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 School-Age Children

W h a t ' s   O f f e r e d

Libraries take on two important roles for children beginning school.  In addition to providing free access to a larege collection of books for "recreational reading," the library is also a place to find information, including help with schoolwork.

This expanded focus in no way diminishes the library's importance as a source of pleasure. Most libraries offer a variety of programs for children to fill that bill. For elementary school-age children, there are read-alouds and storytelling hours that often include discussions and presentations by the children themselves, as well as summer reading programs. For middle school kids, there may also be book 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 books to reading independently for enjoyment and for schoolwork. How well they make this transition will determine much about the quality of their lives.

It is very important to find well-written books for your children at this stage. A story that will make them laugh or want to know what happens next will motivate them to read even though it's difficult. Your local public library is filled with such books, and the children's librarian is skilled at locating these treasures. A growing number of very informative non-fiction books are available as well. Want to know how to dig up dinosaur bones or all about the different people in the world? There 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 older. Encourage them to look up answers to their questions in dictionaries, encyclopedias, 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 have a larger selection and more materials on specific subjects, and the librarian 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 schools and public libraries co-sponsor children's programs. For example, a school may invite staff members from the local public library to give book talks or sign children up for library cards.

In elementary and middle school, children will tackle school assignments that require them to learn library skills. Teaching 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 participate. You will probably be invited to help with the collecting, displaying, buying, 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 child. Obviously, this offers no long-term benefit to anyone. There are, however, 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 components of the topic they're researching or to see the topic as part of a larger topic (brontosaurus is a subgroup of dinosaurs, which is a subgroup of extinct animals). These classifications will help them to identify useful references.
  • Suggest that they look up the topic in the library catalog, periodical guides, and reference books or online. The librarian will direct them and help them get started. Be sure they know how to use a table of contents and index. Suggest they start with something general 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 sources.
  • 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. It's the only way they'll learn the library skills that they can use all their lives.

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 library.

One of the most important and frequently available library services for school-aged children is the summer reading program. 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, particularly if they have any difficulty with reading. Low-level reading skills are being recognized more and more as major obstacles to success for many young 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 school children. Since kids generally are very interested and at ease with computers, computers are often found in the children's section as well as the adult department. Many public libraries offer training courses for children in computer languages, programming, graphics, and the like.

Be sure your children - especially as they get older - know what's available at your local public library.


Soho Center Copyright 2011