The 6- but almost 7-year-old West Ridge resident Katie Lizzie Drew and I had been talking about some important things—the tooth fairy and her favorite animals—before publication of the second half of her interview was delayed by the Voices from the Whittier Elementary School Field House series. But Katie Lizzie Drew, a pseudonym chosen by the Latina girl in homage to her favorite detective Nancy Drew, probably wouldn’t mind.
She’s a big fan of her own school’s library. It’s big, she says, and has lots of books. The kids get to do crafts while they wait to check out books. There is also a big rug, she describes, where kids can sit and read on their own or listen to stories.
She and her family have been following the events at Whittier closely, and thinks the field house building would be a fun place for a library. It just needs some paint and a new roof, she says.
It turns out that libraries in Chicago Public Schools are not, by any means, a given. Only between 500 and 550 exist, for the entire 680-school system. These numbers, estimates based on previous year tallies, mean that sending your child to public school gives him or her only a 74 to 80% chance of having access to one on school grounds—and whether or not these are open more than a few hours per day or staffed by trained librarians is usually left to the principal’s discretion.
But Katie Lizzie has a library. What she doesn’t have—and neither do thousands of other kids in the public schools system in Chicago—is recess. Despite an Illinois bill passed in 2005 that makes outdoor activities a daily requirement, many schools petition the board for exemption. As hers, apparently, did.
Where do you go to school?
Skinner West Elementary School.
I learn math, science, reading, social studies, a whole bunch of stuff. Gym, music, computers.
What’s your favorite class?
I think math is in first place. Then music and then computers. Or social studies maybe. We don’t really learn a lot because all we do in social studies is read. And then for reading, well, we read too. With social studies, like, we study about jellyfish, and then we read a book about jellyfish.
How many kids in your class?
In the beginning of the year, the first day, there were 30, but at the end of the year there were just 26. No, I mean 25. One left because her mom was sick and she needed to go to a different house and stay there for a long time.
There are a lot more girls than boys but I’m not sure how many. One day there was only nine boys and around 18 girls. The boys that are bad are usually the ones that come everyday. Some of the boys in my class that are bad just don’t behave good. They say bad words or just do really silly stuff, like fall off their chair on purpose, backwards. Sometimes the teacher has to yell at them for something that they do. Or sometimes they talk back to the teacher or roll their eyes.
I would say I only saw one girl doing that. She’s actually a good girl, so I don’t remember what happened.
Is it easier to be a boy or a girl growing up, do you think?
I’m not sure. It’s not really easier being a girl. The not so maybe part is, sometimes you have to deal with bad boys. Like, I told you what bad boys are. And then the good part is that sometimes you get your own time.
You sound pretty busy, with your soccer team after school, and all your books. When do you get your own time?
At home, ‘cause I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I like having alone time, but sometimes my mom and dad just can’t play a game or something that I really like to play, ’cause they have too much work and they wanna watch TV or rest. Sometimes I want a brother sister to be there so I can at least play with somebody.