Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Fight Against Fuzz

I do not regret reading any of the books that I read in my childhood. At least not that I can remember at the moment!

I'm sure that some of the literary choices I made were less than stellar, but none were really awful, bad books. Part of that, I'm sure, is due to the fact that I was finding my reading material in our little library in Peru (yeah, that would be the little library on the missionary base), and therefore must also partly be due to the fact that any book I checked out had to make it past "Aunt" Teresa*, the former-nun-turned-missionary-librarian.

Aunt Teresa scared all of us kids, I think. She was a tiny woman even from a child's point of view, with short cropped gray hair and a no-nonsense attitude. She ran that library. She might have even been officially in charge of it. NO ONE crossed Aunt Teresa. If she didn't approve of a book I was trying to check out, she would call my mom to make sure it was OK if I walked out with it. It drove me crazy, and eventually Mom told her that I could check out anything I wanted and they (my parents) would look at it before I read it. And yet, although I was in awe of her, there was a certain sparkle in her eyes that made me feel like I was her favorite among all the kids that passed by her desk. My speed-reading, book-devouring little self certainly kept her busy, at least!

My girls read just like I did as a kid; fast and often. And, just like their mother, they read far above their grade level, which is where my battle begins...and where I begin to appreciate Aunt Teresa's efforts at a whole new level.

Our school curriculum is heavy on reading. (Imagine that!) We have multiple books for each subject, as well as "free reading" books and scheduled literature. We have books for Kindergarten through 5th grades on our shelves, and I've started collecting books for 6ththrough 12th grades as well. It would be an understatement to say that we have a lot of books.

And it is precisely because we have a lot of books that I keep a list in my purse of all the books on our school shelves. It's printed in a font about this big, and it's currently 9 pages long. I started it a few years ago because I kept coming home with books I was looking for...only to find a copy already sitting on our shelves! I am constantly updating the list: when I pull a book off the shelf to get rid of, that book gets deleted from the list, and when I find a new treasure, it gets added to the print-out before it gets shelved. It's a system that has worked well for me, and I've successfully kept it to "only" 9 pages. (So far!)

The other day I entered some new books into my list, and in the process decided that one of the books, although harmless enough in subject matter, wasn't worthy of "living" on the school shelves. (I call these kinds of books "fluff" books. They are books that are mindless, quick reads, with nothing to grow on. They have little, if any, educational value and contain nothing worth thinking about later. They are books with no "meat" to them, only "fluff".)

I told the girls that I had decided that it was a "fluff" book, and that if they wanted to keep it they had to squeeze it onto their shelves. They kept it, and later, one of them asked me why I had called it a "fuzz" book, yet put a similar book on the school shelves.

I asked her if she had learned anything from the fluff book (hereafter known as a "fuzz" book!), and she said, "Well, no, but it was fun!" Then I asked her if she had learned anything from the other book. "I already knew about most of it...but in the end Mr. X learned that he shouldn't be rude to strangers, and ... OH! I get it! One of the people in the book learned a good lesson that we can learn too! That's why it's not a fuzz book and the other one is!"

I think Aunt Teresa would approve!

*All of the kids on the missionary center called the adults "Aunt" and "Uncle". It was like having one really big family. :)