“Mama! We have more than a hundred books waiting for us at the library,” announced Miss 10 early this morning. Mr. 17 looked up from the news on his cell phone, shocked. It is, objectively-speaking, a large number of library books, but this is, after all, our annual Reading Week.
What’s Reading Week? Well, one week a year we take time off from formal schoolwork and spend an entire week reading. Yes, we still feed the chickens, go for walks, eat, and sleep. We even manage some music practice. But, mostly, we read.
What do we read? Whatever we’re interested in. This year we have all the Bill Peet picture books out again; that seems to be an annual tradition that we all love. Miss 12 has a pile of Nate Wilson books to explore, I want to reread some gluten-free living books, Freddy the Pig has come back once again to entertain us all, and we’ve ordered all the David Macaulay DVD’s and books (Cathedral, Castle, Motel of the Mysteries, etc.) that the library has.
But why? Is there a reason we do this? Obviously, there’s nostalgia, like our annual Bill Peet indulgence. And there’s is learning, like the books about Van Gogh and about writer’s groups. There is pure enjoyment, like Peter Speier’s wordless picture books and Don Aslett’s hilarious dejunking books. And there is excitement, as in the one Asterix collection allowed this week, as well as Beowulf and The Cricket on the Hearth.
The other reason is quite practical. We live close to a tiny country library in a city-wide system of huge libraries. Our library is often on the endangered list, quite literally, and as homeschoolers we depend on it. So, years ago, we began our Reading Week to coincide with our library’s annual counting week. I suppose it’s actually Save the Library Week.
It’s the week we order more books than usual, visit the library every day, and pull a lot of books from the shelves. We also request a lot of books from other branches. Usually we have 50 or so books requested; now we have just over 200. Usually we have less than 80 books out; now we have 179. Our reading week helps the library’s statistics, and our librarians are grateful to (and proud of) ‘their’ homeschoolers.
And the final big question: Will we ever read them all? No. There are already three books in our return box, one of them full of blasphemy on the only page I checked. We don’t need that. But we will read most of them. Our children are amazingly fast readers, and I’m no slouch at whizzing through a book either. A lot of the books will be enjoyed from cover to cover. On the other hand, I won’t read every recipe in every gluten-free cookbook. I’ll skim through the writer’s circle books to choose the best ones for setting up a homeschool teen writer’s group, and study those in great detail. And Freddy the Pig will be read, reread, and chuckled over.
There are, of course, a few more niggling practical matters:
Where do we store all those books? In rows and piles in front of our bookshelves.
How do we keep track of them? Very carefully, according to our usual system for avoiding library fees.
Doesn’t it make a mess in our house? Yes, and after a month I’m always thrilled that most of the books are gone.
Are we invalidating the library statistics? No. As you can see from the numbers above, we’re taking more books out than usual, but not that many more in terms of a library’s output. Just enough to make the librarians love us, not enough to make them hate us.
We love Reading Week. Great books, no schoolwork, special snacks, and the opportunity to really delve into one author’s works are all wonderful treats. We have learned, though, that we must keep a bit of a normal routine of mealtimes, chores, and outside time or everyone will become grumpy in a few days. It’s true that reading can be over-done.
But my homeschooled kids know my weak point and love to point out, “You learn from reading, Mom!” Implying that therefore it’s all OK, and, really, it is, because it’s as much of a break for mom as for the kids.
If you’ve never enjoyed a Reading Week, try one. You might be starting an annual tradition.