Yes, it is a fabulous book by R. J. Palacio. And it is also at the crux of what we librarians/cybrarians do—we insist on fanning the flames of wonder. I am all over the map in a PreK-12th Grade School, but what I find myself working the hardest at all the time is this very task. Every time a student comes in looking for a book (i.e., pretty much all day long despite a fixed schedule!), I am trying to match an interest, spark a passion, offer something new; every time I have those outrageously adorable PreK tots, I can’t wait to get them all riled up about whatever great read aloud I’ve chosen; each portion of the day I spend with grade schoolers, I am trying to light them up with a book, a connected online resource, and impress upon them that the capacity to wonder more and find out more is an incredible quest—better than a video game, even. Then there is the Middle School crowd: I am in a full sweat 15 minutes into our blended learning session, trying to relate to them just how awesome it is to be a member of the 21stcentury. As for the high school set… I have given up trying to be cool. I just want them to know it’s okay to read anything you want and just go for it. Finally, there is the faculty who I pepper with “cool” Ted Talks, transliteracy updates and UBD tidbits…I’m just trying to get them to enjoy letting the wonder of teaching into their over-scheduled days. Yep, that’s me—forcing wonder on everyone. It’s exhausting, and the reason I get up every day to go to school.
A colleague of mine refers to a school day as an “Olympic Event.” I couldn’t agree more, and I am cooked straight through when I give that last computer bay a Clorox wipe and lock the double library doors at 4:00 pm. At the risk of sounding sassy, I am so done with “wonder.” But then I dig into whatever book I am reading that night and I am all full of wonder again! It does not take long to reboot. Boys in the Boat? How did those guys pull that Olympic win off? How did the author craft such a read? Andrew Smith’s Winger? OMG, I think Holden Caulfield has a modern-day compatriot! The DCF non-fiction thriller No Summit Out of Sight? How did that kid do all of that? Why haven’t I even begun to do anything like that? The fabulous Red Clover site Carol S. put together to use with all of the Red Clover reads? When did she have time to put that together? The wonder just keeps me wondering!!
And that is just a small part of all my wonderings—a very small part, actually. Each individual at school is full of wonder, whether they show it or not. Sparking a bit of wonder in the most off-task or uninterested of patrons can be the most important part of my day. Getting a group of students immersed in a lesson on Westward Expansion by showcasing fantastic figures like Calamity Jane to bring out the true flavor of the Wild West—these kinds of moments make my day. But here’s the catch—I am realizing that many kids aren’t coming to school all set to wonder. It is not something that has been sparked in their technology-heavy young lives, and it is work to get them wondering. I guess it’s why my days are often so tiring. The wonder that should be/could be sparked early at home, outside, looking at pictures in books, hearing stories from a grown-up—is it being ignited enough? Truth be told, I am a little worried that it’s not. And this worry is what makes me go at my job with more fervor than ever.
School kids are not only bogged down with a multitude of devices and scheduled activities, I think they get bogged down with all the “must dos” given them at school. Teachers seem to be scrambling to “get it all in,” so how can children not feel the effects of this stress? Maybe they are too tired or overwhelmed to wonder. It’s why they need libraries more than ever. Why they need a librarian to open up some cool corner of the world for them, to get them that perfect book, to teach them to find a fabulous resource online, or to just let them get lost among the shelves for a while. There’s no app for it, there’s no perfect formula for it, but it happens. Wonder begets wonder. What could be better than building wonder into each and every day of a student’s busy day? I wonder…
Danville School Librarian