As my regular readers are aware (I know there are at least two of you out there), I am enjoying school immensely.
Each day, my current personal curriculum has the primary emphasis on reading. Yes, I continue to blissfully read my way through the fourth, fifth and sixth grades … again. It’s my job. It is quite true that I feel like Brer Rabbit just after he got thrown into his beloved briar patch. I am what is now called a media center aide. To those of you still speaking pre-‘90s English, I work in the school library. I am immersed in the delicious world of children’s literature, my card catalog is all on computer, and I am surrounded by wide-eyed, curious readers. It is nirvana for this former English literature major.
Why am I spending taxpayer money reading, you ask? I assure you, it is not on company time. While on duty, I am far too busy checking books in, checking books out, working the Dewey decimal system, reshelving books, tracking down books that aren’t where they should be, looking for that “book with the purple flower on the cover” and generally supporting the flow of literature.
The district lit a fire under the fourth- and fifth-graders by setting up a competition to see who could read the most books awarded the John Newbery Medal. The Newbery award is an enormously prestigious award given annually since 1922, for the most distinguished contribution to American juvenile literature. On top of that, I make a point to read anything recommended by a fifth- or sixth-grader.
As part of my ongoing learning curve, I try to read a few at a time, to get familiar and perhaps recommend one, if asked. These can be the kind of books that keep you up until 2 a.m. Fairy queens kidnap heroines and take them deep into an underground world. The description was so vivid, my claustrophobia kicked in. There are ones that educate you gently about things like synesthesia.
I loved another one about a boy who wakes up on his 11th birthday to find he alone holds the key to the final defeat of all the evil forces of “The Dark.” Another was a fabulous adventure of a 13-year-old girl who sails from an English boarding school to Philadelphia and gets swept up in a mutiny.
I watch now for the student who begins to browse. I pounce, offering them all my synopses. I was really tickled when one young lady graciously told me how much she, too, loved one I had suggested. That is the best feeling in the world.
Meanwhile, each year’s various award winners are like a box of my favorite candy. I sneak them home and can’t wait to get to the next one.
No, wait. It’s actually, it’s horrid, exhausting, tedious work — but I’m willing to make the sacrifice. I’m just that kind of gal.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer just waiting to share a list of book titles with a 10-year-old. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.