Friday, June 12, 2009
Even on a day off, there’s no getting away from books. Yesterday I volunteered at one of Minneapolis’s inner-city schools. A teacher I know there needed help moving into a new classroom – just across the hall from his old classroom. He taught 4th grade this past year, and next year he’ll be teaching 3rd graders, so he asked me to help him weed his book collection, pulling out anything that might not be appropriate for his younger readers. Weeding is such an intense, personal chore. You’re confronted with dozens of difficult choices with each book you pick up. And just because I love a particular book – for example, he had a copy of Rumer Godden’s exquisite The Mousewife – doesn’t mean 3rd graders will share my enthusiasm. Now I know what librarians have to go through. My friend had bought most of those books himself over the years. Many of the books were tattered, had ripped covers, or had handwriting scrawled on them. They had been touched and opened and read by hundreds of little hands. These were books that had become part of children’s lives, at least during those hours they spent in my friend’s classroom. These books meant something to all of us – to the students, to my generous friend, and finally to me, who had to choose what to keep and what to discard. The Mousewife is now sitting on a shelf in my bedroom.