Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Sad Thing I Heard

When I was in elementary school (right after dinosaurs stopped roaming the earth), I loved to go to the library. I loved searching through the books and finding the ones I wanted. I loved taking them home and reading them (usually as quickly as I could). I still love going to the library and reading books.

Last week I started a new year as a volunteer in a school's reading clinic. I met my new friend for the first time. He's truly a wonderful kid. When I picked him up from his classroom to go to the clinic, he grabbed his two library books. Now I already had a book chosen for our reading practice. But since he brought his two books with him, we looked at them and he showed me pictures of "real people and real sharks" in one of them.

As we talked about his books and got to know one another before starting our reading, I asked him about choosing his books. I asked him something about reading his books at home. "I can't take my library books home," he said. I was taken aback.

"You can't take the books home?" I asked. I thought surely I misunderstood what he was telling me.

"No," he said, "I might lose them and then we would have to pay for them."

I wondered about this policy. Then he clarified. "My mom says I can't bring them home. I lost a book when I was in kindergarten. We had to pay for it."

"So now you read your books in your classroom when you have time?" I asked. He nodded.

He happily continued to tell me about things and then we began reading together.

I thought about what he told me. It lurked in the back of my mind during his tutoring time. It crept forward in my brain as I walked him back to his classroom and headed for my car. It swirled around in my head as I drove back toward my house.

I decided it was one of the saddest things I had heard from a child in a while.

Now, before I write anything further, please know that I am not judging any parent's decision or position. I understand perfectly the desire and need not to spend money needlessly. I understand. I get it.

I just think this is sad that a child cannot take home books he has chosen and he wants to read. Time at school is limited. Practice at home is important. Reading self-selected books often provides better practice than books chosen by someone else (even if those books are more challenging to read).

I know that the only facts I have are the ones he shared. He did not seem unhappy at leaving his books at school. He just stated what he couldn't do.

Sometimes I think we adults get focused on things that are really not the important ones. Here's a reader that is excited to share, that wants to explore. Yet he's limited by other outside and maybe less important factors. (Yes, I know money is important, especially for families with limited funds.)

In the classroom, I can get focused on things that seem important to my agenda or my way of thinking. But I need to take a step back and look at what may be hindered by these important "musts" or "must nots." Sometimes I'm worried about the mess or the noise or the standard or the time...and we lose the experience or the discovery or the wonder or the insight from a child.

I hope my new friend will continue to be excited about books and continue to choose challenging ones from the library. If he brings them with him to tutoring, we will spend time reading a few words from them (even if my tutoring lesson misses a couple of steps). After all, if I can help a child be excited about reading and books, my time will be well spent.

1 comment:

  1. Working in Title I schools I am always pained when kids lose a book and can't check out anymore until they pay for it. Especially when I know that is a huge hardship for some families. One of the librarians I worked with handled this problem differently. She offered kids the chance to work off their debt. Rather than pay money they spent recess time in the library, shelving or sorting books or helping with other chores. Some kids enjoyed it. Others didn't and learned to hang on to their library books. Her theory was that library books will go missing but that shouldn't stop kids from reading. (She also had the rule from at least 2nd grade on up that kids could check out as many books as they could carry. If they dropped any, those had to go back. But if they could carry them, they could take them.)