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Five ways to make the most of your community library

When you were growing up were you lucky enough to have a library at your school or near where you lived? Did you ever visit it and use it? And, what experiences of using the library are you offering your children as they grow up?

In South Africa, far too many people still do not have access to libraries but those of us that do have a wonderful resource to draw on and to expose our children to. Research published by the National Literacy Trust in the UK shows that there is a definite link between children and young people who use libraries and good reading skills – young people who use the library are nearly twice as likely to be above-average readers than those who don’t.

Here are some opportunities that libraries offer your children:

  • The more books that children read, the better readers they become so it is important for them to have access to lots of books. Most libraries stock information and fiction books as well as magazines and many keep them in special children’s and teen sections. Some libraries also lend CDs and DVDs, and study guides to help teenagers with their studies. We all know that books are expensive and libraries offer a wider variety of reading material than we could ever own on our own – and it is free! * Many libraries have books and other materials in more than one South African language. You can use books in your language to develop your children’s home language and books in one or two other languages to introduce them to other South African languages.  (Remember: If your library doesn’t have books in your language, ask the librarian to order some next time he or she places an order for books!)
  • Weekly or fortnightly trips to the library help your children to have a regular ‘date’ with books and this helps to get them into the habit of reading – something that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives!
  • Some libraries offer activities for children that are designed to get them having fun with books. Look out for storytelling times, puppet shows and school holiday programmes at your library and then take your children along to participate.
  • Learning how to use the library is an important skill. When your children are looking for books by a particular author or on a favourite topic, encourage them to ask for help from library staff. Remember though that librarians can point out what is available but you may still need to help younger children select the books they wish to borrow.
  • If you run a reading club, the library is a great source of reading material for your club – you can make sure that the children get to read a wide variety of books and it is doesn’t cost you a cent! Ask the librarian in charge if you can make block loans of a greater number of books than the average user is able to borrow from the library. Then visit the library on a weekly or fortnightly basis to exchange the books you have borrowed for other ones. Remember to teach reading club members to treat library books with extra care so that they can be enjoyed by lots of other people!