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One of my first memories is of my mom taking me to the local library in the summer. The children’s department had been changed to look like Ancient Egypt. I was captivated with the decorations, the crafts, and yes – the books. I was six years old, and was an excited learning sponge. Everything was new to me!
This summer, make the most of that feeling of excitement and love of playful learning by visiting your local public library. Many public libraries offer summer reading programs for many age groups. They may start their reading clubs at birth (as read-to-me clubs) and go all the way up to teens. Parents with young children can often keep track of the books they read to their child at home. They are able to enter book titles either online or on paper reading record cards when they visit the library each week. Child care providers might be able to work with their local community library by signing their children up for the local reading clubs. They can use the books read to children at the child care center to track for their weekly reading.
Need ideas for books to read and share? Try the following lists and resources from the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC):
While many libraries work with local Head Start programs by offering story times on-site at the centers, it is a nice change of pace to see if your child care program can visit the library as well. Invite parents to attend with you. Ask them to drive their young children to and from the library and child care site, if needed. Ask the library ahead of time for information on how to sign up for library cards. Ask how old a child needs to be to apply for a card. Child care providers and parents can model wonderful habits for young children to learn at the library such as positive habits of borrowing books, treating them with care, and returning them to the library.
Public libraries often offer wonderful programs for young children and their caregivers during the year, especially in the summer. Look at your library’s website to see if they offer drop-in programs. Check to see if there are programs for children that parents or caregivers can attend with a few children at a time. Find out if you need to sign up ahead of time for craft activities or book-based programs. Another way to engage young children is to visit your public library as a community “space." Many have interesting children’s departments that offer far more than books! Puzzles, age-appropriate toys and age-appropriate technology are often available on the public floor for parents and child care providers to use with their young children. Creative play corners, once only found in preschool and kindergarten classrooms, are now making a solid comeback on the public floor space of libraries across the country.
If you are looking to match the experience of story time at home or at your child care center, ask your library if they offer story kits. Some libraries work with families and child care providers by putting together a theme of picture books to pass around in a backpack or canvas bag. These kits might have puppets, early learning activities, activity sheets to copy, nursery rhymes, and other resources.
They are a great way to introduce young children to the early learning best practices of talking, singing, playing, reading and writing. These best practices can be found in the Every Child Ready to Read program model developed by ALSC and the Public Library Association (PLA).
Libraries and child care centers are the perfect partners for early learning. They focus on working with the same age range of children, they have a desire to create life- long learners, and they are often important pieces of their larger local communities. So what are you waiting for? Book a trip to the library this summer with your young child, and open their eyes to a world filled with wonder, play, and books galore.