Library Time for Kids

I’m attending a primary class obervation hour, east end of Glasgow.

The children are six years of age. Many are from disadvantaged homes we used to call “poor.” Elbows poke out of frayed jerseys, snotty noses abound, hair cut by garden shears.

It is library time. Library Time consists everybody sitting cross-legged on the floor, around teacher, Mrs MacIntyre, elderley, unmarried, prim, proper, kindly and plump, sits on a chair one size too small for her ample derriére. “Time to choose a book for today.”

The children are given their choice of book. Few look as if anything more than a tabloid newspaper enters their home. Then again, that’s what schools are for – to point the way.

From the edge of the half-circle, his shirt tail hanging out his trousers, National Health presciption glasses askew on his snub nose, pink scrubbed cheeks, Michael throws up  hand and arm high, waggling fingers to attract teacher. He points to the top book shelf.

“Miss, Miss! Seize us doon tha’ book tae read.”

(Seize is slang, colloqual for “grab,” or “give to me.”)

Like penguins identifying their chick in a flock, Mrs McIntyre is adept at recognising an individual child’s voice amid a hubbub of prattle. She stands up and moves to the top shelf.


“That yin, that yin, there, Miss. ” He points again . “Seize it doon fir me.”

“Now, Michael, what is that magic word we need to hear first?” she asks, disapprovingly.

The class falls silent waiting to see if he knows the obvious – “please.”

A pained expression crosses his face. Michael thinks hard for a long time. He wipes the back of his hand horizontally under his drippy nose, and, inspiration rising to the occasion, he answers …..

….. “Abracadabra?”

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5 Responses to Library Time for Kids

  1. Helena Brown says:

    Well you cannae blame the wee lad, I blame his parents who obviously have never heard the word please, or his grandparents for that matter. The number of rude adults walking around is breathtaking. School today have a harder time than ever and it must take real patience. Somewhere along the line working class folk have become brutalised. In my Mother’s/Mother in Law’s day they all strived to give their children a head start. Problem as I see it is that after all the striving what is the result, many are right back where they dug themselves out of.

  2. Bugger (the Panda) says:


    Did you, in another life, have a moniker, namely LA LA and LA Edinburgh?

    Sorry to go off piste

    Just askin.

  3. Grouse Beater says:

    Hi Panda –
    Not me, sorry to disappoint. I spent months refusing pleas to open a blog and share informed opinion and anecdotes because I got disallusioned by what I met on Guardian site. (My only previous sorte into website comment.) Seeing people in Scotland belittled and insulted hoping for genuine empowerment finally pushed me to give it a try. Got over 2,500 “hits” last week – a complete surprise. Am still bewildered as to why.

  4. Grouse Beater says:


    On a normal day teaching in one Glasgow school I offered a palm full of peanuts from my lunch to a young pupil staring at them with hungry eyes. He took them and stared at his palm of peanuts without speaking a word.

    For a good minute I couldn’t understand what was troubling him. Then the penny dropped. He had never seen peanuts in their shells.

  5. Helena Brown says:

    Yes isn’t that sad. Heaven knows I went to a primary in Portobello, a very mixed school, the well off kids from one part of the town and the rest of us from the Tenements. I never remember many of us being so hard up as some of the kids today. We did have one family with if my memory serves me with one son in my class, they would be called educationally sub normal in my day, I do not know the proper term today. They were the ones who you had to feel sorry for, the dirty clothes and from the looks of them badly fed. Now all those years on, I am in my sixties, we still have kids who are being brought up with nothing. By the way my Tenement was very mixed accommodation and the highest number stairs were the poorest. We did have single ends as well in Portobello, and my Dad was brought up in a flat with an outside toilet, but they never starved. Mum was almost posh compared to Dad, separated as they were by the Gasometer.
    Let us ensure we have a better society one in which all children get a decent start in life. I am a YES not for my kids, I do not have any, but for these children.

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