12 June 2009
You’re not supposed to say how much money you make, but why not? The bosses don’t want us to know. The people with the big paychecks don’t want us to know. It is some kind of bourgeois rule. My new insurance premiums kicked in and my last paycheck was $527. For one month, 30 hours a week. Less than $5 an hour. I work in a school library, as an “assistant,” although, functionally, I’m the librarian. Yikes!
Blanca has come to the library almost every morning this week asking for me to give her tag board from the supply room. She is in 3rd grade. Her teacher is new and she must not realize we aren’t supposed to give a child tag board every day, but I don’t care. Blanca is a girl who always knows what she is doing. One day she needed it for picture she wanted to draw. The second day it was Saul’s birthday and she wanted to make a birthday card. On the third day, she asked me if I had heard about the woman at Winco who got arrested because she didn’t have her papers. Blanca needed tag board to make a sign. I asked what she was going to write on her sign, and she said, Stop discrimination, or something like that.
My boss is building walls in the library. I will only say this: many things need doing right now at our school and building a windowless room in our beautiful, open library is not one of them. We’re having a fight. A fight that I, because of my subordinate position, am doomed to lose.
The builders have come and put xs on the floor to show where the walls will be built. Look, a 6 year old named Carlos said to his friend, touching an x with the tip of his shoe, this is where the treasure is.
Alberto and Juanita were my helpers today which means they stamp the due date in the book. One hands the other the book and the other stamps. They seemed to be playing store. Thank you for shopping at Lincoln Library, they said each time they handed a book to a child. They took all the bookmarks and created a display on the counter so each kid could choose the one they wanted: the dog one, the cat one, the Garfield- in Spanish- telling- you -to read one.
How can the kids figure out how to take care of the world we’re leaving them if they can’t take care of their dang library books? This is one of the philosophical questions I wrestle with. Eventually I work my way into a big guilt trip for kids who lose or destroy books, but when they are little, when they are five years old, I go easy.
April is Poetry Month so yesterday I read poems to the third graders: Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams. I read the Red Wheel Barrow poem and I read the beginning of Sharon Creech’s novel, Love That Dog, about a boy who is forced to read the wheel barrow poem. Sometimes I look at the kids, sitting on the floor around me, and I think of the world we are giving them– how can it not break your heart? So much depends on a red wheel barrow and so much depends on them. I shut the book and talked about poetry and the importance of words. I told them that maybe, because we have so many books, it’s easy to forget that they are important. I talked about the fact that it used to be illegal to teach slaves to read, and that’s because reading makes us powerful. I talked about a country (the old Soviet Union) where, when a new book of poetry came out, people stood in lines that reached down the block to get a copy. I told them that there a country where, when a poet published a new book of poems, the government had an emergency meeting, in order to decide what to do about it. That poet was Marmoud Darwish. Usually I try not to preach to the kids. Much of the time, I read them funny books—they especially like Dav Pilkey and Jon Scieszka— but sometimes I can’t help myself.
I was glad to see that when it was time to check out books, some of them chose poetry.
I was reading the preschoolers a book called My Dog, Toby when 4 year old Brennan interrupted to say that he had a dog one time but his father threw it out the back door and it died. He said, “That was sad, huh.”
ps I don’t write about kids who are in my school now. The stories I use when I write about my school are from journals I’ve kept over the years.
Today I bought two books at the library book sale: Sister Noon by Karen Joy Fowler and Tales of the Master Raceby Marcie Hershman. They were $3 each. The woman next to me said to her husband, “Three dollars for a paperback! That’s ridiculous. I can get them for nothing at the Senior Center.” Three lousy dollars for a whole book. Since when did people start thinking they shouldn’t pay for books? How do they think publishers and writers and printers and booksellers and all the people who work to make a book get paid? Plus, it was a benefit for the library, for crying out loud. Come on.