Navigating the Library with a Non-Reader

My oldest child loves to visit the “wibwary”.  We are fortunate to have a public library system that is both current and extensive, so she has every book she could possibly want at her disposal.

Which is great.

Unless you’re a preschooler and then it can be a little overwhelming.


I appreciate her enthusiasm, but I’m also supposed to be a responsible parent, and allowing my child to pull every book that catches her eye off the shelf as she runs tearing down the aisles?  Not so responsible.

So we have a routine.  And since this is my blog and you might care, I’m going to share it with you.

  • Timing:We plan our library trips to be during Baby’s morning nap.  This way, I increase the chances of getting a larger block of uninterrupted time, as he’ll nap away in the stroller.
  • Returning books:In keeping with the whole “you’re responsible for you own items” theme, I have my daughter drop her books in the return slot as she comes in the door.  Fortunately for me, she enjoys this element of control.  Woe unto the helpful librarian who tries to speed the process along by taking the books directly from her hands.
  • Selecting old favorites: Before doing anything else, we also select two of her known favorites.  Currently these are Curious George and Clifford books.  She requests these every time, and knows exactly where they are kept in the library.  Again, control.   See a theme here?
  • Selecting new reads: Next, we pick two more books.  These are usually ones she selects by sight (ie they’re on display).  Sometimes they are ones that I guide her towards, based on her current interests or ones from my childhood I think she might enjoy (it’s how I introduced her to Marcus Pfister’s Rainbow Fish).
  • “Mommy’s Pick”: Our fifth book is a “special” book that I get to select for us to read together.  This may be a new book that has received good reviews, or one that just jumps out at me, but that she doesn’t show an immediate interest in herself.
  • Holiday book (optional): Typically, we bring home 5 books.  This number allows me to keep track of the borrowed books, and keeps her from wanting to bring home every book in the library.  We do, however, make an exception for a holiday book.  Close to a current holiday, we will pick one or two extra books from the holiday selection and bring these home, too.  She is at an age where she’s beginning to understand the meaning behind Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, or Easter, and these books help cement that new-found knowledge.
  • Story Time: While at the library, we take the time to read a couple books that we don’t take home.  These are almost always entirely her picks, and I typically will not say “no” unless it’s a book I know is inappropriate or contains themes I don’t agree with (ie cheating to win,  negative values, topics I prefer to discuss at home and not in a public library).  We call this our “special library time” and it can vary in length depending on how long my infant will nap in the stroller.  Once he starts to get fussy, we get ready to leave.
  • DVD selection:  On our way out, I allow her to select 2 DVDs to take home.  These are typically characters from her PBS shows.  While some may disagree with bring DVDs home from a library, my feeling is that we have a young baby in the house and the reality is, sometimes I just need her to sit quietly while I tend to the crisis at hand.
  • Check-out: Our library has a self-checkout system. Perfect for my “I do it!” helper.  She sits on the counter, and as I scan the books (the scanner tends to be a little temperamental), she places them in our library bag.

Once we’re at home, we have the rule that the library books stay in the library bag when she’s not reading them.  She has full access to the bag, which is kept in my bedroom,but the borrowed books are less likely to get mixed in with our own.

That’s our routine, and it works for us.  Anybody else have any tips?  Or want to tell me how the heck I’m going to do this when my children are, say, 2 an 4.5?

Maybe we’ll just do ebooks then.

I kid.

Sort of.


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