Back to school is such an exciting time of year, with new teachers, new schools and new books. Books were a prevalent part of my life growing up. It was always a highlight of my summer to go to the library, trekking home with a paper grocery bag full of books and a new bookmark. Making library trips a part of your family’s routine will help cultivate lifelong readers, so give it a try for the new school year.
Libraries should be a positive place for your child and treating your trip as an adventure is one way to set that tone. Let your child lead the way when you walk in and discover what the library has to offer together. My local library has a dedicated reading room for children, complete with bean bag chairs, brightly colored murals and a small slide to make the space welcoming and a bit more familiar to younger guests.
Once you have explored the library, take advantage of the vast collection of books. It is a great opportunity to introduce new and diverse authors and cultures, as well as experiment with different types of genres. I know from photographs that my mother and I read many stories together, but what I distinctly remember reading are poems. I loved the sing-song nature of the poems and I bounced along as my mother read. Furthermore, research shows that poetry for children can help develop creative language skills and thinking—an added benefit.
When choosing which books to bring home, pick out some together but also allow your child to choose their own. Some of my favorite books to bring home were crafting and science experiment books. While they’re not stories, I was interested in the topics and read them intensely. Pick out a book for yourself too. Your child is always watching, so modeling positive reading practices will encourage them to want to read too! Having a designated location for the family’s library books sets a precedent for the importance of reading. The shelves on our television stand are where we keep our library books.
Having them present in our living room acts as a reminder to ask each other our thoughts on the book we are reading, and we’ll often find ourselves choosing to read for the evening instead of watching television.
Implementing a library routine now will help your child continue reading through the school year. Research shows that reading during the summer helps children stay on grade level. Beyond that, summer is a great time to have experiences out in your community. My childhood library hosted different weekly shows from reptile experts to one-man circus performances. At the library, there is always something new to experience and discuss with your children.
It’s never too early to get your child excited about books, so this August, initiate your child’s love of the library by getting them their own library card and starting a reading routine that will set the stage for a lifetime as a reader.
By Ashley Williams, Glazer Children’s Museum
Originally published in the August 2019 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.