Tuesday, February 3, 2015

read carpet

On Monday of this week, we had our fourth snow day of the past 5 school days.  Here's the thing.  I love snow days.  A day of togetherness when everyone is told to be home, while the house gets blanketed in a fresh layer of snow, hushing away the noise of an otherwise busy week, all events cancelled, for safety's sake.  This is my idea of the best kind of way to spend the day. 

So the fact that this morning happened to coincide with the day that the ALA Youth Media Awards were being announced was just fantabulous in my mind.  Jonathan and I sat in our bed in our pajamas and watched the ceremony on the laptop.  The kids kind of danced in and out of the room.  Announcing the time, and that they were hungry, telling us about the giant Lego fort they were building together in the other room, announcing again that they were hungry.  We pointed them toward the kitchen and watched on.  

There were a number of awards announced, the most well known being the Newbery and the Caldecott, but also the Coretta Scott King and the Printz, and the Theodor Seuss Geisel awards.  And as honors were bestowed upon the books, I realized that despite our frequent trips to the library and my derelict library loaning history and my somewhat insatiable reading of children's books and of writing about children's books, that many, most, of the books celebrated were books I, and my children, had not yet read.  

These ALA Media Awards are different awards than the book awards that children participate in, for example, the Maine State Book Award and the Chickadee Awards.   Both of these awards are based on nominations by children in the State of Maine of books they have read and enjoyed from a predetermined list.  The ALA awards, of course, are different.  These awards are determined by adult readers, committees of librarians and other experts of children's literature.  Also, some of the awarded books are so hot off the presses that children have not yet been able to get them into their hands, let alone read them. 

But all of this.  Participating in the act of elevating the craft of children's literature.  Creating conversations and ceremonies and routines and rituals.  Having books change within the course of  a year from a cover that looks one way to one plastered in ribbons and medals.  I see, read, and watch the conversations happening.  For example, on twitter, my whole family has enjoyed watching the #fourcomics posts, where comic and graphic novel artists are tweeting about the four comics that most influenced them as children.  

I interviewed Ron Lieber a while back about his new book, The Opposite of Spoiled.  And I was struck by something that he said that is so simple and yet so true.  That if you look at what you have spent money on over the past month, you are seeing a list of what you most value.  I may not be purchasing all the books on the lists of honored books, but showing the kids that I spend the time to read about books they might enjoy, gather them from the library each week for them, leave the surprise of the next book in a beloved series on their pillow for them to find, start a pile of possible next books for each of them to read as I notice that they are nearing the end of their current book on their nightstand.  I am teaching them the value of books.  Of reading.  Of entering a story crafted for them, getting inside their heads.  

And so, from running their fingers over the newly and carefully placed stickers on the honored books,  to watching your parents watch an awards show while neglecting your hunger needs, to seeing your community participate in a cash mob in honor of the owner of our local independent bookstore who recently passed away, the man who placed Chris Van Dusen's Mr. Magee books in Elliott's hands a few years ago.  We are showing the kids the world of the children's book, and when done well, we are showing them a piece of the world.  Seeing all the happenings pulls the kids in and elevates the importance of the medium.  John Schu, children's librarian extraordinaire, is currently trying to start a revolution that the Today Show, the Ellen Show, or The Jimmy Fallon show covers the Newbery and the other ALA medium awards recipients.   Wouldn't that be just...right.

There is this whole world of conversation out there about books for children.  There are ambassadors, and book events, and awards ceremonies.  All of these, if you weren't listening, especially as a parent outside the children's literature industry, you might miss.  I am thankful that I have a school librarian husband to introduce me to it.  And therefore to introduce our children to it.  I know that our kids have books in their hands, characters in their experience, stories in their mental arsenal, that they would not have access to if it were not for these people who write and those who work with what they write, to us.

As I listened to the lists of honorees and winners being listed on our laptop, I was feverishly writing titles down.  We then switched over to watching Betsy Bird and Lori Prince give a post game show on the awards ceremony.  Their interpretations, agreement with, and disagreement with, the decisions of the committees.  I kept writing titles.  Titles of books that won awards but also titles of books that I was hearing from people disappointed that they were overlooked.  Because these seemed worthy too, the books someone not on the committee had loved.  A book that brings on disappointment seems a book well loved.

Caldecott, you broke my brain.
Betsy Bird, New York Public Library

As soon at the podcast was over, I began the work of the day.  Putting as many of the books on my hold list and requesting by interlibrary loan those not in our system as I could.

They are starting to trickle in.  There is so much goodness in the piles, for all of us.  

And with more snow in the forecast, I know they are all going to be enjoyed.  In pajamas.  On the couch.  Or in bed.  So many stories and people that we wouldn't otherwise have met.  Possibly, likely, some of these books we place on the read carpet, stack on the deacons bench, they could make it to our kids' #fourstories.  It's an honor to be a small part of what they may be for each of them.

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