The library can be your best friend or . . . a place you avoid like the plague.
Here are six ways to make library visits more fun and successful for both you and your children!
1. Put books on hold. I find browsing through the stacks to be SUPER hit or miss (emphasis on the miss) and so my number one secret for library visits is to put a lot of books on hold before we go. Especially when I’m corralling small children, it make a huge difference to have all the books I want ready and waiting for me to grab, even if one of my children has a meltdown two minutes after we arrive at the library. Plus, I’ve discovered that the good stuff is rarely on the shelves (and the new good stuff is REALLY never on the shelves). A few years ago, when I published my first list of 100 picture books to read over the summer, one reader emailed me to say, “I took your printable list and out of the 100, only 11 were on the shelves. Now I know why I never come home with good books when I just try to grab them at random.” The good stuff just usually isn’t sitting there waiting for you.
2. Give your kids a set number of books they can check out. While I might not have the time to browse the shelves, my children love browsing the stacks, and so I let them pick out a couple of books each week. To keep things simple, they can each pick out as many books they are old, and this gives them a chance to try something new, find old favorites in the stacks and basically feel like they’re in control. Plus, it’s one more exciting thing about each birthday because you can now check out one additional book! (Also, when you’re gathering books to return, you know how many each child got).
3. Make a computer policy. I’m delighted that libraries have computer for public access, but they can also be the only thing my children want to do when we come to the library. Decide what your policy will be (no computers ever, 15 minutes every time, 20 minutes every other time, 15 minutes AFTER they’ve picked their new books, etc) and stick to it. Then you don’t have to argue about it every time.
4. Attend library programs and get to know the librarians. Librarians want to help you raise readers – they love books as much as you do! And having another adult to recommend books to your child and make them feel at home in the library is invaluable. The easiest way to do this is to attend library programming, whether it’s traditional storytime, a music class, Lego club or science lab or a knitting group. The librarians get to know their consistent patrons and will be your best advocate for finding new titles, encouraging readers, or implementing the kinds of programs you WISH your library had.
5. Start when they are young. If you’re reading this and have a five-year-old, I know this is really annoying advice. But early exposure helps with them knowing how to behave and picking out and returning books is just part of their routine. Plus, a librarian who has known your child since they were six weeks old? Priceless. In Texas, we had a librarian who had known my oldest daughter from just a few weeks after her birth and loved her like a second grandma (and my daughter cried when we visited the library and she wasn’t there).
6. Explore non-book items. Lots of libraries have really cool non-book collections, with items ranging from puzzles and puppets to music CDs, movies, and take-home crafts. Some libraries have cake pans or board games or book club kits.
I can’t wait to share my reading secret weapon with you tomorrow – watch your email for Lesson #4!