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The Thrift Store: Books for My Three Year Old

Library of an Interaction Designer (Juhan Sonin) / 20100423.7D.0

My oldest son loves to read. I packed a book in my hospital bag and began reading to him on the very day he was born. Every day, even when he was quite small, we read together. Usually a few books in the morning, a few more mid-day and three as part of the bedtime routine. Long before he could talk he would walk over to the book shelf or a stack of books on my dresser and select the ones he wanted to read. He’d bring them over to me, keep one pile for books we hadn’t read yet and another for the books we’d already finished reading. After reading the last page, he would take the book out of my hands and place it in the appropriate pile. When we were finished he would toddle off to the bookshelf to put them back and pick up three others. Between the ages of 18 months and three years we spent hours reading.

Sometimes his love of reading wanes, but it often returns a few weeks later more vigorous than ever. These days I borrow a stack of books from the library and hold on to them for two or three weeks. We returned the last pile before heading out on vacation.

Before we reached the beach my son said “mama we don’t have many books in North Carolina” We do have a book shelf, but most of the books are old board books he’s outgrown and a handful of favorites we keep locked away in a closet.

I considered borrowing some new books from the library, but I worried about losing them while we were away or leaving them at the house and paying inordinate late fees. I wanted to bring something new so I brought a few large books with few pictures and lots of stories. He received a couple of these for Christmas last December. At the time he didn’t seem to like the idea of story books without pictures, but nearly a year later he cannot seem to get enough of them. He asks my husband and I to read as well as both sets of grandparents. I believe his imagination is now filing the missing images in for him.

Since we arrived for vacation he’s asked to read three or four times a day and while he loves to hear the same stories over and over he asked if we had any other books he could read. I considered buying a few new ones from Amazon and shipping them south, but I didn’t really want to spend $8 to $10 per book. Especially since I don’t know if they’ll be treasured favorites.

My mom suggested checking out a consignment shop, but it’s an hour or so away from our house. Then she had the brilliant idea of browsing for books in the thrift shop. This isn’t the first time I’ve bought books from the thrift store. When my son received a CD of The Cat and the Hat I snuck off to the thrift store in search of a copy I could read before bed. I wanted him to see the pictures and to hear the story in our own voices. I think I spent $1 to make that happen.

Yesterday I drove my son to the thrift store to let him pick out new books. The store had a very small shelf way in the back crammed full of children’s stories. I pulled out any that looked age appropriate and held them up for him. It was funny to listen to him choose the ones he wanted. He’d say “I don’t like the looks of that one” or “ohhhh Elmo!” I asked him to hold the ones he wanted in his hand as I was crouched down on the floor doing all I could to maintain my balance without falling over.

At some point he said, “mama I have too many books. you can’t give me any more.” He did appear to be toppling quite a bit from the six or seven I had already handed him. I selected a few more, (that looked brand new), and walked to the register with him. He was so proud to hold those books as we waited in line and when he reached the cashier he placed them high on the counter.

“You must love to read” she said to which he replied “I sure do!” The total for ten books was
$4.90. That’s money well spent!