Gathered in a circle of comfortable couches parents and sons intently listen as the librarian, Gina Miller, explains the book-related activity: they are going to create their own spiderweb with written messages, just like Charlotte from E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Webb.” Using different colored yarn, the children, and a few parents, weave in and out of the furniture to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art and a one-of-a-kind memory that’s linked to the Madison Library and to a classic book. These unique activities and programs help make the Madison Library special for my family and so many families in the Rexburg area. They help us connect with literature, connect with friends, connect with the librarians, and connect with each other.
The love of literature starts young in our family. My wife always has a book in her hand and together we make sure to consistently read to our children from the moment they are born. The connection to books grows as we take them to Story Time at the Madison Library, enroll them in the Summer Reading Program, participate in “On the Same Page,” pick up STEM kits, enter (and sometimes win) contests, read the monthly books and prepare for the “Mother Daughter Book Club” and “Books for Boys.” The librarians masterfully create activities in each of these programs, giving our children memorable experiences related to books. These experiences help them deepen their love for literature and find likeminded friends.
Whether it is our oldest daughter connecting with the teen group on Discord or our youngest daughter tuning in to story time over Facebook Live, each member of the family appreciates the programs because they are fun, but also because they meet new friends and see old friends. During “Books for Boys” discussions and activities I have time to catch up with friends. My daughter reaches out to friends over the Discord teen channel. My sons eagerly await to see if their friends also read the month’s book and will attend the book discussion and activity. When their friends do come, they enjoy spending time with their friends and the librarians talking about a new favorite book.
None of these programs would mean a thing without the librarians who spend countless hours preparing the activities, snacks, and upcoming events. We know them by their first names. We see them in our churches, schools, and in the community. They always greet us with a warm smile and often know our names. They are what help make the Madison Library special!
The books, the programs, the librarians, all of them are great. They really serve one purpose, however, and that is to help us connect with each other. The memories we have made reading books together, participating in activities connected to the books, and enjoying the resources at the Madison Library has only helped us grow closer together as a family. I think the Madison Library and its programs were created just for families like mine. We have taken advantage of the programs at the library for nearly every age group. Because of these programs and the library, they have helped us connect with each other in a way I believe all families should consider.
“The fire of literacy is created by the sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud-it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.” -Mem Fox
Lots of us have heard how important and beneficial reading to your child is, especially at a young age. Some of my greatest memories with my children have been us reading together or watching my children cuddle around their dad so they could listen to him read them a story. I have counted on the public libraries where we have lived to be able to check out books so that we didn’t grow tired of the ones we had in our personal library at home. The Madison County Library has met all my expectations in providing a great array of books for my children to read or for me to read to them. My four children, who are 9, 6, 5, and 22 months have all found something they enjoy that the library offers.
My son, who is 22 months old, loves to go to the library and play in the Kid’s Corner. There is nothing better than seeing your child, no matter how old, grab a book, get comfy on a couch or chair, and read that book. My son does that now since the library added those comfy kid’s moveable couches/chairs. Him and I also greatly enjoyed in the Story Walk that the library did. It was so fun to watch him run around on the sidewalks, pointing to the pages and making the animal sounds.
My 5-year-old daughter loves to learn about the human body. I told her that the library probably had books about it, and I was right. They had a small selection that ranged from short and simple to more complex and detailed. She looked at those books almost every day and wanted to share what she had learned when she looked at them and when I read to her. I have a love of learning that I have tried to pass on to my children. When they have questions or want to learn about something I tell them we should go to the library and find a book about it. The library hasn’t let me down. We have always been able to find a book to answer their questions and expand their knowledge on a certain topic.
My 6-year-old daughter loves the Discovery Kits that the library offers. She also likes to do crafts, so the take home crafts that the library provides are perfect for her. She also comments on all the cool decorations that the librarians make to go along with their different themes. They spark her imagination and give her ideas on what she would like to make or draw at home. She is a budding reader, and it makes her feel proud when she can read a whole book by herself. The library has a large selection of easy reader books that are perfect for her.
My oldest daughter, who is 9, loves to read but was having a hard time finding books that were somewhat between graphic novels and full-on junior novels, which were a lot longer than what she was used to reading. Those bigger books were intimidating to her, but she was wanting something more than the Magic Tree House series. One of the librarians helped her find a few series that fit the bill in what she was looking for. Going to the library got exciting for her again because she had found books that captured her attention. That helped her move on from fearing those bigger chapter books to being interested and ready to read them.
The Madison County Library is a great resource for me as a mom as my husband and I try to promote the importance of literacy to our children. We have made lots of great memories of laughing as a family when we have read a funny book that we checked out at the library, for example, “Bob, not Bob!” by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick. Mary Ellen Chase, who was an American educator, scholar, and author said this, “There is no substitution for books in the life of a child.” I whole heartly agree with her. The library makes it possible for me to make sure my children have access to books, whether to learn about something and/or go on an adventure. The whole world is open to them when they have access to books and that’s something I am truly grateful for.
Years ago, I was visiting my parents who had recently moved to Rexburg. My mom suggested, “You should go checkout the new library! They just renovated it and it’s pretty great.” At the time I was single, a graduate student, and felt like I lived at the university library. The last thing on my mind was spending more time in a library for fun. About 10 years later, now as a husband and father living in Rexburg, the library has become a resource for my family to instill a joy of reading and lifelong learning.
When I walk into the library with my family, the openness of the entrance helps build my excitement. Will I be going left to the Kid’s Corner or will I be able to sneak off to the right and enjoy the adult section? My children’s excitement, especially my two-year-old happily darting off to the Kid’s Corner, means I am going left. They start looking at the books and exploring the various resources. They get comfy in a chair and open a book. They ask about what they can checkout and take home this week. I love this scene.
As a child, that was not me and it is something that I have wanted for my family. I know how children’s love of reading can influence their learning in school and personal life. It develops their ability to concentrate, sparks their imagination, and opens up a world of possibilities. I love how it builds our relationship as we cuddle to read a book together and talk about what we are experiencing. Madison Library has helped this happen in my family.
When we leave the library, we have a bag of children’s books that get put in a special area in our family room, easily accessible to everyone. My wife and I tend to leave empty handed; however, we have access to digital and audio copies of books through the Libby app. My wife typically ends the day by reading some of her latest book on her phone. I appreciate the audio books that I listen to as I mow the yard or shovel snow. The audio books are also enjoyed by the family as we travel. The love of books can continue whether we are at the library, home, or anywhere in the world.
Madison Library has helped literacy be a focal point in our family and is one of the reasons why we love this area. Some people balk at Rexburg and complain about the lack of resources and things to do. To them I would say, like my mother did to me, “You should go checkout the library!”
I tightened my makeshift bonnet, hitched my silk crepe skirt a little higher and picked my
way through the powder snow in my anachronistic vegan suede boots. The dress would cover them anyway and even though the winter sun was bright for February, the crisp air reminded me that Rexburg’s winters are brisk. I stopped ten feet from the paddock fence, still on the public easement. The ponies, a good twelve yards away, didn’t acknowledge me, thank goodness. I really didn’t want to explain to their 21st century owner why her horses were being agitated by a visitor snapping photos and romping through the snow in Regency-wear.
I really was too old to be frolicking in dress up clothes, but the local library’s book club
activities had coaxed me out of ambivalence and into costume. I suppose I was easy to rope in, having moved to Idaho in the middle of the pandemic. I had immediately isolated myself and my young children to avoid contracting and spreading COVID to our vulnerable family members. This left me friendless, disconnected from a community I barely knew, and feeling purposeless and adrift. When a Madison Library District employee offered me a Jane Austen activity kit as she handed me a grocery sack of picture books at the library’s curbside pickup, I enthusiastically accepted.
At home, I eagerly pulled each item out of the poly plastic bag. A paperback, Jane
Austen’s Persuasion, was the main event, but it had been packaged with other thoughtfully
chosen items: Biscoff cookies, mint herbal tea, a deck of cards and instructions for whist. I
examined each element, delighted at the library's whimsy and magnanimity.
Colored half-sheet leaflets detailed that month’s activities. This Persuasion business was
no mere book club. It was clearly meant to immerse its participants in 19th century England,with a literary criticism lecture, quadrille dance instruction and what was this? A photo scavenger hunt. What a beguiling idea! A little competition with the flavor of Austen was an enticing bright spot in my dull, lonely snow season.
I was not going to do this halfway. With the help of a cream-colored empire-waist
gown--a bargain at twelve dollars from the thrift shop--two cropped jackets and a few
well-placed straight pins in my favorite sun hat, I cobbled together something that I hoped
resembled ladies’ clothing circa 1820.
Wearing it was simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I was a half step away
from feeling transported two centuries back in time, but also very, very nervous about appearing in public to take photos. I relish a good cosplay, but didn’t want the distinction of being the only one in costume everywhere I went. Weird looks from strangers was not an item on the scavenger hunt list.
“Here goes,” I thought, as I gathered the drapes of silk around my legs and nestled into the driver's side of my Toyota van, my mother/photographer gamely waiting in the passenger seat. I was a driving contradiction, displaying a 19th century look while encased in the hull of a modern motorized vehicle.
My mother graciously snapped pictures of me on location at over a half dozen locations
in Idaho Falls and Rexburg. I tried to mask my timidity and embarrassment with wide smiles that I hope communicated, “It is totally normal to dress like this!” My favorite photo from the
experience is a shot of me, bonnet-bedecked head down and basket handle tucked over my arm, walking through drifts of white in front of the tall windows of the Rexburg tabernacle. This building could absolutely pass as a mansion on an English estate if you know nothing about architecture. I liked the picture because the scavenger hunt was my formal introduction to the lovely historical structure and the photo also appeared to me the most believable. This dampened the voice in my head that told me I was a complete dolt for undertaking this challenge in character.
That little voice swelled as I approached the library circulation desk to submit my entry on the day of the deadline. I had bound the printed photos together in handmade unbleached cotton paper and blanket-stitched the spine. I was sure that that level of effort and my costume communicated that I lacked both friends and meaningful hobbies and pursuits. Incidentally, both of those were true.
Yet, as I penned my information on the entry form, I noticed I was not the only one
submitting a photo book for the contest. I snuck a glance at the gentleman next to me. “I’m
dropping this off for my wife,” he informed the librarian at the computer behind the plexiglass. Interested, I peered sideways at the tiny spiral bound book he held in his hand, and to my joy, spotted on the cover a picture of a woman who, because of the way she was dressed, could have been a double for any of Jane’s literary characters.
Hallelujah! I jubilantly smiled to myself, suddenly hopeful. Had I been the only person cavorting around eastern Idaho in clothes that belonged at Kellynch Hall, I would have been a freak. But if there were two of us in this town, it meant that I was not quite the oddity that I felt to be, that there was someone--and probably lots of someones--in this little town that also loved books and quirky adventures, and that possibly one or more of these people would eventually befriend me.
Madison Library District has become a fixture in our family as my kids and I figuratively tear through Rick Riordan novels, literally clamor over the soft-structure logs in the toddler zone, sing along at story time, and check out so many DVDs that one inevitably falls underneath the couch and ends up costing us $7 in overdue fees. The kids cheer when a library trip is announced, scrap over who gets to insert the books in the automated book return and add so many books to our check out pile that the only person who can carry them all is their (very muscular, thank you) mother. We are so grateful for this neighborhood resource that has influence well beyond the size and boundaries of its brick walls. It is inclusive, engaging, and if you take thirty seconds to set up Library Elf due date reminders, utterly free.
Some people love the library because the books it houses are vehicles of knowledge, escape and entertainment. While I find that to be true, to focus solely on the books oversimplifies the role of the library to the Netflix of print media. Every time I step into MLD, I recall the first gifts it gave me and the reason I keep coming back: it catalyzed a connection to the places around me, it serves as a reminder to nurture my creativity, and offers the promise of fellowship and friends.