As a young child, I was raised near a huge, limestone castle on a hill. Every time we drove by and I saw that castle, my mind went into a frenzy of thoughts as to who lived there are what went on within those castle walls. Now imagine taking your children to a library built out of Indiana limestone, with gothic-style doors and interior wooden archways, expansive ceilings, hearths, vibrant murals, opening to a pathway to a rose garden–here in Lake County.
It’s not your imagination at all—it can be found at the Highland Park Public Library, located right here in Lake County. This library is a charming example of historic architecture melded with modern amenities that will make your children feel like they are entering an enchanted forest of books and walking right into the pages of a fairy tale.
A huge, carved wooden archway beckons children into the Youth Services area, transporting children into a wonderland of hand-painted murals, artifacts, activity centers and of course, books.
Display cases, built at just the right height for children to view, house collections from the homes of local little library card holders. Each week, two new collections are featured. Books along the entry path are displayed at multiple levels, so young hands have easy access.
An early literacy center greets pint-size patrons with colorful seating, crayons and paper, digital resources, and tactile activities. When “nature calls,” there are washrooms located right inside of the Youth Services area—eliminating the need to pack up the family and traverse the library to use the restroom. And reading materials for parents are interspersed within the children’s areas, making it an enjoyable visit for all.
The Inger Boye Children’s Room is a treasure trove of activities. Cozy seats nestled into the bay window make reading or playing comfortable for everyone. I love how the expansive spaces in this building have been pared down to size to welcome even the youngest of visitors. The outer ends of the bookcases in the children’s room have large toys mounted to them, creating natural play places for younger children as older readers browse the stacks.
Children can create live puppet shows in the tree hollow puppet theater, or recreate favorite scenes from featured books using a large flannel board and felt characters.
The children’s room also contains child-sized racks of board books and plenty of tactile activities for young learners. Children can select their own puzzles and sit nearby to play. Even the corners of the children’s room are decorated with beautiful illustrations.
Large murals adorn the walls and spark imagination in children. Throughout the library, lists of recommended books categorized by age and reading ability are scattered among the stacks, making it easy to find great selections for children of all ages as you browse. The library also offers a Library Scouts program, available to children ages 6-14. Kids are challenged to learn, create and share knowledge about a subject according to a set sheet of requirements. Once the requirements are met and with a librarian’s approval, a badge is awarded. Current Library Scout badges include Bookcraft, 3D Printcraft, and Stitchcraft.
There are also spaces for older children to relax and enjoy the library. Teens and tweens can rest and read comfortably in the pillow-lined, built-in window seats along the walls.
Young adult reading materials are located near the hearth in the Youth Services area. An entire wall of contemporary selections for young adult readers opposite the hearth piques interest in reading for this age group.
But the inside of the library is just the beginning of the story here. Weather permitting, the library hosts a self-guided StoryWalk just outside of the lower-level entrance where families with young children can walk a short, gravel-paved path and read a book together outside while enjoying nature.
Pages of the book are posted on numbered signs with flags, and families follow the path to read each page. Along the pathway, there are also public art installations and plantings to enjoy. Be sure to visit “Antelope” by Chicago sculptor John Kearney, which is constructed from chrome automobile bumpers.
I really can’t say enough good things about the Highland Park Public Library and its resources for children and families. There are so many unique things to see and experience in and around this library. The library also offers educational and entertaining programs, story times and reading clubs.
If you are looking to plan a half-day or even a full-day of library-based adventures, consider taking the train to visit to the Highland Park Public Library. The library is located across the street from the Highland Park Union Pacific North train station, which runs from as far north in Lake County as Winthrop Harbor, making the library a great train-ride destination from a northerly station. The library is also located within walking distance to cafes and locally-owned shops in nearby downtown Highland Park. It’s easy to make this library visit into a whole day of family fun–what are you waiting for?
What is your family’s favorite activity at the library? Tell us in the comments section below.