More Than Books at the Library

In addition to a wealth of books, your library will probably have audio tapes and CDs of books, musical CDs, movies, computers that you can use, and many more resources. You also might find storytelling programs, books in languages other than English, or programs to help adults learn English or improve their reading. If you would like reading help for yourself or your family, check with the librarian about literacy programs in your community.

Supervised Story Times

Babies and toddlers: Many libraries have group story hours that are short and geared to the attention spans of the children. The storyteller also may show you fingerplays and rhythm activities or give you tips and handouts that you can use for your own home story hours.

Preschoolers: Many libraries offer story hours more than once a week where parents and children typically read several books on the same topic. You might play games, sing songs, use puppets, or do other activities that are connected to that topic. You also may get ideas for books to read and other things to do with your child at home.

Families: Families can read together, or they may join in a story told by the library storyteller. Some libraries also set up family activities around the readings, including arts and crafts projects and watching movies.

Youth Programs and Homework Help

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 many areas, libraries also have special services for helping kids with homework and research projects, including telephone or internet help, workshops, or tutoring programs.

Summer Reading

After the school year is over, some children don't have the opportunity to continue reading and practice the reading skills they have learned. Libraries help keep children interested in reading by offering summer programs. Children and teens alike are often encouraged to read books on their on, and to keep a diary or log of what they have read. Libraries may also offer book discussion groups. And, because reading aloud is so important to promoting a love of reading, many libraries offer "Read-to-Me" clubs for preschool and younger children.


Many libraries have computers for public use, and there are a lot of computer programs (also called software) offering activities that can both grab your child's interest and teach good lessons. Since children's programs vary in quality, don't hesitate to ask the librarian for information and recommendations about good software. Computer reading programs let your child:

  • Hear stories, read along and read by herself.
  • Play with objects and characters on the screen that teach the alphabet, simple words, rhyming words, and other skills important to learning to read.
  • Command the computer with her voice, record herself reading and play back the recording so that she can hear herself.
  • Write simple sentences and make up stories.
  • Add pictures and characters to her stories and have them read back.
  • Make and print her own books.
  • Make slide shows.
  • Gain praise and see improvement in her language abilities.

For Adults

Encouraging a love of reading in your children is a wonderful incentive for taking your children to the library. There can, however, be many incentives for you too. While your children are browsing, attending a special program, or working on a research paper, take the opportunity to browse resources for adults. There may be many books and magazines you find interesting. If your local public library doesn't have the book you're looking for, chances are good it can be obtained on loan from another library. And don't miss the music, language CDs, and movies that may available!

The public library also may offer information that can help you make important decisions. Whether you're planning a major purchase, writing a resume, or researching used car prospects, your library has many resources to help. There are consumer magazines and buyers' guides that compare products and services, tell you how to shop wisely, and offer guidelines on how to submit a consumer complaint. There is also information on job opportunities in your area and nationwide, as well as tips about preparing for job interviews. In recent years, libraries have become distribution points for tax forms, and many offer seminars and other free assistance in preparing tax returns.

In addition, many public libraries today sponsor classes where you can get literacy training that may include English as a second language. At your public library, you may also find classes where you can prepare for a high school equivalency exam, or earn college credits. There are lots of less formal classes, too, on everything from gardening and photography to computer literacy and raising children.


Adapted from:

"Helping Your Child Use the Library." Kathryn Perkinson. U.S. Department of Education Archives, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. First published in 1989, revised in 1993.

"Helping Your Child Become a Reader." U.S. Department of Education. First published in September 2000. Revised 2002 and 2005.


You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Colorín Colorado and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [email protected].
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