Your local library — a forgotten treasure trove

Guest blogger, Clare Turner, is a Primary School Librarian with a passion for books and reading for pleasure. She has two children of her own.

I still remember visiting my local childhood library with my mum. It was a place to explore; a treasure trove containing the keys to hundreds of different worlds. I may be biased (I am a librarian after all!), but it can be easy to forget what an amazing resource we have in our local libraries, especially for children. As a librarian, and a parent, I believe there are great benefits to be gained from visiting your local library. You might be surprised at what is available: libraries are about much more than books on shelves (although books are, of course, very important)!

Five reasons to visit the library

1: It can help children discover a love of reading

We all want our children to enjoy reading. If your child can discover a love of reading at primary school age, then they are more likely to continue to read in later life. There is plenty of evidence that children who read widely for pleasure develop their imaginations, improve their vocabulary and grammar, and increase their knowledge and confidence. So how can visiting the library help your child enjoy reading?

Firstly, I would say choice. Finding the right book can be key in helping your child become an active reader, and libraries offer an enormous variety of books to choose from.
Now I know from experience that just because I suggest a book doesn’t mean my children will want to read it (although that doesn’t stop me suggesting books, and don’t let it stop you!) — they also want to explore for themselves, perhaps based on what their friends are reading, a particular subject matter, or the title or cover of a book they see on the shelf. I have found if children have had a hand in picking books, those are often the books they are likely to persevere with and enjoy.

Whatever your child is interested in, be it boy wizards, fantasy worlds, funny books, animals or space (to name just a few), the library will have something for them to try. Most libraries will also have a good stock of comics and graphic novels, together with shorter books, which might tempt more reluctant readers. The joy of libraries is that they offer a risk-free environment to try a book (or books) and it doesn’t matter if a book your child chooses is not the book for them — they can just take it back and try another!
This may seem obvious, but reading lots of books is one of the best ways of practising reading and so becoming a confident reader, and the library offers the chance to read far more books for free than most parents could reasonably buy. Most libraries offer the chance to borrow anything from six to twenty books at a time, which should be enough to satisfy even the most voracious readers.

2: A library provides a place to read

If you ask keen readers what they enjoy most about reading a really good book, the chances are they will mention ‘escapism’ — the chance to disappear into an amazing book. Libraries offer a welcoming place to sit and read quietly, with the added motivation of being among other keen readers. It’s also a chance for you to share books with your child, or choose your own books so they see that reading is a treat that lasts a lifetime.

3: Challenges can be just the spur for all readers

I have found that reading challenges can be a good motivation, and especially for more reluctant readers. The desire to tick off a stage in the challenge, or read one more book to earn that certificate, can be just the spur more reluctant readers need to try another book. The Reading Agency run a fabulous Summer Reading challenge through local libraries every year. This year’s theme was Roald Dahl: The Big Friendly Read. The challenge gives children the chance to earn rewards as they read (including joke books, picture books and graphic books), with a medal and a certificate once they complete the six-book challenge. Recently, some libraries have also run a shorter version over the Christmas holidays, so it might be worth checking this out next time you need some holiday entertainment!

4: Reading groups and sharing books

Sharing books with friends can be a fun part of reading — if you have read a brilliant book, you want to share it with others! Lots of libraries run reading groups aimed specifically at primary school age children, with the Chatterbooks scheme run by the Reading Agency being a really good example. You can check your local library website to see if there is one near you.

5: Activities: from Lego clubs to comic books, there’s usually plenty on offer

Libraries are not just about books — they can offer a lot more such as computer use, DVDs and more! Fancy trying a Lego Club where children are encouraged to be creative with Lego, to tell stories and to try engineering? Try your local library. What about learning computer coding? Many libraries offer Code Clubs for primary age children, with expert volunteers offering the chance to explore coding with Scratch. Comic Clubs mean meeting other children who love comics and even making your own — a great chance for creative children as well as more reluctant readers. Many libraries also offer author events, holiday activities and more.

Useful library resources

  • To find out about local libraries near you and what they offer, try www.gov.uk/local-library-services.
  • For more information about the Reading Challenge and Chatterbooks, The Reading Agency website is a good place to start.
  • Make full use of the library’s search and reservation options. Once your child has found a book they like, they can search for other books by that author, similar books on the same topic, find new books by their favourite authors — like David Walliams or Cressida Cowell — and reserve books and audiobooks. You can often choose from a range of libraries beyond your own library, giving an enormous selection. My children have often found the anticipation of waiting for a reserved book to arrive just builds the excitement!
  • For more ebooks, you can choose from 250 ebooks in the Oxford Owl eBook library.
  • And whilst you are on the Oxford Owl website, Julia Donaldson has some top tips on reading with your child (Tip 5 is a particularly good one…..)
  • For further ideas about books to read (apart from asking in the library), the Book Trust Book Finder is an excellent resource, whilst on the Oxford Owl website, expert Wendy Cooling has put together a ‘Brilliant Books’ list with lots of amazing suggestions.

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