It’s been an eventful few weeks in my library. I’m not sure if it’s the incremental changes in the weather or barometric pressure or if odd and hilarious incidents are tied to the waxing and waning of the moon. In any case, here are some of my favorite highlights from the past month:
Fourth of July in February
A packed audience of about 100 children and parents were enjoying kitchen science experiments performed by two local high school teachers, known as “The Wizards of Chemistry!” A particularly robust reaction set off the building’s fire alarm and the entire library (all four floors) had to be evacuated. On top of the inherent cool-factor of having fireworks go off in the auditorium, the fire department and police showed up on the scene a few minutes later.
No Pants, No Shoes, No Story
Some kids are just free spirits. The group may be listening to a story or doing a craft and I find little Annie or little Jimmy off dancing in the corner or humming slightly out-of-tune or trying to do a handstand. And that’s OK. Hey, sometimes you just have to march to your own beat. But I draw the line at disrobing in the middle of preschool storytime. Granted, I may have inadvertently inspired one little free spirit to cast off his pants with my rather enthusiastic reading of Bear in Underwear. Nevertheless, it is now a storytime rule: while our “listening ears” may occasionally fall off, our pants may not.
A dad and his four-year-old son stop in to pick up some new books. Dad turns to son and asks “Do you have your library card ready?” Son replies “No,” while clearing holding said library card in his hand. “This isn’t my library card. It’s a gun! Ka-pow!” Dad turns back with an apologetic shrug and says, “And I’m a democrat!”
Brown Chicken, Brown Cow
Girl, aged 3, came to the library dressed in a head-to-toe chicken costume (awesome). I leaned down to complement her superior fashion skills and tell her how much I loved her look. She looked me in the eye and said, “Mooooo.”
The Flamingo or the Egg?
If you’ve taken the Every Child Ready to Read workshops, you know how important it is to practice dialogic reading. That is, stopping every once in a while to engage the children and ask open-ended questions about the book you’re reading. What the Every Child Ready to Read workshops don’t prepare you for are the surprising, embarrassing, confounding, and downright bizarre answers you will undoubtedly receive from a group of preschoolers who now have the undivided attention of an adult other than their parents.
Case in point: During a recent reading of Sylvie by Jennifer Gordon Sattler, I asked the children to look at the illustrations and tell me how they thought Sylvie was feeling. (Sylvie is the story of a little flamingo who, after discovering that her pink color derives from eating pink shrimp, decides to eat all sort of interestingly-colored items to change her color. She eats so much that her tiny stomach swells and she feels slightly ill.) It was at this point in the story that I paused and offered what I thought was a rather well-formed dialogic question: “Look at that illustration of Sylvie. How is she feeling right now?”
A few timid voices offered “sick” and “her tummy hurts” and “sad.”
Then, loud and clear rang out a different answer: “pregnant.”
Huh. “Well,” I began, “what makes you think so? Is it because her tummy is big?”
“Yes. And she’s pregnant. And she’s going to have a baby come out.”
Huh. “Well,” I began again, “do you think that perhaps her tummy is big because she just ate all that stuff?”
“No. She’s pregnant.”
Huh. “Well,” I began again, “Maybe Sylvie is going to lay an egg!”
“No. She’s not laying an egg. She’s going to have a baby. Because she is pregnant.”
Now, it was at this point in the back-and-forth that I began to sense a deep resistance to reason on the part of my preschool debater. I had to then ask myself, am I going to school this four-year-old in the reproductive system of the avian class? Or do I just let it go?
Is it appropriate? What if she goes home and regales her parents with descriptions of mammalian versus non-mammalian birth? What if she tells her parents that the library lady gave her this wealth of new knowledge?
And what are my motivations for doing so? Am I really interested in transforming this into a “teachable moment” or am I more concerned with winning this battle of wills?
I looked at my audience of wide-eyed preschoolers, their moist little eyes flicking back and forth between their spokesperson and myself. They were waiting on my answer and I knew I could show no fear.
“Well.” I met her steely gaze, cocking my right eyebrow ever so slightly. “That is a very interesting thought. Thank you for sharing.” And with that, I turned the page and continued on.