As I chased after my son, picking up the puzzle pieces, books and puppets being thrown in his wake, and trying desperately to shush him once again, I wondered for a moment if library storytime was a weekly practice we should discontinue. Sure, my older 2 daughters, were sitting nicely for storytime, but maybe they would do just as well reading books we had already purchased at home, where my son could be as loud as he wanted. Maybe it was not worth the hassle, the embarrassment, and the frustration of not knowing where the books were when we needed to take them back. That frantic summer day my question was clear:
Should I still take my kids to the library?
Even when it’s hard, even when they already have books at home to read, even when they begin to get older?
I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this decision. One friend of mine told me she went to an occasional storytime, but never checked out books. She felt like the process of checking out books and returning them again was too stressful and chose to purchase books from the book fairs at her kid’s schools instead. Other friends are simply too busy, have multiple young children or feel like the books their kids check out from the school library are good enough.
I worried about any of these decisions for me, though. I knew that one of the easiest and most natural ways for me to teach my children was through books. I had also been hearing stories about children’s academic success being linked to library attendance and thought if I can help my children by doing something I love (getting a book myself) that seems like a no brainer.
Ultimately, I decided to continue, but made a few adjustments. I stopped worrying about taking my son every time I went and for subsequent children, eased off on library attendance from around 18 months to 2 years old (they do go, just not every time). We also, started keeping our books in the same place and insisting they get returned there and we made our trips frequent so we had less fines in between.
In doing this I’ve found several benefits:
1- They get to pick whatever books they want and this encourages their own unique personalities and interests.
2- I feel much more open to encouraging their interests since it will just go back to the library in 2 weeks.
3- They are more open to my book recommendations since it’s one of the bunch of books they get.
4- It expands our collective knowledge on random facts, especially when we take time to get well-written books and/or non-fiction.
5- These are my purely motherly instincts here, but I feel like it has increased my children’s vocabulary and helped them to do better in school.
6- Gives them hours of something to do that is not on a screen.
7- Gives all of us an outing to look forward to that is free and easy.
8- Fosters a natural love of reading (I’ve never once had to encourage my kids to read and they easily get 20 minutes to an hour in every day).
9- I always have an activity to do that allows me to sit down and teach my children-a super big benefit for me.
Last week, the same son I was chasing after all those years ago, got books taken away from him for a day because he was so into his books he wasn’t listening. So, I guess that’s the final benefit, you can have another bargaining chip in your arsenal and conversely your children can have some way to pursue their unique interests and find a special kind of joy not found in a tablet or video game.
What are the benefits you notice when you visit the library? Is there anything you struggle with in taking your kids to the library?
Write it down in journal, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment below or on Facebook.