Sunday, October 28, 2012

Library Love

A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books.... Children learn to read being in the presence of books. - Horace Mann

As a former high school English teacher, you would think a library would be like a second home to me.

Sure, I have tried to fill our home with as twice as many books as we have plastic toys, but actually going to a library?

Once, we made it to story time at a local library (and lived to tell about it).

Maybe I've been listening to the voice of the stereotypical and imaginary librarian whispering in my head saying, "Shhhhhh," reminding me that twin toddlers and quiet aren't two things you typically put together in the same sentence.
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I can't even say that I have been to a library by myself since--well...

Since I finished graduate school in 2002, I don't think I have been to a public library for anything other than work meetings that we occasionally have in their conference rooms.

Last Saturday was one such day. I am on the board of our state English teachers' association, and our quarterly meeting was being appropriately held in a mecca for book lovers: a large, modern public library.

As I walked through the doors, I felt a pang of guilt and remorse, the kind you feel when you don't call your grandma often enough.

As I walked up the stairs (who am I kidding? I took the elevator), I felt like a hypocrite. Here I am on the board of directors for an English teachers' association and the last thing I read for adults was, well, we won't go there. And the last book I finished was If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

As I weaved my way through the books on the way to the conference room, I felt like I was being reunited with old, familiar friends. Book after book called out to me with their titles, recharging my curiosity, asking for a chance to catch up.

And what a place to catch up! This library has to be one of the nicest libraries I've ever visited: lots of natural light, local art work, a coffee bar (yes, you read that right), and an expansive, interactive kids' section. While not loud, the whole place hummed with activity, with conversation.

Inspired, I texted Marty and asked that he bring Emily and Drew to meet me at the end of my board meeting. Two hours later, when I walked out of the meeting into the kids' area, I was greeted by two smiling babies sitting at a table full of books.

We spent the next 30 minutes or so just perusing the board book box and reading different books. I occasionally had to stop Drew from climbing on the kid-sized tables or help Emily put back the "extra" books she took off the shelves.

But, not once, did I worry about how loud they were, how mobile they were. I just let them OD on books while building a positive association with a place I hope they grow to love as much as their mommy once did (and still does despite her infrequent visits).

This library made it is easy to relax and just enjoy the endless books. The whole space as designed to invite rather than discourage, physical engagement with the books. There were kid-sized tables, chairs, and computer stations. Book bins made exploring easy. While libraries of old might have encouraged quiet, solitary interactions, this one was screamed, "Use me!"

Toddlers are funny because you never know what is going to stick.

Last night, a week later, I heard Emily tell Drew, "Come on. Let's go to the library and get some books."

I found them digging through their bedroom book basket--their new "library," I guess.

Today they sat in my bed after nap time and took turns "reading" to each other and me.

All because of one library visit?

Of course not.

But it certainly is a reminder that children learn from watching us; they learn from what we offer or don't offer to them. They learn by doing.

Children learn to read being in the presence of books.

Linking up with Pontifications of a Twin Mom's Mama Loves.
Manic Mother

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Kelly said...

Thanks for the reminder... I still have not taken them to the library. I've been meaning to for the past year, yet have managed not to go :(

RoryBore said...

I don't take mine to our library often enough. mine are just way too active. but we do have lots of books at home and try to do some reading everyday.

and we try to let them see us reading. That's what I tell them I am doing on the computer: reading and writing.

Also, love the If You Give A...series. Still waiting for the grown up version If You Give a Mom A Coffee :)

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

We love, love, love books in our house...but...since you tend to put me into confession mode...I'll confess that our girls have only been to the library once, TWO YEARS AGO!

You *may* know I'm a bit of a germophobe, and the idea of handling books that someone else has handled...possibly even taken into the potty room or the tub with them...well, I can't get past it. ;)

And -- unfortunately!!! -- our girls still tend to put things in their mouths. They don't chew on books like they did when they were a year old, but they might be reading one minute, and the next they have the handle of their play spoon in their mouth.

I do feel like they're missing a little part of childhood, though! I have lots of fond memories of going to the library when I was a kid. Maybe when the girls are a bit older???

Deep breaths. :) :)

Johanna at The Baker Twins said...

I laughed at Mandy's post. When mine were of board book age, I used my handy clorox wipes on EVERY single book we touched at the library.

Now, not so much. I guess at four, we've learned to let go. We love the library too! Drew and Emily are the perfect age to really start to LOVE the library!!! We are watching you... I'll expect some more posts about the library. :)

Tami said...

I did more reading with my kids at home. I loved books, so every time I'd go to the book store (it was a used book store, so the prices were cheaper) I would purchase books for my boys. I like the fact that we could keep the books and look at it over and over instead of having to return them to the library. I did take the boys to 'story time'. My oldest was too hyper and never sat still long enough. When he began elementary school is when I took the other two boys.
Isn't the kids size furniture the best! I have sections like that in my daycare. I have quiet time where the kids take out books and look at the pictures. I think it's good for them to use their imagination.
I use a nook for myself. There are times I miss the feel of a 'real' book.
Your children look like they took up the love of books from you!

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I have the fondest memories of the library as a child, so like you, I wanted my kids to feel the same way. We went every single week all the way through grade school. Then my kids volunteered there after that! They both LOVE to read. You're doing a wonderful thing!

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