Activities & Tips

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: What’s your opinion on this movie?

Q: What do you think about this movie for my kids?

A: Here’s what goes through my mind when I hear this question, which happens a few times a week:

  1. I really appreciate your effort to figure out what’s best for your children!  

  2. Image that made Isabel cry in Schoolhouse Rock.I need to know a little about your children. I might ask you; “How old are your kids?” “What movies have they enjoyed lately?” “Which of those movies seemed just right to you?”

  3. I need some parameters for what you usually find suitable & appropriate for your child.  “We prefer realistic movies, not fantasy.” “We’re looking for movies that don’t follow old-fashioned gender roles.” “No violence! We don’t believe in that.” “It’s okay if there’s fighting, but not too much.”

  4. What’s enjoyable and exciting for one child could be disturbing, offensive, or boring for another child – even in the same family. Give me an anecdote. “She burst into tears watching Unpack Your Adjectives in the Schoolhouse Rock animation.”Marzipan Pig - a movie that is not for everyone, but some people love it!

  5. What can I recall from previous conversations with other patrons about this movie? What age were those children?  “My 4-year-old son & I adored The Marzipan Pig.” “The Ring of Bright Water was such a sweet movie! But we were horrified when the otter died!”  

Based on your answers, I’ll give you my feedback on the movies you selected, or suggest a few for you. It’s a fun game for both of us. On the other hand, as Maimonides might say, “Choose a movie for a patron, and she’s entertained for a day; teach her how to choose a movie for herself, and she’s entertained for a lifetime.”

How To Train Your Dragon - a very popular movie with wide age-range appeal.When it comes to film, parents are motivated to find content that resonates with their values rather than contradicting them. People don’t do this as much with books. It’s as if a book is invited into our consciousness as a visitor who we can safely be open to, whereas moving-pictures are more like a group of invading guests, who could easily bowl us over, dominate, and take control.  

Moving visual images seem to bypass our intellectual process to some degree, and connect viscerally to our psyche. Adults know that these responses may stay with us for a lifetime.

How can you help your children weather the invading-guest’s philosophies and values, and hold on to their own values and principles?

  • Observe your child watching a film, to guide future choices. Maimonides thinking up good quotes that could be used 800 years later on Hanukkah in an overly long blog.

  • Pick appropriate films at each stage of development. See details below.

  • Maintain a dialogue with your child. Routine conversations about mundane films build a habit that you can rely on when something is upsetting.

  • Build their healthy self-esteem. Children with a strong sense of self are not as vulnerable to the manipulations that are often found in media. But that’s a topic for another day!

So the question is; How do we pick appropriate films?

I suggest you consider ALL of the following aspects. No single aspect is sufficient:

  1. Length in minutes. DVDs under 30 minutes are usually intended for under-5-year-olds, and DVDs over 1 ½ hours are usually for over-9-year-olds. If a DVD contains multiple shorts, count only one, but for television episodes, 25 minutes is standard for all ages, so you can’t use length alone to determine intended audience.  

  2. Visual imagery on the cover. Does it appeal to your child? The Lego Movie is not something we need to advertise.

  3. Synopsis. Look on the box, in the Oakland Public Library catalog for the DVD, or on a website such as Common Sense Media, or IMDb.

  4. Age suggestion from the film-maker.  See same sources as the synopsis.

  5. Rating. The Common Sense Media ratings of “Off, Pause, & On”  are much more useful than the MPAA ratings, because they relate to developmental benchmarks for each age.  

  6. Reviews. See databases mentioned above. Common Sense Media gives the perspective of their own reviewers as well as ordinary parents and children.

  7. Trailers. Available directly from IMDb or YouTube.

  8. Friends’ advice. They know you and your child, and you know them, so you can triangulate over time.

It takes time to gather this information. Remember you can place a hold on the DVD at Oakland Public Library – you can place up to 10 holds at a time, you can check out 10 DVDs at a time, you get to keep them for 3 weeks, and you can renew them for another 3 weeks. Free!

A library made of Lego.Nevertheless, that’s a lot of work just to watch some movies, right? Feel free to ask the librarian for suggestions. Remember; we librarians are most effective when it’s a two-way conversation. Your feedback on what books & movies you & your children enjoy (and don’t enjoy) helps us give better suggestions to everyone!Click this link to submit a question to the children's librarians

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. 

It's Time for Winter Bingo @ Your Library!

There's no excuse to be bored over the winter holiday break:  stop by your library and pick up a Winter Bingo card for your child.  

Complete five activities in a row, and bring the card back to the library anytime between December 18 and January 31 to receive a free book. There is a card for children in grades K-5, and one for you to do with your younger children.

Children can “Listen to a story” or “Read about your favorite thing,”  “Make someone laugh,” or “Bring a friend to the library,” “Dance” or “Play outside.”  Activities for you to do with your baby or preschooler include “Use a recipe to make a snack,” and “Ask your child to turn the page.”  There is plenty to choose from, so everyone can be a winner.

Mitali Perkins

As a special kick off event for Winter Bingo, children's book author Mitali Perkins will talk about her books, writing, and life between cultures, at the Dimond Branch library on Thursday December 11th, at 10:30am.  Recommended for upper grade Elementary and tweens. 

 

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Beginning Readers too boring? Write your own!

Book cover of I'm Bored by Black & OhiQ: My youngest child is just learning to read, but she finds all the beginning reader books boring. Do you have any more exciting ones? 

A: Maybe! First let’s take a look at that section, to make sure you’ve seen the ones that young readers enjoy the most. Children’s Librarian Miriam Medow posted a great list online about a year ago, and we can get the beginning-readers that have won awards for being the most creative, imaginative, and engaging. Watermelon Seed by Pizzoli

However, from my observation, in families where someone reads aloud often, the kids get used to complex story lines and sophisticated vocabulary, making the beginning-reader books feel a little flat.

At school, your child will use beginning readers, and her teacher will go over phonics, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. If the teacher’s instructions to read independently at home create unproductive, foot-dragging complaint-sessions, even though your child has always enjoyed listening to you read aloud, then I want to propose something radical:

Write your own books.Story Dictation cover by Gadzikowski

I’m not just saying this because it’s National Novel Writing Month right now; this idea has a solid educational basis.

Children learn to read by connecting the lines of text on paper to sounds, words, and meanings that already exist in their minds. The text is interesting when the meanings are interesting - and your child is probably interested in lots of things!

Your job is simple; you will take dictation and then read it aloud to her. Her job is fun; she will tell you what to write and then read it aloud to you.

How to do it:

You can do this on paper or on a computer, whichever feels best to you both.  Get set up so that both of you can see the page or the screen. Ready? You could invite your daughter to...

  • ...make up a story about anything she can imagine,  
  • ...describe what she sees in a photo, drawing, painting, or out the window,A page from a story written & illustrated by a Kindergartener.
  • ...re-tell a story she knows. It could be a movie, a book, a story, or a song,
  • ...draw a picture and then describe it, or...
  • ...tell you how to do something. Ask her to tell all the steps, starting from the beginning.

Click here to see samples.

Some suggestions:

  • As she is talking, write down everything she says. You can choose to include or to leave out “Umm…” and other little sounds people make as they wait for the next word to come to them.
  • Don’t correct her choice of words, her grammar, or her logic. Write it down just as she says it. With any luck, you & she will write several of these stories, and you will be amazed to see how her style and her sophistication develop over time.
  • If she hesitates or seems stuck, offer to read back to her what she said so far. Ask her if you have it right. Make any changes or corrections she suggests.
  • You can make it into a little book, with her drawings for illustrations, by printing out just a sentence on each page, or you can print it out as a one-page story. Collect them in a folder, so she can re-read them anytime.
  • If your child is not inspired by this idea, you could write a story for her. Illustrate it with photos from her own life, magazine collage pictures, or pictures she drew herself. When she reads it to you, you will notice how it builds her sight-words and her fluency.

Bring your story to the library; I would love to read it, too!

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!