Around here the library is an integral part of our daily lives. We both get most of what we read from ours, and count ourselves lucky to have access to such a great resource in our hometown. As adult readers, libraries are certainly valuable, but as mothers raising little readers, libraries are infinitely more precious. To us, libraries are so much more than rooms full of books.
When we stopped to think about it, we realized the library is teaching our kids so many amazing lessons, just by virtue of using them. The library is truly helping shape them into the sort of respectful, considerate, educated adults we hope they will become.
1. Returning things on time- Learning about deadlines, calendars, and the importance of returning things on time is a core value most successful adults have. Our little ones get due date slips and learn that the due dates need to be respected to maintain the privilege of using the library.
2. Consideration of others- How many people are on the wait list for that book you have? Online access makes it easy to see who else might want that book you just finished, and we are able to teach kids that returning that book early is a show of respect and kindness for others.
3. Treating things with care- At the library, being careless with the book in your possession can result in damages and fines. Our kids learn to be responsible with the books loaned out to them, to take care not to bend covers or tear pages, and to be respectful of the library's property they've been entrusted with.
4. Basic responsibility- When a book is checked out to them, we are sure to let them know it is now their responsibility and theirs alone to make sure the book doesn't get lost or damaged, and that it is returned to the library on time. When they walk out of the library with those books in their hands, we've entrusted them with something precious, and they are always eager to practice responsibility with their book treasures.
5. Respectful transactions- Sure sometimes we use the self checkout (a brief lesson in its self) but most of the time we have our kids go face to face with librarians and practice good solid human interaction when checking out. They learn to wait their turn in line, greet the librarian, produce a library card, and stow books in their totes. It's one of the few places they can fully handle a transaction right now, because it doesn't require money, but great training for later in life when transactions are an everyday part of their lives. Having good, respectful habits through practice early is valuable!
6. Exploring interests- One of the best things about the library is that it is a risk-free way for them to explore their interests. Books are a great way to learn about the world around them, and since there is no cost associated with it, they are free to choose whatever and however many books they want to explore. We have one kid who likes science fiction, another who loves the natural world, and another who is trying a little bit of everything as she begins to read independently.
7. Engaging with community- Our kids have learned to view our libraries are a hub of our community. We find out about local events there, bump into friends, and generally feel connected to the living breathing humans who share our corner of the world when we visit. Teaching kids that there is value in getting to know the people around you, and supporting your community is priceless.
In addition to all these lessons that are built into the act of using the library, our local branches offer so many programs tailored to each age group, and we bet yours does too! Do you use the library with your kids? Do you have any amazing memories of libraries from your own childhood? We'd love to hear!