HOW TO INTEREST MOTHERS IN CHILDREN'S READING
One of the newer developments of organized work is with mothers who can be interested in the books their children read, although informal, individual work has always been a part of library work with children. This paper was read at the joint meeting of the Michigan and Wisconsin Library Associations in July, 1914, by Miss May G. Quigley, children's librarian of the Public Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
May Genevieve Quigley was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was graduated from the Grand Rapids High School. Soon after this, she began work in the Grand Rapids Public Library and has been Head of the Children's Department since it was organized in 1907.
You ask me how to interest mothers in children's reading. I began by being invited to the different mothers' meetings held in the schools; public, parochial and private, the churches and women's clubs. At each institution, the mothers, coming from widely different circles are always attentive listeners, and many frequently remain to have a word in private, as to whether I consider fairy tales good for their children and to get my personal opinion about detective stories, or some other subject important to them.
I always take with me our Monthly Bulletin, in which are printed the new books for children. This list is talked over with the mothers and books for children of different ages specified. If there is time, I frequently tell the story the book tells or an interesting incident which occurs in some one of the chapters. After such an introduction there is apt to be a "run" on the Children's department the next few days. Boys and girls come in numbers to ask for the book "You told mother about yesterday."
These talks at the different schools, clubs and churches are the means of bringing the mothers to the library. They are interested now in wishing to see the place where the "fine English books are kept," as one little foreign mother always says. I find that the foreign-born mothers are intensely alive to the fact that their children must get the English language if they are ever to succeed, and they too, these foreign mothers, ask intelligent questions as to the books on history and civics for their boys and girls.
Birthdays and holidays are also strong factors, by means of which the library can interest the mothers. We have not as yet printed a list of books suitable for birthdays, but we did print a Christmas list in our November Bulletin of last year, and like Mary's little lamb, this book was with me wherever I went during the Christmas season. It was an exceedingly valuable list, because prices were given. There were books suitable for every taste and every purse.
I talked the list over with 250 mothers, whom I met at the various schools. A large number came to the library to see the books before buying. Then too, ways and means are always suggested by which they can obtain additional information, namely the telephone, post card, and by appointment with me at the book store, if they desire it, to say nothing of the many times advice is given outside of library hours.
On three different occasions we have had exhibits of books at the schools. This perhaps is the ideal way to interest mothers. I remember at one school the disappointment manifested when it was announced that orders were not taken for the books, but that the same could be obtained at the book store.
Our annual Conference on children's reading, which is held on the first Saturday in May, brings together still another group. The mothers are represented on the program and they take part in the discussion. The subject at these conferences is always some phase of children's reading. The discussions are interesting and educational, not only for the mothers, but for the library as well.
If you are able to speak one or two languages besides English, the way is open for you to the foreign mothers' clubs. I have frequently been a guest at the Italian mothers' club, where in a small way I have been able to tell them about the library and the books--English and Italian.
Not often do these mothers come to the library, but they are sure to send their children, and through these useful little citizens I hope some day to see the mothers frequent visitors at the library.
I would not have you think that these mothers are not interested because they are not able to come to the library. It is strange and they are often too busy. When I go to the store or they meet me on the street they will ask about the books and express their appreciation of what we are doing for their children.
Three-fourths of the mothers, regardless of nationality, social position or education, have no definite idea as to the kind of books their children ought to read.
If you would succeed in this movement, be interested, know your books, and be ready to have a human interest in every child's mother, be she rich or poor, American or foreign born. Success will then attend your efforts.