A long time ago, before I had any children, I followed a mother of seven children around church, and I asked her question after question. She was (and still is) an amazing mother. One time I asked her, “How are your kids so well-behaved out in public?”
She said, “I’ve always taken them with me when I go somewhere. “
This seems like an overly simple answer, but as I’ve grown in parenting, I’ve found it to be true. Kids generally behave when they have clear expectations and lots of practice. My kids and I make a trip to the library at least once every two weeks.
I’ve never been one to wait for my husband to get home before I go to the store. Sometimes, I go to the library or the grocery store all by myself on the weekends, and it’s the best day ever. So, don’t think I’m standing on my high horse. Usually, I have to take everyone to the store with me because we are out of food, or we all go to the library because I need a second mortgage to pay off my library fees. Over time, I’ve learned to take my kids with me, and we constantly practice, “How to Go to the Store without Driving Mom Insane.” Similarly, when I go to the library, I take my kids, too, and we practice how we should conduct ourselves. Here’s the basic process:
1. Review the Rules
Just today, one of my sons said, “Mom, we don’t have to say the library rules anymore. We can just know them in our head.” We reviewed them in the car anyway. Our rules? We don’t run in the library. We don’t pull books off the shelves. We stay quiet. We watch after little sister. We wait our turn at the computer. We play with puzzles and books, and we put them away before we leave. I’ve added rules as I’ve gained experience: We don’t fight in the library. We don’t climb on the tables. We don’t push anyone off a chair to get to a computer.
2. Pick the Books (Start with a Strategy).
Eventually, I know the library will become a place for wandering. We just aren’t there yet. Currently: I pick one or two Medal Winners (Caldecott, Newbery, etc.) because the medal-winners are in a smaller selection, and for the most part, I like what I pick. I look at the new section to see if anything looks promising (again, smaller selection). I choose at least 3 early readers (think Berenstain Bears, Go, Dog! Go!, some Dr. Seuss), one Curious George Book, at least one Mo Willems book, a book about how to do something, a science book (like this Discovery Kids Book, the Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia, or The Dangerous Book for Boys), and one chapter book (I grabbed The Mouse and the Motorcycle this trip). For me, I pick one or two fiction books and a non-fiction book.
3. Read a Book:
I usually pick a book or two and read them with my kids right there at the library.
4. Hit the Checkout!
My goal is to keep my visit short and sweet, allowing the library to stay a fun place where we can all read and learn together — not a place where Mom makes the kids stay quiet for over an hour.
What about Story Time?
My children do not do well with story time. You can rack it up to their upbringing if you like. The truth of the matter? They don’t like foam, stick-by-number crafts. They can handle boundaries, but they aren’t fans of “staying inside the lines” if you know what I mean. They don’t know what to do with overly sweet voices. They like to pick their own books. I’ve tried Story Time at each new place when we move, and I’ve just learned that my kids aren’t Story Time kinds of kids. We also really stink at filling out Summer Reading Club Cards, staying on our square, or wearing clothes that match (not related, but significant to their personalities). They just can’t be bothered with it, so I don’t sweat it.
You Forgot to Mention Movies!
I’ve learned my lesson with renting library movies. Though free, our library has a different check out time (one week) from books (two weeks). Late fees for movies are higher ($1.00 per day). I’m not knocking the library policy; I’ve just learned the hard way about the consequences of borrowing one or two movies.
Ultimately, I want my children to know the library and the great wealth of entertainment and education available to them for free. Most of all, I want them to feel comfortable not knowing the answer to a question because they know exactly where to find an answer, or at least a path to an answer.