When my son was little, he loved to read. He loved to read so much, I couldn’t keep him supplied with enough books. Most of the books he read, he read only once, so not only would it have been quite costly to provide him with the new books he craved, we would have run out of room! It made more sense to take him to the library, and I eventually learned a few tricks for finding the books he would find interesting.
If your child is like mine, you know some of the topics he’s interested in, so it makes sense to gather books on those topics. For example, if your child loves to learn about dinosaurs, it’s really a no-brainer to pick up some books about dinosaurs. However, we have to remember that our children are really new to life and aren’t aware of the rich variety of topics to explore. This is especially true of early readers. I had to remind myself all the time that my son had been on earth for just four years so there was no way he could know all the topics it was possible to study. That’s when I came up with a plan for our library visits.
Set Aside at Least Two Hours for a Library Visit
If you want to spend some quality time with your child, a trip to the library is a great way to do it. That means you can’t rush it. You don’t want to run into the library, grab some books, and run back out. That would be like rushing to the park, pushing your child on the swings a couple times, and then scurrying back home. No parent would do that.
Collect Books on Your Child’s Favorite Topics
If you know topics your child is interested in – like dinosaurs – take a few of those books off the shelves and let your child look through them. Be sure to gather both fiction and non-fiction books, too. If you aren’t sure what kind of fiction books your child might like, gather books that are popular. If you have a toddler, you can collect some picture books. Libraries always have tables and chairs for kids, so your child can look through the books you collect.
Observe Your Child’s Reactions to the Books You Collected
Since you want to spend time with your child at the library, you can sit together and look through the books. As you do, watch to see how your child reacts to the various books you collected. My son, for example, never wanted anything to do with picture books (he wanted books with words). Your child will spend more time on the books she finds interesting and on topics she finds interesting. Other books will get a once over or will be ignored completely. You’ll notice, too, if your child prefers fiction or nonfiction, or likes them both equally. Sometimes parents think their child isn’t interested in reading because she doesn’t read fiction. But the reality is that she prefers nonfiction.
Collect Books on Additional Topics
While we definitely want to nurture our child’s interests, we have to remember that our kids can’t be interested in topics they don’t know about. That means that you want to introduce your child to as many different topics as possible. Your five-year-old might love to read about dinosaurs, but what about electricity? Or math? Or music? There are also varieties in fiction such as historical fiction and mysteries. Watch how your child responds to these new topics. If she’s interested, she look at the books longer than those she’s not interested in. That tells you that the topic is a potential new topic of interest.
Choose Some Books to Take Home
You will probably have a nice pile of books on the table by the end of your library stay. Ask your child which books he’d like to take home. He may suprise you by wanting to take home some of the books he’d been ignoring. That’s okay. He just may not have gotten to those books because the others were more interesting, but he still wants to read them. Take as many books home as you can. We used to take 16 books home every week. We could put 8 on his library card and 8 on mine.
Observe Your Child’s Responses to the Books at Home
When my son was very young, we used to read together as part of our bedtime routine. The books he was most interested in were the books he wanted to read with me. He may have already read them at the library or after we returned from the library, but he enjoyed them so much, he wanted to share them with me. You may do something similar. But you will definitely know by the end of the week, which of the books and topics your child likes the best.
Return to the Library – Often
Going to the library should be a regular activity. While you may learn a lot about your child’s reading interests in one trip, you’ll learn much more if you make regular visits. You can’t expose your child to every possible topic on one visit, and you shouldn’t even try to. But with each visit you can gather books on additional topics to see if they spark an interest. Of course, you may find that you are bringing home more of the favorite topics (we always had dinosaur books), but you may also find your child is developing new interests.
- Let your child explore the shelves with you. After the first one or two library visits, your child will understand what the plan is and will happily explore all the library has to offer.
- Don’t worry if your child is busy playing or interacting with other children in the library rather than reading. That’s okay. Socializing is good! Just make some guesses about which books to bring home and then observe your child’s reactions to them at home. That works just as well.
- Consider that a lack of interest in some of the initial books you collect might be due to the reading level of the books. They may be too easy or too hard. If you chose books based on your child’s age, try gathering a couple books for older kids. If you started with books for older kids, try some for kids your child’s age. What your child considers easy to read can depend on the topic.
- On later visits to the library, try gathering books on topics your child was intially uninterested in. Interests change so what didn’t pique your child’s curiosity at age 6 might seem more interesting when she is 8 or even 7.