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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We Cheated on Our Library and So Should You!

Want to know one of the best things about libraries (besides being filled with books)? They're free, silly! And they're everywhere. So why not take your child on a trip? Go visit a new library!

I don't know why my son and I hadn't done this before. I had been thinking about checking out the collection of a library in a wealthy, nearby town with the plan of perhaps paying the annual non-resident fee for a library card. So we drove about 30 minutes up there and checked out their preschool story time too. 

Honestly, I think the preschool story time at our own local library is better, but something new was fun!

We sang a lot of songs, read one story, and then made a craft. 

The library we visited was decorated much more elaborately than either of our own local libraries. There was an enticing entrance to the children's room, and then lots of neat forest elements that created a magical atmosphere in the entire area. My son was totally enchanted, and asked me to take bunches of photos of him. "Take one of me here, Mommy. Now take one of me here!" I tried to browse the books, but he kept running from one feature to another, calling me over for more photos. 

I didn't end up getting a library card for several reasons, the main one being that the collection didn't impress me enough to make me feel it was worth the money (They had no Lunch Lady books in their collection! What?).

But taking a trip to a library in a neighboring community is a cheap, fun, and meaningful outing. Here are some thoughts I had on how it might work for you:

- Visit the website of neighboring libraries. Have your child look with you and compare photos and features of the various libraries and let your child decide which one to visit first.

- Make a "library passport" where you create a simple book with a page for each neighboring library you wish to visit. Then stamp the pages as you visit each one in your book. You could include photos too!

- Make a library wish list, including features that you like a library to have, programs you enjoy going to, kinds of books you might want to check out, etc. Look for those things when you visit a neighboring library and compare your checklists later to see which neighboring library is the most appealing to your tastes! Did any offer things that surprised you?

- Make a note of all your favorite features of neighboring libraries, maybe take photos, and then encourage your child design their dream library. 

- Print out a library scavenger hunt (Imagination Soup has a great one that my children really enjoyed). Take the scavenger hunt to several neighboring libraries and see what you can find!

- Be sure to note the various offerings of neighboring libraries. Remember that you can visit story times, shows, and exhibits for free. In addition to the library visit shown in my photos here, I have also taken my children to another nearby library district that performs elaborate marionette shows regularly. It's often worth the drive for a free show and sometimes a special craft to take home with you!

- Check out branch libraries in your own district. We have several libraries that are within our district and have their own unique charms and offerings. And of course, at a branch library you get the added bonus of being able to check out books!

- Be explorers! Think of visit as a new adventure! Make a game out of who can find the most unusual, or interesting book in the stacks! Perhaps your child has been interested in a particular subject, see what new and interesting books you can find on that topic. 

- Even though you can't check out any books if you don't have a card for a neighboring library, you can read the books while you're there! How many can you read in one visit? Keep count! Set a record! My son and I read the entire book #6 in the Franny K Stein series on this visit we have featured here. (Then his big brother came home from school with the same one today! Great minds think alike!)

- If you fall in love with a particular library, consider paying the annual fee for a library card. If their collection is more extensive than the collection at your own local library, a $50 annual fee can be a lot cheaper than buying all those books you want to read off Amazon! Just don't forget to return them on time!

- Looking for a fun time-filler on your next vacation? Look up the local library in the area you're visiting and see if there's a story time or interesting program that fits your schedule. Perfect for encouraging young readers and reminding them that reading is fun! Even vacation-fun! You could keep track on a map of all the places you have visited libraries on your travels!  

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