Our Favourite Finds from the Library

Jan 23, 2013

It sounds like a bad cliché, but my library card is probably the most valuable thing in my wallet. Before L arrived, I used it weekly to pick up television DVDs, movies, CDs, comics, novels, non-fiction, whatever. The odd late charge aside, it was all free.

Once our daughter was born, the way we used the library changed. Instead of just dropping in to claim what we ordered online, we became browsers - we'd show up, enormous canvas bag in hand and start scavenging the racks of the children's section. It was a treasure hunt.

At this point, L knows exactly where the kid books are in our two closest libraries. She does her customary clap to open the giant doors (we don't have the heart to tell her they part automatically), and beelines for the back as we race to keep up. She'll pick up big hardcovers, small boardbooks and torn paperbacks alike, holding them up for us to see. "Is this one good? Should we take it?" Usually, as long as the story is not too complex or scary for her, or too long for us, the answer is "yes."

We're big readers in this house. The usual deal is four books before naptime or sleep, but the girl can be persuasive. Reading before bed is a good way to not only calm her down before slumber, but also to engage in conversation. Why does she like this story? What did she think about this particular plot twist? Doesn't that silly kitty remind her of our real-life cats?

Picture books have also helped reinforce lessons on empathy, sharing and the importance of being brave. L's learned about new animals, cultures, foods and places through these stories.

Not everything we bring back from the library turns out to be a winner. Sometimes, I'll love a book - its stunning art, its sly humour, its deconstruction of gender roles - and L will find it boring, fending off any attempted re-reads. Other times, she becomes infatuated for weeks with a book that has terrible rhyming and ugly art. (In my opinion. Look, I know I'm not the target audience, but if I'm reading something aloud dozens of times, I have to like it at least a little.)

Fortunately, there have been a lot of books both of us have embraced. L could demand Peggy Rathmann's Goodnight Gorilla, Rutu Modan's Maya Makes a Mess or Jeremy Tankard's Grumpy Bird every night until she's a pre-teen and I'd be fine with it. Anna Dewdney's Llama Llama series is fun, and Ian Falconer's Olivia tales are brilliant. The art in Michael Rosen and Kevin Waldron's Tiny Little Fly and Wallace Edwards' Alphabeasts is gorgeous, while Kim Norman and Liza Woodruff's Ten on the Sled becomes a sing-along. I've also read Sandra Boynton's The Going to Bed Book so many times, I now recite it to L in the dark.

When a book is particularly loved - meaning we've renewed it so many times, the library is demanding it back - we buy it. We're currently in the market for a much bigger bookshelf for L's room.

What books have you discovered in your library or bookstore? Do you have any reading rituals? Have you passed down any childhood favourites of your own?

Visit CBC Books to watch videos of famous Canadians, such as Silken Laumann, Molly Johnson and Kids' CBC host Sid Bobb, talk about their favourite kids' books


Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock 'n' roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no-ish hair and edits technical articles. He and his wife are collaborating on a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who may already be smarter than both of them. He received his MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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