My family love books, and we read a lot of them. The kids and I used to check out 30-40 books at a time from our public library in Washington State. Ela and I commonly traded books with our friends. No Christmas or birthday was complete without new books.
When we decided to hit the road and live in Spanish speaking countries, I knew we'd need to provide books for ourselves and the kids. This is especially important to me because the kids are at a critical stage in their reading development. Not only do they need books, but they need books that are at just the right reading level for them.
I figured we'd spend a lot of money on Kindle books.
While we do spend money on Kindle books, this is a treat and a last resort. We've found several other sources for books.
1. Hostels and Community Centers - Many hostels and community centers, especially in towns with a large expat population, often have book exchanges. I've found several great books this way. If I knew we'd be staying in a hostel, I'd bring books I already read in hopes of exchanging several for ones I hadn't. Recently, I found a stack of magazines for me (with August 2015 dates!) and Ranger Rick magazines for the kids. Occasionally we'll find kids books at these places, but that's not the norm.
2. Used Book Stores - We've had decent luck finding used English books in small towns as well. Most of the books at these places are cheap at about $1-5 each and generally have a large variety. This is where I go for Christmas and birthdays. It's almost impossible to find new books, and if we do they have exorbitant prices.
3. The BIG WINNER --- Our US Public Library - Libraries aren't the same in Central America as they are in the US. If a library exists, you usually have to buy a membership to participate. The membership price for expats depends on how many books you'd like to check out and how often. This does not include transferring books from another library or putting them on hold electronically. These features simply do not exist. However, you can read the books for free as long as you stay at the library.
Ken recently downloaded the latest apps for using the King County Library System (our US based library) on Ela's Kindle and Tag's iPad. Theses apps are easy to use and give us access to thousands of electronic and audio books. Unfortunately, we're only allowed to check out 20 books at a time. This is actually a challenge for us and the kids are constantly returning books so that they can check-out one that they had on hold. It's definitely time to get each of the kids their own library card, but we probably can't do that until we visit Seattle.
The kids have also fallen in love with audio books. Ela is the sweetest big sister and always has an audio book ready for the kids to listen to in the car. Often she asks Tag to choose their next audio book.
Recently, Ken read Guardians of Ga'Hoole #1: The Capture to the kids. After they finished the book, Ela downloaded the audio version and Tag, over several nights, listened to the whole book again. Late one night, Ken thought he heard Tag listening to the same part over and over and over again. Sure enough, there's a poem near the end of the book and Tag kept hitting the "go back 30 seconds button". The poem said something about sending an evil out "straight to hell!" and Tag thought this was sooo funny.
Another time, Tag finished an audio book and heard all the "extra" information that was at the end of the book. "It told about the author and a website...'something'.com...where we can learn even more," he proudly told us several times.
We're absolutely thrilled to be able to use this resource. The kids navigate the app on their own and are constantly challenging themselves with new books. It's given them a lot of independence that all of us appreciate.
4. Amazon Kindle, eBooks, etc - When a book can't be found at the library, or the wait is too long, we buy it. It's nice to have this option.
While I love holding a book and turning the pages, this isn't as important to Ken or the kids. I always have a stack of books ready to read and Ken and the kids do too. I love that reading is a big a part of our lives, if not bigger, than when we left the States.