If you live in King County, Washington, you have access to one of the best public library systems in the entire country! And it’s all FREE of charge. Here’s an overview of the services they offer for parents with young children, both in person and online.
Going In Person
There are LOTS of library locations. (Click on that link for directions AND hours.) You may choose a favorite one to go to over and over, or you go on a grand tour and check out a new one every week!
Note: as of July 2021, libraries are all open, but all unvaccinated people over age 2 are asked to wear a mask when visiting the library.
When you arrive, you can go to the children’s section – if you don’t see it right away, just ask someone to point you there. You can choose any book on the shelf and read it to your child then and there, or you can choose to take it home. If you want to check it out, you’ll need a library card. Just go to the information desk and they’ll help you set up an account. You can check out up to 100 books! You can keep videos for up to 7 days and books for 28. You can often renew for longer. (More details on borrowing.) When you’re done with them, return them to any KCLS library.
When my children were little, I allowed them each to have ten library books out at a time. We kept them on a special shelf at home. We went to the library once a week and they could choose which ones they were ready to return, and which they wanted to keep a while longer. If they brought 3 back, they could get three new ones. If they brought all 10 back, they could get 10 new books that week.
On their website at https://kcls.org, you can search for any book you want. The results will look something like this:
You can choose a physical book (and sometimes a book with a CD of the book read aloud); an ebook that you can read on a browser or download to a device; or a downloadable audiobook.
If you choose an ebook or audiobook, and a copy is available now, you can download it right away. (Learn more about downloading e-books.) If a copy is not currently available, put it on hold, and you’ll get an email notification as soon as one is available for download.
If you want a physical book, then place a hold. You’ll then choose a library branch to have it delivered to for pick-up. There are lots of locations all over King County.
If no one else has requested it, you’ll typically have it within a week. If you see that there are something like 83 holds on 12 copies, you know it will be longer. When your book arrives, you’ll get an email. You can go to your library to pick up the book during business hours any time in the next few days.
Once you’ve checked out a book, you have it for 28 days (21 days for e-books). You’ll get an email when it’s due. If you want it for longer, you can renew online, unless someone else has placed a hold on that book.
KCLS has books available in over 20 languages. You can do an advanced search that limits your results to books in that language. Learn more at: https://kcls.org/world-languages
Online Resources available through KCLS
There are several libraries of online children’s e-books. We can access, for free:
Hopefully soon library storytimes in person will return. They are a fun free outing, a good learning experience for your child that will help get them excited about reading. If your family speaks a language other than English at home, they do have storytimes in some other languages, or the English storytimes offer a great opportunity for children (and parents!) to get more familiar with English. They are offering some online storytimes in summer 2021 – learn more at https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events.
There are several sections of this page – here’s what you’ll find:
Making Life Easier: tip sheets on how to turn events that are often challenging for parents into something more manageable or even enjoyable. Covers: Bedtime / Naptime, Diaper Changes, Going to the Doctor / Dentist, Holidays, and Errands.
Visual Schedules: how to use this powerful tool for teaching routines and expected behaviors: first you do this, then we’ll do that.
Backpack Connection Series: a way for teachers and parents/caregivers to work together to help young children develop social emotional skills and reduce challenging behavior. Handouts on four topics:
Emotional literacy includes being able to understand other people’s feelings, understand your own feelings, and know appropriate ways to express those feelings. One way to teach these skills to young children is by reading books about emotions. Here are some books that are suggested for 1 – 4 year olds.
These are all good books, well worth reading. Personally, rather than buying just one or two of them, I would get them from my library or find them online so we could learn the lessons that several different books have to teach. (Look here for more thoughts on Choosing Books for Children and resources for finding books online.)
When you read any of these books, read them with feeling! Use your voice, your facial expressions and your body language to illustrate / echo the feelings being described on the pages. Stop and discuss some pages with your child: “Have you ever felt that way?” “Remember yesterday, you felt like that… how do you feel today?” “I feel that way sometimes. When I feel that way, I ____.” “If you felt that way, what could you do?”
The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Llenas. Video. Great attractive illustrations that pop up! Monster’s feelings are all jumbled up, and they sort them out into jars. “This is sadness. It’s gentle and blue… when you’re sad, you might want to cry or be alone. This is anger. It blazes bright red. When you’re angry, you want to roar and shout… this is calm… all your feelings are in their places now. They are easier to understand when they’re not all mixed together.” It’s a nice approach to understanding the different types of feelings, and could be a good companion to some of the ideas about helping children understand the different intensities of feelings and zones of regulation, as I discuss in my Big Feelings post.
The Feelings Book by Todd Parr. Video. Colorful goofy illustrations. Each page shows one feeling: “Sometimes I feel brave… sometimes I feel like making mud pies… sometimes I feel lonely… sometimes I feel like trying something new…. No matter how you feel, don’t keep them to yourself… share them…” It’s just a nice sampling of all the different ways we can feel and how our feelings change and move on all the time.
When I Am / Cuando estoy (Bilingual) by Rosa-Mendoza. (Video) Nice illustrations of diverse children. Each page addresses an emotion and an action: “When I am angry, I stomp my feet… when I am sad, I hug my bear.” Nice simple overview – I would use it as a springboard to discuss other options for things they could do when they have those feelings.
How Do You Feel? by Browne. Video. “Sometimes I feel bored…. I feel confident, but I can also feel shy.” I like that at the end, it asks “how do you feel” and shows images from all the other pages that allows you to review the feelings. The illustrations of an anthropomorphic monkey do a nice job of illustrating the feelings with color, body language, and other visuals – like on the lonely page, he’s very small.
Lots of Feelings by Rotner. Video. “We have lots of feelings. Sometimes we feel happy. Sometimes sad. We feel angry at times. Loving other times.” Each page has multiple photos of diverse children showing the facial expressions and body language of that emotion. I like the end papers on this book that are filled with feeling words: kind, furious, enthusiastic, perturbed, and many more.
Book series Feelings for Little Children, which includes When You’re Mad and You Know It by Crary or If You’re Angry And You Know It by Kaiser (video). These books can be sung to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It, and each gives options for a variety of ways to express that feeling. ” “blow air out,” “shake it out” and “give a shout.”
The book series called Let’s Look at Feelings. Video. It includes books like What I look like when I’m Scared, which shows photos of people looking frightened. It very concretely teaches expressions – “when I am scared, I pull my chin in and frown.” This might be most appropriate for children who really have a hard time intuiting people’s feelings and need this to be very literal, such as autistic children.
The Way I Feel Books books, like When I Feel Sad (video), or Angry (video) talk about some of the reasons someone might feel that way, lets them know it’s OK to feel that way, and that the feeling will pass. They’re great for age 3 – 5.
A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet by Boynton. Video. Although I’ve read HUNDREDS of books to my kids, I own only a very few favorites. This is one of my favorites. “A is for Angry Anteater, B is for Bashful Bear… O is for Outraged Opossum.” So fun to read… with feeling! It just teaches words / moods – doesn’t provide info on what to do with your feelings.
There are lots more options, like Today I feel silly by Curtis; The Way I Feel by Cain, My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss, and Glad Monster / Sad Monster by Ed Emberley. Find more ideas in this list from Zero to Three. And here are more videos from the Feelings Channel.
I have lots more recommendations for books, including: toddler favorites, “books that sing”, books about science, children’s books about autism, and more. Find all the links at the bottom of my post on Choosing Books for Your Child.
Note: In the list above, the book title is an Amazon affiliate link which will take you to all the info on the book. If you then purchase anything on Amazon, I do get a small referral fee, with no additional cost for you. The “video” links are to YouTube videos where you can see the book and hear it read aloud. Some of these videos were created by people with permission to do so; others may be copyright violations – I encourage you to purchase the books you like best and support their authors and illustrators.
We know that children learn through novelty and repetition. Through being exposed to new experiences and new ideas and by being given the chance to do those activities and explore those ideas over and over again. Books are one place this can play out. When my children were young, we always read two books at bedtime. My child gets to choose one and I choose the other. Children will often have a favorite of the moment, and that’s great! Reading that same book over and over gives them the learning benefits of repetition. I can then make sure we’re reading one new book each night to balance that with novelty. Or, if they’re always seeking new books because they’re “bored” of the old ones, I can return to one we’ve read before, reading it slowly and finding new things to point out in it and new things to talk about, teaching the depth of understanding that can come through literature at all ages.
We read a few hundred kids’ books a year at that rate. And yet… our family only owns about 20 children’s books, carefully curated from those hundreds I’ve read. We only buy and keep the most special of them all. This is better for our budget, better for the environment, and also helps to avoid the overstimulation of a house full of too much stuff. So, how do we access all those great books?
Your Local Library
We make extensive use of our local library. When my kids are little, we always have ten library books in the house per kid. We go to the library once a week – we take back any books we’re done with, but keep the ones that we still want to read. Some weeks we bring back ten and take home our ten for novelty. Other weeks, only one or two books exchange as we keep reading and re-reading the current favorites. We are blessed with one of the best library systems in the country, where we can peruse the library catalog online, choose our favorite books and put them on hold – within a few days, the books are delivered to our local branch for a quick pickup. But even in a small library system, there’s plenty of children’s books to read! Also, ask your librarian about interlibrary loan – they may be able to access books from other libraries, such as the Diverse Book library.
Hoopla is a digital media service offered by public libraries that allows users to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to stream or download for free. Over 1500 library systems in the US and Canada subscribe to Hoopla. Go to www.hoopladigital.com and click on “get started” to find out if your library offers it. Here’s some of the STEM resources on Hoopla. I like that you can set Hoopla to “kids’ mode” on your computer so it only offers kid-appropriate materials.
This is a subscription service – $9.99 per month for a library of 40,000 e-books, including picture books, read-to-me and audio books. I have not explored it, but it looks good.
Online Reviews and Samples
When I’m looking for a new book to read for a class, I make extensive use of online reviews, such as those on Amazon, GoodReads, and Barnes and Noble. As with all online reviews, I take them with a grain of sand. Sometimes something that troubles one reviewer is a plus for me. And sometimes a book they say didn’t appeal to their child for a particular reason might lead me to think it’s the perfect book for my kid! But reviews give you a good sense of what to expect.
On Amazon, many books have a “look inside” feature that lets you check out a few pages. I find this especially helpful for assessing reading level. Sometimes their age guidelines say one thing, and then I look at the sample text, and I think it’s better for a different developmental level than they suggest.
If there’s a book you want to try out, search for it on YouTube. For example, search of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar read-aloud”. You’ll find LOTS of videos of people reading the book aloud and showing the pictures. Some of these videos are excellent quality. Some are not – sometimes it’s hard to see the pictures well, some folks are not enjoyable narrators to listen to. But it’s a good way to check out a book to see if you like it enough to get your own copy. I have also used these videos when teaching online classes – I mute the audio track and read along, using my own voice.
I think it’s important to note that while some publishers and authors have given permission for the use of their books in this way, many of these videos are a violation of the copyright of the author. Please do support authors by buying the best of these books.
Where to Buy
If you’re looking for just any kids’ books, you can often find them cheap at garage sales, thrift shops, and used book stores. Or, check to see if you have a local Buy Nothing group or similar group on Facebook in your area.
When you are looking to purchase a specific book new, consider purchasing through your local, independent bookstore. You can often call and place an order and they’ll have it waiting for you when you arrive. If they don’t have it in stock, they can order it for you. You can also check out Book Riot’s list of independent bookstores around the country, many of which will ship books anywhere, or check out IndieBound, where you can choose to shop directly from them but some of the proceeds are sent to independent bookstores, or you can choose “shop local” to be transferred to your local store’s website to complete the purchase. Shopping locally benefits your local community, reduces the environmental impact of shipping, and supports jobs in your community.
If you do choose to purchase at Amazon, consider either:
Use Amazon Smile where a portion of the profits are donated to a charity of your choice – at no extra cost to you.
Follow an affiliate link. Many bloggers (like me) use affiliate links in their book recommendation lists. If you follow that link, then purchase any product on Amazon, that blogger gets a small referral fee – at no extra cost to you. It’s a good way to support people whose work you find helpful. So, pick your favorite blog that uses affiliate links, and bookmark it, and anytime you want to shop at Amazon, go through that link.
I include lots of book recommendations on my blogs! Here are links to several of those resources:
On this blog, I have 11 “Fun with Toddlers” posts. Each has ideas for crafts, songs, activities, and best toddler books on themes like: babies, farm, stars, springtime.
My post on Childrens’ Books as Windows and Mirrors talks about why it’s important to read books to children that include people of all races, religions, abilities, genders, and more. We should include books that “mirror” their experience and books that give them “windows” into other experiences. It includes links to LOTS of book recommendations for all ages of children.