Stories for the Boys: About Libraries and Self-Esteem

Note to reader: These “Stories for the Boys” posts are specifically written for my grandsons- Ashton, August, Theodore, and Foster- so they will have stories about my husband and I.  You may read on, but my intended audience is four little boys who stole my heart.


Banned Books Week is coming up next week.  I’m a high school librarian and I’m celebrating our freedom to read at my high school library. 


Banned Books Week signs jay high school library

 Banned Books Week signs in Jay High School library- made by me and your Papa Bart and two students who helped me.

My mom (your Nanny Kay) was a school librarian.  My dad (your Poppa Roy) was also an educator and loved to read, too.  When I was a child it was a normal occurrence for my mom to read a few chapters of a book to my brothers (your great-uncles, Cortney and Jared) and I at bedtime.  I don’t know how old I was but I was old enough to remember.  I’m guessing I must have been about 11 or 12 because I remember my youngest brother (Jared) being about 5 or 6.  Anyway, I loved those years.  I had a favorite reading place for when I read by myself (in between the couch and wall- oh to be THAT skinny again!).  I don’t remember our school library at Jay Elementary School but I’m sure we had one.  I must have had plenty of books at home since I don’t remember using the school library. 

When I had kids, I read to them at bedtime, too.  The last time I read to my kids, my son (your dad/uncle Derek) was in high school and my daughter (your mom/aunt Shaina) was in middle school.  We read A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer.  We laughed and we cried.  It was the perfect book for that moment in our lives.  I have two copies of that book sitting on my bookshelf just waiting for you boys to grow up enough that we can read it together.  And speaking of banned books, when my kids were in elementary school we started reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn together. 


banned books week huck finn book jhs library

 The Huck Finn book on display at Jay High School library for Banned Books Week (along with the reason it was banned/challenged).

We didn’t finish this book but we had a good time.  To be honest, we didn’t get past the first use of the ‘n’ word.  They were aghast that a book would actually use that word so we had a good long discussion about how society changes and what was once okay is no longer fine.  We talked about tolerance and what we should and shouldn’t do or say.  It was productive and it was enough for elementary-aged kids.  My kids grew up with a fondness for Mark Twain’s dry sense of humor.

Although I don’t remember my school library, I do remember using the public library.  I remember way back when we got the books by mail-order.  Man, I loved browsing through those book catalogs! I bet my parents never got to see one because I always had it.  When I was older and the public library expanded I remember going to Delaware County Public Library in Jay, Oklahoma.  I remember my mom taking me and I remember the librarian.  She was quite intimidating.  I have one strong public library memory from those years that affected my life.  My mom and I had gone to the public library.  I picked out a book the public librarian thought was inappropriate.  She told me I couldn’t check out that book.  My mom, God love her, stood up to that librarian.  My mom told her I could check out any book that woman had in her library.  That did a lot for my self-esteem.  I have no idea what book I checked out that day.  What I do remember is that my mom stood up to that librarian and her censorship.  Also, my mom trusted me to select my own books.  As a school librarian, I always keep her actions in mind and do my very best not to censor a student’s reading choices.  I try to always trust the student.  If a child checks out a book that’s too hard, does it really matter?  What if that child wants to read that book so badly that they sit down with the book and a dictionary and they learn new words and keep learning new words until they understand what that book is saying?  Wow!  And if they don’t want to read it that bad?  No big deal.  They’ll soon bring it back and get another.  What if a child picks up a book with themes above their head?  Still no big deal.  As an adult I’ve re-read enough of the books I read as a child/teen to understand that I did not fully realize what I was reading.  The things that needed to go over my head, did go over my head and I was no worse for reading the book.  Kids are smart.  We need to trust them to choose their own books and let *them* decide when they’re in over their head.

One more library story for my boys and then I’m done for now.  My husband (“Papa” to you boys) never read as a child.  He just wasn’t interested.  When he was in high school he heard about the Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkein.  He wanted to read those books.  He went in to his high school library (Jay High School where we both graduated) and he told the librarian he wanted to check out the first book in the series.  She told him it would be too hard for him and he needed to choose an easier book.  But once Papa Bart gets something in his head he doesn’t back down.  He found that book, convinced her to let him check it out, and he read it.  Then he went on to read the rest of the series.  The way he’s always told me the story is that those were the first novels he ever read.  No one can say when another person will learn to love reading.  You learn to love it when you find books you’re interested in.  He just didn’t find “his” book until high school.  I hate to think what would have happened if he’d listened to that librarian.

So boys, if you ever have someone in your life who doesn’t believe in your abilities enough to let you read what you want to read, then believe in yourself.  All of you boys are so smart.  Some of you like to read more than others but as long as I’m around I’ll keep finding you books you love until you learn to find them on your own. 

I believe in you, Ashton!

I believe in you, August!

I believe in you, Theodore!

I believe in you, Foster!

Now go read so you can learn amazing things and take on the world!

Papa and Grandma love you boys so much.


Until next time,

Grandma Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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