The Librarian

Reading is given high importance at T’s new school and they have a lesson called ‘accelerated reader’ in the library where they test the children’s reading and comprehension ability with a computer programme. This then guides the child to an appropriate section of books in the library, dependent upon the results. T has always been a good reader and it wasn’t a surprise when the librarian told her she could read from any section. Her ability does, however, come with it’s challenges. Just because she can read anything, doesn’t mean it will always be easy.

The librarian is a character and we were impressed with his enthusiasm and knowledge on the open evenings. T took to him immediately – it’s hard not to like and trust someone who is so enthusiastic about books. Last week, following the test, she asked for a suggestion and he recommended a title to her. ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro is a young adult book (one I hadn’t read myself) but she was keen to start it.

Three evenings of reading in and she came down stairs in tears. The book is a dystopian future and covers the dark idea of compulsory organ donation. There is also a chapter that references sex, albeit in a mild way, and it was this that put her off entirely. T was honest, as she always is, saying it was making her feel queasy. She felt bad about the idea of stopping reading the book, wanting to be able to say she had completed it and to show the librarian what she had done. However, she agreed that she had to trust her instincts. We discussed how she was going to give the librarian feedback about it, as she was embarrassed by the idea of discussing the subject matter, and she went to bed knowing she would take the book back to the library the next day.

The following evening she came home with a huge smile on her face saying she’d given the book back. She told him she got to chapter eight but it made her feel uncomfortable so she didn’t want to carry on with it. His reaction was perfect: “That’s a really grown up decision and if you feel like that, stopping is the right thing to do.” He then promised to help her find something else, and chatted to her about what she’d recently been reading at home.

The whole experience made me smile. He wasn’t wrong, of course, in recommending the book in the first place – it was challenging and she needs to be challenged. Then he followed it up by making her feel proud of her decision rather than stupid for not finishing it. He engaged her in conversation about books. I’m rather impressed.

Today T asked me if I thought she should read Refugee Boy. We talked about the tough themes and how it’s a book I loved but that it is raw and emotional in places. I told her it’s by Benjamin Zephaniah and she shrieked, saying she’s read a poem by him in English. She introduced me to his poem, ‘The British’ which frankly is wonderful.

I’m not a teacher or an academic, but I can see how this journey through books and poetry, guided by English teachers, librarians, her family and friends, is going to be a wonderful one.

Cross posted with, my blog about books.

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