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Posts in Libraries Category


Bookworm Basics: Casting a Magic Spell for Reading

Posted by Terry on July 13, 2010 at 11:30 AM in Early LiteracyLibrariesRecommendationscreative literacy
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magic_hat_1.pngIn the coming weeks we'll get back to our lists of book ideas for your home library, but summer is the perfect time to be a reading magician. I believe there is a book for every child, and today we're going to reveal the secret to finding the book that sparks a love of reading for your kids Ready? Think like a children's librarian!

When you ask a librarian to help you find a book, he or she will ask you a couple of questions to narrow down their recommendations to books that might work. These are questions you may know the answer to, but if not, they will give you something to think about the next time you and your child share a book.

bookwormWhat does your child like? The best place to start is with a topic or subject that interests them. It can be trucks and trains, sports or sports heroes, or things they like to do: be a ballerina, climb trees, etc.

What will your child do with the book? In selecting your books, think about how you plan to use the book: will you read with her; is this a book that you'll both read or will your son read it independently; or do you want her to explore the book, regardless of whether there is any reading.

abstract_reading.pngDoes your child like books of a certain size? Some kids like thin books; some don't mind longer books, but the chapters have to be short; and some want the fattest book they can find. Even if a book looks "too easy," don't discount it. If something grabs him in this book, he will reach for another one to learn more.

And finally, pictures. What kind (if any) illustrations do they like? Art in a book is a matter of taste, just as it is in a museum. Children's books are filled with abstract imagery, collages, photography, bright colors, dark hues, and more. What kinds of imagery seems to keep your daughter's attention? What makes your son ask you to close the book?

You've probably noticed that I didn't ask "fiction or nonfiction?" Knowing your child's interests, your reading goal, and what they like to see in a book will help guide that decision. It is the logical next question, and I know there are others.

So, what would your next question be? Librarians, we'd love to hear your suggestions on ways that parents can prepare for finding the "it" book before they get to the library.

BenBois_Magic_ball.pngThe answer for finding that "perfect" book comes from the non-book things your child loves. By tapping into that passion, the odds are pretty good you can find that wow-I-want-to-read-some-more book. And they will think you are the world's greatest magician because you read their minds!

If you find that there is a glitch trying to post the comments, send me an email and I will update this post. [terry {at] thereadingtub [dot} com].

Image Credits
Magic Hat 1 by slanteigne on
Bookworm by ajeynes on
Reading2 by Machovka on
MagicBall by BenBois on


Summer Reading Ideas: Double Your Fun with a Reading Partner

Posted by Terry on July 12, 2010 at 10:30 AM in Chapter BooksEasy ReadersLibrariescreative literacy
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reading in the hammockMea culpa! The heat swallowed this one last week. It "published" but no one could see it, so it's a double bonus this week ...

Picking up on Pam's themes of enjoying the summer by trying new things, I thought I would share some of those magical, unplanned moments we've had this year.

Like many of you, we get our book fix at the library, and LOVE the summer reading program. This has always been "our" time, but this year, we've been taking my daughter's BFF with us. Her friend (a rising second grader) is an avid reader, but had not visited our local library. [She has 5 older siblings ... need I say more?]

The two girls have had a wonderful time, and all three of us really look forward to our weekly "date." During our three visits to date, the girls have (without fail)

    ... picked up picture books left lying around and read them aloud to each other.
    ... recommended books to each other;
    ... searched the online catalog for books with their names; and
    ... looked for books with two copies so they can read it at the same time.

gardenvale.JPGIt is the last point I find most fascinating. Like many short chapter books for the early elementary audience, the stories rely heavily on dialogue. The girls are instantly drawn to these books and use them as scripts. They decide who is going to be which character, and then read their "parts" aloud.

This isn't a new idea, but it may be a new way to keep the kids connected with books this summer. Partner reading - with you, a friend, or siblings - is a great way to keep them engaged with books. The key is to keep the reading fun, so don't fret about the "right" reading levels or vocabulary. Keep them excited about reading and the rest of it will fall into place naturally.

Sharing our library time beyond "just us," has has added some wonderful magic to our summer. My daughter and her BFF are exploring everything the library has to offer and stretching each other's interests. They will have great memories of things they did together, and so will I. Summer can't get much more magical than that!

Image Credits
Clara reading in the hammock again by NMACAVOY on
Gardenvale Two Girls Reading (Close Up) by Jen on


Flannel Board Stories

Posted by Susan on June 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Blue Hat.jpgThis post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

Do you know what a flannel board story is? That's when you tell a story without the book, using pieces of felt to represent the characters. Teachers and children's librarians make these all the time. Getting dressedA felt story can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can make five felt apples (or anything else), put them on the flannel board and do a song or a story about them. But then there are those small or out of print books that you really want to give a second life to.

That's when you go all out.

Start by picking a book. Okay, this sounds easy, but there are only certain books that work well as flannel board stories. They have to be repetitive and have a relatively small number of characters. The book I picked for this one is Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, because it's a small board book about important concepts. And, let's face it, it's downright adorable.
In process
Once you've got your book, making a super complicated, exactly-like-the-book flannel takes no time at all.

Nope, I lied. It takes forever, and then a little longer. But, the good news is that it lasts forever too. You can keep a flannel story for a decade or two (or more!) if you treat them nicely. So, my feeling is that it's always worth the extra effort to make it great.

Now, this certainly isn't the most glamorous part of the job. It involves a lot of mess and glue and patience and then more mess, glue and patience. But it's incredibly rewarding when the kids see characters on the flannel board that they recognize instantly.

Blue Hat Final
How did I do? Please ignore the fact that I accidentally put the green hat on the bear instead of the moose, and that the elephant isn't wearing his shoes....


A Summer of Reading

Posted by Susan on June 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

makeasplash.jpgBooktalks are finally over. Public children's librarians can breath a sigh of relief. No longer will they have to explain the summer reading program 10 times a day.

Because, now it's time to explain summer reading 300 times a day. Kids from all over come to sign up for the program and each one gets a personal explanation of how many books need to be read, what the prizes are, what the deadlines are, etc. If you poke a librarian in their sleep in mid-July, they'll be able to tell you, without waking up, how many books a second grader needs to read to complete the program and what day summer reading ends.

Every summer reading program is different. Some count the number of minutes the kids read, other count the number of books. One prize can be given out at the end, or lots of prizes can be distributed throughout the summer. You might need to fill out a reading log or complete a game board. The prizes might be toys, coupons, books or something else. Some libraries may host one big program such as a magician or a puppet show, others might have a program each week.

makewaves.jpgHowever, there's a few things all library programs have in common.
~They all promote the joy of reading.
~They're all free.
~They all have a theme. This summer, it's all about water and fish.
~They're all an enormous amount of work. Planning starts for summer reading at the end of last year's program and takes the entire year.

Why does every public library in the country have a summer reading program? For a few reasons: to keep kids from losing reading skills over the summer, to make sure kids know there's a place they can get books while their school library is closed and to show kids that reading can be fun. For more details, see the New York State Library's research findings on the subject.

Find out what your library has to offer this summer. And sign up today!


Let's talk books

Posted by Susan on June 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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This post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

It may be hard to catch a glimpse of your children's librarian during early June. That's because they're at the local schools doing booktalks. Don't know what a booktalk is? (That's okay- almost nobody does, hence the reason for this post).

BooktalksThe first part of a booktalk is basically a summer reading pep rally. The public librarians go to the elementary schools and explain the summer reading program to the kids. We tell them all about how to sign up, the rules of the program, and all the exciting events we have during the summer. Then comes the fun part. We also bring lots of cool books with us to tell the kids about. The goal is to tell just enough about a book to whet their interest without giving anything away.

And then the next grade comes in, and we do the whole spiel again, with different books. And then we do it again. And again. And again. We see each grade separately, so that we can tell them about age appropriate books. At the school I went to yesterday, we talked to almost 600 kids over a six hour period. Finally, the day is over (booktalks are exhilarating but completely exhausting)... which means it's time for tomorrow and another round of booktalks at a new school. And so on, and on and on, until we've talked to every class of every public elementary school in the county.

Magical Ms. Plum.JPGHere are a few examples of booktalks I've been doing this year:

Ms. Plum is the best teacher at Springtime Elementary School. Why? Nobody's quite sure, but everyone wants a chance to go into her supply closet. Discover what's hiding in there... everything from incredibly organized squirrels, to a tiny horse to an extremely talkative parrot. Read The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker to find out what's waiting for you in the closet.

Never Smile at a Monkey.jpgCan everyone smile? Be careful not to do that when you see a monkey because they interpret it as an aggressive gesture and respond violently. Check out this book by Steve Jenkins and learn many other important things to remember the next time you're in the wild. Find out why you shouldn't pet a platypus, step on a stingray, bother a blue-ringed octopus or confront a kangaroo. And remember, Never Smile at a Monkey!

Curious what this looks like? Ask your child's school media specialist if there are booktalks at your school from the public librarians this year. They're well worth watching (they really end up being quite a performance) and you get lots of great book recommendations.

Ever seen a booktalk? Ever give one? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.


Bookworm Basics: Summer Reading

Posted by Terry on June 2, 2010 at 10:30 AM in DatabasesLibrariesRecommendationsSeries
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ben-addy.jpgToward the end of April, the "summer reading" whispers started. But now it's June and school is out or almost over, so today I'm shifting gears and thinking about summer reading.

Reading is a lot like exercise. You need to do it regularly. When you take a vacation from your workouts, it takes some time to get back to where you were before. If I skip exercising for just ten days, I feel like I'm starting over when I get back. The same thing happens on a reading vacation. For kids, that can last three months! Ouch! To help prevent "injury," schools often send home a "reading list" so students can keep "fit" over the summer.

There are lots of opinions about the lists, particularly when the list hasn't changed since you were in school. Just know they are singular in their plea: please keep your child reading this summer. It can be tricky finding books that will keep them reading through the summer, especially with one of those stagnant, age-old lists! So what's a parent to do?

SMTD_2c_72.jpgFirst, introduce yourself to the librarians! Libraries across the country will be launching their summer reading programs over the next few weeks, and these programs are a great way to connect kids with books and keep them in tip-top reading shape. Another option is to seek out some books from ... lists of recommended books.

That's a reading list by another name, right? Yes and no. Yes, it is a list of books, but it isn't a standardized group of books. These are collections of books created by people who have road-tested the books and believe in their value. The recommended lists are often built around a theme. For example, Reading Rockets (and many other websites) have lists of books by theme or by award or recognition. At Reach Out and Read, you'll find books by developmental age. I love Reading Rocket's guide for how to find that 'just right' book. Hint: read page 2!

Thumbnail image for bookstack.pngYesterday, Susan Kusel took us behind the scenes of creating a book list. She not only shared how book lists are created, but also shows why librarians are the go-to resource for reading ideas. What I love about What's Next, a resource created by the wonderful librarians at the Arlington Public Library, is that it is part reading list, part idea box. I can find suggestions by book format (e.g., picture book), audience (infant through teen), and/or subject (apples to zoos and beyond) Here are two other all-inclusive resources I recommend.

  • For Share a Story-Shape a Future 2009, we put together a magazine called the Big List of Books. It includes every book recommended by parents, teachers, and librarians; and covers all ages and topics. Many of the resources in these lists include books across the full spectrum of readers, from infants to teens and beyond. For simplicity's sake they are listed just once.

Emergent Literacy - Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Children's Picture Book Data Base - Miami University (OH) maintains a database is filled with more than 5,000 picture books, complete with abstracts! It is designed for educators who are building their curriculum, but it is a very handy tool when you're a mom looking for books about tractors.

Toddlers Booklist - On this Montgomery County (MD) Public Library list you'll find books that the librarians likely have used at storytime ... with great success. There is a bookcover image and short description with each title listed.

Early and Transitional Literacy - Kindergarten to Second Grade
SteveLambert_Card_Catalog.pngInfo Soup - This is a multifaceted, cooperative website maintained by a group of Wisconsin Public Libraries. You can find books via the page of book lists, or you can start at the home page and search any or all collections by title, author, keyword, or topic.

Zuckerman's Barn Kids Lit - This site offers a searchable database of book reviews by students for students. The goal of the site is to "create a community of readers across classrooms and schools, including both students and supportive adults." Search books by title, author, subject, grade level, and more.

Fluent Readers - Third Grade and Beyond
SteveLambert_Library_Book_Cart.pngLittle Willow's Booklists @ Bildungsroman - Little Willow's lists are my go-to recommendation when someone asks for a list. You'll find recommendations sorted by audience, themes, and topics, as well as her personal recommendations.

Best Books List @ Children's Literature Web Guide - The University of Calgary (Canada) maintains this site (link takes you to the Guide's topical list). What I love is that the topics go beyond the norm and focus on traits or interest for older kids, like books with artistic protagonists.

Many libraries create and maintain their own lists, too, so check out their sites. The Monroe County (IN) Library hosts a Children's Booklists on the Web page, where you can find a bunch of them in one place. Not all lists are created equal, and your librarian can point you toward some great ones or offer some "read alikes" that might work for the list you have.

purzen_Icon_with_question_mark.pngNow for the Million dollar question: Will my child will like the books on these lists? Odds are they won't like every book on any given list. They may not even like the first book from a list. Don't give up. If you get a couple pages in and the book isn't working, drop that one and find another one. If you've narrowed your options to things your child likes, it doesn't mean the entire list won't work, only that book. Just keep reading ... it's good exercise!

Image credit: Toddler and infant reading - Beach Book Trip by Kristi on Flickr.
Clipart - Open Clip Art Library: card catalog (Steve Lambert); library cart (Steve Lambert); pile of books (J Alves); question mark (Purzen)


How to Write a Booklist

Posted by Susan on June 1, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibrariesRecommendations
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librarian3.jpgThis post is part of a series about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here. Got a question about something a children's librarian does? Please post it in the comments and I'll feature it in one of my upcoming posts.

Need a new book to read? Librarians are here to help! One of the ways we provide guidance is through booklists. How does a booklist get created? Having just finished work on an immense booklist project, I can tell you exactly how it works. Warning: these projects can take anywhere from a a few months to a few years (and involve dozens of spreadsheets, meetings, phone calls and e-mails.)

booklists.jpgWhere to start? Let's say we're writing a recommended booklist for two year olds. The first thing to do is to think of all the books appropriate for two year olds. This involves reading the books that are brand new, browsing through the shelves, brainstorming with colleagues and remembering all of your personal favorites.

Got your list? Good. Let's divide it into categories. Take a good look at your list. Do you have several books about cars and trucks? Make a transportation category. How about a spot for books about animals, friends, family, etc? Next, assign a category to each book on your list. Now check all the books for age appropriateness. The best way to do this is by pulling every single book off the shelf and checking if it's right for two year olds (or whoever you're writing the list for.)

Once that you've eliminated several titles, go through the library's catalog. Check every last book to make sure that the title, author, and call number appear on your list exactly the same way they do in the catalog. Then get someone (ideally someone who hasn't been involved in the project) to proofread everything for typos and mistakes you may have missed.

Printing press.jpgYou now have your beautiful and perfect list. But wait, aren't you forgetting something? You've got to print it. This involves designing it, laying it out on the computer, finding the cute pictures to go along with it, working with a printer, selecting paper size, type, color and quantity. Then you need to check the proofs from the printer and (assuming that you have the budget for it) get the lists actually printed. This is one of the hardest parts.

Finally, after months of effort, you're holding the completed list in your hands. What to do now? Pass it out to every single person you can. Then, start the process from the beginning in a year or two. It's important to update them regularly in order to keep the lists relevant and current.

Want to see the results? Click here and check out all of the Arlington Public Library lists for younger and older readers. For the younger folks, we've got Shower Your Baby With Books, Tales for Twos, 3, 4 Read Me More, and 5, 6, 7 Read it Again. For elementary school kids, take a look at our lists for kindergarten and first grade, second and third grade, fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade. But wait, there's more! We also have a Historical Fiction list for first through sixth grade.

Also, check out Terry's excellent post featuring suggestions of where to find many more terrific booklists for kids.


Librarian or Mind Reader?

Posted by Susan on May 24, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Last week, I began a series of posts about what children's librarians do all day. Very few people seem to know what the job entails, so I thought I'd shed some light on this wonderful and often misunderstood field. For the rest of the posts in this series, click here.

How are librarians like mind readers? Because we get asked questions all day long on every subject imaginable and are expected to come up with accurate answers. Here's some examples.... all are real questions I've gotten at the reference desk.

Wrinkle in Time original.jpgQuestion: What's the name of the blue book with people standing in circles on the cover? Answer: A Wrinkle in Time, first edition, cover designed by Ellen Raskin.

: What's that book where a chicken takes a plane? Answer: Olvina Flies by Grace Lin.

Come on, challenge me, people.

Now, here's a great question from a few days ago. All the quotes from the patron are real. I couldn't make them up if I tried.

Elementary school patron: I want that poetry book with a hippo on the cover.

Librarian: Hmmm.... okay, nothing springs to mind. A search on poetry and hippos yields nothing. Neither does a look through the covers of all the books by Allan Katz and Jack Prelutsky (if any poets would use hippos on their covers, it would be them.)

Patron: I think the hippo might be holding a lemon.

Librarian: After a catalog search, Google Image search, and intensive questioning of my colleagues, I'm still drawing a blank. Is there any other possible piece of information you remember about the book?

: I think it had something to do with the number five.

The librarian does a catalog search for poetry books about the number five. The patron recognizes the picture of the book in the catalog.

Monster Goose.jpgAnd the mystery book is: Monster Goose by Judy Sierra. Here's the cover. You can't help but notice that there are no hippos, lemons, or the number five anywhere on the cover. The only reason it came up in the catalog at all is because it was described as a book of "twenty-five" poems. The fact that it was the right book was completely serendipitous. (And yes, it was the right book. I asked the patron about ten times to be sure.)

Children ask for books in different ways than adults do. One of the great parts of being a children's librarian is when you figure out what the patron is really asking for and find the right book.

Come on, Google. I dare you to find Monster Goose based on that description.


What Do Librarians Do All Day?

Posted by Susan on May 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Librarian Job DescriptionLibraries
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Very few people realize all the things that children's librarians do as regular parts of their jobs. My feeling is that the more you know about what a librarian does, the more they can help you. Do we spend all day reading? How about walking around and shushing people in stern voices? Not so much, no.

Children's LibrarianThis post is the first in a series about what being a youth services librarian entails. I thought I'd start off with the biggest part of the job: research. Librarians don't know everything (although I firmly believe my colleagues do). Librarians are professional researchers. We may not know the answer, but we know how to find the answer.

Sometimes, the answers are easy. Questions like "what's the name of the new series by the author of Percy Jackson?" or "I need information about colonial musical instruments" or "What's that book about a fish that grows bigger and bigger until it needs a swimming pool as a tank?" can usually be answered quickly. (Answers: The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, take a look in books about colonial life or a music reference book and A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer.) Then you have the challenging ones that involve some creativity. Here's an example:

NATO Flag.jpgSeveral months ago, a 5th grader asked me for all our children's books about NATO. As it happens, NATO isn't a hugely popular topic for children's book writers and our juvenile section has exactly zero books on the subject. What to do? Use the internet, you say? No such luck. This assignment (like most elementary school assignments) specifically prohibits online sources. No problem, let's check the books on the 1940's, since NATO was founded in 1949. Nope, nothing there. How about the books about the 1950's when NATO became a larger entity? Still nothing. Let's take a look in the encyclopedia (which is still an excellent resource, by the way, even in the digital age.) Hmmm.... Dwight Eisenhower was the first supreme commander of NATO. Let's walk over to the biography section, and voila, there we find tons of information about NATO on a fifth grade reading level in biographies on Eisenhower.

Librarians can find you an answer to almost any question. Just ask.


Baby Storytimes

Posted by Susan on April 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Libraries
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Question: Did you read the title of this post and think it was a typo? Did you wonder how on earth it is possible to do storytimes for kids that little?

Answer: Actually, libraries do baby stor times all the time. (Sometimes they're called lapsit programs.) Personally, they're one of my very favorite things to do as a children's librarian. No matter what you do, the babies never complain.

Here's some commonly asked things you may be wondering right about now...

Question: What do you do in a baby storytime?
Answer: Lots of things, including songs, nursery rhymes, tickles, bounces and lullabies.

Susan Kusel storytime.jpgQuestion: Do you read books?
Answer: Yes, but usually only one or two (as opposed to three or four books in a preschool story time). If books are used, they're typically very short or they're sung aloud.

Question: How old does the baby have to be?
Answer: Ask your librarian.... but the answer is almost always that there's no age limit. Newborns are fine.

Question: What if I bring my baby and they take a nap through the whole program?
Answer: Let them sleep. Baby storytimes are as much for the adults as they are for the kids. Children's librarians are great at offering tips, teaching songs and making recommendations to help adults use books and songs with babies.

Question: What if I'm exhausted and haven't gotten out of the house for a week?
Answer: Then baby storytimes are the perfect place to go... because all the other adults are just as tired and worn out as you are. It's a great place to meet other parents and caregivers experiencing the same things. Plus, it's nice to have a reason to get out of the house.

Question: Does my local library have a storytime for babies and toddlers?
Answer: Find out! Check their website and call or e-mail the children's department. Better yet, stop by... there's almost always a story time schedule flier available.

How much do these programs cost?
Answer: You get a trained librarian familiar with child development and early literacy skills, plus a thoughtfully planned, fun and educational program for the low, low, low price of: nothing. Library story times are always free.

Question: Have you ever been to a story time designed for babies? Did you and your baby enjoy it?
Answer: I'd love to hear all about it! Please leave a comment.

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