Remember when libraries were plain, dusty and sometimes smelly? They were not very inviting. Things are different now. I have had the privilege of doing book signings in some libraries and I am amazed at what they now have to offer. Just as amazing is how well they are being used. I’ve noticed people bringing tote bags of books to check in and fill those bags with books to take home. Libraries have computer centers for use by visitors, and some have printing services to go with the computers.

Perhaps many are missing out on this wonderful resource for their children. There are those who spend many dollars buying books for their children that could be checked out for free at a library. Not only can books be checked out, but many libraries have areas especially designed for children to sit and read in a children’s reading room. The Taneyhills Library in Branson has a children’s area decorated as a forest. Children can feel as though they are sitting in a forest while reading a book.

Some libraries offer special story times for children. The Christian County library in Ozark has been remodeling. I can’t wait to see what they have come up with for children. The Kimberling Area Library has a special children’s library director who is a retired school principal. They have computer games that correlate with state testing at school. They also have a volunteer artist who changes the children’s reading area to emphasize different things. The Crane Library, a branch of Stone County library, offers many children’s activities listed on their website, www.stonecountylibrary.org.

It is a good time, now that school is about to start, to take children to a library to give them a chance to brush up on their reading. I would like to offer a couple of suggestions for choosing appropriate reading material for children. With my own children, I always tried to choose reading material that was not only enjoyable, but would teach them something valuable as well. Let’s face it. A lot of children’s books teach very little. In some cases children’s books may even teach the wrong thing.

I remember my daughter telling me that she had looked at a book for my granddaughter and was surprised to find that the story revolved around a person landing a modeling job because the scheduled person had broken a leg! We shouldn’t be teaching our children that it is good to gain wants by the misfortune of someone else! In my teaching experience, I have found that reading material done out of school should be easy to read. A child can’t enjoy it if it is too difficult. A good rule of thumb is to have the child read one page of the book to you. If five or more words are missed, the book is too difficult to enjoy reading.

If parents are alert to opportunities such as libraries offer, they can do much to mold the character and ability of their children. It would certainly be worth the time of any parent to check out the local library.