7 Ways to Celebrate Children's Book Week in St. Louis

This week marks the beginning of our country’s longest-running literacy program, Children’s Book Week. It is an annual celebration with a simple and powerful message: Books change lives, so let’s share them with our kids. Started in 1919 by the librarian of the Boy Scouts, who sought to improve the standards of children’s books, Children's Book Week is now administered by Every Child a Reader.

Children’s books hold a particularly special place in our culture. In fact, I probably enjoy them more than most of the adult books I read. They are deceptively simple, and the memorable ones tickle our imagination. They are full of the play and discovery characteristic not just of being a child but, well, of being human. And the element of illustration adds a whole other dimension to storytelling.

Here are some activities you can do with your child to celebrate this week.

Visit bookstores
In order for children to read, they must have access to books. It’s important to have books at home and also to know where to find them elsewhere. This week, visit your local bookstores and see what they’re up to. For example, Pudd’nHead Books in Webster Groves has a fantastic children’s book selection, along with posters and totes to give away for Children’s Book Week and author events for kids.

Get your kids a library card
While it’s important to have books at home, not all of us can afford a voluminous personal library. So visit your local library and get your kids set up with their very own library card. Libraries are an indispensable resource, and checking out books on t
heir own can be very empowering for young readers. Make visiting yours a part of your monthly routine.

Read with your kids
It’s an old adage by now, but it’s true: Strong reading skills start at home. When we read with our children, they begin to value reading and see it as an important and pleasurable activity. Reading to kids can help reluctant readers enjoy stories without getting discouraged, and keep them engaged with language as they learn to read themselves. This week, have your children pick out their favorite book to share with you. In turn, share your favorite childhood book with them.

And although this week is meant to celebrate children’s literature, go ahead and read adult books you enjoy — in front of your kids. When your kids see you reading for pleasure, it reinforces those values and shows them how to integrate reading into everyday life.

Read books
We are all, adults and kids alike, bombarded with media every day. There is so much to read, and indeed we read so much — from email to social networks, magazines to billboards, news to (eh-hem) blogs. Be sure to get books in the mix: Read a bedtime story every night this week (if you don’t already).

While e-books have their place, there is nothing quite like holding a three-dimensional book, turning its pages and being free from the ubiquitous screen. Remember that children’s book apps, while great teaching tools, are quite different from reading solo, where the reader is in charge and has a more active reading experience. Lane Smith’s hilarious It’s a Book is a great place to start examining the role of technology in reading. 

Attend a Story Time
While reading at home is invaluable, reading in community strengthens our connections and enriches our experience of the story. Take your child to a “Story Time” this week so they can have that pleasure
there is no shortage of them to choose from. The St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis County Library and St. Charles County Library systems host story times regularly at nearly all branches. (Many libraries across the metro area, incluidng most in the Metro East, are not affiliated with a county-wide system, so check your neighborhood branch for story times.)  A fortunate overlap with the St. Louis Storytelling Festival means families will have ample opportunity to hear some amazing readers spin some great yarns this week. Subterranean Books in University City hosts a delightful story time with Georgy Rock every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. And Left Bank Books bookseller Miss Shannon leads story time every Saturday morning at 10:30 at the downtown location.

Join a kids/teen book club (or start your own!)
Book clubs are great for bringing the solitary experience of reading into dialogue with others, giving it a social context. There are a number of book clubs for young readers already in existence, sponsored by local library branches or local bookstores. But informal groups are just as fun. Help your child or teen coordinate a book club evening at home, with food and friends and lively discussion. Mother-daughter book clubs are another popular way to share reading with you kids, and really can include any combination of family members.

Plant a tree
Like everything else, books have a carbon footprint. Help make books a renewable resource by planting a tree this week, either in your own yard or through an organization like Eco-Libris. This applies even as we move along in our digital age, for the jury is still out as to whether e-readers are more ecological than books (they have a carbon footprint of their own). Then take your books outdoors, find a tree, sit beneath it, and read.

By Erin Quick, books blogger for SmartParenting

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