Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why I love the library

A few days ago, Emily asked me a question about bees that I couldn't answer. She wanted to know how they built hives. I seemed to remember that bees used saliva to build hives but I had no idea about honeybees and that was all she cared about in regard to bees. So, I suggested that next time we were at the library we get some books about bees.

The next day was our weekly trip to the library. I found three books for kids on honeybees. We have now read through each one multiple times. One of them is Emily's favourite bedtime "story."

Emily and I have both learned a lot about honeybees during the last few days. Did you know that the female worker bees do a dance for the other worker bees when they've discovered a new crop of flowers? The dance will tell the bees whether the flowers are within 300 feet of the hive (the circle dance) or further than 300 ft. The dance will convey where the flowers are in relation to the sun depending on the direction the bee dances. Did you know that each worker bee collects pollen from about 10,000 flowers each day? And that worker bees eventually die of exhaustion in their wings and legs and just fall out of the sky while flying and just die? And that during the life of a worker bee (about two months) all that pollen only adds up to about one tablespoon of honey?


Emily is rather taken with the queen bee and the fact that her only job is to have babies (and mate with the drones although thankfully she hasn't actually asked me what that is yet. I wasn't prepared to have this conversation in the midst of a lesson about bees. Hmmm, I guess it makes sense though: bees, sex, probably where the whole lame term "birds and bees" came from.)

Our brief foray into the world of honeybees and beekeeping has reminded me how lucky we are to have a daughter who is so interested in the world around her and so genuinely excited about learning new things. This is going to be huge in her success in school next year and the years following, and in life in general. I'm so excited for her as a result and excited for us that we won't have to instill this in her. It's there naturally.

I am also reminded, as I am every time I walk into the place, how fortunate we are to have such a great library nearby and proud that I've made it such a big part of our lives. At age 3, Emily already knows where to go to find answers that we don't have to questions that she has.

Eventually, she'll go to the internet like the rest of us. Going to the library to find the answer to the bee question took me back to the days when that is what we all did. The World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica was the backbone of our public school projects and the library was the centre of our "research." In fact, in my family, we went to the library every Saturday to get books to read, for pure enjoyment, during the week. I'm glad that I've kept this alive with my kids and I hope that they will continue to use it for school projects as they get older, rather than only relying on the internet. There is still something much more satisfying about turning pages and reading words and pictures on paper, browsing through the stacks and talking to a librarian than typing a word in Google in isolation in the basement.

One of the best moments of yesterday was when we saw the life (and ultimate death) of bees in action. We went out onto the deck and saw a wasp laying on one of our chairs, dying. We were witnessing a worker bee (although not a honeybee, but the same action was taking place) dying due to exhaustion. At least, that's what we deduced. Emily was enthralled. Almost as much as I was.

Have I conveyed well enough how excited I am that she is excited about learning? I think it's because I get to learn, or relearn, along the way too. And that's what I loved about school.

And now I get to do it all over again. When do I get my new pencil case?


Shan said...

I often wished we made more use of the library than we do, but there just never seems to be time. Abby loves her library time at school though. On library day you can be certain she'll be reading her book on the bus on the way home. I have a funny feeling Emily is going to love school as much as Abby does.

Julie said...

What a beautiful post K. I hope to get Max excited about the library too, but he'll have to learn to read French quickly!

New pencil case? Something you aren't telling us?