What We Taught Our Children | Newberry

What We Taught Our Children

Ambling through this week’s donations (which don’t exist because, of course, you’re not donating anything until after Labor Day), I ran across a nifty little item from 1941 which someone has kept across the decades. This is not surprising: when one becomes a member of a major organization, it can take up a special place in one’s life, be it the Loyal Order of the Armadillo or the U.S. Infantry. This book represents something between those two, being the 1941 Girl Scout Handbook.

I examined, in a previous blog, what the Boy Scouts of America thought of books, and assumed the situation would be similar for the Girl Scouts. I was not disappointed. There is a chapter on books (how one wants human friends, but also book friends) and several badges involving books, including the Book-Finder Badge and the Bibliophile Badge.

I quite like the idea of a Book-Finder Badge. I wonder if some of our donors over the years didn’t have a vintage 1940s Book Finder Badge in their closet somewhere. I know many of them have complained of the problem illustrated on page 374, where a couple of Scouts have started to dust books on the shelves. One of them is still working, but the other has frankly abandoned the job and is reading one she turned up. Been there. In fact, I go there often.

To get a Book Finder Badge, you had three requirements, and then a choice of options. The requirements were keep a record of your book finding activities, learn how to look things up in a dictionary or encyclopedia, and create your own bibliography. The book finding itself is outlined in the options, which included the very useful ”Find out what books are in your own home”. The handbook suggests that you investigate the basement and the attic: there was always the possibility that something packed away might be of use to you. (They stress useful books like dictionaries and such, but any Scout who wasn’t thinking about old diaries with treasure maps was not really destined to be a Book Fair customer. Yes, even those of you who completed Activity 7: “Know at least fifteen of the many uses of an unabridged dictionary.”)

From there it suggests you move on to your public library, your State Library, and the Library of Congress. Further activities include coming up with ways to help your public library or, if you didn’t have one, ways to get one started. I amend my previous statement. I now wonder how many of the Newberry Trustees earned Book Finder Badges in their early days.

The Bibliophile badge, however, must inevitably have led people to become library trustees (or library architects or, shudder, librarians.) To get this badge there were numerous suggested activities, only one of which was required: learn how to open a new book so you don’t bust it up. (I am paraphrasing.) Other activities included designing bookcases, learning what sort of climate controls suit a book best, rebind a broken book, learn about five contemporary authors, make a list of books by your favorite author, make a list of books illustrated by your favorite illustrator, learn why an old book is not necessarily a valuable book, learn words like incunabula and manuscript, design a bookplate, order catalogs from publishers, find out if your parents own any first editions, learn to tell the difference between a book bound in calfskin from one bound in sealskin, know what “ooze calf” is, visit a library with a collection of rare books and look at some. And this is all separate from the Reader badge, or the Typographer Badge. Yet, in 1941, very few of the book collecting societies in America admitted women. They were in for a shock when the Girl Scouts came after them.

I may have missed something, but a list of 2018 Girl Scout Badges does not include Book Finders, or Bibliophiles, or even Readers. The modern Scouts may be too active for that (they have badges for Novelist or Comic Book Artist, but nothing to prepare the future Book Fair donor or volunteer. ) Still and all, we at the Book Fair do eat cookies. And there’s always a chance some Girl Scouts were inspired by the grandmothers’ Bibliophile badges.

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