LAST WEEK, in an attempt to escape summer’s last heroic stand, my husband Trent and I whisked our daughter Charlotte off to the cool refuge of the . I knew the Library has much to offer the preschool and grade school set, but I didn’t expect much in the way of entertainment for a 4-month-old baby. I was pleasantly surprised.
The children’s section of the Kirkland Library is located near the front door, a safe distance from the quiet reading room. The vibe is warm and friendly. One wall is covered with an eye catching mural of planets, a rushing river and a leaping fish with an enthusiastic smile. One doesn’t get the feeling that the librarians are going to be shushing any pint-sized readers.
The tops of the shoulder-high selves are sprinkled with well-loved, plush puppets that made Charlotte giggle. In one corner, I found a basket of puzzles. Charlotte won’t be putting them together anytime soon, but the thick colorful pieces are perfect for her to handle as she develops large and small motor skills. There are many child-sized tables and cozy chairs for story time and a well-placed rocking chair perfect for calming a fussy infant.
Better yet, the children’s section of the library is well stocked with board books that Charlotte can handle without tearing the pages. (Note to library staff: I did not, I promise, allow my daughter to gum on any of your yummy board books, I swear.)
I also found some encouragement for our at-home reading routine. The King County Library produces a series of pamphlets on children’s literacy. “Raising a Reader: Babies” provides helpful hints for reading with baby. The pamphlet suggests choosing books that play to your baby’s developmental stage with clear, bright, simple illustrations. Similarly, books with lots of rhythm, rhyme, repetition and short text are best.
Some of the suggestions are obvious, like, “share a book with your baby everyday.” Others are more creative. For example, “Help your baby recognize that words are everywhere by pointing out print found in everyday life.” Genius! As a first-time parent, I love this type of practical and easy to follow tip.
“Book List for Babies” is equally helpful. I selected a few titles from the list and happily headed home with Counting Kisses and Daddy Hugs 1, 2, 3 both by Karen Katz and As Big As You by Elaine Greenstein tucked in my bag.
A FEW MORE stats on the library: The library has a number of “Meeting Rooms” available for reservation. When available, they provide a quiet and semi-private place to nurse a baby. On one occasion, a friendly library staff member reserved the room for me just for that purpose. The bathroom has a pull down changing station (critical!). And did I mention the rocking chair? The library also hosts regular reading events for kids, but most are geared toward children two and over.
It turns out, however, that the chief attraction at the library is not actually books or puzzles or puppets. At four months old, Charlotte is becoming more social. She’s especially fascinated by other children, but she doesn’t see many of them in our one-child-so-far household. The library, though, is like an aquarium for observing wild and exotic variations on the child theme. Charlotte was absolutely entranced by a chubby toddler teetering between the stacks. She giggled at a pair of dark-haired siblings who stopped to smile and make faces back at her and watched with wonder as a red-faced preschooler screamed “I don’t want to go home!” (don’t get any ideas, Charlotte).
As the weather gets colder and the inevitable rain returns, I anticipate that this little family will be spending more frequent days at the library where changing and feeding are relatively easy, the other children provide ample entertainment, and the books are delicious.
Laura Latta is a writer and stay-at-home mom. She lives with her husband and baby girl in the Juanita Neighborhood of Kirkland.