A library card provides endless opportunities for family engagement

Snoopy Library CardSeptember is Library Card Sign-Up Month, a time when the nation’s public libraries highlight the value of a library card. As children head back to school, family time is often hindered by homework and afterschool and social activities.

A public library card is your ticket to free educational resources and activities that bring families together. Libraries not only provide resources to parents and children that support early literacy and lifelong learning, but truly transform how families spend time together.

Card holders have free access to a family destination that provides a spectrum of free services, including digital workshops for all-ages; STEAM programs/activities; mother-daughter book clubs; family storytimes; and game nights.

Families are integral to a child’s development, as shown by data collected by the Harvard Family Research Project and the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), for its report, “Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement.”

The report highlights the importance of libraries, with their rich digital environment and hands-on resources, and skilled librarians in helping parents to guide their children’s learning. Libraries are spaces, it notes, that embrace the entire family across every generation and offer constructive outlets for family engagement, including makerspaces, water-wise gardening, STEAM activities and writing clubs.

Libraries throughout the country are bringing families together for both learning and quality personal time. They are serving a crucial need especially in areas with immigrant populations with low-incomes. In an area of New York City where one quarter of the residents do not speak English, The Queens Borough Public Library’s Family Literacy Program offers parents, caregivers and children the opportunity to hone their literacy skills in an atmosphere that promotes togetherness and fosters intergenerational understanding. Activities include parents writing and sharing their life stories with their children.

At the Waukegan (Illinois) Public Library, with a 57-percent Latino population, trusted members of the community connect families with such services as bilingual storytimes and conversational ESL programs.

In Maryland, libraries hold Library Cafés for families with young children that involve them in a group meal, followed by a recreation period during which children can play together and work on their literacy while the adults get to know one another. Librarians provide support by pointing families toward local resources.

Throughout Library Card Sign-Up Month, libraries will offer a variety of incentives to spur signups and renewals. One Michigan library promoted Library Card Sign-Up Month by partnering with local businesses and organizations. By showing their library cards, patrons could receive everything from a discount for students attending the local symphony orchestra to savings at a local shoe store, a pharmacy and even a local brewery.

This year’s Library Card Sign-Up Month Honorary Chair is Snoopy, the world-famous beagle featured in the Peanuts comic strip, calling attention to the supportive role libraries and library professionals play in the education, academic achievement and development of children.

Since 1987, Library Card Sign-up Month has been held each September to mark the beginning of the school year. It is a time when the ALA and libraries nationwide join together to remind parents, caregivers and students that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.

For more information regarding Library Card Sign-up Month and Snoopy artwork, please visit http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/presskits/lcsum.