Singing 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:
We 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.
We 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!
A: Yes, we do! Here's a list of titles you can read aloud to your kids today – all of them about superheroes, most aimed at younger kids, ages 3 to 6.
The past decade has seen an explosion of picture books about superheroes. Many parents are concerned about violence in books and other media for children, and the basic idea of a superhero is that there's a bad guy to stop. If there's a bad guy, there's a strong likelihood that there's going to be fighting, maybe blood, and possibly death.
Clever authors & illustrators have managed to craft stories that include all the positive elements of superheroes (standing up for what's right, working together as a team, using your own special abilities, helping others, and wearing a cape) while de-emphasizing the terrible elements of the evil villains. In these books, the villains are not indestructible, the violence is off-screen, the battle doesn’t cause massive destruction, and the bad guy is stopped - not killed.
If you are hesitant to read these books aloud to your child, here are some further thoughts on reading violent books to children. First, there are books for every emotional, social, and intellectual stage of development. Can a case be made in favor of books that contain “violence” that is appropriate to each level? Consider these observations from the Children's Librarian's Desk:
- Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults).
- Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
- Reading superhero books does not seem to make a child more violent. (There is a little recent research on comic books and other literature with superheroes. However, anecdotally, my observations of library patrons indicate that readers become thinkers, and thinkers take a breath before they act violently.)
- Violence and aggression still exist in the real world, and many children are already trying to make sense of it. Even children who have been spared the direct experience of violence (or of witnessing it) meet other children who are experiencing it and they observe & interact with them with or without the presence and guidance of adults.
- Reading aloud together is an excellent way to start a dialogue about violence, consequences, and justice. The characters in literature can be good or bad examples, and while reading, you can discuss the best way to resolve conflict, recognize violence, avoid aggressors, and keep yourself safe.
It's important to choose books that are right for your individual child -- luckily, most books for 4-year-olds are short enough so you can pre-read them and get ready to answer questions, discuss ideas, and give real-life examples. You can avoid those books that may be a trigger of specific fears -- until you both are ready to read them.
It makes sense to avoid gratuitous bloodshed, exploitative costumes, and stories about truly depraved, twisted evil-doers, and stick instead to superheroes who fight simple crimes and lay out the concepts of consequences and justice plainly.
Isn't there something wonderful about super-powers, heroism, and winning a righteous fight? Even young children appreciate the vivid images of that glorious moment, of overcoming adversity, of standing proudly together, of your cape flowing in the wind!
The Picture Books that seem to me to best capture the awesomeness of superheroes, while respecting the sensibilities of younger readers are these:
There are a few board books:
...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:
Enjoy this one last book!
I 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
Kids love to play, and librarians love to see kids playing with words! Visit your local library to find these books full of palindromes, puns, spoonerisms, homophones, and much more. And let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!
C D B! / William Steig
Dear deer: a book of homophones / Gene Barretta
E-mergency! / Tom Lichtenheld, Ezra Fields-Meyer
Follow follow: a book of reverso poems / Marilyn Singer; illus. by Josée Masse
On beyond zebra / Dr. Seuss
Wumbers: it's a word cr8ed with a numbers! / Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Tom Lichtenheld
The skills needed to learn how to read and write are connected in children's brains. In order to ready your child for reading, try some of these easy and fun writing activities:
FOR BABIES: Of course your baby is not ready to read or write just yet, but learning to recognize shapes is the first step towards acquiring those skills. So point out different shapes you see and describe them to your child. Find things that are round, such as balls, and let your child explore them. Boxes are all around you; let your child play with a cardboard box and talk about squares and rectangles. Playing with simple shape and color puzzles will also help develop these skills.
FOR TODDLERS: Keep playing with shapes but also have fun introducing alphabet letters. Toddlers love hearing their names, Expand the sound of your toddler's name by writing it on all sorts of surfaces, on paper, with blocks or magnetic letters, on chalkboards or even with water. Identify each of the letters in their name.
Print is everywhere. Help your child notice alphabet letters by pointing out the names on food containers, words on road signs and names of stores. Point out letters to your toddler as you go through your day.
Let your toddler try writing! Scribbles are a great way of strengthening their fine motor skills. Fat crayons are great at helping them grip crayons without their breaking.
FOR PRESCHOOLERS: Play "I Spy" to find letters in the room. Silently choose something that your child can see. Say, "I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter (name a letter) What is it?"
Play games like "We are going to a place to eat whose name begins with the letter "B." Where do you think we are going?"
Sing the alphabet song while pointing to the letters of the alphabet.
Writing can be done anywhere: in the sand or dirt, on a chalkboard, in a pan filled with rice or flour, with a piece of yarn, with blocks, and even in the tub. Make writing letters a game you play every day.
Most kids love a good scare, and Halloween is the perfect time to give it to them. Find these spooky stories at a library near you, and let us know in the comments if we missed any of your favorites!
Slightly Spooky (for younger kids):
Truly Frightening (for older readers):
Vivid. Colorful. Captivating. Nic Bishop’s nature photography is all this and more! His exciting insect and animal books, effectively designed for young readers, feature eye-popping images that satisfy children’s curiosity about the natural world. These are, quite simply, some of today’s best science books published for kids, and they’re available at your local library!
Bishop has been creating kids’ books for over 25 years, and is an experienced photographer both in the studio and in the field. Check out the trailer for his book, Spiders, for a glimpse into his creative process:
Animals and Insects
Chameleon, Chameleon / story by Joy Cowley
Red-eyed Tree Frog / story by Joy Cowley
Scientists in the Field series
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot / text by Sy Montgomery (2011 Sibert Medal winner)
Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes / text by Ellen Jackson
Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea / text by Sy Montgomery
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia / text by Sy Montgomery
Snake Scientist / text by Sy Montgomery
Tarantula Scientist / text by Sy Montgomery
Here’s an understatement for you: train books are popular at the library. They have the power to capture the attention and imagination of wiggly toddlers, curious preschoolers, and knowledgeable school-aged kids alike. They inspire squeals of delight when discovered and, sometimes, tears of despair when returned! Come find these tried-and-true books at the library for the train lover in your life:
Trains / Byron Barton
And the train goes-- / William Bee
Freight train / Donald Crews
Down by the station / by Jennifer Riggs Vetter ; illus. by Frank Remkiewicz
Trains : steaming! pulling! huffing! / by Patricia Hubbell ; illus. by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
The caboose who got loose / Bill Peet
The little engine that could / retold by Watty Piper ; pictures by Loren Long
I saw an ant on the railroad track / by Joshua Prince ; illus. by Macky Pamintuan
Seymour Simon's book of trains / Seymour Simon
Want to discover a library secret? Go ahead and take a trip to the 782 section of the children’s nonfiction shelves and you’ll discover something amazing. Hidden treasures! Picture books that are meant to be SUNG! Some are traditional, others are silly – but all are crowdpleasing. Here are a few recommendations to warm up your singing voice:
Baby Beluga / Raffi; illustrations by Ashley Wolff
Down by the Station / Jennifer Riggs Vetter; illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz
Hush, Little Baby / adapted and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! / Karen Beaumont; illustrated by David Catrow
I Love You! A Bushel & a Peck / Frank Loesser; pictures by Rosemary Wells
Let's Play in the Forest While the Wolf is not Around / Claudia Rueda
Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy / Jan Thomas
Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes / Eric Litwin; art by James Dean
The Seals on the Bus / Lenny Hort; illustrated by G. Brian Karas