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sonia and the big books

This morning, I helped young Sonia get set up with Book Patch Bonanza, our school year reading program.

In the program, kids pick a genre of books that corresponds with a patch (for example, “Mainly Girls” is a blue patch with a pink butterfly, “Mystery” is a black patch with a white magnifying glass, etc.) and read ten books to earn the patch.  For each patch, they fill out a small worksheet answering three questions about the book – Who was the most important person in the book? What was the most important thing that happened to them? Did you like the book? why/why not?

When I explained the program to Sonia, there was lots of nodding and yes-sing, but I could tell she didn’t much understand what was going on.  So when she asked me to help her find an easy book, I went back to the Children’s Room to oblige her.  She bee-lined for the BOB books, the bane of library existance. The BOB books have maybe ten words in them all together, tell no story, and are about 6 pages long.  They’re about the size of an adult hand, and are a pain in the ass to shelve and keep track of in general.   Sonia had chosen the Mainly Girls patch, and lucky for her, most of the BOB books characters are androgynous – named Pat or Pal.  So we found one called Lolly-Pops about a parrot named Polly.  So, I left Sonia in the children’s room to read Lolly-Pops.  She soon came bouncing back to me at the reference desk. “I’m all finished.  Now what?”

I explained to Sonia (again) that she needed to fill out the worksheet.  “I can’t read it. Can you help me?”  So I patiently helped her fill out the sheet, spelling words for her and writing long sentences for her that she grew frustrated with writing letter by letter.  I signed her up for the program, stamped and signed her sheet, and sent her on her merry way, one book into the patch.  Seconds later, she came bouncing back. “Can I read another book?” I told her of course, why don’t you go ahead and look through the BOB books and find one about a girl?  “I did. I couldn’t find any.  Can you help me find another easy book?”

So again into the children’s room I went.  I showed Sonia all sorts of books on par with the BOB books, but she turned them all down, saying that she could not read them.  I explained to her that they were the same difficulty, maybe even easier, but she wouldn’t believe me.  So we took The Red Car, another safe BOB book.  However, I showed her another book, by Janie Gill, called Circles (in which a girl painter draws a whole bunch of circular things.  It goes like this: First I drew a circle.  Then I drew a moon. Then I drew a pizza.  Then I drew a…and so on and so forth.)  Sonia adamantly said no, no, I can’t read that.  And I asked her to try the first page.  She read it no problem.  I turned the page.  “No, I can’t read this, it’s too hard.”  I kept turning the pages, asking her to try one more page, until we’d reached the end.  The look on her face when I showed her that she had read one of the “big books I can’t read at all” was priceless.

So again, Sonia and I slowly filled out her worksheets (I wrote this time, she dictated), and I got her stamped and signed and re-worksheeted.  She ran downstairs to find her mom, who was at storytime, to show her how productive she’d been.  Mom came upstairs all smiles with Sonia, to tell me thank you.  I began to explain the progam to mom, when Sonia interrupted me.  “She only speaks a little English. I will explain it to her when we get home.”  Mom thanked me again, and she and Sonia went off to pick out three more books for next time.  When she walked out, I saw she had two BOB books still, but one big book that she thought she couldn’t read at all.

And that, my friends, is why I love my job.

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