When I first fell in love with libraries, they were hushed, almost reverent, places. That’s okay. I did, after all, fall in love with them, but I wonder if libraries as I first knew them would appeal to today’s kids. There are so many things vying for their attention, it would be easy for books to take second (or lower, much lower) place to more glitzy attractions. I know for some kids that happens, but not all. Not by any means. In fact, I think more children use the library on a regular basis than ever. And that's no accident. Libraries have changed with the times. They (at least the ones I frequent) are a lot livelier than they used to be and much more inviting. I'm not talking about dumbing them down, but about making them more user-friendly, especially kid-friendly.
As I walk from the parking lot to the entrance, I’m greeted by this little charmer.
Inside, there’s still miles of books, but there’s also lots of open space where kids can sprawl on the floor and lose themselves in a story. There’s a puppet stage, a doll house, a train set, all equipped with props to fuel a child’s imagination. There are low round tables where the kids get to do crafts relating to the book they’ve just heard in Story Time or - and I see this a lot - just sit and read a book.
There are a lot of great programs, but if I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be Kids Reading to Dogs. It’s not unusual to see a small person sprawled on the floor reading to a large and attentive Golden Retriever. Yes, the child is reading to a dog. The idea is that all kids really want to read; they all want to do well in school, but some of them need a little extra help–and a lot of practice.
The real bottom line to this is that kids are excited to be in the library.They’re learning to love books and think of the library as an important part of their life. When they leave they usually have a bagful of books, which they check out on their own cards and insist on carrying themselves. The looks on their faces tells me they'll be back.
Just thinking about that gives me a cozy feeling.