The Library Challenge: Change Their Reading Diet

Library Lists 4

All you need for a good home education is a library card and a comfy couch. – Steve Lambert

Ever since my eldest was a toddler, I took her to the library.

It didn’t matter how much of a struggle it was to get out the door – the toddler story time was always worth the effort. My kids have grown up going to the library at least one day per week (sometimes more) and the trip still fills all of us with joy.

Going to the library is an anchor – it happens at the same time every week (usually) – and it creates security and stability for our week.

When we moved into our new house, one of the first areas I prioritized was setting up a library station – a spot where all the temporary treasures could be stored. Having tried the “library bin” and “library shelf” before, I knew I needed something more unique, separate and special.

A Home Library Station

This spot has worked perfectly.

After writing about searching for a twaddle free childhood and coming to the conclusion that our biggest source of twaddle didn’t in fact belong to us, I realized I had a pretty good challenge on my hands.

How can I change the way we enjoy the library – kids milling about, meandering through aisles looking for anything that interests them – without taking the “enjoy” part right out?

I have tried the “encourage them to look for the classics” on my own before and that ended with lots of sighs, huffs, and “I won’t read that – it looks boring.” I didn’t want to choose this battle. I have already chosen the battle of content – what they pick off the shelves has to be skimmed for pictures and content.

Because let me warn you: there are a lot of sensual, demoralizing pictures in kids’ books too. It makes me sick, but it’s a fact.

I thought maybe I could hide from my own post. Maybe twaddle from the library isn’t such a bad thing? Maybe no one will notice what my children are reading or what they see in our home?

Nope, that didn’t fly. This happened.

Library Lists 8

My daughter left her 5 Star Wars Readers on the swing set over the weekend and it rained – twice.

I had the chore of blow drying every single page, and the punishment of having to read them too.

Let me assure you, I have nothing against Star Wars in general, but in specific – these books don’t do justice to the value of reading that the work “book” assumes.

They were terrible. Twaddle has been defined.

This was just what I needed to fuel my passion for being twaddle free, but now the challenge was peacefully dealing with 1 child who protests for her rights to read what she chooses. Or maybe she just wants to read the exact opposite of what I want her to read – just because.

I’m reminded of a similar little girl who in 5th grade hid Goosebumps books and read them late into the night even though her parents strictly forbid it.

(Sorry mom! Believe me, I regretted it.)

I don’t want to parent in such a way that I push and force my children to the point that their will fights back in retaliation. Or so much so that we lose all the joy of being free to discover and read new things – simple, frivolous, or silly as they may be.

I don’t want to suck all the joy out of going to the library.

So I set my mind to making a plan.

I started reading the best book lists I could set my eyes on for children’s books. There are so many great books lists out there – by age, reading level, genre, character qualities, you name it – and there’s a book list for it.

I decided that for my kids, 3 books from the lists would be enough per kid, per week.

Library Lists 1

  • 1 Picture Book: below their reading level but rich in character qualities (The Boy Who Held Back the Sea by Lenny Hort and Brave Irene by William Steig)
  • 1 Non-fiction: I defined 3 topics they could choose from to further dig into our current unit study
  • 1 Chapter Book: my son has an upcoming Boy’s Classics Book Club meeting so his book was for this, and I chose my daughter’s book based on interest from the “Middle Readers: Historical Fiction” (The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli)

Once I made these selections, I looked them up on the library’s online catalog to see if they were currently “ON SHELF” – I did this just a few hours before we were to head to the library.

(One book I really wanted to find isn’t even in the library catalog – The Black Falcon by Boccaccio retold by William Wise – has anyone read this?)

I’ve learned that it is important not to spend time at the library using the computers to hunt down books – at least at my stage – chasing down a toddler doesn’t allow for much freedom to breeze through the aisles.

So, I grabbed 3×5 cards and jotted down the titles, authors, and “library address” for each book, for each child. (They love having their own lists for anything – groceries, chores, you name it. Write it on paper, hand it over, and they own it.)

Then when we arrived at the library, I gave each child their 3×5 card and explained that I would help them find the books on their list, but that they could not pick out anything for themselves until their list was complete.

Library Lists 2

See? I didn’t take away all their fun. I just added a challenge of manageable size to the beginning.

Library Lists 3

And wow. Was it ever eye opening again to look at the library displays – my son was in shock looking at all this twaddle.

He wasn’t interested in taking these home – technically he could have since he already completed his challenge when he was distracted by this display – but the challenge had directed his attention to the best. After searching, finding, and placing the books in our bag – he felt satisfied.

Library Lists 9

My goal isn’t to eliminate or ban all library twaddle. My goal is to change my children’s reading diet from “fast food” to “whole foods.” I want them to know that it’s okay to read a junk food novel (assuming the content passes the skim test) every now and then, but a whole diet of junk food reading will leave them feeling lazy, bored, and apathetic.

The whole food reading inspires them to create, to care, and to contribute to the world around them. So my whole goal is to help them want to read better books, because I agree with what Rea Berg said:

Two things in life will shape you – the books you read and the people you meet.

It really is that simple, and since I still have the greatest influence on what my children read – I want them to read the best first and then if they have time for a little more that’s great.

For more inspiration on the subject of library challenges:

What I’m reading to fuel this desire to be twaddle free:

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2 thoughts on “The Library Challenge: Change Their Reading Diet

  1. I love that you gave them a list of.books and library “directions”. Such a great idea! Marguerite de Angeli was one of my sister’s and my favorite authors as children.

    Like

    • Emily, I’ve seen a huge difference in my children’s attitudes when given written instructions versus verbal instructions.
      Lists are exciting to them for now – I know this will change, and I’ll have to find something new, different, and clever to grab their attention and challenge them to go beyond what’s right in front of their faces.
      I’m glad to know someone else whose loved good books! I can’t wait to dig into more from Marguerite de Angeli. I feel like this challenge is as much for me as it is for them! 🙂

      Like

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