Guest Author - Marie Rippel
The library can be a very resourceful place and fun for small children. Taking your toddler to the library is an important step in their love of reading. How do you do it? What should you do to prepare your toddler for a visit to the library?
The first time you take your toddler to the library, consider going at a time when there are not many extra activities going on. By eliminating distractions, your child can focus more on you and the librarian as they learn what the library is and how to use it.
Before walking into the library, remind your child to use an “inside voice.” Libraries are not the whispering sanctuaries they were a few decades ago. Normal conversation levels are perfectly acceptable, but you can explain to your toddler that other patrons are trying to read and so you keep your voice down to be polite.
Show your toddler the "child" section of the library that is just for them. They will be excited to see that they will have their own special section where they can play and enjoy books. Also point out how the children’s section is divided even further into reading levels. Locate the picture books that fit their level and show them which shelves are for them.
If you aren't personally familiar with the library set-up, you may want to first visit the library without your child. Take a half hour to explore the children’s section so that when you take your child, you are able to point out the things that are age-appropriate and most interesting. This can make your toddler's first visit comfortable and fun.
Show your young child how to take a book off the shelf and be gentle with it. Emphasize placing the books back on the shelf in the same hole that it occupied before.
Take your toddler to the various activity stations that your library might have for children. There might be small chairs or beanbags for children to read in. There may be games to play with.
You might want to consider introducing your toddler to the librarian. Maybe the librarian can show your child around and explain how the library works. This can help your child learn who to go to for help and who are the ones who run the library.
When your toddler can see all those books and is allowed to take several books home, it can be exciting for both of you. Your child will have taken one more step in growing toward literacy.