Five Secrets of Great Library Trips With Kids

Five Secrets of Great Library Trips with KidsThis is part of the Traveling Through the Pages Summer Reading Adventure. If you haven’t downloaded your printable goodies it is not too late to get started!

We went through a long, dry spell where we did not go to the library at all. I had a two-year-old, four-year-old, and six-year-old and frankly it was just not enjoyable to do.

I couldn’t look for books, the kids were distracted by everything shiny the library had to offer (everything that was NOT a book), they wanted to run down the stacks and NOT be quiet. It was a long, dry spell, and I suffered no small amount of guilt for it.

I am happy to say, though, that a couple of things have changed. First, my kids have gotten much older — now they are 4, 7, and almost 9 — which helps tremendously, and I have had a bit of an attitude adjustment about the library.

It has made all the difference in the world. How did we do it? Here are five tips that helped us turn our library experience around.

Make library trips regular

In a way taking kids to the library is a bit like taking them to church. Even though it can get loud and crazy, the more you do it, the faster they will learn how they are expected to act, and they will improve.

Regular library visits are something the kids begin to look forward to and depend on. They know the day of the visit, so they begin mentally filing away topics for research or anticipating their next read.

Make library trips with kids a priority.

It is so easy when life gets busy to put off the visits week after week, but by keeping them part of the routine, it sends the message that reading is important.

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The message we send about reading is often subconscious. While it is easy to give lip-service to the importance of reading, or to require it, a true love of reading will be built on the messages we send about reading without even meaning to.

Do we sit and read? Are there books in the home? Is going to the library regularly something to be treasured or the thing that always gets pushed aside for other things on the calendar?

Five Secrets of Great Library Trips with Kids

Get everyone their own card.

Oh I can hear you now. Yes, I know it is a bother to keep track of so many cards and receipts and fines, but it has made a huge difference in how my kids view the library and checking out books.

They LOVE to take their stack of books to the counter and check them out with their card. It gives them ownership over the process and over the books they check out.

One tool you can use to track books on multiple cards is Library Elf. Sadly, my library is not supported, but yours might be.

Take advantage of library activities.

I fought this one for the longest time. After all, what did board games or Lego play have to do with checking out books? What I have discovered, though, is that my kids LOVE these activities. Participating makes the library a super-fun place to visit, and one they ask to visit often.

And after the Lego club is over, the games are put away, and the puppets are done, then they are always insistent we grab a few books before we leave.

Even when there is no special event going on, we never plan a short visit to the library. We like to go and hang-out, play with the toys in the kid’s area, read a board book or two, and meet a new friend when we can.

While we are doing all of this, we wander in and out of the stacks whenever a new topic of interest lures us. It’s relaxed and relaxing — we make ourselves at home.

Get to know your library staff

As soon as my kids are old enough to willingly talk to strangers, I begin to foster a relationship between them and the librarian. When they want a book on a specific topic, I encourage them to go ask the librarian for help — even if I could find it myself. I want them to be comfortable working with the librarian and to realize what a helpful resource she is.

I also spend time in conversation with the librarian talking about topics we are studying in our homeschool and my standards for our family reading. By letting her know more about us, it helps her to make good suggestions to me or the kids when we ask for help. A sincere “thank you” also goes a long way to fostering a helpful relationship as well.

The library with young kids is never easy, but I contend it is always worth it. I want to raise kids who see the library as a resource and a fun place to be. That makes it worth all the effort.

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  • Juila Feeley says:

    Great tips!

  • Terra says:

    As a librarian, it warms my heart to read your post. Thank you for supporting libraries!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Awesome! And thank you for the work you do helping families build that culture of reading!

  • Having my own library card when I was a kid was such a big deal. I think it’s a necessity for a young reader even though my own daughter did lose hers for about a year! 🙁 We found it in a wallet she wasn’t using anymore.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      My kids are loving theirs! And be sure to check back for a great library card holder craft later this summer!

  • Jen says:

    Oh I can so relate to the library dry spell! I always envisioned every other homeschooling family quietly walking in and picking their 600 books and then quietly walking out. That is NOT us! My kids are usually running in a full speed and make a bee-line for the computers and videos. Ugh. But I agree, I want them to love the library as much as I do! Great tips 🙂

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      I am laughing at your perfect homeschool family vision. I bet there are very few who are actually like that! Thanks!

    • kitty says:

      LOL our library used to do a homeschoolers class .. kind of like story time but set up for older kids… they were never quiet and the little ones were always all over the place

  • Meeghan says:

    These are great ideas! Thanks! I am pinning!

  • sajmom says:

    Had to respond to this one. We went through a period where the library was torture. The local library was a big one, which was great for book selection, but they were also super strict about being quiet. Which was not good for me with 4 kids (then), three of them rowdy boys. I wanted them to love the library and think of it as a place they wanted to be. Sometimes boys who have trouble keeping still and quiet are the ones who need the library the most! But I spent the whole time there a nervous wreck, shushing them and trying to both let them look at books but keep them from taking too many off the shelves. Or going too far away from me because then I couldn’t keep them quiet. One time I thought I’d found a temporary solution-My youngest was 2 and just wanted to pull every book off the shelves, so I gave him a lollipop and that kept him quiet and occupied. I could focus on keeping the older kids quiet. But then a staff member came over to me and told me that he might get that sticky lollipop on their books! (the lollipop was all that was keeping him from touching their books!) One of my kids had/has a very loud natural speaking voice, and I even tried taking him alone, later in the evening, thinking that if it was just the two of us I could keep him quiet. Didn’t help-he just had zero volume control, didn’t seem to realize that he wasn’t whispering. So frustrating. Eventually we moved, and where we are now has a much more child friendly kid’s section. The kids just growing up, maturity, helped tremendously. And having librarians that understand children, that forgive occasional lapses-such a relief! I now have five kids and we go to the library regularly, the kids are all familiar and friendly with the librarians, and although I can still struggle to keep everyone quiet and calm-it’s nothing like the torture I experienced in those early years!

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      I am so glad it got easier for you! Yes, a more kid-friendly library and just a bit of age can often make a world of difference. The key is to just not give up!

    • Kharking says:

      This providentially popped up in my FB feed today.
      I had one of those trips today with my four (7,5,4,2). I actually thought it was going ok, with several reminders for inside voices for the ones who struggle to recognize their own volume and a couple to stay together. No screaming, no arguing, no taking random books off the shelf, no throwing things–it could have been so much worse. But we still were asked to leave by a staffer who was apparently annoyed by the kids not acting like adults and didn’t see or didn’t care about my efforts to encourage appropriate behavior. I can’t imagine what would have happened if someone had had an actual meltdown. No complaints from other patrons (I asked).
      We left as quickly as possible and my first thought was to wait ten years before going back. But given that I have to remind my husband to use a quieter voice in situations like this, we will be back tomorrow and the next day and the next for the summer because clearly everyone needs more practice being there and having us there.
      I’m still angry and humiliated. No doubt I will have a more balanced perspective tomorrow.

  • Kristin says:

    Wonderful ideas! I tried taking my little one to the library but stopped because she never wanted to read any books and honestly we have a better toddler book selection at home. It’s stressful! This encourages me to go to Mother Goose time and let her just play so that hopefully she will become more familiar with it as she heads into the preschool years. (Of course, number #2 is due this summer so I might have to check back here again for another dose of inspiration! Ha!)

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