I was lucky enough to live in a small, rural town growing up. There wasn’t a lot to do because of it, but it was perfect if you were a parent wanting a child to get creative with their entertainment.
In the summer, if I wanted to get away from the house, I had two choices: pool on the sunny days and library on the overcast/rainy days. Living in a valley in rural New England meant that there were plenty of days where I would have to go to the library as clouds got trapped by the mountains.
I loved my little library. Repurposed from an old Victorian farmhouse, the downstairs was filled with books, while the upstairs housed a creepy taxidermy collection and stored books meant for the summer book sale. The library was run by volunteers, so they were all older women who were either retired or looking to get away from their retired husbands.
This also meant it was extremely low-tech. I left my old town in 2008 and I believe they just got a computer for public use in 2005. I grew up knowing and loving the smell of a card catalog. The place was so tiny that I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t still use one because hunting through the cards or shelves might be faster than doing a computer search.
I loved my peach-colored, cardstock library card. It got so worn and frayed around the edges from use and lived with a place of honor in my wallet. It was the only card that actually did something, as most of the other cards were pretend or store loyalty cards.
Going to the children’s section, I knew where all my favorite books and series were located. I broke my visits down into two parts: the books I wanted to read there and books I wanted to take home with me.
I can’t remember the names of the series, but there were some short children’s books meant for teaching manners that had interesting artwork I read every time. They were super short so I would spend a half-hour reading through these books before moving on.
I was such a voracious reader as a child that I had to get two to three young adult books because I had a tendency to read a book a day. It was the reason why my parents encouraged me to go to the library when I was old enough: they could not afford to keep up with my reading habit. Book fairs, bookstores, all were a bane to my savings because I had to buy more books that I would finish in a couple of days.
The library was a wonderful way to save both my chore/odd job money and give me a sense of independence to go somewhere unsupervised.
Making the Trip
I wanted to take Jai to the library as soon as I felt he was ready.
We went several months ago and he seemed interested, though I think his interest level correlated with his age: more fascination with a new space to explore and other children to observe.
The visit was rather impromptu, more of an “Oh! We have a library not far away, we should go” sorts of moments. When we got there, we found out that this county library has a lot of great programs for children of all ages. Jai got his own library card, which he carried around proudly. We had to trade him for it in order to ensure he didn’t lose it. It resides in a cute tote bag they gave us to carry all his books in during our trips.
Our library has an initiative to get babies and toddlers reading before they start preschool. We track all of the books he reads and after we hit a certain amount we trade the list in for a free book and his name on a board. We’re almost done with our second set of books and thoroughly enjoy our free book.
It is clear that this library, and many that I’ve heard about through friends and family, tries hard to engage with children in the community. Besides this reading program for toddlers, they have other summer reading programs and activities for children. You can spend the night at the library, go see a movie or take an interesting class based on a monthly theme. I enjoy checking out all the activities they have available for adults as well.
Check it Out
The best part of the library is its free and provides a quiet, even in the children’s area, escape from urban living. With all the programs to get excited about it also provides me with a bit of a break, even if it’s just a half hour. I don’t dump Jai into Story Time, I always stay with him, but it allows me to mentally check out for a bit while someone else entertains him.
And because someone’s reading to him? Oh, is he thrilled.
They track how much money we’ve saved by borrowing his books, both in the single trip and overall. I can imagine as he gets older, if he’s like me, he will love to compete with those numbers, trying to see how much money he’s saving over the course of his summer or year.
I can only imagine how much money I saved my parents growing up by going to the library. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in the thousands.
Make it a fun, but frequent, Treat
I try to take Jai as frequently as possible so we’re cycling out new books on a regular basis. We go on rainy and sunny days, especially since there’s a park next to this library branch. If he’s feeling particularly antsy, I am able to take him to the library, drop off his books, snag a few more and then head over to the park for some fun time.
Keeping it a treat helps make the prospect of going when it’s actually raining easier.
I want him to view the library as a fun place where he can get free things, albeit we have to hand them back, that has a lot of great opportunities to help keep him entertained. While I won’t feel comfortable letting him go to the library independent of me until he reaches a certain age, I hope that we can go together and he nabs his books while I nab my own.
What do you think about your local library? What do you love most about it? What are some of your favorite rainy day activities when it comes to the library? Leave your stories and comments below.
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