Monday, June 18, 2007

First Encounters @ the Library

Library Orientation classes for primary grades won't happen until the last week of June. Librarians are all busy team planning with Reading teachers in their assigned grade levels and there is one more Mediashoppe cum LRC Orientation for new teachers at the Early Education Library on Friday, June 22, 2007. The grade one students, however, had their first encounter with the library during the first week of school. Their class advisers brought them up to the "big" library as part of their school wide orientation program.

Since it was their first days in a big school environment, some of them could not help but get lost.

One grade one boy was looking for the bookstore to buy a school textbook. He went up the library instead. He did this several times even though he was told and guided to where the bookstore was. One teacher who has a son in grade one was frantic last Thursday since she could not find her son during dismissal. It turned out that her son was at the library reading with much bigger boys in the primary section. The school's Assistant Principal had to guide one first grader to where the books are so that he can read and enjoy a cooler place at lunch break.

In our supervision time at lunch break, the first graders are the noisiest and rowdiest. There are fighting, games of hiding and seek, running about, jumping and rolling down the mini-amphitheater we all call the Storytelling Area. Boys would report stealing and grabbing of books. They also ask the most questions.

For these boys, the library is but another area for play and recreation. Rules and regulations do apply, but the implementation of such requires patience, compassion and a firm but caring voice when communicating with them.

I remember in first grade, I had Ms. Oliva, my first school librarian in my old parochial school in Pateros. She was plump, cheerful and always smiling. I would go to the library at recess to read. When I had my first borrower's card, I brought home a Dick and Jane book which I finished reading in no time. It stayed in my cabinet for days and weeks until my mother discovered it sleeping among my old toys. She had to pay the library a good amount of overdue fees. That's when she started borrowing books from IS Manila. Soon, I was reading Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey, Ezra Jack Keats and Eve Bunting. I never borrowed again from my school library until sixth grade when being small and dusky excluded me from my more prettier classmates. It was the peak of my awakening from books, reading and literature.

When my mother brought me to see the Children's Media Center of IS Manila, I met my first library fairy in the person of Neni Sta. Romana Cruz. She does not know this yet, but I adored her the first time I saw her emerging out from a room. She had sad raccoon eyes but her smile was gentle and welcoming. There was an aura about her that drew me in. That's when I acknowledged how I wanted to be like her - to be surrounded with books in a room so free and beautiful; to be reading and writing for life; to be with children; to be forever young.

By second grade, I was already reading chapter books. Frog and Toad are Friends by Anita and Arnold Lobel; Greek Myths and Norse Legends; Scary stories and comic books. I had my first dinosaur book and at eight years old (I started school early) I considered myself a dinosaur expert. I wanted to be an archaeologist to find out dinosaur fossils in the Philippines. By third grade, I knew how to use a dictionary and an encyclopedia. Nancy Drew and the Bobsey Twins became my heroes at fourth grade. I laughed with Ramona and Beezus and solved mysteries with Encyclopedia Brown in fifth grade. Between the two Hardy boys, I had my heart set on Frank Hardy. I was a reading geek at 11 years old that when I discovered a few good classmates who were also readers, I didn't see myself as too strange at all. Only a little. And then, I stopped reading. I didn't know why, I guess I just wanted to rest for a while.

My mother intervened again. She brought me to work every summer. At that time, she was assigned at the Middle School Library of IS Manila. There began my new reading adventure as a teenager. That of course is anotehr story.

I do not know how far the reach of our influence can impact the lives of our grade one students. Most of them may only remember their library as a cool place, where the aircon is always on; a hangout venue with friends; a waiting area till the fetcher arrives; a place to sleep; an area for play and games. I do know that we're doing our best. We're doing our share to raise boys who are fully alive, endowed with the passion for justice and the skills for development.

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