On Being a Reader, and the Responsibilities Therein

I've laughed out loud over my fair share of click baited listicles titled "101 Things Bookworms find Annoying" -- all of them filled with memes and steeped in popular YA with references to fictional boyfriends and having read the book before the movie. I'm one of the inner circle, the ideal target audience. I'm a doggone librarian, hammit! I am the OG bookworm. I get that these posts stem from a pushback against the long standing popular disdain for the four-eyed, uncool, dork who abstains from the world with her nose in a book. But we're long past those days. Hipsters are in. Nerds are cool. Reading is the new TV. Well, maybe not really, but the point is--readers have a special status now. However, as we know, with great power comes great responsibility and I see this power being abused at the detriment of non-readers more and more.

 Let me elaborate and get back to the listcle issue.

While most of these popular posts take on a "don't judge me for reading YA as an adult" or "its okay to grieve over fictional characters" type of vibe, I scrolled across one recently that was obnoxiously elitist  and at times just down right rude.

The particular meme that caught my eye was a chat-post form meme that ran something like this:

non-bookworm person: It only took me a month this book! it's so big, it has 150 pages! I couldn't put it down!
*image of Hades from Disney Hercules overlayed with text that reads: "how dumb are you, really?"
Notes below the picture read something like: "I can read 600 pages in a weekend/day/hour/minute"

This particular post went so far as to call non-readers Muggles, and that's what made me start thinking here. A fan of Harry Potter will surely know the social class divide depicted between the Pureblood families and the students of Muggle family origin. Families like the Malfoys disparage and look down upon those that they see as lesser, for no other reason that they didn't have magic flowing through their veins for centuries. In her books, Jo Rowling teaches us to accept and love and be kind to those different than us. How is one person's judgement of someone's reading capacity and ability any different from Draco Malfoy snearing at Hermione?

As a children's librarian, I often witness kids being discouraged from reading what they want to read because of their reading level doesn't match their interest level, or vise-versa. I can only imagine that the less self assured and determined of these students would only become burnt out over time and just give up on being a Reader. They would probably say that they don't like reading, or just stop moving forward with reading altogether. These are the people that I picture being the first reader in the above disparaging meme. At some point in their life, the non-reading kid may become a reading adult. That reading adult may discover that they actually do enjoy reading, and maybe they aren't the strongest reader, but by gosh, they are READING. 

As the kid who got interested in Anastasia after the cartoon movie came out, and library requested a biography about her that ended up being almost as big as my head, and was not discouraged from attempting to read it, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I never really struggled with reading. I was allowed (within the bounds of appropriate maturity level) to read what ever I wanted and I did. Sometimes I attempted books and found them too much for me to handle, so I'd set them aside. Even now, I'm still "currently reading" Anna Karenina, but in slow bits and pieces, because I can't do so much Tolstoy at once. Sometimes I can read eight books in a month because it's January and nothing is going on and we get snowed in at least once. Other times I'm so swamped with work and life because (oh irony of ironies) its Summer Reading season, and I'm working so hard to make sure other people are reading that I can barely read one YA book. Either way, I try not to compare myself to the other readers on my Goodreads feed. If Amy read 130 books last year I'm thinking: WAY TO GO; YOU'RE READING! and if Erin sets a goal to read 25 books this year, guess what!? I'm thinking: WAY TO GO; YOU'RE READING!
The point is, different people have different situations, different stories, and abilities that make their reading experience their own. As bookworms, those that have ability to read more per day/week/month/year/LIFE than others, we are the lucky ones. We get to experience that many more stories in our lifetimes, and we will be (I hope) all the better for it. But as the lucky ones, I believe we have a responsibility to not discourage any other person from experiencing the stories that just might change their lives, even if the stories they come to are only 150 pages long. Reading is reading. Plain and simple.
Go forth and be a reader, and make readers of your friends.
and as always, Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

-Sarah the Library Girl

Worth It // two

Sending out a calendar email is no big deal for me at this point in the month. I've got my programs planned, (albeit a lot more this time of year because Summer Reading) and all I need to do is copy and paste the program items from my master calendar, add a happy little note to my "lovely library families" and hit send to broadcast it to my Storytime mailing list. Those emails go unresponded to usually, because there's nothing really to respond about! Occasionally there'll be a request for clarification or more information on one program or another, but generally its an expected radio silence.

I sent my calendar email this morning, right after lunch, while I was figuring out what else to do with my afternoon. Once I clicked the send button, the email was out of sight, out of mind. I went about with logging data in my summer reading tracker, pulling books for a daycare and general library business until I returned to my desk and email after a book-drop trip to find one unexpected response to my little calendar email.

One sweet library mama, who is literal joy in my life, wrote to tell me that she had received the email from China where she was with her husband getting their newly adopted little boy. And she send a link to her blog. I spent a little bit of time scanning the posts about their Gotcha Day with their little boy, not with out a couple of tears being shed. This family came to my library about a year ago, on recommendation from one of my storytime moms that they used to homeschool co-op with. I loved them instantly, because of the cheerful spirit that radiated from mom and kids alike. We became friends, and they have been blessing my life since. The mama always has an encouraging word for me, whether she knows it or not, and the kids are always sweet and polite, and occasionally come to my desk with a present of an apple or some little homemade treat. (how can you not feel fondly toward people who  bring you food?)

Over the course of the year I've known them, I've had many doubts about my season in life--about whether I'm in the right place or in the right job--but in God's perfect timing, just when I start feeling the doubts come creeping in again, I see this family walking into my library, and the mama is telling me how thankful she is for me and my personal insight on homeschool reading lists or whatever, and I remember why I do what I do.  And in that moment, its all worth it.

*I write these Worth It posts as a gratitude log of sorts, to look back on when I'm feeling frustrated and antsy and want to run away. It is a prompt for mindfulness, a dose against dis-content, and a reminder of purpose.

25 // Birthday Resolutions

I like making lists on my birthday. Its like a personal new year celebration. So, in that light, here are my birthday resolutions.

  1. Learn to play the ukelele // and use it in Storytime! done
  2. Decorate my living space with cohesive, grown-up style // #ladiesofmeriwether done done done & done
  3. Be more intentional about creating // #thelibrarygirlmakes 
  4. Plan my first literary pilgrimage // to happen Fall 2017 (DONE! coming soon! :)
  5. Successfully rap Guns and Ships // #thankslin done
  6. Spend more time in the Word // learn to study (I'll never be done here... but I've made great strides thanks to the encouragement of my fellow life group girls.)
  7. Reach out to the girls in prayer group to build relationships // do fun things. (slowly, slowly said the sloth...)
  8. Catch up on my TBR / Unreads booklist // #morebooksthantime (what a joke... I'm still reading furiously and still not caught up)
  9. Read more Non-fic // especially biographies (actually... this did happen!)
  10. Send more snail mail // neglect not thy penpals (whoops... I tried.)
  11. Try non-natural hair color // #blue2016 done 
  12. Find a fitness routine that I actually enjoy // yoga? dance? who knows? (still don't like exercising) 
  13. Establish a "tidy" system // #doesitsparkjoy? (done...ish?)
  14. Play piano more // but first, buy a keyboard stand (scrapped... playing the uke was enough)
  15. Cut out soda entirely // #lacroix4life (so, its not entirely out, but I don't drink nearly as much any more!)
  16. Do a 30-day challenge to completion (whoops! forgot about until only 21 days were left)
  17. Host an actual party // tea, dinner, whatever. dressing up required (Done. I'm gonna count Jor's bridal shower!)
  18. See a show in Memphis or Nashville // Ballet, Opera, Musical (didn't actually go see anything, but I made plans to see lots next year by getting season tickets to the Orpheum's 2017-18 Broadway season!)
  19. Celebrate Frabjous Day // #callohCallay done
  20. Make 1 adventurous meal a month  // stop being boring with food (so.. kinda slacked off at the beginning, but I started a Blue Apron subscription and its been amazing!)
  21. Sew the Sunshine Quilt // finally! (well.... I started it... is that good enough?)
  22. Reclaim my blogging habit // starting RIGHT NOW (Im satisfied!)
  23. Stop falling asleep to screens // #netflixandZzzz (HA! that was ambitious!)
  24. Learn how to make good typography prints // goes along with #3 (hey, I can work with brush pens now, and I'm happy)
  25. Write a ten-year letter to self // Dear Self at 35

Past Years :  23 // 24

My Anne of Green Gables Reading Plan for Life

This weekend I've been catching up my current favorite webseries, Green Gables Fables. In the innovative, transmedia storytelling style of the Emmy award winning Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this YouTube adaptation of the beloved Canadian children's classic Anne of Green Gables did what I did not think was even possible. It made me love the story even more than I have before. While gushing about this to other fans of the series online, I mentioned that I have an Anne of Green Gables Reading Plan for Life, and I was asked to elaborate upon that thought. So, friends, Anne-Fans, fellow netizens, I give you just that.
I’ve been an avid Anne of Green Gables fan since I was small, and my parents gave me the whole 8 book boxed set for my birthday. –the classic jewel toned Bantam paperback set- which is the best edition out there in my opinion.

I read them all over and over as a child, then as a teen, I branched out into everything else LM Montgomery ever wrote.. the Emily Trilogy. The Story Girl books…sweet sweet Magic for Marigold. <3  I even named my favorite arm chair Lucy Maud (because naming inanimate objects is completely normal behaviour for someone who loves LM Montgomery’s stories.)
I read all of those books as a child and loved them. I giggled, I swooned -they were perfect. Then I went away to college. Anne went with me of course, as did all of my favorite books… my friends… I would never run the risk of being lonely if I had them near. I picked up Anne of the Island (the one where she goes to Redmond) one day, just for kicks and giggles (I was probably avoiding some important reading like Beowulf) and as I blazed through it that month, it affected me in a way it hadn’t affected me when I’d read it the hundreds of times before. I found that the difference was that I was coming to the story from a different place in my life; not just any old place, but a place the paralleled the life circumstances of the heroine. We were walking the same paths of uncertainty into the hallowed halls of learning. She was coming from backwater Avonlea - I was coming from being homeschooled. We were both navigating the waters of making friends away from home, of being terribly homesick. I had never experienced that before, so in all of my other readings up until that point I was only an outsider looking in to a foreign situation that I could only imagine my self in.
That was when I decided upon the great Plan. 
I decided that I would read the books when ever I wanted still, of course, but that I would make a special emphasis on a certain book (or books) whenever I felt I would be walking closely along the same path as the Anne-girl, in order to more fully grasp the true wonderfulness of the stories, but also, so I would never be walking alone. The internet tells me that it was C.S. Lewis who said “We read to know we are not alone.” This is sometimes true of some authors more than others. For me its L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle. For you it may be someone else. 
Now, as to what book I’m currently living alongside, its kind of a blend of Island and Windy Poplars. Obviously I don’t have the whole Gilbert storyline going on right now, (but when I do, you can bet your boots that I will be starting from square one to live love with Anne) but I currently find myself 
  • living in my own little Patty’s Place of a house (our own dear Meriwether House) with  a gaggle of girls (who might also be adopting a cat) 
  • thinking way too much about growing up and what that means (while having way too many friends getting married “Oh", she thought, “how horrible it is that people have to grow up-and marry-and change!” 
while also
  • working in a city far away from my home town and
  • dealing with a town full of people who have lived there their whole lives as did their parents and grandparents and great grandparents while
  • I the plucky, quirky outsider turn everything on its head and hope that they can still like me in spite of it (Seriously, Anne at Summerside gives me hope that I can make it.)
Someday maybe, I’ll live in my House o’Dreams with my Gilbert (though I pray-dear-God that I never have to come to the books to walk alongside Anne through her loss of child) and maybe this whole Reading Plan for Life thing will spin itself out as I’ve so gloriously imagined it will. We’ll see. 
Taking it one page at time,

P.S. I was home and found this gem. The very birthday I got my Anne books.