Most San Antonio kids have now been back in school about two weeks. The new has worn off and routines are setting in, both at home and in their classrooms. Homework is probably shifting from review and fun stuff to more in-depth, curriculum based practice. Soon many teachers will begin sending home letters or having conferences about each child’s reading level, math skills, and promotion requirements. Worried yet? Don’t be! School libraries have so much more to offer than story times and Dr. Seuss.
Books, books, and more books!
Of course the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a library is a giant room full of books. Most school libraries have some sort of schedule for students to check out books on a regular basis, but did you know that you can check out those books too? All you have to do is set up a parent account with the librarian, and voila! You have access to thousands of books you can read to or with your children. Check with the librarian for parent hours; usually it’s best to go in right before or after school. And if you’re not sure what kinds of books to get, just ask! The librarian is there to help, and most likely he/she will be thrilled to help you find the perfect books for your children.
More than just story books
Many libraries have a special section set up just for parents. Often you will find unique children’s books with movable parts, puppets, or audio CDs. Parenting books for help with issues such as homework struggles, sibling rivalry, or concerns over a learning disability are also in this section. You may also find children’s books that are written to help kids deal with sensitive topics such as divorce, death of a family member or pet, making friends, or a parent away on military duty.
Most school libraries have expanded their collections to include ebooks you can read from home on a computer or other mobile device. Some of these digital libraries also offer audio books, music, or animated story books that are read aloud. You’ll also find informative, sometimes interactive, nonfiction ebooks. Check your school’s website for links to these digital libraries. (Northside ISD offers Overdrive to all students and employees. All you need to log in is a student ID or employee number for access to thousands of ebooks!)
Librarians love doing research as much as they love reading! But please, please, please, don’t rely on Google or Wikipedia for finding information! Instead, look to the databases libraries subscribe to which provide sets of information (FREE to you!) that are credible and easy to navigate (watch this video for more about why databases are awesome). Databases are perfect for those kids who finish homework super fast or you want to challenge: just let them pick a topic they’re interested in and see how much they can learn! Plus you don’t have to worry about them coming across something questionable on the internet because it’s all kid-friendly. Your school library will have databases that are appropriate for your child’s age. Even six-and-seven-year-olds can do research with the right tools! Again, check your school’s website for links to these databases. They probably require a password, so ask the librarian for that information.
Encouraging kids to read for pleasure
Okay, sure, we all want our kids to get good grades and pass their tests. But wouldn’t it be nice if they also learned to love reading just for the fun of reading?! Librarians have many ways to promote reading for pleasure, from recommended book lists to book clubs to blogging. Ask your child about any reading incentive programs through the library, and be on the lookout for library newsletters that come home. You can also call or email the librarian to ask about special programs or books he/she may be promoting.
Librarians love talking about what’s happening in their libraries and helping parents and kids alike find great books they can really connect with. Don’t hesitate to call or stop in the library to see what’s new and exciting in the world of reading. You may also consider volunteering in the library while you’re there; even a few hours once a week can make a huge difference! The next time you’re out of ideas for engaging educational activities, remember that your school library has more to offer than just Dr. Seuss. Don’t get me wrong, I love that cat and his hat as much as the next gal. But libraries have evolved since the days of card catalogs and film strips and are equipped to prepare our children to learn and be successful in a digital, information filled world!