When my son was almost 1 year old, I started taking him to the library for free story times. Once a week, I would sit with other tired parents whose kids were about the same age as mine and listen to stories. Afterward, I would stay and talk with the adults while the kids played. In these times, I felt like I was doing the right thing for both my son and myself. Soon, we were always at the library. From free story times to socializing opportunities, in this article, find good reasons why making library visits a routine can benefit both children and parents.
“It’s probably my son’s favorite place in town,” says Mindy Currier, a mother of two from New Hampshire who attends her library weekly. Her library has story times, projects, board games, music, and a lot more. She says that the building itself is a draw since it has a treehouse reading nook inside. “When my kids were younger, I had to drag them out of the house.”
You might not want to leave if you go to your local library. What used to be all about books might become your new favorite way to help out as a parent. In a time when more books are being banned, and library funding is in danger, we must support these community centers and the people who run them. We should also teach the next generation to love books and reading.
If you haven’t been to a library in a while, you might still consider it a quiet place to borrow books and read the newspaper. Anne Debraggio, MLS, who runs the Kirkland Town Library in New York, says that’s no longer the case. You might also find toys, computers, and pictures inside. “I think that besides the school, the library is the other place in a town where people can learn,” says Debraggio. “From the time you’re born until you die, learning is what we’re all about here.”
And part of that learning is through play. There are still quiet rooms for people who want to read, but there are also often playrooms for younger kids and rooms for teens. If you’re looking for an excuse to drag the kids outside, you’ve found it. Jill Stephenson, who lives in New York and has a 5-year-old daughter, says, “I almost always go to my local library to meet people.” “I worry that because she doesn’t do competitive sports or Brownies, for example, she won’t make friends at school with people outside of her immediate peer group.”
Tools for Parents Other Than Books
It’s easy to use the library as your new parenting hack. You can sign up for a free library card in person, or some libraries let you sign up online. Then, see what your library has to offer, such as:
- Storytime and games that use your senses. Betsy Kennedy, MLS, head of the Cazenovia Public Library in New York, says that many people who do storytimes have had special training in early childhood education and brain development. “Everything we do has a reason.”
- More than just renting books. Libraries often let people take toys, sports gear, Legos, telescopes, programmable robots, fishing poles, and other things in the same way they lend books. Patricia Grover, a teacher in New York and the mother of 5- and 8-year-old children, says, “The library is a free place where our whole family can do something.”
- Test it out first. Some libraries let you check out things like gardening tools and special cake pans, so you don’t have to buy something you might only use once.
- Shared passes for fun. Some libraries give their customers passes or discounts to museums, parks, and historic places in your area.
- Events for parents. Book clubs, potluck meals, educational courses, movie screenings, and exercise classes are all great ways to get out and keep feeling like an adult.
- And books, of course. There are always books for the whole family to read at the library and online. There are also podcasts and e-books.
Debraggio says it’s easy to find out what your local library has to offer. If it has one, you can check its website or Facebook page or just walk in and ask at the front desk.
As my son grew, we went to the library more often. For Halloween, we put decorations on the pumpkins there. We borrowed a camping adventure bag that came with a real tent. We went to see Apollo 11 on the big screen. We’ve also read a lot of books.
Debraggio says that’s what libraries love to hear. She says, “What a wonderful present it is to take youngsters to the library and let them make it their own. And I see that with a lot of kids. This is all their space.”