Building a Good Home Library

At the rededication services for the St. George Temple in November 1975, President Spencer W. Kimball recalled the story of a mother who was saddened because her three sons had left home and gone to sea instead of preparing for further schooling and missions for the Church. Her bishop went to visit her, and upon entering her home immediately saw a large painting of a ship in full sail—the only piece of art in the living room.

“There is your reason,” he told the mother. “As your sons have grown up, you have told them every day through this painting of the romance and adventure of the sea. You have taught them well.” (See Ensign, Dec. 1972, p. 46.)

President Kimball then went on to suggest that if parents want their children to marry in the temple, they would do well to hang a picture of the temple in a prominent place in their homes. Such visual images have a direct impact; they help define what we believe in, and they become part of our intellectual and spiritual heritage.

In much the same way, our children can be influenced by the kinds of books and other reading material—or lack of them—in our homes. Children will generally be better readers if they see their parents read often, and they will have a greater interest in all categories of knowledge when their parents convey an abiding interest in wisdom out of “the best books.” (D&C 88:118.)

A home library can play a large part in this aspect of our spiritual and intellectual growth.

Most modern homes are not built with large libraries in mind. But all you really need to start a home library collection is a simple bookshelf, table, or cabinet in a frequently used area of the home where your books can be kept in order. If you add magazines and other materials such as a tape recorder and a projector with filmstrips, your home library can become a focus of family activity—a place where knowledge and entertainment are readily available.

What books should a home library have? Whatever best meets the family’s needs and desires.

For general reference, it’s always helpful to have a good dictionary, a world atlas, an almanac, and a desk encyclopedia if the budget can’t stretch to include one of the multi-volume sets. For scripture study and home evening resources, your list would include the standard works of the Church, an LDS hymnbook and children’s songbook, perhaps some scriptural concordances and other doctrinal reference books, manuals and study guides, and Church magazines. Tape recordings of lectures and home evenings would be a nice addition, as well as such resources as the Children’s Filmstrip Series. Some books are necessary for your employment; adding these to your home library shelves will acquaint children with the world of work.

And then there’s a whole world of good fiction and nonfiction books to choose from. One good idea is to have each member of the family make a list of the books they consider to be the “very best.” As you build your library, these could go on a special shelf side by side with family histories and other significant works. Children will see them and come to regard them as special family treasures. Indeed, children should be encouraged to choose books of their own for this special shelf and add to it as they grow and broaden their own interests.

Books cost money, of course. Nevertheless, the building of a well-chosen library need not be overly expensive. Many books in paperback binding are now of fine quality and durability at much lower cost than hardbound copies. Many cities also have book exchanges where you can trade or purchase used books at low prices. Book clubs, too, can offer savings through regular discounts, bonus plans, and even free books. Your community library will probably be a fine source of books to add to your shelves—on a temporary basis, of course. And often, getting a new book is simply a matter of having titles to suggest to gift-giving friends and relatives when special occasions come around, or giving books to family members instead of other gifts.

Your collection needn’t be extensive from the very first. The important thing is to get started, for the very activity of building a family library will make a lasting impression on children who are constantly discovering what things really matter in life. Large or small, your home library can contribute a great deal to the whole family’s spiritual and intellectual growth.

This article comes from material submitted by Keith M. Cottom, Associate Director of the Vanderbilt University Library, Nashville, Tennessee. He is a high councilor in the Franklin Tennessee Stake.

Teaching Your Little Sprouts

A family garden is a good way to help children learn responsibility, persistence, and the satisfaction of producing good things by their own labor. Younger children, however, are often ill prepared for the responsibility of a garden. They often have very little patience and do not understand all that is involved in gardening (planting, weeding, watering, etc.). What they need is something to spark their interest.

One exciting gardening activity that is easy for small children to participate in is sprout-growing. Sprouts give you quick results and yet require no sunlight, no soil, and practically no work—and that makes them ideal for busy mothers and young families.

One of the best kinds of seed for sprouting is mung beans. They can easily be sprouted in a large wide-mouth jar (preferably amber-colored to keep out light) covered with an old nylon stocking secured by a rubber band. In some countries, commercially produced sprout-growers are available at garden shops.

Just fill the jar half full of water and soak the seeds in it for about twelve hours. Then drain the water off and lay the jar on its side out of direct sunlight. (If you are using a jar made of untinted glass, keep it in a dark cupboard.) Let the children rinse the seeds and drain off the water two or three times a day for the next three to five days. Then open the jar, and voila! your own home-grown bean sprouts are ready to eat. One-quarter cup of seeds yields one or two cups of sprouts.

Bean sprouts are highly nutritious and delicious in salads and oriental dishes. The green sprout shells are edible and delicious but can be easily rinsed off if desired.

The speed with which bean sprouts become fully developed means that children receive almost instant gratification for their work, and the small amount of care they require makes them perfect for parents who want to teach children beginning gardening skills. Jackie Baclawski, Claremont, California

Keep Things Moving

“Julie, don’t kick the table.”

“Sit still, Aaron, or you’re not going to get any refreshments.”


Sound familiar?—the lesson in family home evening is on “Love at Home,” but you spend so much time trying to control the children that your real message becomes “Enjoyment of Family Home Evening—And How to Enforce it!”

The problem, of course, is the short attention span children have and their natural tendency to wiggle, fidget, kick, tap, poke, and otherwise release their abundant stores of energy. Even adults have this problem sometimes.

We could fight the problem and make our children pay attention; but if learning comes to mean nothing more than sitting still, they will soon learn to dislike learning—or at best, to merely endure it.

So instead of fighting it, why not turn the “problem” around and take advantage of it? If we and our children like to move around, let’s make moving part of the learning!

Run to the Answer.

When you have a true-false question period to check on how well a concept has been understood, put a “True” sign in one corner of the room and a “False” sign in the opposite corner. As soon as a question is asked, everyone can run to the answer they think is correct. Using “A,” “B,” and “C” signs in different corners, you can also ask multiple-choice questions.

Run and Touch.

New words (such as repent, mediator, or parable) need to be used over and over in various contexts before they are finally fixed clearly in a child’s vocabulary. When introducing a new word, repeatedly holding up a card with the word printed on it will work. But more fun—and more effective—is an activity that lets everyone get involved with letters of the word.

First, give each person a slip of paper with the word written on it. Then each one chooses or is assigned a room or section of the house as the “working area.” The idea is to go through the letters of the word in consecutive order, finding and touching an object beginning with each letter in the word. All objects must be found within the working area.

Little children who don’t quite understand words and alphabets can team up with someone older. For instance, dad and two-year-old Ann are a team. At the given signal, off they go to the kitchen to work on the word


“Okay, Annie, first in ‘Abinadi’ is ‘A.’ Let’s see, maybe there’s an apple for ‘A’ in the refrigerator. Hurry, hurry! Let’s touch the apple. Good! Now ‘B.’ What starts with ‘B.’ How about ’banana’?”

“Banana all gone. Ate it all for lunch.”

“Well, okay, let’s see … book! Annie, run and touch mommy’s cookbook!”

After running and touching their way through the word, each team returns to the starting point to report.

This activity works best and is more fun if you have a rule stating that actual objects and not just pictures of them must be touched. Also, no fair going to the encyclopedia and touching volume I for the “A” in “Assyria,” and so on.

Run and Grab.

When family home evening includes a narration of a personal experience or a story from the scriptures, little ones might listen more attentively if they’re anticipating an after-story race. Start with these instructions:

“Be thinking of something that is mentioned in the story. When I finish telling the story, I’ll say ‘Go!’ and everyone will run and find the thing in the story he thought of.”

After the story of the First Vision, for example, little Charlotte might run out to the yard and come back with a leaf. “He was out there by a lot of trees.” Ten-year-old Jim might smilingly bring forth a pair of his grass-stained pants from the hamper. “Well, he started by kneeling on the ground. …”

Taking inventory of the items everyone brings back is an excellent way to review the story.

This activity can really become fast-paced and frenzied when family members are asked to find as many things relating to the story as they can within a time limit. Again, teams might work better when there are younger children in the family.

Run and Find.

In this fast-paced variation of hide-and-seek, one person is chosen to run and hide following the narration of the story:

“Judd, you’re going to be Ammon. He was one of the people we heard about in the story. While we all close our eyes and count to twenty, you go hide in a place that reminds you of some place where Ammon was in the story. After we finish counting, we’ll try to find you. As soon as somebody finds you, he has to try to figure out why you chose the place where you are hiding.”

Even small children will catch on to Run-and-Find if older family members demonstrate.

Those most adroit movers in your family—the little ones—might soon start making up their own running and learning games. But if you’re already worn out from just reading about all this running, take heart. We’ve found that, yes, children do eventually tire of running play. In the meantime, though, more laughs get mixed in with the learning, senses are sharpened, and learning is remembered more fondly. Dianne Dibb Forbis, Rexburg, Idaho

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch