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.

Travel Books for Kids

If you’re looking for a little adventure this season, check out the library’s selection of travel books for kids! They describe lands both near and far, highlighting aspects of each destination that young readers are especially interested in exploring. Take an armchair tour through California, Mexico, and beyond with some of these exciting informational books:

For younger readers

All Aboard! book coverCountry Explorers Ghana book coverIn New York book coverOff We Go to Mexico book coverOur California book coverThis Plane book coverWe're Riding on a Caravan book cover

All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet / by Chris Demarest; illus. by Bill Mayer

Country Explorers series / Lerner Publications

In New York / by Marc Brown

Off We Go to Mexico / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Christopher Corr

Our California / by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Rafael López

This Plane / by Paul Collicutt

We're Riding on a Caravan: An Adventure on the Silk Road / by Laurie Krebs; illus. by Helen Cann

For older readers

Enchantment of the World Pakistan book coverGo, Go America book coverHow Do you Burp in Space? book coverMy Yosemite book coverNational Geographic Kids World Atlas book coverNational Parks book coverNot-for-Parents Wonders of the World book coverTop to Bottom Down Under book cover

Enchantment of the World series / Children's Press

Go, Go America / by Dan Yaccarino

How Do You Burp in Space?: And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know / by Susan Goodman; illus. by Michael Slack

My Yosemite: A Guide for Young Adventurers / by Mike Graf; illus. by Annette Filice

National Geographic Kids World Atlas / National Geographic

National Parks: A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks / by Erin McHugh; art by Neal Aspinall, Doug Leen, and Brian Maebius

Not-for-Parents guidebook series / Lonely Planet

Top to Bottom Down Under / by Ted & Betsy Lewin

Hands-On Science Books

During this season of colder weather and shorter days, you can find plenty of inspiration for activities to do with kids in the science section of the library. These are just a handful of our favorite books that help curious kids explore the world around them through scientific experimentation. Check them out!:

Crazy Concoctions book coverExploratopia book coverExploratorium Science Snackbook Series book coverHead to Toe Science book coverKitchen Science Experiments book coverNatural Disasters book coverScience Experiments you can Eat book coverScore! Sports Science Projects book coverSmash it! Crash it! Launch it! book coverWhose Fingerprints are These? book cover

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist's Guide to Messy Mixtures / Jordan Brown; illus. by Anthony Owsley

Exploratopia / Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and staff of the Exploratorium; illus. by Jason Gorski

Exploratorium Science Snackbook SeriesPaul Doherty, Don Rathjen, and the Exploratorium Teacher Institute

Head to Toe Science: Over 40 Eye-popping, Spine-tingling, Heart-pounding Activities that Teach Kids about the Human Body / Jim Wiese

Kitchen Science Experiments: How does your Mold Garden Grow? / Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen; illus. by Edward Miller

Natural Disasters: Investigate Earth's most Destructive Forces: With 25 Projects / Kathleen Reilly; illus. by Tom Casteel

Science Experiments you can Eat / Vicki Cobb; illus. by David Cain

Score!: Sports Science Projects series / by various authors

Smash it! Crash it! Launch it!: 50 Mind-blowing, Eye-popping Science Experiments / Rain Newcomb & Bobby Mercer

Whose Fingerprints Are These?: Crime-solving Science Projects / Robert Gardner

Concept Books for Kids

Of all the picture books in the library, concept books are arguably some of the most useful. Alphabet books help young readers recognize letters and learn their ABCs, while counting books support early math skills. Toddlers and preschoolers may strengthen their understanding of many more concepts, such as color, size, shape, time, and opposites, through books at the library. Some branches have a special section for children's concept books; ask a staff member to help you find them!
Here are some of our favorites to get you started:


Calavera Abecedario book coverChicka Chicka Boom Boom book coverD is for Dragon Dance book coverDr. Seuss's ABCs book coverEating the Alphabet book coverIf Rocks Could Sing book coverLMNO Peas book coverRacecar Alphabet book coverSuperhero ABC book coverZ is for Moose book coverZ was Zapped book cover


Big Fat Hen book coverFish Eyes book coverFeast for 10 book coverMouse Count book coverRichard Scarry's Best Counting Book Ever book coverTen Black Dots book cover10 Minutes to Bedtime book coverTen Terrible Dinosaurs book cover

More Concepts

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!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Superhero books for my 4-year-old; bad idea or good idea?

Q: My child wants to read about superheroes, but those DC & Marvel comic books are too violent! Do you have anything for younger kids?  He’s only 4 years old. Kapow by O'Connor

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.

Wonder Woman by CosentinoClever 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: Courageous Captain America by Thomas

  1. Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults). The Mighty Thor by Thomas
  2. Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.Nino Wrestles the World by Morales

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:

Astonishing Secrets of Awesome Man  Batman by Cosentino  Superman by Cosentino  Max by Graham  Lucha Libre by Garza  Art Dog by Hurd  Marveltown by McCall  SuperHero ABC by McLeod  Superhero School by Reynolds  Superhero by Tauss  The Amazing Spider-man, an Origin Story by Thomas  Avengers, an Origin Story by Thomas  Wolverine, an Origin Story by Thomas  

There are a few board books:

Superman Fights for Truth by Lemke.  Batman is Brave by Lemke

...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:

Fashion Kitty series  Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series  Squish Super Amoeba series  DC Super Friends series  Tiny Titans series

Enjoy this one last book!

Kung Pow Chicken series

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:  and click on the "Project Views" link.

To find our storytime schedule, check the OPL calendar:

Play with your Words

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!

CDB book coverDear Deer book coverE-mergency book coverFollow Follow book coverOn Beyond Zebra book coverPalindromania! book coverPhantom Tollbooth book coverRrralph book coverRunny Babbit book coverSix Sheep Sip Thick Shakes book coverSmart Feller Fart Smeller book coverWumbers book cover

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

Palindromania! / Jon Agee
Phantom tollbooth / Norton Juster; illus. by Jules Feiffer
Rrralph / Lois Ehlert
Runny Babbit: a billy sook / Shel Silverstein
Six sheep sip thick shakes: and other tricky tongue twisters / Brian P. Cleary; illus. by Steve Mack

Smart feller fart smeller: and other spoonerisms / Jon Agee

Wumbers: it's a word cr8ed with a numbers! / Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illus. by Tom Lichtenheld

Writing and Reading

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.

Child Drawing

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.

Spooky Stories! Mwah-hah-hahhh

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):

Humbug Witch book coverIn a Dark Dark Wood book coverSkeleton Hiccups book coverHubknuckles book coverGhosts in the house book coverLos Gatos Black on HalloweenDragon's Halloween book coverBig Pumpkin book coverLittle old lady who was not afraid of anything book cover

Humbug witch / Lorna Balian
In a dark, dark wood : an old tale with a new twist / David A. Carter
Skeleton hiccups / by Margery Cuyler ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Hubknuckles / Emily Herman ; pictures by Deborah Kogan Ray
Ghosts in the house! / Kazuno Kohara
Los gatos black on Halloween / Marisa Montes ; illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Dragon's Halloween : Dragon's fifth tale / Dav Pilkey
Big pumpkin / Erica Silverman ; illustrated by S.D. Schindler
The little old lady who was not afraid of anything / by Linda Williams ; illustrated by Megan Lloyd

Truly Frightening (for older readers):

 House With a clock in its Walls book coverCoraline book coverTailypo book coverWait Till Helen Comes book coverBunnicula book coverHeadless Horseman Rides Tonight book coverScary Stories to Tell in the Dark book coverBoy of a thousand Faces book coverGoosebumps book cover
The house with a clock in its walls / John Bellairs ; pictures by Edward Gorey
Coraline / Neil Gaiman ; with illustrations by Dave McKean
The tailypo : a ghost story / told by Joanna Galdone ; illustrated by Paul Galdone
Wait till Helen comes : a ghost story / Mary Downing Hahn
Bunnicula book series / by Deborah and James Howe
The Headless Horseman rides tonight : more poems to trouble your sleep / by Jack Prelutsky ; illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Scary stories to tell in the dark book series / collected from American folklore by Alvin Schwartz
The boy of a thousand faces / by Brian Selznick