Thursday, February 14, 2008

The reason for the the season

So now that I'm a children's librarian, I feel effortlessly sanguine at the prospect of Valentines Day, because I know that the holiday is really about parents loving their children. Tortured affairs, highschool sweethearts, and secret admirers are all beside the point. And I have the book displays and storytime outlines to prove it.

Do you know how many books there are about parents loving their children even if their children are dirtbags? Mama, Do You Love Me?; I Love You Just the Way You Are; I Love You the Purplest; Love You Forever; Love You Like Crazy Cakes; Love You All Day Long; Guess How Much I Love You; Will You Take Care of Me; etc. etc. etc.

I've been reading books like that all week at my storytimes, and you know what? It doesn't work.

There's lots of professional literature about how storytime is a model for parents: here's how to read a book with your child! I've always been skeptical, because I feel that unless you're illiterate, you can figure this out for yourself. I think storytime is more about socialization and storytelling, but maybe that's just because I secretly wish I was a daytime TV star.

I'll reflect on the role of storytime more when I have something interesting to say. Right now, my thoughts are about as rich and complex as a monosyllable.

My point today is just that when I recommend books to parents, I'm thinking about what works at storytime, but that's not necessarily the best criteria. Storytime books need bang! wham! pow! pizzazz. But a parent who asks for a recommendation may be looking for something more cozy and reassuring. So I'm giving them Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus when they need one of those lovey-dovey ones I mentioned earlier.

Do writers imagine the setting in which their picture books are read? Are they considering the number of children who may be listening? Are they incorporating the performance aspect? Am I a diva? Probably. But this thinking gives me a new way to evaluate picture books that I might otherwise dismiss.

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