Helping your children to enjoy reading is one of the most important things you can do as a parent and is well worth the investment of your time and energy. Kids will learn reading skills in school, but often they come to associate reading with work, not pleasure. As a result, they lose their desire to read. And it is that desire — the curiosity and interest — that is the cornerstone of learning how to use reading skills successfully.
It's important to remember that you can give your children this kind of experience even if you don't have a lot of books in your home. Your local public library has an abundance of books, plus many other valuable resources. Here are some ideas for ways to get kids excited about the library:
Visit the children's and teen's section of your library
One of the most exciting and innovative areas in the library today is the children's/teen's section. Most public libraries now offer a wide variety of children's/teen's books and magazines. Some even offer selected materials in foreign languages (most often Spanish, French, and some Asian languages).
Many libraries have a children's and/or young adult librarian trained to help children and teens find the books or materials they are looking for. Most libraries also lend CDs and cassette tapes of audio books, as well as music, and DVDs for children and teens. In addition, many libraries offer valuable services such as homework help and reference assistance.
Help your children choose books about their interests
Young children most often enjoy books about people, places, and things that are like those they know. The books can be about where you live or about parts of your culture, such as your religion, your holidays, or the way that you dress. If your child has special interests, such as dinosaurs or ballerinas, look for books about those interests.
Look for books with poems and rhymes
From your child's toddler years through early first grade, look for books of poems and rhymes. Remember when your baby heard your talking sounds and tried to imitate them? Rhymes are an extension of that language skill. By hearing and saying rhymes, along with repeated words and phrases, your child learns about spoken sounds and about words. Rhymes also spark a child's excitement about what comes next, which adds fun and adventure to reading.
Don't hesitate to ask the librarian for help
If you are not familiar with the library or are having trouble choosing appropriate books for your children, don't hesitate to ask for help. The children's librarian is trained to help you locate specific books, books that are good for reading aloud, and books on a particular subject recommended for a particular age group — whether it's Mother Goose or how to do a science project. The library also has many booklists, including lists of award-winning books and recommended titles for different age groups.
See what else your library has to offer
In addition to printed materials, libraries often lend audio- and videocassettes, CDs, and DVDs of children's books and movies. They may sponsor special programs, including story hours for youngsters (from toddlers on up), summer reading programs, and homework help. Many libraries also provide computer labs with educational games and valuable resources for teenagers, such as term paper "clinics" and information and referral services.
If your children are school-aged, keep in mind that the school library is an excellent source for a wide variety of materials and the school librarian is knowledgeable about children's literature. Encourage your kids to bring home books from their school library for pleasure as well as for their schoolwork.
Don't forget that a visit to the library can help enrich your life as an adult. You also might find books in languages other than English, or programs to help adults improve their reading. If you would like reading help for yourself or your family, check with the librarian about literacy programs in your community. Whether you are seeking books for your children, information for your family or just a "good read" for yourself, your local public library has a lot to offer your entire family!