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Today was a great day for conversations with the littlest tots at the Children’s desk. For instance, a red-hatted little boy, age 3, came up to me with a very serious face, his caregiver nearby, choosing books. And we had this conversation:
“I like numbers,” he announced. (Our Children’s desk has illustrated numbers, one to ten, right at his eye level.)
“Me too!” I said. “Which is your favorite number?”
With no hesitation, the very serious reply came, “My favorite number is five.”
“Five is a great number! Do you want to count to five together?” He nodded. So we counted out loud, one, two, three, four, five, then he walked away to join his caregiver.
A few minutes later, my number-five-loving friend was back. “I like nine too.”
Non sequitor: “Can I sign up for the computer?”
“Sure,” I said, “What’s your name?”
He stood silent, just looking at me. His caregiver came around, and was surprised to see her young charge, signing up for the computer, all by himself. She watched him watching me. “Tell the librarian your name!” she urged.
“Your name is Nine?”
“Yes.” Again, a solemn nod, but there was a not-quite-sure look in the eye.
“Okay,” I said, and I started to write down “Nine,” but the caretaker urged again. “Tell her your name. Your name is not Nine, is it?”
I smiled encouragingly at him, waiting to see what number he might come up next. But he surprised me.
“Your name is Santa?” I asked.
“Your name is Santa?!?” asked his caregiver, amused yet really wanting him to give his name.
Solemnly, Santa nodded. “Yes, my name is Santa.”
“Are you really Santa?” I asked him, my eyes wide.
“Yes,” he was sure he is Santa.
“Do you really like giving gifts to people?” I asked.
“Yes, especially the number five, and the number nine,” Santa answered.
And so there you have it, folks. Santa is about three years old, and he loves giving numbers as gifts. And he visited the library and signed up for the toddler computers at 12:30 pm today. For proof see the photo I took of the computer sign-up sheet below!
[PS – You can see where I erased, “Nine.” :-) ]
That’s what it says in my new 5 year old library friend’s notebook — which she ran to get from her mom to show me after we bonded over Elephant and Piggie books.
Needless to say, I had to meet this mom (which is how I got permission to take this picture.) She was, like her daughter, a pleasure to speak with. And now we may have another attendee for our programs! To quote my new friend from the photo above: <3 <3 <3
A little girl came in, looking for computer time at the AWE computers, just now. In her hand was the biggest, shiniest red lollipop. “It’s hollow!” she told me, cheerfully. I asked her if she’d like to see a book about another girl who had a big red lollipop. Big-eyed, she nodded and her caregiver beamed. We walked over to the “Kh” section in picture books. When I handed her Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, her eyes got even bigger and her smile wider.
This is the type of moment that makes my day.
Exchange at the Children’s desk today:
Kid: Excuse me, can you find me the book The Children The Series?
Me: the what?
Kid: The Children The Series
Me: (scratching head, and starting to type into search box to play for time) Um, hmm… okay so the title starts with the words The Children?
Me: … and then what’s the next word?
Kid: The Series.
Me: Are you looking for a series of books called The Children?
Kid: No, I just want one book called The Children The Series.
Me: (typing the whole improbable sounding title into Google) Well, maybe there is a series that is called The Children The… (I stop, seeing what I have typed, and suddenly it all snaps together in my head.)
Me: (happier, elated, that I know [i hope] what he really wants) Oh you want the children’s Thesaurus!
Kid: (relieved yet still serious face) Yeah, that’s what I want. The Children The Series.
Today, a young girl came to the library, seeking two specific books. One was a Grimm’s fairy tales book which she knew was checked out and which she wished to place on hold. The other was a fairy tale book which she wanted to find on the shelf. As we were seeking the second book, I took the opportunity to explain to her the magic of the 398.2 shelves and all the treasures contained therein. She beamed at this bit of library lore, and so we got into a bit of a longer conversation. Wanting to encourage her to join our Summer Reading program, I asked her name and what grade she was in. “I’m in fifth grade,” she said, “and my name’s Arieanne**, that’s Ari with an ‘e,’ and Anne with an ‘e’)”
At this, I stared at this clear-eyed ten year old, and remarked, wow, that reminds me so much of a character in a book called Anne of Green Gables! “Oh yes, I know,” she said, “Lucy M. Montgomery is my second cousin twice removed.”
Stunned and thrilled, I told her how many times (embarrassing to admit here) I’d read and reread Anne of Green Gables in middle school. Turns out her mother is reading the eighth “Anne book” to her now.
I feel like I’ve met royalty. Pinch me, someone, please and bring me down to earth.
Here are a couple of Anne of Green Gables quotes, for those who are just as delighted as I am with this very Anne-ish encounter:
**The name and some other details have been changed, for privacy reasons, but the spirit of the exchange has been saved.
Recently my manager shared with the staff ideas she had saved from an informative session on how to enhance early literacy for the very young in the library by adding display elements that are easily visible to the very young (at their height level) and that are visually appealing and stimulating as well.
Based on some of the pictures she shared with us, I thought I could try out some of these ideas. Below is a photo of my colleague sitting at the Children’s reference desk, with my first experiment — putting attractive numbers at the front of the reference desk, at the eye-line of a very young child.
To my delight, the kids seem to be getting a kick out of these!
The other day I went to a local middle school to make presentations about Summer Reading to sixth graders. In one classroom, the inquisitive ones started asking me about the looming budget cuts my library system is facing.
While I was there to tell them about how and why they could/should join Summer Reading, I was impressed with their interest in the library’s woes, and so briefly talked about the budget crisis, and said that we’re facing about $20 million in cuts and that this could impact the service that they receive.
At this, one energetic boy started to wildly wave his hand, which I could not ignore. When I said, yes?, he bursted out, “No, it’s $25.2 million!”
I gave him a salute.
Today was just oh such a satisfying creative writing day at the library — every week I host a creative writing workshop for teens and tweens. While last year I had a crop of older teens who were just drop dead gorgeous writers, this year I’ve had a bunch of sweet and yet slightly recalcitrant tweens, who really want to come to the program but often have second thoughts about actually writing… So we do a lot of (a LOT of) ice breaking and chatting about what’s up in middle school, to coax them into something resembling a writing mood. Dude, middle school’s tough stuff, you know? Plus, writer’s block at any age is a doozy. (I should know, I’m mired deep in a writing project that’s going at the pace of… frozen ghee.)
At any rate, I don’t know what to attribute it to, but both this week and last, the girls (yes, mostly it’s girls that are drawn to this program, at least at my library) produced some beautiful work. And better even, they seemed to get into it! They were sweetly proud of what they had written and wanted to share, and truly, some of the images they came up with were just marvelous. (I don’t have examples in front of me, but, some real good showing vs. telling, which by the way, I’m breaking the rule right now, as I write this, and yes, I know it!) Yay, them!
… maybe it’s the fact that both last week and this week we did activities that somehow hit the sweet spot for them and hooked their interest. I noticed that it’s always better if I give plenty of opportunity for them to talk about stuff that’s on their minds, especially small (to us adults) irksome things that happened at school, but which for them, are major… It’s like talking them out for a bit lets them relax into writing.
The activities? Last week we did “found poems,” where we cut out a whole slew of interesting words and phrases from newspapers and magazines, pushed them all together into a big shared pile, and then people grabbed whichever ones caught their fancy, arranged and rearranged them on a piece of construction paper until they had “found” their poem, and then there was the über-satisfying act of glue-sticking them down. And then the grand finale of sharing creations with the group. (Or not, in the case of certain shyer individuals).
Today’s activity was to create a “list” or “catalogue” poem – one which lists a bunch of ways to think about just one idea. My tweens tend to be concrete thinkers, so for this first foray into list poetry, I gave them a template, and everyone wrote on the same topic – “Happiness is…” Now one would think that this would lead to rather sticky-sweet treacly goo-messes of poetry, but the results were deeply touching, especially in illustrating the importance of family in their lives.
It’s times like this that make me smile.
Oh and one more unrelated thing. I also do a weekly arts and crafts program for kids of all ages. Yesterday a little boy came running up to me an hour after the program and asked, Are you really my sister’s art teacher? Looking backward, he directed me to his sister who was sitting at a table some distance away, smiling and waving at me. I waved back and smiled too. “Yes, I surely am,” I declared, so pleased to be termed “an art teacher” that I was probably beaming. “Will you be my art teacher too?” he asked. “Sure, Sure, definitely!” Gosh. I had a smile on my face for at least an hour after that… love the kids. Got to love the kids.