At my library, I get to do storytime with the big kids. “Big kids” in that sentence means four and up, and that might not sound that big to you, but that is because you are a grown-up. When you are on that end of the age spectrum, age 4 is a really significant difference from age 2. When they first arrive at Storytime for Big Kids, they are pretty proud that they have achieved that marker of official Bigness. And of course I then use that as the reminder of why we can’t poke our neighbor/wander around the room/shinny up the metal column: “Oh, you know, this is the BIG KID storytime. We don’t do that.” Trust grownups to turn anything fun into something to force good behavior on a child.
Yesterday, we had the first in a new set of Big Kid storytimes–we did goat stories, inspired by the new lovely Brett Helquist picture book Grumpy Goat. Then that evening, it was time for the much bigger big kids to come for Battle of the Books, the program where kids compete on their school’s team to read and recall books. The amount of energy that hits the Library on the first Battle night is hard to overstate–these kids are pumped! The room buzzes with excitement, and we try to handle them as their coaches have learned to, with a little humor, a little patience, and then a clear collective turning of our attention to Battle. They move from silly and wild to focused and intentional surprisingly fast.
This night, the room looked a little unusual. All four walls were covered with posters depicting our local veterans who have participated in the Library of Congress’s Veteran’s History Project. So, as the kids were doing their “battle” which involved answering questions from books (“First, he sharpens the pencils. Then he sharpens the chalk, and then some popsicle sticks, and then his finger. Name the book.”*) they were surrounded by pictures of the real-life vets who saw real-life battles. During the break and at the end, some of the kids went around the room and looked at some of the pictures showing servicemen back 60 or 70 years ago and today. There was something very touching about seeing those kids looking up at those pictures. Hopefully some day they will listen to some of their reminiscences as recorded here at the Library by our own Neil O’Shea (one of my personal heroes, by the way).
Today was the event for which the room was decorated: The annual Veterans’ Breakfast. I came in just as they were taking this year’s group shot.
They passed a wireless mike from hand-to-hand, and each of them introduced themselves, and when and where they fought. Many of them took a little of their time to remember those who didn’t come back at all, and there was a moment of silence to remember all who were gone now. I find it almost unbearably poignant that one of the vets passed away after RSVPing yes to the event. They are at the other end of the age spectrum from those four-year-old big kids, but the library is there for them, too.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love the books. And I think libraries will continue to be about books, and about all of the joy and all of the information they contain. But I also love that libraries bring the community together in a way that nothing else does, as the last 24 hours at my library has showed. Really, some days, it is an honor to be part of it.
*The correct answer to the Battle question is Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.