It’s no secret that we’re big fans of the library – even though our home is pretty much bursting with books, we still find it necessary to max out the check-out limit on all three cards in order to somehow cram even more of the silly things into our bookcases!
The library is an amazing resource for anyone (see my ultra-popular post, 15 Reasons to Love the Library for more on this), but it is especially fantastic for preschoolers!
First off, libraries play a major role in fostering literacy, especially among preschool and elementary-aged children.
Studies have shown that children who have been exposed to library preschool programs showed a greater number of emergent literacy behaviors and pre-reading skills than those in a control group – the greater the exposure, the greater the involvement!
How does this happen? Children who participate in summer reading programs benefit from the many literacy-related activities that are offered, aiding significantly in literacy development – which makes sense, since these programs encourage children to spend a significant time with books!
Benefits of the Library for Preschoolers
The library is a place where children are active – so rare in this passive-media world – where they engage with individual books, group stories, other kids and even adults.
What safer space than a library for little ones to practice their independence by asking for help on their own to find a title (librarians always have great book suggestions), check out a book, or even simply wander around alone, making choices about what to read next?
I mean, how often does a young child have the freedom to choose whatever book catches her interest and then take it home for free, to explore at her leisure? The library will expose your child to more books and magazines that you can possibly afford to buy!
This leads to the wonderful option of using the library as a testing ground. It’s a chance to find which books have staying power (those that you want to buy) and which are fun to enjoy for a short period of time before they begin to lose their appeal.
We’ve used this tactic often to build our own library here at home – I think we kept about five children’s storybook Bibles checked out for the better part of a year before we figured out that The Beginner’s Bible was Gv’s favorite and one we needed to just go ahead and purchase!
Even if your library branch doesn’t have a particular title you’re interested in exploring, you can usually be sent items from other locations or even other library systems, free of charge.
With just one little library card, you and your child have access to resources from all over the country!
Get their own library card
Speaking of library cards, be sure your preschooler has his own as early as your library allows. Not only will this give you more “space” to check things out, but it’s also a wonderful tool to teach your little learner responsibility.
Whether you hold onto the card yourself or have your child create clever pouches like these to keep the card in, checking a book out on his own card will instill a pride of ownership in that book choice, making it likelier that it will be read!
Besides being a storehouse for books, libraries offer tons of programs, clubs, subscriptions and activities to draw in the preschool crowd.
This is a great way to build community and meet others (often from your same neighborhood – hello, new friends!) and all those extra visits lead to more reading. (Yay, brain food!)
The more you’re there (even if it’s just for Lego Club), the more you’ll hear, “Can I go pick out just one book, puh-leeeeeease?” escaping from your child’s mouth!
The environment of the library is like a playground in itself – there are books everywhere to pull out and explore – so many that even our biblio-bursting house can’t compare!
And speaking of playgrounds, we’ve found that quite often, a community park will be located next to a library.
We’re so lucky that the branch closest to our house has one, because it’s just so easy to finish up our bookish visit with a wander next door for a little al fresco reading at a picnic table or to give Gv the chance to run off a little energy before heading home to relax with our new books.
Social skills and the library
Finally, the library helps teach patience. Since Gv has inherited her parents’ love for the written word, she often gets quite attached to a specific title she has checked out.
Our library system allows us to recheck books out twice (which means we can keep them out for a total of nine weeks!) if no one else has requested them. However, at the end of that time, we must return the book to the library to be checked back in.
Gv often struggles with this, since she wants to keep the book at home forever and ever and ever, but it provides a wonderful lesson in patience for her, as she awaits its return to our home.
Of course, most of the time, she doesn’t even have to wait long, since G just checks the book out again using a different card, but occasionally she has to wait several weeks to get it again if someone else has the book on hold.
These are just a few of the ways the library can benefit preschoolers. As we enter the summer months, be sure to take advantage of your local branch and see what they have to offer!
And be sure to pop over to my blog to read A Plethora of Preschool Possibilities (at the Library!). You’ll find an amazing list of the programs, materials, and activities offered by libraries everywhere that are tailored to preschoolers!
Celano, Donna and Susan B. Neuman. The Role of Public Libraries in Children’s Literacy Development: An Evaluation Report. [.pdf file] Pennsylvania Library Association, 2001.