You don’t have to spend money to get your kids to love reading and learning. You already have a great resource in your community: your public library!

The most obvious benefit you can get from a public library is access to their collection. Many states boast of an extensive and updated set of books, with sections for all age groups. The good news: they require just your social security number for membership! This means that you don’t have to buy books that your child would enjoy — your tax money has already done that for you.

If this is your first time to patronize a public library, orient yourself by visiting the library’s official website. Almost all public libraries have online catalogues that would allow you to preview their collection. This can help you canvass beforehand books that might be of interest to you and your child. They may even have a ‘pick of the week’ feature especially for preschool children.

One clear advantage of public over private libraries is that the former is more open to entertaining book requests from their patrons. If there is a book that you would like to have, but is yet to be available, you’d lose nothing by putting in a request for that title. Public libraries have a state or federal budget for new acquisitions; if you express a need for a particular book, you have a good chance of getting approved.

Some public libraries also offer online resources. You don’t have to buy all the educational software that your kids might get interested it; you can have it for free of free, or at least affordable, computer and web services in your public library. Many encyclopedias are now in soft copy, making them multimedia and interactive.

But note: books are not the only things you can find in a library! Few people know that public libraries offer a roster of activities for children all year long. Public libraries are such ideal venues to organize preschoolers in a community that it just makes sense for many social programs for kids to be held there.

Many public libraries host story-reading sessions with skilled animators. This program would be a good experience for your kids because they get exposed to storytelling that just invites imaginative play. They would also get to meet other kids who enjoy books as well. When a child is in the company of others who share their interest, they are more likely to pick up those interests as habits. Public libraries also offer programs for parents and caregivers! Many public libraries are known to organize talks and forums on how adults can encourage their children to read. Public libraries are also ideal places to form resource groups for parents; it’s a place to swap best practices with other moms. And if you’re lucky, you might stumble upon the few public libraries that offer day care services.