Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our Very Own Library and Questions of Excess

On the day of the "Great Blizzard of 2011" I decided to try something different with our kids' books.   I don't know what finally propelled me to do it that day...maybe it was being snowed in or maybe I had watched the kids empty EVERY book off the shelf for the millionth time.   Anyways, here is what our book shelf frequently looked liked:

Imagine it with EVERY book off, which was a common.

Here were some things I noticed with our bookshelf full of books:
  • The obvious fact that the shelves were continuously emptied, but not for the purpose of reading every book, and I would spend lots of time putting it back together.
  • The kids always wanted to read the SAME books, no matter how many were on the shelves.
  • We go to our local library a couple times a month and those library books were common choices to read, even though we have tons of our own.
  • It was hard for the kids to find what book they wanted when all they could see was the spine facing out towards them.
For all these reasons, and the arrival of a blizzard, I did some major rearranging, which is also common at our house.  I took every book we had and moved it upstairs into the closet in Abby's room and dubbed it...

Our Library

As I envisioned it, we would take a trip to our library weekly to "check out new books."  Over the past month our library has issued its own library cards and book bags to its patrons.  Here's how the process looks...

The kids colored on the back of their bags with fabric markers I had from another project and then we stenciled their names on the front.  I intentionally picked two white bags and stenciled both names in red.  My grand idea was that each time we went to the library, Abby would have to find her bag, thereby learning to recognize her own name in print.

Here I am, in all my Saturday morning splendor, explaining to Abby that I would like her to point to her name.   Look at my very serious teacher face as I give directions.  Oh my.

And here is Abby mid-tantrum after she has picked the "ELI" bag and I have explained that she needs to take the "ABBY" bag.  That didn't turn out like I thought it would.  Oh my, again.

Here we are our Our Library.
This is absolutely nothing fancy.  I already had this shelf in Abby's closet and just rearranged a few items to make room for our books.  What you can't see here are the boxes of baby clothes and toys that I have to pull out of the closet and into Abby's room so that Our Library can even be open for business.  Each child picks ten or so books, usually just by grabbing as many as they can at one time.  We have gradually been working on how to make real decisions about book choosing.  Eli is starting to actually look at the covers and decide which books he REALLY would like to "check out."

Once our book bags are full, we head back downstairs with our new treasures.  We then put them on our CLEARED bookshelf in just two baskets...

Before we put our books away, however, we always take time to look over our new reading material...

They get so excited about their new books, just like if we had been to our local library.

Things I have noticed since we reararranged our books:
  •  We are reading a better variety of our books.
  • It seems easier for the kids to choose books when the number of choices available is not so overwhelming.  
  • With our books in baskets, if is easier for the kids to find books as they can easily see the covers, as opposed to just the spines.
  • I personally like the clean look of the bookshelf.
So, there you have it...Our Library.  This has made me think, again, about the excess of THINGS we have.  If my kids are happy with two baskets of books, do we need an entire shelf of them?  Should we even have our own books when we have access to a wonderful local library?  How do I teach my children about living simply in God's world when we have so much?  Who can help a mommy out with this?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

ps...occasionally I do miss coming in to the living room and seeing my kids covered in every book from the shelf.  It's just so cute.


  1. Fantastic idea! Just fantastic. I want to implement that once I have opportunity to do more organizing around here. O has books in several bookcases around the house and like your kids (and all kids) she gravitates to the same ones again and again. And she already has a library bag with her name on it that her Great Granny made for her.

    I love your ideas. You're very clever, you know.

  2. April,

    What a great legacy in a book bag! So fun. It wouldn't even take much could just put books in a box and out of her reach. :)

  3. Great idea! We are doing all sorts of rearranging right now and I was trying to think about what to do about the books. This will be a great thing to do.

  4. Cool idea! What a blast from the past! We still have "library cards" in books on the shelf?! Did Eli tell you we played library while they were here? You are right...we discovered "new" books! More Spaghetti, Imogene's Antlers and Joey! xoxo

  5. Sarah J...make sure Bob is moving the books. :)

  6. Mom,

    The library idea was definitely rooted in my childhood. :) I even have a little date stamper that we sometimes use!

    Love you!