On Saturday, I had a pretty magical experience. It was our annual Girl Scout Day, featuring the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. We scattered beads at campfires, had a full supply of buttons, and were ready to help visitors make sunbonnets, if they hadn’t already arrived wearing them. We also had a costume contest–and ended up with over 30 participants, far more than I had dared to hope. It was a fun day!
But for me, there was one moment that was particularly magical. We had set aside two different half-hour blocks of time for me to read sections of the book. In the morning, I read “Fire on the Hearth” and “Indian Camp” from Little House on the Prairie. In the afternoon, I read “School” and “Town Party” from On the Banks of Plum Creek. Have I mentioned yet that I read this in our historic schoolhouse?
Granted, our school is a wee bit bigger than the one described. But the desks are similiar. And the slates. And the blackboards surrounding the room. There was a certain moment, as I was reading Wilder’s description of that school. that I looked up at the room. The girls that were listening almost had this “eureka!” look on their face–they were sitting in desks almost exactly like the desks described in the book. A slate was in front of them. Suddenly, the boundaries between fiction and reality, past and present, Minnesota and Texas almost vanished. Maybe it’s hokey to say this, but these little girls were at one with the book.
As a musuem educator, I wish we could have such powerful moments every single day. And I think, as a museum, we’re closer to that goal. As someone who has always loved children’s literature, there is nothing better. As part of my introduction, I asked visitors how many had read the books. Lots of hands went up. And then I asked how many wanted to read the books after Saturday. Almost as many hands went up.
A good day indeed.