We’ve been attending a family wedding in another state, catching up on the news that no one commits to e-mail, seeing faces, remembering names, and learning relationships as an entirely new family comes along for the ride. What this really means, of course, is that Steve and I are given the opportunity all over again to explain what it is that we do to a lot of bewildered people.
It’s interesting enough to these folks, some who have known us for many decades and some for a few days, that we design websites and print materials (always the easiest explanation). Almost all of them have seen a website by now. Although I haven’t done a statistical survey, my guess is that it hasn’t occurred to roughly half of them that someone creates those websites. The look on face after face as they absorb this news is a little bit comical and a little bit awestruck, depending on their connection to the digital age.
When we elucidate further and tell them that we work primarily with children’s literature, the reactions are even more varied. Some people, primarily those with young children, find an immediate connection. Ahhh, picture books. Yes, it’s evident to them why websites are needed for these books. They’ve looked around the Internet for information.
The majority of the people, however, can’t hide the dumbfounded look that flits across their face, soon to be replaced by curiosity or boredom. Why would we want to work with kiddie books? Haven’t we grown up? Some people rush to ascertain that we’ve read books written for adults, naming the latest Oprah pick or book club sob story they’ve read.
This weekend, we heard from two people that they’ve downloaded a couple of classics of children’s literature onto their e-book readers and they’re going to read them someday. The books are in the public domain, so the download is free. I applaud this goal … reading children’s literature as an adult provides different insights than the reading experience we had as children.
I’ve learned to let it go … be calm … let patience wash over me. Zealousness about children’s literature has never won any converts that I’m aware of. There has to be a glimmer of interest in the literature first, then recommendations for new or classic books are welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
But this always leaves me feeling sad.
ALA’s annual conference took place in Washington, D.C. over the last weekend. The attendees were happily rolling around in children’s literature among other people who get it. In fact, they were probably hard-pressed to “curb their enthusiasm.”
We know that many of our best stories, most memorable characters, powerful emotions, exciting illustrative artwork, stirring and eye-opening nonfiction, and tempting picture book text will not only provide fuel for new generations of readers and thinkers, but we know that adults can revel in the same books. There’s a legion of people who understand this. There are so many people we admire who work with these books: dedicated reading teachers, deeply knowledgeable librarians, professors inspiring newly aware minds, parents who read out loud every night and make regular trips to libraries and bookstores, organizations tirelessly promoting literacy … and the creators of the books we love, all of them, from the author to the associate editor to the traveling salespeople who share the lists of new books.
Ours is a small world of appreciation and love for the literature. We all know why we are drawn to the books and the people. If only it were easy to communicate that to the mildly curious and the bored … “You are missing out. Save yourselves before it’s too late. Follow the breadcrumbs to this amazing group of people and books.”