Today I took a break from my taxes and went to go shelve books in my son's school library, which had been painted over the summer. Piles of white cardboard boxes, full of hidden treasures, stood in stacks awaiting dispersement by the dozen volunteers huddled at the shelves. I was assigned to the 'B's shelf in Fiction, which included rearranging the 'C's and 'A's to make room. All afternoon I greeted old friends—from Lloyd Alexander to Judy Blume to Beverly Cleary—and met new ones (I've never read Avi, Pearl Buck or Betsy Byars). I swam in memories of my own sixth grade year, when I spent every free minute either in the school library or scribbling in my journal (always surging past the required two pages), where I faithfully logged each new title that poured, like water, into my eyes and mind. I felt my old addiction surface, and had to suppress the uncontrollable urge I felt as a child to open and dive into every other book. It reminds me to be more patient with my son. Sometimes I have to tell him to stop reading. On the other hand, sometimes I have to insist, bribe, force him to open a book. He wouldn't come with me today. He's playing his two hours of Need 4 Speed.
Is it inevitable that he would rather sit at home and play video games? It it a stage he's going through? Is the easy and ubiquitous availability of electronics the dissolution of literary culture? Who knows what portion of these books will be read in the next year, the next five, ten, twenty years? A row of computers runs the length of the room between the shelves; there is nowhere to sit with a stack of books. Our school cannot afford a librarian anymore. Few schools can. I blow plaster dust from the tops of the tighly pressed pages, valleys between the raised edges of each book cover, and try to stay in the moment. At least they are here, now, back on the shelves where they belong. And here they will stay—at least until the room is painted again.
Causes Kristen Caven Supports
350.org, IdleFreeOakland.org, Public Education, Public Radio, Department of Peace (ThePeaceAlliance.org), Planned Parenthood, Room to Read.