Libraries take on another important dimension for children beginning school. For elementary school children, there are variations of the read-alouds and storytelling hours that often include discussions and presentations by the children themselves, as well as summer reading programs.
For middle and junior high school kids, there may also be book talks, summer reading programs, creative writing seminars, drama groups, and poetry readings. In addition, the library is a place to find information and help with schoolwork. Visit your local public library to see what services and programs are available for your children.
An Important Transition
The ages 7 to 9 are the years when children normally move from just hearing and looking at picture books to reading independently for enjoyment and for schoolwork. This is considered a critical transition for children, and many of the resources in the library can help them.
It is very important to find well-written books for your children at this stage. A story that will make them laugh or want to know what happens next will motivate them to read even though it's difficult. Your local public library is filled with such books, and the children's librarian is skilled at locating these treasures. A growing number of very informative nonfiction books are available as well. Do your kids want to know how to dig up dinosaur bones or all about the different people in the world? There are good books that will fascinate even beginning readers.
Sources of Information
It's important to stimulate that sense of wonder and curiosity behind little children's endless questions, even as they grow older. Encourage them to look up answers to their questions in dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, and almanacs. These are resources you may want to add to your home library. Even if you do, remember that your local library will have a larger selection and more materials on specific subjects, and the librarian will be glad to help your kids learn to use these resources.
Homework Help and School Libraries
In many areas, libraries have special services for helping kids with homework and research projects, including telephone or internet help, workshops, or tutoring programs. The school library is another valuable source for information and training. In fact, many schools and public libraries co-sponsor children's programs. For example, a school may invite staff members from the local public library to give book talks or sign children up for library cards.
In elementary and junior high school, your children will tackle school assignments that require them to learn library skills. Teaching these skills is, in fact, part of the school curriculum. When you visit your children's school, stop by the school library, meet the librarian, and familiarize yourself with the many resources available. In addition, if your kids' school sponsors books fairs, don't miss the opportunity to participate. You will probably be invited to help with the collecting, displaying, buying, and selling of children's books. This is an excellent way to learn more about children's literature.
Helping with Library Assignments
Very often children in school will ask their parents for help with library assignments. And very often parents will find themselves gradually taking over and doing a report for their son or daughter. Such an exercise offers no long-term benefit to anyone.
- Ask your children questions about the assignment and encourage them to ask their teacher questions. This helps children to clarify what they're trying to do. Help them to identify smaller components of the topic they're researching or to see the topic as part of a larger topic (brontosaurus is a subgroup of dinosaurs, which is a subgroup of extinct animals). These classifications will help them to identify useful references.
- Suggest that they look up the topic in the library catalog, periodical guides, and reference books. The librarian will direct them and help them get started. Be sure they know how to use a table of contents and index. Suggest they start with something general about the subject and be prepared to consult more than one source.
- Help them to break assignments into logical segments and avoid last-minute panics by setting deadlines for each phase of the work. Allow them plenty of time to gather the materials they need.
- Help them to determine if the community library has the resources they need or if they need to check other information sources.
- Encourage your kids to ask the librarian for help in locating materials and let them do their own talking.
- Give them encouragement, advice, and a ride if they need it, but resist the temptation to take over an assignment. Let your children assume responsibility for researching and writing reports. It's the best way for them to library skills that they will able to use for the rest of their lives.