A Gift for Picking Books
Most of you know Carrie, the author of Heart of Dakota (HOD), is my amazing sister! Back from the time we were little girls, I always remember Carrie with a book in her hand. Oh, how she loved to read! In fact, she loved to read so much that from a very young age, she volunteered to help in our church library. I think this is where her gift for picking special living books first began.
Our church had an extensive library, and our church’s librarian took her role very seriously. Arietta Beyenhof kept a pristine, organized library. She also chose books for the library with the utmost care. She was quite a serious sort, with piercing eyes and a serene demeanor. I remember her with her hands clasped in front of her, talking quietly, listening intently, and choosing her words carefully.
Picking Books Carefully
Arietta was so good at picking books and keeping a well-stocked, tidy church library that families loved to donate funds to buy books. Our church library grew and grew. Each book had its own neatly created card in a card file, and while Arietta kept impeccable cards and card files, the children did not. Piles of cards had to be filed, books had to be re-shelved, and lost/misplaced cards had to be replaced. Late book notices had to be given, and children needed help properly checking out their books. The library had outgrown Arietta.
I remember Carrie offering to help Arietta. Arietta was not interested, at first. To be fair, Arietta’s library was precious to her, and she probably did not want to share it. However, as the library grew, Arietta decided Carrie could help with refiling the cards in the card file. Carrie was quite good at this. So good, in fact, that Arietta soon had Carrie doing many other tasks, like re-shelving books, creating cards for new books, and helping little children check out books. Carrie loved it all! What began as a hobby became an hour’s worth of work each Sunday, so much so that Arietta seemed to panic if Carrie was unable to help for a Sunday.
A Love of Picking Books
Arietta loved her library, but she loved picking books for her library more. Carrie shared this love of picking books, and Arietta began to value Carrie’s opinion. Arietta tried to read every book she put on the church’s shelves, but it became an impossible task. She’d often ask Carrie to read this or that new book, and tell her what she thought of it. Both Arietta and Carrie loved that church library, and when it came time for Carrie to go to college – quiet, serious, calm Arietta cried. She looked to me to be Carrie’s replacement, but I was no Carrie. Oh, I loved to read, and I loved to organize, but I did not love to pick books, and I believe Arietta missed that the most.
Working with Books
In college, Carrie worked at the Law Library. She kept long hours there, and all her tasks she completed for Arietta and our church library grew more serious. Still, Carrie enjoyed this job. She was still surrounded by books, often with her head in a book reading and studying during less busy times, which she loved. After graduating with her teaching degree, Carrie loved picking books for her classroom. During our master’s program, the two of us even organized a school library room for teachers, with sets of multiple books for children to use in small group reading. Carrie had such fun picking books, and I had such fun organizing and using them to teach!
Drawn into the Heart of Reading
When we decided to homeschool our own children, picking excellent books was of the utmost importance to Carrie. She was drawn to Charlotte Mason, and before I knew it, she had me reading her best ‘finds.’ I loved Catherine Levison’s books the best, but Carrie delved right into Charlotte Mason’s six volumes and enjoyed those as well.
Before long, Carrie was filling legal pads with ideas for how to create a reading program that could be used with any book. Carrie so loved picking books, and the thought that she could help others be able to do the same was novel. My oldest sister, Cindy (who also loves picking books and homeschooling), agreed. This WAS a novel idea! And one evening while we were visiting Cindy, she impromptu asked Carrie to share her idea with her women’s Bible study group (who were primarily homeschool moms). At the end of the sharing, a piece of paper was passed around for anyone who was interested in having Carrie’s plans to sign her name on the paper.
From this, Drawn into the Heart of Reading was born.
Still Loving Picking Books
Today, Carrie is still loving picking books. Twenty-plus years of picking books and writing guides has not dimmed her love for books. When I look back on the many years of Heart of Dakota, I always picture Carrie with books. Books in piles on the floor around her. Books on shelves filled from top to bottom. Mailmen arriving with new books. Mailmen picking up books that did not make the cut. Books on her bed late at night. Books on her lap as she read to her sons. I will always picture Carrie with books.
Books on Vacation
A few weeks ago, Carrie and I took our first vacation together alone since right before our Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That last vacation was eleven years ago. What was Carrie’s first idea for our vacation? Well, picking books, naturally. We always did that – picked out books together. We’d each buy a copy, and we’d read them together, discussing them as we read. Though we were late, we stopped at the bookstore and picked books. There weren’t many choices, as we needed two copies, but we did the best we could. Our vacation was short, and we only drove an hour and a half from home. We sat down on the little beach to read our books together, and nine chapters in, we stopped.
“This isn’t good, is it,” she said matter-of-factly.
“No, it is not,” I said.
“It’s a Christian book, but it’s going nowhere. There’s no one to love, is there?” she asked me.
“No, there is not,” I said.
“Hmmm,” she said. “Let’s just talk.”
And that is what we did. A book that is not good is not worth reading. Picking good books. It’s in her blood. It’s such a gift from the Lord. Thank you, God, for Carrie and for the love You instilled in her from a very young age for picking books. My sons and I thank You.