“Building a Good Home Library,” Ensign, Apr. 1982, 63
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.