Friday, May 31, 2013

'Tis the Season

My observation of the ebb and flow of activity in our family over the course of my child-rearing years is that the merry month of May is almost, if not equal, in busyness to the Christmas season.

Since opening our library, that pattern has intensified. These seasons shape the course of our years and, ultimately, the character of our lives. Specifically, May is not only the month of Mother's Day, Memorial Day, school graduations, but in our case as well, some birthdays, planting the enormous garden, homeschool conferences, and in particular this year, recuperation from the event of the year: Emily's wedding. Regarding the library, it is the season in which many families return their books to announce they are off for the summer and we are threatened with suffocation by books.

Since our library requires a personal family membership commitment, it is also the time of year Emily and I reconsider library policies and update rules, discard unneeded past rules, and publish a booklet of the coming year's rules. As part of their commitment, families are asked to read through our requirements, review them with their children, and renew their membership with a signed contract and fee. The money we bring in helps to maintain, expand, and pay for such practical costs as the electric and internet bills, soap and toilet paper for the bathroom, and, hopefully some new books and supplies for keeping them in good repair.

I thought you might enjoy a peek into this season of our library. We send out "renewal letters" every June, invite new members to join in July, and begin our library year August 1. Here is an excerpt from this year's version of our cover letter:

"Part of your membership funds will go toward four new bookcases so that we can shelve the several hundred new books that are waiting for a place in the library. By God's mysterious expansion, they will fit.
We plan to continue to serve you in any way possible as you educate your children through literature.

We cannot adequately convey to you how grateful we are for each of your families. You have blessed us in many ways. However, our thankfulness is also because, as we have read and studied, attended conferences, and taught seminars, in the last two or three years especially we have discovered that this world of literature  is even more precious than we thought. Forecasts of the decline in reading in this country have lamentably become reality. You are among the third of Americans who ever open a book at all, and the ten percent who
choose to read for pleasure and purpose. Not only are worthy books disappearing, but those who will read them are as well.

We point out these things not to be dramatic, but to hopefully encourage you in your efforts to make reading a priority in your lives. Even further, we personally want to ask you to include your children in your library visits. We are truly living in an age of nonreading and children who do not acquire this habit in their early
years, even homeschooling children, will be lost to the world of literature forever. Since God has chosen to communicate through words, and language is strengthened through reading, and language is critical to thought itself, it is truly a matter of life and death for our culture and the work of the Gospel in this dark time that your
children are not just acquainted with books, but have a deep connection with the written word. Children need to be involved in their education, which is why you are homeschooling them, but actively and physically participating in building relationships with literature. When you bring them into browse, handle, and smell the
books, they will form relationships with them and the lives and thoughts of the people who have written them.

In our hectic and packed lives, making time to come to the library is a challenge. We plead with you to consider any lifestyle changes you can to make time for the reading of these rich and beautifully written
books. It may take five minutes to play a computer game, or skim along on your Kindle, but it takes hours to immerse yourself in a book. The benefits are not only astronomical for the mind of your child, but for the strengthening of your family, and consequently, our country. Most of you have already chosen a tougher road  by homeschooling in the first place, and we stand with you in going against the cultural grain in providing a rich banquet for your children to feast upon. The years we have to accomplish this are few and flying by. The best time to become active readers is today.

May God give you strength and joy as you serve Him in the training up of your children in the way they should go."

Perhaps some of you reading this are wistful with longing for such a library in your community. Perhaps some of you wonder how you could operate such a library. Perhaps you would like to help support those involved in this growing movement to provide private libraries of old and beautiful books for children otherwise exposed to only digital media in their lives. Maybe you could contact us and find out how to become involved, for the sake of the children of today and those yet to be born into a world void of good literature,  or even literature at all.

For the joy of reading,