Yesterday I walked to the local branch library with 20 third graders and a parent coordinator who spends her afternoons leading enrichment activities at PS 59 in the Bronx. This was a special day for the kids, the day on which they were to be issued their first library cards.
We traveled in pairs out the front door of the school and wended our way for a half mile or so through the neighborhood, past St. Barnabus Hospital, through a small park, and past a few festive-looking Italian restaurants on Arthur Avenue, inhaling garlicky smells as we neared the branch.
We marched into the library and up to the second floor where we were greeted by a pleasant and energetic young librarian who had been expecting us. She quickly distributed library card application forms on which the excited third graders were to record their names and addresses and other key contact information in their best handwriting. Lots of questions ensued about what, exactly, was being requested and where, exactly, on the form the vital information was to be placed. But eventually every child—often with the help of classmates and after several rewrites—completed their form.
At the end of the 45 minute visit every kid was handed a snazzy red and blue library card with personalized information and left with a book. On their next visit to the library, after learning about returning books, they will borrow another.
The kids are among hundreds participating this fall in a citywide project funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation to familiarize kids with their local libraries and strengthen connections between schools and local libraries. For many of the kids it was their first trip to a library. For nearly all it was the first time they ever had a library card and borrowed a book, not to mention filled out such a complicated form on their own.
For me, it was a chance to take a pleasant walk through the Bronx on a lovely fall afternoon and to remember the trips I used to take to the library with my classmates growing up in a small New England town. The scenery was different, but it was fun to be outdoors, walking in pairs, expectant, with a destination.
When I was a kid, our library trips were made during the regular school day. Somehow there was time. Now trips like this rarely happen without “expanded time.”
Thank goodness for expanded time.