Imagine the turn of the 20th century.
Boys, getting far more precedence than girls, when it came to education and opportunities. Children seen but not heard.
A Library at that time was not considered a fitting place for children under 10. When children’s rooms were first planned in Public Libraries at the end of the 19th century, they were just places where noisy young patrons were cordoned off, so they didn’t bother the adults. Many people felt that children should not be allowed to touch books, leave alone borrow them, so books were locked up in cupboards...lest they ruin them and ‘silence’ was the only sound allowed in a library. It was during this era in time, when a young librarian, Annie Caroll Moore (ACM), thought ‘OTHERWISE’.
Along with a few others, ACM pioneered the children’s library as we still know it today. A homely space with plenty of comfortable, child-size chairs, art on the walls, space for events like storytelling, and visiting performers, which ACM made a regular feature at libraries.
Without her, and other pioneers like her, children may have never experienced the joy of being able to enter a space created purely for them to find, interact and engage with books in many interesting ways. She, along with a few others, inspired the children’s library movement and are considered to be amongst the first children’s librarians.
However she didn’t stop here. By writing about books and becoming a renowned critic of children’s literature, Moore went beyond being just a children’s librarian. She worked hard at pushing publishers to produce books for children which were not ‘moralizing and didactic’. With good children’s books hard to come by, ACM was a fierce critic whose reviews influenced and shaped children’s book publishing, at that time.
‘A girl,’ she wrote, “cannot afford to waste her emotions nor her time. She has need of every resource that may fortify her spirit, sharpen her native wit and challenge the full powers of mind and heart.”
Her reading lists were much sought after and her reviews severe. She was instrumental in the creation of the first (and still to this day, the two most prominent) American awards for children’s literature: the Newberry Medal and the Caldecott Medal.
“MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHER WISE” is a wonderful picture book biography about this visionary and pioneer.
This is a book I’ve used to encourage the students in my school to sign up for my Library Club. I believe that the Library is a democratic space and one of the best spaces for children to open their minds, to share, to connect. This book inspired my students to bring in ideas that would benefit the entire school community.
‘MISS MOORE THOUGHT OTHER WISE’ - How Anne Carroll Moore created Libraries for Children. Written by : Jan Pinborough Illustrated by: Debby Atwell
Here’s how we used it and you can too, shaping the plan to your requirements:
Firstly as you read this book, do remember that children may not be familiar with the time period, including how expectations for girls were much different than those for boys. This issue is the root of Moore’s divergence as she pursues interests that were not always socially acceptable. The writing helps a child’s understanding , with the repeated use of the phrase “Miss Moore thought otherwise” and clear supporting details.
*What would ‘thinking otherwise’ mean? How can we ‘think otherwise
*This is a wonderful book to discuss contributing to the community. How did Ms. Moore make a difference in her community? What hurdles did she have to jump over in order to do so?
*Inspired by Ms. Moore, children can look for individuals in their own communities who have made a difference by thinking ‘otherwise’.
BRAINSTORMING: Looking at the list of creative and interactive ideas Ms. Moore introduced at the Children's section of the NYPL, what could we bring into the school library?
ACTIVITIES: Give children an outline of your library space, or of an imaginary space. Ask them to design the layout and features of the room.
"If the children's room is now filled with more sunshine, gaiety, beauty and commonsense than ever before it is mainly through the efforts of Annie Caroll Moore who opened wide the windows and said, "A little less stuffiness right here would surely do none of us any harm." - inscribed in a book by Henrik Willem Van Loon.
It is to pioneers like Annie Caroll Moore, who forged their own path, shaping the world of children's literature and libraries along the way...to whom I doff my hat this weekend.