Children’s Offerings at Fairfax County Public Libraries

I have to admit that it had been quite a while since I had taken advantage of the library. I love books and for book lovers there is nothing better than free books!

I just have a small problem returning them on time (shh!).

My son is now a reader and going through books at such an alarming rate that it was time to start visiting the library again.

My little guy is also old enough to take advantage of some of the wonderful activities that the library offers.

Here I’ll share our specific experience with story time, as well as detail some of the unique offerings of some of Fairfax County’s libraries that my small team of reviewers (age 3 and 7) and I have visited.

Story Time at Fairfax County Public Libraries

I began my renewed use of the library by looking for a story time for my nearly 3-year old reviewer at 1 of the 3 libraries all nearly the same distance from our house.

I went online and checked out the listings and discovered that many of that weeks story times were already full. I was a bit surprised, but the county requests that you preregister as many of the rooms and activities can only accommodate a certain number of attendees.

Oakton Library

I found one the following week at Oakton Library geared toward 2 to 3 year-olds (Oakton Library offers story times for a few different age groups as well as a craft and game activities for older children). I preregistered and promptly received a confirmation notice in my e-mail in-box. Fairfax County’s website is not particularly user friendly, but with a little searching, you can find what you need.

The following week we arrived at Oakton Library to find storytime already in session in a conference room. The only thing that made the room kid-friendly was the colorful alphabet rug on the floor, otherwise it was a very basic conference room. A very nice woman was reading a story about a ghost. Most of the children seemed engaged, but my little reviewer was more interested in the letters on the alphabet rug. The next book was another Halloween themed book and involved a story-board. As storytime went on, more and more of the younger set lost focus and ended up exploring the rug. My reviewer decided that he was more interested in exploring the library so we left a little bit early.

Oakton Library is only a few years old and is bright and welcoming. It’s downfall is that the children’s section is adequately sized, but there is not very much open space. There are chairs and tables squeezed in near the windows, but the section looks and feels like the rest of the library. The kids section is also not designed to limit noise in any way, so I spent a lot of time trying to keep my rather boisterous reviewer from being too loud. After my experience at Oakton, I decided I needed to visit a few other area libraries to find a better situation for my very active reviewer.

Oakton Library Hours: Tuesday 10am – 9pm, Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Closed Sundays and Mondays

Reston Regional Library

The next library we visited was the Reston Regional Library. Reston is a large library that is quite different from Oakton.

Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the sign welcoming you to “Children’s World”. The children’s section has its own checkout desk and two separate rooms for pre-readers and readers with beautiful story-book murals.

The children’s desk had a printout of the library’s story times and activities – a big help!

There are multiple children’s sized tables and chairs and a small bookshelf with pictures of popular characters on it, so that kids can find their own books.

The area is very open with the shelves creating a boundary and sound barrier from the rest of the library. My reviewer was actually more inclined to explore the books than the rest of the library. A definite success!

The Reston Library Story Time offers story times for 3 different age groups from babies through pre-schoolers.

Activities offered for grade school children include: Kid’s Science, Read to the Dog (school-age children can read to a trained therapy dog), pottery painting as well as a kids book group.

Patrick Henry Library

After our success at the Reston Library, we decided to check out Patrick Henry Library in Vienna. Patrick Henry has a vast number of children’s activities, from storytime, to Music Together classes to video game parties for older children. Patrick Henry also has a dedicated area for children, with a large open area with pint-sized tables and chairs, a couch as well as toddler toys set out on tables. The children’s area is separated from the rest of the library by a checkout and information desk as well as the entry area, so noise is confined to the children’s area. There is a table near the library’s entrance with calendars that list all of the library’s activities for both children and adults. I also found a monthly guide called “This Month” that listed all of Fairfax County’s Libraries’ activities for the month of October. I try and eliminate paper whenever possible, but in this instance I would very much encourage you to go to your local library and pick up one of these guides. It lays out the activities by library in an amazingly user friendly way. I found it invaluable and a huge improvement from the website. You still need to register online, in person or by phone, but at least it is easier to find the classes and see opportunities you definitely might have missed online.

Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library Events

Since we are often in the Tysons Corner area, we decided to check out the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library. This library is a bit more like the Oakton library in its design.

The children’s section is just a part of the rest of the library with a few small tables and chairs squeezed between shelves.

The one definite plus of this library though is its drop-in story time every Tuesday morning. For this storytime, no registration is necessary (a definite plus for last minute outings).

The library also offers a monthly event called “Letters of the Alphabet” with various activities focusing on the alphabet.

Searching for Events Online

More Library Activities for Kids

The types of activities and storytimes vary from library to library, but a few of the Fairfax County libraries appear to offer activities and storytimes more often than others. These include:

  • Burke Centre
  • Centreville Regional
  • Chantilly Regional
  • City of Fairfax Regional
  • Herndon Fortnightly
  • Kingstowne
  • Pohick Regional
  • Reston Regional

Exciting activities coming up in November include a Hansel and Gretel workshop at Chantilly, a Harry Potter party at Herndon, a pajama story time and Reptiles Alive at Kingstowne, and Music Together and Lunch Bunnies at Patrick Henry.

There are way too many other opportunities to mention specifically, but pick up “This Month” and check out activities, book clubs and storytimes near you for babies to teens (and adults too) at all of Fairfax County’s Public Libraries.

The libraries also have summer reading programs like the Kingstowne Library summer reading program which encourages kids to read regularly over the summer and earn some fun prizes.

Upcoming Fairfax County Library Event Notifications

You can also keep an eye on our event calendar and sign-up for our newsletter as we often share many of the Fairfax County library events (as well as many others throughout the DC metro area).

Good to Know

  • Library hours vary from library to library and day to day. Many libraries are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Definitely check the county’s website before visiting.
  • Most classes and story times require preregistration. Registration is available online, in person, or by calling the library where the activity is based.
  • Library and events (& activities) information is available on the county’s event calendar here.

Other Information

  • All libraries have baby changing stations in the bathrooms. Some even have step-stools to help children reach sinks.
  • You can apply for a library card online or at the library – children can apply for library cards as well. Just remember to return their books too!
  • Bring a bag with you for checked out books. Children love taking out books and a bag makes it much easier to get them home.
  • Fairfax County Libraries have fantastic summer reading program options. Be sure to participate each summer to keep the kids reading.

Bottom Line

My experiences at the four Fairfax County Public Libraries I visited had positives and negatives. I did not love the children’s sections at two of the libraries and the story time I attended was not particularly appreciated by my young reviewer.

My reviewers and I did love the children’s sections and activities offered at Patrick Henry and Reston Regional Library.

My advice is to check out your local library if you haven’t visited in a while and if one library does not fit your needs, try another.

You will definitely find a library among Fairfax County’s 23 libraries that has what you are looking for!

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OK Editorial Team

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