A Sassy Mama gives six good reasons why you should introduce your kids to the concept of a library.
Most mums and dads these days believe their kids have it much easier than they ever did (I know I certainly do!). After all, they have everything they could possibly need (and more) available to them – clothes spilling out of crammed Hong Kong cupboards, toys in every nook and corner of the house and so many books that even the most voracious bookworm would struggle to finish them all! If you are looking for ways to make kids more grateful and responsible, I’d highly recommend taking a trip to one of Hong Kong’s many public libraries. Visiting a public library (or even a school or a private club library) can help children realise that they don’t need to buy everything they fancy and they can and should share resources.
Using Hong Kong’s Public Libraries
As an Indian mum, I have often been called to my kids’ school to talk about Diwali. When my daughter was very young, I was looking for a simple book that I could read to the kids and discovered “Amma, Tell Me About Diwali”, a popular book by Hong Kong-based author, Bhakti Mathur. However, I didn’t want to buy it for a 15-minute storytelling session. So, I browsed Hong Kong’s public library catalogue online and reserved it at the library closest to the school. I picked it up on the day of the school visit, read to the kids and then returned it at a convenient drop-off location close to home. That’s when I realised how impressive Hong Kong‘s public library system is!
Recently, my daughter and her friends started their own book club. Before each new book, I made my daughter go through the entire public library process – from scanning the online library catalogue to reserving the book, collecting it, renewing or returning it on time. And if she was late to return a book, I’d sternly warn her that it was being cut from the money she had earned from the tooth fairy! As she went through the entire process herself (often with her younger brother in tow), I realised there were many benefits to getting kids to use a library.
The Benefits Of Introducing Kids To The Library
It’s not only Hong Kong’s public libraries. Most international schools have very well-stocked libraries. Schools start introducing the concept of a library to kids as young as 3 years old. In the kindergarten stage, kids enjoy storytelling sessions by library teachers and as they grow older, kids love library days because they get to select the books they’d like to take home. Teachers and parents have noticed some obvious benefits from using a library such as encouraging reading and even more intangible benefits such as lessons about gratitude and charity.
A library can teach kids to share, respect and value things
I struggle with getting my children to tidy up and take care of their things. They show much more respect for borrowed things, especially books from the library. Strangely, one of the biggest lessons they have learnt while at the library is to be considerate of others – and using their “indoor voice”!
A library can teach children to be responsible
Related to the first point, but an added benefit is getting children to take on some duties and chores. Now that they are old enough to know what the date is, returning library books on time has become their responsibility (or at least asking me to drop books off at the public library!). It takes a huge mental load off me to be able to strike that off my to-do list.
A library can make kids better readers
Are you sick of your kids reading the same book again and again? Naturally, a library gives kids access to more books than you could possibly buy. With a little bit of encouragement from friends, parents, teachers, librarians, you might find your kids trying a new book series.
A library allows children to make their own choices
Though we’d all love kids to read our favourite childhood books, chances are that they won’t be as popular with this generation as they were with ours. A trip to the library can improve your kids’ decision-making ability.
A library can encourage self-study and research
Navigating the aisles of a library can teach children about organisation, cataloguing and time management. These are all valuable skills to have while studying and working.
It’s not just that the routine that helps kids become independent learners and thinkers. It’s also what kids use the library for. There’s a wealth of multimedia resources, old newspapers and study materials in Hong Kong’s public libraries. It’s common to see students making notes or photocopies, and working on high school and university projects at the library. As most of higher learning is self-initiated, the habit of visiting the library could certainly help children become more meticulous while also broadening their worldview.
Visiting a public library is a new experience for expat children in Hong Kong
With access to amazing multicultural experiences, world-class education and afterschool activities, we all know that our children lead a rather privileged life here in Hong Kong. However, it is important that kids step outside their expat bubble every now and then. Using any of Hong Kong’s public facilities is a good way to do that. It’s also a great place to take curious toddlers if you need a morning or afternoon activity.
Hong Kong’s Best Public Libraries
When the choices are so much, it’s a bit difficult to narrow down on our favourite public libraries in Hong Kong. They are all well-stocked and convenient, with enough space to browse and enjoy a leisurely read (or in the case of students, a not-so-leisurely research project!). Many of the libraries in Hong Kong organise regular storytelling sessions and reader programmes for kids and they are often on the hunt for teacher volunteers. Sign your kids up for the library activities of their choice or register as a NET tutor for library and reading sessions for ethnic minority children.
If you are looking for more than just a dash to the library to pick up a reserved book, these are some of the public libraries in Hong Kong that you might enjoy spending some time in:
Hong Kong Central Library – Large public library in Causeway Bay
We love this library and for good reason! It’s always a must-visit on every Hong Kong bucket list. Other than the impressive collection of books, multimedia resources and newspapers, this has a toy library as well, for those looking for a play area for little ones.
Hong Kong City Hall Library – Oldest public library in Hong Kong
Though the Central Library is now the most impressive public library in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong City Hall Library has history behind it, being built in 1962. Though often associated with official registrations, the City Hall Public Library is surprisingly warm and cosy, especially its children’s reading corner.
Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Public Library – Public library in New Territories
New Territories mums needn’t worry! Your reading needs are well taken care of with the Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai Public Library. It’s also got charming outdoor reading areas – so grab a book and soak up the sun!
Kowloon Public Library – A must-visit for parents and kids in Kowloon
With so many schools around, this is a popular stop for students, teachers and parents living and working in Kowloon. If you haven’t visited this yet, it’s another one to strike off your bucket list in Hong Kong.
Tuen Mun Public Library – Public library in the New Territories
This red building stands out in Tuen Mun and it’s a great place for parents and kids to visit over the weekend. It has a nice coffee area, a newspaper room and even a charming open space outdoors.
This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t tell you the personal favourites of the Sassy Mamas in the office! If you are close to the area, it’s worth checking these public libraries as well:
North Lamma Public Library, www.hkpl.gov.hk
Tung Chung Public Library, www.hkpl.gov.hk
Shek Tong Tsui Public Library, www.hkpl.gov.hk
Ma On Shan Public Library, www.hkpl.gov.hk
Stanley Public Library, www.hkpl.gov.hk
Read more: Where To Take Your Kids In Stanley
Using A Library For Other Items
While libraries are most commonly used for books, the same principle of sharing resources could apply to a whole host of other things, such as toys, clothes and baby items. Get your children used to the idea of buying only what they need, giving away what they have an excess of and protecting and preserving items for others to share and borrow. You’ll have a more responsible child AND a cleaner planet!