Every other week I spend a few minutes volunteering at the school library. It’s a fun, quiet half hour for me before I walk down to the Kindergarten class and the controlled chaos of a swarm of six-year-olds. I chat with the aide who runs the library (she’s a saint — the librarian position was axed years ago and this woman does a ton of work for considerably less pay, I would guess) but mostly I pick up the books kids have returned and put them back on the shelves.
As a writer of adult novels, I find it fascinating to see what gets checked out. (And if you are writing YA or middle grade fiction, I would think a similar experience would be invaluable.) Every week, I see the same books — the flower fairy series, a series about children who turn into animals, the usual Cornelia Funke and Harry Potter books. Scooby Dooby Doo, who manages to make it into my son’s backpack every single week. Good books all, especially since they are actually being read.
But there are the days when I’m shelving books and something unexpected slips off the cart and into my hands, like a gift. I can’t resist — I flip through the pages, read a few, and before I know it, I’ve been transported to another time and place. I’m gulping words as fast as I can when the morning announcements break in and jolt me back to reality.
Later, walking down the halls to class, watching the kids jostle by, I see them a little differently than before. I wonder which one picked out that book, and why. I wonder if he or she is a member of my tribe — the word addicts — and what will happen, where that addiction will lead. Although we don’t know each other, we share a secret, we’ve met, if only across the pages of the same book. And as I look at these kids and at the path facing them in the future, I find that comforting.