Marcovaldo, overcoming fear and a trip to the library

For National Libraries Day, Elena recalls her first library experience and discusses the importance of introducing children to books.

Marcovaldo, overcoming fear and a trip to the library

I can recall very well my first time in a library. I was in my first year of primary school. My teacher had organised a school trip to the local library and the whole class was very excited. I think we were kids who got excited very easily for every activity, but this was a special occasion.

The library was quite small and pretty. I remember many toys and cushions on the carpet. It was for children only, therefore, I felt it a safe place. It was less daunting than the library for adults; everything was proportionate to us and easily reachable.

When we first entered the library, the chaos exploded. At the beginning, we didn't know that we should stay quiet. We burst with excitement for the new experience and we started to play with toys and books all around.

Despite this initial episode, our teacher was quick to re-establish the order. We sat around her and then the magic happened. She started to read us Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino. They were funny and engaging short stories, and as she used to read that book also in class, we were very familiar with it. Our attention was caught.

From Marcovaldo, we moved on to read stories from other books. When stories were finished, we had the possibility to look at books independently and to touch them. This was a way to break the distance between books and us. I initially thought that books had difficult and serious content only for adults. I was wrong.

What I learned in the library that day was that books were hugely available to us. It didn't matter if we were too young to understand everything or that we had barely started to read on our own. Books were there on the shelves and there weren't no obstructions, whatsoever.

Fear is something that often stops people from pursuing their passions. It happens in many contexts, but very often in the creative fields. Sometimes there are recurrent thoughts that tell you are not very good to pursue what you like. For example, you are not very talented to sing. You are not very original as an artist. You are not smart enough to read those books. Guess what? This is completely wrong.

I believe that libraries are there to make books accessible to everyone, not just those who have the opportunity to grow up around them. While some children grow up surrounded by stacked shelves at home, many don't. Libraries have the ability to engage all ages, and people from all backgrounds, to make the literary worlds less daunting. It would be a huge loss if this stopped to happen. I hope that more children will have the chance to find their Marcovaldo. I hope children continue to get the chance to run wildly into their first library, excited to see what lies within. I hope they find a book that will open up the world.

Books don't bite. Neither do librarians. Well, so long as you keep your voice down.


Elena Losavio

Elena Losavio Contributor

Elena is a recent Master's graduate in English Studies. She writes about theatre, film and contemporary art. She is specialised in women's roles within media and the arts, and she creates A View from the Other Side, a monthly column on this topic. She occasionally writes short stories about her wanderings in Asia and never says no to new adventures.

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