There was a time that I would go to the library and stick around for an hour or two, browsing all the books, reading backs and flaps, carefully selecting what would go home with me.
These days, I pack up the boys, plug the parking meter with whatever change is left in the ash tray--if we're lucky we get a whole hour. The kids dash upstairs to the discovery room and the rest of the time there, I try to convince them to stop playing and find books to take home. As I drag them out to the car, I get the inevitable, "I wanted to look at books!!" I'm sure there is a better way of doing this. I am also sure that at 5 and 2, they are not passed the point of no return when it comes to library training. Although most days I wonder.
Our library has this fantastic service where you can browse the library catalog online and request books. If the local library doesn't have what you're looking for, they will bring in the book from a library in the surrounding area. I LOVE this. I can sit in front of my computer and browse to my heart's content, then I get an e-mail that tells me the books I have requested are waiting for me on the hold shelf. They're waiting for me? The poor precious things! I must go get them quickly. So before we head upstairs we quickly head to the "quite part" on the first floor, I grab everything on the shelf with my name on it, and we proceed as usual. Lovely!
This week, we went to the evening story time. I like this one because it ends at 7:30 which is perfect timing for coming home and going to bed. I always forget about it though. Trying to get the kids to leave immediately after the story when there is a new unit in the Discovery Room (learning math through fairy tales) proved impossible. So I let them discover for a little while. On the way out, I grabbed a book. One book and only one. It was on a display and looked like something the boys would like. The challenge of looking further on that evening seemed particularly overwhelming.
I picked up Nic Bishop's Frogs. The pictures caught my eye sitting there on the shelf with a photo of a great big bullfrog's beady eyes staring out at me. The photos are amazing--my favorites are the vivid colors of the dart poison and the astonishing action shot of a spotted green frog leaping out of the water, tongue fully extended toward a little green caterpillar. Often in books like this with really great photos the accompanying information is poorly written scientific information with a heavy focus on the millions of years of evolution required to form a frog into such a fine specimen. Either that or the writing is great and the pictures were taken in 1975. In this one, the writing is fantastic. The facts are presented in succinct, well worded, interesting detail: "A frog's eyes are large and quick to spot movement. Anything that wriggles is inspected. If it looks tasty, the frog gets ready to pounce. Most frogs use their tongues to catch prey. The tongue is coated with sticky mucus and shoots forward with deadly aim to snatch prey and toss it back into it's mouth."
This book is missing something that most books of it's ilk contain: any reference to the evolutionary process. Hurray!! A book I don't have to edit while I read. Instead, the boys and I can talk about how careful God was when he made frogs with such good camouflage and how clever he was to make them so that their eyelids help them swallow.
Turns out, Nic Bishop also has a book on butterflies, spiders, marsupials, and "backyard critters." As soon as we put the frog book down, I picked up the computer and requested the others from the library. I'm really excited to get a look at them.
All in all, I love the free services the library offers, although, by the time I pay my "returning all of your books a week late" fees and the inevitable parking ticket (since I tend to run out of both time and change frequently), it's not all that free. I know some of you out there are library veterans and have a boatload of advise for me. Bring it on.
How do you get your kids to choose their own books and be quiet in the "quiet part?"