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“…Has made a new girl of me, for suddenly I can see the wonder of books!” — She Loves Me, the Musical

Sorry, I just had to finish that.  I love that song.  I also love books.  I mean like I could give up most other creature comforts and conveniences before I could live without books.  When i went to Italy in college, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a stop in a monastic library, where we able to hold books that were two hundred year old books.  The place smelled like books.  It was amazing.  I’d live in a library if I could, surrounded everyday  by books, by reading, by readers.  Also, I wouldn’t have to deal with my least favorite part of the library: the returning.  I would love to have enough space (and money) to own every book I ever read.  Not just a copy of it, but the exact copy that I poured over.  It would be so comforting to be able to open the same copy of a book and be able to read all my own notes in the margins, to rethink old thoughts, to see if I still agreed with myself.  Oh yes, books are a glorious thing.

My love of books is, I think, why I want so much for my children to start reading.  We would be able to read together or I could watch them read on their own.  Best of all, they could read to me!  When the Scientist read Jake Skates last week, I literally jumped for joy.  Finally, my plan was beginning to come to fruition (the one where, because my children are terribly well read they will inevitably take over the world and be the Pope and President and other important people who together end abortion…it’s not a well thought out plan, but it is a plan).  To this end, both the Scientist and the Ninja Monkey have their very own library cards.  They’ve had them for almost a year now.  In that time though we had only visited the local library about 10 times, and that was mostly for playing checkers and making crafts.  So this month, I decided it was time to start over, to try harder to make it to the library at least every other week (which is good, because then maybe we’ll stop accruing so many fines).  To this end, we went to the library last Friday.  Here’s how it went.

 First, let me begin by saying that I rarely get to take out books of my own at the library, as the kids section is where we spend most of our time and I don’t feel right about traipsing around the adult section with at least three kids in tow most times.  We head straight for the welcoming children’s room, with its large, sunken story time area and low shelves that a kid friendly.  The steps make it easier to entertain the Pirate Princess, as she loves playing airplane on them.  I’m never sure if this is the appropriate posture for a library or not, but we haven’t gotten kicked out yet.

Second, I must say that we rarely have a well formed plan of what we want to get or even a general book list from which to draw.  I know, I know.  Book lists abound for Catholics, for homeschoolers, for 6-7 year old boys just beginning to read who are interested in astronomy.  I just never seem to remember them until we are at the library itself.  This is when the real fun begins (and in case you were wondering, I’m not being facetious, I really do enjoy this part, even if it is a bit chaotic).  I start by taking a general survey of the theme for the month, as displayed on the back wall.  If it’s something we’re interested in, I head there and grab some appropriate books to sort out later.  If not, I start asking the boys what they want to study this week.  Both of them almost always ask for the same basic books every time; the one wants books on dinosaurs and the other on trucks.  Easy peasy, until you realize you’ve read the same Jurassic Shark book about eight times.  Somehow though, we manage to sort through and find some age appropriate books that we haven’t already seen.  It’s a challenge but one I enjoy.

After we have all of their books,  I turn them lose and begin my own search.  I pour over almost every title on the main book case (main section for the little ones), and grab a book here and a book there, thinking all the time I’ve only gotten a couple and just have to find some more.  The result?  More books than any of us could read in a a month, let alone two weeks.

I lug them all over to the desk, make an arbitrary decision as to who gets to take out which books, and apologize profusely to the librarian as she has to check out the average 25 books we take out each time. I attempts to shove them into whatever extra shopping bag I happened to have found in the van right before coming inside, and then off we go.

When we get home, the kids love showing off the books to Dad, and “reading” them (even the baby is in love with books, which I must say has me tickled pink).  They lay them all out around the living room and we must end up reading through close to half of them right then.  The other half may never see the light of day while we have them, but my thinking is that we have them.  The opportunity is there to read, and that’s enough for me.

Finally, they all get put up on the “library book shelf”, so that said baby can’t also attempt to taste the books when nobody’s looking.

Our most recent library trip was a success.  I say this because there were no tantrums, no mommy constantly telling them to be quiet to the point of becoming the nuisance, and no fits when it was time to go home.  Everybody found something to read and no one went home empty handed.  That’s a good trip in my book, but there are some things I plan on doing differently for next time (and from now on, I hope).

  1. I absolutely must have a plan.  I must have a plan of who is coming and how long we are staying and how many books we are each allowed.
  2. I absolutely must have a list.  A specific for this trip list.  One that is well thought out and is relevant to our current studies.
  3. I must have a backup list, for those just in case times when they really have nothing I need or want.
  4. I must take advantage of my computer and try to place as many books as I can that I am planning on taking out on hold.  The beauty of being in Newark is that we have a huge library system.  The problem is that, obviously, not every branch has the same books.  If I really want something, I need to look it up on their website, and place it on hold because then i can request it be sent to my local branch and a few days later (usually) it’s there.
  5. I must remember to not let all of my “must haves” and my planning keep this from being a fun activity to share with my children.  I do, after all, want them to love reading, books, and libraries as much as I always have.

So now I want to know: do you have any tips or tricks to making a successful library trip with small children?

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