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If you go down to the library today...

We all know that sharing books with children is an important part of their early development.  Libraries offer a great selection of books for babies and children to enjoy as well as books to help parents and carers with all aspects of child care, child health and education.  But do you know what else might be happening at your local library?

Vibrant and exciting library fun

It’s 10:30 at my local library and in the entrance hall there are a dozen or more buggies jammed to one side so people can get in through the doors. 

In the children’s section I can see a group of mums, grandparents and childminders helping babies and toddlers out of their coats and settling into a space on the Elmer rug, looking expectantly at a woman walking towards them, carrying a crate of books and a box of musical instruments. 

It’s the start of the library’s weekly Rhymetime session.  The group on the rug pick up instruments and shaking rattles and banging tambours as they sing rhymes I remember from my childhood, rhymes I’ve never heard before, and rhymes with new words to old tunes. 

Children are holding hands with adults, rocking backwards and forwards to Row, Row Your Boat, now they are up and marching in a circle to The Grand Old Duke of York.  Singing, speaking and listening, communication, fine motor skills, physical activity.  Who knew you could do so much in one Rhymetime session?

This isn’t the library of satirical cartoons and old stories; it isn’t even the library of my youth.  It is a bright, vibrant, exciting, fun place to be. 

Of course, I already know that.  Promoting library activities for young children is a big part of my job.

Free activities for everyone

In Hampshire there are dozens of events run every week for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, school age children and families.  Baby Bounce & Rhymetimes; Toddlertimes; Storytimes and craft activities are activities to be found in many of our branches, but there are some more uncommon events as well. 

We have a library that runs a book group for adults with young children – the grown-ups discuss the book of the month while the pre-school children enjoy some supervised play. 

We have a library that runs a special Storytime each month especially for children and their childminders.  Some libraries run story sessions aimed at children with additional needs; some have ‘sing and sign’ sessions; there are construction clubs and family board game days.  Perhaps the most astonishing thing is that nearly all of these activities are absolutely free.

The Hampshire libraries’ website has recently been re-designed, making it easier to find out what is happening near you, whether you use a computer, tablet or mobile phone.  Many of our libraries have Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can get up to the minute reminders from your local branch.

In Hampshire we recognise that childminders are often the people who introduce children to the library, so we offer a special ChildMinder Membership Card.  You can borrow more books for longer, you won’t be charged for requesting books or for bringing back books late. 

I can only tell you about what happens in Hampshire Libraries, because that is where I live and work, but I know that libraries all over the country are offering similar events, activities and services.  If you don’t know what your local library has to offer, I recommend you check online or ask in branch. 

About the author

Kim Howard has been Bookstart Co-ordinator for Hampshire for nearly 7 years.  In addition she works as a casual library assistant and is studying for an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester.  In her past life she has worked in all sorts of administrative role, but feels she has now found her ‘comfort zone’ in the world of pre-school children’s books.

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