A common question that homeschoolers are asked is “What is something you couldn’t do without in your homeschool?” and a common answer to that question is “The public library.” If you don’t have a large home with a jillion bookshelves, then you probably already knew this – and utilize your own public library for help with gathering homeschooling resources. Let’s take a little while to explore different ways to use the library in homeschooling.
This is a no-brainer. The library is a fantastic place to gain access to more books than you could ever want, especially if your library is part of a larger system that allows you to borrow books from a variety of locations (my library is part of a 17-library system, which is good because it wouldn’t be very useful otherwise; small towns don’t normally have good libraries and mine is no exception). The library is likely to have dozens, if not hundreds, of books on any given topic – way more than most families could possibly buy for themselves. And even if you do have loads of space for books and an unlimited budget for book buying, the library will probably have books that you can’t get your hands on (usually older books). Even if an older book has information that’s a little outdated, they can still be valuable to teach your child to be discerning in their research.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your librarians! Just today (the day I’m writing this article, not the day it’s posting), I got a new library card. I hadn’t been to the library in my small town since before COVID, and only a few times then, so the librarians didn’t really know me. Because I was a “new” patron, they were especially helpful, and it was a really nice experience to get to know them (albeit briefly) in this manner. The children’s librarian gave me a short tour of the children’s room in the library, showing me where to find the various types of books (they separate the children’s fiction into “series” and “non series”), and she gave me several crafts to bring home for the boys. The adult librarian showed me where to find all the fiction books and nonfiction books (they’re in separate rooms). She explained to me that the nonfiction room has a different internet provider from the rest of the library (and from the one we use at home), so if our internet is ever down at home, it’s likely working at the library and we’d be welcome to use theirs if needed. (I explained to them that we were homeschoolers.) There are more resources than just books at the library, and your librarians are the tickets to finding out about those resources.
Digital Books and Audio Books
I wrote a whole article on using audio books in homeschool, and we use the digital version of those audio books. But many libraries have CDs of audio books that you can check out (if you still have a CD player in your home – we don’t). There are benefits of regular books and benefits of e-books, and I don’t personally have a preference. I know some people are adamant that “paper books are the only way to bother reading,” but I’m not one of those. I’ve had a Kindle since they were brand new, and I still read books on it almost every day. The biggest benefit to using an e-book instead of a paper book from the library is no late fines! I love the freedom of being able to check out library books right from an app on my phone, and then when my loan period is over, the book disappears from my Kindle the next time I connect to wifi. I love that there’s no risk of losing or damaging a library book and having to pay for it later. But for kids, nothing beats a paper book. They need that tactile experience of holding the book, feeling its weight, and turning the pages. It’s more than a story for kids. But having the flexibility for both digital books (reading or audio) and paper books is invaluable. And if your library is part of the Overdrive system, having fines on your regular card doesn’t prevent you from borrowing digital material like it might from paper books.
There’s the obvious here, like summer reading. But did you know that a lot of libraries run a variety of things all year round, especially for kids? Like I mentioned earlier in this article, our tiny library gave me a craft for each of my younger children today for Halloween. In the past, our larger library system has provided free access to language learning programs right on their website. All you needed was a valid library card. Our library system also allows you to check out passes to a variety of children’s and family museums in the area. This is an amazing way to get into some of those expensive museums for free, if you’re willing to wait a while to get the access pass (they tend to have long hold times). Ask your librarian if you have any resources like these available to you. You might be surprised!
Do you use your local library? What’s your favorite thing about it?