Back-To-School Essential

Make Going to the Library an Integral Part of Your Child’s Education.

Article by Kimberly Blaker and Christina Sikorski

Photography by Christina Sikorski and Provided

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

What's the most essential back-to-school item of all?

"A library card," says the American Library Association. September is National Library Card Sign-up Month; let's get a jump on it before classes resume!

In 1987 Secretary of Education William Bennett urged a national campaign for all kids to obtain and use a library card. Today's libraries offer a bounty of free materials, services, and activities for kids and adults alike. Here are a few great reasons to make the library an integral part of your child’s life and education.

Movies & films: Today’s libraries offer mainstream movies and television series, as well as educational, independent, and foreign films on DVD for kids and adults alike. In addition, library-sponsored services such as Hoopla and Kanopy allow these same benefits in streaming form; check-out movies and TV shows online and view at home without the library visit!

Music CDs: Music is the universal language. You'll find a large selection of pop, rock, and country music CDs; plus, introduce your kids to classical, jazz, blues, international music, and more. Don’t have a CD player? No worries; CDs play fine on a DVD player. (Bear in mind that not everything you want for your kids is on Spotify.)

Computer software & games: Are your kids into video games? The library has an array of children’s educational software and games, as well as teen and adult video games, instructional and reference software, and productivity software ranging from Microsoft programs to graphic design and photo/video editing.

Books, audiobooks, ebooks: In addition to vast collections of print fiction, non-fiction, and reference books, libraries offer audiobooks on CD, including unabridged editions. Many libraries also provide ebooks in multiple formats.

Inter-library loans: This is big. If you can't find an item you're looking for, most libraries have inter-library and reciprocal loan programs: just ask a librarian to order what you want from another library. Many library systems also allow you to use your card at libraries in nearby communities.

Online catalog: Most library websites offer access to their complete catalog. You can browse/search for materials from home to determine availability before you head out. If an item you want isn't available, you can usually reserve it or request an inter-library loan right from your home phone or computer.

Special events: Many programs, events, and activities are held at libraries year-round. These may include children's story times, computer classes, enrichment programs, book discussion groups, used-book sales, meet-the-author events, children's/teen movies, craft activities, and more.

There's so much more than just books at the library. They're great places to read, study, play, enjoy live music, hear a speaker, learn a new skill, or participate in hands-on programs. 

Locally, in recently-spiffed-up space, the Ela Area Public Library is celebrating 50 years. There are new meeting spaces for cardholders, including a fully wired Zoom Room for community groups. Dedicated Children’s and Teen areas feature outdoor patio access, hands-on STEM programs and seasonal games, crafts, and book recommendations.

When you want to tinker there’s the Forge Makerspace to design and create projects with 3D printers and a GlowForge laser cutter, which can etch on wood and glass. Need inspiration? Inscribe a family recipe onto a cutting board... or etch your class year and school logo on a custom mug.

The ever-growing “Library of Things” has telescopes, GoPro cameras, cake pans, fishing poles, Giant Jenga blocks, and an ice cream maker, among other items of interest.

Enrich your family life: engage your kids with the remarkable free resources available through your local library. 

Take Your Child to a Local Library

Barrington Area Library, featuring a great early learner area: 505 N. Northwest Highway; BALibrary.org.

Ela Area Library, celebrating 50 years with exciting new spaces: 275 Mohawk Trail, Lake Zurich; EAPL.org.

Wauconda Area Library, recently renovated, serving the community since 1939: 801 N Main Street; WaucLib.org.

Vernon Area Public Library has a new outdoor “Library Learning Garden”: 300 Olde Half Day Road, Lincolnshire; VAPLD.info.


Many library services are accessible/downloadable via smartphone, tablet or computer (services vary by library):

Freegal: Stream or download songs (millions available).

PressReader: Read magazines & newspapers from around the world.

Tumblebooks: "e-books for e-kids" Grades Pre-K—6. Watch, listen and read as favorite picture books come to life with animation.

Scholastic BookFlix: helps kids build a love of reading and learning.

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