In 1971, I was in second grade. My school’s library was in a temporary building that had been in place since the early ‘50s. It was a magical place, with three shelves of orange biographies, the requisite rainbow of World Book encyclopedias, and all my best friends: Beezus, The Great Brain, The Littlest Witch, Dorothy Gale, Laura Ingalls, Lucy Pevensie, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and the rest of the gang. A cool, calm respite from the confusion of yo-yos, clackers and competitive jacks outside the doors, the library provided a real haven.
Over this magic space presided the Librarian. Each time our class visited, she would introduce a new marvel: the Dewey Decimal system, the careful way to open a book so its precious spine would not be broken, the card catalog and the quiet, reverential way to communicate in the library. In second grade, I believed that books, like babies, were born whole and complete. I never considered that they had not begun their lives in the library.
Now, I know better. The energy of legions of people is represented in every book on a library shelf. Writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians: all have a role in bringing books into the world. But while they don’t arrive via the immaculate conception I imagined in 1971, books hold even deeper mysteries. However they are created, they have the power to change the lives of those who can read them.
National Library Week has come and gone. But we should remember the message all year. Take a minute to turn off the reruns, take out the earphones, put the online shopping on hold. Think about your favorite books from childhood and the people who shared them with you. Remember the the power, the companionship and the truths that you’ve found through books.
Even in today’s loud world, the peace of the second grade library still exists. You don’t need a time machine or a trip to the home-town to find it. You just have to open a new book, being careful not to crack the spine, and read.
Want to share your love of reading with a child?
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