Did I Miss Something?

Posted by Rita Lorraine

Hi Everybody,
Hope you’re all well and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. Just stopping through with an observation about children’s books.

OKAY, DID I MISS SOMETHING???

As many of you know, I’m not just a writer, I also specialize in finding, reviewing and recommending great children’s books. I post my reviews on my own site – called Picture Book Depot, and my reviews can also be found on The New York Journal of Books.

After my give-away stack got up to 20-deep, I began looking for schools that might love some beautifully-illustrated hard-cover children’s books hot off the press. I decided on a school my own children attended many years ago, and where I once taught remedial reading in an after-school program. The school has had performance issues in recent years, so I figured, “What better place to donate books?” I was wrong!

The “community outreach” coordinator informed me that their school is shifting to nonfiction books only, and said the librarian no longer has room on her bookshelf for fiction. Period.

Uh…did I miss something?? Since when does a school at (or near) the bottom of the comprehension, reading, test score and attendance list turn down books of any kind? And why? What’s wrong with fiction? I grew up with it, and so did my children, and we’re not academically scarred.

In the end, the woman accepted only two of the twenty books I offered, and those only because they were nonfiction. She gingerly pushed the remainder of the stack back at me, and I must admit, this made me so sad. Within that remaining stack were books about just what horses do at night when Farmer isn’t watching (they play cards, of course!); two teeny monsters who create a big monster to help them be scarier, only this monster loves to eat pastries and gaze at the sunrise; and a little girl adjusting to the move to a new house and her big, big bedroom.

I did eventually find a community center that happily accepted the books, but I wonder…should schools turn down books, even if they’re fiction? Should outreach coordinators speak for parents? Couldn’t this coordinator have accepted the books, then dispersed them to teachers to give as gifts to their lowest-performing students.

Again, did I miss something?

Best wishes and happy reading,

Rita Lorraine

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