Greetings! Many of you already know me as Miss Amy, especially if you are under three feet tall and have attended a storytime at Montclair Branch, the Main Library Children's Room, or Eastmont Branch in the last six years. I'm one of your friendly children's librarians, and in this series I will discuss a topic that drives children's librarians and keeps us invested in our profession. A thing that keeps us hard at work, hour upon hour, day after day, and I'm not talking about googling "is Kadir Nelson married*"-- no, it's our guiding principle, the beacon we follow when all else is dim.
It is the concept of the right book for the right reader.
What does this mean?
Well, basically, the "right book for the right reader" means that for every person out there, there is a book that they will love so much that they will become convinced that reading is fun, and they will seek it out as an activity to engage in by choice. Children's librarians work with a lot of what we call "reluctant readers"-- kids who can read, but don't like to, and won't do it unless compelled to by a teacher, parent, or other adult. In theory, there is a book out there for every reader, no matter how reluctant, that they will love.
I'm not sure I believe in "the right book for the right reader."
I sure believe in matching everyone with the best books possible for their tastes; book + person matchmaking is one of my favorite tasks as a librarian. But I don't know if it's true that every single person would become a reader if they found just the right book. Some people don't like to read, and that's cool.
And yet for every child who comes to us with crossed arms, a stormy face, and mumbles of "have to read something before school starts," we start up the chase. It's kind of our white whale-- the right book for that reader may or may not be out there, but we'll pursue it until one or both of us dies from exhaustion or the kid's parents take them home.
A children's librarian perishes in pursuit of the perfect book for a child
I have a collection of memories that make me think this white whale exists-- times when I've seen a child (or adult) connect with a book in a way that changes everything. These are the stories I'll be sharing here, and my spyglass is trained to the sea for more**, so feel free to leave your own stories in the comments. What was the book that made you a reader? Mine was TROUBLE IN DEVIL'S BAYOU, which I remember looking at while lying on the living room floor at age three (or so they tell me) and suddenly all the words made sense. Yarrr, a fine book, that.
*Yes he is
**CONFESSION: I have never read MOBY DICK