Own Who You Are: authentic outreach

By our intrepid monthly feature writer Anna Francesca Garcia.

authenticity_smallIf you get nothing else out of this blog, I hope you at least carry the title with you.  Say it before bed.  Say it when you wake up.  Say it on your way to work.  Make it your mantra.

The men who I supervise are awesome.  Word of mouth has spread about how fantastic their interactions with the kids are. As their “booking agent,” I have turned their Outlook calendars into something between a checker board and a blackout bingo card. They make one visit per site per month.  I could only get more time out of them if the Library approved perpetual hours and caffeine IVs.

be-authenticIf one of them is unavailable, I sub.  I love doing story time with the kids.  However, I will never be them.  I don’t try to be.  They are upstanding black men who grew up in the urban core.  They went to public schools where these kids are.   Their families and churches are central to their lives. I am a Jewish white girl who grew up in midtown and spent her teens in the ‘burbs.  Through tenth grade, I attended a private religious school.

Attempting to be them would make me fake.  Kids are like dogs in that they sense authenticity or the lack thereof way before adults do.  There have been times when I think that they can smell it.  Either way, the best way to make them invested is to be invested.

Therefore, I go in to story time with these components:

  1.  Books that I like
  2. Songs that I like
  3. Games that I like

It doesn’t matter if I have a theme or not.  It does matter if I’m having fun.  If I’m not, they won’t.  If I am, chances are pretty good that they will, too.  The guys who I supervise love their jobs.  It makes them shine.  I can be similarly luminescent but only as me. 

With book and educator site 2013 Anna Francesca Garcia is a librarian and a mom.  She became these things in that order.  Her heritage has led her to like matzah ball soup, but she does not make it.  Here is one of each of the types of things that she likes for story time.  Book= Perfect Square by Michael Hall.  Song= “Silly Dance Contest” by Jim Gill.  Game= Freeze Dance (especially to the Kids’ Disco CD).

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