Do you remember your first library card?
Mine was from the Wilmette Public Library. It was made of heavy yellow cardstock with a metal number stamped into it and a place to sign my name. That library card gave me a sense of responsibility and ownership. I could ride my bike to the library and spend time browsing the shelves, talking to the librarians, studying in the junior high room, or meeting friends to play checkers. The freedom the card gave me helped ensure that I would be a lifelong library lover and user. It was a card for my library and I used it often.
My children experienced checking out books on their own in a one-room Carnegie Library in northern Vermont. They went with their grandparents to select a few books, and with merely a signature inside the cover, they were entrusted to safeguard their selections. To this day, whenever we return to that small library, they like to go to the shelf and see if “their” books are still there. If so, they can look at the checkout card and see their youthful signature. It makes us all smile every time.
Seeing the excitement and sense of belonging this gave them made me excited about getting library cards when we moved to our new town. But along with their own cards, the kids had a few rules:
- RESPONSIBILITY – Keep track of materials – it’s a good idea to establish a place in your home where library books are kept, especially if you have a lot of your own books.
- MANAGEABILITY – Determine a reasonable number of items that your child can check out – our children could check out what they could keep track of; overdue books would mean limits.
- CONSEQUENCES – Decide what happens if your child loses or damages a book or returns it late – if the library had fines the kids would have to pay them; lost or damaged books would limit their ability to check out more materials until the books were found or paid for.
- MAKING CHOICES – Decide what your parameters will be – my children were pretty free to choose what they wanted to check out from the Youth Department, but we still talked a lot about the books. They weren’t restricted by levels but learned how to determine what material they weren’t ready to tackle (e.g., no books where bad things happened to animals for my son).
Choice is often a hot topic, but if you want to foster a love of reading, give your child the freedom to choose books that appeal to them. Read this great article by a veteran educator if you need a little more convincing. When you fall in love with reading, you will fall in love with the process of discovering that next great book! A library card will help your child do just that.
During September, help us celebrate Library Card Sign-Up Month by bringing your child to the library to get their own library card. We would love to feature them on our bulletin board: