April 7, 2017-- In April, we celebrate National Library Week. It’s a week to stop and consider how important libraries are to our schools and communities. In this digital age, it may be hard to understand why libraries are still important. Kids don’t need to head to the library to find books for research – they can just look up the information online. Even though the use of libraries is changing, they still offer a lot of benefits to kids.
1. They Provide Equal Access to Resources
For people who have regular access to computers, smartphones, and tablets, the library may not seem like that big of a deal. They can easily access the information they need and quickly purchase and download new books to read. However, for those who don’t have access to technology or don’t want to spend money on digital books, libraries play a big role. Walk into nearly any library and look at the computers. Chances are there won’t be many empty chairs.
Every day, libraries play host to kids completing research projects or seeking homework help on the computers. They make it possible for kids who don’t have access to the Internet at home to still benefit from the resources the Internet provides. Kids don’t have to stress if a teacher gives them an assignment or schedules a test online because they know the library is there to help. Many libraries have even started to lend out tablets for use in the library so kids can get a chance to play educational games, read digital texts, and become acclimated with the latest technology.
2. They Provide a Sense of Community
In many communities, the local library is one of the most popular meeting places. Kids might meet at the library to work on a project or see friends from school when they stop by in the afternoon. Libraries also foster a sense of community by providing programs for kids and teens. They host story times for young kids and book clubs for teens. Sometimes libraries host special concerts or show movies for different age groups. They may even host a LEGO club or a robotics club. All of these activities give kids the chance to have fun in safe, positive environment and help them connect with other kids in their community.
Many libraries bring their programs out into the community too. Some take bookmobiles into local communities so kids can check out books without having to go to the library. Some partner with local events or attractions for kids and design programs that show kids how reading relates to different aspects of life. For example, a librarian may visit the local zoo and read a story about snakes before the zookeeper brings out a snake for kids to see or a library may set up a booth with books about going to the doctor at a local health fair.
3. They Teach Responsibility and Accountability
Getting a library card can be a special moment for kids. It is something that belongs just to them and it opens up a whole new world. But with that library card comes great responsibility. Kids can check out books and movies with their library card, but those books and movies come with due dates. If a book is returned late or damaged, it results in a fine. This makes a library card a great tool for teaching responsibility and accountability.
When kids check out books, they must make sure they keep them safe and that they turn them in on time. If they end up with a lost book or a fine, they learn how to be accountable for their actions. Parents can have kids pay the fine out of their allowance or work off the fine by doing chores around the house. Doing so will help kids learn a lesson they can transfer to many other areas in life.
4. They Encourage a Lifetime of Learning
Kids cannot step into a library without learning something. If they’re playing a game on the library computer, they’re likely building their math or reading skills. If they’re reading a picture book, they’re learning new words and discovering new worlds. As they grow older, the library continues to be a place where they can learn. If they want to improve their cooking skills, they can pick up a cookbook. If they want to learn to crochet, they can find a book on crocheting or sometimes even take a class that teaches them how to crochet. When it comes time to find a job, the library will help them develop a resume and give them interview tips.
Libraries encourage people to visit new worlds, discover new points of view, and to keep building upon their knowledge. They create displays of books related to popular topic and regularly highlight librarians’ favorite reads. They host local authors, historians, and musicians. By encouraging kids to visit the library when they are young, parents and teachers will share with them a resource that they will continue to return to as they grow.