take on two important roles for children beginning school. In
to providing free access to a larege collection of books for
"recreational reading," the library is also a place to find
information, including help
This expanded focus in
no way diminishes the
library's importance as a source of pleasure. Most libraries offer a
of programs for children to fill that bill. For elementary school-age
there are read-alouds and storytelling hours that often
include discussions and presentations by the children themselves, as
as summer reading programs. For middle school kids, there may also be
discussions, summer reading programs, creative writing seminars, drama
groups, and poetry readings.
But the books are
central. The ages 7 - 9 is a very important time for children.
These are the years when they
normally make the transition from just hearing and looking at picture
to reading independently for enjoyment and for schoolwork. How well
make this transition will determine much about the quality of their
It is very important
to find well-written books
for your children at this stage. A story that will make them laugh or
to know what happens next will motivate them to read even though it's
Your local public library is filled with such books, and the children's
librarian is skilled at locating these treasures. A growing number of
informative non-fiction books are available as well. Want to know how
dig up dinosaur bones or all about the different people in the world?
are good books that will fascinate even beginning readers.
Hopefully, that sense
of wonder and curiosity
behind little children's endless questions will continue as kids grow
Encourage them to look up answers to their questions in dictionaries,
atlases, and almanacs. These are resources you may want to add to your
"home library." Even if you do, remember that your local library will
a larger selection and more materials on specific subjects, and the
will be glad to help kids learn to use these resources.
And don't overlook the
school library as another
valuable source for similar information and training. In fact, many
and public libraries co-sponsor children's programs. For example, a
may invite staff members from the local public library to give book
or sign children up for library cards.
In elementary and
middle school, children will
tackle school assignments that require them to learn library skills.
these skills is, in fact, part of the school curriculum. When you visit
your children's school, you might want to stop by the school library,
meet the librarian,
and familiarize yourself with its many resources. In addition, if your
children's school sponsors book fairs, take the opportunity to
You will probably be invited to help with the collecting, displaying,
and selling of children's books. This is an excellent way to learn more
about children's literature.
Very often children in
school will ask their
parents or after-school care providers for school assignments that need
the library. And very often parents and providers will find themselves
taking over and doing too much of a report or other assignment for a
Obviously, this offers no long-term benefit to anyone. There are,
things you can do to help kids with assignments -
Ask children questions about their assignment and
encourage them to ask their teachers questions. This helps children to
clarify what they're trying to do. Help them to identify smaller
of the topic they're researching or to see the topic as part of a
topic (brontosaurus is a subgroup of dinosaurs, which is a subgroup of
extinct animals). These classifications will help them to identify
- Suggest that they look up the topic in the library
catalog, periodical guides, and reference books or online. The
will direct them and help them get started. Be sure they know how to
a table of contents and index. Suggest they start with something
about the subject and be prepared to consult more than one source.
- Help them to break assignments into logical segments
and avoid last-minute panics by setting deadlines for each phase of the
work. Allow them plenty of time to gather the materials they need.
- Help them to determine if the community library
has the resources they need or if they should check other information
- Encourage your children to ask the librarian for help
in locating needed materials, and let the children do their own talking.
- Give them encouragement, advice, and a ride if
they need it, but resist the temptation to take over an assignment. Let
children assume responsibility for researching and writing reports.
the only way they'll learn the library skills that they can use all
In many areas, libraries have special services
for helping kids with school assignments, such as homework hotlines and
term paper "clinics." Check what's available at your local public
One of the most
important and frequently available
library services for school-aged children is the summer reading
Research has shown that kids who participate in library summer reading
programs begin the school year with stronger reading skills than those
who don't. So, encourage your kids to participate in such programs,
if they have any difficulty with reading. Low-level reading skills are
being recognized more and more as major obstacles to success for many
adults. Obviously, the more help youngsters get early on, the better.
The increasing number
of computer software
programs available at public libraries are of particular interest to
children. Since kids generally are very interested and at ease with
computers are often found in the children's section as well as the
department. Many public libraries offer training courses for children
computer languages, programming, graphics, and the like.
Be sure your children
- especially as they get older - know what's available at your local