Library Services Centre

When my oldest daughter was little she never seemed to really like reading, This was always a bit of a worry to me as both a librarian and lover of books. I also know that you cannot force your kids to love what you love, and as long as you surround your kids with a multitude of stimuli (books, ideas, activities, sports, etc.) they will eventually decide what they like and run with it. Regardless of whether I like it or not.


Throughout my daughter’s elementary years I would bring home books or suggest books at the library. I suggested books about horses (she did horseback riding) and fairies (she loved fairies and Tinkerbell), fun mysteries and adventure books (she has an amazing imagination) and cats (her favourite animal). Nothing captured her interest. She would read a book here and there for school but she didn’t really love it. So I eventually gave up, figuring one day she would find “her book”.


Turned out it wasn’t my daughter who found the book, it was the school librarian. Not her mother the librarian, but the school librarian. I went into her room one day to find her reading a graphic novel. I was shocked. I backed slowly out of the room, so as not to upset the delicate balance of the universe, and let her be. Still, I would never have pegged her to be a graphic novel reader. What was happening? And how did I not see this?


The book was Smile by Raina Telgemeier, a biographical story of a sixth grade girl learning what it means to be a preteen. She absolutely loved it. She read it again and again, but more importantly she wanted more. The flood gates were, as they say, opened. The school librarian did their best to quench her new found thirst for reading, but once she started, there was no stopping her. She was, finally and properly, reading!


She eventually started the Harry Potter series, which led to the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Then she stumbled upon Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and on and on she went. We would hit up the public library and I let her wander from the juvenile shelves to the Young Adult shelves, never once forcing her to pick something I wanted her to read, or limiting where she looked. Instead, I let her take her time and pick what she thought looked like fun.


Throughout all this, I waited. I waited to see if she might one day share my love of YA fantasy. She had certainly seen me read various books in the genre, but hadn’t shown any interest in them herself. Then, this past summer I got a text from her telling me that she had picked up The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater at the library. My heart sored. This is one of my all-time favourite series and my daughter had started reading it! On her own! Without me leaving copies strategically around the house, in her book bag, or stapled to the sleeves of her jacket!


She devoured the first one, continued straight through the next three, and then went right into Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. Six of Crows followed and finally An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. The girl has not stopped and we now have long conversations about our favourite characters, who should be “shipped with whom” and so on. As I type this she is reading the fifth in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and for Christmas she is getting The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas. I asked her what she wanted this year for Christmas and she said books. Only books.


Sometimes it takes that outsider - a librarian, a teacher, or a friend, an aunt or uncle - someone separate from a parent to help break through to a child. Children have a filter through which everything a parent says is strained, like pulp from juice. As much as we want to make them see our point of view, they resist. They want to find their own way. It can take that outsider to break through their filter. To hand them a book and for them to see it for the first time not as an obligation, or an assignment, but as a portal to imagination. I will forever be grateful to that school librarian for introducing my daughter to the limitless adventure books hold. And for making my holiday gift buying a little easier. Seeing how my daughter came to books has opened my eyes and helped me to be a better librarian (and parent) myself.  


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