Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ah, Middle School.

I decided to post once again on the topic very near and dear to my heart: being a school librarian.

If you recall, I work in a middle school. I have 6th-8th graders, and in one day I check out on average 300 books. Now, if you look back at your middle grade years, I am going to assume you cringed. Puberty is the worst, cliques are the worst, bullying is the worst... it seems that that age is universally 'the worst.'

It is difficult working with them. These kids now have an attitude and know how to use it. They understand sarcasm. They no longer want to be seen as 'cool' by the teacher, they want the students to. They have an opinion and by golly it must be FACT.

It is awkward. It is hard seeing the great divide between 'cool' students and the not-so cool students.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, because I had to see fellow book lovers bashed in my library yesterday. I know, it's heart breaking to hear of students feeling self-conscious just because they like to read.

I am starting a book club. While I was telling this to my students, I had a handful of students who were eager to get a flier from me, and were asking me questions about the club. (It is going to be a laid back/geeky club, rather then everyone reading the same book and then discussing it. It's going to be more book-talks, and fun activities like looking for book covers that use the same image. I'M EXCITED!)

When the teacher dismissed her class, a student yelled 'Yeah book club!' It was obviously very derogatory, and hearing it just made my heart sink. I stole a quick glance to the table of girls that were holding the flier and you could see they looked confused. Why must students be so incredibly cruel?

After the class left, the student and his teacher had a discussion in front of me. His teacher asked him why he didn't pick up a flier since he was 'so enthused' about the club. Of course he scuffled his feet, and avoided looking at us. After telling him we knew it was obvious he was NOT doing it to be nice, she asked him why he did it. His response was a cop out. "I don't understand the idea."

Instead of letting it go, his teacher asked him 'Do you ever people ask you why you like to get sweaty and roll around other guys?' He nodded, and then said that comments like that didn't bother him. The teacher told him that it was good for him that he might be able to not care why others didn't understand his love for wrestling and 'didn't get it' but that not everyone is like that.

In the end- I'm not sure he is truly sorry for making the comment he did. He thinks that reading is uncool, which in turn makes it OK to make fun of it.

As a mother- I am terrified of when it comes time for my daughter to be in middle school.

Right now, there are several students interested in the club and I am happy for them. Maybe this will help them- even if it means taking verbal abuse from their peers.


  1. I used to be a school librarian too and got lots of barbs like that. I found it disheartening too but focused on the kids who loved to read. Don't forget cool snacks and advertise it on your fliers. Even the kids who "pretend reading is uncool" come for the snacks. I had huge turnouts. I did just like you and had a laid back time with sharing fun reads. We even made posters of our favorite books to hang around the school. :)

  2. As the parent of a new middle schooler, it's good to hear the librarian's perspective! My son is a typical reluctant reader and he does tend to make fun of me when my nose is buried in a book -- but he does it with love and I know not to take it seriously. (And he does actually love books -- just prefers to be read to than to read himself). It's awful to hear that kids might be made to feel uncool about being interested in a book group. But by creating a positive space in the library and making it fun and warm for the kids who participate, hopefully other kids' comments won't get in the way. There will always be kids who love to read! (I'm hoping my son will still turn into one of those...)

    And incidentally, my son reports that his middle school librarian is very cool and always recommends good graphic novels! I feel like we're moving in the right direction. :)

    Thanks for sharing this topic! It's really near and dear to my heart.