My family is a reading family. We buy and share books with great enthusiasm. And when children are born the first gifts we give are books – cardboard books for when the baby is more interested in chewing the pages than looking at pictures and childhood classics like Roald Dahl or Beatrix Potter for when they’re big enough to grasp a storyline.
So yes, books are lovely, and we can’t get enough of them. Except that books are also rather expensive. And once my children cottoned on to the fact that they are a treat, they started asking for new ones just about every week. It’s very hard, as a book-loving mama, to deny a child’s plea: “Mum, please can I have a new book this weekend?”
So I did what any cost-conscious bibliophile does, and took my kids down the road to join our local library. My daughter and I walked, while my son rode his scooter and I lectured them the whole way about how they had to “Be Quiet” when we got there.
Of course, they barged in to the library at top volume, past the people looking through reference books (People still do that? Weird.) and into the sunny little room at the back with shelves full of children’s books.
I went to the desk to sign up for the children’s cards only to be told that they would only be ready in five working days. This was a big disappointment for my children who had already selected the books that they wanted to bring home. I promised them we’d come back in a week and distracted them with the promise of an ice-cream.
A week later we came back, collected their cards, chose books and went up to the counter to date stamp them. My three-year-old son enjoyed being allowed to do the stamping, even though he hasn’t quite grasped the whole borrowing process. “And now you must pay the librarian, mummy.”
Nonetheless, the three borrowed books bring us three weeks of joy at a time, at no cost to us. My six-year-old daughter derives particular delight from stories about animals that I would probably not have wanted to spend money on, but are amplifying her joy of reading. “Just one more chapter, mummy, please?”
And my son is delighted by the range of toddler books that expand on the adventures of his favourite characters like Masie, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine.
It has been an entirely rewarding process – for a lot of reasons – and it has certainly saved us money as well. I’ve been reminded that sometimes, the best things in life can be free – you just have to choose to engage with them.
And while I’ve been date-stamping my children’s books, my eyes have strayed to the “new releases” shelf near the counter. There are a couple of books there that have caught my eye. Perhaps it’s time that I put aside my Kindle and sign up for a library card of my own...
Georgina Guedes is a writer, editor and content producer with a passion for reading, eating and travel. She has learnt a lot in her journey as a personal finance writer, and even manages to put some of it into practice! She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, two children, two dogs a cat and a white picket fence. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.