In which we find Miss Molly in the middle of Summer Reading Season

Summer reading is a crazy time in the library. It’s full of excitement and programming, packed with people, overflowing book carts that need to be shelved, ecstatic children, and parents who are less than pleased. It all combines into the summer reading season.

I was a library page in the Children’s Department for 5 years. That’s turned out to be 4 summer seasons. I remember long hours, tons of books, lots of people, but mostly I remember the fun. The looks of joy on people’s faces. The excitement in children’s eyes when they handed over their reading list to the librarian, or when they got to choose their own book to read. I loved the sheer exuberance of the kids going up and down the aisles, picking book after book, absolutely convinced that they would be able to read fifteen 250 page novels in 3 weeks.

I couldn’t wait to be on the other side of the desk. To be a part of that magic. To make people smile. And now I am.

Being a part-timer, I’m not responsible for as many programs as my coworkers. Indeed, my limited hours would make that extremely difficult. But I have a Thursday evening storytime, and I had an upcycling program.

I love storytime. I do it on Saturdays during the rest of the year. But I was really excited for upcycling. There are so many things you can make with old magazines, milk cartons, cardboard tubes, and your imagination.

I organized. I had started collecting the materials in February. I made different crafts and projects–some suitable for boys, others for girls, and obviously those that would appeal to both. I had so much fun. The projects I made were simple, but awesome. I was so excited to see what the kids would do. I wanted to give them ideas and set them loose. We have some incredibly creative kids that attend our programming.

The night of my program came. I set up the room. I had my power point ready with pictures of even more projects, the ones I wanted to do but didn’t have time to accomplish. I had supplies, glue, glitter, tape…everything. I collected my kids, aged 9-12, and we went to the program room. I talked about what I made, the materials I brought with me for them to use, and explained that they didn’t have to make what I did. I wanted them to explore, go wild, show me what they could do.

They stared at me.

I coaxed them up to the table to choose supplies. They did and went back to their seats. They quietly began working. The 9-10 year olds tucked in with fervor. Glue was flying, googlie eyes were thrown about with abandon, tube turrets were attached.

The 11-12 year olds were methodical, quiet, reserved. They looked at me like, “what do you MEAN you aren’t going to tell us exactly what to make and how to make it. What do you MEAN I have free reign over what I make? Are you INSANE?”

I honestly thought they would be thrilled to have the freedom to create. I know at that age I hated having people tell me what to do and how to do it. But I am finding kids today incredible hesitant about breaking any kind of convention. This worries me. How will they experiment if they are afraid of the result? How will they grow, both their minds and their bodies, if they don’t push boundaries? I’m not talking anything extreme….I’m talking about using x-acto knives and boiling water, glue and staplers, corn syrup and food dye.

Just as the kids were starting to loosen up, it was time to clean up and leave. I felt horrible. What had I done wrong? Was this program just not something they were interested in? Did they not like the projects or materials or concept? Did I not explain it enough? Did I not provide enough support? It didn’t fail…but it wasn’t my best.

Talking with my department and going over my projects, we think that the kids were overwhelmed. I should have picked 2 or 3 projects and walked them through them. Then, one they got comfortable, let them go.

This also gave me a goal. I will slowly help the kids get more confident about getting messy. I want them to try different methods in a safe environment. I want them to get over their fear of doing something wrong, or making a mess.

I want them to look at what I made and say, “That’s cool, Miss Molly, but look what I can do.”

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