Planning: Our first trip to the library


A trip to the library is a foundational visit for this curriculum. We’re treating this visit as our “tour” this week; however, the library will become a weekly destination moving forward. This trip is an opportunity to introduce your student to the library or to revisit it with new eyes, and to explore the resources available and systems in place.  My primary goal for this week is to introduce B to the basic structure of our school week – we’ll practice checking out books, and we’ll also try journaling for the first time this week.

I encourage you to begin by exploring the online resources available through your library. These can be invaluable in planning and saving time. We use the Chicago Public library; because Chicago has such a vast library network, resources are spread throughout the branches. Nearly any book you can imagine is available, but it can be incredibly frustrating to look for specific items in a single branch. I frequently preview options ahead of time online, and request transfers to my local branch when I see books (or other resources) that might be of interest.

There probably isn’t a lot of logistical planning needed to prepare for this outing. Chances are there is a library nearby – close enough to walk to or with ample parking. If you don’t have a library card already, you might find out ahead of time what documents are needed to get one. I also recommend bringing a special bag for books. B has a special “library bag” (much like this one) that we always bring when we head to the library and that we store library books in once home.

Book Recommendations:

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

This is a New York Times Bestseller for good reason.  It’s a fun, fictional story about a lion who visits the library.  The illustrations are beautiful and depict scenes that will be familiar to any library patron (less the lion, of course!).  There is discussion of story hour and of library rules, including no running and no roaring that provide a good opportunity to discuss behavioral expectations for the library.

Library Lion is a longer book.  Younger 3-year-olds might find it too long, despite an engaging storyline.  Even if it’s too long to read in it’s entirety with your student, it’s worth checking out for the funny story and the great illustrations.     

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

This is a simple story about a child, Lola, and her mother who visit the library weekly.  Lola clearly loves reading and visiting the library, and this is expressed throughout the book.  The illustrations are very sweet.  This book again explores many familiar aspects of the library.  Aadditionally, it introduces the idea of a daily and weekly rituals around reading and visiting the library.  As these are part of the Teacher Tour Guide curriculum, this is a great fit!   

Maisy Goes to the Library by Lucy Cousins

B just loves the Maisy series and this book is no exception. It introduces the idea of a library story time and some of the things that you might see in your library (books, an aquarium, computers).  An aspect of this story that I particularly like is that Maisy goes to the library with a plan in mind, she’d like to find a book about fish.  The story, in part, revolves around her searching for a book on this particular subject.  As we’ll be seeking out topical books each week while doing the Teacher Tour Guide curriculum, this is a great way to introduce the idea of visiting the library with a particular topic in mind.

Suggested activities:

Meet the librarian:

As a preschool teacher, I always made it a priority to befriend a local children’s librarian. I would keep her updated about our classroom curriculum and she would often pull or set aside books for me that I might find helpful. Here in Chicago, branch libraries are present in nearly every neighborhood.  At times, it was  worthwhile to drive a few extra blocks to visit a library with an extensive children’s section and a helpful librarian. If you find that the children’s section in your local library doesn’t live up to your expectations, you might explore other branches that have reciprocal lending policies.

During your visit, take a moment to introduce yourself and your child to the librarian and to let her know about your preschool plans for this year. Chances are, when she learns that you’ll be making weekly visits and using library resources to support curriculum, she’ll go out of her way to support you. Children’s librarians are usually aware of the most up-to-date titles and resources available through the library. They are a great resource for book suggestions! You will probably take the lead in this conversation; however, your child can practice the social skill of greeting another adult and sharing his or her name. He or she might even feel comfortable enough to talk with the librarian about a favorite book (which will additionally give the librarian insight into the types of books your child might enjoy!).

Learn about library cards:

How amazing are library cards?! Most libraries allow children to have their own library card (with the signature of an adult who is ultimately responsible) once they can sign (write) their name. This is a very rewarding goal for accomplishing a challenging but important skill! When I taught preschool, we would take a walking field trip to the local library early in the school year and learn about library resources and library cards. Throughout the year, my students practiced writing their names daily. Once a child was able to write his or her first and last name independently, I would have a brief meeting with the child and his or her parents during which I would share the great news and present an application for a library card. Taking a walk to the library and earning that first library card was a proud moment for many children, and for their parents as well!

Explore resources:

Of course your library has books to check out… what else do they have? Now is the time to find out. B loves picking out movies (the library is where she first met her favorite fictional character – Mary Poppins!). Our library also has a program called “city passes” that allows cardholders to check out free passes to local museums.  These are very popular and can be difficult to get, but are amazing when available. Additionally, story times and other youth programs can be a great opportunity for your preschooler to practice some social skills.

Check out books:

Allow your child to explore the books available, point out characteristics of the organizational system being used at your library (note: this can vary a bit in the children’s section. While the Dewey Decimal System is used, there are often subcategories created by your children’s librarian such as board books, sections for seasonal selections, new books, and et cetera.) Encourage your child to select a variety of books – fiction and non-fiction, simple and more complex, familiar and unfamiliar.

Explore a variety of books to gain insight into the types of books that are a good fit for your child right now. How long of a story can he or she listen to comfortably? Is he or she more drawn to informational text or fantastical stories? What styles of illustrations or photos capture his or her attention? Once you’ve checked out a pile of books, bring them home and spend the week reading them again and again. I know repetition can be a challenging part of parenting young children, but I assure you it’s beneficial when it comes to reading books.

Subject Area Learning:

Social Studies: Your child will learn about the job of a librarian and practice the social skills needed to introduce himself or herself.

Science: There are ample opportunities for science learning in many of the books at the library, explore the non-fiction options along with storybooks. Begin to observe characteristics of the various books and to classify them by their attributes (fiction or non-fiction, board books, big books, etc.).  This is an introduction to some simple science process skills.

Literacy: Hmm, do I even need to talk about this?! Your child will be surrounded by literacy learning opportunities in the library – choose your own adventure.

Math: Math learning opportunities abound in books for young children – counting, big and small – you’re sure to find something applicable.  Also notice comparative features of books (such as big or small) and practice some counting – how many books fit in your library bag?

Art: Children’s books are filled with interesting illustrations. Notice colors used, the various styles of illustrating, and ask your child to comment on which illustrations or photos he or she likes and why. At home, you might consider creating art in the style of a favorite illustrator.

Please share library resources or books you’re aware of in the comments below so the rest of us will know what to look for at our libraries!


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