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Raising Readers: Learning to Love Books at the Library

Growing up in a small Iowa town had its perks, and one was a bookmobile. Every week that rickety vehicle pulled onto our street and I ran for it faster than the ice cream truck.

It’s funny, because it’s not like I didn’t have access to books. My mother took me to the library every week and let me check out the maximum number of books. I was given books as gifts and our home held many bulging bookshelves.

But something about a bus full of an endless array of books really excited me. My kids have sadly never seen a bookmobile, but I was diligent about exposing them to the wonderful world of books.

Loving the Library

Reading has always been an absolute in our home. I read to my sons daily when they were young. And as soon as they were old enough, each got his own library card (this alone is worth a celebration, my friends).

We would designate a day each week to visit the library, when we would engage in story time and discover news books, CDs and DVDs. All three of us had our special library cloth bags that we kept in the car. We had summer reading goals and found simple yet fun ways to reward ourselves for meeting them (homemade cupcakes with sprinkles worked like a charm).

Sometimes people overlook the thrill of the public library but I found it to be an absolute gem as a parent. I mean, our taxes support it, so why not indulge?

Buying Books to Treasure

Carrying on that theme, I was also a big supporter of Scholastic books. We ordered our share of books from the flyer. I remember how excited the boys were to bring home their orders. One in particular was Cat and Dog in the Rain, which was a book/cassette combo. This led to a theatrical experience, where my boys acted out the story while I videotaped it.

Each summer our library would hold a book sale and this was an absolute gold mine of goodness. I would give the boys a certain amount of money and it was up to them to determine how to spend it, which helped their budgeting skills. Our library bags would be bursting with new finds that cost very little money. We’d head home and spread out in the living room, a delicious hush would settle over us as we explored our new books.

Your local library loves kids and loves to partner with parents to engage kids in the joy of reading. Ask for an event calendar and explore the free options available. That includes programming specially designed to appeal to tweens and teens.

Giving Back to the Library

When my sons went to middle school, they began volunteering at our neighborhood library. This worked so well; they could ride their bikes to the library, and then spend a few hours sorting returns, straightening shelves, and other miscellaneous tasks. In return they were surrounded by books while giving back to our community.

I hope these ideas resonate with you and help you to help your kids read more. I was happy to learn that Duke University research found reading for pleasure can make you healthier and calmer, by diffusing stress, by quieting your mind, lowering blood pressure, and leaving you more focused and centered—all good things for you and your children.

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Added bonus: the more your kids read, the quieter they are. Win-win for all! Read on, parents.

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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