I know I’ve written about books and kids before, but I thought it was time to do it again. Mostly for selfish reasons; few things make me happier than children’s books.
When my kids were very little, we went to the library nearly every week, as much to play with the stuffed animals and puzzles and foam building blocks, as to stock up on books.
Nowadays, I request most of our books online, which my mother-in-law picks up for us. But once a month or so we like to go in person to browse the shelves. I choose lots and lots of picture books, and yesterday was the closest I’ve ever come to my 60-book limit (thankfully the older three have their own library cards!).
We recently bought a new coffee table, and besides something sturdy we can put our feet up on (or sit on, if you’re certain members of the family), my other non-negotiable was a bottom shelf for library books.
We keep the books strewn across the living room for the first day or so, then the adult books go into a basket, and the big kids take their choices to their bedroom. The picture books stay beneath the coffee table. I’ve found that I’m much more likely to pick up a couple of books to read in a spare 15 minutes when they’re highly visible.
A word about character books, like Star Wars and Ninjago. Call me a bad mom but I refuse to read these to my kids. Judah will read them to his younger brothers, or he and Amie can read to themselves. I’m sorry. I just can’t. Thankfully thus far no one seems emotionally damaged by it.
Gabe and Noah may each pick out 4 books from the library. I choose everything else for them — but I’m always thinking about books they’ll really enjoy. Finding those books for all of my kids is a challenge I love. I’ll include my favorite children’s picture book lists at the bottom of this post. By this time we’ve also discovered many favorite authors which we reread. We have wonderful book displays at the downtown Columbia library where I find other ideas.
I’m enormously thankful for audiobooks for Amie, who struggles with reading. She’s currently listening to Little Women, and recently has enjoyed the Mary Poppins series, The Five Children and It, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.
This allows her to listen to books at her comprehension level, then practice with lower level reading books and not feel discouraged. I allow her to get as many of these books as she wants, because she plows through them quickly (I think she checked out 30 yesterday).
You may think with someone as obsessed with reading as I am, that I’m determined to raise readers. I’d love to do that, but it’s not something I’d ever want to force on my kids. I want it to be a joy. I just make sure there’s lots of reading material available (and am known to leave random stacks of picture books in various conspicuous places in our house), and that we read together often. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that they see their dad and I enjoying reading our own books. We read in front of them, because I want them to see us take time for ourselves and have hobbies.
I’ve never once given my kids a set amount of time and told them they need to go sit and practice reading. But thus far, they all love books!
If your child struggles to enjoy reading, I’d suggest trying lots of different kinds of books (even nonfiction books about science or wildlife or sports) until you find something that catches their interest. And if reading is just hard for them, audiobooks are a great option. Actually, Judah is a great reader and he still listens to audiobooks about half the time. He enjoys being able to listen to a book and build Legos simultaneously.
When we adopted Gabe and Noah they didn’t have an attention span at all, very limited vocabulary, and hadn’t been read to before. So we read board books for a long time. We still sometimes do because we just don’t want to give our favorites up!
They struggle to pay attention to chapter books yet — although they love short story audiobooks like this one — but that doesn’t bother me. They have the rest of their lives to read chapter books, I’m all for stretching the picture book stage out as long as possible. Actually both Judah and Amie still often drift over to read picture books with us on the couch. I’m pretty sure all of us would benefit from reading good picture books on a regular basis (and C.S. Lewis says that the mark of the best children’s literature is that grown-ups enjoy them too).
If you’re having a lousy day at home and nothing seems to be going right, may I suggest stopping everything to read books with your kids? This practice has never once failed to cheer us up. It’s hard to be in a bad mood while reading The Cat in the Hat, or Arthur’s Loose Tooth or The Penderwicks. If you don’t have kids, may I suggest finding little people to read to? It will make you happy. I love when my cousin babysits for us, becomes she comes armed with a bag of picture books.
My other favorite thing about Library Day in our house, is that Gabe and Amie set up the living room like a library and play “librarian” for at least an hour.
The public library is a gift. After living without one in India for close to two years, I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted.
Our favorite book lists for kids:
Read-Aloud Revival (sign up for email updates to receive their book lists)
Sonlight (this is a homeschool curriculum, but you can look under each grade for booklists, make sure to click on the “What’s Included” tab. Also you can request a free catalog in the mail to see all their booklists in one place)
I don’t know if you’ve seen this on Amazon, but if you search for a book your kids enjoy, you’ll get other recommendations in a similar style. I use this tool for every member of our family!