The little girl is all of six, shy but determined to deliver the best book report any librarian had ever heard. She carefully places City Alphabet on the desk, scoops up the dice in her small hands, and tosses. When the dust settles, she’s rolled a 10. The corresponding question is: “How did the story end?” The girl doesn’t miss a beat – she flips to the last page of the book and says, perfectly serious, “With the letter Z.”
Despite these rampant spoilers, the TD Summer Reading Club has brought many and more earnest young readers to the library since June, flocking to the children’s area to report on all the books they’ve read. This year’s theme is Splash! Celebrate Summer, but kids don’t just have to read books about sailors and mermaids and pirates – although who can resist a stirring seafaring story? – they can choose any titles at their reading level, both fiction and non-fiction. The kids get the opportunity to relish the reading club ritual of rolling the dice, and library staff get to ask them questions about the book, e.g. “Did you laugh when you read it?” Sometimes they say no, and the quiet ones must be persuaded to explain why. Others are overjoyed to recount every twist and turn of the entire plot. Luckily, no one seems to mind the spoilers flying everywhere!
For every book they read, the kids get a stamp on a big blue bookmark, plus a sticker to put on their official SRC poster (drawn by award-winning Canadian illustrator Kim LaFave). When they fill up a bookmark’s worth of nine remarkable reads and collect all nine stickers, they get to “level up” to the Read On! program, where they read five books at a time and get ballots to enter a summer's-end draw for fabulous mystery prizes. When they complete their Summer Reading Club activities, the kids receive a certificate and the chance to see their name in lights: on the Fishing Line of Fame! One girl was so delighted to finish that her mother told her to pose with a librarian for a picture.
So it has been quite the busy summer in Cedarbrae’s children’s department – we listened to 3251 Summer Reading Club book reports, and that’s not counting the 2840 books devoured by ravenous readers for the Read On! program. That’s a lot of eager kids (997 registered for the SRC, and over a thousand attended our 32-and-counting programs) chattering about sharks and secret agents, Elephant and Piggie, Geronimo Stilton, Nancy Drew, the continuing adventures of the Rainbow Fairies, and all the rest of a cast of thousands. Not surprisingly, most of these book reports have melded together into one big blur, but here are a few standouts:
Tasdeed, a young newcomer, always writes 11 years, 9 months as his age on the prize ballots we give him. He is a very serious young man who joined the SRC in order to improve his English. He told us that he doesn’t really like to read, but he struggles on with beginning and easy readers. To date he has read over 90 books – not bad for someone who ‘doesn’t like reading!’ Another little girl, who only recently arrived in Canada and does not speak English, refuses to let a language barrier get in the way of participating in the SRC. She reads a book in her own language and then comes in with a cousin who is fluent in English to translate for her!
Then there’s Matthew. He is only five and just learning to read, but wanted to join the SRC when his older sister did. One day there was a wretched wailing coming from the foyer of the library. Matthew was there with his mother, crying his heart out. He had forgotten to bring his bookmark, which is required to do a book report, and he was heartbroken thinking that he wouldn’t be able to do a report that day. We let him do the report that day and stamped his bookmark later – it was that important to him.
Matthew is not the only one who feels strongly about his SRC achievements. Another boy came to the desk last week, very concerned that the fish with his name was drooping off the Fishing Line of Fame and you couldn’t see his name anymore. After we corrected this monstrous mistake, he stood there for a moment admiring his fish. It means a lot to the kids to see tangible evidence of their efforts on display for all to see.
At the beginning of the summer, many kids were shy when they came up to the desk. Little Kush was one such child. It used to be like pulling teeth to get him to talk about what he had read, but not for long. A few days ago, he rushed to the desk with a dinosaur book, so excited to talk about it that he wanted to read every page aloud! And even pre-readers can get something out of the SRC. An adorable toddler came to the desk with a board book and proceeded to retell the entire story. When she stopped, we pointed to a word in the book and asked her what it was. She put her hands on her hips and huffed, “I can’t read yet, you know!” Well, maybe she couldn’t read, but she sure was great at telling a story – a perfect example of how the SRC can help little ones develop their narrative skills!
Our favourite moment came near the end of the reading club, when a boy and a girl came in and did their last book report. They were both very excited to get their final sticker and certificate. We gave them each a fish to write their names on and told them the fish would go up on the wall later. A short while after, when the fish were hanging from the line, we heard squeals of delight. The brother and sister were standing in front of the Fishing Line of Fame, jumping up and down and pointing out their fish to their mother. If only we’d had a camera!