Friday, September 14, 2012


A customer came into the bookstore this week and asked for VERY specific books: books about girls playing hockey. I told her I didn't think we had any. I suggested books about other sports... but she shot them down because they were "boy books." I told her there weren't many books where girls are the main characters playing the sports (sad but true). We at the bookstore have to keep in only what sells. The rest goes! So that's that. She told me that it's her job to work with children and get them to read and her current client is a reluctant reader. She plays hockey so she wants a book about a character who does that.

This is my thinking: who would you want to read about a character who does the same activity that you do? What about some variety? I mean, adults should think of it this way: if you're an accountant would you want to read about a character who is an accountant? I suggested to the customer that she try Roald Dahl or some quirky books. She wasn't interested. She asked for biography books - So I said there's a new one about a soccer player. She said that the girl doesn't play soccer. I didn't comment.

I asked her if she'd ever tried graphic novels. I pointed to the new table we made with a plethora of graphic novels - both fiction and nonfiction. We have some great titles on the table. She said, "Graphic novels are for the bathroom." Ugh! I wanted to scream! I quietly responded with, "I have to disagree." We got into a discussion about this but there was no changing the customer's mind. She said, "I have a degree in this (I think she said a masters at some point) and I"m hired to get children to read." I said that I know and that graphic novels are great tools to get children to read. She said they were awful because the provide the pictures for the reader and therefore children won't be able to be imaginative. She thinks when children read they should imagine the images in their head.

OKAY. Here's the deal with graphic novels and the readers who I think read them... or at least people like me! There are people who are highly creative and have images floating around in their heads ALL OF THE TIME. They do not need any extra help with images. Therefore there is no harm what so ever  in adding images to text. Believe me, people like me probably need a little break from all of the floating images! Secondly, when you read a graphic novel you are doing two things at once and using both sides of your brain. In a way it's more difficult than reading plain text. You read the text and then you must digest the image. When I look at the images I appreciate the various perspectives and uses of colors, etc. Books like these can give kids a new appreciation for art. The third thing is that the nonfiction titles can educate in a new and different way.

So... this woman is DEAD WRONG! It makes me sad that people like her are so stubborn and are hired to educate children.


  1. Okay, so obviously the woman should have gone to to find this specific type of book.
    I'm amazed that you represent bookstores.
    How about stepping off of your high horse for one second? I realize that this woman was rude and difficult to please. But have you ever taught students with special needs? No.
    The lady had a student who expressed an interest in reading! Some people don't like reading, or they just need to dip that first toe in before they fall in love. This girl expressed an interest in reading SOMETHING, and this woman was kind and dedicated enough to go out on her own time and dollar to find that special thing for this student.
    Let's contrast that to your comment, "This is my thinking: who would you want to read about a character who does the same activity that you do? What about some variety? I mean, adults should think of it this way: if you're an accountant would you want to read about a character who is an accountant?"
    Yes, dictate what we should all read about!
    I'm sure you know best since you run a store full of books.
    Way to sock it to the little girl.
    Yes, I do realize that you made this comment toward a grown woman, but you were attacking the desires of the little girl she was representing. Go you, you push your "adults should think of it this way" ideas on a kid!
    Why does this little girl want to read about hockey, which is a boy thing? Because she wants something she can relate to! Maybe accountants DO want to read about accounting! People enjoy reading things which affirm their identities. This girl does not have many other people who are going through what she is going through (being a girl and playing hockey) so what is so wrong with her wanting to find a similar window to look through? Before we can be comfortable in the world, we need to be comfortable with ourselves.

  2. Hmm. I should have indicated that I did not tell the woman any of the thoughts that I expressed above. When I dealt with customers I LISTENED. The first thing I did was try to look for any books on hockey. The problem is that we had no books about girls playing hockey... or really any books about girls playing sports. SO... that is when I suggested that since she's a reluctant reader she try graphic novels. I was appauled at the woman's attitued toward this new medium. I did not argue with her however. My blog is my sounding board for my frustrations that I could not express while on the job. At the bookstore if a customer complained we were called down to the office and written up. So we always had to handle with kid gloves.

    A little about me: I was diagnosed with ADD in the 4th grade. I HATED reading. I was also big on sports. I played on an all boys baseball team even though all of the coaches told me since I was a girl I shouldn't try out. I was good enough to make the team and I stayed. I ran cross country. Later I played basketball. From my own personal experience I am not interested in reading about people playing sports. I'm not saying that this particular girl is the same but just in case there was no harm in suggesting other material. I have found from dealing with customers with children who are reluctant readers that graphic novels work well. I know from my own reading difficulties that I prefer reading graphic novels myself. So this is speaking from my own experiences.

    A lot of kids want to go into other worlds when they read---fantasy worlds (that's why sci fi and fantasy is so big right now). I was a bookseller for 12 years and have seen all the trends and the one constant is that kids like to go elsewhere when they read. Fantasy tends to be more popular than reality - except when it comes to things like diary of a wimpy kid, which has lots of pictures.

    Also, my mom has been a school social worker for 30 plus years and works with children with disabilities. I talk with her often about what works and what doesn't. I'm not saying that I have an all-knowing authority to recommend books but I think I have some.

    By the way: I never represented the bookstore I worked at. Quite the opposite.