5 Ways to teach Your Child about the Joys of The Library!
Lots of things have changed over the last few decades. One of those things is how we keep ourselves entertained, and the same goes for our children. It’s all too easy to plonk them down with a smartphone or tablet, watching videos on YouTube or something on TV. Now, we aren’t saying that twenty years ago that every single school pupil would spend the entirety of their evening reading library books, but there has definitely been a downswing in engagement with reading because of modern media.
But that’s where you come in! As parents and teachers, we all have the chance to show our children the benefits and joys of reading. It’s nowhere near as difficult as it sounds, and it’s so worth it. So to help you do just that, here are five pointers that we think are essential to teaching children about libraries, and why it’s worth visiting them.
1) Help them understand the incredible choice and depth of reading available at a library
The first thing you should do is to actually show your child the size of a library. This is especially great if you live in a city, where you have large, municipal libraries with tall shelves and thousands upon thousands of books. It’s something that as an adult you might not bat an eye at, but as a child, it’s an absolute wonder to behold. That’s going to be the very first hook in their imagination that gets them interested in actually going to the library.
Next? A great idea would be to talk with your child about what kind of books they imagine are up there on the shelves. After all, there are thousands and thousands of books- so there must be a book about almost every single thing. So another way of spurring on their interest is to have them look through the books and see just what they can find!
2) Don’t be afraid to let them look around for themselves
Your child is going to love the library for the freedom that it represents. If you ever read Roald Dahl’s Matilda, you’ll understand that books are freedom for the imagination: being able to go on an adventure from the comfort of your own bed or living room, and even being able to choose where you go. This is so appealing to children, not just because they want to get out and experience the world, but because every single child has an overactive imagination already!
So when it comes to choosing books from the library, don’t prescribe reading to your child- at least, not all the time. That’s how reading becomes nothing more than another chore, and if reading is a chore, your child’s heart just won’t be in it. So when you go to the library together, let their imagination run riot, and let them pick out what they like- so long as it’s appropriate for their age.
3) Don’t be afraid to let them loan out book after book!
Whenever I used to go to the library, we could only take out two books at a time. I always used to wonder why: if we bring them back on time, which we (almost) always did, then why couldn’t I take five? Or even ten? I loved to read, and I loved setting myself the challenge of reading as much as I could before I fell asleep, book in hand. Those are some great memories.
I honestly think that taking out a larger number of books at any one time is a great idea. First, it gives your child something to read if they finish their first book; but better than that, it sets a challenge for voracious young readers. And really, you should be returning your books to the library on time anyway! Even if you don’t, the fine is only a few pounds at most- so long as you don’t leave it too long. The benefits really outweigh the drawbacks!
4) Show them that the library isn’t just about books
Of course, the reason why we so desperately want our children to go to the library is so that they’ll pick up the habit of reading. And that’s no bad thing, of course; but it’s not all that’s on offer down the library. Many, if not most libraries these days have more than one space for groups and meetings, play days and similar that could be a great way to get your child socialising. Many libraries are embracing the idea of ‘maker spaces’ in which children get to put theory into practice.
Groups like these are often creative ones, so they’ll encourage your child to paint, to draw, to write, or even to take photographs. They’re like after school clubs, but with the added bonus of not having to be in school! For more information about groups like these, we recommend you call at your library to ask a staff member what they have on, or check out their newsletter, if they have one.
5) Don’t just encourage reading for learning; encourage reading for pleasure
This is the final point, but if anything, it’s actually the most important. There’s no doubt that reading at home is a great way of boosting your child’s achievement. That’s not in question. And you can encourage that by having them pick out library books which back up what they’re trying to learn: so, maybe it’s something to do with their homework this week, or it’s a more general history book. It’s great if you can get your child interested in that sort of reading.
But you should always encourage reading for pleasure, as well. Reading fiction, or non-fiction completely unrelated to what they’re learning in school, is just as important. It’s all about picking up the lifelong habit of reading, not just doing well in their test at the end of the week. You have to remember that.