Within the past year, several friends and family members have brought new readers, aka babies, into the world. A lot of conversations now revolve around raising children, not just in terms of basic survival, but in terms of education, aspirations, hobbies, and personality. Even though many of these babies can barely sit up, the parents are already talking about how they're going to make these kids readers.
The Santa Fe Public Library has also been talking about this for quite some time, and implementing programs to help these young parents out. There's Books & Babies which introduces kids as young as 6 months to books and reading. After graduating from Books & Babies at the age of 2 years, young bibliophiles can then move on to the weekly PreSchool Story Time. And for children who read year-round in school, there's the Summer Reading Program to provide literate fun and stave off the "Summer Slide".
In addition to programs, every branch has a great collection of picture books, easy readers, and chapter books to appeal to kids of all tastes and levels. However, when I found myself promoting the Children's Collection to one new mom, her reply that she prefers buying books on Amazon made me stop and think. Even though her baby isn't a year old yet, by the time he's running around the house he'll be surrounded by his own personal library. At some point his mom will take him to the public library for story times and stacks of books, DVDs, and CDs, but before he even reaches pre-school he'll have access to books that he can call his own.
According to this New York Times Op-Ed, children who have books at home, or a "personal library", have higher reading scores than those who don't. And this Washington Post column links to a study that "suggests that children who have 500 or more books in the home get, on average, 3.2 years more schooling than children in bookless homes. Even just 20 books makes a difference."
Building a home library for a kid doesn't have to be expensive. Hand-me-downs from friends and family, yard sales, used book stores, online shops like Amazon, and the Friends of the Public Library's book stores and book sales are all great places to find inexpensive books that a child can read and love. So take the kids to the library where they can join in the programs and browse the shelves, but when they start checking the same books out over and over, getting them their own copy can be a priceless investment.