Why you should be taking your toddler to the library in 2020


February 11, 2020

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The power of books to bond our hearts to our children is unchanging over the years, and the library in 2020 is just as timeless! 

No one wants to read Chick-Fil-A kid’s meal books fifty times, so if your home library looks anything like mine did when I started reading out loud…chances are you’ll need some new books. 

If your budget looks anything like mine did when I started reading out loud…chances are you’ll need a library card. 

If you’re ready to start reading out loud to your kids…the most important thing you can do is to set yourself up for an enjoyable experience! 

Taking my own four littles to the library is chaotic, but so is taking one or two. (Think of library day as zoo day—except you’re not visiting the zoo, you’re bringing the zoo.) 

Despite the fact that our adventures in motherhood are often exhausting, trips to the library don’t have to be! These tried and true tips can help simplify the experience for you and make it an enjoyable visit for everyone involved! First, you’ll need to make a list. 

Step 1. Make your book list

List making is easiest when done online, before you head to the library. This is the most fun for me since I like to coordinate my lists with the seasons, holidays, religious seasons, current school topics and interests of my children, as well as the current events in our lives.

For example, if it is December, I use Christmas book lists from my favorite bloggers. If we’re learning about pioneers, I try to find supplemental but fun, perhaps fictitious, books to go along with the topic.

Or if one of my children expresses an interest in baking or slime-making, I search for age-appropriate books and tell her I couldn’t find any. While I say that in jest, of course, what I want to emphasize most about the list making process is that it should be light-hearted and fun. 

Don’t complicate the process, just start somewhere and see how far you get. You might be surprised by how many books end up on your list. 

Of course, you certainly could skip the list-making altogether and just browse the shelves in person, but I grew so tired of visiting the library and letting my littles brawl, I mean browse, only to come home with a handful of lousily written or illustrated books or books with themes that were too old for my young kids, even if they were found in the children’s section.

If you’re going to make the effort to visit the library, you might as well channel that effort into bringing home wholesome, delightful books that not only will you enjoy reading and your kids enjoy hearing, but will also enrich your family life as a whole! 

Here are some of my favorite lists to help you get started!

Step 2. Pre-order your books for pick-up

Once you have your list, use your local library’s website to place all the items on hold. If you cannot find as many books as you’d like at your local library, see if they have an inter-library loan program. I use the MelCat System (in Michigan) more often than I use my local library’s selection. Living in a small town restricts the books we’re limited to on the physical shelves, but MelCat allows us to borrow books, free of charge, from any library within the state! 

While I realize that not all cities and states have such a program, it is worth calling your library to find out what they offer and take full advantage of their resources!

Placing books on hold ahead saves both energy and time—think of it like Panera-to-Go. Browse online, reserve your books, let the librarians do the hunting & gathering, and then choose your pick-up day! (Oh, and if anyone reading this starts a library delivery service like Uber Eats or Instacart, you can take my money!)

Step 3. Pick a day for “library day”

Try to choose a day that works consistently for your family. Start slowly, perhaps with once a month, building up to maybe two or three times a month, (or even once a week!). Keeping library day on a specific day of the week sets it apart as a priority in your schedule and helps avoid pesky fines (ie, Thursday is library day, so every Thursday we know books/cds/dvds will be due). 

When you’ve chosen a day, swing into the library and marvel at the magical moment when the librarian hands you a carefully curated collection of books to enjoy with your kids without losing your sanity or your children in the process!

Step 4: Store your books in an accessible place

Just as important as setting your list is setting the stage for enjoyable reading. The fireplace hearth in our home is literally the stage for everything fun that happens. Dance parties, Christmas stockings, Frozen-Soundtrack Concerts. 

I love to stand up books on our “stage” after the kids have gone to bed. The colorful books are the first thing they see when they wake up and they bypass Paw Patrol and Honey Nut Cheerios for reading time, nearly every time. Look around your house and see if you can find a central place to display your books! I’ve realized that simply owning books isn’t enough – we have to invite our kids into them! 

Step 5: Have a return plan

When the library due date arrives, usually sooner than I realize, I have my “bigger” kids (a 6 & 4 year old) use my phone to look at the emailed list. Usually there are little icons with photos of the books that need to be returned. They enjoy playing a riveting game of hide and seek, only the “hiders” in this version are small enough to fit inside a couch!

I drop off the books in the drive up box at the library, or if it is a pick up day for our books-on-hold, we make a quick stop inside. 

Step 6: Don’t miss the extras 

Moving our family several times over the last five years has exposed us to an array of library sizes and offerings. Despite their differences, they’ve all impressed me with just how much they offer to patrons, including discounted museum tickets, telescopes and other cool gadgets to borrow, free music concerts, discounted or free audio books, and make & take craft days. Libraries are a fantastic, free resource that we all too often take for granted! 

Perhaps the day will come when we’ll be able to spend leisurely afternoons at the library, but until then, let’s cheer each other on as we run in and out of the library for a quick stop, returning home with most of our sanity and some fantastic books that not only will enrich our minds, but bond our hearts to the hearts of our children at the same time.

Happy reading! 

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