Raising a Reader: The Home Library

Greetings, Mighty Ones!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a “What I Wore to…” post and mentioned that I have recently developed a love for thrift shopping.  Of course, I was talking about clothes in that context and while there is so much to say on the subject of women’s clothing, the high retail prices we pay for poor quality pieces, and the gold-mine that is second-hand clothing stores, today I would like to focus my passion for thrifting in a slightly different direction:  Books.

Those who know me will understand that when I use the word “books” I am speaking primarily of classic, well-written, high quality, wholesome literature.  So then, no vampires, no steamy smut, and very few dragons.

As a teacher, a parent, an educated woman, and a Christian it is very important to me that my children fall in love with the written word.  I grew up in a home where literacy was highly valued and promoted on a daily basis.  My mom worked at home and when I was very young we began each day with a long snuggle and lots of story books read aloud.  In those days the stories would have been primarily from the Little Golden Books series and I still remember the beautiful illustrations, the whimsical plots, and the dreamy deliciousness of a good book.

As I got older my father read The Chronicles of Narnia aloud to me in the evenings, along with the New King James Bible, and other books.  I devoured books on my own and some of my favorites included the Little House series, The Babysitters Club, The Secret Garden, Little Women, The Seventh Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Story Girl, and the Ramona Quimby series.

I was an avid reader from a very young age, and to my knowledge my parents rarely censored my reading material.  I do not ever remember them telling me that I could not read such-and-such, or that certain books or genres were not allowed.  For the most part I chose books from the household shelves, borrowed from my school library or from friends, and read to my heart’s content.  These days some might say that my parents’ rather hands-off approach to my literary consumption was irresponsible or naive (who knows *what* kind of trash I could have been reading!), but the truth is that of the hundreds of books I have read in my lifetime there are maybe only a dozen that I now recognize as inappropriate choices, either because of mature subject matter, or just plain trashy, poor quality writing.  Now as a parent and teacher looking back, I realize that the main reason that my reading material was of such high quality was because my parents and teachers made a point of only making those types of books available to me.  They technically let me choose, but they actually had more control over that choice than I ever realized.  They were intentional about what types of books filled the shelves in our home and in my school and because of that I was able to independently develop a love of great literature.

Now that I have three children of my own, the oldest of whom is an emergent reader who loves books, I have begun to fill the shelves of our home with the kinds of books I want my children to read.  There is a little bit of everything genre-wise, from silly comedy to suspenseful drama, police mysteries to fairy tales, and there are almost 200 children’s and teen titles covering two huge books shelves.

I have managed to find almost all of these books at either Value Village or in library cast-off piles.  The retail price of my home library would likely run into the thousands and I can say with confidence that I have spent less than $300 over two years.  My children now have access to a very high quality home library at an extremely affordable cost.  True, some of the books are not in pristine condition, but the vast majority of them are.  And after all, we are not to judge books by their covers, are we?

Here is a (very) small sampling of some of our favourite titles from our home library.  All of them were purchased second hand, and all of them are highly treasured by my kids.  Most of them have been read aloud to my two eldest children, and all of them have been read by me at one point or another:

  1. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  3. Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater
  4. Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary
  5. My Naughty Little Sister, by Dorothy Edwards
  6. Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  7. Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
  8. Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, by Mordechai Richler
  9. The Seventh Princess, by Nick Sullivan
  10. Stuart Little, by E.B. White
  11. The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischmen
  12. Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  13. The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson
  14. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  15. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
  16. Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

In closing, I want to encourage all parents and educators to consider creating a large home-library consisting of the kinds of books you want your children to read.  Hit the thrift store and spend some time combing the shelves for high-quality titles.  Then start by reading them aloud to your children.  They won’t like everything you choose, and they won’t read every title you purchase, but having them in the house from the beginning of their reading careers will go an incredibly long way towards raising a child who loves high-quality literature and has discerning tastes when it comes to making wise book-choices.  I firmly believe that readers do not need to be born….they can be made!  And raising a reader is an amazing feeling for you, not to mention an invaluable gift to them.

Happy Thrifting and Happy Reading, Mighty Ones!

Love, Amanda

What I Wore, Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving day, friends! I hope you are all getting to be with people you love, eating food you enjoy and giving thanks for you have. We had our big feast yesterday and we are now enjoying a deliciously quiet day at home together with leftovers for supper.

Today I give you one of my typical mom outfits. I am certainly no fashionista and I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time but I do like to look somewhat put together and cute. My husband and I are on a major mission to be completely debt free by 2015 so there is no room in the budget right now for new clothes. However, when I do buy new clothes I typically buy lots of basic, classic pieces and add in an occasional fun accessory.

Here, I am wearing some brown boots my mom bought me on a shopping trip to the states a few years ago, some black leggings, a second hand banana republic tunic that once belonged to my sister-in-law and then my newest piece of clothing, a wonderfully soft sweater made of 100% extra fine merino wool.


Five for Fun

1) I am in over my head, folks. Granted, I am a fairly short person, but right now my to-do list is longer than I am tall. I’ve got a killer combination of baby showers, Halloween costumes, birthday presents, Thanksgiving dinners… The first thing I do when I start to get overwhelmed is make lists. I make a lot of lists. And always, always, the first list I make, is a list of all the other lists I need to make. Crazy, right? The first list is always something like, “Groceries to buy. Crafts I need to finish. Chores that need to get done.” And so on. Then I get into the details of each individual list. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!)

2) Anybody else have attention deficit issues when it comes to crafts? I’ve been making hats, bookmarks, baby shoes, capes, masks, and Halloween costumes. I bought some of these for some tiny embroidery. And I’ve been painting.  I just need to learn to sit down and finish one project before I find something new and awesome to start.


3) I love Halloween costumes. My kids only go to about a dozen houses for trick or treating, but I love letting the kids pick what they want to be, and working on making their ideas come to life. This year we’ll have an Elsa, a robot, a pink poodle, and a bumblebee. We have a history of bugs for first Halloweens. It’s all about those antennae.

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4) It’s almost (Canadian) Thanksgiving! We will have the pleasure of enjoying two turkey dinners this year. I’m cooking one dinner, but supplying desserts for both. Help me decide? Apple crisp, pumpkin pie with gingersnap cookie crust, lemon tart, apple pie cinnamon rolls, or something else. I need at least two. Oh, and did I mention I can’t eat grains, dairy, soy, or eggs?

5) After seven months of extraordinary sleep-deprivation, Pooter decided to start sleeping through the night last week. Six nights in a row of seven to twelve hour stretches. And then, just when he’d lulled me into a false sense of security, he’s been back to his old tricks for the last two nights. For a while there, I was drinking coffee because I liked it, but not because I needed it. I cling to the hope, however, that since he’s proven he can do it, he will go back to doing it sooner than later.




What’s For Dinner?

You guys.  This day.  Lord, have mercy on a working mama!

Tonight’s family dinner was brought to you by my dear friend Foresight.  For once, she showed up and she delivered, people. High-fives all around, Mamas.  I love it when six-weeks-ago-me makes my life easier today.

Back in August I made several meals to put in the freezer for just such a night as this and I am so glad I made the extra effort then in order to make now a little bit easier (and yummier!).  This past Sunday evening when I sat down to meal-plan for the week I realized that cooking was not going to happen tonight.  Staff meeting and marking meant staying late at work and cooking with three small people underfoot is no fun.  So, this morning before we headed out I took a homemade gluten-free lasagna from the freezer, popped it in the oven, set the automatic timer to come on mid-afternoon, and went off to work.  When we arrived home tonight at 5 o’clock the whole house smelled like a giant cheesy hug.  I quickly assembled a kale salad from things we had in the fridge and voilà…supper.  Lasagna is one of those things that I firmly believe tastes even better the second day, therefore tomorrow we will feast on leftovers.


Easy peasy!

Better to Give

Every once in a while, I come up with an idea that I think is pretty great, and then almost immediately I begin doubting that it’s a good idea at all, and I bashfully share it with a few people whose opinions will determine whether or not I follow through on it. This is how I end up having so many false starts. I am a professional fizzler. When I am gone, my headstone will read: “Here lies Monique. She finally finished something.” This pattern makes the times that my ideas do pan out all the more satisfying.

The Boy turned five in August, and his birthday has traditionally been a grand event. Lots of kids, lots of food, lots of presents. I am generally pro-birthday party, but my kid already owns way too many toys, and the prospect of adding more to the stash was not appealing. Plus, I don’t like the idea of guests feeling like they have to match the gift to the tastes of the kid and the preferences of the parents. It’s hard! The Boy had no interest in pruning his guest list, so I suggested an alternative. He could invite anyone he wanted, but instead of birthday gifts, he would ask his guests to bring a small donation to a charity.

Being an animal lover, The Boy chose to collect donations for a local shelter that takes in stray and surrendered cats and dogs. We printed a wish list of items from their website, and included it with invitations to the party.

Admittedly, I was a bit worried about how the request would be received by the parents of the invitees. I didn’t want it to come off like we thought we were too good for regular birthday presents, and I also was hyper-aware of The Boy’s feelings about it all. He seemed to understand the concept, so I stuck with it.

The day of the party came, and the guests were unbelievably generous with their donations. A couple of the parents shared with me how much fun it was for their kids to choose gifts for the animals. We left all the donations on a table, skipped the traditional “gift” opening in favour of more play time, and dug in once everyone had gone home.


Every time I look at that picture, I am reminded of the wonderful people we have come to know over the years.

A few days after the party, we piled my mom’s minivan high with all the donations and took them to the shelter. The staff met us and offered us a tour, so The Boy got to meet some of the animals he was helping.


I had been thinking for a long time how I would begin to foster the spirit of generosity in my child in a way that was age appropriate. This was the purrfect way to drive home the message that helping others feels good.