Now that I have my plan and the kids all know about it, I have to stick with it. Otherwise I'm a big meanie that can't be trusted. In spite of a case of the sleepies and the rain making me ache, I have managed to get the kids out of the house and to the library. We would have been out of the house sooner, but every time I tried to get ready to go, I got a phone call, or a mess needed to be cleaned up, or LH attempted to burn her hand off with boiling water at lunch (she's fine, only 1st deg burns thanks to our intensive First Aid Training at home.)
On the drive out, I took the opportunity to talk to all three girls about Independence Day and ask them what they already knew. They couldn't tell me what country we wanted independence from, who the ruler of that country was, what year it happened, who was in charge of declaring it, or much of anything else. My first assignment then, would be to have them research the answers to those questions. My second assignment was to express to them the massive amount of sacrifice that was given by the men (and women) who founded our country. Ever since those days, our country has fought in wars to ensure our independence and I wanted my girls to connect all of this together.
Right next to the city's Central Library, there is a Memorial park dedicated to the veterans of our city. There are sections dedicated to each of the wars from World War I through Vietnam. I let them walk through and read the dedications etched in black marble. My girls were especially impressed with the life sized bronze statues depicting members from the different branches of the military both male and female. I really enjoyed showing them this. It is very a peaceful and beautiful place with a winding path and a small waterfall. Definitely some great photo ops.
Right now I am sitting in the library (I love the free Wi-Fi!) and the girls are all curled up in separate spots with their own books. TD and LH have found graphic novels based on their favorite video games. EG has taken the research assignment seriously and is taking notes from a few different books. Apparently she wants to write a report and send it to her teacher from last year. You know, I'm okay with that.
Just sitting here in the quiet, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books brings me back to my own childhood summers spent just this way. The local library was a long walk or a short bus ride away from the house and we often spent entire days there, from the time it opened until they closed in the evening. For us, it was a chance to stay cool (since we only had a few window units to cool our entire house) and a chance to do something we loved to do that we weren't able to do at home. I don't want to give the impression that we weren't allowed to read at home - just the opposite, in fact. It's just that keeping up with the voracious reading appetites of five children was not only difficult, it was impractical.
We had a small collection of baby books and young childrens' books, but those only kept any of us interested for so long. When you have already learned to read at the age of 3 1/2, the books aimed toward 6 year olds are just not stimulating to you when you are 6. By the time I started school I had read and re-read every Little Golden Book we had until the pages fell out. So did my brother and sisters. We all wanted new and interesting things.
My father was a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy and there were collections from several different authors around the house. One of the first chapter books any of us had access to was one of the Xanth novels by Peirs Anthony. While these are humorous and a fairly easy read for most adults, they aren't always the most appropriate for young children. Not only that, but I found I wasn't as interested in that genre as my parents were.
The library, for me, was a way to discover new and different types of books. Romance, mystery, history, historical fiction, humor, How-To, I think I read a little of everything until I found what I liked. I loved being able to browse the racks until a title or a cover jumped out at me. Even though I had my own library card, I didn't check many books out. First, I was afraid that I would lose them and then have to pay for them and then I might not be able to come back any more! Second, I was afraid that one of my younger siblings would get a hold of them and destroy them, and I would end up in the same boat. Instead, I would find a book I liked, and sit there at one of the tables and read until the librarian would come and let us know that it was almost closing time.
Something about sitting IN the library, where all the books are, makes it just easier to read. It is supposed to be quiet (it isn't all the time) but that isn't what makes reading at the library more special. For me, it is the fact that it is always clean and crisp and open. There is (almost) always a comfortable place to sit and you can spread out of you need to. You also have the time to read leisurely and choose when to pick it up and put it down. By definition (for me) going to the library is a multi-hour endeavor. If you don't have at least two hours to spend there, why go?
Now, I am finding that I am inspired to write here, too. My girls are each safe and happy nearby involved in what they are reading, so I am free from most of the worries I normally have. I have power and internet for my laptop, and I am not under any real time constraint. I don't feel the desire to scan the shelves anymore. I want to spend my time here creating something. Getting my thoughts out and organized feels just as satisfying as finishing a good book used to. I can write without guilt. The dishes aren't calling my name and the laundry doesn't sneak in and bug me. What's more, I can feel good that my kids are doing something that I can agree with.
I am just thankful that all three of them are happy sitting and reading. I remember that it used to be stressful to bring the girls to the library when they were smaller. I wasn't able to look after the youngest, help the middle one read, and the oldest find a new book all at the same time. I certainly wasn't able to find anything new to read for myself. Now that they are all old enough to appreciate the library and its opportunities, I am increasingly thankful that God blessed me with the little angels he did.
Debbie "Reading Rainbow" Lollar