How I built a 200 books library for my 2 year old
And found my passion for children's books in the process.
I never gave too much thought to children's books before my son was born. I decided that I wanted him to have some books in Romanian, so I asked my mother in Romania to please buy a few children's books and send them to me in Ireland. Up until then, we have been reading to him in English ever since he was still in my belly, mostly "Thomas the tank engine" and "Peter rabbit". We bought these books at a baby fair along with other used baby items without too much thought.
My mother sent me a few board books with good illustrations. One of them was about a caterpillar made fun of by a frog, eventually transforming itself into a butterfly and flies at the top of a mountain. The book's last page said something like, "Now I can finally find another butterfly to mate with and have my own little caterpillars". Immediately I thought, "this is rubbish; there must be better books out there that would not try to explain to a 1-year-old the life-reproduction-death cycle". So I started looking online for recommendations on books for children. To my amazement, there was an entire world out there full of blogs, awards, Facebook groups, all dedicated to children's books. I joined a Romanian Facebook group called "Ce le citim copiilor" full of recommendations, reviews, and book offers for the community members. I was finding out what type of books are recommended for each age, which authors and illustrators are best, how to use books to connect with children and show them the world through them…I was fascinated. I spent hours adding book titles to my list of wishes. Although many of them were recommended for ages 3 up, I could not resist my curiosity and I started buying 2-3 books at a time. I was having them delivered to my mother in Romania, and she would then send them to me in Ireland with the next "home stuff" package. After a couple of months, the first package from Romania arrived. I was so excited to see the books, I felt like a little girl at Christmas. The books were everything that the community described: beautiful illustrations, the smell of quality print, and the stories.. oh, the stories awoken the child in me, the sense of wonder and joy in the simplicity of the text and the messages they were transmitting. It was like a reminder of what are life's essential and fundamental values.
I continued to order books both in Romanian and English, guided by the group's recommendations. If there was a book that I thought my husband would enjoy reading to our son, I would order it in English. My list was getting bigger, and I was chasing discounts on different websites to get them as cheap as possible. I knew that it was not very smart to spend much more on books seeing how many I had already accumulated, about 100 books. I was also buying cheaper books from Aldi, Lidl or TK Maxx because I now trusted my instincts on spotting a good book. And it turns out that 1-year-old kids don't care how expensive a book is or if the illustrator is famous 😊.
I separated the more advanced books with chapters and fewer illustrations from the other ones that I considered Senan might enjoy at that moment. I put the first set apart on a high shelf, and the rest I displayed on the Montessori style wall shelves in his room and in the living room's kids bookshelf. Whenever I have a spare moment, I go to the books I staked on the high shelf, flip through the pages, take in the beautiful illustrations. I know it sounds silly that some of my favourite books are children's books, but it doesn't really bother me. Suppose you ever opened a book illustrated by Marco Soma, Sonja Wimmer or Davide Cali. In that case, you will know what I mean.
We always let Senan choose the books for the night story, and sometimes "Thomas the tank" or a €2 book from Aldi about an unknown cat was all he wanted to be read for weeks at a time. I knew, though, that slowly he will notice other books, and I was right. By the time he turned 2, he could point out loud the characters of almost all the books regardless of how many times we had read them. We realized afterwards that he could do this because when the time came to choose the books for the evening, his daddy or I would point at each book on the shelf and ask him if he wanted the books with Findus, or Mog or Elmer. Most of the time, it took about 10 min for him to say "yeah" to a book, to our desperation, but it turns out he was actually learning something in the process.
Slowly, I had reduced the number of books that I was buying for Senan, but I was not happy about it. I knew, of course, that he now had enough books for his first 5 years of life. But I still wanted to keep looking for more and more books, discover new authors and illustrators, add more books to the bookshelves I had my husband make.
By that time, the number of books got to about 180. I thought to myself: "You know what, I might have just finally come across something that I would love doing daily. Why not turn it into something that can give me the satisfaction of doing something that I truly love?" and that's how Luminita Books was born. My energies turned towards building the collections of books for the website. However, I still buy at least 1-2 books every few months for Senan's library. I don't think I will ever be able to stop. I hope that one day he will thank me for my "little" obsession no matter what he decides to become in life.