One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do this year is to have a little bit more structure and routine in the week.  When you first have a new baby, it can be very hard to find any kind of structure in your life. But this year I really want to make the effort to get out of the house and do some things with Molly.  And the first thing on my list is to do a regular trip to the local library.

When Birdy was little I used to take her to the library once or twice a week, but since she’s been at school, she now brings home books from the school library and we haven’t been going up to our local library as much.  But during the holidays our book supply was cut off so we found ourselves back the local library out of sheer desperation.  And the funny thing is, whenever we go to the library, Birdy still wants to see the Library Storytime man that used to come and read to her class at daycare.  That’s two or three years ago.  He is like a rock star to her.  She goes all shy and says, “Look, Mum there’s the Library man!”  He obviously made a big impression on her.

Chris Cheng does a special Storytime at Leichhardt Library

Chris Cheng does a special Storytime at Leichhardt Library

Because I had my new children’s book out last year, I actually went to read it at some of the local library Storytime sessions.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well attended they were.  I visited a number of different libraries, Ryde, Balmain, Leichhardt, Mosman and they were all packed to the rafters.  Some of them had more than 40 kids turning up for Storytime!  I was encouraged that so many parents recognise the value of doing this kind of activity with their kids.  And it’s free!  There is so little you can do these days that is free.

I was also impressed by how lovely many of the story spaces are now.  So many libraries have made it a priority to open up their space, or to have a special room that they’ve decorated for the kids.  It makes the library so much more appealing for the children.  When I was a child, libraries were somewhere you had to be quiet and they weren’t much fun to visit.  Now the best libraries are much more of a community centre.  Leichhardt Library is a great example of that.  It’s right in the middle of the Italian forum, really easy to access and very much in the heart of the community.  Sadly, in other parts of the world, such as in the UK many public libraries are closing down.  Last week I heard a really interesting interview with with Caitlin Moran who’s the author of How to Be A Woman.   (She’s pretty out there so don’t take this as an endorsement!) One of the things she was talking about was that the closure of public libraries has been such a loss in the UK.  She pointed out that libraries are one of the last places you can go without needing to spend money or without having any kind of commercial exchange.  In a library, your choices aren’t limited by your finances.  That’s why they’re such a great place to take little kids.  If they say ‘I want this’, you can say ‘Sure thing’ and it doesn’t cost you anything.  If they want ten books, you can still say ‘No worries!’.  And if they want to stay and look at the books for 2 hours, there’s no pressure to leave just because you’ve finished your coffee an hour ago.

So if you haven’t already, make this the year you introduce your kids to the local library.  Find out when your nearest Storytime is and make it a regular date.  Not only does it foster a love of books and learning in your children, but according to Professor Torr from the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University, studies show that a child’s pre-school vocabulary relates to their literacy achievement in later life.  In other words, reading to your child now does affect their future learning outcomes.  We’re really lucky to have this amazing free resource, so make the most of it.  Otherwise one day you’ll drive past and notice there’s a shiny new McDonalds or Starbucks where your local public library used to be.

Do you enjoy Storytime at  your local library?  Is your library kid-friendly?