Tag Archives: library

Using the King County Library

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 to see them all! (When my kids were little, I did a weekly field trip that would include a different library and park each week.)

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 at a time! 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 materials, return them to any branch of the KCLS library.

When my children were little, ee went to the library once a week. I allowed them each to have ten library books out at a time. We kept them on a special shelf at home. Before we went, they could choose which books 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.

Accessing KCLS Online

To get started: If you don’t already have a library card, go to https://kcls.org/library-cards/ to set up an account.

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 to borrow.

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 week.

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:

  • Libby – ebooks and downloadable audiobooks
  • Hoopla – movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to stream or download
  • Tumble Book Library Video storybooks and read-alongs for readers in grades K-6, including some in Spanish and French
  • BookFlix Classic video storybooks paired with non-fiction eBooks. Preschool to 3rd grade.
  • Kanopy – Watch thousands of films from independent filmmakers and popular producers. Titles include The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, and PBS.

Learn more about these, and other services at https://kcls.org/resources-types/ebooks-format/). You can see samples of what kinds of books and videos they have at: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2021/10/13/online-resources-kcls/

For more information on where to find book recommendations and how to preview books on YouTube and through online reviews, check out https://gooddayswithkids.com/2020/09/29/choosing-books-for-your-child/.


Story-times are one of the best things to do with your toddler or preschooler to prepare them for kindergarten. They are free and fun, and a good learning experience for your child that will help get them excited about reading. Read more about them in my post on Story-Time: Cheap Dates with Toddlers.

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.

In winter 2023, King County libraries are offering several story-times every single day at various branches across the county. For example, on Wednesdays you could attend story-time in Burien, Issaquah, Kirkland, Maple Valley, North Bend, Redmond or online. There are 8 online story-times every week, including ones in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Tigrigna, and one that focuses on LGBTQ pride themes. Find the current schedule at https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events.

Games and Activities that Build Literacy Skills

[This is my fourth post on early literacy. Check out my other posts on how to get your child excited about reading, and  info on developmental literacy and what types of books are best at each age, and how to read to a toddler.)

Reading books together, anytime and anywhere, is a powerful way to teach the joys to be found in books, and the power of literacy. There are also lots of other hands-on ways to build reading skills.

  • Make books together – make albums with family photos or pictures cut out of magazines. For older kids, they can dictate a story – they tell it, you write it out, then they illustrate the pages.
  • Look at family photo albums together and tell stories about the people and activities shown.
  • Explore letters: Practice drawing, painting, or writing with a stick in the sand or the mud. Make letters with play dough or pipe cleaners. Have them work with puzzles made of letter shapes. Play with alphabet refrigerator magnets. Look for apps for your touch screen device (tablet or phone) that let them practice tracing letters. Draw letters on paper and have your child trace them


  • In addition to letters, talk about about symbols in general – you could make a calendar and come up with symbols to remind them of what happens each day. Or a weather chart. Or a chores chart.
  • Act out stories that you have read, or do puppet shows. Tell the story as written, or imagine what would come next, or what other adventure those characters could have.
  • Sing songs and play rhyming games – these slow language down so it’s easier to understand, and easier to memorize. Later, try memorizing a story and telling it over and over.
  • When they ask you a question, show how you would look up the answer.
  • Visit the library often. Make it a special time in your week’s schedule.
  • Take them to story time at the library or bookstores. It’s typically free, weekly or monthly, and lasts 30 – 45 minutes. Expect to sit on the floor with your child and help him stay focused on the stories. This is great for literacy and language development – seeing other kids and parents excited about books, listening to the librarian’s voice (kids learn language better when they hear a variety of people speak it), and singing songs together. It’s also great practice for school – having to sit still and pay attention to an adult other than your own parent is important. Before going, let your child know what to expect, and what behavior you expect of her (sitting down, being quiet) to increase your chances of a good experience. Learn more here: http://www.peps.org/ParentResources/by-topic/early-learning/why-story-time-rocks

Check out fun books about the Alphabet:

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. YouTube. I love the rhythm of this book, and it’s a fun rollicking read-aloud that I never tire of. The letters are just characters in a story: “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”
  • Kipper’s A to Z by Mick Inkpen. YouTube. Most ABC books just have different unrelated ideas on each page as they go through the alphabet. I like that this book has a storyline that runs throughout. They find an ant and put it in a box, then a caterpillar they put in the box, then the duck who is too big to fit…
  • Dr. Seuss’ ABC. YouTube. YouTube sung to Banana Boat song melody. Has the great read-aloud rhythm and fun pictures you’d expect in a Dr. Seuss book. I also like the fact that on several pages it goes back to remind you of all the letters in the alphabet that came before the one you’re on.
  • The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s. YouTube This is a wordless book, but you can engage kids in a story-telling exercise as you read it: “What animal did he see next? Will that animal chase after him too?”

Some alphabet books are really all about increasing your child’s vocabulary:

  • Eating the Alphabet by Ehlert has lots of different fruits and vegetables for every letter. YouTube
  • L M N O Peas, YouTube, uses words for lots of jobs and hobbies: dancers, drivers, eaters, electricians, explorers, farmers and friends.
  • A is for Angry. (YouTube)

Some books allow kids to have a tactile experience of the shape of the letters:

I like Alpha Block, YouTube, which has cut outs of the letters. Think Touch Learn ABC has raised letters the children can feel. If Rocks Could Sing, YouTube, shows rocks shaped like each of the letters. Somehow looking at pictures of rocks gives me a sense of what that rock would feel like in my hand. This book could also send you on a quest of finding rocks that look like shapes, objects, or letters.

Note: Many ABC books are too advanced to be understood by kids just learning the idea that an alphabet exists and that the different shapes of letters have meaning. For example, Take Away the A is a great book for kids who can already read – like first or second graders will get the jokes – like “without the N, the moon says Moo”. Z is for Moose is good for kids who already have a lot of familiarity with the conventions of alphabet books. A is for Salad would be fun and silly for kids who know how things are actually spelled, it would make no sense for kids who don’t – when it says B is for Viking, and you have to look to figure out what in the picture of a beaver in a Viking hat starts with B. On Creature ABC, you have to know some about reading to be able to guess the answers.

Child Development and Early Literacy

[This is my second post on early literacy. Look here for tips on how to get your child excited about reading, and here for how to read to your child, and here for other games and activities that build literacy skills]

Developmental Stages of Literacy

12 – 18 months: can hold or carry books, look at board books independently, points to pictures in the book, may gaze at one book for a long time, or may switch between books quickly

18 – 24 months: may carry a favorite book around; will hold books and pretend to read; may want you to read the same book over and over. When you read favorite books, your child may say some of the words and phrases with you

2 – 3 years: can learn to turn pages in a regular book, names objects in pictures, may recite parts of books from memory, starts to relate what they’re reading about in books to their life experiences

3 – 4 years: understand that words on a page have meaning, begin to recognize letters, might recognize some words, enjoy longer stories, can guess what might happen next, like to discuss stories, can easily turn pages

What kind of books do kids love?

Young Toddlers (12 – 24 months): choose sturdy board books with only a few words on each page. Look for simple rhymes and predictable text (e.g. a repeating phrase that appears throughout). Look for simple pictures that match the text. They like books about things they see and do in their day-to-day lives, like eating lunch or going to the park, more than fantasy or books about exotic experiences.

Toddlers (2 – 3 years): Choose books that tell simple stories. Pay attention to what your child is passionate about – animals, trains, dinosaurs – they’ll love books about that. Look for non-fiction on topics like shapes, numbers, letters. Choose books with rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. Lift the flaps. (These are my favorite books for toddlers.)

Preschoolers (3 – 5 years): Children are able to enjoy longer stories, and stories about things outside their daily experience. You can choose non-fiction books about simple ideas like telling time, counting, opposites, and also about anything they’re excited about – planets, sports, kittens…

Aim for a mix of familiar books and fresh ones – kids love to hear the same book over and over – the familiar is comforting and repetition helps them learn. New books introduce new ideas and new things to fall in love with. At any reading session, offer multiple books and let them choose.

Source for developmentally specific recommendations:

Getting Ready to Read is a short booklet on helping your child become a confident reader. (It also includes lots of great tips for language development and development in general.) www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/cradlingliteracy_ready2read_8-14-09.pdf

These Pathways for Literacy gives very specific guidelines for each developmental stage.

Sources for book recommendations for each age group:

Lists of recommended books are available on websites for many library systems or in person at the library. Check out some here: www.kcls.org/kids/whattoread/booklists/ and here www.bklynpubliclibrary.org/first-5-years/read/toddlers/books

I often look at these lists for ideas, then go to Amazon to read reviews of the book to learn more. (Then back to my library website to put the book on hold. We read 15 new books a week – we couldn’t afford this habit if we bought all those books!)

Another great collection of resources and recommendations is: http://www.readingrockets.org/audience/parents

Here is a printable handout on Literacy for age 2 – 6  and one on Pre-literacy for toddlers. Find more handouts on my Resources for Parent Educators page.

Getting Your Toddler or Preschooler Excited about Reading

This week’s theme is Early Literacy – what we can do with our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to lay the foundation for learning about reading and writing. [Check out these posts for developmental stages of literacy, how to read to a child, and games and activities that build literacy skills.]

Building early literacy skills does not mean teaching your toddler to read a book. Formal instruction at this age is not developmentally appropriate*, and may be counter-productive, if your child comes to think of reading as a difficult and burdensome task.

Early literacy should instead be focused on creating an environment where books are so cool and the ability to read is so amazing that your child just can’t wait to learn how. Librarians call this “print motivation.” Here are some things we can do to foster this enthusiasm:

  • Model how powerful reading is. Point out to your child how helpful it is that you can read the instructions on how to cook food or assemble toys, how much you enjoy reading friends’ news on Facebook, and how whenever you want to do something new, you can learn how by reading. Point out the words that are all around us – signs, menus, etc.
  • Model reading as something you do for pleasure. Whether you read books, magazines, newspapers, or blogs on your tablet, let your child know how much you enjoy it.
  • When you read to your child, make it fun! Choose books you will enjoy reading.Choose books that are about the things your child loves – whether they’re passionate about chickens, trucks, gardening, building or splashing in puddles, there are books about it, and reading about things they are excited about will help them be excited about reading.
  • Literacy is a social process, which happens in relationships with family, caretakers and teachers. There’s a wonderful connection that happens you snuggle up with a book, give your child your full attention, and you enjoy sharing an experience together. (When your kids are too old for snuggled up story time, you can still enjoy books together. Try listening to audio books in the car on the way to school, and talking about them over dinner.) This together time can be a big motivator for spending time with books.

When and where to read

Don’t just save books for in the bedroom at bedtime. Have them scattered around the house, in the car, the diaper bag and so on. Share books every day – at breakfast, naptime, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, when you arrive at a class or meeting early… show that we can always enjoy a book, anytime, anywhere!

It’s OK to read for just a few minutes at a time – don’t worry if they don’t want to finish a story. They may flip through several books quickly or glance at one, then want to run off to play. On the other hand, if they want to read a book slowly, lingering over one page, going back to it over and over again, don’t feel like you need to rush them.

Resources for books and songs to get excited about:

King County library has a collection of lyrics to songs and rhymes AND videos of librarians singing them (so you can learn the tunes): http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Main_Page

Brooklyn Public Library’s site includes great literacy tips, book recommendations, and lyrics for lots of children’s songs: http://www.bklynpubliclibrary.org/first-5-years


* Note: I’m saying that formally teaching reading by using textbooks or formal lessons or flash cards is not necessary. Expecting your child to read at a young age might end up being frustrating for them and disappointing for you.

However, some kids naturally learn to read at a very young age. For example, with my son, we just used the tips I’m sharing this week for creating an environment with lots of great books and fun reading times. We didn’t “teach” him to read, and didn’t expect him to read. But, he learned anyway! He could read basic words before he turned three, and now at three and a half, can easily read books that are written at a kindergarten to first grade level.