As a kid, I had a lot of books . . . for a kid. We lived on an island, and it was easier for my parents to buy me books than to try to find a library. One of the most calamitous events of my short life occurred when we moved off the island, and all my books had to be sold or given away rather than make the move. Goodbye, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie (and elsewhere), the Black Stallion, Sugar Creek Gang, Chronicles of Narnia and, most tragically, all my Marguerite Henry books.
Fast forward to the teen and college years. My parents replaced some of my favorites. I discovered new authors, like L’Engle, LeGuin, McCaffrey, Clarke, and more Lewis. And whenever I’d move, to work at summer camp or go to college, my most-loved books would go with me. I might not have read them, but they were like bringing a favorite stuffed toy or pillow to wherever my new temporary home would be.
Now, I own a couple thousand books. I think I’d have a lot of books even if I wasn’t a homeschooler, but that at least gives me a good excuse to stock up on some awesome children’s and young adult books, in addition to my “grown-up” library.
When I started homeschooling, I assumed my kids would go to my bookshelves and pick out a book for themselves. That didn’t happen. It seems they thought that all those books were Mom’s, and thus, invisible to them. They would always read what I put in front of them and usually enjoyed the selection, but they never picked out books for themselves.
One day it dawned on me that each of my kids needed her own library. Books that were her own to read, organize, bang up, get wet, and take with her wherever she went. So, starting when they were young, for every gift-giving opportunity, like Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and so on, I bought each of them a book in addition to everything else.
Rather than a new title, I would get them something they already read and enjoyed. What I bought reflected the individual tastes of my girls and what their favorite was at the time. Now each girl’s collection is evidence of her development as a reader and a person. From Dragonsong to Code Name Verity and Lewis’ Space Trilogy for the oldest. From Chrysanthemum to Number the Stars and Pride and Prejudice for the middlest. And for the youngest, Hondo and Fabian to Kenny’s Dragon and Tale of Despereaux.
It’s important for each child to have their own copy of a book. So . . . my house has at least four copies of Little Women and three copies of Mysterious Benedict Society at this point. And, it’s important that each child knows that you are building their library, not just giving them random books because it’s a good parenting idea. If they know that what you are doing is intentional and thoughtful, it’s likely they will recognize and value their collection.
My girls now give me the titles they particularly like. The request goes something like this: “Mom, for my next book I want . . . .” And my middlest has asked to inherit my library when I die (morbid child) because she wants to beat my number and wants the head start (good luck, my dear).
As an avid reader and bibliophile, I hadn’t really thought about giving my kids their own books. I thought that just having my books around would be enough. But, as my oldest moves to college this fall, she has her collection that she plans to bring with her. It’s a connection to her childhood and her family that won’t be too embarrassing to have in her dorm room.