In general, here’s how our Family Library worked.
Usually after school (rather than before), when there was more browsing time, parents or grandparents would come to the library with (though sometimes without) their children.
I would create a family account for them, with unrestricted check-out privileges, both in terms of the number of books that they could check out and the length of time they could hold the books.
(I did that, not because I wanted to minimize their number of visits, but because many of them told me how much of a sacrifice it was for them to come before or after school, and I didn’t want them to miss the chance to read with their children.)
Participating in their children’s book selection was eye-opening for all concerned—the children, the parents, and me!
Sometimes, while the children were off collecting the books that they were interested in, parents would confide in me various concerns about their children’s reading interests and habits, and I would have the joy of recommending books and negotiating with the children a willingness to try some of the recommendations that their parents made, as well as helping parents to be willing to respect some of their children’s choices.
Having the parents in the library gave me a chance to hear their feedback–to get ongoing reality checks. One comment made in the morning, when a mother was returning her son’s family-loan book, has turned out to be a wonderful retirement take-away compliment.
Her son told her how much “I got” him; understood him. I do believe that I understood him better because I spent more time with him after school when he and his mother were in the LMC and there were no other students whose needs I had to meet but his—for as long as his parent was willing to stay in the LMC—contract time or not.
Truthfully, there were many days when I planned (hoped!) to leave on time that a parent or grandparent would come to the LMC to select books, and although I felt a momentary twinge of regret, it was a very fleeting moment.
Often, I was one of the last faculty members in the building, hosting the parents and children who were selecting books. And those were my proudest moments, and most humble moments. There was nothing more rewarding than providing an environment and opportunity for parents and children to share their love of books with each other and with me—even if I was the facilitator in the background.
During Kindergarten orientation and at every back-to-school night, our Principal invited and encouraged parents to take advantage of the Family Library.
Fortunately for me, when I spoke during Kindergarten orientation, which took place in the LMC, there was always a parent or two with older children who were happy to speak firsthand about the Family Library experience.
This past orientation (my last one, it turns out), a father was there whom I first met when his older son started kindergarten. At least one morning a week for the first few months of school, the father came to the LMC before school and read to his son, as both sat close together on the “story steps.” (It was a beautiful sight that I will long remember…I’m sure you can imagine how many times my eyes were wet when the pair left the LMC…)
Sometimes parents came, too, on their own, to learn how to use the free online resources that our district had subscribed to for at-home use.
Other times, particularly on conference days, parents would stop by the library at the classroom teachers’ suggestion to bring home books to broaden the choices the students made for themselves.
Students loved having a family account, which increased the number of books they could enjoy without affecting the number of books set aside for their particular grade when they came to the library as a class.
Although the idea was that parents would come into the library, given various transportation constraints and circumstances, parents were able to obtain a family account by sending a note with their children, and children often returned family account books without their parents.
Perhaps the most gratifying story for me is this one. A parent often came to the LMC after school with her three children—one toddler in a stroller, one preschooler who eventually became enrolled in the PreK program, and one primary student. The younger two were very friendly, lively and talkative.
Imagine my surprise when I greeted the PreK student during the school day and her teacher motioned to me that the child was mute. I knew the child spoke. I heard the child speak. The child regularly spoke to me after school in the library.
Her mother and I talked about the situation, which continued throughout kindergarten. When the opportunity arose, we used her talking time in the library to engage in conversation with her teachers, who would “just happen” to stop by.
By first grade, she was talking up a storm in the classroom. Her metamorphosis was as gratifying as it was amazing, and I was privileged to play a minute part in helping her feel more at home in school, due to the shared time she spent with her mother, siblings, and other children after school in the library.
There were other perks, as well, described in the next post.