by Shelley Macon, Head Editor, INALJ Florida
Spread the Love
In honor of February and Valentine’s Day this month, I have been thinking a lot about love. One of the most important duties of a librarian is to spread love. The kind of love that makes your heart beat fast and your palms sweat. The kind of love that makes you walk around smiling like a crazy person. The kind of love that only comes from reading a good book. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience this kind of love. Unfortunately, there is one group that libraries are the most at risk of losing…boys.
As the mother of a son, I did all the things we are told to do to raise a reader- I read to him, encouraged him to read, and modeled positive reading behaviors among other things. And as my son grew, I could envision time spent reading side-by-side and discussing our deep and profound thoughts. Surely, my son would be the exception, right? Wrong. It was a beautiful dream. Unfortunately, it was only a dream.
In reality, I witnessed the insidious effects of video games, girls, and sports on my son’s love of reading. In library school we all spent time learning about “literature.” We turned our noses up at all those popular book series made of fluff and fantasy. But I tell you now, there was a time when all I could get my son to read was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Yes, even with my librarian super powers I could not convince my 1O year old to read a book without pictures. I felt like such a failure, both personally and professionally.
Even though I couldn’t convince him, short of threats of imminent death, to read anything else, I persisted. He refused. I insisted. He refused. Stalemate. We finally made a bargain. I could try to interest him in books, but he could choose what he read, and he had to read 30 minutes everyday. I let go control and in return, he discovered the joy that could be found in the pages of a book.
Now, my teenage son loves to read. For the last few weeks we have been discussing his deep and profound thoughts about Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. He cannot wait to go to the library and pick up his next book. My beautiful fantasy turned reality.
My son taught me that the most important duty of a librarian is to inspire a love of reading, not necessarily a love of literature. By all means, introduce children to new authors and genres. Expand there focus and horizons. Show them the doorway to wonderful new stories and characters. And if you have a child that can and will read classics like Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain or Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson or award winners like The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman or The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (choir of angels singing) go for it. Just don’t be disappointed at the ones that only window shop. And don’t forget the power that comic books and video game manuals and fluff have in their own right. Eventually, with patience and persistence, they will walk through the doorway and then you can hook them. And as we all know, a love of reading is the bridge to lifelong learning. So, spread the love.