There is something magical about libraries. Maybe it is the respectful hush that lingers over the stacks, the simple yet colorful puzzles and toys that beckon little ones, the technological resources that empower the community, or the vast amount of wonderful stories housed in these mystical buildings.
As a Reading Specialist, I have taken my boys to libraries since they were newborns, knowing full well that I wanted reading to be a great influence in their lives. I have been to so many different libraries across Chicagoland and want to share my top picks with you so that you can experience the best reading environments that Chicagoland has to offer.
ELA Area Public Library (Lake Zurich)
The ULTIMATE library experience
Out of all of the libraries I have researched for this article and the libraries I have enjoyed as both a mom AND a teacher, the ELA Area Public Library is the hands down winner. There are so many different interactive learning sections for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Highlights include the massive pretend play area, GIANT Lite Brite, and the Lego wall.
In terms of books, there are so many thematic displays for you and your family to get lost in, no matter what your interests are. As for us, we spent at least three hours sifting through the Lego and super hero books, and then read them from cover to cover in one of the many cozy reading nooks located throughout the library. It is the perfect way to spend the day unplugged.
Mount Prospect Public Library
Events for EVERYONE
I may be biased, but I think Mount Prospect has one of the greatest libraries in the suburbs. It has everything you could ever want a library to have. An engaging kids area, quiet reading nooks for learners of all ages, hundreds of e-books to download through the library website, kind and helpful librarians, current books/games/DVDs to take home….the list goes on and on.
But what really distinguishes the Mount Prospect Public Library is the amount of activities it has for all of its patrons. As the kid level, there are constantly open story times, as well as reading times that focus specifically on babies and school aged children…they even bring in dogs to read to! There are also tons of drop in events to create crafts and play games as a family, which encourages screen-free family fun.
Since Mount Prospect is a diverse community, there are events held in both English and other foreign languages (there is a large Polish population in Mount Prospect, similar to the rest of Chicagoland). The library is clearly devoting to helping foster a community of learners, for they offer technology classes to help people with understanding how to use computers and other forms of media, and also host educational classes on a wide variety of topics: job searching, gardening, taxes, etc.
Pretend Play Mecca
Get lost in the enchanted reading forest, imagine that you are a king or queen on the massive interactive chessboard…the imaginative options are endless at the Schaumburg Library. My kids love reading in all of the cozy forest themed reading nooks, and I love that there are ample toys for kids to create and explore the day away in this literacy rich environment.
Niles Public Library
Interactive Literacy Fun
Having driven past the Niles Public Library over a thousand times, I never knew about the fun nestled inside the enormous building. This library truly inspires a love of reading and learning within children by providing them with an interactive and engaging literacy environment.
By just walking through a light up arc open entering the children’s area, you know you are some place special. There are also craft tables available at all times, and my little guy and I enjoyed writing a letter and “mailing” it, so that the libraries could learn about his obsession with the color blue.
The Niles Public library hosts a multitude of storytimes, too!
- Family Evening Storytime
- Rise and Shine Storytime
- Preschool Storytime
- Toddler Time
- Big Kid Storytime
My little guy and I were impressed by the large amount of fun and interactive toys made available by the library….just remember to see the librarian for a train, since they are kept behind the circulation desk. The way the picture books were displayed made all of the kids there, even mine, reach for one and snuggle up on a lap to get lost in a story.
The Niles Public Library isn’t just for little ones, though. There are tons of computers and cool quiet areas for preteens and older to do homework and enjoy some screen-free time away from home.
Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Read in Comfort
This vast library has much to offer for families with a huge youth area for kids of all ages. There are tons of different displays to engage curious learners at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, from the fish tank to the trains and doll houses. Puzzles abound across the huge play space, and it is a challenge to not pull a book out of the fun and whimsical displays the librarians create.
Of particular note is the fact that there is a drive through pick up window. I mean, doesn’t that make any and all parents’ lives easier? So go ahead and request a hold on a book and pick it up without having to face the elements (or simply to stay in your pajamas—we’ve all had those days!).
Whenever we visit, there are readers of all ages curled up in plush chairs reading a newspaper, the newest paperback thriller, or playing board games like checkers or chess. If you are looking for a fun and quiet place to unwind, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is for you!
Des Plaines Public Library
The major reason why my boys love visiting the Des Plaines Public Library is because of the “enchanted forest” display in the children’s section. There are trees to climb through, stand on, and explore. But once tuckered out, my favorite thing comes into play: the slew of comfy bean bag chairs located within the “forest” that are perfect for cozying up with your favorite little readers to enjoy a book or two.
It is evident that the Des Plaines Public Library focuses on providing great resources for patrons of all ages. In the children’s sections there are large amounts of puzzles and computer programs to choose from, and one of our favorites, of course, is the fish tank.
As a mom and Reading Specialist, I love the fact that the Des Plaines Public Library has extensive book lists categorized by themes, ages, awards, etc. It is exactly what a busy parent needs in order to continuously encourage children to read by tapping into their interests and abilities.
Other great resources provided by the library include tons of family nights (movies, books, crafts, games, and MORE), bi-lingual programs, and other educational programming for learners of all ages.
Take Home Mecca
Similar to many other public libraries, the Glenview Public Library has many different interactive toy stations for kids to promote imagination and exploration. Ranging from puzzles to building blocks…all the way to dollhouses and a tree canopy, there is something for everyone.
But that’s not where the learning stops. The Glenview Public Library has a HUGE amount of resources to take home, so that learning doesn’t have to stop at the library doors. We love checking out the puzzles and board games so that we can try new things constantly without the hefty price tag, and we can determine what my little guys do and do not like when thinking about what resources to invest in for home.
As a mom of two small boys, I typically look at a library through the eyes of a small child. And while the Northbrook Public Library has some resources for them, it is nothing compared to the great area it has created for its pre-teen/teenage patrons.
With tons of updated technology resources, any and all teens can find exactly what they need to complete a project or explore an interest…all without loud little kids or hovering adults nearby.
There are lots of different story time classes available, so you can always drop off your kids with the librarian and take a break in the teenage area and reminisce about how cool you were in middle and high school.
Hope this list serves you well when you are trying to break away from screens and remind your family about the amazing world of books.
Looking for libraries in the city?
Here are the most buzzed about ones:
Looking for book recommendations? Check out our Ultimate Book List.