Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Life 23: Reading Like a 5-Year-Old

For those of you who don't know, I have been employed at the Tallahassee Scholastic Book Fairs Warehouse since August. It isn't nearly as fun as it sounds, as I'm one of the grunts who fills and totes boxes all day in the cold/heat of the warehouse, but it is a rockin company to work for nonetheless. Not to mention, I end up feeling like I've done something decent at the end of the day. After all, I'm sending books to kids; can't be all bad, right? I mean, think about it...especially if you grew up in a rural area pre-internet (yep, old) like I did. Book Fair week was like fucking Christmas morning! Suddenly, where there had been only Wal-Mart to feed your book buying cravings, there were these shiny silver cases sitting in your school library! (And let me note that this was pre-Wal-Mart Supercenter. All we had was a very dinky regular WM with a very dinky book aisle. And yes, I practically lived at the city library, but there's something about owning your own books, you know?) Anyway, I digress...It was like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one...well, it was for my geeky ass anyway. I never failed to get in trouble during book fair week. In junior high, they would let us go down to the library a couple at a time during English class to shop everyday. The teachers soon learned to make me wait before sending me, because I would spend the WHOLE class wandering down there. As a poor kid, I only had a very limited amount to spend, and by God, I was going to get the most out of every dollar. Screw those posters! Hand me Sweet Valley High, bitches!

With all that said, working at the warehouse has screwed with my reading list somewhat. Between the gift certificates we got during the winter sale and random things along the way, fully half of the 38 books I've read since January 1 have been classified as YA or children's literature--some old classics I'm rereading and some new and interesting discoveries. No, I have not quit reading "adult" literature (sounds like porn, huh?), but reading all this kids' lit has made me think about a few things. When we were little, there were a lot of people who viewed book fair day or library day as a revelation, as a beautiful, exciting thing, but as they get older, they lose the fascination they had so easily as a kid. Books lose that spark. Now, for me they never have. I can be just as excited wandering into a bookstore now as I did going to the book fair or library then, but I am a super book geek of the highest caliber. So I don't count. Take some of the people I work with for example. Scholastic implemented a "Stop, Drop, and Read!" initiative last season for all its branches. For 15 minutes a day, we stop
working and read. For me, this is fucking amazing! Pay me to sit and read? Yes, please! But for others there, it seems to be a chore...just one more thing that must be done before going home for the day. Some even seemed horrified by the idea, which I just don't get.I've noticed a couple of people, however, that have started reading during breaks or bring their own book now instead of just grabbing one of the ones from the warehouse since we've been doing this. It made me smile before, but now that I've been reading so much kids' lit, I think I understand it even better.

Reading children's literature is unlike reading any other genre. The stories are meant to be engaging at all times and to slip teaching moments in when possible, almost covertly. That way, kids are entertained and find themselves understanding new things without a lecture, and that makes a child feel amazing--to feel like they have figured something out without an adult leaning over their shoulder, regardless of what it is. I'm not saying these co-workers necessarily learned anything from reading the books at the warehouse, though I'm sure they did. What I am saying is that, just like I have been the past few weeks, they are being reminded of what it felt like to read as a kid, when every page felt like an actual door opening and we weren't so hard to impress. In turn, this is making them want to read more outside those 15 minutes.

I bitch and moan all the time about grown ups who claim to hate reading. I'm of the mind that no one can truly hate reading; it's just that they haven't found that one book that will just blow their minds. Maybe the problem isn't even that they haven't found the magic book. Maybe they just need to be handed a copy of Bridge to Terabithia or A Wrinkle in Time or Little House on the Prairie to remind them how awesome reading and books are. In short, they need to read like a 5-year-old. But you don't have to take my word for it...go find a kids' book you loved. Read it again, and I guarantee you, you'll see what I mean.