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.