day he just stopped moving around and laid down with us. Now, the three of us sit together for stories every day, sometimes for as long as 30 straight minutes, and they both are engaged as can be.

    I think with the emphasis you give to the joy that reading can bring, it is inevitable that he'll find that joy for himself, in his own way. :)

  2. very cool lady and advice.


  3. I like the advice, thanks for sharing it! I liked the emphasis on JOY of READING! I sometimes worry that my kids are so used to seeing books everywhere that they will forget what they are actually for! But I noticed recently that they all sit and read a book on a regular basis. Even if it's only for a couple seconds, they are learning the joy of reading! Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Evan is using board books for a teether. Apparently he has a favorite...bc it is no longer really bound.

    Our library just counts up the children's open collection too. I never asked about it, but I did notice they don't care about the title and such. I have noticed that these are often donated by families...you know, the name "Sara" might be in the front cover. I love the idea of not having to worry so much about them.

    I also found one of these books that was about 6 months overdue on our regular bookshelf! No fines (or overdue notices)! Somehow it escaped our library bag.

  5. Great advice! I've noticed that learning to read really requires several skills: 1. Learning to sit still for several minutes. 2. Learning to hold the book and turn the pages. 3. Learning to follow the words left to right and line by line (which is why parents should run their finger under the words as they read). 4. Learning the sounds that go with letters. 5. Putting together the sounds.

    I wish I had understood all of that with my oldest before I tortured us both! My youngest (16 months) does not sit still more than a page or two of a book. He's a mover and a shaker so I consider that success for now. Although I often see him pull the big kids' books to the floor and turn the pages and look at pictures.

    I'm sure you are doing all the right things with BW #2 and in a year he'll be bringing books to you to read. :)

  6. Great post, Carrie! I'm sure I need to let this simmer in my brain with the arrival of our new little boy later this spring!

    My own Louise is a "mover and a shaker", too. She does sit (mostly) still for stories, but everything else, not so much. :-)