Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Bitchiness - Top Cause of Illiteracy

This past weekend my daughter starts talking about going to the Library to get "a Wiggles book! A WIGGLES BOOK!"

We went by one day and it was closed all Labor Day weekend. She talked about the library off and on for the long holiday weekend. Finally today we get to go to the library. I warn her that if we don't hurry, it might close before we get there.

She was literally panting with anticipation. We couldn't find a parking spot and she started getting fidgety like a kid whose parent was driving PAST Disney World. We park and she is foaming at the mouth for books. Ecstatic! Overjoyed, filled with anticipation! She's helping me push her brother's baby stroller to make sure we make it.

As a mother, I'm having a proud moment because reading is the cause of all the excitement. We get to the steps of the library, and she is beaming. She enthusiastically asks the librarian getting books out of the outside book drop if they are still open. The librarian says yes, and my daughter throws her arms up in the air and yells, "Hooray!"

The librarian immediately snaps at her and says, "Sssshhhhhhhhh! Be quiet!"

This is why South Carolina has the third highest adult illiteracy rate in the United States. Shush Monsters are in charge of all the books. I imagined Cerberus, the gruesome three headed dog, guarding the gates of hell with more warmth and compassion. I had a flashback to my childhood and getting shushed in the library. I realized that it never dawned on people working in the library system that their job is less about protecting the books from loud noises, and more about encouraging people to enjoy books. Who decided that libraries are sacred, quiet places? I never get shushed at Barnes and Noble. And we weren't even inside the library building yet, thus the shush was very unwarranted.

And a shush is the ultimate insult. It's like a verbal slap in the face. If I wanted to slap someone without using my hands, I'd just shush them.

There are people with PhD's sitting in offices racking their brains to figure out how to get children excited about learning, about reading. Here's a simple first step, don't put bitches in charge of the books. Secondly, if you want to get people excited about learning, libraries shouldn't be oppressive. They should be like a poetry slam. People should be reading, loudly with expressive voices. People should be excited. Libraries should be like a Starbucks with a stage and books. They should be fun. They should be inviting. And even worse than the shush, when my daughter got to the library counter to inquire if they had her aforementioned book of choice, the librarian shot an annoyed glare, like we had just asked to make meth in the bathroom, "The Wiggles? Ugh, NO, there's NO Wiggles books, maybe DVDs." Her voice dripping with distain.

My daughter is 3 years-old, was the librarian expecting her to ask for Vonnegut? Maybe Thoreau? Some Whitman?

The worst part is, it is going to take forever for me to get my daughter's enthusiasm back up again about going to the library. She might never be that excited again to go. Unless... maybe we can have a poetry slam on the steps of the library. And she can read and be as loud as she wants. And when the librarians frantically come out and ask her to stop, her only response to put them in their place will be, "Sssssshhhhhhhhh!"

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