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Last week, my sister Tammy shared some of her favorite spring books. Today, my sister Rhonda is sharing her best tips for using the library to foster a love a reading in her children. Her practical, honest tips will make you want to change the way you visit the library!
Okay, without further ado, here’s Rhonda:
I take an Ikea bag to the library with my kids. And we fill it every time. I hobble out of the library with what feels like (and might actually be) 100 lbs. of library books hoisted over my left shoulder and toddler on my right hip. Oh, and my three older kids are also in tow, with their own smaller bags, filled with books, hoisted over their shoulders as we all march out the library door.
I know we are quite the spectacle, but I do this deliberately to help create a culture of reading in my home. Children’s literacy is something I have become very passionate about. I am not only trying to teach my kids how to read, but to how to LOVE to read.
7 ways to use the library to turn your kids into readers
1. Don’t limit the number of books.
When my 2 oldest were toddlers I told them 5 books each. That’s what all the other moms around me said to their kids. But then my kids would start begging to take home more. And I started to think, “wait, why the heck not? They are free…and they are BOOKS, for heavens sakes….not brownies or video games. Why put a limit on them?”
I started becoming more relaxed about how many books my kids would pick, and the library experience changed for them. It was less stressful to have to choose just a few and there is something so fun about not having limits on something. They would take risks on books and try new ones that they otherwise might not have. My motto is, “If we can carry it, then we can check it out.” Of course, if the Ikea bag idea scares you, then just fill any bag that seems reasonable to you.
2. Don’t scrutinize their choices.
If my 7 year old sees a fun board book and wants to check that out, I let her. If my 3 year old sees a chapter book with a fun cover I let him check it out. Are these books appropriate for their reading level? Not really. But why would I discourage their interests? My 7 year old might take that board book and read it to her younger siblings, or be inspired to write a book of her own. My 3 year old might take that chapter book to his quiet time and make up a story of his own, inspired by the cover art, as he flips through the pages. (Each of those scenarios have happened.)
There have been a handful of times when something seems too scary or truly inappropriate and I quietly put the book back. But for the most part, not judging your kids choices of book helps them to foster confidence in choosing on their own. Oh, and as for all of those “character” or “TV show books?” My kids love, love, love those. I really don’t love those. But guess what? I let them get them….however many they want! They know that I don’t love reading those aloud to them, so they usually just read them to each other or look through them on their own.
It doesn’t matter so much to me what they are reading at this point. They are gaining confidence and are beginning to label themselves as readers. If it is a book, and they enjoy looking at it or reading it, then my philosophy is “why not?”
3. Don’t stress about fines or losing a book.
Many of my friends who limit the number of books their kids are allowed to take from the library have told me they are stressed about late fees. I decided to let go of that stress many years ago, and it is great! Of course I do everything I can to try to get the books back by their due date, and I’m signed up for the text and email notices that remind me of due dates.
Over the last 9 years of going to the library with kids I have probably paid around $40 total in late fees. That isn’t too bad considering we have checked out hundreds and hundreds of books! Over all these years we have only lost 1 book that I had to pay for. Again, this is a small price to pay for how much we use the library.
4. Have a list of good kids’ books handy.
I have a Goodreads account which I use almost exclusively for children’s books. Any time I hear of a good children’s book, I mark it in my Goodreads app as “to read.” (I subscribe to many children’s book enthusiasts, so I get a lot of great recommendations).
When I am in the library with my kids, I open my app and sort my “to read” books alphabetically by author. If my kids wander down the “D” aisle I scroll down on my app to the authors that start with “D” and pick up a few books there that are on my list. If my toddler wanders to the “S” aisle I do the same. Using this tip, I can get books I enjoy reading to them, and I don’t have to drag them all around the library looking for something specific. I basically just follow them around, finding good books along the way.
I must admit, I have a hard time calling it quits. It is so satisfying to find books on my list! I also keep recommended chapter books in my app, so if my older kids need some direction in choosing I can help them pick out something good.
5. Don’t worry about reading to your kids AT the library.
When I only had 2 kids, reading to them at the library was a big part of our experience, which I think is great and I really treasure those memories. But now with 4 kids all with different interests, and going different directions, I rarely actually read to them while we are there. I try to make our trips to the library pretty quick during this phase of mothering. I know if we stay too long, there will be meltdowns and some of my kids will get hungry or will need to go to the bathroom. All of those things make the trip more stressful for me, which means I am less likely to want to come back again soon. My focus is on quickly finding good books while at the library, and then finding time to read to my children later at home.
6. Have a dedicated shelf at home for library books.
It is so nice to have a dedicated place for our library books, so they aren’t just floating around the entire house. My kids do take some books to their rooms, but they always end up back on our library shelf when their rooms get cleaned. It is so nice to have a place in our home for the 50+ books we have at any given time.
7. Go through the drive-thru drop off.
Even if we plan to go inside. I do the drive-thru drop off every time we go to the library. Because, remember how heavy all those books are? I just drive thru, drop off all our books, park, and then get everyone out of the car, and we go in the library with empty bags. I found that our library experience in general goes a lot more smoothly this way because then the kids aren’t fighting over who gets to drop the books in. Oh, and they aren’t getting lost before our library experience even starts!
Hours of at-home reading
The best part of a trip to the library?? The quiet 1-2 hours that ensues get after we get home! My kids pour over their books and everything is peaceful for a short time. That alone makes it all worth it to me! Ha! No, but really, I hope my kids will always remember our trips to the library as positive, happy experiences that contributed to their life-long love of reading and learning.
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Do any of these tips resonate with you? Help other families and moms learn tips for fostering a love of reading in their families.
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