Tip #7 – Take the Kids to the Library

Jun 13

Remember the days before mom & pop shops were replaced by big box stores like Wal-mart and Costco?  While we all visit the behemoth stores for their convenience and endless variety of storage containers it’s easy to lament the days when the customer greeter and salesperson and cashier were rolled together into one helpful human being.  Our communities have transformed to accommodate these new bastions of merchandise, yet thankfully, one gathering place has remained intact: the library.

The library is one of the few places where excess is a wondrous thing. When my kids beg to go to Toys R Us, I groan. Taking three boys to a massive display of toys and video games without a good portion of cash in my wallet always ends badly. A trip to the library, however, is a most welcome suggestion.  In fact, I’m delighted when they ask me to take them (and yes, they ask frequently).  They are free to roam the shelves and select those books most intriguing.  Other than suffering from a sore back, I’m more than happy to lug forty books home (our record for the largest amount of books we’ve borrowed in a single visit).

A librarian is always available to help us find a specific book or offer guidance on a good read.  I’ll run my fingers along the spines with one of my kids as we seek out a particular author and pull out the odd book to see its cover (yes, we do judge a book by its cover).  Another of my sons will peruse the pages of a picture book before deciding whether it’s worth borrowing.  When you think about it… libraries have to be one of the best inventions ever created for parents. They offer kids the opportunity to take whatever books they want, in any abundance – for free!

So, what has library visits got to do with tips on raising kids in the digital age?  The bricks and mortar libraries are under threat, thanks to the availability of electronic information.  Consider this: in the late 1990’s, 80% of Ontario elementary schools had a teacher-librarian. Today, only 56% do.  And, most recently, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board announced it will shut all its school libraries.

Certainly online research is valuable for school projects, but despite it’s hype, Wikipedia ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  A screen of black type listing every boring fact about Egyptian history cannot compete with a full-colour book written in kid-friendly language and organized with headings, photos, diagrams, and, well, real pages that can be referred to any time of day or night.  When my sons research for their school projects, they use kids’ books.  No matter how much time we spend looking for information online, it just does not compare to the valuable resources provided in books (from the library, might I add).

, the celebrated social media guru and bestselling business author recently published a stating “Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library.” He continues, “Kids…need a library not at all.”  I looked into whether Seth has any kids.  He doesn’t.  If he did, he’d likely realize that Wikipedia is one of the worst resources for a ten-year-old trying to understand a subject.  He would probably understand that kids don’t need to be “coerced” to go to the library – they want to go.  Sadly, if this kind of thinking is behind the belief that libraries have lost their usefulness, parents and their kids are in big trouble.

Today, libraries are as essential as ever.  They offer our kids a quiet and reflective place to read, write, explore.  Surfing through a list of images on an e-reader, while convenient, does not compare to the hands-on experience of selecting a book and noting how many pages it is, what kind of pictures there are, reading the back cover.  Certainly, digital research and ebooks will replace some need for ‘real’ books, but not all.  Let’s not move forward so fast that we are suddenly back-pedalling to make up for hasty decisions.  Remember what happened to another important resource – known as trees and forests… I know of a few million people working to save what little is left.

My advice?  Take the kids to the library.  The more they connect with real books, the more likely they’ll want to use their digital tools for reading rather than YouTube and video gaming.  Yes, we all want our kids to know how to effectively use digital technology, but one of the best stepping stones to building that knowledge is through visiting a library.


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  1. I absolutely loved going to the library as a kid. During the summer I’d check out 10-15 books at a time and then go back in a week or two for more. Great insight that even with online resources and electronic books, libraries are still an invaluable experience for kids. It definitely goes beyond the fact that basically all information lives online, the library has an immersive quality about it. There’s something to be said for sitting in a quiet place, surrounded by books. : )

  2. megan gruner /

    Yes!! We love the library and go every week. In fact it is the one reason we make the trek into town (besides groceries!)

  3. admin /

    I can’t understand how so many libraries are being either shut down (in schools) or getting budget cuts. It really is such a wonderful place to go either alone or with the kids. I guess not every parent agrees :(

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