In our Move to the Groove program last month, we took a look at how you can find dance music at the library. I had pulled a sampling of CDs from our collection to share with the kids, but also demonstrated how anyone with a library card - and a computer -- can download music for free through Freegal!
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!
Some of us are cat people and some of us are dog people. I am a cat person. I am not a dog person. That's not to say I don't like dogs. I do. Really. Long ago, I even shared a home with a sweet beagle for a time. It's just that after that experience, I prefer to enjoy other people's dogs in their homes or parks or even at the library where we have some wonderful dogs come in and visit. But even though I am not a dog person, I still appreciate a good dog story, and recently have enjoyed some delightful stories about dogs.
Five words on the cover of a new children's book caught my attention, and I knew I had to read it. One was Mystery (I really like mysteries), one was Cake (I adore cake!), and the other three were Alexander McCall Smith - a favorite author of mine! McCall Smith explains in an afterword that he felt compelled to explore the childhood of Precious Ramotswe, the heroine of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mystery series for adults. He found that many adult readers were sharing that series between generations, and thought it would be nice for children under age 10 to have books about Precious they could perhaps read themselves. In The Great Cake Mystery (and oddly enough, we have the same book under the U.K. title - Precious and the Monkeys), the young Precious realizes that an overweight classmate is being unfairly blamed for stealing pastries. She helps the others at her school identify the true culprits, while also imparting a gentle lesson about not judging people by their appearance. The text is interspersed with lovely illustrations in shades of red, black, and gray, by Iain McIntosh. Extras include information about the characters and about the geography of Botswana, a reader's guide with discussion questions, and even a recipe for Precious's Sponge Cake Worth Stealing. Recommended for grades 1-3.
Help us call attention to the importance of literacy as we celebrate Bloomington Reads! week, May 6-12. The second annual event, sponsored by the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools, features a week of reading and literacy-related activities in our community to spotlight the importance of literacy. (See the mccsfoundation website for a listing of upcoming events.) Just 20 minutes of reading a day can build a community of readers.
While many of us get in the habit of reading aloud to our pre-readers, children who have begun reading on their own still benefit from having an adult read aloud to them. Reading aloud a story to an independent reader can be a chance to share new vocabulary. Reading aloud also provides an independent reader with an opportunity to hear fluent reading, which helps them build their own fluency and ability to read with proper pacing and expression.
It's important to remember, too, that children learn to value reading, not only by having someone read to them, but by seeing the adults in their lives spending time reading. No matter whether it's a hardcover or paperback book, e-book, magazine or newspaper -- what do your children see you reading? What are you reading today?
So B. It is a very special novel by Sarah Weeks. Heidi, a twelve year old girl lives in Reno, Nevada with her mentally disabled mother and a quirky neighbor. Homeschooled by her neighbor, Bernadette, Heidi lives a very unconventional life. Her mother has a vocabulary of only 23 words, Bernadette is afraid to leave her apartment, and Heidi's one friend, Zander, is overweight, loves junk food, and lives in a world of made up stories.
The mysteries of how Heidi and her mother arrived at the apartment, who pays for their apartment, and what her mother's strange word "soof" means, haunt the reader as well as Heidi. When Heidi finds a roll of film and has the photos developed they reveal her mother at a Christmas party held at Hilltop Home in Liberty, New York. Heidi simply cannot rest until she pieces together Mama's past. She decides she must travel there alone in order to discover who her mother is, and, in the journey she discovers a great deal about herself. This book is about identity, asking questions, and living both with and without the answers. A memorable and unusual story, So B. It would be great for ages 9 and up.
There are so many everyday opportunities to talk with your young child about letters and numbers and other early literacy concepts -- things your child knows about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. You can point out letters on street signs and store names, or note the numbers on speed limit signs and addresses on buildings. We are reinforcing this idea that developing a child's knowledge of letters, numbers, colors, shapes, sizes, etc. can happen in small ways every day, by creating "Early Literacy Spot" activities throughout the children's area of the Main Library.
We librarian types tend to pay a lot of attention to award-winning books, although we can't deny we're often a little disappointed when our personal favorites don't win. The Mildred L. Batchelder award is given each year by the ALA's Association for Library Service to Children "...to the most outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States."