For all of us who are trying to raise avid and eager readers, the local library is like Narnia, an enchanting, magical world to explore, especially with a friendly librarian (rather than a faun named Mr. Tumnus) as a guide. Here are some tips for navigating a library’s riches …
- What makes a library magical? To start with, a library represents abundance. Inside is a deep collection of books, with unlimited stories, beautiful illustrations and all the arcane information a child obsessed with trucks or dinosaurs or ballerinas could ask for. Best of all, once inside, you can take home as many books as you can carry, turn them all in as soon as they’re read, and lug home a whole new pile. Good readers need access to lots of books to spark their imagination and feed their enthusiasms.
- Libraries also encourage treasure-hunting, browsing through the shelves for a serendipitous discovery. There’s no predicting what book will catch a child’s fancy—and whatever it is, she can “test-drive” it with no risk. When you visit, let your children choose any books they find appealing, which helps them develop into strong, autonomous readers. Moreover, good readers need to know that if a book they found isn’t interesting, they can put it down and move on to another one that is.
- Children love to talk about the books they’re reading. When they have opportunities to share what they are thinking about the books they read, they thrive and grow as readers. The more you engage with them what they’re reading, the more they will want to read. Keep library books in a special basket at home for whenever the urge to read strikes, and set aside time each day to sit down with them and explore their books together. Ask them why they chose these particular ones, and be animated and excited if you’re reading aloud. Reading aloud connects us—reader and listener—in a very intimate way and sends kids the message: You are important. This time is for you.
- Librarians also love to talk about books! Befriend one, so she or he gets to know your child’s interests. They are happy to suggest books that will captivate your kid, and can recommend titles you may not know of, broadening your child’s taste and expanding her mind and vocabulary. As well, most libraries offer cozy corners where kids can flop down on pillows and beanbag chairs and chat with each other about books.
- Create happy memories around books and libraries. A passion for reading results from exposure to lots of books and the pleasurable memories associated with these experiences. Take advantage of library children’s programs, which make stories come to life with puppets, costumes and animated storytellers. Most libraries are veritable community centers and offer family-friendly events like performances by ukulele players or workshops on magic tricks. These experiences can spark a child’s imagination and deepen his attachment to reading.
- Lastly, help your child get a library card with her own name on it! This early rite of passage gives kids a sense of autonomy and responsibility. As card-carrying library patrons, they learn to treat things that belong to others with care. When they check out books in their own name, they feel trustworthy and responsible, and more like a member of their community.
So celebrate this milestone on your child’s literary voyage! Befriend a librarian and help your child secure a library card; it will become an “open sesame” to a magical cavern of books where all kinds of curious adventures await.
Enjoy reading all those books together,