'Friends' with Books

August 2018

by katie jones backer | photos by Kristin Hartzler

“I don’t like this song! I’m so tired. Why do we have to go to school every day?” Those dreaded back-to-school questions and complaints will be here before we know it. Why not cut that negativity out with a fresh, new routine this year?

My daughter had the back-to-school blues BIG TIME last year. Just getting into the car was a hassle, until we discovered audiobooks. One day, while visiting the library, we found the Audiobook section. From that point on, our car trips changed DRASTICALLY! No longer did I have to endure the woeful complaints of an apprehensive student. The only recurring question became, “Can we listen to our story now?” It has been such a pleasant experience together, and one in which I think more parents could partake. Beyond a fun distraction, it’s also something positive that we can do together. We often sit and talk about the book afterward. By incorporating audiobooks into your routine, you can encourage a love of reading, and help your child expand their imagination by visualizing the characters and scenes from a faraway place, such as Green Gables or a magical hotel.

Our quest for Audiobooks led us not only to our beautiful library but also to the Friends of Billings Public Library sale. There, we discovered a fantastic organization whose sole purpose is to promote literacy. We wanted to learn more about this excellent group of Friends who shares in our love of books.

Clare Young, the President of Friends of Billings Public Library, shared about the non-profit and its generous contributions throughout the city. Clare explained how the organization receives money through book sales and membership fees. The Friends oversee the “Book Nook” in the library. (If you haven’t been, CHECK IT OUT! The donated books - most of them appear brand new - are sold for $2 or less. You can’t beat their prices!) The Friends also host a spring and fall book sale and have booths at various community events. THE SALES ARE AWESOME! Again, fantastic prices, and best of all, you can bring the whole family. From self-help to audiobooks, to history, fantasy, and children's books- there is something for everyone. By becoming a Friend (ex. $20 a year for an individual membership), you can attend their "member preview sale" before the public book sale. This is a no-brainer for the avid reader! You can be a member for the perks of the preview sale, or you can sign up to become a volunteer member. In doing so, you’ll make new friends while sharing books with others. The money earned from the Book Nook and yearly sales are then allocated toward "promoting literacy throughout the community and contributing to programs in the library.”

The Friends have given to “Reading Rocks,” “Books for Babies,” and donated books to elementary students in December. Your membership fee is essentially a tax-deductible donation to a local non-profit. According to Clare, the money “goes to all good things… without book donations, we wouldn't exist.” (The Friends would appreciate your donations. Visit their website http://www.friendsofbillingslibrary.org/ for more information).

Another of The Friends' amazing contributions was their purchase of 50 VOX (interactive audiobooks for kids) books for our library through their partnership with Lucky’s. Any tokens (worth a dime) that were donated by Billings shoppers were then matched by Lucky’s, totaling $1,100! Clare, always looking ahead, contacted the library to see what they needed, and that is how our library was able to attain the latest and greatest VOX books. These are a must-have for young readers! Your child can plug headphones directly into the book. No CDs, the book has a built-in speaker component (and is charged ahead of time at the library). Their collection even includes non-fiction. The library plans to add titles quarterly, so have no fear, your child could be happily reading to and from school for the entire year, allowing you to still listen to your favorite radio station. Cindy, the Children’s Librarian, highly praised The Friends and shared, “The Friends have been amazing. They go out of their way to support children’s literacy… like these books!”

Clare and her Friends do so much for our community, much of it behind the scenes. Ever humble, Clare concluded, “It’s wonderful that so many people still read. Its great to see parents come in with kids and pick out a good book. It makes it all worthwhile.” As you prepare for the new school year, visit the library, check out a VOX book or audiobook, and stop by the "Book Nook" to purchase from or donate to The Friends!

As Ernest Hemingway put it, "There is no friend as loyal as a book."

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s August 2018 issue.

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