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Building Confidence

Jenn, our children's librarian

I was a very shy child, I stayed in the corner at birthday parties and had trouble in large groups. For some reason, being on stage and performing didn’t bother me. I could get on stage and be someone else for a while, even though hundreds of people were staring at me. What does this have to do with the library? Well, indirectly and directly the library has an effect on children’s confidence. I come in contact with hundreds of kids every month and smile to myself when a parent does not force a child to talk to me. I never worry about kids who refuse to say thank you or bury themselves in their parent’s legs. Ninety percent of the time they have made eye contact with me or interacted in some way and that is enough for me.

There is a young girl who comes to my Mother Goose Time storytime and is very shy. Her caretaker is very supportive and doesn’t push her to do things that she isn’t ready do. The first few months of storytime she had to be on her lap or in her arms. Slowly but surely she is leaving her safety net. We have a segment of the storytime just for kids to work on their confidence, most of them need no encouragement and complete the task of knocking Humpty Dumpty off of his wall every week. Some kids need the support of their grown-up to make the short walk up the flannel board where Humpty is waiting. And some don’t want to come up at all. We are patient with everyone and supportive of everyone’s successes. This month the sweet little girl took her caretaker’s hand, walked up to Humpty and knocked him off the wall all by herself. What may seem like an everyday thing to some, is a big deal for a girl who spent most of the first storytimes with her head buried in a lap.

Our Tail Waggin’ Tutors program is another chance for kids to build their confidence. They practice reading aloud to dogs, but it is so much more than that. As I sit watching them read, I realized that while the dogs were the draw, it was the dog owners that were making the real difference. They are patient, kind, understanding, and welcoming to these children. They laugh and joke and share stories. The kids might improve their reading skills, but I know they improved their confidence in gaining a new adult friend.

I am reading a book about a girl who is very shy, she is an introvert. She likes spending time by herself reading and listening to music. She wants to be able to sing in front of people and is determined to work through it. She is drained by being in crowds and talking with many people, something I relate to very much. Being able to relate to a character in a book is an important thing, which is why I try to have a diverse collection.

How did I stumble on this as my blog topic? Recently I have decided to get back on stage and resume my role as an actress. It got me thinking about the confidence I have in myself, how I am able to put myself out there, but still have trouble going to parties (they wear me out and I am not a fan of talking to people I don’t know, yes I am shy). Being shy doesn’t have anything to do with being on stage, but it does have to do with auditioning and putting myself out there. I conquer those fears for the reward, just like kids reap the rewards when they speak up and ask for what they really want.

Every time a child asks me a question or wants to talk about their day, I know I am making a difference in how they see themselves. Next time a child is shy with you, let them be shy. Us big grown-up people can be very intimidating. I turned out okay.

Miss Jenn as a masked cook in Alice in Wonderland.

Miss Jenn and her cast in A Bad Year for Tomatoes.