When There Are No Libraries

Mikayla reading

I have such wonderful memories of my parents reading to me as a child, and I wanted to pass on my love of reading to Mikayla. It certainly seems to be working! Mikayla loves to sit on our laps and be read to, and even likes to take out books on her own and look at the pictures. One challenge we’ve had in this process, though, is finding access to quality reading materials.

Books are quite expensive here in Nairobi, and there aren’t any libraries that offer children’s books. So every time someone comes to visit us from the States, one of the things they bring for Mikayla is books. We’re developing a pretty decent library, but we still get tired of the 30 or so books that we have. (We have some books on the iPad, too, but the reading experience just doesn’t seem as rich when Mikayla can’t turn the physical pages.)

Then one day I stumbled across a blog post from another American here in Nairobi. She and her friends started exchanging children’s books to get access to more reading material. I thought it was a great idea, so I started the same thing with five other moms in a play group of which I’m a part.

Snack time at our wonderful Baby Bible play group.

I thought I would share the idea here, too, in the hopes that it would benefit other moms!

Each mom chose five books to submit to the toddler book exchange. Then each mom got back a different set of books. We keep them for a month, then bring them back to rotate to the next mom. So every month we will get a new set of books, until we’ve rotated through everyone and then we can start again.

These are the books we received from the toddler book exchange this month. Mikayla's favorite is the shape book.

It’s gone really well so far — although we’re only in the first month of the exchange. I selected five books that Mikayla has loved at one point or another, but that she’s gotten tired of by now. I also chose books that were aimed at a little younger age than she is, because she is one of the oldest children taking part in the book exchange.

Maybe you have some other ideas about how to stretch toddler resources and materials further? I’d love to hear any ideas you have. One of the other moms in our groups suggested maybe doing a toy exchange after this. I’m not sure how that would work. If you have had any experience with that, I’d love to know!