By Christina VanGinkel
With my young grandson now living in the same town as I do, I have made a promise to both myself and to him to visit the library with him at least once a week. He not only loves the huge assortment of books, but also the children's section itself, complete with its variety of toys, including dinosaurs, a small-scale schoolhouse, and a time-honored favorite, Tinker toys! Now three years old, we have been visiting the library together since he was just over one year of age, but because he lived quite a ways from us up until very recently; these visits were few and far between. Still, he seemed to be hooked from our earliest visits, always happy and eager to go, no matter how long might have passed since our last visit.
The town that we reside in is quite small, and the hours that the library is open to the public are limited, with Wednesdays the only day of the week that they are open morning and afternoon. Thursdays they are closed, as well as weekends, with limited hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. With this short schedule of open hours, finding a time that we both can go might be a stretch at times, but I feel that taking a young child and exposing them to all the wonders that even a small library such as the one in our community has to offer is important.
The library can help teach a child the most basic concept of sharing. It also is a great way to teach a young child that showing respect for possessions is an important fact of life. I remember the first time we checked out a book that we realized once we got it home had been damaged. The librarian had obviously missed the damage, as had I when I was helping my grandson pick out a few books to bring home. Two pages on the inside were nearly torn from their spine and several pages had been colored on. He immediately pointed out the tears as we paged through the book upon arriving back at his house. It gave us the perfect opportunity though, to talk about how important it was to take care of the books when we borrowed them, because eventually, someone else would be borrowing them, and they would want to be able to read the story the same as we had. We talked about how we could fix the book, and we not only taped the pages front and back to prevent them from tearing further, we made sure to point out the damage to the librarian when we returned the book. I let my grandson take the book to the counter and show the librarian where the torn pages were, and how we taped them. It was a good lesson in accountability, even though he had not been the one to tear the pages.
My grandson has his own shelf at home to put anything he has borrowed from the library on, including books and DVDs. My daughter limits him to one movie a week, and several books. In addition, even though he is only three years old, he is very good about putting everything back on the shelf between uses. He knows that if he loses something in his room, he will have to find it. The books and the video are his responsibility for the time that he has borrowed them. We have also talked to him about the fact that if something is damaged while in his care, he will have to empty his bank to pay for the damage or lost item.
Taking a child, even a very young one, to the library is a great way to introduce them to the larger world we live in. There are so many lessons to be learned, along with the sheer fun of the place. When every activity that we might want to take part with our children and grandchildren costs a seemingly small fortune, the fact that the library is still a no cost activity is a huge bonus. The next time you are looking for the perfect way to spend some time with the child or children in your life, be sure to check out your local library.