Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For the Love of a Good Book

 "I choose free libraries as the best agencies for improving the masses of the people, because they give nothing for nothing. They only help those who help themselves. They never pauperize. They reach the aspiring and open to these chief treasures of the world -- those stored up in books. A taste for reading drives out lower tastes."
Andrew Carnegie

Chloe has begun reading quite well on her own, much to our delight. I took her to her first story hour when she was 9 days old... no joke. It was at the Cranberry Library, and I'll never forget the amused look on the librarian's face when I marched in with my five-and-a-half pound one week old and proudly announced as we went around the circle that her name was Chloe. All of the other babies were at least sitting up and most were toddling about the room, but I was determined that my girl would love libraries and books as much as her mother, so I thought I'd better start young. 

When the rock 'em sock 'em twins came along, I entered into an eighteen-month-long library depression. Chloe and I were by then devoted weekly library enthusiasts, and I stubbornly refused to give that up with her. She had learned that libraries were places to use her quiet voice, to read softly with mommy, and to do more looking and less touching, more listening and less raucous playing. The twins did not cooperate. They were loud, even as babies, crying through story hour and forcing us to leave so we didn't ruin it for others. My sweet, selfless sister would meet us as often as she could at the library before work so that one of us could stay with Chloe while the other walked the restless boys through the library in the stroller. I dragged all three of those kids to the library almost every week and, more often than not, left physically and emotionally exhausted a half hour later, mourning my pre-Sam-and-Max library visits and wondering if I would ever get them back.

Finally, a few months before they turned two, a tiny light flickered at the end of the long tunnel. The boys seemed to be beginning to understand. As we pulled into the parking lot each week I would ask questions about the appropriate behavior that was expected in a library, and they seemed to know all the answers...

Should they knock maniacally on the fish tank?


Should they use only their quiet voices?


Is it okay to climb over the barrier and touch the camel on display in the entry?


Is it okay to look at the camel and discuss what he is wearing and why?


Is it okay to take every book in an entire row off the shelf and throw them on the floor?


Can you choose one and bring it to Mommy to read?


Things weren't always perfect. They still aren't. There are still times when the kids get a little too loud, a little too silly - and when they do, if stern warnings are ignored, we leave.  

I've tried as best I can to teach them that people go to libraries to enjoy books and quiet, not crazy children, and I think that's as it should be. Our community is full of places for kids to play... there should still be some sacred places where children learn to go and be quiet, shouldn't there? 


 Our local library, with only its few old, simple toys and puzzles, is on my kids' top five favorite places to go on a weekly basis, and I am so grateful. Studies show that one of the best ways to encourage a love of learning in children is by bringing them to the library as often as you can.

And that sweet, selfless sister who used to help me at the library?  She's already training her own little reader...

James Paul at four months, edifying himself as Mommy and Aunt LaLa bake Thanksgiving pies.

"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history."
Carl T. Rowan 

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