I must confess that although I have always loved libraries, public library visits have never been a regular part of my daughter's schedule. Oh, we've certainly visited over the years. We did some toddler storytimes when she was little, we'd go and read picture books at the nearby branch whenever we were at the hospital where my husband works, we'd pop by the branch that was next to a playground as a two for one outing, etc. We'd start out each summer vacation by bringing home bags of library books.
But the truth that must be acknowledged about our book-privileged life is that we always had plenty of books at home. This was because of my blog (I was a round one judge for the Cybils in fiction picture books twice) and because I am a sucker for buying books, from the Scholastic flyers to freestanding bookstores to Target to Amazon. This abundance of books meant that we never really needed to make library visits part of our routine. They were more something we would do sporadically when it happened to be convenient.
But this fall, I finally found a way to make visiting the library a regular part of our routine. I signed my daughter up for a weekly art class. The class is in the same shopping center as a beautiful new library branch. It's just a hop-skip-and-a-jump between them. This branch, which I hadn't visited until last month, is fairly small but supremely kid-friendly. I cleverly scheduled her class so that the library branch would be open for nearly an hour following the class.
And now: we have a routine.We park across from the library. We return the books that we are finished with. I walk her over and leave her at the art studio. I walk back and sit in the library and read for an hour. Then I pick her up and take her back to the library, where she greedily pulls dozens of books off the shelves and hands them off to me to carry. Then she finds a cozy spot (this branch has several) and reads until I drag her away because we are ridiculously late for dinner.
The books that she is choosing, not incidentally, are mostly books that she's already read. She is finding her friends on the shelves and bringing them home. Last week she grabbed a half dozen Diary of a Wimpy Kid titles. The week before it was every single Babymouse or Squish title that was on the shelf (several of which we already had at home). She also likes to grab picture books about which she is nostalgic, like Mo Willems titles, even if we own those, too. She picked a picture book that her class had read last year as part of Project Cornerstone, and a couple of early readers. She picks graphic novels that she's read but that we don't own (like the Amulet series, and the books about Cleopatra in Space). Sometimes I'll suggest something that she hasn't read that I think she might like. She'll shrug and toss it in, but these titles are likely to go back unread. I am fine with this.
And here's the best part. We go home and she becomes a reading machine, plowing through the books that we brought as though someone was going to take them away. It's hard to even get her to eat dinner or go to bed. Piano practice is a lost cause on library nights. I, of course, am fine with all of that.
We are rather late to having a real library routine, but I am celebrating it now. I'm more willing to put titles on hold now, too, because I know that we'll be going in within a week. I'll be able to pick them up without making a special trip. My already devoted reader of a daughter is reading more. I get to spend time browsing the shelves and sitting reading myself. It's all good.
If you would like to get your kids to the library more, I recommend scheduling some other regular activity to take place near to the library if you can. The power of building things into your routine cannot be over-estimated. Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg would be proud.
How about you? Have you been successful in making public library visits a part of your regular routine?