Monday, January 6, 2014

To Approach a Child

Hee hee!! Absolute glee! Success!!

A shy little boy came in today, one whom I have never seen. His Mom told him to go find a book. Then she went to the adult side, leaving him standing there, swaying a little.

Rule 1--Do not approach. Watch but don't seem to approach.Big, overly helpful, smiling white lady in the face is not necessarily the help one might think it would be. It's overwhelming.

The little boy wandered around, emboldened by being alone. He walked over to the books and walked up and down a stack or two. Overwhelmed, he retreated to the Lego table. Not interesting. To the train table. Meh. He's standing in the middle of the room. Now's the time.

Rule 2-- When the kid is ready, approach slowly-- as if approaching a wild deer. Really.

I wandered over to him, not too close. From a distance, I said, quietly, "Hey, bud. Need some help finding something?" He shook his head no. Too much, too soon. Ok. Retreat a little. Stay near-ish. Look at something else. After a minute, the little boy said, "Do you have a book on dragons?" I told him we did, and started to look. Nothing! How did we have no books on dragons??

I told the kid we had chapter books, but really no picture books on dragons. He said, "No. I mean, about real ones." I said, "You mean, like lizards? There are no real dragons." (Hating myself now. Blighter of hopes and dreams!! Monster! Murderer of belief!!) He shook his head. I had struck out. Dang.

I went straight to my book jobber, convinced that the next kid to ask me for a book on dragons would find one in our collection. Found a good one. Checked the OPAC (online public access catalog) to make sure it was a good fit for us-- and found my library owned it. Whooo-hoo!!

Went to my own shelves. Found 6 books on dragons-- Dragonology, myths about dragons, a look at cultural understandings of dragons--bonanza! Have to get better at using our circulation system.

The little boy is on the floor looking at movies. I approach him slowly and say, "Hey. Guess what? I was wrong. We have books on dragons." I put them on the floor by him and leave.

Too much interaction will spook him. Back to my desk.

The kid picks up all the books, comes to the table nearest me and POURS over them. He's devouring them as if he's a dragon himself. Inside, I'm dancing the Chinese Lion Dance. It's a Mardi Gras over here. I'm snickering and jumping up and down-- while straight-facedly, quietly looking at my work calendar. HUZZAH!! Found a little boy a BOOK HE LOVES!!!!! Remember the Charo dance from Love Boat? Sure you do! Front- and back--and a belly and a belly and a belly and a belly!! (But it's all on the inside. Big crazed dancing white lady won't go over any better than big regular white lady.)

Mom comes over the check on him. He goes to Linden. He is studying Chinese. I tell Mom I bet he's heard of dragons from his Chinese teacher--it's almost Chinese New Year, after all.

Rule 3- wait. I'm waiting. If he shows any signs of wanting interaction, I'm on it. We'll build a paper dragon together. We'll talk about dragons stories. I'll ask him to tell me what he knows about dragons.

Kids can be like a bush deer-- shy, quiet and wanting to be alone. That's okay. Some kids are a one-woman band-- they need an audience, a person to talk to, laugh with, bug, destroy. That's me too lots of times. I like them all.

The little boy walked out with him Mom, book under one arm. I braved it. I yelled after him, "'Bye, sugar!" He turned around and looked at me for a minute. Then he raised his hand, and said, "Thank you."


  1. I'm a teacher (it's how I found your blog), but my girlfriend's a librarian who has come home with stories like yours -- I read this grinning ear-to-ear, knowing exactly the delicacy these moments demand. Great post -- hope you have more stories to come!

  2. Oh. My. Goodness. This is such an incredibly sweet story! I absolutely loved interactions like these with kids and teens at my library :)

  3. This is incredibly moving. Thank you. It makes me happy-sad. Happy to know what librarians are doing out there for kids, and sad because I'm in the middle of writing a post about librarians being cut from schools.