Editor's note: This column originally ran June 30, 2007
The 11-year-old has her nose stuck in a book again.
I ask her what she wants for dinner and all I get is a mumbled response. Perhaps she’s learning to speak Aramaic. Or, more likely, it’s simply too much trouble for her to acknowledge my question … or that I even exist.
Maybe I can provoke a response.
“Lima beans for dinner, you say? Alrighty then!”
Still no response, but I’ve decided this is a good thing.
Year ago, getting her to read four sentences in a row was like pulling teeth. So my husband started reading to her at night. He’d put down the book at an exciting point in the story, hoping she’d pick it up and continue reading.
It worked. Now she reads book so thick they could double as doorstops.
Last summer, we were heavily involved in the local library’s reading program. She earned coupons for restaurants for reading a certain number of books. She read; we ate. Could it be any better?
So, with the beginning of summer, here’s a suggestion. There are many creative reading programs for kids at area libraries. Check them out.
Years ago, I worked as a page at Pontiac Public Library, responsible for shelving books A-D in the fiction section and A-L in the children’s section. Back then I could recite the entire Dewey Decimal System. Today, I can’t remember what I drove to the store to buy.
Most of my time was spent supervising the children’s area. I felt very important sitting behind the circulation desk with my stamp (yes, we actually used a stamp), ready to check out books to young readers. My teachers found it ironic the loudest student in their class was earning money by telling others to be quiet.
Kids poured in the doors during those summer days, all sweaty and smelly, anxious to get into the air conditioning. They’d go straight to the water fountain and slobber all over the spigot.
“You’re not supposed to touch it with your mouth,” I’d sternly say. Then they’d ask for the key to the bathroom and I wouldn’t see them again for another hour.
If my high school boy crush happened to drop by the library (his mother didn’t understand his sudden interest in literature that summer), I’d tell the kids to go read something until I finished talking. Then they’d go and snitch to the head librarian I was ignoring them (rotten kids).
For the summer program, kids gave an oral book report to their parents or to me, which I recorded in a spiral-bound notebook. Taking this responsibility very seriously, I listened and nodded at the appropriate times so the kids would be encouraged.
The over-achiever children, now probably driving Porsches or living on their own private islands, systematically took home dozens of books and returned in two days, having read them all. When I had to start a new spiral notebook just for them, I began to worry.
“Don’t you do anything besides read? Like watch TV? Ever hear of ‘Gilligan’s Island’?”
“Is that like ‘Gulliver’s Travels’?”
Today I’m the parent of one of those readers and still a huge fan of summer reading programs. We go to the local library and sigh with delight when we feel the first blast of air conditioning. We get a drink from the water fountain (without touching the spigot) and we carry our stack of books to the circulation desk.
It’s just like old times.
And if a high school girl staffing the circulation desk happens to be whispering to some cute boy and temporarily neglecting her duties, I just smile.
“Can’t she hurry?” asks my daughter.
“We’ll just wait a bit,” I say. The library page is busy at the moment with very important matters.