About the Library
WHAT DOES “BUILDING A LIBRARY” MEAN?
Let me put it this way – the day after I found out that I was going to be a father, I drove to a bookstore and bought a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster for my unborn child.
We hadn’t bought her a crib, a toy, or any clothes yet, but I did feel the immediate and pressing need to get her a copy of a book that she probably wouldn’t be able to read for eight or nine more years.
Why did I do this? Because I’m terrible at resource planning?
Well, yes… but, mostly, because, as I sat there, dumbstruck at the idea of being a father and what that meant, I knew, deep down in my core, that there were certain books, certain formative books that my kid HAD to read. Had to. And, while it wasn’t necessarily my job to force those books down his or her throat, it was my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my child had access to the right kinds of books – the important books, the funny books, the books that I loved or that friends loved or that someone, somewhere had said “this book MEANT something to me”.
And that’s when I started to build a library.
Every week of my wife’s pregnancy, I went out and bought at least one book for my eventual kid. One week, I’d go after award-winning picture books. The next, fairy tales. The next, science books or the best alphabet books I could find. It was a ragged, messy mish-mash of books, but isn’t that what a library is supposed to be?
Almost five years later, I’m still developing our collection – grabbing new and used books all the time – and we’ve got shelves full of books in almost every room of our house. I’ve also come to realize the inherent importance of NOT owning certain books and, instead, relying on local libraries as part of our extended library community. What started as me wanting to have a complete, definite collection of must-read books in our house and always available for my child has, over time, evolved into a broader idea of how I want my child to be able to have access to a wide selection of reading material and have the requisite knowledge to pick the good stuff on her own. (It also still involves a big honking pile of books. Honestly, we’ve got books everywhere.)
OK, BUT WHY ARE YOU BLOGGING ABOUT IT?
Because, to be frank, when I Google phrases like “what books should my kid read” or “best books for developing readers” – I’m not that thrilled with the results I’ve been getting. Finding great books for your kid is actually quite hard.
I think there’s a real hunger out there among parents to find recommendations for books for their kids, recommendations that are a little more personal, contextual, and real than “If bought this on Amazon, you might also like this.” I am constantly watching parents stop librarians for suggestions, ask friends for ideas for baby shower books (ideas that ideally go beyond what’s available at Target), and generally looking at their kids browsing crappy, disposable books, based on crappy, disposable TV shows and movies, with a look on their face that screams, “I think we can do better.”
And, if I can help start a conversation that helps people find better books for their kids – as I recount our own experiences with our vast-ish library of books – that’s very cool. I want people to learn from our successes and failures.
Plus, selfishly, maybe this venture almost helps me legitimize being 30+ and still spending way, way too much time during the day talking about children’s books. (Wait, just checked with my wife and… nope, I’m still an obsessive weirdo.)