There’s a magic land where shelves are brimming with picture books. The furniture is kid-sized. There’s a secret garden where you can read for hours and larger-than-life characters flank your entrance. There are sing-alongs, puppet shows and puppy dogs who like it when you tell them stories. You can check out books and when you return them there are never any fines. ‘No fines? Must be a fairytale,’ you say. It’s no fairytale. It’s the Children’s Learning Center at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
The Children’s Learning Center at the Main Library downtown has the largest collection of children’s books of any branch. There are pop-up books, board books, parenting books, audiobooks, juvenile fiction and non-English language books. If you can’t find it on the shelf just ask and they’ll probably find it in the closed stacks. But a trip to the library isn’t just about reading.
The library’s calendar is packed with activities, including story times for the whole family. Librarian-led story times incorporate songs, movement and props. On select days a certified therapy dog visits the library for Tales to Tails. It’s a great way for children to practice reading aloud to a very captive, floppy-earred audience.
There is ample opportunity learn through play at the library. There’s a play area right next to a shelf of jumbo books large enough to hide behind.Craft supplies are available for kids who would like to color. The computer terminals feature early learning software with games that teach language and math skills.
In all corners of the library there are cozy hideaways where children can take a book and tuck into a cushy chair. Light spills in from floor to ceiling windows decorated with paper cutouts. You can also take a reading retreat out to the garden. The enclosed space has sunny spots and shaded benches where you can read or have a snack. The bustling sounds of Vine Street are just over the garden wall, but inside it’s peaceful.
The Foreign Language section features children’s books charting the globe. Try reading Goodnight Moon in Spanish. Or if you’re the one doing the globetrotting you can pack a Playaway audiobook. It’s like borrowing an MP3 player pre-loaded with a story. They’re so small they fit in the tiniest pockets.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about a first trip to the library for new readers is getting that red library card. Now brace for a literary bombshell. Children under 18 can apply for a library card and even if they return books past their due date there are no fines. I know! Well, I didn’t know until I filled out my son’s online application. The librarian handed him a card and he scurried through the stacks, pulling at books. We selected a few titles to take home and swiped his card at the convenient self-checkout. Leaving the magic land of books, we banished our fear of fines and lived happily ever after.
The Children’s Learning Center is located at 800 Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati. Find more information and a calendar of events by visiting their website.
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.