September 18, 2011

Portrait of a Librarian as a Young Reader

I am completely overwhelmed by the amazing posts that my guest bloggers have written for you.  I am so lucky to have found these talented, knowledgeable and kind people. I have read posts this week that have made me tear up, posts that have cracked me up and posts that have made me consult my dictionary. But this post... this post sent chills up my spine.  You don't know how many times I have heard teachers say "Comic books (graphic novels) don't count as a good fit books. Magazines can't be used for SSR. No you can't check out that Ripley's Believe it Or Not. I know you like nonfiction, but check out a chapter book."  After reading this, I think there might be a few interventions at Lemme School next week. I know how important it is for kids to get good fit books, but we need to put more value on interest and purpose in order to validate our kids as readers. They get good fit books all day... what they need a little love from Laura. Laura is a librarian, book blogger and fellow Twitter Rock Star. She participates in Book Talk Tuesday and visits this blog and shares her thoughts and ideas with me on Twitter. I had a good feeling about her... read on, I know you will agree. 
Thank you, Laura for this post. It should be required reading for all teachers.
Portrait of a Librarian as a Young Reader
by Laura Given (aka liblaura5)
I am absolutely thrilled to be a guest blogger for the fabulous Kelly Butcher. I feel so blessed to be able to learn and grow by connecting with so many amazing librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators and book lovers through twitter and blogs.
I’m a school library media specialist for a K-8 school in Minnesota, and I am convinced being a school librarian is pretty much the best job there is. However I don’t think that anyone who knew me in elementary school would have every guessed that librarianship was in my future. Especially not anyone who knew me around 4th grade... which was the time in my life when I read almost nothing but Garfield.
Garfield Takes the Cake
Garfield Tips the Scales
Garfield Makes it Big
Garfield Eats his Heart Out
Garfield Weighs In
and many more...
I also liked Archie Digests, poetry by Shel Silverstein, and magazines of all kinds, especially MAD magazine (if I was allowed to get my hands on a copy). But Garfield was my favorite.
There was just something about that big, orange, grumpy, lasagna-eating cat that tickled my 4th grade fancy.
Was I ever allowed to write about Garfield books as a book report or count it as reading for school? Absolutely not.
Did my parents ban me from buying more Garfield books from the classroom book orders? (as some folks say around here) You betcha.
Did anyone refer to me as a reader? No. Instead I was called a capable reader who was not applying herself.
Things teachers thought I should read like the Little House series, Island of the Blue Dolphins and Dear Mr. Henshaw didn’t pull me in. They were fine, but not thrilling and engaging for me. At that time I just did not connect with what my teachers thought was “real reading”.
I remember thinking why can’t they make books that have stories like the movies I loved: Star Wars, Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal, or Ladyhawke. “I would read something like that!”
There was one book my 3rd grade teacher read aloud that felt like the kind of story I was searching for. But I was pulled out of class at read aloud time to set up for “family style” eating in the cafeteria (a short lived fad at my elementary school) and missed out on most of it. I searched for it a few years later as a 5th or 6th grader, but it was long before the internet, and no one could figure out what title I was talking about. I couldn’t remember the title or author but had vivid memories of a young girl running through a forest and twisting her ankle, a magic crown, and a hidden sign that caused trucks to crash and their contents to be stolen. I was in my late 20s when I came across a copy of the Silver Crown by Robert O’Brien and knew I had found THE book. When I finally got the chance to enjoy the whole story, 20 years later, I knew exactly which parts I had heard Ms Carter read aloud and which parts I had missed.
It was not until I was a senior in high school that any other *teacher-endorsed example of “real reading” truly grabbed me. It was around that time it somehow clicked that I was a reader, that my reading preferences were valid, and that I had the power to find all types of books I wanted to read for FUN.
I see myself in so many young readers I work with every day, and I strive to be the librarian that I needed in my own life as a 4th grader... the kind of librarian that would have pointed me toward a huge pile of Garfield books and whispered something like, “Odie is my favorite,” so that I would have known she was on my side.
And if I could go back in time to be that librarian for myself, here are a few fabulous graphic novels I would bring back to slip among the ones about that cranky, orange cat for the young me to find. Titles that would have been sure to enchant and inspire the reader and future librarian I was:
Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai
Amelia Rules series by Jimmy Gownley
Bone series by Jeff Smith
Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke
*The book, that could perhaps be credited with putting me on a path toward becoming a middle school English teacher and later a School Library Media Specialist, was Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich - a time shifting, perspective changing, puzzle of stories that comes masterfully together in the end. I can still call to mind where I was and how it felt when I finished it, closed the cover and instantly wanted to read it again.


  1. So wholeheartedly agree with this and during my librarian years never dissuaded the comic book crowd from their reading pleasure!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story. We have a lot of Shel Silverstein and Garfield around our house, too.