In an effort to develop an early love of reading and encourage usage, libraries these days are increasingly child friendly. But when is the best time to introduce your child to this exciting new world?
Each Kid is Different
The first thing to remember is that each child is different. That may sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook how different in temperament children of the same age can be, even when they’ve grown up in the same environment. Ask any parent! For this reason, it’s impossible to offer guidelines on the basis of age. One should consider the child’s temperament. One child may enjoy the peaceful environment of the library and be content to spend long periods looking through the books on offer, whilst another of the same age may be bored and thus disruptive to other library users.
Stand in their Shoes
Try and think like a small child when considering your first trip to the library. Put yourselves in their little shoes, if you will. Remember that a child has a very short attention span compared to an adult, and will require stimulation to retain concentration for more than a very short period. It is perfectly normal for some young children to be bored by hand-off type entertainment, so bearing this in mind it may be sensible to limit your first visits to the library to short trips whilst just choosing a book.
Entice Kids into the Library
Although a child will find the different environment of the library interesting, it’s best to keep the first visit short in order to maintain their interest. The new people, interesting things to look at and different activities to explore will all appeal to a young child, and you can make each visit a little longer to enable them to explore this new environment at their own pace. The aim is to make the library a relaxed, interesting and friendly place to visit and to develop a lifelong passion for visiting. By not overwhelming your child on their first visit, you should be able to ensure that your child will look forward to their subsequent trips.
One idea for a first outing to the library would be order a book in advance, either by phone or online, and then take your child into the library with you when you visit the front desk to collect it. It will provide a brief introduction without allowing the child to become bored.
Libraries Like Kids, Too!
Do investigate what activities your local library offers for young children. Many recognise that the library can become a part of a child’s life long before they can read and offer activities from a child’s first year. These may include readings from popular children’s books, or perhaps puppet shows or re-enactments of favourite stories. For older children there may additionally be reading challenges, competitions or other interesting events scheduled.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of visiting the library in teaching your child valuable social skills which will be invaluable for the future. Learning to replace books and take care of them teaches respect for things which do not belong to them, whilst behaving quietly and showing consideration for other library users teaches personal responsibility.
Introducing your child to the wonderful world of libraries whilst they are young will ensure that they grow up appreciating and making the most of this most marvelous resource.
Kenneth is a teacher with many years of experience in ESL at Dickson’s English School in Tamsui, Taiwan.
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