Building Your Home Library

How do children become good readers? By reading and being read to! It is important to have a rich home library full of “living” books; that is, books that are so engaging that you and your child will not want to put them down. These are not textbooks which list dates and such, but whole books which tell the stories of real people and their real lives. Here “real” can also mean fictional characters such as Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale. Living books are written by one primary author, and that person has such a passion for their subject that it can be seen in the way the book is written.

Here are some general guideline about book selection:

  • Look for books with godly characters and lessons being learned. Avoid “twaddle” or as Charlotte Mason would describe, books that have been dumb-downed to a “child’s level” and in the process all the good stuff taken out. Examples would include the “Great Children’s Classics” adaptation of classic novels. While these may be at a younger child’s reading level, usually the meat of the story or character has been removed.
  • Avoid book adaptations of children’s movies like Disney movies. Not to say that all these books are labeled “bad” but there are more worthy books out there so save your money. Go for the original Little Mermaid and Snow White stories rather than the Disney-fied version.
  • Look for books, chapter and picture, which bear the seals of awards like the Newbery (author) and Caldecott (illustrator) medals. Here is a website with lists of the various honored books.
  • Consider your children’s reading level and challenge it. Here is a good site with grade level lists of books. Consider also that children will absorb whatever is read to them, so you can read much higher “levels” to them and it will still be beneficial.
  • Ask your Grandma! If the books she enjoyed as a child are still in print, they’re probably worthwhile.

Here are some ideas for building up your home library. These may be difficult in countries other than the U.S., but f you are on furlough, this can be prime “library-building” time (as if you don’t have enough to do!). Please share your ideas in the comments!

  • Scour thrift stores- I love going to Goodwill or Value Village and perusing their book aisles. Usually there are buy 3 get 1 free type sales and frequently you may find a golden classical book at a deep discount.
  • Library book sales- These kinds of sales are awesome! At my local library these happen about twice a year, but that will vary at different libraries.
  • Doctor’s offices, etc- My kids’ pediatrician’s office has a book bin and they welcome patients to take a book. We have picked up several classics like the Little House series.
  • Summer programs- Half Price Books has a summer program to encourage reading and rewards children with $3 per week in Half Price Books credit. Last year I signed up my two girls, 5 and 3, and we read and recorded each week, and got $6 per week. We then used it to buy out of the clearance bin where books were priced at less than a dollar. It was a great way to build up our home library for free and my older daughter learned a bit about spending money wisely (getting six $0.50 books or one $3 book).
  • Trade with your friends or church- Instead of a clothing swap, have a book swap! Maybe you have two copies of something someone else wants, and vice versa.
  • Public school surplus sales- Usually each summer the school district has a sale of all damaged, unused, or otherwise classroom material. My local district’s was open for 4 days and when I went the 3rd day I was the only one and there were tons of books leftover. It was like Disneyland!

I love books! I’m hoping that my children will grow up loving books too.

Do you have any other ideas to share about how you choose what books are allowed to take up precious space in your suitcases?

(Post by: Addie)

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7 Responses to “Building Your Home Library”


  1. 1 jolenesloan February 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    We LOVE books in our home! We do a lot of shopping at Half Price books when we’re back in the states. I like your idea of joining a summer program and will have to check in to that.

  2. 2 Phyllis February 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Kindle! I love having a Kindle, and I’ve even gotten our 8-year-old hooked on it, too. (I’m not so sure that I love sharing with him, but it’s worth it.) I don’t think we’ll be carrying nearly so many books in our suitcases now.

    Also, BookMooch has been really fun for us. It’s a book trade web site that works internationally. Shipping might be kind of high, but for us I don’t think it’s any worse than the cost of English books here. We use BookMooch a lot.

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