"Truly listening to someone reminds them that their lives matter; and reminds us all of what matters most."
The statement above is included in a short video produced by StoryCorps and Google encouraging people to take part in StoryCorps' "Great Thanksgiving Listen." The StoryCorps organization aims "to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives." This Thanksgiving, Storycorps encourages high school students, especially, to interview grandparents, or another older friend or relative, and use the StoryCorps app to record and share the interview. But you don't have to be in high school to take part. And taking time to talk with and truly listen to the stories our friends and relatives have to tell is a gift we can give each other at any time.
The picturebook Ask Me by Bernard Waber, echoes the message promoted by the StoryCorps initiative. Illustrated by Suzy Lee in rich red, yellow and orange colors, it shows a father and daughter enjoying the outdoors together on a lovely Autumn day. "Ask me what I like," the girl says to her father. And he does. And after she answers, he asks: "What else do you like?"encouraging continued conversation as they examine bugs and flowers, kick through fallen leaves and enjoy made up words like sploshing and splooshing.
Throughout the peaceful story, the father gives his daughter his full and undivided attention. He's not trying to shop for groceries, clean his home, or check his phone for messages. He's listening and responding and encouraging his daughter's curiosity and letting her know that her words and stories matter to him; that what she thinks and says is important; that she is important to him.
Reading to children also provides an opportunity to pause our busy lives and spend time together. Picturebooks, notable for their informative and appealing illustrations, often include a greater variety of words than we normally use as part of our everyday conversation. Reading and listening to picturebooks and other stories can help children increase their word knowledge - and world knowledge - as the subjects represented in picturebook format range from friends and family to rabbits and robotics.
And after you've finished the story, you can ask your listener: What do you think? What did you like best? What would you like to read about next?
For weeks now, I have been carrying around two new picturebooks about friendship. The stories serve as bookends - one describing a burgeoning friendship; the second depicting not an ending of a friendship, but a realization that the friendship will change when one friend moves away. Of all the many picturebooks about friendship that landed on our shelves in 2014, these are two to remember:
Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann presents the dilemma familiar to many grade school children whose parents insist they invite all their classmates to their birthday party - or none at all. "Since 'none of them' wouldn't be a very fun birthday party, Ginger invited all of them - even Lyla Browning." It's obvious that Lyla, who has arrived at the party with her magnifying glass in hand, is not someone Ginger considers a friend. Instead of joining the party games, Lyla looks through her magnifying glass at a ladybug she's found in the house. But after some of Ginger's friends spoil the party games and disapprove of her cake, it is Lyla who cheers Ginger up and presents her with a unique home-made gift. After pretending to be birds and pecking at leftover birthday cake together, Ginger and Lyla have formed a friendship that continues to grow on the school playground.
In The Good-Pie Party by Elizabeth Scanlon, we meet three close friends (Megan, Mae and Posy) who are gloomily packing Posy's belongings. Posy doesn't want to move - and she really doesn't want to say goodbye to her friends. How do you say goodbye when you don't want to? The girls decide to console themselves by baking a pie together and determine that instead of throwing a good-bye party for Posy - they will host a good-pie party. You're invited to Posy Peyton's Good-Pie Party, We'll say so long, but not good-bye We'd love it if you'd bring a pie. And a wonderfully eclectic group of friends responds to their party invitation with a diverse array of pies to share. Perfect. For isn't that what we do to honor our friends and their unique gifts - whether celebrating the anniversary of their birth, remembering them at their end of life, or even reluctantly saying goodbye to the dear friend retiring after 40 years? We bring out the sweet breads and casseroles, the cookies and cakes, soups and pies - the comfort foods that spread good cheer and soothe our sorrow. And we lift a glass and offer a toast as Posy does: "To good friends."
These two books resonate with me even more now as the old year rolls into the new and I reflect on a friendship shared with a colleague and speckled-egg friend who retires next week. Salud dear Pat Firenze. And thanks for all the chocolates.
I anticipated needing to learn many new things as a new parent, but when the time came, I was wholly unprepared to engage in “truck talk” with my toddler. Whether my inadequacy was due to having grown up in an area that did not have combines rolling down the highway, slowing traffic for miles, or the fact that my own interest in vehicles has never expanded much beyond whether it’s green or blue – I needed to get up to speed fast to help satisfy my son’s thirst for knowledge on all “things that go.”
Fortunately, MCPL Children’s Services offers a wonderful variety of books and DVDs to meet the demand for information on this topic. We can help you find the right nonfiction book the next time you need help distinguishing a bulldozer from a compactor (See Cool Construction Vehiclesby Bobby Kalman), or want to satisfy curiosity about what's inside a fire truck. In the meantime, here are a few new picturebooks to share with your young fans of cars and trucks...
“Before they read words, children are reading pictures. In picture books, the illustrations work in concert with the text in a way that is unique among art forms.”
In the forward to Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, award-winning author and illustrator David Wiesner explains why we celebrate National Picture Book Month in November (actually, MCPL Children’s Services Librarians celebrate them year-round! Here’s more from Wiesner about why we love picturebooks…): Read more about Show Me a Story! (Why Picture Books Matter)
We often get requests for books that help teach children about proper rules of behavior – everything from sharing to telling the truth. While we frequently turn to our nonfiction collection for titles designed to teach children about specific subjects or topics, often picture books more powerfully portray the importance of doing the right thing.
The use of humor is one reason the messages in picture books can have a greater impact with children. And you can’t get much funnier with preschoolers (or even the K-2 crowd) than the word underpants – not to mention the word poo. (Please, don’t mention it!) The picturebook Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier uses both words in a span of a few pages while reminding readers that it’s not right to take things that don’t belong to you.
You see, poor Leon the Lizard finds himself without a necessary item after relieving himself. He notices an old pair of underpants hanging from a nearby tree branch and uses them to “finish his business.” As he discards the underpants behind a bush, a voice calls to him. It claims to be Leon’s conscience: “The little voice you hear inside your head whenever you get up to something naughty.” The voice continues: “… Since when are we allowed to touch other people’s things? What do they teach you in school, anyway?”
Leon never learns the real identity of his conscience, but readers will be amused to learn that the voice belongs to a rabbit who had been using the underpants to complete his superhero costume. We don’t learn his superhero name, but I’m guessing that it’s Superego.
It's that time of year again, awards season! Sure the Oscars and Golden Globes may get the most media attention, but the announcement every children's librarian looks forward to is the Caldecott Medal. Each year the Caldecott Medal is awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children". The ALSC may also name a few runners-up, or Honor Books. We'll learn the 2013 medal winner tomorrow, Monday, January 28th.
So who will win the 2013 medal? In anticipation of this year's announcement our Children's Department pulled as many contenders as we could find. We chose our books based on recommendations from School Library Journal, Horn Book, and the more populist list put together by Goodreads. We dubbed our cart of thirty-some books "The Caldecart" and over the past week we've read as many of them as we could, making notes and picking our favorites. Was there a consensus? Nope! But here are a few of the books we liked the best and a few on which we couldn't quite agree. Read more about And the winner of the 2013 Caldecott is...
The versatile Mo Willems, author and illustrator of popular picture books about the much loved Knuffle Bunny, the demanding Pigeon, and Early Readers featuring good friends Elephant and Piggie, has unleashed his creative humor into the realm of classic folk tales. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Willems, follows the basic plot of the familiar story featuring the three bears and an adventurous blond haired girl. But instead of porridge, the dinosaurs are preparing bowls of delicious chocolate pudding at varying temperatures. They seem to be setting a trap for an "unsuspecting kid" as they loudly announce their departure for "someplace else" -- not necessarily a walk in the woods. Read more about Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
I've always loved the artwork of Maira Kalman and was pleased to see she has a new picture book out this year - on good ol' Abe Lincoln. Her presentation of Lincoln is both biographical and based on her own impressions of how he must have felt in certain situations, so to call this book strictly nonfiction might be a bit of a stretch. (Additionally, complex history is, of necessity, oversimplified - so parents and teachers may want to provide more context for children just being introduced to slavery and the American Civil War.) But don't let these small complaints keep you from reading this book with your kids. Kalman provides a child-friendly portrait of Lincoln and his family and adeptly hits the high points in the life of the great historical figure. I especially like her notes on various topics in the back of the book - such as the one that explains that members of the Association of Lincoln Presenters abide by the motto "We are ready, willing and ABE L." For some lovely examples of Kalman's quirky, colorful art, as well as her writing, see her old blog for the New York Times, called "And the Pursuit of Happiness." Recommended for grades 2 and up.
We receive wonderful questions from kids at our "Ask Questions Here" desk, and in our programs. But we also get a lot of terrific statements. One of my favorites is: "I know that book!" or "I know that story!" This statement is typically shared as an excited, gleeful shout. It feels good to know something. It's empowering.
Children's librarians have a long history of sharing classic nursery rhymes, folk and fairy tales with children: Three Little Kittens, Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Besides being part of our cultural literacy, these stories lay a foundation for an understanding of character, sequence, and plot. Familiarity with folk and fairytales -- and the ability to retell familiar stories - also is an expectation of our state's curriculum standards.
And how do these stories become familiar to our children? By hearing them, reading them -- even seeing them performed -- repeatedly, of course. Read a picture book version of the story together, listen to it on audiobook, tell it in your own words; invite your child to tell the story to you. One of the extra fun things about folk tales is comparing the different versions of the same story. How does James Marshall's version of The Three Little Pigs compare to Paul Galdone's version? And once a child is familiar with the classic tale, they may have greater appreciation for the spin-offs and variants, such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.
Huff & Puff is a new picture book variation of The Three Little Pigs folktale. It's funny and clever enough to be enjoyed in its own right, but children who know the classic tale will have a jump start on predicting what's going to happen in this story -- and being pleasantly surprised by the different conclusion. This version also presents a unique way to invite participation in the story. There are small holes cut out in the pages through which the reader is invited to HUFF & PUFF. If you play the part of the wolf and huff and puff hard enough, the consequence is apparent when you turn the page! Give it a try. Invite your child to take a first step to becoming a storyteller. Provide an opportunity for them to tell you what they know.
Our Summer Reading Program has taken off like a rocket! Our theme this year is Dream Big: Read! -- a fun theme with many interpretations. Sometimes, you might want to read simply to escape into a dream world for a while. And, of course, your librarians will tell you that the ability to read gives you the ability to achieve your dreams, for learning to read enables you to read to learn. We are unabashed advocates of the notion that knowledge is power. Learning about something, learning how to do something can inspire and empower you to act, to do, to become! Read more about Dream Big: Read!