Library Etiquette for Kids

I breathed in deep, watching the antics of the children surrounding me.  They built their towering Lego structures then knocked them down in a furiously chaotic jumble – pieces flying, fought emphatically with plastic dinosaurs, screamed with delight at cartoons blaring from the TV, and raced Matchbox Cars around the racetrack themed rug.  Their incessant, ear-splitting squeals and generally deafening racket filled my ears at this amazing birthday party.  One child in particular screamed for two and a half hours straight; I didn’t know this was physically possible. It was impressive really.

But wait.

It wasn’t a birthday party.  This was during my recent trip to the library! Okay, so even though the title says “Library Etiquette for Kids,” it really should read “Library etiquette for parents who let their kids run around and invade every quiet space anywhere, ever.”

What happened to the days of yore when librarians glared over their horn-rimmed glasses and “shhh-d” kids with a menacing shhh that could not, would not be ignored?  Instead, they build an entire open air playground for them within the sacred walls of mystery, reading, and learning.    Gone are the days of teaching children that there is a time and a place for play, and that the library is most definitely not one of these places.

Do you want your kids to blow off steam?  Newsflash:  there are places designed just for that purpose.  Chuck E. Cheese, for example, the park, a playground, or a Bounce Zone come to mind.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the sanctity of the library. Okay, okay, I know I get up to my own library shenanigans, but hey, at least I’m QUIET about it. I mean, this is serious business, people.

I remember the good old days, when I would go to the library with my friends or parents and read, study, or research…not to mention stock up on books to take home. So quiet were these spaces that you didn’t dare giggle or you would risk being loudly hushed by the bespectacled Gargoyle behind the Counter.

During my fateful trip to the kid zone, I mean, library, there were several high school students scattered around at tables, attempting to have lessons with tutors; my daughter herself was there with a tutor trying to take a test.  These kids and their tutors had to raise their own voices to be heard over the ruckus coming from the kid’s corner.  The resulting cacophony brought to mind a football game or a bar; in fact, if I had a drink in my hand, this atmosphere would have been easier to understand…and to tolerate. Maybe.

I’m afraid of a future where kids have no respect for anything or anyone.  The heart of respect and learning could be found in the pages of the world that surrounded these kids at this specific moment in time and instead, they careened all around this indoor playground and paid no attention to the wonders that could have been found on the shelves right in front of their eyes.

What does this say about the parents?  I do understand that some parents need to use the library and have no-one to watch the kids for a few minutes; trust me, I get it. Been there, done that. But, here’s a novel idea (see what I did there?): encourage your kids to readHelp them to learn.  Point them in the direction of books that challenge their minds, warm their hearts, encourage their imagination.

If they can’t read yet, sit them down with picture books – it’s a library for god’s sake –  there are a myriad of options and opportunities to open your children up to the world of books. If you allow your kid to run wild in a library, you may be part of a bigger problem.  If you cannot teach your kids that they need to be quiet in some situations, Great Aunt Abigail’s funeral will be quite an interesting event.

What do these “play areas” say about the librarians and management of these once fine institutions?  Are they afraid to ask parents to (gulp, gasp) be PARENTS?  Who came up with this fantastic idea of allowing kids to play loudly in a building that is traditionally used to study, read, and learn?

Now, of course I know that kids need to play.  I am a big proponent of kids playing and burning off energy, socializing, sharing and laughing.  I am also a big supporter of the idea, “a time and a place for everything.

To me, the library is not the place for unrestrained, rowdy free-for-alls.  Allowing this behavior is disappointing for the people who still choose to use the library as intended, and for the kids themselves as they ignore thousands of books full of wonderful, wild adventures.

I guess I’m done with this rant for now; I need to go to Chuck E. Cheese and read a book.

 

Library Shenanigans

I was waiting for my daughter to finish with her tutor yesterday at the library, and having already chosen the books I was taking home, I got a little bored.  So, I decided to amuse myself.

  • I grabbed a thick atlas off the Geography shelf and slammed it open at a table full of people. I pored over one page with a magnifying glass while mumbling “There it is!  The biggest treasure in history, just like Grandpa told me, right here on page 98!  He was right; I’m rich!”  Then, I slammed the book shut and put it back on the shelf full of atlases.
  • I went to the Wildlife section and made bird calls from behind the shelf any time anyone came over. My repertoire is quite impressive I’ll have you know.
  • I chose one person and followed him all around the library. Hiding behind the shelves, I kept popping my head out and whispering, “I see you.”
  • I found a book about time travel, then waited for people to come down the aisle before rifling through the pages and muttering angrily, “If only they knew. I could have saved them all.”
  • Strolled up to the librarian and announced, “I’ll have a Big Mac, small fries, and a diet Coke.” She was not amused.
  • I walked out of the bathroom with a thick book and said, “Geesh, I wouldn’t go in there for a while.”
  • I brandished a genealogy book over my head, screaming, “I knew it! Bow down before me!”
  • I read a comic book and kept spewing a running commentary of the entire thing. “Don’t go in there, Batman! Don’t do it! Oh, snap, he went in! Look out!”
  • Grabbed a book on dream interpretation and thumbed through it, feverishly mumbling “Giant mutant flying cannibalistic panda bears…”
  • Paged through a cookbook while sitting at a crowded table, whispering, “Where IS that kitten stew recipe?”
  • Pretended to have a heart attack in front of the CPR manuals. No-one noticed.
  • Built a fort out of books about forts.  The brilliance of this was lost on the security guards. They have no appreciation for genius.

They say I can be allowed back in the library by 2018, with adult supervision. No fair if you ask me.

Books on Tape

Have you guys heard of audiobooks yet? What a genius idea! They’re books that are read out loud by a narrator and recorded, so you can listen to the story instead of read it. Who knew?! (This is where you say, “Wendy, literally everyone knows about audiobooks.”)

Don’t worry, all. I’m not so far out of the technology loop that I’m just now learning that audiobooks exist. But, I will say that it wasn’t until just recently that I started to give them a shot. And you know what…I kinda like ‘em!

It’s not that I dislike good ol’ fashioned reading. Sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with an engaging page turner, which is why it took me so long to come around to audiobooks. I figured, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And to me, books ain’t broke. I know, I know, perhaps I should listen to a grammar book (as my mother’s voice rings in my head…”ain’t isn’t a word, dear”).

But for some reason I decided to give audiobooks a chance. (The honest reason? They were free.) YouTube and a few other sites have books that you can download onto your phone and, boom, you listen through your headphones. Easy peasy.

The crazy thing I’ve learned since this new trend started is that I sort of like the feeling of someone reading to me. It’s relaxing in a very childlike sort of way. I can hunker down, close my eyes, and do literally zero work to have a story fed into my brain. I wouldn’t call it “laziness,” but rather an alternative relaxation technique I’m embracing. Hey, stop rolling your eyes at my rationalizations! I thought long and hard on that one!

I’m currently listening to Agatha Christie’s collection. Her books are great. Right now, I’m on “Cards on the Table.” The one downside with the audiobook is that it keeps my mind from conjuring up what each character sounds like. I hear the narrator and that’s the voice of the character. Not the worst thing in the world, but still, I miss that little sliver of freedom (such as imagining David Suchet – the quintessential Poirot) reading gives me.

Sometimes I start playing a book before bed to wind down, but I end up falling asleep and in the morning, I have to go back to the beginning again. But that’s not going to stop me. It might take me longer. But it won’t stop me.

Which is why I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked! Is it sad that I’d rather have someone read to me instead of reading for myself? Or is this me being “hip to the times” and embracing what technology has to offer? You decide. I have a book to listen to.

Seriously, not even a mention?

If you’re going to write a story about my cat, the least you can do is send me a signed copy of the book, or I don’t know, perhaps a brief mention in a “dedication” would be nice, or even a measly percentage of royalties maybe, but no. Nothing. Nada. No such thing as respect these days.

 

seriously though, a good book, ya'll should read it

really though, a GREAT book, well worth reading! 

 

a bug having been spotted on the ceiling, pain for me is shortly forthcoming

a bug having been spotted on the ceiling, excruciating pain for me is shortly forthcoming

 

cat out of hell indeed

she may be a cat out of hell indeed — but so far, not a true literary inspiration

The Lost Art of Low-Tech Entertainment

When most people think of amusement parks, they think of Disney World (Florida) and Disneyland (California).  They think of rides – roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, bumper cars – and maybe even water parks.

As a matter of fact, I think today it’s pretty difficult to find any amusement park that doesn’t have high-speed rides or virtual reality booths as an integral part of its attractions.  What they offer to kids is speed and high-tech fun…an adrenaline rush…and that’s it. I don’t think many of them actually stimulate a kid’s creative thought processes…not like The Enchanted Forest did.

What is The Enchanted Forest, you ask? (If you need to ask, you clearly haven’t seen the John Waters film Cry-Baby, starring Johnny Depp!)

The Enchanted Forest was a nursery-themed amusement park located in Howard County, Maryland. A blast from my past. It opened in 1955 – a month after Disneyland opened – and delighted children and adults for 34 years, until it closed in 1989. It was reopened briefly in 1994, in another location, but closed again for good in 1995. It’s finally got a new life now on a farm, in 2015…well…kind of.

The Gingerbread Man who refused to be dessert, a somewhat fierce dragon, Snow White and her dwarf buddies, Old Mother Hubbard, Alice in Wonderland along with the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, The Crooked Man with his equally crooked house, and just about all of the other various icons of the park have been moved and restored once again, this time just for nostalgia’s sake I believe. Only a few structures were lost to age and vandalism, worn beyond repair, among them were Cinderella’s Castle and the Gingerbread House of Hansel and Gretel fame. Not too bad I suppose, all things considered.

What was great about The Enchanted Forest – what was unique about it – was that it was just a low-key park, based around characters from books and fairy tales. Yeah, that’s right. Books. *Gasp!* Oh no!

Oh, there were a few rides – but they weren’t truly mechanical rides, not like what you’d see at Six Flags or Wild World or even Dutch Wonderland. There was a tea-cup ride along with a tugboat and swan ride in a pond – those were pretty much the exciting draws as far as rides were concerned – and believe it or not, they were.  “Exciting draws,” I mean.  People loved the place. Kids and adults alike. People came from miles around to visit.

I certainly loved it, even though I have to admit the start of my fear of water came from The Enchanted Forest. There was a “wild safari” jeep-pulled trolley ride that was supposed to simulate the jungle with elephants, gorillas, a hippo (all fake of course)…well, it also had an alligator lurking just below the surface of a deep marshy water area, and that alligator used to scare me to death. It certainly wasn’t high-end on the animatronics scale or anything like that – but, still…whew! Captain Hook’s tick-tocking crocodile had nothing on this one!  However, to give credit where credit is due, it was really my seeing the movie Jaws at an impressionable age that really sealed the deal on that little phobia.

I tell you what though, before I posted this entry, I found a video on YouTube that someone had posted of their home movies of The Enchanted Forest from a trip in 1975 and it even had a clip from the “safari” ride – I showed that video to my daughter and she agreed with me, that alligator is freakin’ scary! Of course, she may have just been eagerly going along me ’cause she’s sweet like that, but I’m serious.  That thing is scary.  It is.

But I digress.

Here, let me share with you a few paragraphs from a site dedicated to the history on The Enchanted Forest.

Howard Adler, a local designer … [built] imaginative creations of papier-mache, cement and fiberglass [that] would give the Enchanted Forest its whimsical, enduring appeal.

The sturdy brick house of the Three Little Pigs, for example, was decorated with a wolf skin rug on the floor… The house of the Three Bears not only had three bowls of porridge and three beds, it also had three chimneys a pipe-shaped chimney for Papa Bear, a purse-shaped chimney for Mama and a bottle-shaped chimney for Baby Bear.

The eight-acre Enchanted Forest, with figures and storybook settings nestled among woods, a stream and a small pond, was deliberately low-key compared with Disneyland in California….

“There are no mechanical rides in the park,” [owner] Howard E. Harrison Jr. told the Baltimore News-Post in an article that ran on the Enchanted Forest’s opening day, Aug. 15, 1955. “Instead, we hope that the children will enjoy the make-believe figures that are before their eyes. I say children, but actually, we think that many grown-ups will enjoy seeing the famous old figures that they knew when they were children.”

Do kids these days even read the old fairy tales? I think they get started with their smart phones and tablets at an extremely young age, not to mention watching TV, and all they ever see are the glossy characters of Disney, or shows like Spongebob Squarepants and things of that ilk. Stories are spoon-fed to them these days through high-tech graphics and cartoons and on-screen games rather than through the pages of a book, and when they go anywhere, they expect their entertainment to be spoon-fed to them as well. It’s a fast paced world, especially for kids, with no time for imagination.

Whereas, with The Enchanted Forest, all they had going for them was their knowledge from nursery rhymes and fairy tales and their imaginations. Lots and lots of imagination.

I remember The Enchanted Forest with so much fondness, not the least of which because my mother used to take my brother and I there and we’d spend the day – so those are good times I remember with my mother, as well as all the things we would see and do.  For anyone who wants to see pictures (not mine), there is a gallery here.

My favorite parts were these little houses you could go into – they were like life-sized dioramas – showing scenes from various nursery rhymes and fairy tales like Snow White, the Gingerbread Man, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel. My mom’s personal favorite was the teacup ride.

gingerbread house

teacup ride

safari ride

The Enchanted Forest was great because everything was truly interactive – and by that I mean you walked, ran, played, climbed…there was no waiting in line for an hour for a two-minute ride or sitting in a chair oblivious to the world around you while playing with a virtual reality system. Kid’s today are “inter” – while we were truly “active”!

I lament the “lost art” of low-tech entertainment. We simply don’t have these kinds of places any more – places where kids have to use their own imaginations to conjure up fun instead of having it, as I said before, basically spoon fed to them.

Yeah, it’s great that we’ve progressed the way we have with technology. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of good has come from technology.  It has encouraged tremendous vision and has given us so much (speaking on strictly an entertainment level: 3-D movies, virtual reality games, amazing interactive rides, 3-D printers, etc.), but our children have lost so much in return – the ability to play or enjoy things just by using their own imaginations and creativity.

Not to mention the wholesomeness of nursery-rhyme stories (okay, well, once you clean up the original Grimm stories) and books like Alice in Wonderland, instead of the glitzy, overly grown-up, in-your-face, kids’ characters that are pushed on young children today. I know, I know, it’s not surprising that I go back to books.  But come on, anything that’s oriented around books cannot be a bad thing.

Books and imagination.  It’s a combo we need to nurture more in kids today.