Remember those “Your Baby Can Read!” infomercials that were all the rage a few years ago? While it isn’t developmentally appropriate to expect infants and toddlers to learn to read, books are an important part of a child’s growth. To that end, it’s never too early to develop good library habits.
Literacy begins at birth. Babies are born ready to learn. All the experiences children have with conversation, verbal and nonverbal communication, storytelling, songs, books and print promote early literacy. This helps create a foundation of skills needed for language, reading and writing later.
These abilities are built by allowing children to turn the pages of books and magazines, make up their own stories, talk about pictures in books, sing nursery rhymes and tell stories.
Reading to kids, which reduces stress, also nurtures close relationships and fosters a love of books. And it isn’t just for bedtime. Read at mealtime, while you’re in waiting rooms, in the tub and any other time when you can devote a few uninterrupted minutes to your child.
In addition, make going to your local library a weekly routine. Pick out a batch of books to enjoy together throughout the week.
Here are some tips for developing good library habits.
1. Start young.
Getting babies and toddlers used to the library sets them up for a lifetime of appreciating its magic.
2. Be considerate.
If your child is disturbing others, remind her that she needs to use a “library voice” or quiet voice at the library. If she can’t quite settle, take her outside for a walk until she is calm.
3. Find the right book.
Look for developmentally appropriate books, such as rhyming storybooks for younger children and chapter books for older children.
However, allow children to follow their interests. Don’t deny your first grader a book on airplanes intended for middle schoolers if planes are his passion.
4. Check out the programs.
Many branches have activities geared for every age, from “mommy and me” infant/toddler story times to writing clubs for high school kids. Even better? They’re usually free.
It’s never too late to encourage your child to be a reader. Ask the circulation desk if your child qualifies for his own library card. Even many a teen gets a thrill out of having his or her own card.
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated in 2015.