Libraries offer more than books. They are places of learning and discovery for everyone. Ask at the library about getting a library card in your child's name and, if you don't already have one, get a card for yourself.
Introduce yourself and your child to your librarian. Librarians can help you to select the best books that are both fun and suitable for your child's age level. They can also show you the other programs and services the library has to offer.
In addition to a wealth of books, your library most likely will have tapes and CDs of books, musical CDs and tapes, movies, computers that you can use, and many more resources. You also might find books in languages other than English, or programs to help adults improve their reading. If you would like reading help for yourself or your family, check with the librarian about literacy programs in your community. (Also see Resources for Parents and Caregivers.)
Supervised Story Times
Babies and toddlers. Many libraries have group story hours that are short and geared to the attention spans of the children. During story hour, child sits in your lap, and both of you can join in the story. The storyteller also may show you fingerplays and rhythm activities. The storyteller also may give you tips and handouts that you can use for your own home story hours.
Preschoolers. The library may offer these story hours more than once a week. For these story hours, you and your child usually read several books on the same topic. You might play games, sing songs, use puppets, or do other activities that are connected to that topic. You also may get ideas for books to read and other things to do with your child at home.
Families. Families can read together, or they may join in a story told by the library storyteller. Some libraries also set up family activities around the readings, including crafts and art projects and watching movies.
After the school year is over, some children may forget what they have learned about reading. Libraries help keep children interested in reading by offering summer programs. Children from early elementary school to high school read books on their own. A teacher or librarian may give a child a diary or log in which he writes what he read during the summer. And, because reading aloud is so important to promoting a love of reading, many libraries offer "Read-to-Me" clubs for preschool and younger children.< Previous page
Computers can't replace the reading and writing activities discussed earlier in this booklet. But computers can support what these activities teach your child.
Many computer programs (also called software) offer activities that can both grab your child's interest and teach good lessons. Children as young as 3 years old, though they can't read yet, may still have fun using some of the colorful, actionfilled programs with enjoyable characters. (For computer program ideas, see Resources for Children.) Computer reading programs let your child:
- Hear stories, read along and read by herself.
- Play with objects and characters on the screen that teach the alphabet, simple words, rhyming words and other skills important to learning to read.
- Command the computer with her voice, record herself reading and play back the recording so that she can hear herself.
- Write simple sentences and make up stories.
- Add pictures and characters to her stories and have them read back.
- Make and print her own books.
- Make slide shows.
- Gain praise and see improvement in her language abilities.
Finding and Using a Computer
If you don't have a computer at home, ask your librarian if you and your child may use one of the library's computers. Your child's school or a nearby community college might also have a computer laboratory that you may use. Ask your librarian about good programs for learning to use a computer. Try a few. They can help you learn basic computer steps before working with your child. Your librarian also may be able to tell you where you can get computer training if you want it.
When sitting at a computer with your child, join in at first. Later, watch as he plays. Always praise and guide him when you need to. Make sure that you choose the right programs for your child's age. Often, one program may have activities for many ages. As your child grows, the program gets more challenging. In fact, if you have children of different ages, the same program can allow each to learn and practice different skills.
There are many computer programs available for children, but they vary in quality. If you can, try a program before you buy it. You also can check at your local library for reviews of children's programs. Don't hesitate to ask your librarian or your child's teacher for information and recommendations about good software.
Many computer programs are available through "Web sites," which are addresses on the World Wide Web, a part of the Internet. Organizations such as libraries, colleges, and government offices give people information through their Web sites. Businesses and other private groups also giveand sellinformation over their Web sites. Good children's programs are available this way, but again, the quality of such material varies and you will need to be careful in your choices. For help on how you can use a computer to hook up to the Internet and find what you need, check with your librarian.
Some Useful Computer Resources
Parents Guide to the Internet published by the U.S. Department of Education, 1997. (call toll-free 1-877-4ED-PUBS to request a free copy, or order online at http://www.ed.gov/pubs/edpubs.html).
The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap by Seymour Papert and Nicholas Negroponte. Longstreet Press, 1996.
The Parents' Pocket Guide to Kids and Computers published by the Family Computer Workshop, 1998.
Young Kids and Computers: A Parent's Survival Guide by Ellen Wolock, Anne Orr, and Warren Buckleitner. Children's Software Revue, 1998.
For more resources, see "Some Other Informative Web Sites for Parents and Caregivers," "Computer Programs," and "Young Children and the Internet: Places to Learn and Play."
Many children enjoy TV, and they can learn from it. Keep in mind, though, that young children often imitate what they see, good or bad. It's up to you to decide how much TV and what kinds of shows your child should watch.
Think about your child's age and choose the types of things that you want him to see, learn, and imitate.
Look for TV shows that
teach your child something,
hold his interest,
encourage him to listen and question,
help him learn more words,
make him feel good about himself, and
introduce him to new ideas and things.
"Sesame Street," "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "Blue's Clues," "Between the Lions," "Reading Rainbow," "Barney & Friends," "Zoom," and "Zoboomafoo," are some shows that you may want to consider. Many other good children's programs are available on public television stations and on cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child's life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.
Watch TV with your child when you can. Talk with him about what you see. Answer his questions. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child's everyday life.
When you can't watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.
Go to the library and find books that explore the themes of the TV shows that your child watches. Or help your child to use his drawings or pictures cut from magazines to make a book based on a TV show.