Great Books and more

Black History Homework Re-Imagined!

Yesterday while talking to my friend who is a teacher she was bemoaning how bored she was with Black History and how she wished she could just "cancel the whole thing." 

To say I wasn't thrilled with her comments was an understatement.

But trying to give my soon to be ex-friend the benefit of the doubt, I asked her to clairify her statements. She continues by saying that although she enjoys celebrating Black History and loves the oratorical  competitions, she absolutely HATES reading 25 biographies about President Obama, 5 about Michele Obama and maybe 3 about a current Black celebrity or athlete. 

And just when I was about to shout 

she finished her diatribe with a very interesting statement: "I want to encourage the children to learn about someone or something  new when completing the Black History reports, not go with the easy topics just to get the homework done."

Let's just say I had a 

 and asked my new BFF a follow-up question: "You want your students to become engaged in the homework assigment as a part of celebrating Black History?" 

"YES!" She exclaimed. "And learn about someone they never heard of, and become inspired and ...."

"Well I'd love to help you with that." I told her. She looked at me skeptically and asked "How? I can't ditch the written report requirement, I have curriculum standards to adhere to ya know."

My reply was simple,

 

After brainstorming several ideas my Bestie's 5th grade Black History report assignment has been modified. Instead of writing about a biographical report about a historically significant Black American person, they will be writing about a significant EVENT or ORGNIZATION in Black  history. Some of which include:

  • Negro Baseball League
  • Port Chicago Mutiny
  • NAACP
  • Pullman Porters
  • Freedom Rides
  • Black Panther Party
  • Tuskegee Airmen
  • Tuskegee  Experiment
  • Buffalo Soldiers 
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Divine Nine
  • The Great Migration
  • HBCUs
  • 1968 Olympics

Once we were done she said, "hey, you are really good at this!" And I'm like " uh yeah! I'm a librarian, it's what I do."  

So if you need help with your student's Black History reports come to any branch of the OPL library and we will help you too. It's what we do! 

Introducing Cleo!

Cleo Edison Oliver will be your boss someday. For now, she attends the fifth grade, endures her mom's health food experiments, and dreams up new businesses. She also wonders about her birth parents; Cleo is adopted, and has two adopted younger brothers. How should Cleo react when kids at school tease her for being adopted? And what makes her family her family? 

Cleo's world is warm and supportive, and readers will appreciate the strong depiction of a multiracial family: her father and brothers are African-American, her mother is White, and Cleo herself is Filipina and African-American. Readers who love the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker will love Cleo, too, for her scrapes and flashes of inspiration.

CLEO EDISON OLIVER: PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE is by Sundee T. Frazier, and just launched this week, so keep an eye out for her! OPL has already ordered copies, and you can reserve yours today.

#Winning: the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards

Big news from the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards! This year's Newbery Medal went to LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, a picture book by Matt de la Peña--notable because the Newbery is the award for outstanding writing, not illustration. There's only been one other picture book in the almost-100 years the award has existed that beat every novel released that year for the esteemed prize.

de la Peña, who's most known for his young adult novels, is also the first Latino to win the Newbery Medal. (Paula Fox, who is Latina, won the award in 1974.)

LAST STOP's illustrator wasn't left out of the party--Christian Robinson garnered Honors for both the Caldecott and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Read about all the Youth Media Award winners and honor books here.... or just follow the links below and request your OPL copy today!

WINNERS:

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, by Matt de la Peña, illus. Christian Robinson
Winner, Newbery
Honor, Caldecott
Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator
(also available as a readaloud ebook!)

FINDING WINNIE: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS BEAR, by Lindsay Mattick, illus. Sophie Blackall
Winner, Caldecott

BONE GAP, by Laura Ruby
Winner, Printz
(also available as an ebook)

GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA, by Rita Williams-Garcia
Winner, Coretta Scott King- Author

TROMBONE SHORTY, by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, illus. Bryan Collier
Winner, Coretta Scott King- Illustrator

HOODOO, by Ronald L. Smith
Winner, Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award for New Talent- Author

VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOU HAMER, SPIRIT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. Ekua Holmes
Winner, Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award for New Talent- Illustrator

EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, by Laurie Ann Thompson, illus. Sean Qualls
Winner, Schneider Family- Children 0-10

FISH IN A TREE, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Winner, Schneider Family- Middle grade (tie)
(also available as an ebook and downloadable audiobook)

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Winner, Schneider Family- Middle grade (tie)
(also available as an ebook and downloadable audiobook)

THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B, by Teresa Toten
Winner, Schneider Family- Young adult
(also available as an ebook)

THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY, by Béatrice Alemagna
Winner, Batchelder

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE (AUDIO RECORDING)
Winner, Odyssey

DRUM DREAM GIRL: HOW ONE GIRL'S COURAGE CHANGED MUSIC, by Margarita Engle, illus. Rafael López
Winner, Pura Belpré- Illustrator

ENCHANTED AIR: TWO CULTURES, TWO WINGS: A MEMOIR, by Margarita Engle
Winner, Pura Belpré- Author

FUNNY BONES: POSADA AND HIS DAY OF THE DEAD CALAVERAS, by Duncan Tonatiuh
Winner, Sibert

GEORGE, by Alex Gino
Winner, Stonewall- Children's
(also available as an ebook)

THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH, by Bill Konigsburg
Winner, Stonewall- Young adult

DON'T THROW IT TO MO! by David A. Adler, illus. Sam Ricks
Winner, Geisel

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli
Winner, Morris

MOST DANGEROUS: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR, by Steve Sheinkin
Winner, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. What books do you have for and about Muslim children?

Q: I’m looking for books to help our Muslim students feel welcome, and give the rest of the class some ideas of what it means for their classmates to be Muslim. Where do you keep books about Muslims for kids? I need books for kindergarten through third grade.

A: I made a short list of books that were recommended online by Muslim parents and teachers. Some of these stand alone as interesting stories with as much explanation as any non-Muslim reader would need to get a feeling for an aspect of the culture or practices in the Muslim community, and some of them are for Muslim children, so they don't explain every single thing. In those cases, they could work as a starting point for a dialogue. 

I hope these books increase our understanding of friends' traditions and celebrations. Trading and sharing information gives us an opportunity to become familiar with the small and large aspects of each others' lives so we can find ways to connect with one another.

Picture books

Picture books found under non-fiction (about holidays or religion)

Slightly longer books

Most of these ideas came from these 3 great sources of reading suggestions:  Isra Hashmi, Shirin Sinnar, Rukhsana Khan, with much-appreciated help from my colleague Arewa. There are other wonderful books in the library by, for, or about Muslims, these are simply a place to start.

We'd like to hear your favorites! Leave us a comment below.

As always, Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians are standing by to answer your questions. Submit a question by clicking on the button.

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: Which is your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

Q: What's your favorite book about Thanksgiving for ages 3 to 7?

A: Any question that begins with "What is your favorite..." is hard for me to answer, because my moods change, my tastes change, and new things are constantly coming into my consciousness. Also, it's my job to imagine what might be someone else's favorite.  cover of Circle of Days by Lindbergh

Having said that, I do have a favorite Thanksgiving book! It is Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh - every time I read it, it puts me in the mood to be thankful for the total experience of living on a planet that is full of wonderful as well as terrible things. The text is from Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun; as a secular humanist, I choose to change a couple of words when I read it aloud. It is a beautiful and meditative book. 

cover of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by RobertsonA book that has recently come into my consciousness is Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson - this one has even more darkness in it, but is a vision for love and unity. Over the past year, many children have witnessed the turmoil in the world, and I am thankful that some authors and illustrators have crafted stories that bring us from fear and hate toward love and unity. I am also thankful that we have alternatives to the mis-portrayals of Native Americans that are ubiquitous at this time of year. If you'd like to read more authentic stories from the native people of North America, look to this blog.

cover of Our Community Garden by Pollak

The harvest feast with my family is the best thing about having a few days off of work and school in my opinion. I really appreciate books that show growing and eating food as a fun, beautiful, community endeavor. One great example (among many books on this topic!) is Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollak, which puts the focus on children's contribution to the harvest, and includes foods from a variety of cultures - plus it is set in the Bay Area!    

 Lado a Lado by FullertonCalifornia's Central Valley is home to dramatic episodes in the historical struggle for the rights of farmworkers, and people who (like me) make an annual trip down I5 will especially want to know this history. If you grew up here, you know about the grape boycot, and you might already include farmworkers in your thankful thoughts. Here's a book short enough to read at the rest stop when you're driving down to your SoCal relatives' dinner: Side by Side : The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez (Lado a Lado : La Historia de Dolores Huerta y César Chávez) by Monica Brown

 

If you are looking for a book about Thanksgiving history, try 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, which presents history alongside many commonly held myths about this holiday.  It may be a little beyond your 3-7 year old, but it is a nice text to pull and learn from.

It's easy to search a library catalog for "Thanksgiving" - it's more complex to find books that will help your family make meaning of the holiday. I hope my suggestions lead you to a favorite book to read when you are eating your favorite foods - and it doesn't have to be turkey, either.

Now it's your turn to submit a question. Click on the button, or leave a comment.  Thank you!

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide--Children's Books

We have a confession to make: we librarians LOVE IT when you buy books. LOVE!! And we know you want to give exactly the right book. 

So, without further ado, OPL is proud to present its first ever Holiday Gift Guide. These are books we love and want you and your loved ones to read, ones that are 99% guaranteed not to garner this reaction. And as if that weren't great enough, we're capping it off with a list of local indie bookstores where you can buy these gems. (Call ahead to confirm availability!)

Click here for our Graphic Novel Gift Guide!

Click here for suggestions for adult and YA readers!

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Children's List 

For babies and toddlers

    

Frida: counting with / contando con
Patty Rodríguez, Ariana Stein, and Citlali Reyes
We can't get enough of the Lil' Libros series. Buy it for: bebés artísticos.

Global baby bedtimes
Maya Ajmera
Babies love to look at faces, and you won’t find a cuter collection than in the “Global Baby” books. In this one, they are soooooo sleepy. Buy it for: new parents.

Supertruck
Steven Savage
Every truck has an important job except for one—until he becomes Supertruck! Buy it for: the truck obsessed. It won’t disappoint.

For silly billies

  

The princess and the pony
Kate Beaton
Princess Pinecone wants a pony for her birthday, but not THIS pony! Buy it for: the preschooler to whom you’ve read the same princess book a thousand times.

Vegetables in underwear
Jared Chapman
I wear underwear, you wear underwear, and—turnips wear underwear?! They sure do. Buy it for: any kid who’s ever run through the house in their drawers.

For fierce individualists

    

Niño wrestles the world
Yuyi Morales
Niño can fight and defeat terrifying luchadores like Cabeza Olmeca and la Momia de Guanajuato! Buy it for: niños y niñas who love lucha libre.

Ballet Cat: the totally secret secret
Bob Shea
There’s nothing Ballet Cat loves more than ballet—well, almost nothing. Buy it for: little ballerinas who like a funny story.

Puffy: people whose hair defies gravity
Aya de Leon
“Puffy here, puffy there; yay! I love my puffy hair.” A celebration of natural black hair by an Oaklander. Buy it for: families who love their puffs and fros. 

For families who love the Bay (and who doesn't?)

    

Last stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson
CJ and his nana don’t need a car—they have a bus that breathes fire! Buy it for: families who appreciate the little things.

Neighborhood sharks
Katherine Roy
Visit the great white sharks who live around the Farallon Islands. Buy it for: budding marine biologists.

For kids who've already found Waldo

The world of Mamoko in the time of dragons
Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska
Mamoko is the best thing to happen to search-and-find books since the dude in the red-and-white striped hat. Buy it for: puzzle lovers of all ages.

For older readers

        

Unusual chickens for the exceptional poultry farmer
Kelly Jones
Sophie Brown is new in town and has some magical chickens to deal with. Buy it for: fans of Roald Dahl.

George
Alex Gino
This groundbreaking novel about a transgender child is written by an Oakland resident. Buy it for: readers who love stories about defining who you are.

Ellray Jakes the recess king
Sally Warner
The Ellray Jakes series is one of the best going for middle graders. Buy it for: class clowns.

Gone crazy in Alabama
Rita Williams Garcia
The Gaither sisters trilogy draws to an exciting, funny, and warm conclusion. Buy it for: oldest siblings.

Brown girl dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson
A beautiful memoir-in-verse of growing up to be a writer in an African-American family. Buy it for: aspiring novelists and poets.

Graphic novels? Well...........

We literally had too many to mention, so the graphic novels have their own list. Click here!

Oakland Indie Bookstores

Remember to call before you visit if you're looking for particular titles. 

Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway. 452-9232
Pegasus- Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800

Looking for graphic novels? Look here!

Go here for adult and YA recommendations.

OPL 2015 Holiday Gift Guide--Graphic Novels

We loved so many graphic novels lately, we gave them their own list! Try Dr. Comics and Mr. Games of Oakland for these, though a couple are self published and can be purchased directly from the artists. Follow the links!

We've grouped them under the age of the youngest appropriate reader, but any of the kids' and YA titles may be loved by adults too.

Kids

For kids' books that aren't comics, click here.

          

Flop to the Top
Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing
A silly story about an internet-famous dog. Buy it for: kids obsessed with selfies.

Written and Drawn by Henrietta
Liniers (available in Spanish)
Henrietta drawself as the star of her own story. Buy it for: little cartoonists.

Lost in NYC: a subway adventure
Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez (available in Spanish)
What if you got lost on a field trip--in New York City? Buy it for: the kid who navigates every drive.

El Deafo
Cece Bell
This graphic memoir about growing up with a hearing impairment is an instant charmer. Buy it for: real-life superheroes.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor
Nathan Hale
In the latest installment of this silly history series, Harriet Tubman comes to life. Buy it for: kids who like to laugh and learn.

Sisters and Smile
Raina Telgemeier
Really, just anything by Raina Telgemeier. Buy it for: tweens who like real-life stories.

Roller girl
Victoria Jamieson
Can Astrid survive roller derby camp without her best friend? Buy it for: derby fans.

Princeless
Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin
The fairy tales you wish you'd had growing up. Buy it for: kids who are over Cinderella.

Lumberjanes
Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
You'll love these campers and their crazy adventures. Buy it for: anyone just a little too young for Scott Pilgrim.

Nimona
Noelle Stevenson
Sassy Nimona wants to be a sidekick--but what is she, really? Buy it for: everyone. Everyone should read this book.

YA

For YA and adult books that aren't comics, click here.

      

In real life
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Anda, a hero in the game Coarsegold, befriends a boy across the world named Raymond.  Instead of just playing the game for fun, Raymond’s life depends on his avatar’s success. Buy it for: comic fans and gamers.  

Through the woods
Emily Carroll
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel includes five chilling stories. Buy it for: horror fans. 

Tomboy
Liz Prince
Find out how Liz navigates this world when Liz doesn’t feel like a boy or a girl. Buy it for: the graphic novel and memoir enthusiast.

Ms. Marvel
G. Willow Wilson
Muslim- American Kamala loves the Avengers and wants to fit in with the popular kids. Despite her desire to be “normal,” she possesses shape shifting abilities. Buy it for: comic fans who are looking for something a little different.

The Shadow Hero
Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
An updated version of the classic The Green Turtle series, the first Asian American super hero. Buy it for: fans of super hero style comics and the hugely popular comic author Lang. 

Nothing can possibly go wrong
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
Charlie and Nate have an unlikely friendship that nearly ends when they have a war with the school cheerleaders. Buy it for: comedy fans who love the classic “nerds versus popular kids” type stories.

Adults

            

Killing and dying
Adrian Tomine
Six tales from a storyteller known for his cool illustrations, sharp observations and wry yet compassionate sense of humor. Buy it for: witty and moody indie readers.

Step aside, Pops!
Kate Beaton
Kate Beaton's webcomic Hark! a Vagrant is basically the best thing about the 21st century so far. Buy it for: anyone who loved her eponymous first collection.

Saga v. 1-5
Brian K. Vaughan
Saga is kind of impossible to describe. It's fierce, it's feminist, it's funny, and it's loaded with a$$-kicking aliens and ghosts. Buy it for: someone who wants to fall in love with a story--there's no end to this series in sight yet.

Syllabus
Lynda Barry
Lynda Barry is a phenomenon of a human (I'm not even sure she's human) and a pretty terrific teacher. This collection of her lecture notes and assignments for graphic novelists will inspire. Buy it for: that friend of yours who's always talking about maybe drawing a comic someday.

Whirlwind wonderland
Rina Ayuyang
A collection of little moments and stories by an Oakland artist. Ayuyang shows why traffic is your buddy, how to dance with Brad Pitt, and other lessons in charming ink drawings. Buy it for: someone who wants to slow down and notice things.

March, books 1 and 2
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Congressperson and Civil Rights leader John Lewis recounts his story in these first two volumes of a projected trilogy. The graphic format vividly depicts defining moments in the nonviolent struggle against segregation and inequality while Lewis’s point of view adds a personal edge. Buy it for: Activists, historians and anyone who could use some inspiration.

Fun home
Alison Bechdel
Although this graphic memoir came out almost a decade ago, the Broadway adaptation won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015—a great excuse to revisit this groundbreaking work! Fun home is a deeply personal tragicomedy about the author, her coming out story and her relationship with her family, especially her closeted father. Buy it for: Anyone who might enjoy reading someone else’s diary.

Drinking at the movies
Julia Wertz
Not that we want you to move to New York, but-- you will probably love this comic about moving from San Francisco to New York. Julia Wertz (of Fart Party fame) could not be funnier. Buy it for: that hard-to-impress stand-up comedian.

Domestic Times
Tessa Brunton
What's it REALLY like to live with a partner? How does anyone do it and stay sane? This hilarious comic is guaranteed to smooth over any domestic squabbles. Buy it for: your friends who just moved in together.

Get Jiro: blood and sushi
Anthony Bourdain
In near-future Los Angeles, a violent war is brewing between organic locavore purists and exotic internationalists, and famous sushi chef Jiro is slashing through the middle of the combat. Buy it for: food snobs with a taste for blood.

Sandman: overture deluxe edition
Neil Gaiman
This brand-new edition collects all six "Overture" stories, the prequel (more or less) to Gaiman's amazing Sandman series. Buy it for: Sandman fans.

Seconds
Bryan Lee O'Malley
The thoughtful and funny follow-up to O'Malley's blockbuster Scott Pilgrim series. Buy it for: anyone, and maybe buy them Scott Pilgrim while you're at it.

Thrilling adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (mostly) true story of the first computer
Sydney Padua
Victoriana! history! math! computer science! Buy it for: steampunk fans or your friend who just finished coding school.

Oakland Indie Bookstores

Remember to call before you visit if you're looking for particular titles. 

Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway. 452-9232
Pegasus- Oakland, 5560 College Ave. 652-6259
Marcus Bookstore, 3900 MLK Way. 652-2344
A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 LaSalle Ave. 339-8210
E. M. Wolfman, 410 13th St. 415-250-5527
Diesel Bookstore, 5433 College Ave. 653-9965
Walden Pond Books, 3319 Grand Ave. 832-4438
Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave. 601-7800

Q & A Patrons Ask, Librarians Answer: What is your favorite part of your job?

Usually I answer questions asked by adults. Today I am going to answer questions asked by children:

1. Who invented the Dewey Decimal System?

Melvil Dewey.

2. Was he a scientist?

No, he was a librarian.

3. You're kidding?

No. 

4. Tell the truth Ms. Nichole! Was Melvil Dewey a real person?

 I am not pulling your leg. Melvil Dewey was a real person. Read his online biography here or borrow this book:

               

5. What are the words to the "I love you" song you sing at storytime?

The song "Skinnamarink Dinky Dink" is what I sing at storytime. It is from my favorite childhood show.

If you are not feeling the love, some librarians like to "Go Bananas" at storytime. Here is one version of the song you can try at home:

6. What is your favorite part of your job?

Helping grown-ups solve real hard problems that will make your life better.  If I can help your mom or dad find a new house, or a new job, or something like that; I know that in a small way I have helped you. I am not always successful, but when I am it is the best feeling in the world.  I love helping people more than I love reading.

7. How do I become a librarian?

First, finish college and get a Bachelor's Degree in anything you want.  Next, get your Master's in Library Science from a school accredited by the American Library Assocation. There are two schools located in California and several programs are available online. And voila, you are now a librarian.

8. How many years of school is that?

Well, let's see.... your Bachelor's Degree is usually takes 4 - 5 years to complete and the average Master's Degree takes 2 - 3 years to complete so... you are looking at at least 6 years of school after you graduate high school. 

9. I don't want to go to school that long!

That's okay. Just like everyone who works in the hospital is not a doctor, everyone who works in a library is not a librarian. In addtition to librarians, we have library assistants, library aides, and library volunteers working in a library. Each job has different education requirements and not all of them require a master's degree, but all of them (except volunteers) require you finish high school. 

10. Do all librarians wear glasses?

Only the ones that don't wear contact lenses! Just kidding, glasses are not required. 

                                  

Coming soon: OPL's 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

So, we at the library love letting you borrow books for free. It's kind of our thing. But we know that when you give a book as a gift, you don't want to have to whisper "bring it back in three weeks" while receiving your thank you hug, do you? Sometimes, you really need to buy a book.

And boy, do we have thoughts about which books you should buy, and where you should buy them. That's why on November 12, OPL will release our first Holiday Gift Guide. We'll include recommended titles for the children, teens, and adults in your lives, AND a handy-dandy list of independent bookstores in Oakland! What more could you ask for?

While we're making our list and checking it twice,* chime in with your suggestions here. What books have you loved this year? Which are you planning to give as gifts? I'll go first and say that multiple people on my list will be getting Kate Beaton's two 2015 books: The Princess and the Pony for the kids, and Step Aside, Pops! for the.. big kids.

  

Comment here with your picks!

 

*It feels SO WRONG to say that when it's still 80 degrees out...

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. Where do you keep your Level K books?

Q: Where do you keep your Level K books?cover of a reading primer called I Know a Secret

A: The short answer is that Oakland Library doesn't label books with reading levels using any of systems associated with proprietary testing...

...however, we do have areas of the library that gather a range of reading levels together. This allows readers to browse an area that encompasses their reading level and includes choices of subjects, visual presentations, genres, and writing styles. Our hope is that (without too much effort) readers will find books that appeal to them and are close enough to their reading level. 

So, when you ask us for leveled books, let us show you to the section that includes the level you need. At that point, many readers decide to get any books that look interesting and seem close enough to the right level.

We basically have 4 categories; Readers, Moving Up, Fiction (I like to call these Chapter Books), and finally Picture Books, which often means books meant for an adult to read aloud to a child, but includes many different reading levels.  Also, we have Non-Fiction Readers, Regular Non-Fiction, and Picture-Book-Non-Fiction at most library locations, so a person can find informational books at different reading levels, too.  Photo of a family all reading in bed together

However, if we have time and you're committed to finding the specific suggested level, you can get any book that looks good, and we will look it up online to find out its reading level.  The process of looking up each title is time consuming, but it is very likely that you'll get a feel for the level after a dozen searches or fewer, and then you can guess the level yourself. We would use these sites to search by title; Scholastic, AR, or Lexile

The owners of these sites do not enter every book ever published, but between them, we can usually find your title. You can also use these sites to find other titles at the same reading level. In fact, trying that sort of search a few times will give you some perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of leveling books.

Colorful chart comparing systemsQ: What does level "R" mean, anyway? How do I make sense of those "proprietary" leveling systems?

A: Ah, you want the long answer!  At my last count I found three systems that use the alphabet ("Fountas & Pinnell", "Reading A-Z ", and "Basic Reading Inventory" or "BRI"), four that use a numbering system ("ATOS" or "Accelerated Reader", "Reading Recovery", "Developmental Reading Assessment" or "DRA", and "Lexile"), and two that use terms ("Seedling" and "PM Readers").  Occasionally we find a chart or two that compares them to one another. However, another system could be invented while you are reading this blog!

The easiest one for me to make sense of is ATOS, because the numbers correspond to the grade level and the month of the school year. For example, ATOS level 3.5 means your child is reading at a level most commonly seen among students in the fifth month of third grade. It's tidy because there are 10 months in a school year – Yay for decimal systems! For that reason, I use ATOS as my benchmark to which I relate all the other leveling systems. You don’t have to, though.

1965 cover of Fun With Our Friends Dick and JaneEach proprietary system uses some kind of algorithm to calculate the level based on either the entire text or a sample of the text, some with a differential for the length of the book. For fun, paste something into this ATOS analyzer.  For example, this text is level 8.9, but the vocabulary is only 3.5, that means it was challenging, but well-worth reading, right?  

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians are standing by to answer your questions! 

Click here to Ask a Question