He looks innocent, right?
Who doesn’t love the sight of a child reading a book? I do. That’s why on Saturdays I take Philip to our local public library. The cheap skate in me loves it.
For the past year, we’ve checked out an assortment of children’s books each week, including one Curious George book. That monkey motivates Philip to read. When I would put the books on the counter to check out, Philip would grab the thin, yellow paperback before it could be scanned. Taking it from his hands I promised, “I’ll give it right back.” He liked to read it on the way to the car. His eagerness made the library staff smile.
I took to leaving the library bag leaning against the closet wall in our bedroom. We established a nightly routine in which, after bath, Philip would climb into bed beside his dad with a book. He would flip the pages, enjoying the sound and feel of the paper. He varied the speed for additional stimulation. He would the close the book and tap the back to signify he had come to the end. He might re-read the book several times before returning it to the bag. All was well with my little reader.
One Sunday morning in October as we were headed to the car, Philip ran into our room and grabbed a library book. I thought it was adorable he wanted to read that week’s Curious George book some more.
I don’t recall what errands we were running, but we had not even made our first stop when I heard the noise.
Philip had torn a page in the book.
The following Saturday I showed the damage to the librarian. She charged us for the book, but it was now ours to keep. I apologized.
“I don’t know what happened,” I admitted. “He’s been so good with the books.”
Now the proud, new owner of a used Curious George book, I checked out two other books. I put the bag in the bedroom as always, expecting to read with Philip at bedtime.
That afternoon, I discovered both books on the floor with their covers torn.
My heart sunk. Knowing Philip’s sensory-seeking need to rip pages, pick at loose ends, and gnaw on corners, I had checked out board books from libraries well past the age that most children outgrow them. To teach him book etiquette, I collected both board books and children’s paperbacks at used book sales. Once I observed Philip turning pages rather than tearing them, I started borrowing regular books from the library. At first, I only let Philip use them under supervision. When he showed that he could read without causing damage, I let him read his library books whenever he wanted. I thought we had library etiquette nailed.
I was wrong.
With embarrassment, I showed the remains of the two books to the librarian during our next visit.
“You know,” she said, “they make great board books and cloth books.”
I nodded silently and paid for the books. I haven’t checked out any since. I’m not depriving him. We have boxes and boxes of books at home to read, not counting the three damaged books that I’ve had to buy. But borrowing is on hold until Philip gets over his destructive tendencies. The public library, this cheap skate’s best friend, has become too expensive.