Every time we drove by the new public library, which wasn’t often but often enough, Bentley would ask when we could go in. Would beg, actually. To say that I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by his request would be the understatement of the decade.
This love for the library was a long time coming. When he was around 2 years old, I decided that he was old enough to sit still and listen to story time at the library. Driving to the library with my first born for the first time, pregnant and nauseous with the next little Freeman, I had a vision of what my boy’s first experience would be like. We would find a few books to read on the carpet together, maybe a classic or two from my own childhood like Where the Wild Things Are or maybe Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day. We would then quietly move into the room for story time, where Bentley would quietly sit and listen to the librarian. Maybe we’d even make a couple of new friends. It would be a lovely, memory-making experience.
You see, I loved the library. My mom always took me there when I was little. We’d go to story time and then to the drug store down the street for chocolate milk. The library was a happy place and now that I had my own child to take there, my expectations were high.
The children’s section in the library, however, had changed a little bit since I was a kid. Along with the brightly colored carpets and the rows of miniature bookshelves, now there was a LEGO table, a Thomas train table, cool artwork hanging from the ceiling and posted on the wall. And don’t forget all of the animals behind glass cages to look, at including newborn baby hamsters. This place was a toddler/preschooler paradise!
I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to get Bentley to sit in my lap and read a story. I’d get through half of a page and he was off to something else. And the actual story time with the librarian? Forget it. He had no interest. Granted, he was only 2 and expecting a child that age to sit and listen was a large ask. But he continued to do the same thing when he was 3 and 4 and 5 years old. Of course, we didn’t know then what we know now–that sitting down and paying attention just wasn’t going to happen for Bentley no matter how badly I wanted it.
Eventually, I gave up on story time and the library. He never wanted to just sit and read. I would have his little brother in my lap reading Trashy Town yet again (Palmer’s f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e library book) and Bentley would be everywhere. Not in a bad kid type of way, but of a kid with ADD type of way. A child who is so overly simulated that he can’t focus on any one thing for any length of time. I finally decided that grabbing a few books at Target or Barnes and Noble was a lot easier than the frustrating experience the library had become.
When we first moved to California in 2006, I decided to try again. Funds were low and free entertainment was a must. Turns out that although the location was different, the experience was the same. Except for this time I had an old man yelling at me, telling me what a bad parent I was because I was allowing my children to talk in a library. When my kids are misbehaving, I own it. But in this particular case, my boys were using their whisper voices, quietly asking me questions about this book or that. But this man continued to berate me, even after I politely explained that in the children’s section my children were allowed to act like… children. So instead of punching him in the mouth like I wanted to do, I left in tears. Tears because my library experience with my children had just gone from bad to worse.
Jump ahead to March 23, 2013. We head as a family back to the library. As we crossed the street and ascended the stairs into the building, Bentley asked, “Can I get my own library card?” I told him probably so and that we would certainly ask. I was so proud and excited that my son and I were going to share in something that I loved. It was the memory-making moment I had been waiting for.
You see, in the last year, Bentley has become a crazy reader. Crazy as in “put the book down we’re at the beach!” type of a reader. It took a while, but that preschooler that I thought would never, ever be a reader had finally become one. And a voracious one at that! In fact, the book that he check-out that day (or “rented” according to his little brother) he finished reading before he went to bed that night.
“Mom, can we go back to the library tomorrow?”
“Probably not tomorrow, but soon. We will go back very soon.”
“But I want to go today…”
Looks like I’ve created a monster and I couldn’t be happier.