Children's books

One of the challenges of downsizing for us has been that we have invested our lives collecting books. For the past quarter of a century, both Susan and I have had offices with walls of bookshelves. In addition we have a home library with three walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves. The time has come for us to chose which books to keep and which to discard. We started by sorting our offices. Six boxes of books were donated to the church library. Three boxes went to a young theologian. Three boxes went to Good Will. The rest came home to be sorted with our other books.

We have made contact with the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, which holds an annual book sale most years to support its scholarship programs. There was no bookstall this year, however, so the storage area for books is full and when we first inquired we were told that they were taking no more donations. Then we found a member who was willing to store our books for next year’s sale. Our sorting process has been yielding three books for AAUW for each box we have packed of books to keep and move to our new home. That means that we can make a similar reduction in the number of shelve units we move as well. We think that the extra shelves can be donated to a local furniture ministry.

I have given away my collection of historic hymnals and my collection of bibles, both of which occupied significant shelf space. Of course I still have my grandfather’s bible, my mother’s and father’s bibles, my confirmation bible, and a few other copies that have special meaning to me.

Sorting children’s books was a particular challenge. Before we had children, Susan worked in a preschool and began a lifelong study of children’s literature. She collected read aloud books and young reader books. Knowing our love of books, family members made gifts of books and we have a fairly large collection of classic children’s literature, such as Bobbsey Twins. When children came into our lives, we both loved reading to them and we tried to make books a part of every gift-giving occasion. Our plan of three gifts became a bit of a mantra: “Something to play with, something to read, something to wear.” That plan has continued to our grandchildren. With our grandchildren living far away, books were often duplicated, with one at our home and one at the home of our grandchildren so we could read to them over Skype.

There are boxes of children’s books that we simply have to keep. We have a lot more reading to and with our grandchildren in our future.

Then there are the books about teaching and learning. Susan and I are both certified Christian educators. I worked on a second Masters at the University of Wyoming on Adult and Post Secondary Education with an emphasis in Curriculum Design. Our daughter studied elementary education at Western Wyoming Community College and Eastern Montana University. I sent pictures of the spines of college education text books to our daughter who is living in Japan and she opted to keep most of those text books.

We have four grandchildren. Three of them have a librarian for a father. I guess anyone who knew us might have seen that coming. We do not need to own books to have access to them. We have easy access to libraries. We have library cards from our local library and we also have library cards from the library in the town where we are moving, and where our son is the director of library services. I can sample thousands of library books on my tablet computer and check them out for six weeks at a time to read. I don’t need bookshelves filled with books in order to have things to read. Our grandchildren know that they can go to the library and come home with stacks of books.

We have joked about being able to stock all of the little free libraries in our community, though those don’t seem to have much available shelf space.

As we have been sorting, and carrying boxes of books, I have been thinking of the joy of reading and of books. The average box of books weighs about 40 pounds. We now have a dozen boxes of books for AAUW - nearly 500 pounds of books. I’ve moved every one of those boxes out of our basement, into the back of my pickup, and to a rented storage unit. They all need to be moved one more time before we release our storage place. As I pack books, I’ve laughed at the memory of many funny books, shed a few tears over some touching books, and relished a few memories of there books. Books have been so much a part of our lives, that I can’t imagine quite what life is like for children who have no one to read to them every day. I can’t imagine what it is like for refugee children who have no way to move heavy objects such as books. I can’t imagine what it is like for homeless children who have had to leave every book behind.

One of the tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic is that all across the country libraries have been closed. In the United States, libraries are not only places to obtain books, they also provide a wide variety of services to homeless people including computer access and access to clean spaces. Although libraries are finding new ways to serve our communities, many are doing so with drastically reduced budgets as a result of reduced revenues for cities.

Gracious God, our people have always been the people of a book. The stories of our people have been written and read over and over again. We are grateful for our bible and for its depth of meaning for all people. Bless those who care for books and make them available to others. Bless the children who hear the stories of our people. May we always find time to read to children. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!