Category Archives: Reading the Library

The Problem With Free Books

Sixty-four days. That’s how long it’s been since Bubba and I stepped foot in our library – more than nine long weeks! Obviously I’m still reading to him every night, but we’ve had a different source for books the past couple months… so we haven’t had to visit the library.


I’m sure you’re probably wondering, “Where is he getting so many books if he’s not going to the library?” Well, I was able to start up a ‘Little Free Library’ in my school this year (thanks to a retired teacher who had been collecting gently used books for years as part of her “Book Shack” program), and I get to be the person who keeps the free library stocked with hundreds of gently used books!


As I fill the shelves each week, I always find titles that I know Bubba will love… books about fire trucks, tractors, animals, and more! When I find a book I know Bubba will enjoy, I bring it home to read to him before putting it back on the shelf. And this works out great because I can then talk to my students about all the great (free) books that are available to them and recommend titles to my reluctant readers!


The only problem is that I haven’t been taking Bubba to the library – and that needs to change! I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but I think I need to either STOP borrowing books from the free library at my school or START reading more books to him each night before bed.


Can you guess which option I’ll choose?

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A Less-Than-Desirable Punishment

I’ve heard the “Terrible Two’s” are nothing compared to the “Terrible Three’s,” and Bubba just turned three… so he must be in the “Terrible” sweet spot right now. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a great kid most of the time, but when he gets mad, he definitely lets you (and everyone near you) know about it!


Bubba knows there will always be a consequence when he behaves badly, though. Most of the time, he gets a time out… but when he’s really misbehaving before bedtime, he gets one of his favorite things taken away – he loses his read aloud time.


I really hate it when he loses his read aloud time, because I enjoy reading to him just as much as he enjoys being read to… but just the threat of not reading a book before bed will usually cause him to start behaving again!


Part of me thinks I shouldn’t use this as a punishment (because I don’t want him to have any negative feelings associated with reading), but the other part of me can’t help but notice how effective it is.


If it’s so effective, can it really be that bad? I don’t do it often, but I still worry that it’s not be the best “punishment.”


What do you think? Let me know your thoughts!


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A Library Card For The Youngest Kids

Bubba loves cars. And trucks. And tractors. And trains. And boats. Basically, he loves anything with an engine that moves! He’s been in this phase for a while now, and I don’t see any signs of exiting the phase any time soon. For example, we recently went to a graduation where he held on to a blue matchbox car the ENTIRE time (the drive there, during the whole 2+ hour ceremony, and on the way home)!


There’s only one non-engine-powered item that Bubba will hold on to with the same ferocity… His library card!

My First Library Card

A couple months ago, our library started offering a “My First Library Card” to children ages birth to six, so I made sure Bubba got one of his own!


The idea behind the card is to have it act like a training card for the littlest of kids and to help foster their love for reading. The card allows Bubba to check out up to 10 books at a time (without fines) and expires when he turns six. At that time, he’ll get a regular “big kid” library card. How cool is that?!


Obviously I’m not the only person who thinks the card is pretty cool – Bubba holds on to it like it’s one of his cars, trucks, or tractors. Before we start walking over to the library, I hand him his card. When we get back home, I have to pry it from his fingers! He doesn’t want to let it go! I’m always surprised when he willingly hands it over to the librarian to be scanned, because he never willingly hands it over to me!


I’m so glad our library started offering the “My First Library Card,” and I hope others will do the same! It’s kind of nice having something other than a car or truck in his hands once in a while!


Bubba and his card


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Beds, and Lights, and Fines! Oh My!

This past week, Bubba finally got his “big-boy” bed, and I couldn’t be happier!  I had been looking forward to reading him stories in bed since the day he was born, so you can imagine how excited I was that first night!  He was excited, too… although it could’ve had more to do with the bed than me reading to him in the bed.

Mikey Bed

Unfortunately, the first couple nights were hard on my eyes because the lighting wasn’t right.  We ended up stopping by Target and bought a lamp that clips onto the headboard… so lighting is no longer an issue at bedtime.

Besides lighting the pages of books, the lamp turns out to be great for making hand shadows and getting the characters (and pants) to glow in the dark in Dr. Seuss’ book, What Was I Scared Of?: A Glow-in–the-Dark Encounter.

What Was I Scared Of?

I’m definitely getting more reading in with Bubba now that he has his own bed, but I haven’t been reading him books from the library.  With the colder weather, snow, holidays, end-of-the-quarter duties at school, etc., I haven’t been taking Bubba to the library.  In fact, I had my first fine (for returning books late) since we started our journey this past spring… a $5.50 fine!  I guess that’s not bad considering we’ve read nearly 1,000 books and have spent less than $6 to do it.

We need to get back into the old routine, though… if for no other reason than to get me a little exercise to burn off all the Christmas cookies I’ve eaten the past couple weeks!  Maybe that will be one of my New Year’s resolutions… What resolutions are you thinking about making?


Filed under Reading the Library, Special Stuff, Updates

Selecting Books

I’ve had some people ask me about the way I’m selecting books to read to Bubba, and they’ve brought up some good points… so I’ll try to address some of those questions and concerns today.

First of all, I’m selecting books from the shelves in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name.  There are a couple reasons for this.

1. It’s the easiest way I could think of doing it.  I can easily pick up where I left off without having to think too hard (which is nice after a long tay teaching 27 first graders).

2. When we’re checking out and returning 15-20 books at a time (sometimes multiple times a week), I want to make it easy on the librarians and not cause too much extra work for them.

3. It allows me to read an author’s entire body of work at the same time.  I really like this because I feel like I really get to know the author by doing it this way.

Of course, there are some problems with this method.  First of all, great authors typically have some of their best books checked out.  This means that I might miss some of the best books because someone else has them checked out when we get to the author’s section in the library.  The way I’ve tried to avoid this is by constantly backtracking and checking to see if any books have been returned on the shelves we’re working on that month.  I may not catch every book, but I try to catch as many as I can.

A similar problem is that the library is constantly adding books to the shelves, and it’ll be impossible to go back and check every shelf for new books (especially when we get further along in our journey).  The fact of the matter is that we probably won’t catch all of these books.  I really don’t have a solution for this problem, so if you can think of anything to help with this I’d love to hear it.

Finally, some people have suggested skipping the “bad” books so we can get to the good ones sooner and not torture ourselves with the Barbie-type books.  As much as I’d love to do this, I want Bubba to know that there ARE bad books out there and that it’s okay to not like a book.  In school, he’s (hopefully) only going to be exposed to quality literature – books that he’s going to want to finish all the time.  When he’s reading on his own, he’s going to be exposed to poor writing from time to time.  I want him to be able to identify the poor writing so he doesn’t waste his time on these “bad” books when he starts reading on his own.

Let me know what you think… am I doing it the right way?  Is there a better way to “Read the Library?”  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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An Inappropriate Book?

Bubba and I read a book the other day called Ron’s Big Mission (by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden), and I liked it well enough that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It’s about a nine-year-old boy in the 1950s who wanted to check out a book at the library, but wasn’t allowed to because of his skin color.  The boy’s mother and the police were called, but the boy refused to back down.  People told the boy to just let a white person check out the book for him, but he persisted. In the end, he walked out of the library with the book he wanted checked out in his name.

It was the last page that really got me, though.  On that page, it tells how the story is a fictionalized account of a real incident from Ron McNair’s life (for those who might not know, Ron McNair was one of the astronauts who perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion).

Needless to say, this is one of those stories I definitely want Bubba to hear again when he gets older… the courage McNair must have had to face this injustice head-on is absolutely inspiring!

I even thought about using it in my classroom, but then I read some of the reviews on Amazon.  More than 25% of the people who rated the book said it was one-star because they felt it was “inappropriate” for children! One even said:

“my child never saw people as a “color” before this book. people were just people until this book was read to him. i have now spent 3 weeks trying to undo what this book has done.” 

Seriously?!  Are parents really going that far to shelter their children from the realities of the past?  Should I be worried about what the parents will say/do if I read it to my first graders at school this year?  What do you think?  Let me know by leaving a comment.


Filed under Classroom Connections, Great Books, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

The Downside of Reading So Much

There are many reasons why attempting to read every picture book (in our branch library) to my son is a positive experience, but there are a few downsides.  One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is that I have less time to read books for myself!

I’ve got a stack of books waiting to be read (including Dan Brown’s latest, Kristin Levine’s The Lions of Little Rock, professional teaching books, etc.) that have been gathering dust for quite some time!

Maybe it’s because I always seem to have yard work and special projects to do around the house, or maybe because a teacher’s job is never done (especially if you need to move from one classroom to another). Whatever the case may be, I seem to have very little time to read books for myself lately.

At this point last summer, I had read somewhere between 15 and 20 novels, but this summer I’ve read a grand total of ZERO!  This is going to change, though… even if it means saying up later or getting up earlier – I WILL knock the dust off MY books and start shrinking the pile!


Filed under Reading the Library

Another Mini Book Tour

It’s so nice to be back home and reading to Bubba again!  We’ve already finished our bag of books that we picked up from the library before I left town, so we’re patiently waiting for 10:00am Monday morning (when our library opens) to head back to the library and pick up another bag of books.

On a different note, I found out that many of the books from the Illinois Reads program are not currently at our library, so I figured that while we wait for them to be delivered, we could start another “Mini Book Tour.”  Luckily, there’s no shortage of “mini tours” that we could take, so we’ll call the next one the “Monarch Award Mini Tour.”

Every year, the Illinois School Library Media Association administers the Monarch Award. It’s a K-3 Readers’ Choice Award in Illinois that’s presented annually to the author and/or illustrator of the book that’s voted by students in Kindergarten through Grade Three as their favorite from that year’s reading list. Click here to see this year’s reading list.

It looks like this will be a great mini tour to take, so I hope you’ll join us!  If you have any suggestions for other mini tours in the future, please leave your idea as a comment – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

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I think I’m going through withdrawal symptoms… I woke up this morning ready to read to Bubba, but I didn’t have any picture books and I didn’t have my Bubba!

I’m out of town right now and I’m not able to take Bubba to the library OR read to him!  Luckily, it’s only for a couple of days this week and a couple days next week… I miss our reading time together!

I guess now is as good a time as any to update how many books we’ve read so far this July.  As of the 10th, we have read 97 different library books (I don’t count the books , so we have been averaging close to ten books a day this summer.  I’m sure we won’t be able to keep up this pace during the school year, but it’s making up for all the days we skipped last April and May (and these days that I’m out of town).

It will be nice to get back home and get back into our routine of reading in the mornings, though!

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Filed under Lots of Laughs, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

Appreciating the Bad Books

One of the librarians at the library we visit commented the other day that it usually doesn’t take us very long for us to pick out our books.  I told her it’s because we’re going in order (by authors’ last names) – I don’t have to look around for specific books… We’ll get to all of them eventually!

The problem with doing it this way is that from time to time we end up with “Barbie” books (and other princess-type books aimed at young girl readers) in our bags of books.  These “girl” books end up sitting on the couch for days (and sometimes even weeks) as I procrastinate.  When I eventually do read them aloud, I struggle greatly through them.

Bag of Books

Above: A typical bag of books from our library

I I don’t struggle with them just because Bubba and I are both male – In many cases, the stories are just plain awful!  Bubba and I just finished reading a Barbie book that had no plot at whatsoever!  All it did was name and describe Barbie’s friends!  Ugh!

Barbie books

Above: Some of the Barbie books we have struggled through

Granted, not all of the Barbie books are that bad, but they don’t get much better, either.  Take for example the Barbie “Mermaid Tale” book that had Merliah surfing one second, her hair changing color (to pink, of course) the next second, and then changing back and forth from human to mermaid while saving her long-lost mermaid family.  It’s almost enough to make a guy HATE reading!

I’m sure that girls who read the “boy” books (like Superman, Batman, and Spiderman books) have the same problem, too.  I even struggle reading some of them to Bubba!  I’m not sure why, but the stories aimed at one gender tend to be very poorly “typed” (because as Truman Capote once said, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”)

We get through these bad books, though… and they make us appreciate other books SO MUCH MORE!  I guess you have to have to experience the bad books to really appreciate the great books!


Filed under Lots of Laughs, Reading the Library, Special Stuff