What I Learned From Cleaning the Bookshelf in My Childhood Bedroom

I’ve been settled in my house for eight years now. I hardly expected a call from my dad, requesting my assistance in cleaning out my childhood bedroom. What could I have possibly missed after years of mysteriously unearthed boxes making their way to my home? “Just came across a few things that belong to you,” my mom would say occasionally throughout the years, with a mix of glee for clearing her space and sentimentality at passing along part of the past. My cabbage patch doll is safe under my roof. My piano recital program from 3rd grade proudly sits in a Rubbermaid container in the basement. Along with my 6th grade softball tshirt. (Wait, I played a sport? Ah yes, must keep record of those 2 months.)

And yet, last weekend I found myself armed with paper towels, a trash bag, and a cardboard box for “keepers.” The reason these items had remained in my old bedroom for so long was immediately clear: they are, of course, books.

Tossing aside books is not a task taken lightly by my parents. It pains them, in fact. The purpose of the project was actually to gain more shelf space for their own library, likely in hopes that I would transfer all of the children’s books they had saved from my childhood into my own house. Unfortunately for their hearts, that wasn’t the case. Librarians are trained to weed. And weed I did. Not without pangs of guilt, but with a dose of my librarian training and a dash of the KonMari method thrown in for good measure. I did, however, return home with a small box of redeemable treasures, and a heart full of lessons gleaned:

What I Learned From Cleaning the Bookshelf in My Childhood Bedroom

  1. My parents valued reading. They are voracious readers to this day. My mom wasn’t always so, but she caught the reading bug around my middle school years and it has held her fast for decades. My dad was always to my memory a book lover.  I have clear memories of calling my dad out of his reading, exercising great persistence to bring him back from the world of his book. Vacation packing always included the arduous task of narrowing down which books should make the cut. They modeled it, and they valued it. They saw it as the key to success in school and in life, and they made that clear. My childhood bookshelf contained many volumes dedicated to learning to read, reading well, how to excel at spelling, encouraging young writers, and a general thirst for learning about the world.
  2. My parents supported my varied interests. My childhood bookshelf shows time and money spent to support my hobbies and my whims. Sure, a classic or two found its way onto the shelf (The Secret Garden, Where the Sidewalk Ends), but moreover I found nonfiction books about crafts, drawing, magic tricks, geography, even television shows and movie adaptations. (I’m sure it was with great joy they purchased for me The Official Full House Scrapbook.) My parents didn’t squelch my interests, insisting on only the highest quality literature. They showed me that readers read what they are interested in.
  3. My grandparents supported reading. I found many books with inscriptions, “With all our love on your birthday, Grandmom & Grandpop,” and “Merry Christmas, 1988. Love, Grandmom & Grandpop.” I have memories of reading with grandparents from both sides of my family. Times spent on their laps with fairy tales and adventure stories were highlights of my growing up years.  At the time, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to me that we read together, but I am so grateful for that heritage! I now know how special that was!
  4. Most importantly, I learned that I want to be like the readers that came before me! I want to model for my two boys how much fun reading is, how important it is to be a lifelong learner, and the relationship that real readers have with books. I want to resist the urge to steer them to books I might prefer, and instead embrace their curiosity and support them as they explore different genres, writers, and topics. I want to watch them grow as readers, but not insist on it. Maybe they’ll become bibliophiles, and maybe they won’t. But, someday when they’re grown and we’re cleaning out their bookshelves (strangely unweeded, sentimentality showing its strong force), I want them to know they were loved, valued, and encouraged by their bookworm mama.

Here’s to leaving a legacy of literacy!  Keep Reading!


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4 thoughts on “What I Learned From Cleaning the Bookshelf in My Childhood Bedroom

  • Laura

    So on the flip side my parents were not big readers, maybe the English as a second language might have something to do with it. As I have grown I think I trained myself to pick up books and enjoy reading. Hoping that the girls will have a strong interest as well. What’s funny is my mom is “reading” more now than ever and when I say “reading” I mean audio books. LOL

    • Librarian in the House Post author

      That’s so interesting! When I was writing this post I was thinking about another facet of this, realizing that even through modeling my kids may NOT end up loving to read as adults. (I’ve seen it happen that way, too!) I think being a lifelong learner is HUGE.