Growing up in a small town, our tiny local library was the size of a small ranch house, and had just two rooms: kids and adults books. Yet every visit filled me with excitement! I recall running from room to room, flipping through the ancient card catalog (remember those?), and checking out my full limit of books. Today, we have more exciting library resources for kids and families than ever before. I took a trip to two of my local libraries to see how things have changed!
Libraries have come leaps and bounds from the dusty two-room branch of my childhood. Now, you’ll find loads of exciting library resources to enjoy with your kids and family!
What I’ve posted below should be fairly similar to what you might find at any urban or suburban library today. However, it’s worth a tour of your local library to discover their exact offerings. After touring two local libraries (East Hartford and Hartford), I was excited to be reassured that, “Books are still our biggest resource!”
Exciting library resources for kids and families:
Check out all the resources I found when I visited two of my local libraries. (Hartford Public Library is an urban library, and East Hartford Public Library is suburban library).
Early literacy stations – these learning stations are perfect for young children or English Language Learners of all ages. They’ll contain resources and appropriate books, audiobooks, and videos.
Pre Literacy Classes – Let children play and explore the non-reading aspects of literacy: storytelling, music, acting, characterization.
Homework help – Some libraries offer peer-to-peer tutoring programs or mentor match ups. Or you could coordinate your own homework tutor and meet them at the library.
Workstations – If you’re a work at home mom, consider bringing your kids to the library for a morning, where they can play while you work and watch them from close by. The Hartford Public Library has workstations and computers inside the children’s section only for parent use.
Awe Stations – these are computer programs for kids, where the computers are not directly connected to the internet, and all programs and materials are carefully screened for age-appropriateness. The keyboards are color coded to assist with learning.
YouMedia Lab – Right now, there are only dozen or so of these labs across the country, but they are pretty awesome! YouMedia is “a space where teens explore, express and create using digital media.” With its own 3D printer and other cutting edge technology, teens can dive into hands on learning. Participants (limited to HPL card holders) are matched with a mentor and work their way through the learning process, earning access to higher levels of resources as they go.
Free Music Concerts – The Hartford Public Library has a baby grand piano at the heart of their building. Free Baby Grand Jazz concerts on Sundays provide families an opportunity to enjoy beautiful music played by accomplished musicians.
Free Art Shows – Did you know, some libraries host guest art exhibits, or have been gifted permanent collections of art? As in million dollar art pieces? No need to spend money on an art museum when you can view famous paintings and other visual arts for free! Also, you may find local artists or artist groups showing themed pieces around holidays. The Hartford Public Library has ArtWalk – a state of the art gallery above Main Street in Hartford!
Classes for kids – Story hour is still a staple feature at most libraries, but look for cool classes like East Hartford’s grant-funded LEGO Junior Makers program, craft classes, and birth-to-3 support classes. Some classes are drop-in, like Circle Time, but others you’ll need to call to sign up as materials may be limited.
Book Kits – look for these nifty little backpacks or boxes filled with themed books, CDs, DVDs, and/or toys. Study dinosaurs, outer space, oceans and other topics. It’s a handy way to get a solid collection of books for your kids, if you don’t have time to “shop the library” some weeks.
Parenting Support – Many libraries have a dedicated section for parenting books with fantastic resources for potty training, sibling rivalry, sleep habits, homework help, and screen free activities
Volunteer Opportunities – Offer to read at Story Hour, or assist with program classes. Ask about other opportunities inside your library. The Hartford Public Library also houses a branch of Talking Books, a recording studio where volunteers can read and record texts for the blind and handicapped. What a great opportunity to give to others by reading books and periodicals for them to enjoy!
Museum Passes – Find free and discounted passes to many local museums and attractions at your library. You may even discover the option to print these passes from the comfort of home, days in advance of your visit! Check to see if your library has this capability. East Hartford’s museum pass program is open to non-residents and has the online printing option!
The library has always been a place of wonder and discovery for me, and will be even more so for my children. It’s exciting to see how libraries are evolving to be even greater resources and engaging community centers.
If you don’t currently have some of these features at your library, put in a request. Libraries can often introduce new programs or apply for grant funding to bring new services to your community, too!
February is Library Lover’s Month!
Visit the library on Take Your Child to the Library Day – which is the first Saturday of the month! It’s a great day to get them their first library card! Your local library may even have special activities, so check out their calendar! Don’t forget – the best resources at the library are still books… and your local media specialist (aka, librarian!).
Go on a Library Scavenger Hunt with your kids!
If you’re going to be taking your kids to your local library soon, here’s a free library scavenger hunt printable to help them explore and learn where everything is at your library. The items listed should be fairly similar library to library, but of course, the placement will all be different! It’s important for kids to know how their library is laid out and be familiar with various types of books.
What’s your favorite resource at your local library!?
Many thanks to Sandy and Rachel of the East Hartford and Hartford libraries for taking me and the boys around and showing us all these cool library features!