Most mums know that local libraries are well worth the visit, but I’m not sure that we all get the same value out of our trips. Inspired by Christie from Childhood 101, I thought I’d share my hints for making the most of your trip to the library with the kids.
Firstly, I let my kids have their own library card. Yes, they might be young, but it’s not the end of the world if they lose it. (I keep our cards together and only distribute them inside the library anyway.) It’s important that they feel they have some ownership over this time, and it feels terribly important to have your very own card in your hot little hand. My daughter can borrow 10 items with her card, but letting her pluck 10 random books would be a waste of time. Here’s the breakdown of what we usually borrow:
- one dvd chosen together (why pay for them at the video store if you can have a great kids dvd for FREE for a month?)
- one cd chosen together (great for quiet room time for older toddlers, car music, or rainy days)
- TWO books chosen independently by her
- six books chosen by me (usually 5 fiction and 1 nonfiction)
As my daughter gets older, she will choose more and I will choose less, but for a toddler two books is plenty! Most of the time Little Miss 3 chooses books I would never pick, but I remind myself not to talk her out of her choices. She will not learn how to select good books unless I allow her to experience some ordinary ones! She is starting already to put a book back if it has too many words, or the pictures aren’t colourful. These are sound, early judgements.
While she is choosing her two books, I go through the picture books alphabetically looking for books that meet my criteria. Firstly – word count. It’s unbelievable the number of books on the shelf which are just too long for a young child to sit through. Most of the big publishing houses in Australia won’t publish picture books with a word count past 600 words for a reason. That’s no more than a couple of sentences on each page. If I pick up a book with paragraphs it’s an instant fail. Next I’m looking for a story. That might sound like a silly thing to say, but in order to enjoy reading time together at home, and in order for your child to begin tuning in to important underpinnings of language, you need to select books with a well crafted, good flowing story. (There’s a whole new blog post on that… another time) Lastly, I’m looking for something that is in keeping with my child’s interests. Always remember that as a parent YOU are the expert on your child.
If I find a book that has only a few sentences on a page, with a good story to it, and a topic my daughter will like…. we have a winner! I stop when I have enough, and make a note of which shelf I’m up to for next time. Oh, and if I can only find three great stories (sometimes happens because the best books are always out, of course) I only borrow three. Better to just have three wonderful books that get a “Read it again, Mummy!” response than to have additional books that stay in the library bag. I also pick one nonfiction picture book. Most children find them interesting, and it is good to expose them to other genres, but in the early years I cannot emphasise enough the importance of stories.
With full library bags we head to the counter to check out our items. Our library has recently introduced a self-service facility so Little Miss 3 inserts her own library card, and I help her to “beep” her books. I remind her that once the book has “beeped” it’s her job to take care of it until we return it. That’s the deal.
Finally, I do try to remember to collect the library cards back from the kids before we leave. As I said, it’s not the end of the world if they lose them, but it is embarrassing asking for replacements more than once or twice!