Carol Tilley, one of my favorite library school profs, asked our class a good question once, “why do we stop reading to kids when they can read themselves? Everyone LOVES being read to.” She’s right and it leads me to Children’s Book Week, currently under celebration by public libraries and schools all over the country this week. But why not by academic or special libraries? Are we ‘above’ that? We ARE most definitely too busy and underfunded, in many cases, but we are missing out on a great outreach opportunity.
Children’s Book Week falls at a most opportune time for most of us: end of the semester. A time when we are burnt out, at our creative wit’s end and the students look like zombies who couldn’t bother to get dressed properly and love Starbucks. We all need a boost. An easy-to-do boost that takes us back to a less-complicated, deadline-driven time, much like watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie.” Children’s Book Week is a way to easily cut loose.
I sent away for the free Peter Brown-designed poster courtesy of the Children’s Book Week Council. You can also print out bookmarks to hand out at the circ desk. We’ve got pieces of paper printed with “My favorite book as a kid was…” and colored pencils available for folks to fill out on a giant table used by students and staff for studying, large projects or library assistance. Filled-in sheets are put up behind our info desk next to the poster. Our staff, student staff and some patrons have taken time from hecticity to contribute.
Next year I plan to entice our Education Department’s children’s literature class to host book readings in rooms around the library during lunch and in the evenings. We’ll serve cookies, have pillows for lounging and patrons can relax for a few minutes while someone reads to them once again. Why do I think this will work? I recently assisted an English class with the assignment to find a funny children’s book and analyze the humor used. The students quickly lost their too-cool veneer and were snorting with laughter, trading books like third-graders. Jon Scieszka’s “Cowboy and Octopus” and “The Stupids Die” enjoyed immense popularity. Some of them continue to quote Scieszka’s laugh-out-loud bio from the book jacket when I pass them on campus. (“This is my best bean writing. Really.”)
A good children’s book stays with us. A good children’s book (like “Cowboy and Octopus”) is written for adults as well. A good children’s book is one that defies being only for kids. How many of you can read “The Giving Tree” with a dry eye or have/want a Lorax tattoo? I thought so.