Activities & Tips

Homework hint...

Creative Commons photo "Homework" by Roberto Faccenda is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This has been a really interesting political season. I'll be the first to admit I am enjoying watching the process unfold. All of the plot twists are better than any night-time drama; furthermore this has given me plenty of opportunities to teach my 8-year-old son real life lessons.

Last summer I intentionally sat down and watched this video on my tablet and started laughing. After a while my son stops playing with his trains and sits by me to see why I was so amused.

He looks at the video, confused and asked me, "what's so funny?"

My set-up is successful! I now opened the door to teach my kid a new word: Plagiarism.

Plagiarism (explained to a 8-year-old child:) is stealing someone’s words, and pretending they are your own. It is not only dishonest; you can get in a lot of trouble with your teachers.

"Words belong to people?" My son asked. Using the word "stole" really grabbed his attention.

"Yes," I explained. "See this picture you worked hard on?" I pointed to his picture of a train he painted that was on the fridge. "How would you like it if I erased your name and put mine on, then told everyone I painted the picture?"

My son was incredulous. "BUT THAT'S CHEATING!" he shouted. "I worked hard on that."

'Yea," I replied. "You should be upset if I did that. That is your picture you made all by yourself. I can't just steal it. You can't do that with words either. If someone wrote a song first, or a speech first, or a paper first, you can't just copy it and put your name on it. Okay?"

"Okay!" he exclaimed shaking his head." I won't do that."

"Hey buddy", I followed up, "Here is the thing, if you want to use someone's words that’s ok. You just have to give them credit for it. "

"Huh?" Now he is seriously confused.

"Let's pretend I take your picture off the fridge and put it in a pretty frame and hang it in the living room."

"Ookayyy...."

" Every time someone comes over the house admires your picture I say, Jason made it. "

"Yea... so?"

"So I'm using your picture to make my living room pretty, but I am not pretending the picture is something I made myself."

"That’s good, cause that's cheating," he replies.

"Exactly, you can do the same thing with words. You can use someone else’s words to make your words better, and when you give them credit it's called "quoting".

"Ohhh..." the little light bulb of understanding awakens in him. "Don't cheat, just quote."

"Exactly!"

I'm proud of that boy.

Long blog post short; don't cheat on your homework this year. If you want to borrow someone else's words when completing your assignments that is ok. You just have to give them credit for it. Ask me or any other librarian how to do it. We will be happy to help you.

Happy Mother's Day

                                 Picture courtesy of ElvisKennedy.com via Flickr Commons.

There is this saying that "Motherhood is the hardest job you will ever love."  It's true. I love my children and I love my job.  My love for my job shows whenever I have the oppertunity to read stories to children. I sing, I dance, and I have a great time. Afterwards, it never fails:  several  parents will compliment my reading style, and follow- up with the question/statement: You must read to your children all the time! 

My answer always is: ABSOLUTELY NOT! 

I love my kids don't get me wrong; but at the end of the day I am a momma just like you (unless you're a poppa but you get my point) and I don't want to read a bedtime story every night.   And if I read Goodnight Moon ONE MORE FREAKING TIME during the bedtime routine I am going to join that cow jumping over the moon. 

I love my kids, don't get me wrong; but at the end of a work day, the LAST thing I want to do is work some more. Even though it is my own kids. Even though I love my job.  Think about it: if you are an accountant, do you come home looking forward to helping your child with their math homework?  Or if you are a short order cook, do you anticipate coming home after a hard day slaving in the restaurant kitchen, to cook another meal? Don't lie, the answer is no. 

So in the spirit of honesty, from one parent to another I will gift to you how I "read" to my children at home. I present to you Tumblebooks. An online database of children's books that read the stories out loud to your kids! Thanks to Tumblebooks I have stopped reading to my children, while enjoying quality time with them before bedtime with a good book. Here is a sneak peek at my simplified bedtime routine that brings the joy of reading into our home.

An added bonus is my 3 year old son is now enjoying beginner chaper books as well. Here he is reading  Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig by Kate DiCamillo

                                                 

If you click on the link to the book and look at the right side of your screen, you will notice that Tumblebooks provides:

  • Reading Levels
  • A/R Levels
  • Grade Levels
  • Lexile Numbers
  • Common Core Standards List 
  • Accelerated Reader Information (at available for all books sadly) 

 I know what you are thinking: OMG THIS WILL MAKE MY LIFE SO MUCH EASIER!

 You're welcome. And Happy Mother's Day.

Potty Training Adventures...

Sunday afternoon I walked into the living room and saw this:

As shocking as this sight was, I became very excited. This is the first sign he might be ready to start potty training. The second sign was the next morning when he woke up shouting "Momma, I gotta pee pee!" YEA AGAIN... except, I don't know how to train a child to go pee pee. This is a problem when I have an excited toddler ready to get rid of his diapers. So off to the library I go, and here is what I brought brought home for him:

                          

And here is what I brought home for me:

                

Because hey, it happens!

Stay tuned, more to come...

Preschool Adventure : Exploratorium

If you have encountered me at all, chances are I have talked your ear off about OPL's Discover and Go service. It is one of my favorite services!

Museum passes for FREE! How can you not like that?!?!

If you have been raising a preschooler in California, they have spent their whole lives in drought weather, and this rainy, wetter than usual winter is driving your household crazy. 

What do you do when you can't run them ragged at the park? How are you going to expend their energy?

My answer: Discover & Go Adventure Days

This month, I'll share our Exploratorium adventure with you.

Reserving an Exploratorium pass through Discover & Go allows for 2 free admissions. Kids 3 and under are free! Don't forget to print out your pass, and bring a photo I.D. 

We started our day with a SF Bay Ferry boat ride. What 3 year old doesn't love the ferry boat? Tip: Adult fare for the ferry is $12.80, roundtrip. If you have a Clipper card, it is $9.60. Kids under 5 are free! 

If you take the ferry, you'll get off at the SF Ferry Building. Go in and eat all the samples. 

From the Ferry Building, you'll walk 10 minutes to the Exploratorium's new location. If you grew up going to the old location at the Palace of Fine Arts, don't worry! This location is easier to access and you'll be pleasantly surprised that some of your favorite exhibits are still there. (YES, even the Shadow Box!!!)

For drizzly weather, bundle yourselves up in rain gear. The short walk will be a puddle jumping blast!

If BART is more your style, get off at the Embarcadero station.

Once you get there, present your Discover & Go pass and photo i.d. Staff will exchange it for tickets, and you can dance happily into the museum with the joy of knowing you are a smart library patron that just saved $30-60!

Look at all the fun we had:

 

THE BEST PART? . . . Sleepy kiddos!

Using Discover & Go my child and I have had the most memorable playdates. From Bay Area Discovery Museum, to the U.S.S. Hornet, and Cal Academy. Every museum has different deals, so read closely when you book. 

Which should I profile next month?

What is your favorite Discover & Go offering?

Literacy Week: Spongebob, Olaf, and Letting Them Pick

When I was in library school, I had a WONDERFUL children's literature professor who one day went on a rant about not buying what I will refer to as "junk" for our libraries (she used a more colorful four-letter word). "I don't want to see any [junk] on your shelves!" she told us. "There are too many good books out there for you to be buying [junk]."

By [junk] she meant books like these:

    

Licensed characters. TV tie-ins, we call them. Books that were cranked out by a movie or TV studio to add to the pile of money already being thrown at them. At the time, my eyes glistened. Yes, I silently swore, I will never buy these books for the children in my libraries. I will only buy quality literature with literary merit and artistic acclaim!

My former professor would hate my libraries now. A peek at my monthly orders would make her skin crawl. I buy [junk] books at an astonishing rate, spending THOUSANDS of dollars at a time on licensed characters with uninspiring stories. 
Why do I do this?

When we talk about teaching kids to read, we talk a LOT about letting them choose their own books. In lots of communities, we talk about getting kids to choose books at all, when TV and smartphone games compete and Mom's working three jobs and doesn't have time to read to them. When books aren't part of a family's home life--and this is the case for many, many families--librarians face an uphill battle in getting young children interested in books. Then when those children start school and begin formal reading instruction, they're expected to learn to read whether they're interested in books or not. 

If you can imagine a group of kids, some of whom are interested in books and some who are not, which can you imagine having a harder time learning how to read?
Yup.

So if packing our shelves with Dora, Frozen, Doc McStuffins, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles means a three-year-old's head turns and he runs to the shelf to get his hands on a book, you better believe I'm going to do it. Those licensed characters are familiar faces. They are friends. An Angry Birds paperback may not have excellent character development and a nuanced story, but it offers comfort and familiarity, which inspire confidence.

So here is my plea to parents, teachers, and librarians who hope to inspire a love of reading in their children: 

Let them pick what they want to read.
No, seriously. Let them pick what they want to read.

If your student picks out a Barbie book and you hate Barbie, resist the urge to say "no, that's not a good book." The child thinks it's a good book. Believe them. Ask them sincerely, "what do you like about this book?" Listen to their answer. Help them find more books they like.

Believing they make good choices in reading and are correct in liking the things they like will be the crucial factor in whether your child continues reading as a lifelong habit. Confidence is a determiner of success here. Fun is too.

Literacy Week: Bringing the World of Words to Families

By Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator

If you have children, you’re surrounded by a world of words: On forms and flyers from school, instructions on toys, medicines and equipment, party invitations, homework your children want you to help with … But what if you struggle to read?

When parents – especially mothers – have trouble reading, their children often do too. According to the National Coalition for Literacy, studies show that a mom’s reading ability is the single best predictor of her kids’ success in school — more than race, ethnicity and family income. It’s also true that children from higher income homes hear 30 million more words by age 4 than children from lower income homes. Thirty million!

Families for Literacy, a program of Second Start at Oakland Library, works with low-literacy adults who have children to help close the 30-million-word-gap and make reading a family value. By starting with what parents know, including talking, singing, and playing, we’re giving parents the skill and confidence to read with their little ones and do other early education activities to boost the literacy skills of parents and children alike.

In addition to our monthly family literacy events and one-on-one coaching, Second Start works with Children’s Services and other library departments to make sure the library’s materials are easy to read. We’ve also begun a new class series: Literacy for Parents. The class teaches participants how to use children’s books to boost their reading skills and gain confidence so they can share these activities with their children and grandchildren.

We launched these classes at a re-entry program for men returning from prison. A shocking 75% of state and 59% of federal prisoners read below a 5th grade level and didn’t finish high school. The class series at Center Point Inc. helped participants bring books into the relationships they are re-forming with their children and grandchildren. Participants shared the books they loved most as children, discovered new books they enjoyed, and practiced ways to use ABC books and games for endless fun. It was a huge success.

Through Families for Literacy we’re bringing parents into the world of words, so they and their families can do even more as citizens of the world.

If you know someone who might benefit from Second Start and Families for Literacy, call us. Ask for Ann Daniels or Amy Sonnie: 510-238-3432.

 

The National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 21-26, is sponsored by the National Coalition for Literacy. @NLCAdvocacy

Q&A Patrons Ask: Do I have to read to my baby?

Q: I'ma keep it 100%.  I love my baby, but I really don't want to read to her every night at bedtime. And I don't want to feel pressured and called a bad parent! 

A:  I'm a momma too, so I got you. I'd never call anyone a bad parent. I understand all the well-meaning advice about what you "should be" doing with your children and how to "do it right" is unwelcome and unnecessary.  That's why I'm not gonna add to it – much. 

Reading to your baby is very important, we all know that. So as a professional I can't say “don’t read to your child."  But I will say, reading is supposed to be a fun way to bond with your child. In short, your baby needs words, not a nightly ritual you dread. So if you don't want to read tonight don't stress about it; sing to her. If you don't want to sing, play with her. If you don't want to play, talk to her.  Talking, reading, and singing are all equally important for your child's language and vocabulary development. But I am a children's librarian, and I promote reading to children, so you know I can't let this post be published without at least one book recommendation right?  I'll recommend my oldest son's favorite book: 

I love read this story because it's short; and gives me encouraging words when I am tired and reading to my boys feels like one more chore to complete.  I hope you find the words encouraging as well.

Read To Your Bunny, written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Photographs of families in the Eastmont Branch, and a few shameless photos of my own family.

Read to your bunny often

It's 20 minutes of fun

 

It's 20 minutes of moonlight

It's 20 minutes of sun

It's 20 old favorite minutes

It's 20 minutes brand new

 

Read to your bunny often and

Your bunny will read to you.

I'll admit I don't follow the recommended time of 20 minutes at home.   I don't bother to watch the clock, I just read a story. If the book takes 5 minutes I read for 5 minutes. Some of your babies favorite books will take less than 5 minutes to read aloud.  Don't feel pressured to read for a set amount of time.  And sometimes, when I am really pressed for time, I just put a bunch of books on the floor and let the boys "read" to themselves. (touching books counts)

Hey mom, I get it. I'm busy, you're busy,  who has time sit down and to read to babies? Well if you wait for that perfect television inspired moment with the kids all snuggly in the pajamas in their bed you will never have time to read with them. So look for unconventional moments to read to your baby.  For example: when my boys where younger I'd read to them while they played in the bathtub. Multitasking at its finest!

Now, I read paperback romance novels out loud to my one year old and library textbooks to my cat (fur babies count right?)

Why?  My baby doesn't care what I read to him. As long as I am engaging with him he's happy; and I need adult level reading in my life!  A bonus, he falls asleep on my lap while I am reading him a story I enjoy.

So relax and have fun with your baby as you talk, read, play and sing to her. Don't stress over what you "should be" doing, and please don't feel pressured to "do it right." As they say "just do you Boo."  You and your baby will be just fine. BTW: I think you are an awesome parent!  

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. Help! My preschooler won't sit through a whole picture book!

Q: My Preschool-aged child is having trouble paying attention while I read her an entire picture book. Can you suggest books that will better hold her interest?

A: First of all, don’t get frustrated if your child isn’t paying attention to books as long as you would like them to—it’s totally normal for kiddos to tire of a book or get distracted before you think reading time should be over. The important thing is to make reading a fun and special time, so if your child becomes restless go ahead and move on to another activity! You can always return and finish the book when your child is ready.

Oakland Public Library also has MANY interactive and sensory-friendly read-aloud picture books that will grab your kiddo’s attention and not let go! Interactive picture books are a great way to involve your child in the story, by asking them questions, inviting them to dance or move around, or providing flaps to lift.

Check out these super fun and interactive picture books at your local Oakland Public Library branch—or put these on hold in our online catalog using your library card!

Wiggle book jacketWiggle by Doreen Cronin

This rhyming picture book encourages kids to do something they’re already good at: wiggling! As the book asks questions and encourages participation (“Can you wiggle in the water? Wiggle one fin on each side”) wiggle along with your kids and join in the fun!

Can You Make a Scary Face jacketCan You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

The narrator of this funny, action-packed picture book talks directly to the reader (“Hey, you! Yes, I’m talking to you! Stand up!”), and encourages kids to get up and move, dance, pretend, and—of course—make a scary face! Great to read one-on-one with your kiddo or to a group of children.

Press Here book jacketPress Here by Herve Tullet

This book begins with a single yellow dot on a white page, and invites you and your child to follow the clear, simple instructions (“Press here and turn the page”). Watch your child’s excitement grow as each action builds to a satisfying finale! Besides being a lot of fun, this picture books offers learning opportunities such as following instructions, practicing left vs. right and up vs. down, and identifying colors.

Peek-a-Moo book jacketPeek-a-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti

Kids love books with flaps to lift, and kids love books with guessing games—and this picture book has both! It’s a simple premise—which animal is playing peek-a-boo?  Invite your child to guess which barnyard animal is hiding behind the flap, and then have fun learning animal names and sounds together! (“Guess who? Peek-a-COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO! Says the Rooster!”)

Your local library branch will have lots more wonderful picture books that encourage participation and will grab your child’s attention. If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help. 

As always, if you have a comment, leave it below, and if you have a question you'd like us to answer online, click the button below.

It's Summer at Your Library!

The Oakland Public Library has reading, fun, and adventure for children, teens, and adults this summer.

Smiling girlWe invite you to hang out, play, meet new people, and read for fun this summer.

Studies show that kids who don’t read during the summer lose approximately two months’ worth of gains made during the school year.  But we have you covered, with the kids Summer Reading Challenge.  

We know (because studies also show!) that when kids choose their own reading, they enjoy reading more, and when reading is fun, they become better readers.  We'd like to celebrate your child's summer experiences by rewarding them for reading, which they can track in their own reading log.  Come to any Oakland Library to pick one up.

While you're here, check out our amazing activities and performances. Music, puppets, marble runs, an instrument petting zoo and a live animal petting zoo...there's always something to do at your library. 

Baby Bounce ProgramCelebrate reading with the whole family. 

Any child can participate in the Summer Reading Challenge whether they know how to read or not.  Even babies are learning important literacy skills when you or another loved one read to them.  Read together, read often, it all counts, because it all makes a difference.  

You can also get prizes for your own reading, for attending a library program or bringing a friend to the library, or checking out a free Discover & Go pass.  Just ask for an Adult Summer Reading raffle card at any location.  And, yes, your teenager too!

Girl and boy reading togetherStart now.  Here's our favorite reads. 

We love to talk to you and your children at the library to find the perfect book, but your can always browse our favorites at our Great Reads page.   We also love OUSD's Elementary Summer Reading list, and hope you will try our new service, Beanstack. Set up a free account and select your child's age, interests, and reading level. You’ll receive a weekly email with recommended books from the Oakland Public Library!

We've got plenty in store...

Don't miss our end of summer extravaganza at the Oakland Museum, or that special event that just right for you and you child.  We are also serving free lunch for youth at many of our libraries. Check out out events calendar any day this summer.  We can't wait to see you. 

Girl eating lunch in the library

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.