Why Am I Reading All of These Kids Books? A Year In Review

During my first semester of school, and into my second semester I read children’s books because I had been told it was an important part of being a children’s librarian. Over the past year I have found that this is true—but it takes more than a belief in this theory to keep reading, to keep blogging and avoid burn out.

Semester One: The Rookie
A year ago I started library school. I began my coursework with a children’s literature survey to balance out the rigor of my metadata class in my first semester. “Literature for Youth” covered historic and current trends in youth literature while also discussing evaluation models for children’s books. Throughout the semester we read top picks across genres, eras and award winners. The class required me to keep an ongoing blog that discussed one or two books I had read each week. The class was great, blogging was even better, and I fell in love with children’s literature. At the end of the semester I made the naive vow that I would keep reading and keep blogging because it would make me a great librarian someday—and it was fun.

Semester Two: Payoff
My children’s literature class was over—finding time to read got a bit harder. In my first semester reading was built into my coursework—it was for school—I had to do it. In my second semester, my courses required a different kind of reading. Keeping up with my blog took time and commitment, but I was still eager and up for the challenge. Eventually my work paid off. At the end of my second semester of school I started part-time work in a children’s library. I owe a lot of the credit to my blog—it was a great source of conversation during my interview and my comfort level with children’s books gave me a lot of confidence in the process.

Semester Three: The Summer of Burnout
This summer I took two classes, I worked a full-time job and I started my part-time library job. I began the summer semester with the expectation that I would read and blog as I had in the previous semesters. I loved reading, I loved blogging, I had a new library job—I would make time for reading. What was I thinking? I’m not sure how other people do with summer courses—the two classes I took were beyond difficult on a 10 week timeline—especially with my workload. Reading and blogging began to feel like a burden.  Not living up to my expectations for myself felt worse.

Semester Four: The Rescue and Renewal
At the end of the summer work eased up and I had more time to read. However, I realized that reading children’s literature with the idea of being a better librarian was not enough reason for me. The theory made sense but it didn’t make sense when all I did was read in my “spare time”  or chastise myself for not reading. One of the adult librarians at my job recognized my burn out and she rescued me. I was expressing my frustration with adolescent protagonists–she asked me what kind of grown up books I like to read. I responded with David Sedaris. She stepped away from the desk and returned with a copy of Carl Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.  I read like a grown up for a while, when I didn’t want to read—I didn’t read. I took a break.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been faced with some serious readers advisory work. My patrons never cease to challenge me. During these readers advisory sessions I have discovered and internalized why I need to read children’s literature. There is a frustration on both sides of the desk when I can’t help a patron find the right book. Yet nothing feels better than a genuine book talk that leads to a happy patron.  In the practice of helping patrons, I have found the truth in the theory I learned in my first semester of library school. Being a great children’s librarian takes a commitment to children’s resources. Reading children’s literature is part of the job. At the same time, a job is a job and a work/life balance must be struck. I’m learning to identify when I am bored or bogged down with kids’ books or blogging about kids books. When that happens, I indulge myself with a mystery (written for adults)—or a break.

Photo by Nationaal Archief

3 replies

  1. I love your honesty and subject, Ashley, because I have had hte same problem. I love to read – loooove to read – but grad school has me staring at a pile of good books and then turning away. Good luck taking care of your brain while simultaneously helping your readers!


  2. I just finished my Masters in Children’s Literature, and am now applying to library school. Often, I feel overwhelmed, because no matter how many children’s and YA books I read, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE. There is never a way to “get caught up” or be a COMPLETE “expert” on the subject because there are so many good (and not so good) books out there! You are correct in that you sometimes just have to take a breath, eat some chocolate, and stop reading. Then, when you come back to the lit, you will feel refreshed and have a more intellectual eye.


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