Very often school-age children will ask their parents for help with library assignments. And very often parents will find themselves gradually taking over and doing a report for their son or daughter. Instead, ask your parents to try the following ideas to motivate you and increase confidence in wading through a book report or library assignment (courtesy of Reading Rockets, a nonprofit educational service of WETA, Washington, D.C.’s leading public broadcasting station): • Ask your children questions about the assignment and encourage them to ask their teacher questions. This helps children to clarify what they are trying to do. Help them to identify smaller components of the topic they are researching or to see the topic as part of a larger topic. (For example, brontosaurus is a subgroup of dinosaurs, which is a subgroup of extinct animals.) These classifications will help them to identify useful references. • Suggest that they look up the topic in the library catalog, periodical guides, and reference books. The librarian will direct them and help them get started.
Be sure they know how to use a table of contents and index. Suggest they start with something general about the subject and be prepared to consult more than one source. • Help them to break assignments into logical segments and avoid last-minute panics by setting deadlines for each phase of the work. Allow them plenty of time to gather the materials they need. • Help them to determine if the community library has the resources they need or if they need to check other information sources. • Encourage your kids to ask the librarian for help in locating materials and let them do their own talking. • Give them encouragement, advice, and a ride if they need it, but resist the temptation to take over an assignment. Let your children assume responsibility for researching and writing reports. It is the best way for them to library skills that they will able to use for the rest of their lives.