things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #29

It's TIHATL, Summer Reading Club edition!

Summer Reading Club is in full swing in Canadian libraries. In more than 2,100 libraries around Canada, kids are earning prizes and recognition for reading. Thanks to Toronto Public Library and a certain sponsoring bank, we all have lots of free stuff to give away.

The most popular kids' series ever,
still going strong after almost 15 years.
Our motives are simple: kids who read during the summer do better in school in September. SRC also helps remind parents of pre-readers to read with their little ones daily.

Our children's library is very busy. The first day of SRC, we signed up 180 kids! After two weeks, we're well over 600 participants. When kids register, or when they come in to "report" and collect prizes, it's a great time for some one-on-one conversations with our young customers. Some won't say one word without their parents' prompting, but others are so forthright and articulate! It's really a pleasure chatting with them. What have I heard?

"My favourite books are the ones where things happen, and you know, you don't know what's going to happen, and you think things won't happen, and then they do happen!"

"I love reading about space, and planets, and the universe. I'm going to be an astronaut and go to Mars -- when I'm six!" This boy was amazing. At not yet six years old, he knew so much about astronomy! And he wasn't just regurgitating facts without engaging, as you sometimes see with kids who are on the autism spectrum. This boy was relaxed and social, and had clearly synthesized what he had read. We had a great conversation about his impending Mars visit. His mom and I looked at each other in amazement.

Two sisters wanted to read about... it sounded like churchills.

"Miss, can we bring our churchills to the library?"

"Your ... what?"

"Our churchills!"

"I'm not getting it. Can you say that again?"

"Our CHURCHILLS! Can we bring our CHURCHILLS to the library?!!"

Finally I am forced to admit, "I don't know what that is."

"They are little animals, they have a shell, and their little arms and legs and head sticks out of the shell, and when they're afraid, they can go inside it. We have two baby churchills and we want to bring them to the library!"

I try not to laugh. They are hearing the word from their parents, who are new English speakers.

"Do you mean turtles?"

"Yes, yes, tur-tills!" Without missing a beat, they now begin to pronounce the world tur-till with great enunciation.

"I don't think your turtles would be very happy at the library."

"We would help them! We would show them all the books!"

"But you know what, all the kids would want to see the turtles and pet them, there would be a huge crowd, and I think the turtles might be afraid."

They nod with great seriousness.

I ask, "Would you like to read some books about turtles?"

"Yes yes yes yes yes!!!"

"Do you want to read stories with characters who are turtles, like Franklin, or information about turtles?"

"Information! Information about tur-tills! Tur-till information!"

The book on having a turtle as a pet is nowhere to be found, but we find lots of books about turtles in the wild. I try to shield them from books about endangered sea turtles, but they are too fast for me. Fortunately, they are only looking at the pictures, so they're not bothered by the sad stuff.

"Tur-tills! Tur-tills! Mommy Mommy we have books about tur-tills!!"

Currently the hottest ticket, by the
creator of Captain Underpants
* * * * *

[What should we set for your first reading goal? How many books will you read before you come in for your first prize?]

"100! No, 500! No, one thousand! No, three. Three books."

[What kind of books do you like to read?]

The most common answers are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries (Wimpy Kid for girls), Harry Potter (still and apparently forever), Percy Jackson (hero of the Rick Riordan series), Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For the younger readers, the most popular answers include Disney Princesses, Ninjago, Pokemon, LEGO, Barbie, various superheroes, and Transformers. (Notice anything?)

For graphic fiction (which kids call comic books), girls are still looking for anything by Raina Telgemeier, especially her new adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club. Everyone is still reading Amulet. This year's kids have not heard of Bone, but I can talk them into trying it. This is especially great because, being slightly out of fashion, Bone is easy to find.

The graphic hybrids are hugely popular: Geronimo Stilton and related spinoffs, Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Dog Man (this year's runaway hit), and the seemingly eternal Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I often steer girls to Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook series, which predates Dork Diaries and is way better.

If you phrase the question, "Do you like funny books, scary books, adventures, mysteries...?" the number one answer, by a huge margin, is funny. Scholastic has the results of a survey about what kids and parents look for in books.

The best answer I heard in a long time was: "I like books with words and pictures! I'm very particular about what I read."


Amy said...

I loved reading this! Churchills! Adorable kids. And Nate is big into the Wimpy Kid books and Captain Underpants. They do nothing for me, and I would love to entice him into reading something else---but I guess he is not alone. I am just glad he is reading and enjoying it, so I pass no judgment and keep my mouth shut. (FYI, he is eight and going into third grade.) BUT if you have any suggestions, let me know!

laura k said...

It literally does not matter what kids read -- only that they read. And if they like what they're reading, then they will read more. And that will improve their success in school and in life.

If they read something they don't enjoy, all they learn is that reading is a boring chore.

So keep doing what you're doing.

If he hasn't discovered Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson yet, you have that to look forward to. And Harry Potter, of course. Once he's a true tween, there are tons of great books. For now, he can binge on Wimpy Kid and Dog Man.

Does he like graphic fiction at all? I know that's something you loved as a child (then called comic books!), so you might do that together. Bone (my favourite for his age), Amulet.

Amy said...

I agree, as you know. You obviously even remember the comic book story. My mother made it clear that she didn't approve of comic books or Nancy Drew mysteries, but I was strong willed and read what I wanted to read. I also read plenty of "good" books also. As it still does for me today, reading was the best escape from reality and best entry into other worlds, real and otherwise.

Nate will be with us for a week along without his parents starting tomorrow, so I will have a better sense of his current reading. He really likes non-fiction---biographies especially---though not long ones. And he likes humor---silly stuff like the Underpants guy!

allan said...

I'm assuming that kid's brain was going:

"100! No, 500! No, one thousand! (Yeah, I'm so ambitious and a better reader than all these other kids. I can read a whole shelf of books in one day and -- wait, she said a prize! How many books to get a prize? 1,000 is no good for that. I better scale it down, so I can get the prize really fast. And maybe get more prizes later.) No, three. Three books."

laura k said...

There is so much great nonfiction for kids! I'm really into junior nonfiction -- I used to write it. I'm always reminding staff to offer it.

I'm assuming that kid's brain was going

I was getting ready to talk him down, but he did it himself!

karen said...

My daughter and I used to go the library at least once a week, and we had a shelf in the kitchen that was just for our library books. We read to each other and looked at each other's craft books. I learned at at least as much from her and her interests as she did from me. This whole post took me back to that. Thank you.

May I also say, belatedly, welcome back. I missed you when you were offline (looked on the Wayback Machine actually for an email to tell you I missed you) And then life was busy and bad and I was offline myself. I am sorry about what happened to you and sorry your party did not form the Ontario government, but happy for you that you are moving to my province. The whole province is incredible and we will be better for having you here too!

johngoldfine said...

I agree that any reading and all reading is good reading. But of the fiction you mention, the only one I recognize is Harry Potter, and I really, yes really, loathed the one I read.

What I loved reading most when I was a child was Albert Payson Terhune: the implicit and occasional racism, eugenicism, faux-darwinism, and misogyny went right over my head, but the collies endured. (FWIW, the first puppy I ever owned found and shredded my copy of 'Lad: A Dog,' 'cuz everyone's a critic, I guess.)

My wife introduced me to her favorite children's books and I've read 'Understood Betsy' (a million times superior to 'Anne of Green Gables') dozens of times. Francis Hodgdon Burnett is another star in the firmament: 'Little Princess' is the one I love; Jean prefers 'Secret Garden.'

impudent strumpet said...

I can't help but notice you never actually said turtles aren't allowed in the library...is there some kind of loophole a person could exploit to bring turtles in? :)

"My favourite books are the ones where things happen, and you know, you don't know what's going to happen, and you think things won't happen, and then they do happen!"

I can just imagine this kid all excited about some kind of plot twist they've never encountered before and don't have the vocabulary to express!

laura k said...

Karen: many thanks. I'm quite abashed, so will just say a big thank you.

John: I have never read one word of any Harry Potter book. Yes, it's true, a children's librarian who has never read HP. My dirty little secret. I have also never read any Anne of Green Gables, which does not make me a bad librarian -- it makes me a bad Canadian! The books of my childhood are Little House on the Prairie (racism alert) and A Wrinkle in Time.

Imp: I'm glad you picked up on that! If the turtles were in a terrarium or some kind of cage or vessel, they could bring them in. But would they stay in the cage? :)

laura k said...

I wish Blogger would fix the comment email thing.