Getting Your Hands on Good Books

Recently, while sorting through older picture books in storage, I came across one from the 1940s that has removable pieces. In the story, a young boy helps the farmers move animals to his family's new farm. There's a plate at the back with cutouts that hold the cardboard animals, and slots to fit them into the appropriate pages of the picture book.

Help the Farmer delighted me -- see, even 80 years ago, the library encouraged kids to use their fine motor skills to practice solving problems. Small children love to be helpful and do these things independently, and their little fingers need practice. This book has a story, several animals to match with their living spaces, and puzzle pieces to fit into their respective cutouts; it's more complex than a simple read-aloud, and captures children's attention when they might not sit still to be read to.

While this particular book is fragile and won't be circulating, OPL has many interactive books for children that can be checked out. Pop-up books, for example, are very popular for both in-library browsing and for taking home to open and close over and over -- for kids of all ages. I sometimes bring one on a school visit as a treat for the class, and we discuss everything from papercrafting to physics. Many of our board books for babies and toddlers have little moveable flaps that conceal surprises, or trails and textures for curious fingers to explore. In the nonfiction section, you may discover a small magnifying glass or a neat kaleidoscope, or a note that folds and slips into a working envelope.

Unsure whether a book is available for checkout? Some catalog listings will say "in-library use only" (for example, if we're keeping it for use in storytime), but may have other copies that can go home with you. Ask a librarian to help you find them in the catalog or on the shelf. 

Worried that your child will tear a page? Please don't let that stop you. It's true that these special elements may be delicate -- that's one of the reasons some libraries rarely purchase these types of materials, or let them leave the library. There's a big difference between a favorite pop-up being read 50 times in one home, and the same book being transported to and from 50 different homes and enjoyed there. The various trips in the car, on the bus, in the bottom of the stroller do take their toll. However, no one expects a pop-up book to stay pristine. Any well-loved book will have its edges worn down eventually -- and of course it's more likely to happen when it's constantly touched by active hands.

As librarians, we love to help kids get their hands on books (literally!) and we know that it helps kids learn! That's worth the extra cost and care for us. Library staff understand that accidents happen -- we just ask that you be careful with any library materials you check out, and let us know if something's wrong. We'll do the rest: reinforcement of bendable pages before the books go out, a thorough going-over when they're checked in, minor repairs, and eventually a dignified removal from the circulating collection when something is too wonky/torn/stuck/missing to be fun anymore. We might replace a very popular copy, or order something new that will also be exciting to read.

Here are some suggestions to help your kids get their hands on books!

Interactive Children's Books

List created by OaklandPL_Childrens

Here are some suggestions to help you get your hands on great books! OPL reinforces flaps and repairs pop-up items, so don't be afraid to let your child explore with their sense of touch.

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