Make Memories at the Library
When I was 10 years old, I entered a Daughter’s of the American Revolution (DAR) essay contest. I must have heard about it at school because no one in my family would qualify to be a member of the DAR. The only reason I remember entering the contest is that my dad, who was a professor at Oklahoma State University, took me to the campus library and showed me the section where I might find books with information about women who were heroines of the American Revolution. And then he showed me how to use an index. Wow. That felt powerful to me.
It was in those books that I learned about Molly Pitcher, who carried water to the soldiers – thus her nickname – and fought alongside them. To me, the most interesting anecdote was that a cannon ball went right between her legs and through her petticoat. I’m sure that is a legend like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, but I used it in my essay and won the contest.
This memory came to me as I was interviewing the authors and illustrator of the new children’s book, “Opal’s Greenwood Oasis,” by Najah-Amatullah Hylton and Quraysh Ali Lansana, illustrated by Skip Hill. I asked them to talk about their childhoods and what influenced them. Lansana and Hylton are also poets and educators. All of them had positive memories of going to the library, feeling at home there and finding books that took them places with words. They talked about reading at school.
I, too, have fond memories of my mom taking me, my sister and brother to the Stillwater Public Library all summer. We picked out books to read and went back every two weeks for more. I can vividly recall the smell of the books, running my hand along the spines until I saw a title that intrigued me, and then pulling it out to look at the cover or read the dust jacket. I knew it would be the beginning of an adventure that would take me somewhere, and I couldn’t wait to start the story.
In talking to these talented book authors and illustrator, I was struck by how important libraries are to communities and to schools. The books are free and endless. But, more than that, public libraries and school libraries are centers that provide equity. Anyone living in a community can get a library book. Libraries often are places for children to go who have nowhere else to go after school. They provide help for homework and engaging activities beyond the books — storytimes, book groups and cultural events that give everyone and anyone a place to belong.
School libraries provide the same types of support to the school community. School librarians, like city librarians, help children with literacy by connecting with them and helping them find books that they will enjoy. School librarians also help students learn to do research and ask questions. And, lest we turn our school libraries into technology centers, there is plenty of research that shows that children learn better with actual books than on screens.
As parents, we can build not only a life-long love of reading, but also strong and positive memories that cost us nothing more than time and a trip to the library. I love thinking about taking my kids to the Tulsa Libraries (TCCL). We have many, many summer reading program medals and pictures of our kids proudly wearing them.
Even though the library branches aren’t open now, I’m amazed at what TCCL continues to do remotely and through creating take-home packets for children and adults in the community.
It’s such a simple thing to take a kid to the library and to provide books at home, but it has such a lasting impact, as I was reminded when I talked to the “Opal’s” creators.
When my dad took me to the huge OSU library, I felt so important and so proud to be there with my dad. It gave me an even larger view of the world than the city library. To a small child, all of those books seemed like a dream – anything I wanted to know was right there. What a gift.
What are your childhood memories of libraries?