Exploring any library is an adventure. From children’s services to great books and so much more— introducing your child to the library is a ticket to a thrilling exploration of the world around them. After all, libraries and museums are neutral learning environments and browsing the shelves of a library is truly one of the best ways to exercise any reader’s independence, even if it has to be done via Zoom due to the pandemic.
Introducing your child to the library can seem overwhelming, especially if you might not have loved to read as a child. Parents should consider experience, empowerment, and involvement when introducing your little scholar to the library and its services. Here’s how to create an experience that will solidify a love of reading and fuel curiosity.
Planning the first visit
Traditional libraries have been considered unexciting buildings packed with focused scholars and librarians that whisper “shhh” more than they read aloud, but libraries are constantly evolving and refining their support for their community. Not all libraries expect complete silence, and many children’s librarians accommodate learners of all backgrounds. Do some prior research and find a library with a vibe that will fit both you and your little one.
If you’re not sure where to start, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) provides Guidelines for Library Services to Babies and Toddlers. These guidelines and other resources are designed to support you as you craft your kiddo’s first visit to the library. Use these tools to plan a great experience for your reader and watch their excitement grow.
Finding age-appropriate and accessible services
Empowerment is the next essential element to consider when introducing your little reader to the library. Libraries provide a list of age-appropriate services and resources. From interactive storytime and puppetry to arts and crafts, there’s so much your little learner can explore.
Other children’s services include garden clubs, movie clubs, and small classes for visual and hearing impaired readers. Libraries offer a wide range of services for individuals with special needs, whether that is a learning, visual, auditory, or physical disability. Check out the Association for Library Service to Children (affiliated with the American Library Association), and their guide to Serving Children with Disabilities in Libraries for more information.
There is never a wrong time to introduce your developing reader to books. Libraries often have established programs for specific age groups. Toddlers 18 to 36 months generally can master language and some soft skills with library activities such as fingerplays, reading aloud story times, and music class. By the time some children are 3 to 5 years of age, other group activities may spark their interests, such as reading programs, arts and crafts, and films.
While getting readers of this age involved is often easier said than done, school-aged readers between 7 and 9 years old may enjoy a library’s summer reading programs, anime clubs, or creative writing seminars. At any stage of a young scholar, the library should be a familiar place.
Teenaged youth also have plenty of resources and classes they might enjoy at the library. Computer and typing classes, writing workshops, teens-only space, and numerous other activities mean that libraries are great for creating a safe space for teens to explore and share what they are reading or researching. Additionally, the Young Adult section, anime and graphic novels, and specific subject areas may fuel your scholar’s appetite for learning. Parents and guardians can support their teen readers by encouraging them to spend time exploring at the library.
No matter the age of your child, take your time crafting a plan of action with the tools above to help foster a love of reading and spending time at the library. Visit a public library (find one near you here!), or even your favorite independently owned bookstore, and find a safe way to begin exploring reading spaces today.