Take Your Kids To the Library
I'll never forget when my oldest was about 5 years old, and her sister was barely toddling. We were at the park, and I'd struck up a conversation with another parent, as parents will do as their children play. The little one was fussy, so I kept rocking with her.
I don't remember what preceded the comment. But I somewhat innocently mentioned the library. The look of shock, confusion, and horror that crossed the other mom's face is what seared the moment into my memory.
"You take them to the library?" Other parents looked over as I made some sound of assent.
"But, but, but she's too young," the other mother spluttered.
"What do you do with the baby," another piped up, gesturing to the whining bundle on my hip.
"I take her with me," I shrugged. It had never occurred to me that this might possibly be a matter of contention. After all, there are story times at the library. There's a huge children's section. Going to the library was the highlight of our week. Sometimes we made two or three trips. The looks I was getting at this point made it clear that at that moment, library going children were not a majority on that playground.
What followed was a host of arguments against children at the library.
She's Too Young!
What exactly is too young for the library? I raised two kids. One was very active, a little loud and incurably inquisitive.
She quickly learned which behaviors were appropriate at the library, and we only had to leave a stack of promising books behind once. She didn't want that to happen again. Books are magical for kids. There are shelves and shelves of picture books, beautiful illustrations coupled with magical stories. There are empty pots that fill with spaghetti, and empty pots that elevate peasants to emperors. There are talking mice, and . There are fairy tales, and legends, and facts about every animal a child can imagine. dirty dogs
There are board books for babies to play with, and picture books for toddlers to page through, and leveled readers for those learning to read. There are chapter books for all abilities, on any subject you can imagine. How young is really too young to appreciate a board book?
What's So Great About Library Services?
Libraries offer much more than a few measly bookcases full of books. They have librarians who are knowledgeable about their collection, and who can help you select appropriate books for your kids. There are often quiet play areas for younger kids. There are storytime. And just a few more offerings are listed below...
- Educational Programs for kids: There are often lego contests, science presentations, and children's opera samplings offered. There are also story times and rhymes for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Programs for adults: Many libraries offer free tax preparation workshops, free financial planning services, and free health seminars as well as parenting classes and lectures.
- Online research: For the price of a library card (Ahem, FREE), many libraries allow you access to a variety of online databases that normally charge for searches. Some need to be accessed by library computers, but others are available through the library website from any home computer. (Or coffee shop wifi) All you need to do is enter your library card number.
- Movies: Libraries are a source of information and pop culture media. That includes movies. Many libraries offer current DVDs for patrons to borrow. Some may offer blue ray disks as well.
- Music: Likewise, many libraries offer a collection of classical to rap to pop selections of CDs. Individuals can try them out before buying. Or just explore a few new genres.
- Audio books: Going on a long drive? Or just looking for someone other than you to read your kids to sleep? Your local library has books on CD. Or even MP3.
- Digital downloads: Libraries are jumping on the ereader bandwagon. You can download your reading assignment at midnight, for free, as long as it's available. Downloads cost nothing and will degrade after a specific timeframe. So there are no late fees. Bonus!
- Workshops: Many libraries offer computer training and job skill workshops.
- Genealogy: There's an increased interest in genealogy research. Many libraries offer not only resources for tracking down your ancestors, but actual geneaologists who can teach you how to use those resources efficiently.
- Computers: Kids and grown ups often need to use computers and the internet to complete assignments. The library often has public access computers for \internet access and for word processing use. Printing may cost a minimal fee for materials. Most libraries also offer free wi fi, for your enabled devices.
- Quiet: This may be the most beneficial offering of your local library. A nice, quiet place to sit and reflect. For free. And maybe a muffin or cup of coffee, at a minimal cost, if your local library is one of the many that include a small cafe.
When Did She Ask? My Child Never Asked to go to the Library!
Why wait for children to ask? Kids ask to go places they've been before. They want to go places they hear about. Unless your child watches Clifford, the Big Red Dog (the tag line of the credits states "Be the Best Read Dog...") or Reading Rainbow religiously, they may not even think about the library for an outing. And even if they do hear about it on TV, it's not presented as stunningly as Disneyland and Chuck E Cheese. For all kids know, the local library is as hard to get to as Disneyland.
Unless you bring them there to begin with. Introduce them while they're young, and they won't know it's an optional place. They won't know they aren't 'supposed' to want to go there. They won't know reading is a chore. To them, the library will be the place they go for storytime. The place they get to choose as many books as they want, and keep them for a whole week.
Once kids are acquainted with their local library, they'll want to go. But they can't ask to be taken someplace they've never been.
It's Too Expensive!
We have a neighbor child who tells us this alot. "My mom never goes to the library," she tells us, "She said she's not rich like you." This statement never fails to make me laugh. The library isn't for the rich. It's for the masses. It's a way to access information for any economical situation.
The library is generally free. It's funded by tax dollars. It's filled with books that cost nothing to borrow. Even if you do need to pay for a library card (as some jurisdictions have resorted to, I hear), once you are a member of your library, the materials you use are free. And there are a myriad of resources available through your public library.
The only costs associated with using the library are late fees. I'll admit, those can add up. (especially if you lose a book!) But, with online access to your library account, and the ability to renew items for a limited timeframe, high late fees are becoming a thing of the past. In order to keep our library books manageable, I always put a cap on the number of books each child could choose every week. If we made more than one trip in a week, we couldn't get more than we returned. (I broke this rule a lot, but it's a good theory to work with.) The best way to avoid late fees quickly revealed itself as a routine. Once we made a specific day our library day, and went weekly, we weren't likely to rack up late fees. We knew that our books were due back by Tuesday. If one got forgotten, it came back the next week. Routines can be your friend.
We have lost a few library books, and there was one that didn't survive a juice disaster. But paying for those lost and damaged items, while expensive for a book, doesn't come close to what it would have cost to actually purchase the stacks of books we've come home with weekly over the years. There's no way I could afford to satiate my kids thirst for books. Or my own. The library is free entertainment, a free venue, and it offers free activities that keep kids interested in going, even when they hit a reading rut.
What's so expensive about free?
I Don't Have Time For the Library!
You schedule time into your day for eating. For going to the playground. For baths and dinner and school performances. You schedule time into your weeks for doctors appointments. You might even schedule a time to hit the gym.
The library isn't something you resort to in your spare time. If you have kids, you need to set a schedule. Maybe make it coincide with story hour or the day that most presentations take place. You don't have to attend every week (you might skip a week for a major stormfront coming through, or a case of the sniffles) but if you have that time set aside for the library you are telling your kids, and yourself, that the public library and literacy are important to you.
The library may be a great place to hang out in summer when it's hot and you need an air conditioned hang out, but it doesn't have to be a place you spend hours at. Schedule a half hour a week to drop off books and find new ones. You won't regret it.
What's the Point, Though?
What's the point of taking kids to the library? I almost don't know how to answer that question, though it's been asked of me more than once.
Kids who go to the library learn that reading is important. When parents schedule an hour into their day, or week, to stop by the public library and peruse books they are demonstrating that they value reading. They value knowledge. Kids absorb those values.
Kids who go to the library are exposed to a variety of books and resources. They learn how to research (even if what they originally practice on are what order the Junie B Jones books go in, they'll later put those skills to use in book reports and president reports and science projects) Kids who use the library learn to respect the library. They learn how to act appropriately in a quiet setting. They learn how to be quiet and sit and enjoy a book. Even if it's just for 5 minutes.
Kids who go to the library want to read their library books. Pre readers need those books read out loud, so going to the library provides an opportunity to read new exciting picture books together. And kids who are read to, and exposed to a variety of books early on, tend to be earlier readers and to read more fluently as they mature. In short, kids who use the library become readers.
Library time is an affordable way to spend quality time with kids. It reinforces the values of education and literacy. Library time and reading together can become cherished rituals your kids (and you) don't want to give up...and you don't have to. We've been using our library for over 10 years. My signature has worn off of the library card from being pulled out so frequently. And one of my favorite memories is when my now nearly 10 year old turned four, and all she wanted for her birthday was a library card.
Do Kids Really Care About the Library?
Kids care about what you tell them are important. By going to the library, and scheduling time to go to the library with your kids, you are telling them that the library is important. That means they will care because you care.
What's more, when you go to the library and find yourself browsing through the children's section, you may find yourself rediscovering some of your old favorites. As you introduce your children to Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Anne of Green Gables, or , you'll find yourself bonding with them on a different level. They'll gain some incite into who you were as a kid, whether they fall in love with Anne with an E Shirley or not. Encyclopedia Brown
You may also find some new favorites to share together. You might decide to try reading Harry Potter, and find yourself trading it back and forth with your 8 year old. Or your copy of The Hunger Games might turn up on your Tween's night side table. You might even decide to read, *gasp* out loud together. It will give you something to talk about, besides Justin Bieber.
Kids will care about the library because it represents quality time, but only if you make it quality time. If you make the library a priority, they will too. And that attitude will help them to do well in school, which will give them a boost in college and life in general. The library isn't just a place to get books, it's a place to gain knowledge and it can be a place to build memories that last a lifetime.
So take your kids to the library, before they're old enough to ask. You'll both be grateful in the long run.
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