I used to think I had one kid who was a reader and one who was a non-reader. My oldest, like me, has always been content to sit beside a pile of books for hours if left to himself. From the time he was a toddler, he'd sit devouring story after story, regardless of subject. He's gotten more discerning as he's aged, but reading is still a favorite pastime. In contrast, my younger son loved to be read *to* when he was little. Once he learned to read, though, he'd only be caught with a book if it was a homework assignment. Even then, reading seemed like a chore.
But I recently learned something about Ben and books. It's not that he doesn't like books; he's just more selective of what he's willing to spend time reading. If it's funny, he's hooked. If the topic is one he loves, that's a definite selling point. And if he loves the subject *and* the book is funny? Good luck getting him to the dinner table.
To help us get to this point, I've been taking my kids to the library since they were infants. First it was for the mommy-and-baby programs. When they got older, there were kids' programs, then teen clubs. But no matter how I got them there, we'd always, always bring home books. It's how we explored lots of different genres, authors and topics without forcing dad to build more bookshelves or breaking the bank. When it comes to books, a library card is a kid's first credit card. You want to take out ten books? No problem! You too? Just put it on the card.
This weekend, I glimpsed how this philosophy may have backfired, at least with Ben. I'm the type of person who will hear about a book, borrow it from the library and, if I love it and know I'll re-read it over and over, buy my own copy. Ben, however, seems to have a greater love of saving money than of owning great books. He recently discovered a series at the library. He read and laughed through the first two books, but the third wasn't available. Since he has accumulated several gift cards for Amazon.com, I suggested he buy all three books, as well as the next series by the same author, on the same topic. That way he could read them all, then read them again and again whenever he wanted.
"But Mom, I can get them for free at the library."
"Yes, but if you use your gift cards and buy them, you can re-read them all whenever you want."
"I know but... I don't think I want to do that."
He couldn't quite articulate his struggle. Did he love the books? Yes. Does he have plenty of gift cards? Yes. So what's the problem?
Ben loves money, even representations of money. Gift cards, coins from other countries, pretend credit cards, he loves it all. In fact, I think he loves it so much that to exchange it for something else, even if it's books that he know he'll enjoy, is just too hard.
At first I felt bad that he wasn't taking advantage of this opportunity to own some books he'd really love. But then I realized, that's what *I* like to do. The kid has a sense for the value of money, and a great understanding of the benefits of the public library. Considering both will take him far in life, I didn't push him to buy the books. It's his money and his decision on how to spend it. I've done my job and taught him these lessons. So why contradict myself when he's happy?
I couldn't think of a good reason either.