Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mmmm, parents...

I am not a full-time librarian.  If you want to get really technical, I'm not even a "real" librarian; I just happen to work at a library.  Most of the time, I take parents to the "real" librarians (i.e. our children's librarian or our teen librarian, usually) if they come up to me asking for recommendations; I'm good at finding specific books, but not particularly general, "I need 5th-grade reading level" books.

But sometimes, I do interact with parents.  Sometimes I overhear librarians interacting with parents.  And sometimes a librarian will come into the backroom, frustrated after having dealt with parents.

Bottom line is this: there are certain kinds of parents who I respect more than others.  I treat them all respectfully, of course, but mentally?  Not so much, sorry.

Basically, my beef is with parents who answer questions instead of their child.  Simple as that.  Because it boils down to, "Who exactly is this book for?"

Let me set the scene:

Library, children's room.  Afternoon sun is lighting the room.  Parent approaches, child in tow.

Parent: "Hi, do you work here?"

Me (obviously re-shelving books, wearing a nametag): "Yes I do!"  Yeah, I say it perkily.   Sue me.

Parent: "We're looking for a book."

Me (talking to child): "Sure!  What kind of book do you want?"

Parent: "He wants a mystery."

Me (talking to child):  "Oh, mysteries are fun!  What have you read and enjoyed?"

Parent: "He likes The Magic Tree House."

Me (talking to child): "Those are popular.  Have you tried Encyclopedia Brown?"

Parent: "No, that sounds good!  We'll take three."

...this conversation is all too common.

I have found that the more I look at and talk to the child, the more likely a parent will let said child do the answering, but not always.  I've also found that a child is more likely to accept offered help in finding a book if they're by themselves; and our teen librarian found that he could get more teens to sign up for our Summer Reading Challenge if their parents were elsewhere in the library.  

Honestly, I think some parents just don't realize how much they're controlling their kids' reading lives, and this is not A Good Thing.  Children, especially young ones, should be reading a wide variety of books that they choose, not what Mom and Dad chooses for them.  When they're old fogies in high school and college, they won't have nearly the time nor inclination to read, especially if they haven't been encouraged to find, on their own, books that they enjoy reading.  Heck, I used to carry around seven or eight books at a time, and would constantly max out my library card, and I still slowed down how much I read once I hit sophomore year of high school.  Even now I only have out half the items that I could, and I'm working at a library!!

At any rate.  I'm not saying you should never place restrictions on what your kids read--I know my kids will learn that Mommy's books are not for young eyes--but let them explore, especially when a librarian is right there to help.  We won't steer them wrong.