It’s the last day of school. I’ve been fielding phone calls all day from irritated mothers whose kids waited until last night to mention that “oh yeah, I can’t get my report card because I have an overdue library book I have to pay for.” One even came in to scream at me personally.
Then there was the sixth grade mother I just got off the phone with. Her son had lost three books back in October, to theft if one believes the boy. (He may be telling the truth, he may not – I have no way of knowing.) He’s known that we hold the book’s borrower responsible when books go missing, yet he’s spent most of this year denying his responsibility. So now his mom comes along to tell me how her son is so wonderful (I’m sure he is!) and how he shouldn’t have to be held accountable, and if I continue being a wicked ogre to him, well, she just won’t let him check books out of any library ever again.
This kind of thing always throws me. Who does the parent truly believe she is punishing? Because it isn’t me. Whether or not some child checks another book out of my library does not change my life at all. His life, however, is now diminished. He won’t be able to read anything he chooses. He’ll be limited to reading only what his parents purchase for him.
My parents were considered somewhat progressive when I was growing up, because they never told me what I could or could not read. They signed permission cards at the town library so that I could get books from the adult rooms. I fell wildly in love with Poe when I was 9. I dipped my toe into science fiction with Heinlein at 12. I attempted to read classics like The Brothers Karamazov and Green Mansions, not that I necessarily understood them. My parents let me choose for myself what was appropriate for me, but they also made me aware of my own responsibility in what I read and learned.
My life was enhanced by the reading I was allowed to do. I couldn’t have asked for a more valuable gift than that.