Seven weeks ago, a seven years’ ritual ended.
Every Wednesday morning since my oldest was two, I have schlepped a child or four to the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library for story time with Miss Pamela. “Story time” is a bit of a misnomer, for Miss Pamela sings with the kids and signs with them and does silly dances with them as well as reading to them.
Seven years ago, it was just Jack and (a very pregnant) me at story time. Then it was Jack and baby Jane. Then it was Jack and toddler Jane and baby twins. Wednesday mornings at the library have been a staple of my children’s childhood.
For the past year or so, though, I’ve known something was going to shift in the near future. I would look around the room and see that my two oldest no longer fit. Jack is ten now and usually escaped into the library proper to graze on his own reading fare, though he still enjoyed talking with Miss Pamela after story time was over. Jane has been the tallest child in the room for well over a year. And while the twins are the perfect age for story time, it has to work for all of us.
In September when our school schedule resumed, I simply couldn’t fit Wednesday mornings into our weekly rhythm. Even though I’d known it was coming, I mourned a little the loss of this ritual. It means my older two are growing up. It means they’re no longer content to be a captive audience. It means they’re branching out into their own reading interests. All of this is necessary and important and good.
Still, for me it was a sad goodbye to story time.
But just because I had to let go of story time doesn’t mean I let go of the library. Never! The library has been and continues to be a crucial part of my ability to read to my children widely and well. I am blessed to have such a rich resource as the Seattle Public Library at my fingertips—literally; all I have to do is hop onto my computer and look at the online catalog to see whether a book I want is in the collection and if it is, I can (and do) put it on hold right then.
So even though story time is a thing of the past, the library is still very much with us. Every Friday afternoon, after our homeschool co-op, we swing by the Ballard Branch to say hi to Miss Pamela, pick up our books that are on hold (and they are legion), and browse for new books to read and old books we already love.
You see, I believe in the power of words to shape not just a child’s intellect but, more importantly, a child’s soul—or, if you don’t believe in the soul, a child’s self. I believe that great stories shape children’s imaginations. I believe that great stories shape their growing sense of right and wrong. I believe that great stories inspire them to live heroic and noble lives in a culture that far too often settles for banal and nihilistic existence.
And a primary ally in this shaping of my children’s imaginations and intellects is my local library. Because of the library, we feast on old books like The Railway Children and new books like The Penderwicks. We feast on fairy tales and folk tales from the world around. We feast on poems and prose, biography and botany, history and horticulture. We feast on picture books and novels and everything in between. Without the library, our reading lives would be greatly impoverished. And an impoverished reading life is an impoverished life.
So here’s to libraries, living museums full of living books and their myriad living words. Here’s to life well-read and life well-lived.
Photo by D. H. Parks, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.
Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In October, we’re exploring the theme The Ghazal.