Reading Diversely

12 Aug

I am, primarily, a reference librarian in the children’s department which means that I’m sitting at a desk for most of the day answering questions about the computers, looking for books to use for school reports and endlessly answering, “(Insert child’s name here) has read all The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, what can they read next?”

So as a reference and reader’s advisory librarian, I spend a lot of my time outside of work reading – reading new books in a variety of genres so that when a kid asks me for something new, I have at least 8-10 different suggestions from any given genre. I’m also spending a lot of time researching authors and illustrators by reading review journals, following blogs and Twitter accounts to keep up with other librarians and teachers and keeping an eye on award winner and large public movements (like We Need Diverse Books) to better understand and learn about children’s literature.

This is the part of my job that I absolutely love!  Finding the right book for the right kid at the right time – and I take pride in my position to be able to do that and I take it seriously, parents may not know what’s available, many teachers don’t either, so it’s my job to make strong suggestions for kids coming into the library.

So, when a Tweet like this appears on my feed, I’m baffled, but what I really loved was this reaction post on Book Riot – yes, to everything Molly says.  Not to beat a dead horse, but books can be so very powerful to a child – a mirror to see themselves and a window to better understand others.  By not reading diversely, how can any librarian really suggest the right book?

I know I don’t get to everything that’s been published – I don’t of anyone who could, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try.  I specifically pick up books that I most likely will not like, but are important for me to read to suggest to kids.  I pick up books and don’t finish them, but I can sell them to kids, better yet kids love when I say a book wasn’t my favorite.  I read reviews, so that even when I haven’t gotten a chance to read the book, I can get someone else’s reaction to it.  When series come out, I try and make a point to read the first int eh series,I may not read the rest of the series, but at least I’ve got a general idea of what’s going to happen.

I’ll be the first to admit, I come from a privileged background – I’m a white, female who grew up with both parents who not only graduated from college, but have a master’s degree and a doctorate degree.  I’ve gone to college and have two master’s degrees and I’m not saying this to brag, but so that you know, I have it pretty easy in this world.  By comparison, my boyfriend is biracial and has beautiful brown skin and dreadlocks that reach his waist and he will always be seen as black and that’s how he is judged. He doesn’t remember looking for kids like him in books as a child, but he also wasn’t a huge reader.  And now as I read, I’m always looking for the books he would have liked as a child.  Since we started dating many years ago, I’ve shared in his experiences (as much as a white woman can) and it has really opened my eyes to a lot of things, but primarily the fact that my life is easy.  But that’s not the case for a lot of people who live in this country and even in my community where we have a high number of residents who have moved here from India, as well as a large Hispanic population and a very diverse school district where ESL is commonplace.  I want to offer the best books for the kids in my community and that means I need to read diversely and suggest diversely as well!


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