Monday, April 9, 2012

Five Reasons To Give Kids Their Own Library Cards

This is National Library Week. I’ll be visiting some of the local schools in the next few days to promote reading and to distribute brand new library cards. It amazes me how many people refuse to allow their kids to get library cards. I can only assume it’s because they don’t understand the advantages. Here are just five of my favorite reasons to get kids their own library cards.

  • Access to resources. Libraries are about much more than books. Kids with library cards can use library computers, do research on library databases, download audiobooks and e-books, and request items via interlibrary loan. Having their own cards allows kids to do these things even without a parent present, which becomes more and more important as kids age and become more independent. Many kids come to my library on their own after school, or with grandparents or babysitters, and the ones who don’t have cards are often unable to use the library to its fullest extent.
  • Agency. Allowing a child to have a library card sends the message that he/she is mature enough to choose his/her own books. This is important at every age, but especially for kids who have recently become independent readers. For the first time, these kids don’t have to rely on an adult to read stories to them. They can discover stories on their own and start to determine what types of books they enjoy. Some parents worry that kids will only read “junk” if given the choice, but I actually think having a library card helps children make the first step toward being selective readers. If kids have to be responsible for their own library materials, they become that much more invested in what they choose to borrow.
  • Pride. Related to the freedom to choose one’s own books is the confidence and sense of pride that comes from having a library card. A library card is one of the few things a child can have that an adult can also have, and kids feel special when they realize that fact. Kids also get a boost of self esteem when they realize their parents and guardians trust them enough to take on the adult responsibility of checking out, caring for, and returning library materials.
  • Print motivation. Print motivation is an early literacy skill, and it refers to a child’s enjoyment of books. Allowing a child to apply for a library card is just one way to model a love of books and reading. Kids take their cues from the adults in their lives - especially their parents - and they will be more likely to see the fun and excitement of reading if the adults in their lives also share that excitement. Giving a child a library card teaches him/her that libraries are important, worthwhile places, and that library materials are worth borrowing.
  • Library skills. Having and using a library card exposes a child to the library environment and staff. When he/she visits the library, he/she learns how it is organized, how to search for information, and whom to ask for assistance. When they check out books, kids interact with librarians and other library workers, and develop a relationship to those people, and to the library itself. This relationship can mature along with the child, and stay with him/her well into adulthood.
Does your child have a library card? Do you remember getting your first card? Share your thoughts in comments!

1 comment:

  1. We don't charge fines on children's materials in my library system, but we do get people who are worried about losing or damaging books, since they do have to replace anything that they ruin or lose. I also run into a fair number of people who believe it costs money to apply for a card. Parents here also worry that kids with their own cards will starting checking out "inappropriate" or "babyish" materials. We have a lot of moms and dads who come in without the kids (while they're at tae kwon do, or piano lessons, or whatever) to choose the books they think the kids "should" read. Even the kids I know who have cards aren't really allowed to use them. Often, even in a family full of library cards, only Mom's is used. It's interesting. When I was a kid, I had and kept track of my own card, and no one thought twice!