About Lauren

Mama of two, librarian, geek. Lauren's favorite children's book is "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. (Saturday is the best!)

Classics for Kids: The Phantom Tollbooth

Book cover for The Phantom TollboothIf you are a librarian and also a parent, you might dream about your kids growing up to be word-nerds, just like you. Thanks to the bedtime ritual of reading chapter books to my youngest daughter, I recently had the deep pleasure of revisiting a childhood favorite full of wordplay: “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. I’m glad to report that the book holds up to the years that have passed since it was first published in 1961.

Grade-schooler Milo, the story’s hero, is always bored and uninterested, unable to see the wonder of the everyday world around him. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his bedroom, he travels to the Lands Beyond filled with incredible characters, like Tock the watchdog (with an actual clock face in his body) and a spelling bee (a bee who talks and, of course, spells). Continue reading

Giving Thanks for the Little Things

Book cover for Ask my kiddos what their favorite holidays are, and they choose Halloween and Christmas, “because of the candy!” My favorite special day, however, is Thanksgiving, and not just because I am a related to a number of skilled pie-bakers. I enjoy dedicating a whole day to spending time with loved ones, sharing a meal with parents, cousins and close friends. I appreciate the way the day makes me pause and appreciate all I have to be thankful for – healthy children, meaningful work, a roof overhead. A book recently added to the library’s collection made me realize how easy it is to encourage gratitude on any day. Amy Schwartz’s “100 Things That Make Me Happy” uses cheerful rhymes to catalog simple pleasures – a great antidote to the feelings of dissatisfaction, greed and false need that all of the holiday shopping advertisements can generate this time of year.

“Mud puddles/soap bubbles,” “Grandma’s lap/gingersnap” and “polka dots/forget-me-nots” represent a small sample of the clever pairings in this book. A bonus is that if you have an emerging reader, the rhyming words and the colorful pictures provide context clues that make puzzling out the longer words much easier. Continue reading

Spring Into Art

Book cover for Art Lab for KidsYour library has a number of resources for encouraging aspiring artists and for supporting arts education. You can check out St. Louis Art Museum Kits, which contain replicas of art objects and artifacts that can be handled and looked at up close, as well as posters, books and either audio cassettes or videos. We also have plenty of art books for creative kids, as well as artwork on display in all of our libraries, from the mural of historic photographs at the Southern Boone County Public Library to pieces of the Columbia Art League’s permanent collection exhibited at the Columbia Public Library.

We are pleased to announce a new, locally created online resource available to explore and teach kids about art. The Museum of Art and Archaeology has created “A Portrait of the Museum in 30 Objects.” Each entry has a high quality image of a museum artwork – from ancient Roman objects to paintings and multi-media sculpture – available for Continue reading

Black History Month and Kids Books About the Civil Rights Movement

Book cover for These Hands by Margaret MasonFebruary is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in our country’s history. This year, the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History has chosen the theme “Civil Rights in America” to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This law outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin in employment decisions and public accommodations, including restaurants, motels, hotels and theaters.

Talking about discrimination and race with kids can be tricky for parents and caregivers. Some of us hope that if we don’t point out racial differences, our kids will grow up with a sort of colorblindness and resistance to race-based stereotypes. However, research has shown that what this actually teaches kids is that race is a taboo topic, off-limits to discussion. In the well-researched book “Nurtureshock,” journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman recommend talking about skin color much like we talk about gender. People come in different colors, and it doesn’t matter if their skin is peach or brown, they can still be doctors, teachers, soccer players or judges.

There are a number of great books to introduce school-aged kids to the history of the fight for racial equality in the United States in an age-appropriate way. Here are just a few that I recommend. Continue reading

Websites We Love: myHistro

Logo for myHistro website“Tell me a story.” This is a frequent request in my house. And of course, we have teetering piles and overflowing baskets shelves of neatly alphabetized picture and chapter books from which to choose. Snuggling up on the couch and sharing the latest adventure of Bink and Gollie or young wizard Harry Potter is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. But sometimes I encourage my kids to tell me a story. Being able to describe events and settings in narrative form is an important skill, and websites like myHistro add a visual and interactive element to storytelling.

myHistro lets you create stories displayed on maps. Kids in grades 4 and older can use text, video and pictures to create a dynamic timeline, practicing telling when, why and where events happened. Embed each piece of a story in the location where it took place. I can imagine a fourth grader, working on a famous Missourian presentation, showing the various states in which Daniel Boone lived, explored, worked and finally settled, from his birth place in Pennsylvania to his final resting place in Missouri. You could create an “all about me” project, with various parts of your kid’s story attached to the places she lived or was visiting when they happened. Browse on over to myHistro to check out the timelines others have made, describing everything from the history of libraries to the landmark cases of the Supreme Court, and get your kiddos inspired to create place-based stories of their own!