If the last time you were in a public library you were doing research for a paper on the Civil War, it might be time to take another visit. Most cities larger than a bread box have upgraded the way their libraries look and feel as well as having dramatically increased their collections for children.
Undefeated Daddy Loves the Library
I took my daughter to the library in order to give her a new place to see and do things. As a work from home father, my daughter doesn’t go to daycare or see a nanny. So, in order to keep it fresh we frequently go places. One day I decided I would take her to the library, because she loves her books.
I was surprised at what the library had become. Tight budgets in our town have caused some cuts in the library system, but instead of cutting back on things like books, they cut back hours. Our libraries are closed one day per week, but not all libraries on the same day. So, in theory, there is always a library open nearby, if not the closest one.
The first library we went to was the main branch. I figured it would be the best. I remembered the library, like a lot of others in their 30s and 40s, from the days of high school. I remember beige metal shelves, threadbare carpet, and dusty old books published at least 10 years ago. I was in for a surprise.
The library has a HUGE children’s area. As a double bonus, that means that there aren’t any adults around to look peevish if my little one decides to squeal with excitement or voice a little frustration. The main library has a couple of children’s tables, games, puzzles, stuffed animals, and computers. Even better, it has rows and rows of books for my toddler to run up and down. There is an enormous amount of safety relief in watching your daughter run down a corridor. There is no way for her to veer dangerously off course, and if anyone is coming the other direction, you can see them far in advance.
The Toddler and Books
As an added bonus, my daughter associates the library with fun. Our smaller neighborhood library has a table with those beads on wires that form a maze. When I say the word “library” my daughter says, “beads.” If we are going to a different branch, I just tell her what is there. Another common visit has shelf full of teddy bears. “No, not beads, the other one.” She pauses for a second and says, “bears.”
Everyone wants their kids to read. Making the environment of books fun is the first step. Mission accomplished there. The next step is to actually get interesting books. This is where the library shines. Any child gets bored of the same thing again and again. On the other hand, every child also develops favorites. My girl had plenty of books she loved and of course I got her more books that were similar and she loved them. One day at the library we came across a book with flaps that open. I showed her a flap and she sat mesmerized for the rest of the time opening the flaps. Needless to say, I found a few more. Now, I know she likes books with flaps. (But not pop-up books – I don’t think it registers enough that opening the page makes something happen. I think she just thinks the pages are always like that.)
The library is great for me too. Gone are the days of 5 or 10 year old books. New editions of computer books for Dreamweaver CS3 line the shelves; same thing for Ruby on Rails and others. The really great part is that the card catalog is online so I can look in advance and know exactly where I’m going so as to not spend too much time boring my daughter before we go to the kid’s section. Even better, books can be reserved online and you tell them which branch you want to pick them up at and they’ll be waiting for you at the desk.
Do yourself a favor and check out your local library. It just might be a cool FREE place to take your youngster.