Reading Habits: The School Library

Our elementary school, like many schools, has an an open-door policy. The students can visit the library any time. Some kids use the time between the first and second bells to deliver and pick out new books. Some head there after school. All students have Library Time as one of their scheduled “specials.”

Like many parents, we get to explore the school library through our children. Our daughter is now a first grader, and it has been both interesting and fun to see books through her eyes. We’ve had everything from rhyming and picture books typical of a first grader to detailed books that fall just short of a textbook. It wasn’t until recently, when I started thinking about her choices, that I recognized a pattern. Here’s what we’ve read so far this year. I’m sure every librarian will have this by the third book. I didn’t write down the first couple books, but they were about pirates and monsters. Next came …

Our Body: Digestive System
Cheryl Jakab
(Smart Apple Media, 2007

Michael Recycle
by Ellie Bethel
Illustrated by Alexandra Colombo
Worthwhile Books, a Division of Idea and Design Works, LLC, 2008

Ghosthunters and the Totally Moldy Baroness
by Cornelia Funke

Pumpkin Heads
written and illustrated by Wendell Minor
Scholastic Paperbacks, 2007

Nathaniel Willy, Scared Silly
by Judith Matthews and Fay Robinson
Illustrated by Alexi Natchev
Bradbury Press, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994

Until I sat down and looked at the titles, I hadn’t put it all together. How recycling fits in still baffles me, but the theme — based on my daughter’s obsession since September — is Halloween. I’ll close with some thoughts about reading.

* If there is a theme or pattern, it will likely surface after just a few trips. It may be helpful to keep a list, because the patterns don’t follow a “natural” progression. Knowing what interests your child makes it fun (and easy) to select books they’re likely to enjoy.

* If you are asked a question about a specific subject, how something works, or your child is taking an interest in something new, encourage him to ask his librarian about books on the topic.

* Reading isn’t always a front cover-to-back cover process. Sometimes it is okay if a child wants to flit from page 5 to page 9 and then back to page 6. But some books are more fun if you explore them randomly. For us, it was the book about the digestive system.

The important part is just taking time to share the library book with your child. Kids love being able to show independence in their decision-making, and selecting their own books can help reinforce that. The same “Wow, that’s really cool!” you used when they showed you their latest artwork will make them feel just as special when you use it for the new book they just checked out, too.