The Sadler Family: Generations of loving the library


Lily, Ben and Noah Sadler are the youngest generation of a family who loves Virginia Beach Public Library.

Rob and Jennifer Sadler were struggling to decide what to give their oldest son, Ben, for his 9th birthday.

Another set of Legos this year? Or maybe something different. But what?

Well, Ben loves the library. And he went through the series of Harry Potter books like there was no tomorrow. He talks to the librarians about his favorite reading subjects. And he takes care of the books he checks out.

Would a library card be an OK birthday present? Ben's parents decided to give it a try.

"You're so responsible," Jennifer remembers telling Ben. "And the library is a big part of your life. We trust you to have your own library card."

Ben's eyes lit up.

 "This is all you needed to give me," he said. His parents had also bought him Legos that year, but the library card was his favorite gift. It was like giving him a key to a door that opens into a world of possibilities, his mom says.

Great Neck Library is an exciting place to be, the Sadlers say. You can find Ben, who is now 12, and his siblings Noah, 9, and Lily, 6, looking through the shelves, checking out books and taking part in activities like the Summer Reading Challenge.

A love of libraries runs deep in the family. Rob has childhood memories of helping his grandfather haul books to sell at library fundraisers. His grandparents Joe and Virginia Sadler were among many residents and community groups who helped open Virginia Beach's first library building in 1959. The couple extended their giving beyond their lifetimes by establishing an endowment through the Virginia Beach Library Foundation that supports early literacy programs.

The youngest Sadlers are carrying on the tradition. Ben, Noah and Lily pick out piles of books when they visit the library, and they regularly attended storytime activities when they were younger.

 "It was such a gift to come and have a free service where people are so genuinely excited to see the kids," says Jennifer, adding that, over time, she started wedging out a few minutes during family visits to look for books she was interested in checking out.

Ben participated in the library's Battle of the Books competition in fifth grade, and is part of a middle school team this year. Organized by Virginia Beach Public Library, the citywide competition tests reading skills in a game-show like contest with several rounds and prizes. Jennifer and another mom host study groups at their home. Preliminaries will take place during the winter.

As the children grow older, the library remains relevant, Rob says.

"As they age and get interested in new things, it's all here," he says. Staff members take the time to talk to the children and their parents about their interests, and find relevant materials in the collection.

"Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it gets everyone excited to learn and read," Rob says.


Pictured are Rob Sadler and his wife, Jennifer, and his father, George, at Great Neck Area Library.

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