Why My Son’s Library Card Gives Him the World

Did you know there are more than 1.2 million library card holders across the greater Kansas City area? Doesn’t that give you chills? More than one MILLION people across our community are using their local library access all the information they need. It makes me feel good about the future of Kansas City.

Who knew this small piece of plastic could bring you the whole world?

Library cards are special. For many of us, they’re the very first thing in our lives that actually belong to US and not our parents. We were to choose OUR books, track OUR summer reading, play OUR favorite games on the library computers (hello, Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego). It was my first taste of independence. And that is why I got my son his own library card when he was just 2 years old.   

I had this romanticized notion in my head that it would be this life-changing experience for him. That he would relish choosing his books, that he would start to read before he was 3, and that we would bond together over some of own favorite books from when I was a kid. And the great thing about the library and his library card is that for the most part, those things are happening. At just over 3 years old, he’s not reading but he can identify some words based on sight, and he can spell his own name (annoying Mom humblebrag here), and overall we do love reading classics together: Blueberries for Sal, Twany Scrawny Lion, The Snowy Day, and so many more. Plus we get to discover new favorites like Jabari Jumps, I Want My Hat Back, the Pinkalicious series, etc. 

There’s really no downside to getting him his own library card. Or getting any kid their library card. A library card teaches kids important “soft skills” that they can cultivate on their own. Here’s how it’s working with my son:

  • Responsibility. Did you lose your library card? Well, we can’t go to the library until you find it. Please always put our library card back in the same place every single time.
  • Respect for Property. We DO NOT rip, bend, throw books. AT ALL. But we especially do not do it to our library books. We share those books with our friends.
  • Citizenship. The Library is one of the best parts of any community, and each time we go through the doors, we are actively participating in that community. We see friends of all ages, and we learn that librarians are THE people to trust.
  • Listening Skills. It’s important to listen, and not talk, during storytime. Our friends are in there with us trying to enjoying the story, and we don’t want to make it tough for them.
  • How to Choose. So many books, so little time. He’s figuring out how to decide which stories he wants, which books he wants to take home, and recognizing which books we already have.
  • Knowledge is Power. It’s a cliched saying, but it’s true. The more you know, the more you can do. Your library card gives you access to ALL the knowledge. Start small and start young, and you will do big things. 

Notice I didn’t say “how to be quiet.” Those days are over. Most libraries don’t shush kids anymore. And I LOVE that. Librarians want kids to love books and love reading. By constantly and sternly shushing them, they’re not encouraging excitement for libraries and reading. Obviously the idea is for little ones not to cause a major disturbance, but overall librarians are happy your kiddo is loving that book.

Speaking of librarians and their constant and surprising wisdom and reliability, I’ve talked with a few across different Metro area library systems (disclosure: I’m the PR person for one of them) about the best time to get your kid a library card. Surprisingly, those librarians have different views on when and why kids should get there. Some say wait until your kids are old enough to write their own name on the card. It gives them a sense of ownership that is irreplaceable. Others say there’s nothing wrong with getting them one at birth, because they grow up knowing immediately the library is a special place. And even more say wait until the kids are in pre-school because they understand responsibility at that point.

Whatever you choose, I really hope you DO choose to get them their own card. Next week (April 8 – 14) is National Library Week across the entire country. It’s a great time to make sure you’re getting the most of your public library, and library users make up the best of our community.

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