I love to read, and I want to instill a desire to read in my children from an early age. There are few things I enjoy more than snuggling up on the couch together reading a wonderful book!
But it wasn’t always this way. I used to dread reading to my children. Of course, I still loved the snuggling part, but the books were so boring, so inane, so unworthy of the moment. When I had my first child I had one basic criteria when purchasing children’s books: price. All our books were bought at garage sales–the cheaper the better.
In this haphazard fashion, we amassed a library of what Charlotte Mason, 18th century educator, called “twaddle.” You know what I’m talking about. It’s those books that make you groan inwardly when your child pulls them off the shelf. I used to try and turn two pages at once when the kids weren’t looking, just to get to the end faster.
It was very hard for me to take the plunge and rid our shelves of twaddle, but it was so worth it. I boxed up all those television spin-off books, the boring books, and the books with recycled storylines, and ugly artwork. As I took each book off the shelf, I gave it a little test: if my heart sunk within me just thinking about reading it, it was gone!
While I was at it, I got rid of books that were irreparably torn or that had been colored in. Often those garage sale books were cheap for a reason. Reading ill-cared-for books gave my children the wrong impression about books. It is important to me that they learn to cherish books and to care for them. Finding just one torn or colored-in book on a shelf can cause a preschooler to think of coloring in many more.
With nearly empty shelves, I began a quest to fill our home with only the best. Books like Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life and Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1 gave me a good start choosing better books for our home. In the beginning, we relied heavily on our library to fill the void on our shelves. I still continued to buy my books cheaply…at used book stores and curriculum fairs, online or on clearance, and even at the occasional garage sale.
The difference was that now I was armed with a list of what to look for. I had a list of great authors in mind, knowing that anything by Marjorie Flack or Robert McCloskey would be worth getting at the right price. I also had a list of particular books that I wanted to find…books we had borrowed from the library and loved or books which multiple resources touted as must-haves.
My husband used to tease me with an old Pokemon slogan, “Gotta catch’em all! Gotta catch’em all!” because I was so–dare I say it?–obsessed with finding every book on my list and for an amazing price to boot!
Now, 13 years later, my shelves are bursting with wonderful books. I still have to cull them occasionally, the result of unwanted gifts or titles which didn’t turn out as good as promised. If I feel that old sinking sensation, I know the book is probably destined for Goodwill.
Clearing the shelves of all the unworthy books has made so much more time for the best ones. Reading is always a pleasure now, no matter which books my children choose.
Next week I’ll share some of my favorite books for preschoolers along with a new podcast for parents of children with dyslexia. In the meantime, what are your family’s favorite books?