How to Visit the Library with Kids

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mmkay, so when Henry was like 20 months old, I had Spencer, and then for some reason decided that Story Time at the Library was totally where I needed to be, once a week. It was a DISASTER. He was not ready, he was too little, he preferred to play in the curtains, rather than pay attention to the book.

So, we quit the library.

But not forever. We moved, Henry grew a year, and we decided to try again. And ever since, the library has been a staple in our lives. It is a WONDERFUL resource for entertainment, enlightenment and education for everyone of all ages. But of course you knew that.

However, going to the library with shortlings can be prove to be harried and un-fun. If you're just going for an activity such as Story Time or a puppet show it's easier, because the fun is being provided for you.

But if you're just going for books/movies, then you've got to be prepared, when your kids are small.

Here are some tried and true methods of successful library-ing-a-go-go. At least for us:

1. Go during non-peak times. 
The later in the day it gets, the busier it gets, until early evening when the population usually peters off.  If your kids are school-aged, a trip after dinner is a nice, quiet evening activity. Don't go to the library during some kind of special activity unless you are planning to ATTEND the special activity. (I have made this mistake more than once.)
2. Get a calendar of events from the Information Desk. Then you can pick and choose activities you do want to attend. And you can decide when a safe time to just check out materials is as well.
3. Get anyone who can write their name their own card. Just like when you were a kid. We still have all our kids on our cards because no one can write. But as soon as Henry can legibly write his name, he is going to learn the art of library-card-possession.
4. Bring the Stroller and a cloth bag.
  It's a great place to strap in toddlers with a board book, a great place to stack books, and to make kids HOLD ON TO when you're moving about. Most libraries have kids' sections but sometimes navigating the realms of shelves to GET there is a challenge. Using the stroller as a home base can be a life-saver, and keeps your kids near you. The bag is obvious, right? For your stash?
5. Let the kids help with returning books and check-out. This is especially fun if your library has a self-check. It teaches them about the whole of idea of "borrowing" and it keeps them occupied while you're trying to finish up, instead of running around and knocking things over (not that I know from experience or anything...) My kids like to each take a turn scanning the books, and sliding the card. It's fun for all!
6. If you're in need of materials of your own, get the kids squared away FIRST! 
Then you can plant them in the stroller or if they are old enough, in a chair nearby, and let them look at their new stuff, while you dig for what you need.
7.  Don't censor what your kids check out.
OKAY! Now this does not come without stipulations. My kids tend to be pretty willy-nilly about the whole thing. They grab and go. I rarely put books back. If they want to try it out, then great! HOWEVER, they are small, and we are talking picture books. If your kids are school-aged, tweens or older, some censorship might be necessary. Only you can know what you want YOUR kids reading. But, unless it's dirty, or totally against your values, letting kids explore the written word freely is kind of awesome. Some weeks we have a great collection and other weeks, it's mostly stinkers. But my goodness we are having FUN! I do limit the number of materials we take home to 2 DVDs and no more than 7 books because I can't keep track of anymore than that.

So there ya go. If you've never really been a library-goer, it's not too late to start! I swear, even high schoolers can learn to love the written word, in whatever form is their "thing." Most libraries these days have huge audio-book selections, every magazine and newspaper under the sun and many are implementing e-readers into their collections. Encourage kids to read whatever they *think* they might like. Mine are so tiny, they really tend to love most of what they choose, but as they grow, I'm sure that scope will narrow.

I love LOVE to read, and I love the library as a resource for my kids to pick up on that love. And they are. For some reason, passing on a love for books is just very satisfying to me. I hope that that love doesn't wane as they grow older. Convincing boys to love to read can be a challenge when they are older, so I've heard...

The BEST part is though, our true favorites; the ones they make me read three times a day for the duration of the book's stay at our house, well, we get to go to the book store and BUY those ones. It's a win-win.

*Photo from*


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