A recent Huffington Post blog post lists “5 good reasons to take your kids to the library today”. It’s a story I happily clicked on, because, as a librarian, I think it’s a great idea to encourage children to use libraries.
Although my kids are regular public library users, they seem to be allergic to using their school library. When they have to find information on a particular topic for a project, the task usually falls to me to a) Google and print out the information, or b) take them to the public library. For them, first prize is always (a). Google knows everything. It also doesn’t have a closing time and is always ready to spit out information. For me, though, first prize should be (b), or better yet, taking the initiative and visiting the school library.
The blog post offers these reasons for taking your child to the library:
- Regular visits lead to more reading.
- A visit to the library exposes your children to more books than you can afford to buy.
- The librarian can recommend books you may not know of or think to suggest, broadening your childrens’ tastes and expanding their minds and vocabularies.
- Library time is active, not passive, meaning that it’s not just a place to be quiet and read. Public libraries offer activities during school holidays and over weekends.
- Owning a library card teaches kids responsibility.
To this list, I’d add the following:
1. Become an information super-sleuth
One of the arguments I use when trying to encourage my kids to use their school library is that searching for information is a skill that has to be developed if they are thinking of taking their studies further than school. Just because you can type a search term into Google doesn't make you an information super-user. In order to get the best search results, you should first know something about the topic and then be able to articulate your search terms accurately. This only comes with practice. Also, there are few pleasures as great as finding that key point for your essay when you've been searching for it for weeks.
2. Librarians are your friends
Forget the stereotype of the stern shusher. Librarians can be friendly too! The blog post says that librarians can recommend authors and books to you. They also know a lot about their stock and can sometimes conjure a particular book for you within minutes. Their primary job is to help you find the information you want.
3. Print books aren’t dead
There’s a lot of talk lately about how everything is going digital. My job is to oversee the digitisation of library content, so I should be arguing that print is dead. Frankly, though, I find the whole argument a bit of a yawn. Even if books are being digitised, the majority is by no means free to download. Add to that the high price of books in South Africa, and you have a great argument for trotting off to your local library, where there are thousands of books lovingly chosen by librarians just for you.
4. Reading, learning and bonding
I firmly believe in the value of sitting down in the evening with small children and reading a book with them. It teaches them reading skills, allows you bonding time, and while you’re at it, they get to learn how to handle a book “respectfully”, so that others can use it after them.
There’s nothing better than the feeling of coming home with an armful of books just waiting to be read. My children love getting back from the Library on a Saturday morning and settling down to go through their “loot”. It’s also the most rewarding sight imaginable to see three children engrossed in books instead of a Playstation game.
What are your favourite memories of going to the library?