Before Giving Away Your Kids’ Books

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 8th, 2013

It happens to many families: children grow up, move out, go to college, and their parents are left trying to figure out what to do with all of their stuff, especially their books. Book sales come along, too, and families clear the shelves to donate the books their children no longer look at (or that they think the kids no longer look at). The teenaged kids may be too old to want to re-read their childhood favorites, and too young to be nostalgic about them yet, or think about saving those books for their own kids someday. And the parents just want to de-clutter their lives. But judging from the number of young adults (in their 20s and 30s) coming in to the store searching for long-lost treasures their parents threw away, those books might be worth hanging on to.

With e-books starting to take a bigger bite of the children’s market, and the economy the way it is, the print runs of physical books are likely to decline — which will make those family favorites even harder to find once the grandchildren arrive. Cheap buys aren’t always as easy to find at garage sales and online as they used to be, and hard-to-find books can cost a true fortune. It’s often not the ubiquitous classics that customers come in looking for, but the more obscure books, books that caught a child at exactly the right time for fascination. I remember my own lost-book cravings; as a twenty-something, I needed to get my hands on Harry and Wende Devlin’s Old Black Witch (now back in print from Purple House Press) and How Fletcher Was Hatched, and Remy Charlip’s Arm in Arm: A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia (which was recently back in print through, sniffle, Tricycle Press).

I recently heard about a great way to decide which books to keep and which to give away. One mom, a customer of ours, told me she throws a special “book day” every year when she goes through her three sons’ shelves to clear books for the library sale. Even though her sons are now 11, 14, and 15, they gather the books they’re going through into a big pile on a comfy rug, and go through them. They read all of the picture books aloud — which her sons LOVE doing; it’s sanctioned and justified cozy time — and reminisce about the chapter books. It’s pretty clear during that process which books are keepers and which can be sorted out of the mix without pangs. What a thoughtful mom, and what a fun afternoon!

Readers — which books do you wish your own parents had saved, and which of your child’s books will you keep?

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