As students head back to school this September, we encourage parents to visit their local public library and make sure their children and teens sign up for the most important school supply of all - a library card.
September is library card sign-up month, and this year Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom County Library System are making a special effort to remind parents and caregivers that a library card is the smartest card you can own.
When it comes to achieving academic success, a library card provides students with access to a world of both print and electronic resources, such as live homework help and online tutoring, biography and history resources, cultural information for state and country reports, and online test prep for the GED, ACT, AP and SAT tests.
And, because of reciprocal borrowing between your two library systems, your library card gives you access to library materials owned by all the area public libraries -- close to half a million items! Your library card is your ticket to Mango Languages, an online language learning service for students (of all ages) to learn more than 40 languages - from Chinese to Spanish to Hawaiian or even pirate! Use Mango Languages to help decide which language to study in school, master some handy phrases for a vacation to another country, or brush up before a test.
Library programs, activities and clubs provide an added value to your student's educational experience. It's easy to see why 84 percent of Americans agree that their public library is important to their child's education.
Local parents have an added incentive to get their child a public library card: as of Jan. 1, 2013, overdue fines are no longer charged for children's materials checked out on children's cards. The point is to get library cards in the hands of as many children as possible to get them started on the path of lifelong learning.
We also encourage parents to use public libraries with their children - to model positive information seeking and reading behaviors. According to a 20-year study conducted by the University of Nevada, families with books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain - by 2.4 years! Public libraries are a way to get more books into the home, at no charge. What a deal!
Today's students learn differently than their predecessors. Studies indicate students learn most effectively when allowed to explore their personal interests. Staff at your local public library are ready to engage students of all ages and inspire a passion for learning. That's why we provide regular storytime classes for young children to learn through stories and active play, summer reading programs for school-age children, and fun events throughout the year for tweens and teens.
Parents of avid readers know that using a public library card is essential for supplying children with a variety of reading material without breaking the bank. And for kids who are more reluctant about reading, having access to an ample supply of fresh new titles (both traditional books and eBooks) can be just the thing to entice them to get excited about reading. So can TumbleBooks, available from the children's pages on our library websites (bellinghampubliclibrary.org and WCLS.org). TumbleBooks allow kids to read books on a computer, listening to the words as they read and look at the illustrations.
No computer at home? Use one at your library!
But why let the kids have all the fun? Public libraries have something for everyone, and if you're not using your public library, you're missing out! Register the children in your life (and yourself) for a free library card today. Stop by any public library in Bellingham or Whatcom County, or sign up online at yourlibraries.org. Then tell your friends and neighbors to do the same. Happy back to school, with the smartest card you can own -- a library card!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Christine Perkins is executive director of the Whatcom County Library System and Pam Kiesner is director of the Bellingham Public Library.