The only requirements are that the recipients are at least five years of age, live in Scott County and in the Sikeston R-6 School District.
With September being library card sign-up month, there's no time like the present to take advantage of the opportunity.
Ann Thompson knows every time she shares a book, game or song with a youngster, she has the chance to light a flame that will last a lifetime. Research indicates that 50 percent of a child's intellectual development takes place before age four.
"Reading is a basic survival skill in today's information society," said Thompson, children's librarian at the Sikeston Public Library. "Kids need books to stretch their minds and imagination and the library is full of them. Kids with a library card have access to a world of information."
As technology continues to be updated, public libraries work to keep up the pace. In the last two years the number of libraries connected to the Internet has doubled to about 44 percent, according to the American Library Association. Circulation is up an average of 17 percent since 1985.
"Libraries aren't just about books, they also have videos, tapes, CDs, magazines and Internet access." Thompson pointed out, adding that only 30 percent of libraries have computers for use by children and teens.
"Kids who aren't logged on and literate will be lost in the 21st century. There are also children's programs throughout the year. With a library card, kids can check out what interests them and learn responsibility by checking out and returning books on time.
"The library is a lifelong learning center and learning can be fun," said Thompson. "Kids love to have fun. Some kids come to the library for assignment information, some come for their favorite books and videos and others love the programs. Sometimes they have found a spider or a turtle, this really excites kids, they want to learn more about it so they come to the library. Sometimes they bring the creatures to me in a jar," she said with a chuckle.
More and more people are taking the library up on what is has to offer. Thompson said the number of library card members has increased through the years. In fiscal year 1993-1994, statistical reports show there were 6,961 card members at the Sikeston Public Library. During 2000-2001, the number reached 10,092. Currently there are 11,082 patrons, an estimated 3,000 of which are children.
She credits the increase to the 1995 expansion project which resulted in a larger library with more space to house materials. The Internet terminals obtained have also drawn more patrons, she said.
"Being a card holder means that you have the opportunity to expand your knowledge as well as your child's," Thompson said. "Through books and other materials you can travel to a far-away place and learn how other people live. You can find answers to questions such as how fast can a dog run, what happened to the dinosaurs or how are my stocks doing today. No question need go without an answer.
"A library is a reflection of its community. We have a beautiful library thanks to all the hard work during the renovation in 1995. It is also a usable library. We reach out through different grant programs to fund materials and programming at the library. According to the ALA, less than 39 percent of libraries employ a children's librarian and we have one. Only 30 percent have computers for use by children and teens. At the Sikeston Public Library, children over 14 may use the Internet and if under 14 they may use the Internet with the parent present.
About one in seven libraries offer homework assistance programs for children and young adults. The Missouri State Library will be sending out new information on a Library Services and Technology Act grant for homework services to children. This will increase our chances of a program such as this."
Applications for library cards are available at the Sikeston Public Library, located at 121 E. North St. For more information call 471-4140.