Every now and then I have a day which reminds me of why I wanted to be a librarian in the first place.
I went to the computer lab with a group of first graders to find out about some birds in our part of New York. They used the wonderful Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All About Birds” pages to look at pictures, listen to birdsong, and find out the size of the birds. Then they cut a piece of string the same size as the length of their bird. That was it–nothing elaborate, but immensely satisfying. Even the non-readers were able to find information using pictures and sounds, and every one of them began to make discoveries about size. A swan’s wingspan was wider than one young researcher was tall. The boy learning about the turkey vulture and the boy researching the hummingbird held their strings next to each other, agog. One young lady said, as we left the lab, “I want to do that again!” Music to a librarian’s ears.
The second graders have been learning about mammals, and each adopts one species to study and report on. The children who discover their species are endangered are almost comically indignant–“There might not be any pandas when I grow up? How could there not be any pandas when I grow up!” There are the poignant moments of discovery, too. One boy, discovering that the black howler monkey is endangered, suggested that they be relocated to his dad’s land, where, he assured me, there was plenty of room. He was bitterly disappointed to discover the difference in climate between western NY and Belize.
Who wouldn’t want to be a librarian? I get to help the students find the important stories. Not only the one “you know, the one with the duck? And it makes noise?” or the one “you read to me in kindergarten and it had a spider and a hippo,” but also the story of how a polar bear cub survives the winter, or the tale of how a volcano erupts, or the story of a Masai child’s day. Two first graders borrowed copies of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters–honestly, you would think I was giving them money, they were so excited. There is nothing, nothing, so wonderful as a student’s imagination catching fire. Oh, and did I mention…I get paid to do this!