[mother of invention] 10 Reasons to Love the Library and 10 Things to Check Out Now
I’ve always loved libraries. As a child, I spent hours sequestered at my local branch looking up books (via card catalog), researching school projects (via microfiche) and carefully curating stacks of goodies to check out and take home.
Times have changed and today’s libraries are modernized and teched-out in ways I never would have imagined. I still love them, but as a mother I find myself rediscovering—and appreciating—libraries in a whole new way.
My elementary aged kids and I visit our local branch at least twice a week. We spend hours there without even realizing it, drifting along aisles of novels and getting lost in the pages of almanacs and atlases.
Libraries are an incredible resource but, more than that, they’re fun, imaginative places for both adults and children to hang out—unlike playgrounds, which I find boring, sacrilegious, I know.
I take my laptop. My three 3rd graders take their homework. It’s relaxing, contained, creative. The perfect family outing. And, it’s free.
The free part is key. No matter how good prices are on Amazon, the library beats them, hands down. And I love that I can indulge my kids’ desire for new books without going broke.
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to love the library. Here are my personal top ten.
Cards Are Cool. For children, getting a library card is almost as exciting as getting a credit card. They love having their own personal piece of plastic enabling them to check out books on their own. Plus, keeping track of items and due dates teaches them responsibility, theoretically. We still scramble to dig borrowed books out from under beds and car seats.
Movie Magic. Sure, there’s Netflix or AppleTV, but movie rentals and purchases add up—especially when you have a bunch of kids like I do and they each want to watch something different. The library has tons of movies and television series available gratis. We love to check out documentaries as well to add variety to family movie night.
Librarians. When you’re lucky enough to find a great librarian, it’s such a treat. I’ve spent tons of time chatting up librarians at my local Silver Lake branch. They are amazing. If you want to know about an author, locate hard-to-find materials, get recommendations, or encourage your child to seek out new material, this is the person to talk to.
Real Research. These days, children can study anything via the web, but doing research at the library gives them a better sense of the process. It’s more tactile and detailed than a Google search. And for kids like my daughter who are chronically undecided about what animal/state/plant they want to feature for their next school project, libraries offer plenty of inspirational visuals.
Office on the Go. Library WiFi hookups are easy (and again, free) so many parents use it as a place to work. For those who don’t have quiet space at home (or are trying to avoid a pile of laundry), this is a perfect, productive place to hibernate for a few hours.
Reads for the Road. Before you head anywhere, load up on travel books for yourself, along with reading materials to keep the kids occupied en route. There’s nothing like being trapped in the car with bored youngsters!
Time Travel. My kids adore history and, like many parents, I wish they got more of it in school. In the meantime, books help fill in the gaps and feed your child’s interest in everything from World War II to Samurai warriors, Renaissance artists to rock pioneers.
Artistic Endeavors. Be sure to explore the wide range of art books at your library, especially those that teach children how to draw. My 9-year-old son loves learning how to sketch dragons, helicopters, tanks and more, and there seems to be a book teaching how to illustrate just about everything.
Books for Cooks. Find fresh inspiration and ideas for dinner in the cookbook section. There’s a whole row filled with picks to suit every taste and type, so dig in.
Exciting Extras. The Los Feliz and Silver Lake branches offer a steady stream of community events and seasonal specials from movie nights to evenings where kids can read aloud to therapy dogs (which is pretty priceless).
Here’s a list of Rita’s current must-reads and must-sees:
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. This page-turner had me so obsessed my kids were begging me to stop reading and get out of bed. And I refused.
Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
by Heidi Swanson. This is the latest cookbook from one of my all-time favorite food bloggers, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. She’s the real deal.
Ductigami. I’m not sure if this book is more suited to my husband or my kids, but they all love it. It’s filled with amazing things to make out of—you guessed it—duct tape.
Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Weirdos. Anything by Ed Emberley is amazing. His charming series of drawing books score with kids of all ages.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. According to my kids, this tale of a thirteen-year-old boy stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet and a will to survive is “epic.”
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Don’t see the movie until you’ve read the book. It’s a life-changing read.
Anything by National Geographic Kids. Look for the signature NG yellow that marks these books. They range in subject matter from science to sociology and they are all spectacular, filled with powerful images and lots of gee-wiz facts.
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell (Audiobook). I love the audiobook version (read by Gladwell) because his voice is so hypnotic and his manner of storytelling so compelling. This non-fiction work is filled with thought-provoking insights for parents.
The Princess Bride (DVD). “As you wish…” This film fairytale of Princess Buttercup and her true love is a classic and a great family movie.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (DVD). This 2014 film starring Ben Stiller is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. I was surprised at how much our kids loved and understood its message.