At one time, I had a library of more than 6,000 books. Yes, you read that right - 6,000! I had so many that I opened it to local homeschool families as part of my homeschool consulting services. After my children graduated, I gave away and sold all but about 3,000 of them. Since then, I'm am slowly giving them to my daughter or one of my interns who is married and hoping to homeschool. I think I'm down to 2,000. smile

How did I collect so many?

I went to used book sales and library sales. I even volunteered at the library so I had first pick! We would take driving vacations where we would stop at every used book store along the way. Rarely did I buy a new book.

What do I look for?

I look for biographies that make learning about famous people fun for kids. I especially like Childhood of Famous Americans, Opal Wheeler biographies, and Rookie Readers Biographies.  

I look for classic literature published with interesting illustrations. Because much of the classical literature is written in vocabulary that is no longer used or difficult to understand, good illustrations help hold a child's attention. (I also keep a dictionary handy! Try reading Robinson Crusoe in it's original version and you'll see what I mean.) Much of the classical literature can be found free on Project Gutenberg website; however, it won't have the colorful illustrations. I go to bookstores for these. 

I look for science and history books that make learning history fun - again with color illustrations if I can find them.

So much of what is in bookstores is full of violence, sorcery, vampires, sexual overtones, and bad language. I rarely find anything suitable in local bookstores. I do my shopping for children's books in Christian bookstores (such as Christian Book Distributors) or used bookstores (both online and in local shops.)

I have a purpose for buying the book: Is it for my child to read on his own? Then I look for something that is below his or her normal reading level to make it fun and encourage reading. Is it to improve my child's reading skills? Then I look for something on or above reading level that we can read together. Do I want to inform or entertain my child? Then I buy a book that I will read to him or her. The vocabulary can be adult level because I can explain the words as we go along. This increases vocabulary.

Being a visual learning, I love books with pop-outs or inserts (like maps or diary entries) that you pull out and read. An example would be Lewis and Clark on the Trail of Discovery: An Interactive History with Removable Artifacts.

I collect books from reading lists such as the Literature Recommendations from The Checklist, the Newbery awards list, Caldecott awards list, as well as Easy Readers for Science and Easy Readers for History

I hope that will get you started!

Happy reading,

Cindy Downes