My son received a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card for his birthday and we have spent hours looking online trying to decide how to stretch that $25 as much as possible. Do you know how many Pete the Cat books you can get for $25? Not nearly enough! Kids need to have a variety of books available to them… but how do we, as parents, provide enough books when it’s sometimes hard to stretch paychecks to cover expenses? Here are five low-cost/no-cost resources in the Rockford area that are easy to access and designed specifically to encourage early readers as well as a lifetime love of reading.
- The Rockford Public Library (RPL) has six locations to serve the Rockford Area. Library cards are available and kids as young as five can get their own (with their parent’s signature). RPL offers Drop-In Storytimes at multiple locations throughout the week, Preschool Storytimes, Makers: Arts and Crafts activities, and much more (both daytime and evening are available). Most programs don’t even require registration. Visit the RPL Explorer Guide for events, times, and locations.
- The North Suburban Library District (which serves areas in NE Winnebago and Boone Counties) offers much more than just free library cards. You can attend Wiggle-Giggle-Grow time (with your children ages 9-36 months), Preschool Story Hour (for children 3 – 5 years old) or participate in the new 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. These activities are all available at both the Loves Park and the Roscoe Branches and are available at no cost to you. The North Suburban Library District website lists activities, times and locations.
- Cherry Valley Public Library District offers many Kids Programs for various age groups. Does your 6-8-year-old like to cook? Books That Cook is a great club for them! Does your toddler love music and dancing? Music & Movement Class for Infants to Preschool Age would be a fun activity for you to do together. For more information on these and other programs, visit the Cherry Valley Public Library District website.
- The Freeport Public Library is “more than books on a shelf!” The Kid’s Department offers a variety of free events, including Sing & Plays, Pajama Storytimes and Preschool Storytimes. Also offered are downloadable kid-friendly eBooks and eAudiobooks. Visit their website at and be sure to look over their Parent’s Resource page for information on getting a library card for your child, ideas of activities/things to do at the Library and recommended websites.
- A fairly recent addition to Rockford is the Half Price Book Outlet store, located in the American Plaza at 6575 E State Street. While most books are gently used, they have a huge inventory of children’s books, with toddler-favorite Board Books costing as little as a quarter each. New titles arrive often, so there are always fresh treasures to find. They run reading incentive programs for children and also offer discounts or coupons often.
Bringing a love of reading into your child’s life doesn’t have to be a huge expense. Our local libraries can help you find your child’s future children’s literature favorites, for the cost of the occasional and avoidable late fee. Exploring these inexpensive resources, and continuing to foster a love of reading with your children is one of the most important things that you can do to help prepare them for school and life.