The National Children's Literacy Website is a unique children's literacy initiative and is part of the Soho Center's National Children's Literacy Information Project - a not-for-profit
literacy initiative dedicated to advancing the literacy skills of young children, promoting literacy as an integral factor
in the growth of society, and enhancing literacy in a variety of
home and child care settings. We believe that reading is a fundamental skill needed by all, and we are proud of what we are doing to help children learn to read.


Library Services for Infants to 5-Year-Olds

W h a t ' s   O f f e r e d

What exactly can you expect if you take your young children to the library? 

A lot depends, of course, on their ages. And a lot depends on your local public library's resources. The best way to find out is to visit your local public library and see what's available. While library programs vary throughout the country, there are several elements common to most children's services, as well as some general trends in new programs.

In the past, libraries offered little or nothing for very young children.  But in the last two decades, some libraries have even introduced programs for infants.

  • In many states, new parents receive library information kits through hospitals, adoption centers, and even prenatal classes. These kits generally contain information on how to stimulate a baby's language development through games, songs, and other activities. They also include lists of books for babies, books on parenting, and, of course, the address and hours of the local library.

  • A growing number of libraries invite parents to bring in their children - no matter how young - for special programs, such as parent-child story hours.  Sometimes, these are even scheduled in the evening and on weekends for working parents. Here parents can learn fingerplays, songs, rhymes, and other activities they can use at home to entertain and stimulate their infants.

More and more libraries offer programs designed for toddlers 18 to 36 months old. 

  • Depending on the library, parents and child care providers can participate with children in activities that may include reading aloud, storytelling, fingerplays, rhymes, and songs. Because this age is a crucial time in the development of language skills, the value of these events lies as much in giving parents and child care providers ideas for stimulating and encouraging children's development as it does in entertaining the toddlers.

By the time children are 3 to 5 years of age, they usually enjoy participating in group activities.

  • Most libraries sponsor programs for this age group, and parents generally do not need to stay with their kids throughout these events. Popular activities include reading aloud, storytelling, films, puppet shows, arts and crafts, and reading programs. Frequently, reading programs offer some kind of recognition - perhaps a certificate or book - to children who have read (or listened to) a specified number of books.

It is also worth noting that many libraries now offer special training programs for child care providers and even invite large groups of children from day care centers in for special programs, such as storytelling and read-alouds. If you have children in child care, encourage your provider or child's teacher to contact the local public library to plan such activities (if there's a safe way to bring children to the library).  Exposure to books and to reading should be an integral part of daily child care activities, and the public library is a very important resource available for developing and enriching such programs.

The kinds of materials available for checkout for children (infants up to age 5) vary among libraries. There will always be hard cover books, board books, picture books, and often cloth books, paperbacks, and magazines. The variety of subjects is tremendous, with everything from baby colors to bicycle basics, and from Bambi to keeping bugs in a jar. When your children ask you endless questions about where they came from and why the sky is blue, chances are good there's a book at your library with answers they can understand. Or, if your children have favorite subjects - whether dinosaurs or donkeys - you'll find lots of fascinating books for them at the library.

Almost all libraries also offer recordings of children's stories and songs. Many also offer cassette tapes, videos, DVDs, book/cassette kits, and even puppets and educational toys

See what your local public library has to offer. You and your children may be pleasantly surprised. And the only thing it will cost you is some time


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