I love the library. Any library. They are my favorite places on earth. My mom will tell you that when I was little, getting me out of the library was akin to getting a normal child out of the McDonald’s Playland. My husband will tell you that I’ve been trying for years to create a library out of our home. My children will tell you that if you want to see Mom go from happy to ballistic in five minutes, accompany me to the library.
Here’s the reason: I am happy when we walk in. I love being surrounded by print and I love the smell of binding glue and inked pages. However, after a few minutes of trying to both control my children and browse the shelves, I’m DONE. In fact, I rarely attempt taking my kids to the library by myself. It just isn’t worth it. I haven’t get figured out how to keep them library quiet or how to keep my son from running through the aisles, so we go when Daddy can go with us (or Mommy can go alone) or not at all.
I want to be able to choose high-quality reads to take home, both for myself and my children, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Often we come home with a bag full of books that only get read once—or, like the one about the desert frog that my daughter picked out a month ago, gets read until the au-natural “piggy back” rides start and then we’re done with that one.
You don’t always have time to browse or skim books before you take them home. So how do you avoid coming home with something other than a bag full of paper back disappointments?
I wish I knew.
I’ve been pondering on this topic ever since a friend asked me to write a blog post about it several months ago. I haven’t found THE answer yet. But I do have some suggestions:
- Look for books that match your child’s interests. Is your son really into tractors? Look for books with tractors on them, or ones about transportation. Know what you are looking for ahead of time, and then you can be on the ball from the minute you step through the security detection systems.
- Pick Up The Suggested Titles. Oftentimes, a library will have special shelves highlighting books that strike the librarian’s fancy. These are usually books with popular characters, books by popular authors, or themed books that apply to upcoming holidays or seasons. Popularity might not be all it is cracked up to be in high school, but when it comes to a quick pick at the library, you can trust that 89% of the time, a book a librarian has taken time to specially set on top of the shelves is a good one.
- Look for Color! I’ve found that books with intricate art, brightly colored images, and fancy fonts tend to be better than their papyrus or comic sans counterparts. I think this is because when a publishing company is willing to spend extra on the graphics, they believe in the text.
- Take a trip to the past. A library is an excellent place to introduce your children to your favorite fictional friends from your childhood. Think about the books you loved as a child. Chances are they are still waiting for you at the library. If you loved a book then, you probably won’t be annoyed while reading it to your child now. Here are some friends that you might enjoy being reacquainted with: Mercer Mayer’s Little Creature, Froggy, Franklin, Arthur, the Berenstain Bears, Francis (as in Bedtime for Francis), any Dr. Seuss creature, Madeline, Eric Carle’s animals, Molly Lou Melon, Chyrsanthemum, The Paper Bag Princess, George and Martha, Clifford, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, Corduroy, Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie friends, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and (to quote Dr. Seuss) “many many others that I have found.”
- Search by Author. One easy way to find books that will interest your children on the quick is by searching for an author’s last name. If you’ve noticed that your family likes a book by a certain person, see if that author has written more than one title. For example, my daughter is obsessed with all things Fancy Nancy, so we head straight for “O’Connor” when we first get to a library. She always feels so tickled when we come across a new title! Here are some children’s authors that I would highly recommend checking out: Mark and Caralyn Buehner, Mo Willems, Leo Lionnie, Jan Brett, Kevin Henkes, Audrey Wood, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Lane Smith, Jennifer Adams.
Who are your favorite children’s book authors and characters? We are always looking for new suggestions!