Can you ever have too many books?

After a loooooooong wait (clearly he just wanted to build up the suspense…), here is M’s first official post.  All thoughts expressed are his own and do not necessarily represent those of his management, a.k.a. me 😉

Over to M:

We have a lot of books. Not compared to a library of course, but by anyone’s standard it’s a lot. Not all are bought I’m hastened to add, a lot for example have come from both mine and Loll’s childhood collections. This said, we’re bordering on becoming best friends with our post lady.

Now, I’m fully aware that the title is somewhat odd or controversial for a blog very much centred on children’s books and fostering a love of reading, so let me explain.

I don’t know (as it’d take me too long to properly count and I don’t know where Loll files her master spreadsheet) how many books we actually have but to aid visualisation for you, let’s just say we have 700. (I’m anticipating you pausing now while you digest that number. I guarantee you’re both wondering whether you have more or less than that and I’m betting on the fact you’ve now formed a first impression on this number).

We have two boys who both love reading. And 700 books. Pretty much, give or take, all on display in places accessible to them. So, there’s a little more context then.

Now let me summarise the two sides of the argument as far as I’m concerned (while fully appreciating I’ll miss a wealth of key points due to the fact this post can’t go on and on and on – therefore feel free to comment accordingly).

No

How can there be too many books? I’m constantly surprised with the books that are added to our collection. I consider myself a pretty creative person but some of them just amaze me. And no, I’m not overstating. Giving examples seems a little crass as there are so many but a couple I’d pick that I can see right now are ‘Limelight Larry’ by Leigh Hodgkinson, the Hueys series of books by Oliver Jeffers and ‘Press Here’ by Herve Tullet.

So on the basis that I’m constantly amazed, I’m guessing my kids are, too. Continuously. Surely that’s a good thing for their imaginations, their creativity – their brains ultimately?

Yes

How can two young boys take in all those books with all that content? When we read books together, I find we discover new things almost every time we read them (and no, this isn’t always true of Thomas the Tank Engine – H’s current favourites!). But to do that, surely one needs to read those books repeatedly (in non-reading related aspects of bringing up kids, repetition is repeatedly (!) heralded as important). And of course, we can’t repeatedly read 700 books and growing.

Are we giving our kids enough opportunity to find the more subtle elements of books? Develop their understanding with each read? Appreciate them, even? Or, do we need to accept the fact that they won’t like them all and ‘fuelling the pile’ means they can find what they like and get excited more often?

TTFN

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7 comments

  1. We too have a lot of books and one of the down sides is that my kids no longer see books as something wonderful to receive as a present. Don’t get me wrong, they are both mad about books, but like you, we’re on 1st name terms with our Postie, and most days we’ve got something new arriving at home, so books are like air to them. They’re ubiquitous, and not something that has that “rare” feel about it which it’s nice if presents have. I feel very sad that this is the case, although they still get books as presents!

  2. bookaholicmum · · Reply

    The instinctive response to this is surely a resounding NO!!! But M does make some valid points about the nuances you only pick up after re-reading. But I think there’s a joy to be had in rediscovering an old favourite you haven’t read for a while. Very interesting post

  3. We also have loads of books, and every time I plan to clear some out I find excuses not to. However, we also made good use of the library, mainly because my daughter is heavily into the Rainbow Fairies series, and I don’t think they’re worth £5.99 a pop. So I’d say a general ‘no’, in answer to the question, but perhaps curb your buying a bit and try the library, especially important now they’re under threat. You could always buy the books they borrow over and over again…

  4. Eeh Bah Mum · · Reply

    I think children do end up having favourites that they re read anyway. For the sake of my sanity I put both books and toys out in shifts and have a swop around every few months.

  5. As a huge book addict, I also sway between the No and Yes camps on a regular basis, for a lot of the reasons you’ve already written. We don’t have enough space for all the books to be out, and I tried book rotating but it just didn’t work for me so instead I have most of my books that I’ve read but still want to keep boxed up in the garage (mainly in 64 litre really useful boxes, with silica gel sachets – I have lost hundreds of books to water damage over the years, because I’ve always had to have books in storage ever since I first left home, so I’ve learnt a lesson!) and the children’s books that are too old for my girls (both mine from childhood, and ones I’ve read as an adult, or just collected in Book People multiset offers, oops!)

    But still there are books spread over the floor, not enough shelf space etc. And my DH doesn’t share my addiction so always complains there are too many. So I regularly weed through them and give books away to charity or the local school.

    Then I have weeks when I pine for not having the variety, and recently went on a visit with the local CBG to a lady whose children are grown but has rooms full of children’s books and toys that she’s collected, a whole history of picture books from 60/70 years ago and onwards. It was wonderful, and I want to be like that. But also their house was huge, and I’m resigned to the fact that we’re never going to earn huge incomes (her husband won a nobel prize!) so the big house with rooms especially for books is never going to happen!

    And other weeks I think about how maybe exploring one book in depth is a great thing. The “five in a row” idea of re-reading the same book and doing different activities based on it. Or just the sheer volume meaning many books are left unread for months and months on end before being rediscovered.

    But rediscovery is like getting a new book, and that’s nice to do too. Oh, I am so utterly torn that I’m rambling complete rubbish.

    I think both answers are ‘right’ For some households having hundreds of books on the shelves and around constantly is right. For others, owing a few select books, book gifts remaining ‘special’ but having the library to constantly refresh and change the books in the house is right. As long as there are books, and we read the books, and the children see that books give us so much, then there are neither too many or too little, but what is right for each family.

    I would happily pluck a dozen books off our shelves to give to a child who had none any day…

  6. Agree with Zoe and Anne-Marie here, but I remember how books were sourced when I was a kid (Christmas presents, birthday presents sometimes, but nearly always second hand from either jumble sales or charity shops) – so I’m definitely more inclined to say “you can never have too many books”

    The upshot is that we do have clearouts from time to time, we either give books away to people less fortunate than ourselves or we donate them to our local charity shop so that other children can enjoy them (I’m sure the rest of you always keep a good set of ‘keepers’ like we do though, right?)

    C isn’t quite at the stage where new book parcels turning up is unexciting and humdrum – it’s great seeing her reaction to new books – and if there’s one thing I’d make sure we always made house room for it’d be books, either ours or hers.

  7. […] even though we do have a lot of books, it would seem that the boys are picking out their own favourites and that many of them are making […]

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