Becoming an (e)Reader

Second post in my Spring Book series. A Spring Reading list of children's books is first. Next up, Sew a Sweater for Your E-Reader.

I am a book lover. Not in the classic definition of a bibliophile - a person who not only loves books but also amasses a large collection. The frugal, simple living, libary loving, use-whatever-community-resource-is-at-your-disposal part of myself has made book buying physically painful for me in the past.

I love the crack of the spine when you open wide a brand new book. I love the smell of paper. I love handmade bookmarks (or recycled envelopes - whatever is handy) tucked in the pages, calling you back. I love making notes in the margin of a favorite reference or inspirational book. Claiming the words as my own.

We've never had a large family library because it doesn't quite jive with our small space living ethic. Yes you can live in small spaces with lots of books, but not lots of books, three kids with lots of creative projects, a cat, and a bunch of outdoor gear. Something's gotta give.

I can count on one hand the hardcopy adult fiction books I own. My Pengiun Classics publication of Anna Karenina I read in my last year of university being one of those. Which I see is available for free on my Kindle. Another book out the door. 

We do own a sufficient, but modest, amount of children's reference and chapter books that I have bought over the years, almost all at discount sales and in used bookstores. 

At any given moment someone in our house has their nose in a book or has headphones on listening to a story. Books are very much a part of our everyday living.

But buying books, even used ones, has not been my norm. For my whole adult life I have been a library user. And since having toddlers, then preschoolers and then school aged children, a heavy library user.

I think there's something to the saying that all you really need to homeschool is love and library card. That is, if you have access to a good library. (If you are one of those lucky ones with good library service in your life - do the happy dance!)

This winter I wrote about my library and book borrowing woes. Two little paragraphs couched in a post that ignited a hailstorm of commenting activity. That flurry of activity prompted me to do further research into our book lending options here and when the dust settled the situation had not improved much.

As it stands we live in a French speaking province (yay for living in another culture), in a beautiful, affordable location (yay for the outdoors) that allows us the freedom to live the life we want (yay for creating the life we want) with a few caveats. One of those being that hardcopy English books, to borrow and return, are hard to obtain. Whether it's the local libary, interlibrary loan or through any other lending service you might imagine. Paperback swap doesn't work in Canada, there is no English bookmobile or other inexpensive mail order services available to me.

Discouraging? A bit. But we live in a different world than the one I grew up in, where the only place to get books was the local bookstore or the library. Heck, we live in a different world than the one my children were born into just one decade ago.

Baby, we live in the information age. And the same thing that allows us to work and live in this beautiful region, allows us to access books - digitally.

Thankfully our personal library and the English selection at the local libary is sufficient for the youngest readers in our house. Call me old fashioned but I want my elementary-aged kids reading real books.

{An aside about Laurent with his iPod. The way Laurent is wired has made learning to read a difficult and slow process for him, unlike his sisters who have learned to read with little difficulty. Though Brienne is taking a longer time to become a confident reader than Celine did. Each child is so unique.

Laurent's reading struggles are deeper and more difficult than I first thought. And because we are working through it and I am wary of labels I haven't blogged about it much. It is a slow and steady progress (yay!) for Laurent and the blessing is that he still loves reading, loves books and feels great about who he is and his gifts and talents. I can't say the same would be true if he was in school. The reality for a boy like him - intelligent, kind, intuitive and artistic - in a public school makes me shudder.

While Laurent's reading level comes up to his "intellectual" level he uses an iPod to listen to those books that are beyond his reading level. This is a great tool and I'm so happy for audio books.}

Celine's reading needs are insatiable and my own (I have less time than Celine does for reading) are simply not met with our small personal library, the village "book room" (a small space in the town hall where people swap books every Wednesday afternoon) or the scant hardcopy library service in the nearby town.

We bought a Kindle for Celine when she was eleven (she's now almost thirteen). The girl always has to have a book on the go, even in the woods. But taking books in your pack is unneccesarily heavy so we bought an e-reader. Celine can now take up to 1,000 books with her on backpacking trips. She's set.

We also bought the Kindle for Celine because we knew were moving to a French speaking province and we weren't sure about the library service. But we knew with an e-reader and the explosion of books available online we could figure something out.

We just had to think out of the box, get creative.

I wasn't ready to commit to an e-reader till I felt I had exhausted my local hardcopy options. I reached that point this winter and I bought my Kindle. I live in Canada but I prefer an Kindle - it's complicated, kind of like our life.

Hardcopy books remain my first love but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

So now I'm a proud Kindle owner and user.

Celine and I use our Kindles for a lot of different reading.

  • Free oldies. There are so many books in the public domain and I'm amazed at some of the stuff Celine is reading - it's opened a whole new world to her. It's not always easy, but when our usual channels (of least resistance) are closed to us it often opens up new paths we would have never considered taking. This has happened with discovering and reading classics Celine wouldn't have taken the time to read before, with so much else available to her. The same goes for me. Project Gutenberg is our favorite place to find these titles.
  • Short e-books. Like the kind I wrote and other self-help/seize the day/live your dreams (I don't know how to categorize this type of non-fiction.) Some of these are available for free on people's blog or even at Amazon. Otherwise, most of these are fairly inexpensive, and why shouldn't they be, it's not like there's printing and shipping costs.
  • PDF's. I don't particularly like using my Kindle to read PDF's - not too easy on the eyes. But I do have my shawl pattern in here and some e-books in PDF form.
  • "Regular" book in e-format. These are the books we used to borrow hardcopy at the library. For me this includes mostly non-fiction (cookbooks are my least favorite e-book since I like to make notes and I find electronic note making to be awkward) and of course fiction. Celine reads both fiction and non-fiction e-books also. Some of these are available for free as deals (though you often get what you pay for), some are available through library services that we are able to access out of province (there is no English e-book selection through our library system), and the rest we buy.

I am willing to buy certain hardcopy reference books. I make semi-regular online book orders (my next purchase will include this book on mentoring). But the rest of my reading now is on the Kindle.

our digital "book" drawer

Celine definitely misses unlimited library lending but I know also she's read a lot more classics now that she wouldn't have otherwise read. And these in turn have opened up her world in new and unexpected ways. And with our desire to not accumulate and always need more living space and our intentions to spend greater chunks of time in the outdoors (and not carry books on our backs) e-readers work for us.

I also miss excellent library service and the stacks of books I could access but what it comes down to for me is being creative with our resources.

Recognizing what our values are (lifelong learning) and using the tools at our disposal (the internet and e-readers) to make it work. We call it creative living.

Now I need your help.

  • Have you read a good book lately that you enjoyed so much you would recommend I buy it? This is tricky since everyone's tastes are so different. I do screen all recommendations by reading Amazon reviews and such. To get a taste of what I like you can see my Goodreads profile.
  • What's your favorite source for finding quality e-books? Links to sites with free resources especially appreciated.


I have a couple more bookworm posts coming. A crafty one (sew a sweater for your e-reader) and my personal spring reading list. Hope you're ready to talk books for a bit longer (smile).

If there is enough interest I might make some time to write and publish about how we have a homeschool library in a small space, including the kind of books we own for our children. Please comment if you are interested in something like that. 

Part of Series

Resource Library

« Sugaring! (& a Spring Reading List)
Sew a Sweater for Your E-Reader ~ 3 Easy Designs »
  • Its_Lily

    Its_Lily on March 29, 2012, 1:46 p.m.

    I just finished Hemingway's "Green Hills of Africa". Wow! It's my first time reading Hemingway (what?), but now I want to immediately read the book again because of his style of writing. There were single lines and some paragraphs of this book that I kept rereading to try to absorb the way he writes. Beautiful, and brilliant. How is he able to make you see and feel a place without resorting to streams of adjectives?


  • Michelle

    Michelle on March 29, 2012, 1:48 p.m.

    I would be interested in hearing which books you choose for your children to read. I mostly choose classics to read aloud to Athena because some of the new stuff (Junie B Jones type books) is just a bunch of junk. I figure if I want her to know good writing and be able to write well she will have to hear and read good writing. Period.


  • Amanda

    Amanda on March 29, 2012, 1:48 p.m.

    Definitely interested in a homeschool library post! I am always negotiating the line between owning books and getting them from the library. I don't own a kindle but I like listening to audio books - makes it so I don't have to choose between reading and knitting sometimes! Of course it makes long trips in the car so much more fun! But there is something about an e-reader that makes me squirm. Just need the feel of pages to turn, I guess.

    PS this particular captcha is very...odd!


  • JenP

    JenP on March 29, 2012, 2:02 p.m.

    I would LOVE to hear more about what books you think are worthy of investing in for homeschool. We have inherited quite a few educational books from a former teacher who was moving. But when it comes to purchasing books I want to be sure they are worth the money and the space they take up. We are lucky to have a great library service, so I feel like I can be pretty selective about books that I buy. Thanks for all the great info!


  • Constance

    Constance on March 29, 2012, 2:10 p.m.

    I would also love to hear what is in your homeschool library and anything else you'd like to share about your homeschool! It's always great to know what other homeschooling families are reading and doing, but especially a family like yours whose lifestyle I admire. Thanks! Love the little sweaters, btw. Makes me sorry that I already have a cover for my ip*d!


  • Kristi

    Kristi on March 29, 2012, 2:11 p.m.

    Books are very much a part of our everyday living as well. I see from your pics that we have some of the same books on our shelves. We collect books however. My husband has many theological books, and I still have books from my childhood. We purchased an e-reader last year, and my husband and daughter love it. I am still a hard copy person, though.

    As our daughter has grown, we're always looking for good literature. Love that an e-reader allows us access to great classics, and we have an excellent library. I agree with Michelle that a lot of the newer books are not well written, and in our opinion, have objectionable elements in them.

    I look forward to more posts on the books!


  • Ellen

    Ellen on March 29, 2012, 3:22 p.m.

    I am new to the e-book lifestyle, but am enjoying it! Silent Tears is the book I just finished (I read a lot of books on China and adoption and am working on my own e-book!)

    I loved this post, Renee, because I am hemming and hawing over a kindle (I read on my iPhone- oh my eyes!) we are lucky to have a great library service here. Any plans to learn French? That would open up your world of reading. I took French in high school and while I'm not fluent or anything, I can read, some. Les miserables was our senior year read!

    I love bookworm posts!



    • Karen

      Karen on March 30, 2012, 12:27 p.m.

      I also enjoy reading about China: travel stories, those written by immigrant Chinese authors, adoption stories (Silent Tears opened my eyes....). I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated by this country - I don't have any strong desire to go there myself - but of any one country I've read about, China is it.


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

      Plans to learn French. Yes. Starting with conversational/speaking. My lessons start next month. It will take me some time to be good at reading it. I also took French in High school. Bits and pieces come back to me. 


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on March 29, 2012, 4:28 p.m.

    I love ebooks only because they help me to not accumulate books on my shelves. But, I don't prefer reading from my ereader (iPad with Kindle app). It doesn't have much to do with anything aside from the fact that I would rather read print on paper. After a while, my eyes do get tired looking at a screen (regardless of how the brightness/etc. is set).

    One thought has crossed my mind. I may be paranoid (I'm not afraid of technology, just question what we don't know). Have you thought about the effects of holding an ereader on your lap for extended periods of time? For me, since I have the iPad, I wonder about the wifi connection (not sure if you have the Kindle with internet access) and also the battery. Sure, I can put it on airplane mode, but it's not often that I think of it... Don't know if my fear is real. I'm not a techie person, or a scientist for that matter, so I can't say I really know how these electronic devices may or may not affect our bodies.


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:32 p.m.

      I only use my e-reader for maybe one hour each day. Celine much more but she almost always reads at the table, with it sitting on the table. No, I haven't thought about the effects of it for extended periods of time. We don't use the wifi all the time on the Kindle, only for uploading books.


  • Johanna

    Johanna on March 29, 2012, 5:28 p.m.

    I am looking forward to all your book posts. I love reading, and was just recently given a Kindle Fire. Honestly, I think I would prefer a Kindle Touch, but a gift is a gift, so I am happy. :)

    I am frustrated with our current library. It is not horrible, but compared to where we recently moved from, they do not have nearly as much available and when you reserve things it takes forever for them to become available.

    As aside note (maybe I should be emailing?) are you all bilingual? Curious, because I am raising my children to be French/English bilingual. I am finding it extremely hard in our very monolingual society! (I hope I will e notified of a reply to the comment!)


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:34 p.m.

      Damien is, mostly. I am not. It's a long complicated story how we ended up in a French speaking province but grew up in western Canada. Some day I'll tell it.


  • Amy K

    Amy K on March 29, 2012, 5:48 p.m.

    Reading and discussing books so inspires me. Keep it coming! :) As far as recommendations, here are a couple of books I think you might enjoy: (oh and I've snooped around on your goodreads page plenty--we have read and loved many of the same books!)

    The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. I would be surprised if you haven't read/heard of this already. This book is for anybody who treasures words and feels reverently about the act of writing.

    Dances With Wolves by Michael Blake. Fiction (and yes, the movie was based on it). It's a short book, but is utterly beautiful in its simplicity. I find it almost poetic at times. It helps to feel a bit romantic about the American west, but I don't think it is necessary.

    Seabisuit. Nonfiction. Laura Hillenbrand. The extent of my involvement with horses is having fed a few of them grass from the other side of their fence. So, you definitely don't have to be a horse nut to be blown away by this book. This lady can WRITE. I can't name one other non-fiction book about a topic I had little interest in that I literally could not put down by the end of it. I talked my skeptical husband into reading it and he stayed up until 1 am finishing it one night. Yes, he admitted to tearing up too. Hillenbrand's writing is just amazing.

    Writing to Change the World. Mary Pipher. She's a therapist and author whose primary interest is the impact of culture on families. I first read one of her books when I was in college and it had a profound impact on me. I recommended this specific title to you because I feel a bit as if I "know" you (isn't the internet amazing, but weird in that sense?)

    Sorry the book titles aren't italicized. I don't how to make that happen in a comment box. :)

    Also--I am enjoying your ebook. I also "liked it" on my pinterest page. I was glad to make this very small gesture of thanks for the thoughtful and beautiful work you do here. Best to you and yours!!!!


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:35 p.m.

      Can you  believe I haven't read any Julia Cameron yet? PS. Thank you for all the titles. I so appreciate it.


    • Jessica

      Jessica on April 2, 2012, 12:59 a.m.

      Unbroken by Hillenbrand is also amazing. Got it for my father for Christmas and he is loving it also. The story of Louis Zamprini, olympic runner, and POW.


  • Amy K

    Amy K on March 29, 2012, 6:10 p.m.

    totally unrelated to books, but I thought your family might be as enthralled with this 24 hr. live eagle nest camera as ours is:

    Two eaglets hatched in the last two days and there is still a third egg. Be sure to check out the "recent highlights" at the very bottom of the page too.


  • sara

    sara on March 29, 2012, 7:13 p.m.

    I didn't think I would be a big digital book fan, but I am really loving my kindle fire which was purchased a couple of months ago! The book you mentioned on mentoring looks really good, but I would probably get it for my kindle instead of the hard copy. :) The sweater cases are cute and resourceful! Two books that I have read recently that I would buy are non fiction. One is the body ecology diet by donna gates which has come across my path several times, but I finally found it at my library and read it and bought it.
    I also was required to read the book Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson for my Holy Yoga training. It is about how the words of the Bible are living and breathing and how we can read it in a new way to enter into realtionship and dialogue with God. That is an uneloquent summary at best. I am going to read it for a second time though, so I guess I thought it was good! Oh, another really interesting and fast read was Kisses for Katie. I highly recommend that one! I would love to see a post on your homeschool library! Another thing I would love to hear about, non book related, is how you keep your craft supplies at a healthy minimum and how you store them for easy use in a small space.


  • Jen@anothergranolamom

    Jen@anothergranolamom on March 29, 2012, 7:43 p.m.

    I find myself reading more and more on e-readers. I own a Nook, and have recently downloaded several "deals" for Kindle onto my Iphone to read with a Kindle app. I prefer hard-copy, but sometimes that is just not possible. Recommendations from my recent reading: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (free from Kindle) by Arnold Bennett How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer (inexpensive from Kindle) The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson (in my opinion a must read for everyone, but especially home schoolers) Daddy Longlegs and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

    I love to read. Isn't it wonderful to live in a world where we never have to do without a good book?


  • Tonya

    Tonya on March 29, 2012, 8:14 p.m.

    Oh, books are such a love of mine as well - we don't have high speed yet, so do not have any kind of ereader but although I was so opposed to it at first - come on no book to hold in my hands with pages to turn - I am starting to realize there are some benefits such as not taking up space and gentler on the earth. I would love to hear your list of homeschool must haves. One area I have not been good on is reading many of the books my children are asked to read or choose to read. Generally, I just check out the reviews.


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:45 p.m.

      I don't read them either. I trust a few other sources (booklists) and raise them (my kids that is) to be mindful readers - to ask questions themselves. There is simply no way I could review everything Celine reads. Though right now she's reading Emily Post and I feel ok about that!


  • Kathleen

    Kathleen on March 29, 2012, 8:21 p.m.

    We do not have an e-reader yet but I've been contemplating getting one for e-books and for traveling. I noticed you have a few different kindle versions. Do you have a preference? One with a keyboard or not? Would love your feedback!


    • renee

      renee on March 30, 2012, 9:47 p.m.

      The Kindle keyboard was the best option available for our needs when we got Celine's. The Kindle touch was the best option (in terms of price and features I need) when I bought mine. Those were the decided factors. I do love my Kindle touch but am comfortable on Celine's also and used hers before I got my own. When we started to fight for the Kindle I knew I needed my own e-reader. 


  • Stephanie

    Stephanie on March 29, 2012, 9:07 p.m.

    I think I commented yesterday on one of your posts, but I just have to pop back in to THANK YOU for writing. I found your letter to moms of littles and it just about made me cry in a good way. Most homeschool blogs make me cry but not in a good way. Most of them, Christian homeschool blogs particularly, seem to lay such heavy burdens on mothers to do so much, to copy institutional school, to raise little geniuses, and it is overwhelming to read. Maybe they intend to encourage, but mostly I just come away heavy hearted. I have been reading pages and pages of your blog during this (rather tough) week and I feel so refreshed and uplifted. The combination of Christian and relaxed (which is where I find myself going more and more in our homeschool) seems unusual. I know like all of us mamas, you are busy--so it means a lot that you take time out of your days to write for us. You've gained a new dedicated fan. :)


  • Melissa

    Melissa on March 30, 2012, 3:38 a.m.

    There is an app/service called 'audiobooks'....all read by volunteers...they have content that would suit both kids and adults. Not what you were asking for, but it us a good resource to explore if you haven't come across it before.


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on March 30, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

    Books are such a good topic to write about. I love having you as a Goodreads friend - I've gotten so many good suggestions from your list.

    I would love to read a post about your homeschool library. Because we have such a great library system, I've stopped buying books like I used to.

    I go back and forth with wanting an e-reader. The times I find myself wanting on most are when we are traveling or hiking.


  • Barb Martin

    Barb Martin on March 31, 2012, 11:29 a.m.

    I would be so interested in your book list for homeschooling. We are just getting started on our homeschooling journey and I am not a strong reader. I would so appreciate valuable recommendations.


  • Heidi

    Heidi on April 1, 2012, 11:31 a.m.

    Yes, please!

    I would love to hear about having a homeschool library in a small space. We are just beginning our homeschool journey and, because we are in the military, both our dedicated homeschool space and our library access are going to be changing several times. The bibliophile in me loves the thought of buying oodles of books but the thought of packing and unpacking all of them repeatedly is rather less appealing.


  • Kim

    Kim on April 3, 2012, 5:10 a.m.

    I love my Kindle too. There's a web site/blog called Jungle deals and steals that lists the free Amazon deals every day. I download 3-4 books a day from here and have never paid for a book. However, I'm not as picky about writing style and quality - only about the moral quality.


  • Mel

    Mel on April 3, 2012, 2:46 p.m.

    I'd like to hear about homeschooling in a small space. And if you have a genius idea for organizing and managing Lego, I'd love to hear that, too ;)

    I became a big fan of e-readers when my boys were babies. It was so much easier to hold my Nook with one hand and a nursing baby with another. And when we were on an airplane, I could hold a sleeping baby and read...and I never lost my place. Plus, I do like having less stuff around. Like you, our library is not very comprehensive. It is in English, but there isn't a ton there,


  • Nicole

    Nicole on April 10, 2012, 4:34 a.m.

    Yep, I'd love to hear about the homeschooling with a small space as well.

    As for the ereaders, I just acquired an older nook from a friend. I'm an amazon prime member so I am wondering if Kindle would be a better option for me, but the Nook was free, so I'm going with it for now. I read the Hunger Games trilogy on it and I must say the ereader won me over, which I was not expecting! I'm a book-lover, too so I was surprised how much I like it. :)


  • k w

    k w on April 15, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

    Many libraries now "lend" Kindle books. If you still belong to your library in Maine, it might be worth seeing whether you could borrow English-language e-books through its website.


    • renee

      renee on April 15, 2012, 11:35 a.m.

      Yes! This is something we are now looking into. I have been researching the e-holdings of various libraries trying to consider where to buy a non-resident membership so as to access the books. The internet is a wonderful tool.


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