Around these parts, we are library lovers. Now that Elijah is in school and Isabel still takes a morning nap, it's been a crunch to get to the library before they close at 5:30. For the first time ever, we had Henry and Mudge books that were (gasp!) overdue. Fortunately, the library staff must have been missing us because the DC libraries are now open until 9 pm Monday-Thursday. Hooray! In honor of this win for book lovers, I present to you five hard-won bits of wisdom for visiting the library with children.
1. Make it a habit Before Elijah was in school, we were at the library at least once a week, and often more than that if it was raining, too hot or we just felt a little stir-crazy. As a result, Elijah would exit the car, push the button to open the front doors, and stride in like he owned the place. As anyone knows who has washed a load of laundry just to clean a beloved dinosaur shirt, little kids love routine. And what better routine is there than reading books in the cool quiet of the library?
2. Go to story time...or don't We are very fortunate in that our library has lots of choices for story time. There's a day for preschoolers, one for babies, a "rhythm and rhyme" program...the list goes on. There have been times when we were all about story time. We would get there early to snag a good seat, and Elijah would sit there enraptured for the full 30 minutes, then recreate practically the entire thing at home, using a sock for a puppet. In other seasons (and sometimes just on a rough day), we forwent story time in favor of just browsing the book selection, or wandering around the upstairs, looking out the windows. Because story time is free (and frequent), there is never any pressure to attend. To me, that is the mark of the perfect toddler activity.
3. Test drive the books before checking them out I try to allot at least an hour of time for our library trips. That way, whether or not we go to story time, there is plenty of time to read books at the library. There is something about reading on the carpet surrounded by books that is just lovely. Plus, by reading the books there, I can gauge whether Elijah is really interested in a particular book before I haul it all the way home.
4. Let them choose Eljiah has strong opinions about books, particularly those with trains or drums on their covers. We recently brought home Drummer Boy by Loren Long for that very reason. It is very clearly a Christmas book, and it is very clearly not Christmastime (a sweaty 85 degrees last week), but he chose it, so we got it, and read it and read it and read it. I want Elijah (and Isabel) to feel like their opinions matter, so I bite my tongue when we check out The Little Engine That Could for the third time in a row, even though the thought of reading it repeatedly for another week makes feel just a teeny bit of despair.
5. Choose for them I was a teacher, so I have my own opinions about which children's books are worth reading. Even if you were not a teacher, if you are a parent, you are now. So make sure you get some kids' books that you want, too. After all, you are the one who will be reading them over and over and over again. For me, anything involving Lane Smith or Rosemary Wells tends to be a good bet. Also, I am very susceptible to beautiful illustrations.
I could go on, but five seems like such a nice number of list items, so I won't. Plus, you know, I have my own books to read. Because really, as much as Elijah and Isabel love the library, the real reason I have spent so much time there with them is because I love it even more. What about you? What books are your kids loving these days? We'll be sure to check them out.