Fieldnote, 22 Oct. 2012

At the library, arrived a little early in order to get some more photos. Worked with only three children. One girl spoke to me about being from Guatemala. When I asked her about Guatemala, she mentioned that her grandmother lived there, and then she proceeded to speak about the nation’s cuisine. Interesting how she identified with food and her identity.

She had trouble with her reading, but was able to use phonics to spell out words. First grader. After I spoke to her mother and informed her about the music games Sara would be leading tomorrow, and I mentioned that it would be good for her youngest daughter in kindergarten to sit as the class would cover English and Spanish basic lectura, or literacy. I worked with one more youth with a book report project.

He was African American, and I realized that African American folks are a minority in the Mexington library, but the true minority in terms of number are Anglo folks, and the Anglo folks who do come to the center are volunteers and employees. He was making a “comic” about the chapter he read from American history, Jamestown. He was able to catch most of the larger aspects of the chapter, but when I read it over with him, we reworked his initial interpretation since I was able to clarify some of the context clues in the novel he read. He was in fourth grade, and I think the novel was probably too difficult for many of my college students to interpret.

The library manager made an appearance at the library leading a group of white folks, who I assumed might have been politicians or folks with money to donate. She gave them the grand tour. When she arrived at the young man and I working on his book report, I heard her introduce me as “Mr. Steve, a Ph.D. student who volunteers. He’s working with this young man. This is what we do, we help the kids because the parents can’t.” I felt some resentment at this, that she would make this claim about parents. Yet it’s something I argued in my dissertation. The library “saves” children? I can’t say that’s true.

I invited the folks with the manager to come to the singing program tomorrow. I didn’t mention that I’m a professor, and I would let them think about me however they did, I could care less. I saw how the group looked at the children, and especially at parents. There was no dignity in those glances. Pity is not dignity.

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