So, thank you, Brad. And, thank you for all the Carter Ross books, including the latest one, The Girl Next Door.
By Brad Parks
Something wonderful happened with my kids a few months back, something I didn’t even realize until it had already come to pass.
I guess parenting is like that sometimes. The most important milestones can often be the ones you don’t even notice at first.
It was my daughter who helped make me aware of it. I had just picked up her and her older brother from pre-school and was asking them what they wanted to do that afternoon, giving them the usual menu of options – go to the playground, hit the pool at the local Y, head back home – when my daughter piped up in that sweet little voice of hers.
“Daddy,” she said. “Can we go to the li-berry?”
The library. My daughter had only barely started being able to say the word – it’s a lot of R’s, you know – and I suppose I knew her pre-school had been taking her there for story time. Yet, while I hate to admit it, my first thought was: what a terrible idea.
Mostly because I had tried it before. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are beautiful and smart (like their mother) but they’re also a bit of a handful (like their father). And I had made attempts to take them to the library sporadically throughout their infancy and toddlerhood.
Inevitably, it would turn into a minor disaster. During story time, while all the other kids patiently stayed seated in their parents’ laps, my son – the kid with the non-stop motor – was the one who twisted and squirmed out of his Daddy’s arms and then proceeded to run around the library like someone had set his shoes on fire.
Or there was my daughter: the drooling, page-ripping machine. She had, quite literally, a voracious appetite for books, because she often tried to eat them. Being at the library with her meant that if I turned my back for even a second, I would inevitably find myself approaching the front desk sheepishly, asking for Scotch tape to mend whatever damage she had just inflicted.
Taking them both to the library? Forget it. Too stressful.
But by that point I had faltered long enough before answering that my daughter added a long, pleading, “Pweeeeeeeeease?” (Those L’s are hard, too). So what choice did I have?
And we had a blast.
That’s when I learned we had passed that wonderful milestone: My kids had finally gotten old enough for the library.
I know that when Lesa invited me on her blog, she probably thought I’d be flogging my latest book. And, yeah, I suppose I should (it’s called The Girl Next Door: buy it or my children will starve). But I also know that a lot of you reading this are librarians, and I guess I want you to know – on behalf of all the parents of young children who are perhaps a bit too harried to say it – how much I appreciate watching my kids discover their local library.
There’s just some magic about libraries and kids. They go together. And I suspect, in the heart of every librarian, there’s a place that leaps when they see a child connecting with a book.
Maybe I just say that because of my own experience with them. I wasn’t necessarily always the most focused student – formal schooling and I didn’t always see eye to eye – but I did have a library card. My mom, bless her heard, took me often. And that’s really where I got a lot of my education and began to foster many of the passions and interests that have followed me into adulthood. As a kid, I read biographies of Presidents (to this day I still love history); sports books (which helped launch my career as a writer, since the first thing I covered as a newspaper reporter was sports); and, of course, the Hardy Boys (the significance of which ought to be clear, given my current avocation).
More to the point, going to the library never felt like going to school. It wasn’t drudgery, something I was forced to do. It was something I did for fun.
And to see my children start to form the same relationship with their library has been a special joy.
My son is a nut for superhero books. He has checked out every Spiderman and Batman book at the library at least twice. I’m using all my charm with the library director to convince her to add some X-Men to her collection. After she does that, I’ll be batting my eyes and asking for Fantastic Four.
Then there’s my daughter, who is currently on an Amelia Bedelia kick (even though I swear she doesn’t understand the jokes). But she’s also good for Curious George, Angelina Ballerina, Lulu the Ladybug Girl (she’s even got the costume), and a host of other great characters. These days when I turn my back on her at the library, the only danger is that she’ll have already picked out a pile of books ten tall that I’ll then have to make her pare down.
We now visit the library at least once a week. And it’s become more than just a nice way to kill a Tuesday afternoon. At an age when my kids and I don’t share a lot of interests – sorry, superheroes and princesses just don’t do much for me – the library is something we can enjoy together.
Best of all, I know they’re only just starting to explore the great journey that is knowing their library.
I can’t wait to see where it takes them.
Brad Parks is a winner of the Nero Award and the Shamus Award. His latest book, The Girl Next Door, releases from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books on March 13. For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter http://www.bradparksbooks.com/newsletter.php, like him on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brad-Parks-Books/137190195628, or follow @Brad_Parks on Twitter.
Thank you, again, Brad. That post means so much to me, and I know it will to other librarians and library users. Brad will be appearing for Authors @ The Teague on April 5 at 2 p.m. Can't wait to meet him!