Activities & Tips

Book Characters Make Great Halloween Costumes

Halloween is fast approaching.  Still need a costume for your child and/or for yourself?  What about a favorite children’s book character?  Last year, Children's Room Librarian Laura Gravander and I dressed up as Elephant and Piggie of Mo Willems fame. See the resemblance?

   

Uncanny, isn't it?

One Halloween, all of the Children's Room staff dressed as different Rainbow Fairies.

Rainbow Fairies

And, of course there was the infamous training where six Children's Librarians dressed up as Captain Underpants (Tra-la-la-la!!!)  No pictures of that were taken to protect everybody involved.

The main thing is to have fun making the costume and try to make it with your child.  What is your child's favorite book? Have a truck lover? Cardboard boxes can be turned into trucks pretty easily. Animal lover?  One-piece pajamas work wonders. Want a variation on a princess?  What about a Paper Bag Princess?  Still no ideas?  Here’s a link to a website that shows examples of different storytime character costumes including the Paper Bag Princess.  

Happy Halloween everybody!

Sing a Little Song

musical notesSinging is fun but research has found that it is more than just that; it is also good for your health, lowering stress and releasing endorphins that create a feeling of pleasure.  Singing with your children will make you happy regardless of your musical abilities.  And there is even more reason to sing with them, it puts them on the road to reading success.  How?  Singing helps children, even ones who are very young, hear the sounds that make up words. Researchers call this phonological awareness.  Being able to hear distinct sounds helps children recognize those sounds and syllables when they are learning how to read.

Oakland Public Library can help you find songs and make singing fun in several ways:

copy of book coverWe have a collection of songbooks, many of which include the tune and lyrics in the back.  You can find them in our nonfiction collections under the 782 call number.  One of my favorites is The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort.

 

copy of cd coverWe also have collections of music CDs that you can borrow.  They range from lullabies for babies to the Frozen soundtrack.  Come and check them out!

Finally, we have a new music service, Freegal that lets you download and stream music from popular artists.  For music especially created for kids, click on “genres” on the bar at the top of the page, and then select “Children’s Music.”

As always, all of these materials and services are free, so check them out and let your voices soar!

First Day of School = Your First Library Card

If your child started kindergarten this week, bring him or her in to any Oakland Public Library branch to get a personal library card. Any child, 5 or older, who lives in CA, can get a first card for FREE! Getting a library card will allow your child to check out all of the materials the library offers as well as give your child access to all of the library’s electronic resources. We promise to make a big ceremony out of it too, sticker and all. 

Aside from all of the books, movies, music, and other materials you can take home from the library, your child’s library card opens up a world of electronic resources you can access from home.  Through our website, you can look at: lists of recommended books, electronic games for kids, our calendar of events, resources for homework help,  and Tumblebooks, e-books you can watch and/or read online.  The Tumblebooks site offers both fiction and nonfiction titles, picture books and early chapter books.  You can even watch e-books in other languages (French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Korean and German). 

So what are you waiting for?  Come on down, meet our friendly staff and start your child’s school year off right with an Oakland Public Library card.  Here's the link to our hours and locations.

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Reading, Talking, Singing, Writing and Playing Works

picture of babyI recently returned from sweltering Las Vegas where the American Library Association Annual Convention was taking place.  One of the programs I attended looked at whether or not the five activities developed by Every Child Ready to Read 2 - reading, singing, talking, writing and playing with children aged 0-5 had a statistical impact on that child's literacy levels.  A research grant in Washington State looked at the literacy levels of kids who attended storytimes where those practices were modeled.  

The results?  Yes they do!  Children who attended library storytimes that incorporated those activities did have higher literacy rates.  Just another reason to come to the storytimes offered here at the library and practice these activities at home.

For more information about the study, check out: digitalyouth.ischool.uw.edu  and click on the "Project Views" link.

To find our storytime schedule, check the OPL calendar: http://oaklandlibrary.org/events

Fun, Essential, and Free: Summer Reading

Girl with BooksThis new survey from Reading is Fundamental tells us that kids are spending 3 times as much time watching TV or playing video games then they are reading during the summer.  Even so, we know that Oakland kids are reading: so far, 1000 more kids are participating in Oakland's Summer Reading Challenge than at this time last year.  

A couple of bullets jump out to me from the report:

  • Last summer, children who read because they wanted to were twice as likely to read than children who read because they had to.
  • Parents who consider reading to be extremely or very important are twice as likely to have a child who reads every day

Making reading fun is what we do best at OPL, but we can't do it without you.  As your child's first teacher, you can help them succeed in the Summer Reading Challenge if you:

Let them read what they want.   Research shows that kids read when they get to choose the reading material.  Though reading "on their level" is important for learning, it is also important that they build confidence in reading, and the desire to read, by reading whatever they want, even if it is "below" their level. 

Read for fun yourself.  Your kids will learn take joy in reading if they see you doing the same. Take some time to open a magazine on the porch, or take a picnic to the park, or beach, and make sure your child has fun reading materials they've chosen themselves so they can do the same.  When they see you reading, they know that reading is important. 

If you haven't signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge yet, it's not too late. We know that a little game and a little prize can help you to introduce that "fun" element into reading.  We have tons of entertaining reading for your children, and are happy to help you all find the perfect book, or comic, or magazine to read.   Read by yourselves, read to each other, any kind of reading counts...as long as it is fun. 

 

 

Oh, the Places You'll Go!*

discover & go logo 

School's out for summer and it's a great time for you and your family to explore the      many attractions the Bay Area has to offer.  OPL's Discover & Go program makes it easy  and cheaper to do just that.

1. Go to: discover.oaklandlibrary.org cheap to do just that.  Here's how it works:

2. Enter your library card and your PIN numbers.

3. Search either by the date you want to visit a museum ("what's available next Tuesday?") or by the place itself ("when can we go to the Lawrence Hall of Science?").

4. Pick where and when you want to go.  When you are ready, click on "Reserve Pass" and print it out.  It's that simple.

Oh, the Places You'll Go.*  Here are some of my faves:

  • Asian Art Museum, SF - Free admission for 2 adults and all children under 12.
  • Cartoon Art Museum, SF - Free admission for 2 adults and 3 children.
  • Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley - Free admission for 1 child with a paying adult.
  • UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley - Free admission for 1 adult and 1 child (ages 5-12).

And to up the ante even more, if you sign up for the Adult Summer Reading Program and use a Discover & Go pass, you are 1/3 of the way towards entering their raffle and winning prizes.

There are some restrictions, so be sure to read the rules carefully.  And please remember to visit Oakland libraries this summer.  We have tons of free programs too.  http://oaklandlibrary.org/events
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* Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990)Discover & Go logo

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: What counts for Summer Reading?

Q. What counts for the Summer Reading Challenge? My kids are 3, 6, and 11 years old. What's expected of them in this game?

A. So, your three kids signed up for the Summer Reading Game, got their reading logs & stickers, picked out some stuff to read, and now you all want to know what really counts, right? Here's what matters about summer reading:

  1. Daily habit    Iron-on badge for the Summer Reading Program

  2. Personal choice   

  3. Any level

  4. Reading OR listening

  5. Library visits

To get the most out of the Summer Reading Program, and to see the beneficial effects in terms of school success and building a lifelong reading habit, these are the five elements that young readers and their families will see reinforced as they are reading over the summer.

Drawing of a calendar to symbolize the Daily Habit of readingDaily habit: Kids get prizes for how many DAYS they read this summer! 10 days = a whole batch of coupons for things to do and eat in & around Oakland. It doesn’t have to be 10 days in a row, but that makes it a fun challenge! 20 days = a free prize book, an iron-on badge, and a raffle ticket. Each additional 10 days is rewarded with an additional raffle ticket. Babies get a sippy cup with the library logo instead of the badge.

Photo of a clock to symbolize ANY amount of time is sufficientIMPORTANT NOTE: Kids put a sticker on the calendar date for any amount of reading they do. We’re aiming for 15 minutes or more, but if that seems like a struggle for your reader, come talk to us! Your Children’s Librarian will find something that is captivating enough that the 15 minutes will fly by! 

Drawing of a heart to symbolize Personal Choice in readingPersonal choice: Yes, read whatever you want! There are no required titles, no leveled lists, no judgment of your choices. Participants may write the titles on their reading logs; that’s just for fun. Everyone can choose whatever pleases them; something new or an old favorite; short or long; fiction or non-fiction; books or magazines or comics; fantasy, mystery, sports, action, adventure, magic, realistic, historical; humor; poetry; biography – anything! 

Any leDrawing of foothills & mountains to symbolize that Any Level reading is greatvel: During the school year, teachers are expecting your kids to read books that range from Just Right to Challenging. In the summer, Vacation reading is good enough! Some readers like to challenge themselves with complex plots and advanced vocabulary & grammar, but some need to relax, recover, and re-kindle their joy in stories or characters. Predictable reading goes quickly and is easy to understand, and therefore builds fluency and comprehension while at the same time feels relaxing and enjoyable. Just right books are best – but focus on the content and delight; if it’s not fun, it won’t be a daily habit.

Drawing of headphones to symbolize that Listening OR Reading are both okayReading OR listening: For this game, kids can read on their own, listen as someone reads aloud to them, or read aloud to someone else. All of it counts! Listening to a recorded book also counts. Hearing a book read aloud helps kids learn vocabulary, improves pronunciation, and increases comprehension, all of which builds fluency. This is true even for kids who already know how to read. Take turns, and treat each other to good read!

Guess what? Adults who sign up for the Adult Summer Reading program get points for reading aloud to a child, so grown-ups can get prizes, too! Not only that, older kids & teens (ages 12 to 18) can get prizes, too!  The Teen Summer Passport program has great ideas for teens, one of which is reading aloud to younger children. 

Drawing of The Library Symbol that shows you where to find the library

Library visits: Most kids come in at least 2 times over the summer – to sign up, and to pick up prizes. However, we love it when kids come in every week to pick out more books to read & movies to watch, or to attend one of our many special programs. When people come to the library often, they get familiar with where things are found and how to get things done, they make friends with our staff, and they learn how to ask for help. We want every young person in Oakland to feel like he or she belongs here. Your taxes (and donations to our Friends groups) pay for the library and our programs – make sure your kids take advantage of it!

So…the Summer Reading Program is a friendly challenge, meant to encourage the habits that will give your child lifelong rewards. I want to tell you more about how important recreational reading is to school success, but there’s a line of children asking for help to find a good book right now…I've got to run. See you soon!

Selfies!

If you've ever uttered the words "I have this great idea for a children's book!", you're in good company. And bad company. And, well, just lots of company. Seems like just about everyone is trying their hand at writing children's books these days, and thanks to the plethora of self-publishing platforms that exist, it's never been easier to turn that gleam in your imagination into a real, honest-to-goodness book.

Which is not to say that it's easy. In many ways, self-publishing is more difficult than the traditional method of working with an established publisher. The question I hear most in my role as children's collection management librarian for Oakland Public Library is "how do I get my book into your library?" It's a complicated answer, so let me break it down for you:

  • Like most libraries, we select books for our collection based on professional reviews. If a book has been reviewed by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Horn Book, or another professional journal, we have some basic information about exactly what will land on our shelves if we order that book. Is it great for storytime? Is it written in terrible, awkward rhyme?* A professional review, to us, is a recommendation on whether or not to buy a book. The more recommendations we can get, the better. 
  • Is your book available through a major distributor? It's easiest for us to buy books through distributors like Baker & Taylor, Brodart, and Ingram, and we do most of our purchasing that way. That's not to say that we can't buy your book if it's not available through one of those, just that it's a lot easier if it is.
  • Most self-published books do not end up in our regular ordering stream because they don't get enough professional reviews in a timely fashion. Without a major publisher backing a book, it's just not likely to happen. There is a way around that, though:
  • Send us a copy. Take a look at OPL's Author and Publisher Submissions policy. All the instructions you need to submit your book are there. If we can review your book in person, we can get the information we'd otherwise get from professional reviews. If your book is available from a major distributor, let us know when you send it in. Also include any professional reviews you do have, or reviews from blogs.

    Know that we can't consider your book without a physical copy of the entire book. (So: a PDF won't cut it.) It's important for us to know exactly what we would be handing to a patron if we recommended your book, from typeface to binding. When you submit a title, we can't send you a response; we don't guarantee that we will include the book in our collection; and we won't return your review copy. However, we WILL look at it, and we will consider it.

  • Self-published books must meet the criteria in our Collection Development Policy, just like books from mainstream publishers. Naturally, we consider quality of writing and art when we decide whether to add a book to our collection. We also consider whether the book will be appealing to children, whether it will be useful to teachers, whether families are likely to pick it up, whether the author is local and has a fan base, and other factors. OPL is committed to diversity in children's books, so we take special notice when a book's creator is a person of color, it contains characters who are people of color, and those characters are represented with authenticity (aka 'realness').

In short: while I can't promise you we'll add your self-published children's book to our collection, you CAN ask us to. And we encourage you to do so. If you want to get your book into its best possible shape before you print it up, why not connect with a local writer's group, or a self-publishing meetup? Making books is a tough process, but even if you are doing it all yourself, there's no need to go it alone.

OPL Author and Publisher Submission Policy


*Note: please, please do not try to make your children's book rhyme. Unless you are an excellent poet already. Just... don't.

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Or, occasionally – Young patrons gawp; librarians guess.

Q: My child is too shy to ask questions. I want him to be confident, and to ask for what he needs. How do I get him to ask you questions himself? Graphic from the ALA; National Library Week Logo - Lives change @ your library

A: Yes, it's our job – parents, caregivers, and librarians, working together – to model the interactions that we'd like young people to conduct independently someday. Your child is learning a million tiny things by simply observing you as you conduct yourself daily. With very little conscious effort, he's learning by watching what you do.

When you bring a young person to the library, show him (you may not need to tell him) how you wait your turn, make a friendly greeting, ask a question, clarify if we're on the right track or not, and thank the staff person for the help you received.

Once your child has observed this several times, pick an unhurried day and ask him if he's ready to try it on his own. Some kids are bold and need very little prompting. Others want to know it will go smoothly before they even try. Many kids start, and then get stuck and need a little help. Eventually, we learn to speak up on our own behalf.

The interaction below is NOT ideal! Sometimes the librarian has a line of people waiting. However, I'm sharing it because it illustrates something not everyone realizes: The librarian is friendly. She or he is going to do whatever she or he can to get what information or reading material you need or want.

You can play “library” at home or in the car, and pretend/practice the question-and-answer process. Then come by and give it a try. We love talking to kids about what they're reading and helping them find information.

One afternoon at the library:

A mother and her son enter the library, and walk toward the Children's Reference Desk. They wait for the person ahead of them in line to finish, and then approach the Children's Librarian.

MOM (to Librarian): Hello! We'd like a little help.

MOM (to child): Tell the librarian what you need.

KID: No, you tell her.

MOM: No, go on. You tell her!

KID: No, no, no. I won't. You have to.

MOM: Go ahead and ask your question. Look, it's your turn now.

KID: You ask her!

Librarian: Okay, okay, I'll ask you!

(Kid is surprised & looks directly at Librarian for the first time)

Librarian: Okay, let's see...You have a question, right?

KID: (quietly) Yes.

Librarian: Let me see...Do you need something at the library?

KID: Yes.

Librarian: Okay, I'm going to guess. Is it a book?

KID: Yes!

Librarian: Okay, a book. That's good. We have lots of books. Hmm...Is this a book for your own fun, or is this for a school assignment?

KID: For school.

Librarian: Okay, for school. ...and what grade are you in?

KID: First.

Librarian: Okay, a book for a school assignment for first grade. That narrows it down....but I need more information. Are you going to tell me, or should I guess?

KID: You guess!

Librarian: Okay (rubbing my face, thinking...) ...Does this assignment have to do with the Phases of the Moon?

KID: No!

MOM: Just tell her, don't make her guess!

KID: (looking at her like she is crazy, because obviously this could be fun)

Librarian: ...Is the assignment about an Animal?

KID: No!

Librarian: Ummm...Is the assignment about...The Revolutionary War?

KID: No!

Librarian: I could really use a clue here...Do you want to tell me what you need a book about?

KID: Keep guessing!

MOM: ...but it does have something to do with history...!

Librarian: Oh, good, I needed a clue!  So, it's about history...Is the assignment about World history, or United States history?

KID: The United States!

Librarian: Great! We are really narrowing it down...Are you looking for a book about the history of a person or a place or a time period?

KID: It's a report about a place.  I Heart My Library buttons

Librarian: All right, now we're cooking! I wonder if it is about a state?

KID: Yes, it is about a state!

Librarian: All right...is it California, by any chance?

KID: No, that's my friend's state!

Librarian:  Oh, no! You are not going to make me guess every single state are you?

KID: (gleefully) Yes!!!

Librarian: ...Wait a minute, I think we are close enough already...(getting up from desk, walking past them)...Follow me! We're going to figure this out!

KID: (looks up at his mom with wide open eyes)

MOM: Let's follow her!

Librarian: Right over here...these shelves right here have all the books on the United States, one state at a time. Starting with the north-east, going to the south-east, then the mid-west, then the south, then the west...Hmmmm...Which state could it be?

MOM: I see it!!!

KID: Where?!?!

MOM: (Mom craftily plays both sides of the game...the knowing and the not-knowing side...)  What letter does it start with?

KID: It starts with a "V".

...He's looking...The adults are waiting...It doesn't take long...

KID: Here it is! I found it!

Librarian: Aha, it was Virginia! And it looks like we have more than one book.  I'm so glad you found something. Go ahead and take them all off the shelf, and open them up. We have books for different reading levels, so you'll want to pick the one that is just right for you.

MOM: (to Librarian) Thank you so much.  (to her son) Say thanks!

KID: My grandma & grandpa are in Virginia.

Librarian: You're welcome. (His look of astounded satisfaction is a sufficient expression of gratitude.)

 

I'm sure he and I will have another opportunity to practice the Q&A process. People who know how to ask librarians for help get a lot more out of their tax dollars. It's National Library Week. Practice asking your librarian a question today!

 Virginia from the OPL Catalog

Q&A Patrons ask; librarians answer: My preschool daughter is obsessed with sparkly princess stories! Is it time to worry?

Q:  My daughter wants even more books about princesses wearing beautiful, sparkly dresses. I would like her to read books about confident girls whose sense of self is built on their capabilities, dreams, and interests. Do Photo of princess dollsyou have any like that – or any in which the princess doesn’t marry the prince? 

A: Yes, there are princess stories that feminists can embrace! The trick is to find the ones that will please your daughter as much as they will feed your long-term character goals for her.  I would point you to the article by Naomi Wolf in the New York Times on December 2, 2011:  

She wrote, "If you look closely, the princess archetype is not about passivity and decorativeness: It is about power and the recognition of the true self...” cover image of To Be A Princess

 

The view from the Children's Reference Desk is that every child is the center of their parents' universe. Every child is like a prince or princess, and each of them is discovering their own power, potential, and relevance. No matter the gender or economic class; princess means person who can do anything, with grace and ease.                              

You can use these princess books to tackle the tricky conflict between your values and the valid desires of your children. Here's how to do that:

  1. Read a variety. Read multiple versions of the same story. This teaches your children that stories are written or told differently by different people. It reminds them that they can write their own story to suit themselves. This is liberating! Ask us for the Cinderella versions by Climo, McClintock, Sanderson, and Marshall, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses versions by Ray, Mayer, & Isadora. See also various princess stories, such as The Dragon Prince by Yep, Kongi & Potgi by Han,or Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by Steptoe. There are also collections of international princess stories.
    Cover of The Dragon Prince by Yep  cover image of Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

     Cover image of Barefoot Book of Princesses  Cover image of Don't Kiss the Frog

  2. Respect your child's choices. If she says she wants the sparkly one, don't try to talk her out of it, just read it. Expect her to also respect your choices, and so read her the books that make more sense to you as well. For a preschooler, a parent's voice and close physical contact are fundamentally important. For sparkly, see: K.Y. Craft, Ruth Sanderson, Marianna Mayer, & Jane Ray. For anti-sparkly, see The Paper Bag Princess, Bigfoot Cinderella, and Cinder Edna.

    Cover image of The Paper Bag Princess by MunschCover image of Bigfoot Cinderellacover image of Cinder Edna

  3. Discuss the stories and the illustrations. Being opinionated, even disagreeing with the author or illustrator models good reading habits. Children are amazingly able to believe in a dream world, even when they are told it's not real. Ask questions, like; Would you rather be the kind of princess who has adventures, fights battles, befriends dragons, or has tea parties? See Pirate Princess, by Bardhan-Quallen, Princess Knight by Funke, and The Princess and the Pea by Vaes for girls who embrace traits and activities traditionally associated with masculinity.

    Cover image of Pirate Princess by Bardhan Cover image of Princess Knight by Funke cover image of Vaes' version of Princess & thePea

  4. Edit the text if you find it offensive. You won't get to do this for very long – she's going to learn how to read soon! Take advantage of this window of opportunity to make cultural adjustments and updates to anything you feel is important. (Writing this post, I discovered that my 15-year-old daughter believed that one of the sisters in Jane Ray's version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses was the shoemaker pictured on the final page, because I thought they should take responsibility for mending all their dancing shoes, so I changed the story. I remember that she and her sister argued with me about this point at the time, but I didn't realize until now that I had won.)

  5. Tell your own story. Make sure to supplement the fantasy stories in fairy tales with the real-life stories of your family's struggles and those of your personal heroes. Try one book from the biography section.

    cover image of Pocahontas Princess of the New World cover image of Hatshepsut biography cover image of biography of Savitri

Children ages two to seven repeat actions to master tasks – stacking blocks, tying shoelaces, etc. Repeated reading, or remaining focused on a single topic, is similarly how they build understanding.

Your daughter may revise her sense of self many times, or settle on it early. She is exploring, and you are one of her most important guides. Your support of and attention to her interests is crucial. Right now, it's princesses. It will shift over the years, and will be influenced by all the other people in her life, and the activities you share. She probably won't be sparkly forever.

cover image of Princess Boy

By the way, all of my suggestions would remain the same if the gender pronoun were changed. Your son is not the only one with a favorite princess & a collection of sparkly dresses.