By Mary Becelia
A few years ago, I wrote an article for this magazine called "Love Letter to the Library." In it, I detailed the many outings I had made to the downtown branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL) with my daughter Katherine, first when she was an infant, and then as she grew into a toddler. As a new mom, I found the local library to be an amazing resource. From the "Mother Goose" lap-sit and finger plays, to the toddler and preschool story times, CRRL has plenty of fun activities for kids. We loaded up the stroller, diaper bag, and other gear on at least a weekly basis for an outing to the downtown branch.
Once we made the arduous trek (Did I remember the pacifier? The sippy cup? Dear heaven, tell me I packed her lovey!), I had the pleasure of a free outing, other people providing the entertainment for my little one, and the company of fellow sufferers...oops, I meant to write fellow moms (!). If I was lucky, I also had a few moments to browse and grab a book for myself after the program du jour ended, and before Katherine started throwing her board books out of the stroller.
No decent "love story" has only one chapter, however, so I thought it was time for an update of sorts, especially as our relationship with CRRL continues to flourish. Since those early days, Katherine, now seven, and I (along with little brother Robert, age four), continue to make our weekly pilgrimages to the land of free books, free videos, comfy couches, and helpful staff. The downtown branch isn't as fancy as a couple of others I've visited (Salem Church and Porter, to be specific), but it feels like home.
Katherine has devoured every last Magic Tree House book, thanks to CRRL, and has also read close to 50 Flower Fairy books...also obtained from the library. (I grant you, the Flower Fairy books--which also include dance, music, weather, and many other varieties of fairies--are not great works of literature, but they do seem to speak to the heart of the second grade girl!)
Robert has progressed from simple board books to the ever-witty Max and Ruby series (books and videos), enjoyed many a Dr. Seuss story , and now is in a random sort of phase where he'll grab a little of this and a little of that, depending on his mood. Our budget never could have kept up with my children's developing tastes in literature--thank God, I say, for the library!
Many parents complain that their kids "don't like to read" or aren't that good at it. I am not sure how much of my children's ability and enjoyment comes from nature--I was an avid from an early age, as are many members of my family--and how much from the nurturing effect of our regular sojourns to the library. I imagine both play a part. Regardless, it gives me a little thrill when my kids clamor to visit the library, or nights when I have to persuade Katherine to "Put the book down--and I really mean it this time--and go to sleep!" Readers in a digital age...might I actually be raising readers?
I realize that a lot can change and probably will as they grow older and start to clamor for cell phones, video games, Facebook accounts, and the like. But I hope, I really hope, that their fledgling love for books, encouraged by Mom and fostered by the wonderful library system we are lucky to enjoy, will last a lifetime.
P.S.: Due to statewide budget cuts, the CRRL is experiencing a serious shortfall of funds. For more information, including how you can help, visit them at www.librarypoint.org/