Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Library Work with Children by Alice I. Hazeltine

Part 8 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

real "doll houses." A member of the staff devised and cleverly
executed the idea of representing the early settlers by six
colonial types, viz., the Spanish, French, Cavalier, Dutch, New
England and Quaker types. Some of the special scenes illustrated
are labelled "Priest and soldier plan a new mission," "Indians
selling furs to Dutch trader at Fort Orange" and "The minister
calls on the family."

The study of geography is aided by means of small models of
miniature homes of primitive peoples; as for instance, an Eskimo
village with its snow igloos, the tents of the Labrador Eskimos,
the permanent home of the Northwestern Eskimos, and the houses
and "totem poles" of the Haida Indians. Some of the more
civilized nations are typified by a "Lumber camp in a temperate
zone," and by a series of "Dolls dressed in national costumes."

The library of the Children's Museum now numbers about six
thousand volumes, and, contrary to the general impression, is not
composed entirely of children's books, but of a careful selection
of the best recent books upon natural history in the broadest use
of the terms. The range is from the simplest readers to technical

The library is thus unique in its way, supplementing the work of
the museum in various ways, such as the following:

1. Providing books of information for the museum staff in
describing the collections, and preparing lectures for children.

2. Furnishing information to visitors about specimens models or
pictures in the museum, and giving opportunity to study the
collections with the direct aid of books.

3. Offering carefully chosen books on almost all the subjects of
school work, thus forming a valuable "School reference library,"
at the same time showing parents and teachers the most helpful
and attractive nature books to aid them in selecting such as best
suit the needs and tastes of children or students.

Although it is not a circulating library (for many of the books
need to be on call for immediate use), there are, of course, many
interesting stories of heroes, scientists, explorers, statesmen,
and other great leaders among men, of great events in history, of
child life in different countries, of birds and animals, and the
great "world of outdoors." A constant effort is made to foster a
reading habit in the children, even though the time for reading
is very limited. Last summer some simple bookmarks were printed,
by the use of which many children have been encouraged to read
books continuously. The reverse side of some of the bookmarks
show that individual children have read eight or ten books
through recently.

In place of the "Story hour" which is so popular in children's
libraries, the Children's Museum provides daily half-hour talks,
illustrated by lantern slides, which are given in the lecture
room. The subjects are selected with relation to the school
program, and include a variety of nature topics, the geography of
different countries, history and astronomy. Twice a week a
lecture is given on elementary science, and is illustrated by

On some of the holidays such as Washington's and Lincoln's
birthdays the lecture is naturally devoted to the national hero,
whose birthday is thus commemorated. This year there were so many
children who wanted to learn about Washington that the lecture
was given nine times during the day. On Lincoln's birthday there
were several repetitions of the lecture, and the library was
thronged with readers all day, at least one hundred children
reading stories about him. The children looked with interest at
the picture bulletins, comparing the pictures with those they had
seen in the lecture. Hundreds of patriotic poems were copied
during the month, the number being limited only by lack of space
and writing materials.

During the March vacation there were so many visitors that
special lectures were given each day upon some subject pertaining
to nature. It is proposed this season to give additional special
lectures appropriate for "Arbor day" and "Bird day," and probably
one with relation to the "Protection of animals."

Lectures are occasionally given for the benefit of Mothers'
Clubs, and members of the clubs accompanied by their children are
shown the objects of interest in the museum. The library is also
visited, and picture bulletins and books are enjoyed by mothers
and children together. Last winter several Nature books were
loaned for a special exhibit of Christmas books, which was
arranged for a regular meeting of the Mothers' Club at a
neighboring school.

A part of the museum equipment of especial benefit to boys in
high schools is the wireless telegraph station, which was set up
and is kept in working order by boys. It furnishes a good field
for experimenting in sending and receiving wireless messages, and
a good many boys have become so proficient that they have been
able to accept positions as wireless operators on steamers during
summer vacations.

The museum has considerable loan material, consisting of stuffed
birds, boxes containing the life histories of common butterflies
and moths, also minerals, charts, etc., which are loaned to
public and private schools whenever desired.

The question is frequently asked "What influence does the museum
exert on the minds of growing children?" "Does it really increase
their powers of observation and broaden their horizon?" The
relation between the members of the staff and many children
becomes quite intimate, and although all attendance is entirely
voluntary, it is often continued with brief interruptions for
several years.

The experience of one young man may be cited to demonstrate how
the advantages offered by the museum are put to definite use,
while friendly relations continue for a period of years. When
quite a small boy, a frequent visitor became interested in
collecting butterflies and moths, learning how to mount them
carefully, and using our books to help identify his finds. As he
grew older, he commenced experimenting in a small way in wireless
telegraphy, inviting the members of the staff, separately, to go
to the basement and listen to the clicking of his little
instrument, which was the beginning of successful work in that
direction. Throughout his high school course he continued to
experiment along wireless lines, doing very creditable work. Upon
his graduation, he received an appointment as wireless operator
on a steamer. In this capacity he has visited several of the
Southern states, Porto Rico, Venezuela, and portions of Europe.
He has improved his opportunities for collecting while on his
various trips, as a creditable little exhibit, called the "Austen
M. Curtis Collection of Butterflies and Moths" in the Children's
Museum, will testify.

Some definite advantages gained in another field are worthy of
mention. Last summer one of the high school boys commenced during
the vacation to read all he could about astronomy; as the summer
advanced, another boy became interested in the subject also,
especially in the study of the constellations. Diagrams and star
maps were carefully made and the names of all the important stars
noted. In the fall a little club of eight or ten boys was formed.
The members meet almost every pleasant evening at the home of the
founder of the club and make use of two telescopes which have
been secured to the roof. (Incidentally, may we add, that one of
the boys with considerable pride recently showed the books on
astronomy in the library to his aunt who was visiting from
another city.) No astronomy is at present included in the public
school course, with the exception of a little elementary study in
the grammar school, so that an opportunity is here provided to
supplement school work.

Children frequently make long visits, sometimes spending the
greater part of a day, and bringing their luncheon with them to
eat in the park. Sometimes whole families come together, father
or mother, or both, accompanying the children. Frequently the
little "mother" of the family who is having temporary care of
four or five little ones, is not much larger than her little
charges, and yet is anxious to read some of the books. Under such
conditions, when the little folks become too restless to remain
longer in the library or museum, the privilege of reading in the
park is occasionally permitted, the book being returned to the
library before leaving for their homes.

The publication of a monthly paper was started in 1902 as a means
of communication with the general public and especially with
schools. In April, 1905, the Children's Museum united with the
larger Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, in
publishing the Museum News. This journal is sent not only to
every public and private school in Brooklyn, but to every museum
in this country and abroad; to every library in Brooklyn, and to
libraries generally throughout the country.

An excellent "Guide to the trees in Bedford Park" has been
printed in a separate leaflet, being at first a contribution to
the Museum News. It may be noted here that a series of lectures
upon Trees will be given at the Children's museum commencing
April 11th by Mr. J. J. Levison, arboriculturist, the author of
the "Guide"; and that a fine collection of the best tree books
may always be consulted in the library.

In connection with the "Hudson-Fulton Celebration" in the fall of
1909, a handsome "Catalogue of the historical collection and
objects of related interest at the Children's Museum" was
prepared by Miss Agnes E. Bowen. It furnishes a concise outline
of American history, is printed in attractive form, and
illustrated by photographs of the historical groups already
mentioned. Special picture bulletins were also exhibited in both
museum and library, and objects having relation to Hudson and
Fulton and their times were indicated by a neat little flag. It
is perhaps needless to add that many teachers and children found
great assistance by consulting the "Hudson-Fulton Bookshelf," and
that the museum exhibit was very attractive to the general

The library has prepared various short lists from time to time
whenever needed, but has thus far printed only one. This was
prepared at the request of the Supervisor of Nature Study in the
Vacation Schools of Greater New York, and is a short annotated
list entitled "Some books upon nature study in the Children's
Museum Library." The list will be sent free to any librarian or
teacher upon application.

The Children's Museum is open daily throughout the year, the
hours on weekdays being from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and from 2 to
5:30 p.m. on Sundays. The library is open on the same hours as
the museum with few exceptions, such as Thanksgiving Day,
Christmas, and the Fourth of July, and Sunday afternoons during
the summer, from June 15th to September 15th.

To sum up, the Children's Museum constantly suggests the added
pleasure given to each child's life by cultivating his powers of
observation, and stimulating his love of the beautiful in nature
by means of attractive exhibits, half-hour talks, and familiar
chats with groups of children. The library calls attention of
individual children and classes to the flowers, birds and trees
through its picture bulletins and numerous books; and children
are urged to visit the Aquarium, the Zoological Gardens at Bronx
Park, and see the natural beauties of Forest Park, whenever
opportunity offers.


Many of the generally accepted methods of children's libraries
have been adapted to work with colored children, whose particular
interests are described in the following article by Mrs. Rachel
D. Harris, contributed to the Library Journal for April, 1910.

Mrs. Rachel D. Harris was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1869,
and was graduated from the Colored High School in 1885. She
taught in the public schools for fifteen years, and was appointed
assistant in the Colored Branch of the Louisville Free Public
Library when it was opened in 1905. At the time this article was
written she was in charge of the library work with colored

About five years ago, when it was proposed to establish a branch
for colored people, it was regarded apprehensively by both sides.
We knew our people not to be a reading people, and while we were
hopeful that the plan would be a success, we wondered whether or
not the money and energy expended in projecting such an
enterprise might not be put to some other purpose, whereby a good
result could be more positively assured.

The branch, however, was opened in the early part of the autumn
of 1905, in temporary quarters--three rooms of the lower floor of
the residence of one of our own people. We began with 1,400
books, to which have been added regularly, until now we have
7,533 volumes on the shelves of our new building, which we have
occupied since October, 1908.

The problem at first which confronted us was: How to get our
people to read and at the same time to read only the best. We
used in a modest way the plans of work already followed by
successful libraries--the story-hour, boys' and girls' clubs,
bulletins, visits to the schools, and public addresses.

A group of boys from 9 to 14 years of age, who visited our rooms
frequently, was organized into the Boys' Reading Club. Their
number increased to 27 earnest, faithful little fellows, who were
rather regular in attendance. They met Friday afternoon of each
week, elected their own officers, appointed their own committee
on preparation of a course of reading for the term, the
children's librarian always being a member of each committee
appointed. There were only a few boys in this number who had
read any book "all the way through," except their school books.

The first rule made for the club was, that at roll-call each boy
should respond by giving the title, author and a short synopsis
of the book read the preceding week. This proved to be the most
interesting part of the meeting, and was placed first on the
program to insure prompt attendance. Often the entire period was
taken up with the roll-call, the boys often calling for the
entire story of a book, the synopsis of which appealed to them.
This method was thought to be a good way to get the boys
interested in the books on our shelves.

Our first course in reading was Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare."
Much profit was derived from the discussion brought about by
assigning each character to a different boy and having him give
his opinion of the same. We modified the program to include
several debates during the term, using the "Debater's Treasury"
for topics. The following year we read the plays "Merchant of
Venice," "Macbeth," "Midsummer night's dream."

A large per cent of this first club are still patrons of the
library. Six of the original number are now in college, and most
of those remaining are connected with the Boys' Debating Club.

Shortly after the organization of the Boys' Club the girls of the
sixth, seventh and eighth grades insisted upon having a club, and
a Girls' History Club was organized with about 30 girls.

At the urgent request of some pupils of the freshman and
sophomore classes of the High School a club was formed for them,
and also one for the members of the junior and senior classes for
the study of mythology. Very few of the members of any of these
clubs had read much beyond their class books and the same general
plan was followed in each, with the result that the library has
been successful in creating a love for the reading of books that
are worth while.

The story-hour has outgrown itself and our limited supply of
assistants. We started with a very small group of little folks,
and now we tell stories to between 150 and 180 children each week
in our building. The story-hour begins at 3 p.m., and children
who are dismissed at 1:30 p.m., come directly from school and
wait patiently till the children's librarian returns from her
station work at 3 p.m. The majority of our children have never
had stories told to them, their parents being compelled to work
out from home all day, and during the evening they have not the
time, though they may have the stories to tell, and the little
ones have been deprived of every child's birthright--a generous
supply of good stories. Boys and girls from the High School have
begged for permission to come to the story-hour, and have come
from long distances to hear the stories and enjoy them as much
as the younger ones do.

Last year when we decided to tell stories from English history to
this mixed group of little folks we felt that probably the
stories would not be received with the same interest as were the
stories of the previous year. Strange to say, these stories
appealed keenly to the children, and our number increased weekly
and interest did not wane. Many copies of English histories were
placed on our shelves, and these were eagerly read. Even now it
is difficult to find an English history in our children's room.

A remarkable feature of the work at our branch is the small
amount of fiction read, only 45 per cent. We had a decided
advantage here, because our children had never learned to read
fiction. Having read but very little, their power of
concentration was small, and the book that contained a story that
"went all the way through" did not appeal to them. Their great
regard for "teacher's" opinion helped us at the library to please
them by giving them non-fiction. For instance, when the boys
came, as most boys do, with a request for a story about Indians,
we gave them Grinnell's "Story of the Indian," or Wade's "Ten Big
Indians," the binding and high sounding title of which would
attract them, and they would find their way to the shelf where
the Indian books were and would read nearly all we had there.
They were then prepared to thoroughly enjoy our Indian stories in

Ours is an emotional race, and as religion appeals much to this
element in our nature, our parents have always been church-
goers, and the reverence for sacred things which our children
manifest is inherent. Therefore it is no cause for wonder that
the stories of the Old and New Testament find children anxious to
read them.

Our children read more biography than would be supposed. That
book that will tell them about a boy who, though poor and
otherwise handicapped, struggled, overcame and became famous,
appeals to them; therefore "Poor boys' chances" and Bolton's
"Poor boys who became famous" are called for constantly. There
are few of our boys and girls who will not gladly take a copy of
the life of Abraham Lincoln, or Booker T. Washington and read
them over and over, their parents often having them read the same
to them also. The self-made element in the lives of these men
strikes a responsive chord in the hearts of our young people.
They are easily led from the lives of these to the life of
Napoleon, Edison, Washington and others.

During the school months the tables of our reference room are
usually crowded. The pupils of the High School, near by, often
deluge us, after the closing of school, with anxious requests for
information on every topic from "the best mode of pastry making
to Halley's comet."

The Library Board has been generous in granting our request for
more and more books. Our supply, however, is still far too small
for the demand made upon it, our circulation having increased
from 17,838 to 55,088 for the present year. We have two library
stations and 35 class room collections, all demanding more books.

When we look back now at the time of our beginning we see that
our fears were unfounded. Our people needed only an opportunity
and encouragement. The success of the branch has exceeded the
hope of the most sanguine of those interested in its
organization, and we feel justly proud of the results attained.


Present-day conditions in a branch library in a crowded district
of a large city are pictured in the last paper to be included in
this compilation, with special emphasis on the necessity of
understanding the traditions and customs of foreign peoples in
order to know how to appeal to them. It was read by Miss
Josephine M. McPike before the meeting of the Missouri Library
Association at Joplin, Missouri, in October, 1915.

Josephine Mary McPike was born in Alton, Illinois, and studied in
Shurtleff College, Upper Alton, and in the University of
Illinois. She became a member of the staff of the St. Louis
Public Library in 1909. In February, 1917, she resigned from the
position of First Assistant at the Crunden Branch to become the
librarian of the Seven Corners Branch of the Minneapolis Public

Crunden branch is the kind of place, the thought of which makes
you glad to get up in the morning. It is an institution a state
of mind. And as we workers there feel, so do the people in the
neighborhood. We have heard over and over again the almost
worn-out appellation "The people's university"; Crunden has a
different place in the thoughts of its users. It is really the
living-room of our neighborhood--the place where, the dishes
having been washed and the apron hung up, we naturally retire to
read and to muse.

True, it is a large family foregathered in this living-room of
ours, much greater in number than the chairs for them to sit
upon, but, as in all large families, there is much giving and
taking. In the children's room, crowded to overflowing, the
Jewish child sits next to the Irish, and the Italian and the
Polish child read from the same book. Children of all ages; babes
from two and a half years to boys of twenty who spend their days
in the factory, and are still reading "Robinson Crusoe" and the
"Merry adventures of Robin Hood." There too, sometimes comes the
mother but lately arrived from the "Old Country," wearing her
brightly colored native costume. Unable to read or to write, she
feels more at home here with the children whom she understands,
and beams proudly to see her little "Izzey" reading "Child life"
or "Summers' reader."

Some social workers report that their greatest difficulty in
dealing with the children of the tenement district is absolute
lack of the play spirit. Our observations have been quite to the
contrary; in all of the children there is a fresh and healthy
play- fulness--indeed, we feel at times that it is much too
healthy. Our constant attendance is needed to satisfy them all,
insatiable little readers that they are.

But the question of discipline becomes a real problem only in
dealing with the mass spirit of the gang. There is one more or
less notorious gang in the neighborhood which is known as the
"Forty Thieves." To gain admittance into this friendly crowd it
is necessary for the applicant to prove to the full satisfaction
of the leaders that he has stolen something. En masse they storm
into the children's room, in a spirit of bravado. We gradually
come to realize that at such a time as this the library
smile--that much used and abused smile--touches some of the boys
not at all, and the voice of authority and often the arm of
strength are the only effective methods. We believe that we have
found a most satisfactory way of meeting this situation. The
children's librarian induces all of the older boys to come down
stairs to a separate room and for a half hour tells them tales of
adventure and chivalry, thus quieting the children's room and
directing the energy of the boys into more peaceful channels.
This story in the evening takes the place of the story hour for
older children during the daytime, which on account of the
scarcity of boys and girls of suitable age has been discontinued.

The younger children still have their fairy stories told them,
and there, ever and anon, the frank spirit of the family
manifests itself. That child who all through one story hour sat
weaving back and forth muttering to herself, and when pressed for
an explanation, remarked that she "was counting 'til you're
done"--is a happy and independent contrast to the usually
emotional type that embraces and bids its indescribably dirty and
garlic tainted little brothers--"Kiss teacher for the nice

The young library assistant comes to Crunden branch graciously to
teach--she stays humbly to learn. Full of new theories and with a
desire to uplift--a really sincere desire--she finds in a short
time much to uplift her own spirit. Since ours is a polygot
neighborhood consisting mostly of Russians, Jews, Poles, and
Italians, with a light sprinkling of Irish, it brings us into
contact with such different temperaments that before we can
attempt to satisfy them we must needs go to school to them. We
know to some extent the life of our American child and with a
little thought we can usually find the way best to appeal to him.
But the peoples who have come from across the water have brought
with them their traditions and their customs, and have each their
own point of view; and it is with these traditions and customs
that we must become familiar and sympathetic in order to
understand the little strangers. There is the eager, often
fearful Jewish child; the slower, stolid Pole; the impulsive
Italian; each must be approached from a different angle and each
with a different inducement. At first this task is rather
appalling, but gradually it becomes so interesting that from
trying to learn from the child in the library we listen to the
mother in the home, and often to the father from the factory; and
from these gleanings of their life in the home and their habits
of thought we try to understand the nature of the strange child
and grope about for what he most needs and how to make the
greatest appeal to him.

In the last two or three years the children's librarian has
herself gone after each book long overdue, and with each visit
she has seized the opportunity not only to recover the book, but
to become acquainted with the mother and to gain her often
reluctant confidence. Most of the readers live in tenements, many
of which open into one common yard. The appearance of the library
assistant usually causes much commotion, and she is received
often not only by the mother of the negligent child but also the
mothers of several other children as well--and, the center of a
friendly group, she holds conversation with them. By this time
the library assistant is well known in the neighborhood, and
unlike the collector and the curious social uplifter who are
often treated with sullenness and defiance, she receives every
consideration and assistance. Now at Yom Kipper, Rosh Hashana,
Pasach and other holidays, we are invited to break matzos and eat
rare native dishes with the families of the children. We find the
home visit invaluable. The Jewish, the Italian, and even the
Polish mother gains confidence in us, tells us all the family
details--and feels finally that we are fit persons to whom she
may entrust her children.

Probably our most attractive-looking child is the Italian, a
swarthy-skinned little creature, with softly curved cheeks,
liquid brown eyes and seraphic expression--that seraphic
expression which is so convincing and withal so misleading. Child
of the sun that he is, his greatest ambition in life is to lie
undisturbed in the heat of the day and so be content. He has
learned to take nothing seriously, the word "responsibility" has
no meaning for him. Nor has the word "truth." With his vivid
imagination he handles it with the lightest manner in the world,
he adds, he expands, he takes away in the most sincere fashion,
looking at you all the while with babyish innocence. He is
bewildering! His large brown eyes are veritable symbols of truth;
to doubt him fills you with shame. I say he is bewildering; never
so much so as when, for no apparent reason, he changes his
tactics, and with the same sweet confidence absolutely reverses
his former statements. What can we do with him? There seems to be
no appeal we can make. He swears by the Madonna! He raises his
eyes to Heaven, and when he finally makes his near- true
statement, he is filled with such confessional fervor that to
reward him seems to be the only logical course left. He is
certainly a child of nature, but of a nature so quixotic that we
are non-plussed.

To many of our dark-skinned little friends "Home" originally was
the little island across from the toe of Italy. These are, I
fear, somewhat scorned by the ones whose homes nestled within the
confines of the boot itself. We know how many refugees fled to
that little spot in the water, and that dark indeed have been the
careers of some of them. Whether the hunted feeling of their
fathers of generations back still lurks in these young Sicilians,
I do not know, but certainly their first impulse is one of
defense. At the simplest question there appears suddenly, even in
the smallest child, the defiant flash of the dark eyes and the
sullen setting of the mouth. The question--what does your father
do?--or, what is your mother's name?--arouses their
ever-smoldering suspicion, and more than likely their quick
rejoinder will be--"What's it to you?" When we explain
impersonally that it is very much to us if they are to read our
books, and that after all to reveal their mother's name will be
no very damaging admission, the cloud blows over and there is no
more trace of the little storm when they indifferently give us
all the details we wish. So sudden are their changes and moods,
so violent their little outbursts, that we must needs be on the
qui vive in our dealings with them. But yet they are so lovable
that we can never be vexed with them for long.

It cannot be far amiss to put into this paper a picturesque
Sicilian woman who has grown old in years but is still a child in
spirit. She loves a fairy story as much as she did sixty years
ago, and listens with the same breathless credulity. One night
about twilight as I sat on the front steps with her and several
little Italian children, listening to her tales of the old home
country, there came a silence in our little group. Suddenly Angel
Licavoli asked, "Teacher, what is God like?" With a feeling that
our friend of riper experience could give us more satisfaction, I
repeated the question to her. Her sweet old face surrounded by
the white curls was a study in simple faith as she assured us,
"Maybe She is like the holy pictures."

When I approach the subject of the Russian Jew, I do it with a
great humbleness and fear lest I do not do it justice. So much
have they had to overcome, and such tenacity and perseverance
have they shown in overcoming it! Straight from the Pales of
Kief, Ketchinoff, and Odessa they come to settle in the nearest
to a pale we have to offer. Great has been their poverty; a
long-standing terror with them, and along with it in many cases,
persecution, starvation, and social ostracism. Poverty in all
but spirit and mind. The great leveler to them is education, and
it is no uncommon thing for the Jewish father to sacrifice
himself in order to better his son, to take upon himself that
greatest of sacrifices, daily grind and deprivation. Not only
this generation, but the one before and the one before that. They
cannot keep up such a white-hot search for learning without
sooner or later finding out what is wisdom--real wisdom. Stripped
of all but bare necessities, they come to possess a sense of
value that is remarkably true. We come into contact then with the
offspring of such conditions, simple and direct in manner and
having a passionate impersonal curiosity. Always asking,
searching for the real things, eager for that which will render
them impervious to their sordid surroundings, they have thrown
aside all superfluous mannerisms and get easily to the heart of
things. Accustomed to the greatest repression, and exclusion from
all schools and institutions of the sort, the free access to so
many books is an endless joy to them. They browse among the
shelves lovingly, and instinctively read the best we have to
offer. Tales from the ancient Hebrews, history, travel --these
are the books they take. But what they read most gladly is
biography. It is just as difficult to find a life of Lincoln on
the shelves as it is to find an Altsheler--and of comparisons is
that not the strongest? Heroes of all sorts attract the Jewish
child, heroes in battles, statesmen and leaders in adventure,
conquest, business. If a hero is also a martyr, their delight
knows no bounds.

We know now that we need be surprised at nothing; extreme cases
have come at Crunden to be the average, if I may be permitted to
be paradoxical. We were interested but not surprised when Sophie
Polopinsk, a little girl but a short time from Russia, wheeled up
the truck, climbed with great difficulty upon it and promptly
lost herself in a volume of Tolstoi's "Resurrection," a volume
almost as large as the small person herself, and formidable with
its Russian characters. In telling you of Sol Flotkin I may be
giving you the history of a dozen or so small Russian Jews who
have come to Crunden. At the age of ten, Sol had read all of
Gorki, Tolstoi, Turgenev and Dostoievski in the original and then
devoured Hugo and Dumas in the language of his adoption. The
library with Sol became an obsession. He was there waiting for
the doors to open in the morning, and at nine o'clock at night we
would find him on the adult side, probably behind the radiator,
lost to us, but almost feverishly alive in his world of
imagination that some great man had made so real for him. It was
to Crunden branch that the truant officer came when the school
authorities reported him absent from his place. It was there,
too, his father came, imploring, "Could we not refuse Sol
entrance?" The Door man demanded, did we know that at twelve and
one o'clock at night he was often compelled to go out and find
the boy, only to discover him crouched under the street light
with a copy of "War and peace" lovingly upon his young knees? And
there are many others like Sol. Is it not inspiring to the
librarian to work with children who must be coaxed, not to read
good books, but to desist from reading them?

Among the Jewish people the word "radical" is in high favor --it
is the open sesame to their sympathy. For the ordinary layman,
radicalism, for some unexplained reason, is associated with the
words Socialism, Anarchism, etc. The deep dyed conservative, to
whom comes the picture of flaunting red at the mention of the
word, would be surprised to learn in what simple cases it is
often used. We have, for instance, an organization meeting once a
week under the head of the "Radical Jewish School." When the
secretary came to us for the first time we asked him what new
theory they intended to work out. Their radical departure from
custom consisted only in teaching to the children a working
Yiddish in order that the Jewish mother might understand her
amazingly American child, in order to lessen the tragedy of
misunderstanding which looms large in a family of this sort. They
are setting at defiance the old Jewish School which taught its
children only a Hebrew taken from the Talmud, a more perfect but
seldom used language. Not so terrifying that.

Children who are forced to forage for themselves from a very
early age, as most of our youngsters are, develop while yet very
young a sense of responsibility and a certain initiative seldom
found in more tenderly nurtured children. It is the normal thing
in the life of a girl in our neighborhood when she reaches the
age of eight or nine years to have solely in her charge a younger
brother or sister. When she jumps rope or plays jacks or tag she
does it with as much joy as her sister of happier
circumstances--but with a deftness foreign to the sheltered child
she tucks away under her arm the baby, which after six weeks
becomes almost a part of herself. Often we will fearfully exhort
her to hold the baby's back, etc. Invariably the child will smile
indulgently at us, as at a likeable but irresponsible person, and
change the position of the infant not one whit. She is really
the mother, she feels, with a mother's knowledge of what the baby
needs; we are only nice library teachers. Their pride in the baby
and their love for it sometimes even exceeds that of the mother
who is forced to be so much away from the little ones. From five
years of age the boys are expected to manage for themselves--to
fight their own battles, literally--and to look out for
themselves in general. Naturally they possess a self-reliance
greater than other children of their age. We come into contact
with this in the library in the child's more or less independent
choice of books and his free criticism--often remarkably keen--
of the contents. Another place where the children show
initiative is in the formation of clubs, which is a great
diversion of theirs. Seldom does a week pass without a crowd of
children coming to us petitioning for the use of one of the club
rooms. Often these clubs are of short duration, but some of them
have been in existence for years. Sometimes they are literary,
sometimes purely social--but more often dramatic. In the dramatic
club the children, starved for the brighter things of life--can
pretend to their hearts' content, and their keen imagination can
make it all vividly realistic for them. They choose their own
plays, draw the parts, make their costumes and carry out their
own conception of the different roles. Astonishingly well they do
it too. Is it any wonder that with their drab unhappy lives in
mind, fairies and beautiful princesses figure largely? It seems
to me that a singularly pathetic touch is the fact that yearly
the "Merry Making Girls Club" spends weeks and weeks of
preparation for an entertainment given for the benefit of the
Pure Milk and Ice Fund for the poor babies of St. Louis, they
themselves being the most liable to become beneficiaries of the

A very small thing is sufficient to fire their imagination. The
most trivial incident will suggest to them the formation of a
club --a gilt crown, an attractive name, etc. An amusing instance
has lately come up in this connection. Several boys of about
thirteen or fourteen asked the use of one of the club rooms for
the "Three C's." Very reticent they were about the nature of this
organization. Finally amid rather embarrassed giggles the truth
came out--a picture show in the neighborhood had distributed
buttons bearing the picture and name of the popular favorite,
which buttons were sufficient reason to form the "Charlie Chaplin

When we think of many foreigners of different nationality
together, there comes to most of us from habit the idea first
suggested by Mr. Zangwill of amalgamation. I think most of us at
Crunden do not like to feel that our branch and others like it
are melting pots; at any rate of a heat so fierce that it will
melt away the national characteristics of each little
stranger--so fierce that it will level all picturesqueness into
deadly sameness. Rather, just of a glow so warm that it melts
almost imperceptibly the racial hate and antagonism.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest