I have a confession: 95% (or more) of the books we borrow from the library come to us because I put them on hold. We do very little browsing. I feel horribly guilty about this. But it seems that nearly every time we're at the library we have ten other errands to run and places to be and can't linger. Not to mention that my daughters like to pick books based on important criteria like spine color. I keep justifying the practice by telling myself that when the 5-year-old is "really" reading I'll let her browse and choose her own books more. For now, while I am still reading to them, I figure I should get a say.
Nonetheless, this week the guilt got the better of me and I promised my girls they could pick out their own books. When I saw what they had chosen, it only confirmed my preference for the reserve system. The 5-year-old (who chooses her own books twice a week from her classroom and school libraries, respectively) selected a book about death (involving a squirrel who goes to "Squirrel Paradise") and a book about becoming an older sibling (irrelevant, and an especially boring version of the genre at that). The 3-year-old picked a Dora book (kill me now!) and one about a family whom a goblin comforts after an unexplained tragedy (which appears to be the death of a child and luckily went over my kids' heads).
I think it is important for children to choose their own books. It gives them a sense of control, an opportunity to explore their interests, a feeling that reading is for their own enjoyment, not an assignment, and, when they get older and read to themselves, a sense of privacy, a way to create their own worlds. I don't want to deprive my girls of the special pleasure of coming across a truly wonderful book serendipitously on a library or bookstore shelf. I don't believe in limiting what they read. Then again, when I see that dead squirrel book sitting on my shelf, I think such principles may be overrated.
What is your library M.O.?