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 to… Go on a Thrifting Date With My Husband

You know what’s lovely? When your in-laws invite you over for a Sunday supper. You know what’s even lovelier? When they suggest you drop the kids off early and go out with your husband for a while before said supper. *Delightful* (I just happen to have some of the nicest in-laws in the whole world, by the way.) Normally we’d just leave the three “big kids” and take Pooter with us, but they suggested we leave him, so we had a rare time out completely kid-free.

I really did intend to get a picture of me actually wearing this outfit, but our afternoon got too busy. And way too fun.

Black dress and nude tank top, Old Navy
Flats, thrifted
Nursing necklace, here

First we stopped at Starbucks, for a little “free splurge” – my husband the teacher gets lots of gift cards from his students at Christmas. Then, knowing we needed to get new running shoes for Princess, we went into the shoe store next door. There we saw a pair she would absolutely love – black and purple and sparkly. Oooooh! But for $54.99? Just not in the budget right now!

We went to our favourite thrift store on the other side of the parking lot. First we dropped off two garbage bags full of donations. (Doesn’t it feel good to purge?!) Then we blitzed the store. We didn’t have much time to hunt, but we did well. For under $40 (well under the price of one pair of brand new running shoes for a six-year-old), this was our haul:

The big ticket item was a Mexx dress shirt for my husband (for $12.99). We also grabbed three books for Christmas gifts, the much-needed running shoes for Princess, Osh Kosh dressy boots for Princess (the faux-fur lining is incredibly soft! She was thrilled with them.), and Columbia boots for me.

Great deals, a lovely afternoon with my number one guy, and a delicious family dinner. Good day all around!