When I was a third grader at Gordon Grammar School in Barnesville, Georgia, I became interested in the Battle of the Alamo. I don’t remember why, but I did.
I thought about Googling it, but then I remembered that the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. So I asked my mother to take me to the Carnegie Library to get a book about it.
After checking to see if they had any new Hardy Boys mysteries, which they didn’t (they always had the same two that I’d already read and, no matter how much I begged, they never got any others), I looked around and found a book about the Alamo that looked interesting. It was a pretty hefty volume, but I managed to tote it to the desk and set it before the lady working there. I don’t know if she was a librarian, a volunteer, or Andrew Carnegie’s great-great-niece, but I remember what she said.
“You can’t read that. It’s too advanced for you.”
Then she walked off. A minute later, she returned with another book and handed it to me. “That’s more on your level,” she said. It wasn’t a pop-up book, but it might as well have been. Anybody who’d spent a year at Miss Sylvia’s Kindergarten (shout-out to my fellow alumni!) could have read that thing in twenty minutes while watching the Officer Don Show and playing “Operation” (although I admit to always having trouble removing the funny bone, even when giving it my full concentration).
I’d never been so insulted in all my eight years.
Amazingly, given that I was a remarkably meek and mild kid, I stood up for myself. “I don’t want that one. I want the other one,” I said. When the nice lady protested again, my mother said, “Let him get the one he wants.” They probably rolled their eyes at each other.
Sighing, the library lady picked the book up and stamped the due date in it so hard that I thought she might have left a dent in the desk. “It’s due in two weeks,” she announced, which translated meant, “I’ll see you when you come crawling back asking for the kiddie book I said you should get.”
I brought it back a week later. I’d finished it. I’d even understood it. I could have written an insightful book report on it.
As I remember it, I marched up to the desk, slammed the book down, and said to that library lady, “Boom!”
Actually, I probably just deposited it in the after-hours book return slot.
There are four morals to this story.
First, never tell a kid what she or he can’t do. You don’t know. Neither do they, until they try.
Second, let ‘em read. Books are a window to a wonderful world.
Third, support your local library. It’s an incredibly valuable resource.