Using Library Resources To Give Toddlers A Head Start

by Melanie on June 8, 2013

We have relatives staying at our house, so Leaf Week is postponed. Our house is small, which means that the schoolroom becomes a guest room when we have company.

Our company includes the sweetest little two year old boy (my darling cousin) who plays hard with Rocket! This young man is a toddler escape artist and has taken Rocket under his wing to show him all kinds of troublemaker stuff like how to unbuckle his seat and open the baby gate. Ha! The two boys have developed such a strong friendship that it makes me sad to know that their family will be going home to Oklahoma City soon.

Since I don’t have a typical tot school week to write about, I want to talk about the library. We use our local library A LOT. When I say a lot, I mean we can be found in a library usually 2-3 times a week. Any less than that is unusual.

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Rocket was reading long before he was crawling or walking. We introduced him to the library at a very early age.

There is so much to do at the library!

  1. We check out books that are relevant to our theme or other life events/special interests (i.e. potty training/cars).
  2. We go to Story Time.
  3. We attend library-sponsored festivals.
  4. We do arts and crafts.
  5. We socialize. We’ve made so many new friends at the library!
  6. We are always discovering new activities.

Seriously, the library is awesome.  I come across so many cool events that we can’t even do yet because Rocket is only 19 months old. But I can tell that as he gets older, we will continue our active involvement with the library. It tailors to all ages, including adults! There are book clubs, adult computer classes, volunteer programs to teach English as a second language, and all kinds of amazing free learning opportunities always on the calendar.

My own little Rocket is a library CHAMPION. I’m not exaggerating. We even have this sign in front of our house:

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Clinging on to his Nano Speed cars. He LOVES those things!

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Look, Mom! That sign is for me!

The sign, as well as many other prizes, was rewarded to Rocket for his completion of the Summer Reading Program. This is a Louisville Free Public Library program that was created to build an early love of books in children. Did I mention that the library is AWESOME? I can’t speak highly enough of all the things that the librarians and the rest of the staff do to build a bright future of young readers.

Since becoming a mom and developing a passion for early childhood education, I learned that the library is here to help.

It’s a free resource that offers way more than most people are even aware. No matter who you are or what your position is in life, there is something for you at the library. Whether you are 90 or 2 years old! The library is a rockin’ resource and I am so pleased that my own tot has already cultivated quite the love for this haven of books.

 

How can the library give your toddler a head start?

 

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So many books, not enough time. An avid reader at 9 months old.

1) FREE materials for TODDLERS.

Books are the obvious “free materials”, but what about DVDs and audio CDs? We have rented all of these things. I’ve even found some of Rocket’s favorite series- Baby Signing Time- at the library! And with the grand CD collection at my local library, I have exposed him to all types of music from the more typical toddler tunes to complex classical masterpieces.

Between all the materials we’ve borrowed, we would have had to spend a fortune if we didn’t have free access. The library is a truly phenomenal service for education. Without it, families like mine simply wouldn’t be able to afford to expose our children to such a diverse selection of materials.

The fact is, the decision my husband and I made for me to become a stay-at-home mom to support our son and become his primary educator (a long term goal) came at a great monetary cost. Our lifestyle changed completely to adapt to being a one-income home. Our budget is strict and I wouldn’t be nearly as confident in a future of homeschooling without the opportunities and resources provided by our library.

With the library, I know that I can give my child a quality education at an affordable cost. I can save my money for other supplies we need in the schoolroom, knowing that what often is the highest expense of all is covered: BOOKS.

This doesn’t mean we never buy books for our own collection (we have a sizable home library and we’re always building it), but with all the books in the Louisville Free Public Library catalog at our fingertips, we’re able to spend our money only on absolute favorite books, quality reference materials, and items that are unavailable in the library collection.

Note: While I seek out specific books for his themes and special areas of study, I ALWAYS let Rocket choose some of his own books too. This process is a very special one for him and he loves having a say in which books we read.

 

2) FREE materials for YOU.

We spend the bulk of our library time in the children’s section, but I check out resources for myself as well. I’ve found terrific books about Montessori teaching, homeschooling, parenting, and early childhood education that have inspired me in some way or another. I am constantly educating myself on how to educate my son and the library allows me to do so without spending a dime (unless I accidentally conjure late fees… it happens!).

 

3) Becoming ACTIVE members of the community.

Twice a week, we go to Story Time (at two different libraries).

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The librarians read very interactively and engage the young audience, encouraging them to participate. To be part of a community of children who range in age and all come together for one shared interest- bookshas greatly reinforced Rocket’s own love of reading.

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After story time, the librarians at our home location bring out boxes of toys and allow the children time to play together. The other library follows its story time with a craft project to get those creative juices flowing. Both are valuable times for children to build their social skills and work on their interpersonal relationships.

We’ve made many friends during our story time outings. And by we, I mean we. Rocket has made tot friends and I have made mom friends!

The library is always offering other events and reading programs as well and we’re constantly finding new things to do!

 

Tips For Establishing Good Library Habits

 

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Buy your children’s favorite books so you always have them around. Expose them to many more with your library card! Pictured above was a long-time favorite of Rocket’s: Noodle Loves To Cuddle.

 It always takes time to establish a new routine and going to the library is no different. How do I make it work?

  • Plan it in advance! 

    Schedule a day to go to your library. For us, it’s twice a week, but even if you go less than that, you should know when your next visit will be. Every time you check out new books, mark in your calendar right away when you’ll be back to return them. This way, you never have to worry about late fees. It helps for us that we go to two story times a week because I know I will always be at the library at a set time and day.
  • Use the online library catalog & learn the Dewey Decimal System.

    Seriously, it’s not that hard. Don’t be intimidated! Once it’s ingrained in you, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been using it longer. Every week, we get new books. I used to just scan the children’s bookshelves for anything related to our theme. It was a real pain and very time-consuming. Once I learned how to use the catalog, I could do searches for books relating to my theme without having to rely on a lucky glance to catch them. You can do these searches beforehand and make sure the books are available before you even get to the library. By using the catalog, you can also request books from all the branches rather than limit yourself to the collection at your home branch.
  • Utilize the website for event planning.

    The Louisville Free Public Library hosts lots of events, every single day of the week. Most libraries in larger cities probably do and I’m certain that many smaller cities have excellent library systems/communities as well. At the beginning of the month, I go through the children’s calendar on the website and mark in my agenda planner the events I plan on or am considering attending. Here was one of them:

 072A science speaker used air to blow toilet paper towards the audience at the Summer Reading Kickoff. I’ve never seen kids so excited to grab TP!

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Once the kids all settled down and the speaker moved on to talk about how hot air balloons work, Rocket felt comfortable enough to grab his own sheets of toilet paper… and bring them to me! It was the best gift I received that day.

  • Utilize the website for research, services, and more!

    Did you know that you can use the website to renew and request books (for Louisville Free Public Library)? This might be true for your city’s library too! You can also pay your fines online, download audio books, scan the eBook collection, look up newspapers, look up music, learn about patents and trademarks, get genealogy information, and get help finding a job. This is just some of what the website has to offer. The website is like a virtual library in and of itself, right at your computer. Take advantage of it!
  • Keep track of your books.

    Always know where your library books are. Keep them all together if that’s what makes sense to you. Also, every time I check out books, I ask for a complete print-out of everything I have out just so I have it all in one place. This is super helpful especially because I don’t return them all at the same time and the due dates vary. What I’m returning depends on which books Rocket likes the most. If he’s really digging one, I will keep renewing it until he loses interest or I can renew it no longer. I also keep a “mack daddy list” of all the books we’ve checked out and organize it by subject. This is for our own personal record. It makes it easy to refer back and check something out again when it’s relevant.

Rocket gets very excited about going to the library and most children will, if the visits are built around positive experiences. Rocket has even developed a close bond with a handful of the librarians and gets disappointed on days when they’re not working. When we are home recounting our day for his dad, he names the librarians he saw. Encourage a healthy relationship with the librarians for your own children by reminding them what their names are every time you see them.  This way, they also know who to trust and turn to if they ever get lost or have a question/request that you can’t answer.

Happy reading, families, and much love to your local library!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tina Kawai August 31, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I simply want to say I am very new to blogs and absolutely enjoyed you’re web page. I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely have exceptional well written articles. With thanks for sharing your website.

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Melanie September 24, 2013 at 5:07 am

Thanks, Tina!

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