We've always thought our son must have been born with a love of books. From the age of just one year, he would sit contentedly flipping through books for what felt like hours on end. At 18 months we would leave a board book or two in his crib for him to "read" himself to sleep. This habit continued to the present time where he now surrounds himself with at least 2 or 3. It is not unusual to find half of the contents of his bookshelves buried in his covers.
So it should come as no surprise that the library is one of his most favorite places to visit. We visit less often in the summer months than in the winter simply because we can't pass up the opportunity to be outside. But it doesn't stop his amazement at the prospect of "borrowing" books... enjoying them for awhile and then trading them in for more. And every trip involves a walk down the "truck book" aisle where we've probably checked out every single book on the subject at least two or three times (garbage trucks, fire trucks, diggers, dumpers, loaders, monster trucks... they've got it all.)
And this love for books has given me the greatest opportunity to teach him about caring for the things we enjoy. He knows what it means to destroy property, especially property that doesn't belong to us. There are consequences that come with ripping the pages... ultimately at least one night without the comfort of his page turning obsession. So when I found the remnants of a hardcover book about firetrucks I was deservedly upset. A small part of me felt like I had failed at getting through to him and I wondered why he would have done such a thing. The pieces of binding and torn pages were hidden beneath his bed while what remained of the book was shoved beneath the mattress. Evidence of a young boy who knew what he did was wrong.
I explained that the book didn't belong to us, a fact he already knew. The librarian would surely be sad and we would have to pay for her to buy a new one so that other kids could continue to enjoy it. And so we headed off to the library. I prepped him once, telling him that he needed to apologize and explain what he had done and we set off to face the consequences. As I stepped up to the counter I explained, rather ashamed, "we need to pay for this book... and this little guy has something to tell you..." I lifted him up to her level...
He made eye contact but spoke softly "I ripped this book and I'm very sorry..."
The look she gave instantly put me at peace. She smiled kindly and said "I hope that you're able to enjoy many more books here without ripping any more... how does that sound?" While she looked at me and whispered "we don't get that very often... so wonderfully said... good job" and she smiled again.
We paid $12 for the book and my job was done. Will he ever rip a library book again? I can only hope not. But as for a lesson, I think he truly learned...