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The Walking Dead: Of Course There is Storytime in the Midst of the Zombie Apocalypse


Before there were books and their were libraries, there have always been stories.  The ancients sat around a fire and told the stories of the past to help people remember who they were, where they had come from, where they were going.  Creation stories.  Flood stories. Simple stories.  Complex stories.  Stories exist because we need them.  So it was not surprising to me to see that our merry gang of not yet undead misfits were having a storytime in the prison library.  Stories matter.

In some ways, these post apocalyptic children are like our own post-9/11 children – the younger ones will
never know or remember a pre-apocalyptic world just as my children will never know a pre-9/11 world.  As we waited in line with our shoes off and bags ready to be searched the last time we flew, I told my children about how their father used to walk with me to the gate and hold my hand as we sat in the chairs and waited for my flight to board.  I wanted them to know that there was a time when we all weren’t suspected terrorists and there weren’t color alerts and long, degrading lines where we treated even the smallest among us as potential threats.  We tell these stories to remind not only our children, but ourselves, of what the world once was.  The children living in the prison need these stories to help them maintain their humanity while surrounded by the undead.  They need them so as they rebuild a new world, they can remember to incorporate things like justice and democracy and compassion.

As I watched the walkers press in against the fence in last night’s episode I thought to myself, this is what it is like for a lot of our inner city youth.  They live under the constant threat of violence.  Children in areas of Chicago walk to school through neighborhoods with signs declaring this way a safe passage, as if gang members and drug dealers will read the sign and think, “Oh, my bad, let me take this somewhere else.  This is a safe space.”  Some of our children, when they walk out the door to go to school, are like the children walking out of the prison yard hoping that today will be another lucky day when they don’t get eaten by the hordes of undead waiting outside with one singular purpose – to eat their flesh.  Although they are very much living, there are those that would eat the souls of our children without so much as a pause because it helps them meet their selfish goals.  Drugs, human trafficking, gang warfare . . . they are the zombies outside the gate.

And we see the need for story in the character of Beth, who is afraid to truly love.  Sure kisses and affection are nice, no one wants to be lonely in the post-apocalyptic world, but you want to keep everyone at arms distance and guard your heart for in the next moment, they may be zombie food.  Teens living in today’s world may not be worried about zombies eating their lovers for lunch, but they have plenty of reason to believe they may be gone the next day.  50% of marriages end in divorce, and many of our teens are growing up in homes that look more like Rick and Herschel’s barely surviving families than the Cleaver’s.  It is interesting to note that the post-apocalyptic world is populated by single fathers more than single mothers.  Beth and her friends need storytime because they need to read about some epic loves and have hope again.  They need to believe.  They need to hope.  They need a reason to wake up each day and think that somehow, today will be different.

And after storytime, Carol then got into some important extended lessons – knife skills.  I love that there was a practical aspect of TWD storytime as well.  Storytime is not actually all about the magic of story – although that is an important part – but it has a practical side to it as well because literacy is an important – you could argue THE most important – life skill.  We read to our children at night and take them to library storytime’s not just to engage in the magic of story, but to teach our children to think, to fell, to reason, to empathize, and to help them gain important pre-literacy skills.

In the most subtle of ways last night’s premiere reminded us all of our how the zombie apocalypse is really just a metaphor for our modern times.  And like the parables of Jesus, these exaggerated stories are told to remind us to choose each day how we will live.  You may not face a horde of zombies today, but you will face a horde of your fellow humans so you must choose this day how you will live.

Oh and don’t forget to take your children to storytime.  They probably won’t teach your children knife skills, but they will open up a world of information to your children.

More Zombies on TLT:

What’s the Deal with Zombies Anyway?
The post in which I try to explain to my then 8-year-old why people would even be interested in reading and watching these scary, decaying creatures that want to eat your brains.  Spoiler alert: it’s only kind of about the zombies.

Reading the Zombie Apolcaypse
A list of amazing zombie reads.  This list is now two years old so you could help us update it by adding your new favorites in the comments.  

New Zombie Reviews:
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers 
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry
Contaminated by Em Garner
Sick by Tom Leveen 
Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Monsters by Ilsa J. Bick
Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart
Inhuman by Kat Falls 
Fiction Lessons from The Walking Dead by Carrie Mesrobian

Zombie Prom
Stephanie Wilkes talks about her annual Zombie Prom.  All the cool undead kids are doing it.

TPiB: It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Cool programming ideas you can do in your library whether you are a zombie or just running from them.

TPiB: Bring Out Your Dead, zombie party take 2

Zombies VS. Humans Lock-In, with a Doctor Who twist

Top 10 Survival Tips I Learned from Reading YA
Look, my chances are not good in a post-apocalyptic world.  I like to lie in bed, read a book and drink pop with either my air conditioning or heater on.  I don’t like to cook.  I do not take my indoor plumbing for granted.   Should the apocalypse happen, however, I have learned these 10 tips for survival which I am now going to share with you.  See, even zombie books are educational.

Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth

By the time this posts, I will be in a plane leaving hot and humid North Louisiana behind and make my way to North Carolina for the Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth: A Call to Action for the Library Community Summit held at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. It’s very hard to get to know someone through a blog and what their passions are, other than teen library services, but one of my deepest passions is working with urban and incarcerated youth.

Last summer at ALA Annual in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Sandra Hughes Hassell during a YA Networking panel. She and I shared some of our interests and as all speed networking panels go, exchanged business cards and she asked me to look at the webpage she was working on for a grant about working with African-American male teens. A few months later, I received an email from Sandra inviting me to be a panel presenter for the summit, speaking specifically on public library services and on the projects that I work on with my urban teens. I was, and still am, completely honored to have this privilege to attend this summit and share ideas with my fellow library colleagues, as well as learn more about what we can do to bridge a literacy gap that seems to be spiraling out of control.

I will be posting some from the conference, provided that my Internet and iPad cooperate, and when I get back, I plan to do a full follow up so that we here, at Teen Librarian’s Toolbox, can keep abreast of trends in working with urban youth, policies or infrastructure changes which our libraries can incorporate to better serve the needs of these teens, and also just to provide a discussion point where we can communicate our ideas, successes, and even failures as we attempt to make sure all of our teens are served equally and positively.

Building a Bridge to Literacy is a collaborative summit, relying on the efforts of like-minded people and organizations. This summit will unite national stakeholders, including members of the library and education community, researchers, educational policy makers, national organizations focused on the needs of African-American youth, publishers, and young black males, to focus on the role of school and public libraries in closing the literacy achievement gap of African-American male youth.

Follow this summit during June 3-5 via Twitter by following the #bridge2lit hashtag and also by following the official project’s Twitter account @bridge2lit. There is also a blog where information will be posted relating to this topic and the summit website here.