Tuesday, March 18, 2014

{Tuesday Tip: Basket Books}

Every once in a while I think of a little routine or habit that our family has practiced, and it occurred to me that some of you mamas out there might benefit from our trials and errors, bumps and bruises along the way! Some ideas fail miserably (like the time I chopped off Bethie's hair), and some ideas actually work (like having a designated dinner helper). My Tuesday Tip posts will mostly focus on those that work . . . although I'm not opposed to revealing my failings as well.

Today's tip -- surprise, surprise -- involves books. Ever since my kids were able to hold a book, I've made it a point to visit the library as often as possible. When they were really little, we took part in the weekly story time at the Camas Public Library.  Because we homeschooled, it was important for me to find opportunities like this for my kids to participate in structured activities with other children, and it further instilled in them a love and appreciation for public libraries.

Aidan in the lovely Camas library courtyard . . . about five years ago!

One of the highlights in each of my kids' lives was the day when they were old enough to get their own library card. This usually happened around first grade, and it became a right of passage. Oh, what joy to see them carefully write out their name in black Sharpie on their very own card! Their backpacks and cards ready, they hit the shelves. The only "rule" was that they had to be able to carry any books they wanted to check out. Accordingly, they stuffed their bags to the gills.

My kiddos with "The Cousins" at the new downtown library a few years ago.

As they grew, I began to incorporate other "rules" during our library visits. When I noticed that they were becoming too narrow in their focus, rather than telling them that they couldn't choose certain books (although there's sometimes a place for that), I told them that they needed to find books from a variety of sections. This way they were encouraged to explore the many beautiful picture books that weren't necessarily fiction. From poetry and science to mathematics and history, their minds began to expand.

My kids usually make all of their own book selections these days, but in an effort to continue to challenge their minds with wholesome variety, I've set aside a specific place for my very own selections. It's simply a basket in the school room, and it contains the books that I've chosen for them during our most recent trip to the library. I comb the shelves for variety, beauty and age -- those books which have stood the test of time and continue to remain in print. I look for the authors we've grown to love, the illustrations that captivate, and the biographies of people I want my children to know.

The basket sits temptingly in view, and every once in a while (often during school hours) I'll say to Aidan and Avery, "Okay! Time to choose a basket book!" They see it as a mini recess during which they can escape with a gem for a few minutes. Sometimes they prefer to read alone, each choosing a separate book, and sometimes they read together. Aidan gravitates toward the science finds, while Avery often grabs biographies or fairy tales. I gravitate toward the dishes or laundry for those few minutes, thankful that my kids' minds are being stretched and challenged in a way that they see as pure fun.

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