The Public Library, A Love Story

Posted by Kate Sousa on May 31, 2024
The Public Library, A Love Story
Kate Sousa's children in front of the North Spokane Library in 2019

When our oldest son, Clyde, was born, we lived about six blocks from the public library. In nice weather I would load him into his stroller and off we would go. We would stroll home later with a small stack of books. Those were sweet days!

Reading aloud has been part of our family culture from the beginning. I began reading to Clyde when he was an infant. We read our favorite books over and over. Over the last 12 years the library trip has been, barring pandemics, a weekly event.

Our library trips have usually been orchestrated around a library program: Story Time led by our favorite librarian or an activity time for kids. Going regularly has helped us build relationships with library staff.

When the kids were very small, it was sometimes a lot of work to take them to the library. Kids are not born knowing how to behave in a library, but I knew that we would leave with books that the kids and I would be excited about. We often plan to meet up with friends at Story Time, and that was a treat for the kids and for me.

The library has benefited our family in many ways, mostly in encouraging our reading together. (Reading aloud to children is so good for them; for a detailed breakdown on the benefits, I recommend The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.)

When Clyde was small, someone gave me some great advice: If you want to add something new to your schedule, pair it up with something you already do. One thing we were already doing was eating! We started by adding reading to breakfast and lunch. This was easy as we added more kids; they were already in high chairs and booster seats and their hands (and mouths) were already busy, so I could read and they listened and we talked about the books. I still do the majority of our reading aloud immediately after breakfast, with the kids still in their seats.

One of my favorite reading routines was when Roscoe was still taking an afternoon nap every day. I would read to the older kids, Clyde and Frannie, the whole nap time. At the time it felt like an extravagance—there were dinners to make and things to clean—but I am so thankful now that I made that time. The memories and enduring stories and time shared between us reading together is never wasted.

You may be nervous about using libraries. It is true that libraries contain all sorts of books, helpful and harmful. I have been mindful about our library consumption in a few strategic ways:

1. Placing books on hold via the library app or website.

We’re not just dependent on what we find on the shelves on any given day. When we hear about an author we don’t know about, I put a book on hold. When I see a new cookbook from a favorite author, I place a hold right then, and the book will show up on the hold shelf for us. When the pastor mentions a book in a sermon, I always check the library website and see if it’s available.

We usually have a stack of quality books on hold to pick up, and going weekly means we get them before the holds expire. I use good lists like Honey for a Child’s Heart to find new books, or I look for books by authors and illustrators we like. Of course, our kids enjoy browsing and picking out their own books, too—which brings me to the second way.

2. Looking up reviews of unfamiliar books before we check them out.

Usually, checking Amazon reviews will tell me what I need to know about a book. We have had a few misses, but not many.

3. Getting to know the librarians.

This one takes time. We go to Family Story Time most weeks, and it is led by the same librarian. We have gotten to know her over years. We’ve talked with her about our faith, our family, and hear about her life, too. It is a sweet friendship, and I have come to trust that her book choices will be appropriate.

I hope this inspires you to use your local library! If you would like to talk about books or reading with kids, I would love to talk with you, too.

Kate Sousa

Kate has been a member at Faith since 2006. Kate loves to bake, knit, and watch the Seahawks. She and her husband Joe have four children.

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