Stories, rhymes and stickers for children at the library

The library is the perfect place to take your child. Groups like storytime and rhymetime help young children’s language development, and other activities encourage a love of reading in older kids. And it’s all free.

Story time and rhyme time for young children

There are few better places than the library to take a young child. They can’t read yet, but babies and young children benefit enormously from listening to songs, rhymes and stories - which is why storytime and rhymetime sessions at libraries are so valuable.

Lyndsay Glover, a Service Developer for young people at Explore York Libraries and Archives, sees first hand how parents and children benefit from them.

The library can introduce infants to the joy of rhymes and stories

“They’re a brilliant way of introducing very young children to books, and giving parents the confidence to read with their children, which are the footholds of establishing a love of reading,” she explains.

Rachel is a parent in Wakefield who is also a self-published author. With two children aged eight and three, she recognises the value of attending rhymetime.

“At Rhymetime they’ll sing songs that include numbers,” she says, “so my little one is being introduced to counting at an early age. It starts that process of learning early, and as it takes place near books she’s got the choice to explore for herself, and choose a story for me to read afterwards.”

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Finding reading fun

Chatterbooks is the largest network of children’s reading groups in the UK. It provides an opportunity for kids who enjoy reading to take the next step and share their excitement with other children.

Research shows if children see reading as fun, they’ll continue to do it. This means they’re more likely to become accomplished readers, and a high level of literacy has been shown to lead people to live happier and more successful lives.

In a Chatterbooks session, children are invited to talk about what they’ve enjoyed reading, recommend books to peers and get involved in activities related to stories.

Chatterbooks offers fun activities and group discussion around reading

“A recent Chatterbooks group chose pirate stories as their theme,” says Lyndsay Glover from Explore York Libraries and Archives. “After talking about their books they drew a large island, decided together what the island would be called, what the weather was like and who lived there. The books were a starting point for imaginative and collaborative play.”

Stickers, activity sheets or Lego might all play a part, while the practice of talking about stories in a group helps build children’s confidence to discuss and share their opinions.

"My world - and my children’s world - would be a lot smaller without the library."
RachelParent & author, Wakefield

Building a relationship with the library

The Summer Reading Challenge, and other similar seasonal reading campaigns, have become a central part of the reading calendar for hundreds of thousands of children.

Originally devised to help combat the drop in children’s reading over the summer holidays, it runs online and through public libraries around the country. Once registered, children earn rewards for reading books of their choosing, with stickers always proving very popular. It’s a great way to encourage kids to develop the reading habit.

Rachel in Wakefield has found it a great way to keep her children entertained and interested in reading.

“My eldest, who is eight, asks to go to the library during the Summer Reading Challenge,” she says. “He’s very imaginative and likes storytelling. They put on loads of activities, there was even a pantomime. It’s a lovely, easy way to spend a day with the kids without spending money!”

Building a relationship with the library has lots of other benefits too. For example, Rachel found the help of a librarian invaluable when her son’s school mentioned he could do with some grammar help. “The teacher mentioned it so I asked at the library and they ordered a book for us. They found something that was age appropriate, with exercises he could try. It really helped.”

As someone who has lived in a few different places, Rachel is passionate about the role libraries play in her children’s development. “My world - and my children’s world - would be a lot smaller without the library,” she explains. “I live in a village where not much goes on, and it’s expensive to visit museums and galleries. But I want my kids to be exposed to the wider world - the library gives them access to new ideas, activities and stories away from screens.”

Tips for building a love of stories in children

Tracy Hager is a Children & Youth Librarian at Wiltshire Libraries, and has seen dozens of youngsters develop a love of stories through visiting the library.

Here she shares her tips for parents who want their children to learn to love books.

1. Read to (and with) children “Parents should read with their kids for as long as they can. In the early years, if you’re not sure where to start, ask a member of library staff for the best books to read aloud.”

2. Surround them with books “If you don’t have many books at home, look for opportunities to take your child to bookshops, library events, reading festivals - make books an ever-present in their life, however you can.”

3. Let them choose “Once they’re old enough, let your child pick their own books from the library shelves. Toddlers like to feel in control, and older children will continue to read if they get to read what they want. It might not always be what you want them to read - and there’s value to challenging them to read different things - but it’s better for them to read something than nothing.”

4. Set a ‘reading time’ at home “Identify a slot of time when all gadgets are turned off and everyone at home reads a book. It might be hard at first, but I’ve seen lots of families turn this into an enjoyable part of their daily or weekly family rhythm.”

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