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literary love

From the outset, we have sought to instill a love of literature in our little man while limiting Munchkin’s screen time. Given how much time we spend in front of our laptops, the latter was bound to be a bit of a quixotic quest. At three, Munchkin is by no means immune to the draw of the bright screen; the educational series of Daniel Tiger videos is his current obsession, and he wheedles his way to watching a video most days. Even so, we spend considerably more time reading to him each day than he spends watching videos, and that is one victory of which we are proud.

In that same vein, we have sought to develop Munchkin’s appreciation for libraries, which we sorely miss serving overseas. It’s not that they don’t exist in other countries – in fact, there is a well-resourced library just across the street from the Embassy in Kigali. It’s that more often than not they are not geared towards children in the same way that libraries are in the States: with story-time, music, and arts & crafts hours. Also, libraries and bookstores overseas tend to have rather limited English-language options, especially in countries (like Moldova) where English is not widely spoken.

We keep an ever-expanding home library, comprised of secondhand books purchased from online retailers and classics from S’s childhood, which her mom had stored for decades in her basement. S actively tries to curate the books we acquire, but inevitably we end up with some duds, so it’s nice to be able to sample the wide variety of kids’ books available at our local libraries in Portland without having to commit to ownership or subsequently suffering from buyer’s remorse.

It did not take long for the newly remodeled library in nearby Cape Elizabeth to become one of Munchkin’s favorite go-to spots. Truth be told, his love for this particular library likely has more to do with its impressive assortment of toys, which includes trains, trucks, a play kitchen (complete with apron and chef’s hats), and a larger-than-life teddy bear. Although we love this library for its thematically arranged children’s book collection and decent selection of adult books, we also appreciate having an educational place where Munchkin can burn off some energy on a rainy day.

Knowing a good library would be close by freed us up from packing Munchkin’s favorite books, which tend to take up a not insignificant amount of space in our luggage whenever we travel. But even the best-stocked libraries are not foolproof. For instance, Munchkin fell head over heels in love with Pete The Cat’s My Four Groovy Buttons after reading it at a neighbor’s house during his visit to nana and zadie in Bangor. He then had a meltdown when the book was unavailable at our local library. And during the two days it took for a copy to reach us through the interlibrary loan system, S had to resort to youtube videos of other parents reading this book to their kids to placate our little reader.

By far the best part of Munchkin’s continued interest in books is that it offers us a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind. Toddler logic seems comical to adults because it relies so heavily on literal connections devoid of abstract nuance. Each step in the chain is logical, but the conclusion is often not one we would have anticipated. For instance:

“He’s scary,” said S, referring to a dragon that appeared unbidden in one of Munchkin’s books.

“Who’s scary, mama?”

“The dragon.”

“No, mama, who’s scary of the dragon?”

“Ah…who’s scared of the dragon? The little boy in the story…or maybe you?”

“No, I’m not scared of the dragon. I’m not scared because I’m not in the book. Because I’m too big. Because I ate all my dinner.”

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