Say Yes to the Book: Slice of Life #sol19 18/31

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I was heading down the stairs as the boy and his mother were heading up. He carried one video game. I lugged a tote bag piled high with books, far more books than the bag was technically designed to carry. The straps were straining, but they held.

“You can get one book,” I heard his mother tell him. “Do you hear me? One game and one book. That’s it.”

One book? Who could possibly go to the library and get just one book? I felt panicked at the thought of choosing only one book among the thousands of possibilities—or even from the thirty I currently had in my bag. How could I possibly know today what I might want to read tomorrow? What if I don’t like the book once I start it? What if I finish it too quickly? I need options.

I tried to imagine some good reason for giving a child a limit of one book. And I couldn’t come up with one scenario where that made sense. It’s true that he might not have time to finish more than one book before the next library trip. But piles of possibility are part of the fun of checking out books from the library.

Of course, I do place a limit on how many books I check out. It’s a simple formula: how many can I carry? And that number is probably far greater than you think.

The library itself also places a limit—100 books per card. And yes, I do sometimes max out my card. In my defense, I bring piles of picture books to my classroom, I frequently check out books for my students to borrow, I myself usually have 20-30 books on an active TBR list, and I select books for my family as well. But the beauty of a library card is that you don’t need any defense for how many books you borrow.

Sometimes my students ask me how many books they can check out from my lending library.

“As many you like,” I say.

I figure they know better how many books they need this week than I do.

And I notice a pattern. As their interest in reading grows, they want to check out more books. At the beginning of the semester, it’s strictly one book at a time.

“I only need one,” they tell me as I try to press three or four books on them.

But after a few weeks, they’re taking those three or four and still pulling more titles from the cart to consider.

“This looks good too,” they say. “I think I have room in my backpack for just one more?”

Take what you can carry, I tell them. That’s the best way to choose.  

51 thoughts on “Say Yes to the Book: Slice of Life #sol19 18/31

  1. This post warms the cockles of my school librarian heart. We do have limits on borrowing–different ones for different grade levels–but really only in place to prevent loss and encourage reading the books they pick. They come every week, so there’s plenty of opportunity to explore!

  2. I can’t imagine being confined to just one book! That poor boy is missing out on so much, isn’t he? I love the line, “But the beauty of a library card is that you don’t need defense for how many books you borrow.”

  3. Like you, I also always check out more books from the library than I can reasonably carry. Sometimes I get to them all, and sometimes I don’t. I also have maxed out my library card several times this year, but my card’s limit is only 50; I am envious of your max of 100!

    • More than once I’ve had librarians look at me and say dubiously, “Are you SURE you can carry all those?” Yes, I will make it work! I actually have cards at four libraries, and one of mine does have a 50 book limit, but then I just go to another one!

  4. I like the way you looked at the response you overheard… I know I have done that myself with my own Child One to two books that is it- Why, because that is how many books we have to keep track of and not loose!! It is more of a selfish thing on a parents end.

    • Ha! And I can definitely be that parent too–though usually about other things besides books. I’d be THRILLED if my son wanted to check out a pile of books. Yes please! It does get tricky to keep track of all of it.

  5. The whole point of the library is the “smorgasboard” available!
    I hope it was a “one-time” limit due to a need to make a decision and go to the next activity for the day. (Trying for a positive spin.)

  6. Thank you for sharing! I would struggle so much with only ONE book! I really appreciate how you encourage your students to take as many as they’d like. I think restrictions like the one book policy may be contributing to students losing their love of reading.

  7. I’ve heard this often with my students. They aren’t allowed to bring library books home from school per their parent’s request. They say they are afraid they will get lost. I fight the good fight alongside you. I love that you max out your card!

  8. oh the joy of libraries, I wish, I wish I could borrow books like you can. My library card sits in my purse for 11 months of the year. But I’m very thankful that libraries now have audiobooks and ebooks that I can borrow while in India….I agree with everything you say in your slice, about books!

  9. Your post reminds me of my student Kaia. She easily picks out 3 or so books from my class library each week and carries them home. Some she reads through. Some she tries but doesn’t finish, and some just take the ride back and forth. I encourage this behavior. That’s what books are for.

    • The sign of a reader–sometimes we read them, sometimes they just ride home and then go back! I love that I can borrow and return and not feel guilty for not reading, as I usually do if I’ve purchased the book.

  10. One book?! Wow. I’m always trying to justify another parent’s decisions in my mind when I cannot comprehend the mindset — in this scenario, I thought maybe he takes an extremely long time to pick out books and she had an appointment to get to. Or maybe they visit the library daily and she doesn’t want a bunch of books to potentially get lost between visits. Or perhaps they have a difficult library where damages are accessed rather strictly and so she’s trying to limit their future fees. Oh my, I could tell you some shocking stories about our local public library (where not a single employee is a fully trained librarian — no graduate work in library science at all). SHOCKING! We’ve been charged for a number of things that were seriously ridiculous. I could make a loooong list of grievances. Clearly I’m not bitter at all. 😉 Anyway, it made me stop using that library for a while (even though it’s one block from our house). But still… one book? Kids often don’t even know if they’ll enjoy a book until they’re a couple chapters in, so it’s important to have a few back-ups on hand.

    Also, I’m impressed that you borrow books from your public library to lend out to students. That’s brave! I had a pile of music picture books from the college library that I brought for my elementary ed music students to use “in class only” and one STILL disappeared from the classroom, last semester, so I’ll have to pay the college for a brand new one by this May. Ugh.

    I miss you over at #IMWAYR, but I’m enjoying your March slices whenever I can. I always love hearing about your life and thoughts (especially when we lack time to go to coffee!). ❤

  11. Just one? What happens when they finish that one? I, too would never be able to choose just one (although today I did, but I had it reserved and it was the only thing I was going in for).

  12. This is sad to me… Maybe it’s a child who frequently loses books (like my kid!)… But I would still let them check out as many books as long as they were willing to carry them. And I LOVE the title of this book!

  13. My principal always compares libraries to buffets and we all know that you can’t go to a buffet and choose just one thing! I remember the stacks and stacks of books that Mom and I dragged home from the library and I can’t imagine how I would have felt had she limited me to only one book. We have to be prepared for any reading situation and one book isn’t enough. Your advice to student to take what they can carry is spot on!

    • I love this comparison! It’s true: you need to sample the food! And I love what you say about being prepared for different reading situations. I just don’t know what will come up each week, and I need an assortment of books to fill all the possible needs.

  14. I have to put a limit on my boys library books to make sure we always know where they are. I liked it themto be able to read where ever they are comfortable, but this can lead to library books being found in some unusual places! I cometely agree that we need to encourage the love of books with all ages. And yes, I had to travel with about 8 books this week! 🙂

    • Ha, 8 sounds about right! I do sometimes misplace some of the books I check out, especially since my students sometimes borrow as well. It can be hard to keep track of all the books! But I still think it’s a good problem to have.

  15. I do not limit my kids when we go to the library, in fact, lately, I’ve been taking way too many out! But I can see the mom’s side too. I don’t know her thoughts but for me, it does give me some anxiety having all those books at home. Then having to wrangle them all up when they are due and inevitably missing one…then having to search for it. It has helped that I bought bins for each of of their rooms. The library books must be kept in there. You take it out to read it and then it goes back in there. This way, it doesn’t get put on their bookshelves.

    I also just don’t like to judge anyone, especially moms, for anything that happens in the snapshot of their lives that I happen to see. Maybe he has destroyed every book he has ever borrowed. Maybe he brings them home and then never reads them (This is a reason I’d really rather my son not check out from the school library…he never reads it!). Maybe with his reading ability, one at a time is best? Maybe she has to read it to him and she’s ill and one is all she can handle? Maybe a thousand different things. I always think it’s best to just give everyone some slack and know that there are reasons they do the things they do, unless it’s something that’s actually hurting the kid. Just my two cents.

    • I’m sorry if it appeared that I was judging this mom. I wasn’t. I was merely using this overheard snippet to tell my own story about excessive library checkouts and the pleasure of getting to say yes to books. I apologize if that wasn’t clear.

  16. “It’s a simple formula: how many can I carry? And that number is probably far greater than you think.” — I felt this deep in my soul. Sometimes, with my bag straining, I am sure that it, too, has room for more.

  17. Leigh Anne’s comment on my post today sent me here. So much to love. I used to max out my card (especially during poetry month when I flooded my classroom with poetry books) and then use my husband’s and my daughter’s cards! I always let students borrow my library books. Nine years and I only had to pay for two books – not bad considering all the good we received from having plenty of books available in the classroom. And about those strong bags? I used to just show up with my red plastic bin with handles. I could easily cram 30 or more books in one of those.You are my kind of library friend.

    • A plastic bin! Brilliant!! I have a lot of thoughts about tote bags because I need them to be STRONG. I get most of my best ones free from publishers at different conferences. The Scholastic bags from NCTE are my favorites! I can stuff A LOT of books in those expanding bags. My students do a surprisingly great job returning my books too. I have totally been known to max out my own card and then start checking out on my mom’s or my husband’s! We are definitely kindred library friends!

  18. A thousand times yes! I’ve got to admit, sometimes I limit my son to only five since we regularly buy books as well. And once he’s done, we go back for more. Trying to keep all the book piles straight is our problem. School library vs public library vs my classroom library vs personal library! In our county we have more libraries than McDonalds! #bookloveproblems

    • Only five is still a pile! I was talking to my librarian about this yesterday and she said if someone told her she could only check out one book, she’d have to leave the building because her stress would spike. Oh my gosh yes, the book stacks. My poor mother returns a lot of my books to the library for me, and I’m constantly getting my stacks confused. She knows she’d better check all the books to make sure she’s at the right library!

  19. Wow, I did not know that you could max out a library card…obviously I have not been trying hard enough!! Sometimes my husband rolls his eyes at me when we go to the library and I check out seven 400 page novels in addition to the 3 I checked out two days before. Once he even went so far as to say, “You know, you’ll never be able to read all those in three weeks.” Philistine! I told him that if my biggest vice is that I check out too many library books, then he has no cause for complaint. Plus, it is excellent exercise hauling the heavy bags back and forth to the library. 😀 ❤️📚📚📚📚📚

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