A Library Hack

Our family makes bi-weekly visits to our local county libraries to check out 20-30 books at a time. Since pandemic restrictions eased and they re-opened about 18 months ago, we have followed this routine pretty stringently. But we don’t visit the library simply to borrow copious amounts of books. We also visit to print documents, attend story time, and select STEM kits to bring home.

Feeling comfortable surrounded by books at the Spokane Valley Library.

However, tonight I am here to offer an additional resource the library has available. In fact, what I am about to tell you goes beyond just a “resource” – it is a hack.

Believe it or not, there is a good chance that your local library has passes to educational and cultural centers in its circulation. And no, these passes aren’t for the library employees…they are for YOU (and, well, me too 😊).

The Spokane Valley Library is kind of like a second home for us. It offers so much more than just books.

I know firsthand. This past Sunday, Sloan and I went to Mobius Discovery Center (aka the Spokane children’s museum) on an outing covered completely by the Spokane County Library System. We checked out the Mobius family pass that provided free admission for a family of four, equating to a $40 value. I didn’t even need to step foot in the library to secure the pass. I simply went to the library’s website, selected the item, submitted my library card number, and was sent a bar code.

The Mobius Discovery Center is so freaking cool. It is full of countless many educational activities that will keep your children occupied for at the very least a couple of hours.

Mobius Discover Center is a children’s museum in downtown Spokane.

A few of Sloan’s favorite activities included using the excavator…

Being able to control a mini (but functional) excavator was a thrill for Sloan.

Blowing enormous bubbles…

Mobius has a bubble contraption that allows you to produce a large sheet of bubble solution.

Dressing up as an astronaut…

Sloan loved jumping into the space suit.

And doing all the various arts and crafts stations, including the construction of a “silly frog” hat…

Sloan gravitated toward the arts and crafts stations at Mobius Discovery Center.

We were given an afternoon of entertainment in an air-conditioned state-of-the-art children’s museum simply because we had a library card.

Speaking of library cards, this is my ancient library card issued to me as a little kid. If you look on the back, you will see my name. I only wrote the first letter of my name before my mom completed the rest of it because of my awful toddler penmanship.

I strongly recommend that you reach out to your local library to see what community entertainment options it might have in its possession. During these hot days, it might just be the answer to making some special (and affordable) summer memories. Don’t Blink.

A Major Reading Milestone for Sloan

This past Thursday, December 2, 2021, Sloan hit an impressive milestone. We read a book called “Oh No, Mr. Snowman.” It was a slightly bizarre Frosty-esque story about a snowman who would come to life and bust into the house of the kids who made him. When he would do this, objects within the house would freeze. The children eventually would tell the snowman not to come back anymore. A couple days later, just as the Christmas Eve celebration was about to take place, all the holiday food inside the house started to melt. Despite his prior ejection, the snowman knocks on the front door to save the day and the children enthusiastically allow him inside to salvage the food with his freezing cold presence.

What made “Oh No Mr. Snowman” so special? It was the 400th book Sloan read in 2021.

What’s the big deal, right? Just another silly children’s book. Well, there was something else at play when we finished that weird snowman’s tale. It marked the 400th book that Sloan read in 2021.

We have always read to our kids. My parents read to me every night when I was a child and I wanted to make sure to do the same with Sloan and Beau. However, our personal reading program accelerated earlier this year when something finally happened.

At the beginning of March, our libraries in Spokane opened again. No longer did we have to submit a limited online book order to pick up curbside from a librarian. Rather, we could finally roam the physical library and pull all the books off the shelves that we wanted.

The Spokane Valley Library is kind of like a second home for us.

You know how you don’t realize how much you miss something until it is gone? Not being able to visit the library during the pandemic hit us hard. So, when the doors finally opened we didn’t take it for granted. Whether we were visiting the Spokane Valley County Library near our house or the North Spokane County Library near my parents’ home, we were throwing books into our oversized tote bag like our lives depended on it. Each visit we would check out at least 20 titles and would be so motivated to get back to the library again that we would read through them all in less than two weeks.

Beau grabbing books from the shelves at the Spokane Valley Library.

That’s not to say we were breezing through the books at warp speed without comprehension. It just meant that we were reading multiple books every night. After we finished a story we would log the title in the notes app on my iPhone and Sloan would add a few emojis after it to further describe what the book was about. The structure did wonders for our nighttime routine.

A look at a portion of Sloan’s very long list of books she read this year.

With that said, Sloan is a 4-year-old and would have 4-year old moments during our “books and prayers” evening period. If her attention span seemed to be running low, we would remind her that if she couldn’t concentrate on the books it wouldn’t be possible for her to concentrate on the iPad during the coveted screen time we allow her. That would usually bring her focus back (it’s all about balance).

When you read 400 children’s books, you learn a lot. Sloan has been introduced to themes such as love, death, family, honesty, self care, friendship, hard work, preparation, sharing, diversity, and much more. She has been exposed to different cultures, holidays, family structures, and ways of thinking. She has picked up on different techniques of writing and admired different styles of art through some of the magnificently illustrated books we have read.

Frequent trips to the library means frequent photos with the tree growth chart in the Spokane Valley Library. Sloan has grown a lot over the past year.

Sidney and I have learned a lot too. Although the books are written at a children’s level, many of them have underlying themes that speak to adults. We will be reading to Sloan and trade glances when a line is read that went over our daughter’s head but made all too much sense to us.

Besides Sloan just snuggling up to me when I read to her, the best part about our 400-book odyssey has simply been talking to her when reading the books. I will ask her questions, challenge her to give predictions, and encourage her to describe the feelings of characters. Watching her mind work is so interesting and rewarding.

Feeling comfortable surrounded by books at the Spokane Valley Library.

Once 2022 hits, we will continue to read like maniacs. I have no doubt in my mind that we will continue to be #1 customers of the library and that we will surpass our 2021 book total. Perhaps it won’t be long until Sloan is reading to Beau. Don’t Blink.

Returning to Our Happy Place

Life is all about small victories and I feel like we notched one yesterday. Sid, Sloan, Beau, and I walked into the Spokane Valley Public Library for the first time since we moved to Washington. Our delay strolling through those doors wasn’t due to a reading aversion but, as you can probably guess, COVID-19. With our state graduating to Phase 2 in its re-opening plan, the Spokane County Library District found it appropriate enough to welcome back all the book worms.

We finally had the opportunity to go inside the Spokane Valley Library on Monday night.

Although we appreciated the curbside service offered for the past several months, there is nothing like pulling the books from the shelf yourself. I am not kidding you, Sloan and I were counting down the days until the library opened with the same anticipation that she is counting down the days until her birthday (minus the big countdown board). You see, the library is a special place for the two of us. We spent a lot of time playing and checking out books at our local Myrtle Beach library. With the shuttering of the libraries here in Spokane, it did feel like there was somewhat of a void. Call us crazy, but we would have taken the library before Chuck E. Cheese and the trampoline park opened (both of which swung open their doors before the library).

Sloan strolling the empty Spokane Valley Library on its opening day after being closed because of COVID-19.

Yesterday our family pulled up to the library for “opening day” at 5:35 p.m. Although it would close at 6 p.m., we made the most of our short time. Sid got her first ever non-South Carolina library card, Sloan found a “Corduroy” story, Beau pulled books from the bottom shelves, and I basked in the welcoming environment of a public library.

Beau grabbing books from the shelves at the Spokane Valley Library.

We had the whole place to ourselves. It was as if the red carpet was pulled out for our triumphant return to the library…up until the point that one of the librarians told us we had five minutes left before they had to kick us out.

The stack I started making of the books we were going to check out.

Like I said, we made good use of the short time we were inside those walls. We checked out 15 items, including a book just for Sid that allowed her to use her card for the first time. We raced home and after getting the kids ready for bed we read two of our new library books.

We ready “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” and “Corduroy Lost and Found” last night.

Thank goodness the library is back open. There will surely be numerous trips, most of them taking place on the weekend well before closing time, in the near future. Don’t Blink.