A Parents Guide to Introducing Children to Libraries

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Updated on September 20, 2023
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Going to the library can be an exciting experience that is valuable and worthwhile for a parent’s time and energy. Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and the library can be an additional learning space for them. Having a space that allows families and young readers to gather and experience materials and resources for free is a unique experience that no other place provides other than a library. While a large children’s section exists with materials specifically for younger patrons, parents should be aware that children also have access to all materials in the library. There is more to your library than just books! The library is a living encyclopedia of useful information and materials from both the past and present. Libraries offer services and programs for parents and children based on their own experiences and what they know about early literacy. The library is a space that enables parents and children to share books and resources while benefiting from the help of the librarians and library staff.

When parents introduce children to the library, the child will be equipped with the tools, resources, and materials that can help them succeed academically throughout school and later in life, as well as provide the parents with the tools and experience to continue development in the home. This article will talk about how parents can start to introduce their kids to libraries and how they can help their kids use the library once they are there. It will also give parents the tools they need to help their kids develop their early learning skills in a library. Whether you are in California, Ohio, or even Florida, libraries are wonderful resources for learning that located in towns throughout the United States.

Library Cards

Most families are unaware that children of any age under 18 can have library cards; even newborn babies can get their cards. The cards serve as an early signal of how we are part of a larger community. A child having their own library card is a great way to introduce them to the library and its services. A physical library card is free of charge and allows users to use it for online resources and physical materials. Children can check out materials right on their cards, from books to movies, and even reserve time in the library’s computer center; all of these things are achievable if a child has a library card.

What is Needed?

All that is needed to obtain a library card for a child is a parent or guarantor to sign the child’s application and show one piece of ID with a home address. Parents and guardians are responsible for any fees that add up to their child’s library card and for any damage that might be done to the library’s books. This includes replacement costs and billing charges for lost materials.  It also helps kids learn to value important things (books, DVDs, etc.) and take good care of them so that others can use them in the future. Parents and guardians will need to check their local library’s rules and policies surrounding library cards, loan durations, and fines and fees for materials.

Library Materials

Your local library will most likely have book tapes and CDs, musical CDs, movies, computers, and a variety of other resources that you can access for free with your library card. Materials at the library are all resourceful information, whether that be for educational development or leisure entertainment. 


Books and physical materials are all available for families to check out in the library. Books are a great way to start developing early learning skills with a child. When parents bring their children to the library, the library creates materials based on age groups, reading levels, and preferences. Parents may also find books in languages other than English, or programs to help adults improve their reading. If you would like reading help for yourself or your family, check with the librarian about literacy programs in your community.

Digital Resources

If you don’t have a computer at home, children or parents can ask the youth services librarian if the child may use one of the library’s computers. The library’s computers are perfect for children looking to do homework or play online games/activities. Computers in the Youth Services department are typically age-restricted and block age-restricted sites. Additionally, most library computers also provide free access to educational gaming platforms. One popular site is ABCmouse. ABCmouse.com offers the most comprehensive online curriculum for children ages 2–8+ (preschool to 2nd grade), including reading and language arts, math, beginning science, social studies, art, and music. Another online resource available for children to use with their library cards is Kanopy Kids. Kanopy Kids Watch unlimited educational and entertaining movies, TV shows, animated storybooks, live-action shows, and other animated favorites with Kanopy Kids for children ages 2–8 for free with a library card.

Library Programs

The library is filled with great programs for children to become familiar with the library and its services and for parents to have support when teaching early literacy skills. A few programs that provide a great introduction for children to the library are reading challenges like 1000 books before Kindergarten or Summer Reading Program, as well as the various StoryTimes programs conducted by the librarians.

Programs Focused on Reading

1000 Books before Kindergarten

This program, designed for children ages 0-5, encourages families and caregivers to read 1,000 books to their children before kindergarten. Depending on where you live, children under 5 may not have easy access to public education. This program enables parents and children to begin developing early literacy skills before beginning school by reading.

Summer Reading Programs

Summer Reading programs offers kids 0-14 an exciting, free, and safe summer reading experience while helping to provide books to kids with limited or no access over the summer, keeping every child reading. The major incentive for children and families participating in the libraries summer reading program is that the library offers free prizes (food coupons, books movie passes, etc.) to children who read a certain number of books, and most importantly, parents and guardians can become more hands-on with their child’s reading development when they participate in the library’s summer reading program. 

Supervised Story Times

  • Babies and toddlers are the youngest age group that the library provides Storytime programs. Very often, library programs are a child’s first exposure to a group structured activity and lesson. Many libraries have group story hours that are short and geared to the developmental level and attention span of the children. During story time, a child sits in a caretaker’s lap, and both caretaker and child can join in the story and songs. The librarian also may demonstrate fingerplays and rhythm activities. The librarian may also provide caretakers with tips and handouts that parents can use for home storytime.
  • Preschoolers. The library may offer these story hours more than once a week. For these story hours, you and your child usually read several books on the same topic. You might play games, sing songs, use puppets, or do other activities that are connected to that topic. You also may get ideas for books to read and other things to do with your child at home.
  • Families. Families can read together, or they may join in a story told by the librarian. Some libraries also set up family activities around the readings, including crafts and art projects, motor skill practice and sensory plays, and watching movies. The public library is probably the best resource available for developing those skills and gaining enriching experiences.

Libraries and the Community

One of the primary functions of a library is to engage the community. Public library services that focus on building community face-to-face, inspiring and educating patrons about art, literature, and music, and helping patrons engage with others are the fundamental goal of the library. When parents introduce children to the library, the child is going to step into a community-focused environment that will always benefit the community’s needs. 

The central value of a library is that:

1. Libraries are community builders

2. Libraries are community centers for diverse populations

3. Libraries are centers for the arts

4. Libraries are universities

5. Libraries are champions of youth

When parents introduce children to the library, they have access to various library collections, programs, and physical spaces. Children learn to share, become engaged in their communities, and can participate in creative and educational endeavors, thus being fully able to explore their immediate world and the community at large. During library programs, parents and guardians can gather and engage with others in the community; children can make new friends and see new faces in the community; and a child being introduced to the library’s communities will be better established as a growing member of that community. A parent’s role in introducing a child to the library is to show that the library is there for the whole community, and as community members, all should be considerate of others’ needs. Though a public library’s resources are dependent on the community’s area, the best way to find out what’s available at your local library is to visit.