Library or Coffee Shop

Let’s play a little game I like to call, “Library or Coffee Shop.” The object of this game is to blatantly judge other people’s behavior and determine whether it belongs in a library or a coffee shop. I know, blatant judgement of other people’s behavior is very, very wrong. Don’t worry, this game also has an educational component (as all games must today). This educational game may be used liberally to instruct people about the differences between these two types of establishments.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about this. The lines between the two are being blurred more and more everyday, with coffee shops adding libraries and libraries adding coffee shops. But let’s be clear, these two things Are. Not. The. Same.

Now back to the game. I will give you two pictures or scenarios and you can guess which place the pictures or scenarios belong.

1.

2.  Gatherings, social or otherwise, that invite audible discourse

or solitary confinement, the good kind.

3.

4.   Respectful care of books for the purpose of reading them

or staged arrangement of books for Instagram or for use as coasters (NO!).

5.

You win if you are able to clearly distinguish between the activities appropriate to a library and the very different activities appropriate to a coffee shop. Should there be any doubt, the answers can be found at the bottom of the page. Winners will receive a free copy of the newly published, Definitive Guide to Library Etiquette, written by me. (It’s really just a future blog post. Think of me as Oprah, “you get a blog post, you get a blog post, everyone gets a blog post.” See how exciting that is now!)

I will admit that there are few things on earth as soothing as a hot beverage and a book, together in the same place. Because of that, sometimes people want to read paper books at a coffee shop or drink coffee at the library. I will also admit that libraries are more and more becoming community centers, and thus places of group gatherings. Because of that, sometimes people get excited and forget to meet in the designated meeting rooms or you hear the incessant tapping of the keyboard. But for the love of anything, really, could we find a way to muster even the tiniest bit of etiquette at the library.

I realize that it is not 1883 and that we are no longer in need of “Miss Porter’s Finishing School.” I realize that it is now 2017 and we see ourselves as finished. We are beyond rules. We are free. Society cannot contain or restrain our natural inclinations or whims.  Congratulations! We figured out that there is more to human existence than a strict code of behavioral regiments. Though somehow in the process of letting our collective hair down, our wig flew off. What we have going on now is nothing short of chaotic anarchy. Well, okay, maybe it’s a lot short of chaotic anarchy (also, isn’t all anarchy chaotic…never mind) but you get the idea: coffee shop behavior taking over library decorum.

While I am usually the last person people would associate with decorum of any kind, exceptions must be made…for the perservation of the library.

 

Answer key: #1 – library, coffee shop. #2 – coffee shop, library. #3 – coffee shop, library.   #4 – library, coffee shop. #5 – library, coffee shop

 

 

 

My Daughter Hated Reading and It Was All My Fault

There are innumerable ways in which I imagine getting it all wrong with my children. I yell too much. I am too sarcastic. I am grumpy. I am inconsistent in my discipline (with myself and them). I am difficult to please. Many nights I lay awake in bed mentally creating all the ways I will inevitably fail them. I have, what I affectionately refer to as, “The Therapy Fund.” It is the imaginary vault I add pretend money to every time I do something that I KNOW will come back up with their therapist 15 years from now. Their very real future therapy is already very imaginarily funded and they are 10 years old and below. Clearly, I’ve got this parenting thing down.

Never in my wildest late night creations did I imagine that one of those parental failings would be in regard to reading. That simply is not possible.  I read, write, and dream books. And children’s books in particular. I know exactly what to do to instill a lifelong love of reading in children. I know exactly how to spur on the most reluctant reader to be a voracious reader. I know exactly which books to hand a child I have talked to inspiring him or her to find joy in the written word.

In theory, it turns out.

Because the hard, honest truth is that my very own second born hated reading. I read out loud to her. I got books from the library for her. I bought books for her. I tried it all, repeatedly. But still she would only read for homework points, never for joy. I told myself it was just a phase. But it was a phase I could not make any sense of.

Then one day a friend gave me this quote (knowing nothing of my predicament):

“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” – James Patterson

As I was reading it, my oldest daughter said, “Oh, that’s just like my sister.” Wait, what?! How?! She’s not reading the wrong books. She’s reading exactly the right books, the books I give her. They are excellent.

Except, and this sentence took me weeks to admit, she does not like them.

She likes fairies and princesses and fancy dresses. And I have actively steered her away from Fancy Nancy, Cinderella, and Rainbow Fairies. I know it goes against every teach-your-child-to-love-reading theory available, but there it is. I do not always practice what I preach.

And so I put my pride aside and let her decide.

She started coming home with books from the Disney Fairy Collection. I put on my best smile-through-the-pain look. But then she started going to her room to read; then reading to her siblings *out loud;* then getting her homework done faster so that she could read. She was falling in love with reading before my very eyes.

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I found myself checking out every Disney Fairy book I could find, putting them on hold from other libraries, and scouring the digital collections to see if any extra ones could be found on the Kindle, all to see that look of joy on her face. Over a book! I found myself discussing fairies and their talents, reading oh-you-have-to-read-this pages, and actively listening to long-winded recaps of her favorite parts, all to hear the excitement in her voice. Over a book!

With the spark lit by fairies, she fans her literary fire with all different kinds of books now, all of her own choosing. And then this week, she reached for a set of books I have been gently encouraging (ahem) her to read for a long time. She took The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe off the shelf!

Yesterday at Disneyland, she looked at me and said, “I wish I had brought my book!”

 

Girls Do Big Things Too: Part 2

As I have embarked on my self-appointed mission to find books about “girls doing big things,” I have realized several things:

  1. Defining “big things” is difficult and not uniform.
  2. There are many excellent books about strong, brave, adventurous, intelligent girls that share their story with male characters and are being left off my list. It feels unfair.
  3. There are a lot of very good books about girls doing everyday things that are also being intentionally left off my list (I’m looking at you, Anne of Green Gables). Not including them is much more difficult than I imagined.
  4. There is a shocking disparity in the number of stories being told about black and brown girls. Additionally, when a story can be found, it is most often either a survival story or historical fiction. Now, don’t get me wrong, these stories are important, very important. But where are the stories about black and brown girls having imaginative adventures, storming the castle, or solving a mystery. We need more.
  5.  I love blogging about books. One of the things I love most is getting so many fantastic suggestions from you. It is fun. And I must say, you are a very well read bunch!

Without further ado, here are the reader recommendations I received:

It should also be noted that non-fiction biographies provide excellent stories of girls and women doing big things. Women such as Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Corrie ten Boom, Ann Frank, and Sacajawea give our girls real life guides to bravery, persistence, and strength.

Additionally, I highly recommend the historical fiction series, Dear America, for stories of young girls overcoming great odds. Common Sense Media has an excellent list of Books with Strong Female Characters. Mighty Girls also has a list of books for Smart, Confident, Courageous Girls.

Book choice matters. It is not simply that girls need to see themselves in books, but they need to see themselves “doing big things too.” Let us continue to lead them to just those books.

Girls Do Big Things Too: Part 1

Recently, I had one of those conversations that stopped me instantly. You know the kind. The kind where the words you are hearing require you to look up from your phone (yes, I do sometimes “listen” while looking at my phone…it’s just the sad truth), look away from the computer (again, yes), or look up from your book (don’t judge on this one, you know that it is completely justifiable to “listen” while reading…it is a finely honed art). The kind of conversation that starts off innocuous and routine, then as words sink in you realize this conversation has weight and depth. It will not be brushed aside or made to wait. It demands attention and now. And so you stop, you look up, you listen, and you hope to know how to answer.

Here is how this particular scenario unfolded:

During a conversation with her teacher, my ten-year-old daughter pointed out that in each of the stories they had read in class the female character’s role was to be rescued, usually by a prince and even once by a dragon.
Apparently, this led to a good conversation about book choice.
After she told me her story, she said, “I just wish we could read books where girls did big things too.”

At this point I would love to tell you that my first thoughts were of how proud I was of her for speaking up about what she noticed and how sad I was for her that this is the reality in literature. Unfortunately, my first, unspoken thoughts were entirely selfish, something along the lines of, “Your house is full of books about girls doing big things.” As a book blogger, I am absolutely providing my daughters with a plethora of books featuring girls doing big things, right?! I had an embarrassing moment of righteous indignation.

And then I looked up. I saw my ten-year-old daughter asking for books about girls doing big things in front of a bookshelf overflowing with books. I tamped down my heated defenses and paused. Thankfully, at this point a measure of common sense returned and I realized this moment was not about me, my pride, or my ability to provide the “right” books for my girls. This moment was about her. It was about her ability to voice her observations and ask that we do better. It was about giving her disappointment space to exist. It was about finding what she was looking for.

A few days before this conversation, a video by Rebel Girls went viral. In the must-see clip, a mother and daughter are searching their bookshelf looking for books with girls doing big things. After watching the video with my daughter, we decided to do a little experiment of our own.

Inspired by the video, we decided to take out every book on our bookshelves that featured a human female as the main character, who had speaking parts, and did something inspirational, exciting, or adventurous. For the purposes of this experiment, we did not include stories about animals, automatically excluding the likes of Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), or stories where the female main character shares the lime light with her fellow male counterparts, automatically excluding the likes of Hermione (Harry Potter), Annie (Magic Tree House) and Susan and Lucy (The Chronicles of Narnia), among many beloved others. While these characters and stories are fantastic, necessary, and helpful, we were looking specifically for books where the girl is the sole protagonist.

Our findings were shocking. First, we learned that the kids have 799 books! (Maybe there is something to my husband’s argument that we have “enough” books…maybe.) Of those 799 books, there were only 26!!!!, yes 26, that fit our criteria. I expected the number to be low, but nowhere near that low. Even more troubling is that of those 26, only 7 of those books have a female protagonist of color. These are devastating numbers.

Here are the 26 we found:

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  1. My Name is not Isabella (Jennifer Fosberry)
  2. 11Experiments That Failed (Jenny Offill)
  3. Strega Nona (Tomie dePaolo)
  4. With the Might of Angels (Andrea Davis Pinkney)
  5. One Eye Laughing, the Other Eye Weeping (Barry Denenberg)
  6. Sondok (Sherri Holman)
  7. A Picture of Freedom (Patricia C McKissack)
  8. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)
  9. Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  10. Searching for Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  11. Talking to Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  12. Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  13. Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink)
  14. A Little Princess (Francis Hodgson Burnett)
  15. Mouseford Academy: Lights, Camera, Action (Thea Stilton) We made one exception to the “human female” rule because my eight-year-old daughter wanted to add one of her favorites, and so a mouse is included.
  16. Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
  17. Julie of the Wolves (Jean Craighead George)
  18. Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
  19. Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)
  20. Women in Space (Carole S Briggs)
  21. Boo’s Dinosaur (Betsy Byars)
  22. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech)
  23. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
  24. Spy-in-Training (Bridget Wilder)
  25. Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)
  26. *Not Pictured* –  The Paperbag Princess (Robert Munsch) This book was “unfindable” while we were counting and I am too lazy to retake the picture now that it has been found.

While these 26 books are excellent, they are not enough. Thus, the upcoming Part 2.

I am on a mission to find more books of this nature. If you have books to add to the list, please let me know.

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