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Tips for Growing Bookworms: #5 Visit Libraries and Bookstores

Posted by Jen Robinson on December 14, 2009 at 6:00 AM in LibrariesLiteracy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 5 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information.

Tip #5: Visit libraries and bookstores. I talked last week about how I think that it's important for kids to have at least a few books that they can own and cherish. And that's absolutely true. But I think that libraries and bookstores are important in raising readers, too.

It would be impossible, not to mention incredibly wasteful, to try to buy copies of every book that might possibly work for your child. Libraries allow you to choose a variety of books on every visit, and to try books out before you buy the ones that your child really loves. This is a true gift. The library will have the big-name popular books, sure, but they'll also have books that you would never have heard of on your own. The array of choices can be dazzling. Some of those books might become your child's favorites. [Image credit: Microsoft ClipArt gallery]

But there's much more to it than just the chance to try out books for free. A library is a celebration of books and reading, day in and day out. Taking your child to the library is a way to show her that you aren't the only one who values books. Lots of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, work in and visit the library, and think that books are important. Libraries also have events and read-alouds, programming centered around showing kids that books are fun. Yes, you can (and should!) read books aloud at home. But being surrounded by other kids listening to the same book delivers a powerful message to pre-schoolers. Hearing someone besides Mom or Dad reading books aloud tells kids that literacy is a universal thing. All of this reinforces what you're already doing at home.

Another plus to visiting libraries, although one that not every visitor takes advantage of, is access to librarians. Youth service librarians excel at recommending books based on a child's interest. Sure, you can find book recommendations online, too. But if your school or community boasts a highly trained, caring person, someone who can get to know your child and help him to select books, why on earth wouldn't you take advantage of that? I still have books on my shelves that were recommended for me personally by my elementary school librarian.

For more on the services performed by librarians, from collection development to cataloging, check out this recent post from Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy. Other Booklights posts that talk about the benefits of libraries can be found here (from Susan), here (from Terry), and here (from Pam).

Many of the benefits of libraries (with the notable exception of the free access to books) are also true of bookstores. Bookstores show kids an environment and a culture filled with people who also love books. The good ones are staffed by people who can help you choose books based on your child's interests. Bookstores also often have fun events. A bookstore is more likely than a library to host author events. These can be an amazing opportunity to get kids excited about books. See my Booklights post about a Rick Riordan author event last summer, an earlier post on my own blog about an event by Jon Scieszka, and Becky Levine's recent post about a signing by Eoin Colfer. [Image credit: Photo taken by Susan Taylor Brown at Jon Scieszka signing event at Hicklebee's Books.]

And although the books aren't free at the bookstore, that can be a plus, too. Occasionally taking your child out and buying her a book says that you value books enough to spend money on them. My mother used to take me to our local used bookstore on a regular basis. She'd buy books for herself, and she'd buy books for me. We always had fun picking them out. I loved the treasure of finding a used copy of a book by one of my favorite authors. Is it any wonder that I grew up a reader? (And, actually, my mom and I still go to used bookstores together when we have the chance. And I still love finding old copies of books by cherished authors.)

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visits to the library, and visits to bookstores. Taking your child to visit both can be a wonderful component to growing bookworms. And, as an added bonus, you get to visit libraries and bookstores yourself.


With the holiday vacation coming up, it's the perfect time to visit a library or book store!

E-readers and iPhones might be all the rage these days, but there's still nothing like a book-in-print. It's just a different reading experience, and one that we all need.

If we want our children to love learning and reading, then we must encourage them to turn the pages of real books on a regular basis.

I love this series, Jen! Your timing is perfect.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for your support of the series, Dawn. The timing has worked out to be quite fortuitous, with the posts about acquiring books coming out right around the holidays. Anyway, I certainly agree with you about the importance of printed books, especially for younger kids.

BookChook writes...

I loved this: "A library is a celebration of books and reading, day in and day out." That's how I feel when I walk in to my local library. Accessing the catalogue online just doesn't have that same visceral pleasure!

Librarians are some of my favourite people, but with funding cuts, they are also incredibly busy. Sometimes i use my local bookstore employees as surrogate librarians. They are paid to know their products and usually have time for me. Some love children's books as much as I do. I'm sure they know that I may not buy, just want to listen, but it never seems to stop them imparting information.

Just sayin...

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Sounds to me like you're lucky in your local library and your local bookstore, Book Chook. It's great to be surrounded by kindred spirits, isn't it?

Heather writes...

I only wish the libraries around me weren't filled with non-book distractions. We have to navigate all kinds of toys and games, not to mention computers everywhere where other kids are playing games.
The books seem to be losing space to dvds and other media. I see far more people browsing movies or surfing the internet than reading or browsing the stacks.
No real point here, I guess, just grumbling. I'd love it if there were separate rooms for toys, games and other media so I could bring my boys in for the books without having so much else pulling at them.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Sorry that your library disappoints you, Heather. I think that libraries are in a tough spot these days, balancing all of the varied needs of patrons. It's a reality these days that libraries aren't just about books - they function as community hubs, and yes, places where people can get DVDs, internet access, etc. Sometimes that's not so fun for the people who just want the books. But I think that if we're to continue to have libraries at all, they have to serve a range of patrons. And while part of me wishes that everyone just wanted books, that's not realistic.

I do agree that separating out quiet, book-filled spaces from the spaces more cluttered with other things would be nice, though.

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