Shhh! Stop Saying Libraries Are Dying!

Photo of scolding librarian

There are many, many things that I dearly love about working in a library, about providing children’s services and that absolutely thrill me about my decision to pursue my post-graduate education in library science. But people telling me…

“That’s what Google is for.”

“Nothing relevant is even in print form anymore; even books can be digital.”

“Once everyone owns a Kindle no one will even go to the library.”

“You chose, like, the Latin of professions.”

…are DEFINITELY NOT among those many, many things. (Don’t even get me started on, “You need a degree for that?”)

Because the truth is, libraries are not just giant warehouses full of musty, dated books, just like librarians are not brittle, grumpy ladies who wear ugly cardigans and cat-eye glasses on chains and shush you from on high through lipstick-stained teeth. (We are really more ChapStick people.) Continue reading

Follow a Favorite

Who is your favorite hero? Detective? Adventurer? As readers, we often become attached to characters and follow them from story to story. Following a narrative or story is not only an important early literacy skill, but it also increases a child’s motivation to read similar stories. In her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling created characters so likable and interesting that children (and adults!) enjoy following their stories from book to book. Would these books have been so successful if people didn’t care what happened next to Harry, Ron and Hermione?

The Pigeon Wants a PuppyMany of us can still remember the literary characters that first became our favorites. I loved Berenstain Bears. What lesson would Brother and Sister need to learn next? My brother latched onto the Peanuts characters and Garfield at an early age. And while all of these characters are still around today, children are continuing to find new favorites. I love how kids light up when they see Pigeon decorating the walls on Bookmobile, Jr. Which books did they read with Pigeon to make them so excited? “Pigeon Wants a Puppy”? “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”?

Encourage your child to invest in favorite characters and follow their continuing adventures in different books. A child with strong literacy skills should be able to talk about what happened in the beginning, middle and end of a book. If your child shows a fascination with a particular character, then he or she will likely be more motivated to remember what happens in a story. Ask your child to recall specific details or retell the story when finished. “What color was the bus?” “What happened at the end of the story?” Continue reading

Early Literacy Skills: Dear Diary…

Book cover for Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin ScillianWhen I was little, I hated to go to bed. I think bedtime stories were read every night without fail not just because my parents were big readers, but also because they had calculated I needed approximately 2.25 hours to be tricked into going to sleep. While I have only the fondest memories of “Corduroy” and “Madeline,” my favorite bedtime ritual was actually a kind of game my father and I began to play together.

Dad would ask me what had happened while he had been at work that day. Some nights I was very creative.

“Well, when we all woke up, we decided it would be fun to go to Disney World. So we did. We got on a plane, and Alex was scared, but I was not. Then we met Mickey and rode everything three times! Then we decided we wanted to take a train back to Kirksville because it was time for naps, so we did…”

Some nights I took the job more seriously and regaled my father with a more truthful, (painfully) detailed account. “First, I woke up. I had cereal for breakfast. It was Lucky Charms. I don’t remember what Alex ate. I was still been wearing my pink nightgown…Daddy, you know which pink nightgown! My favorite pink nightgown that I wear when I play ballerina…”

My father is a patient man.

But what I did not realize at the time – especially as I had not yet been on a plane, a train or to Disney World – was that I was learning to tell a story. And what can 3- to 5-year-olds talk about better than themselves, their daily activities and things they want to do? Continue reading

Early Literacy Skills: The Power of Print

Book cover for Apple by Nikki McClureWords represent things. When I present you with the word apple, no matter whether the piece of fruit that appears in your head is red or green, you know what the letters a-p-p-l-e mean. This seemingly obvious concept is one all of us have to be taught. Print awareness, which includes simply noticing words everywhere and knowing how to handle a book, is an important early literacy skill to encourage in young children.

When you read a picture book like Nikki McClure’s “Apple,” chances are your young child is focusing on the beautiful illustrations, the fruit a splash of red that appears on each page. From time to time, point to the words as you read so that your child learns you are reading the text, not the pictures. If a book has a repeating word or phrase, point it out and encourage the child to say it each time it appears on the page. Let the child turn the pages, so your little one learns how a book actually works, which way the spine should face and which part of the book is its beginning.

Show your child that print is all around us. Point out signs in the grocery store or along the road. When your child starts yelling “S-T-O-P spells stop!” from the backseat, you’ll know you are successfully developing her print awareness! Continue reading

Early Literacy Skills: Tell Me a Story

The_Book by DarrelBirkett via FlickrYou have read “Goodnight Moon” 500 times, and you know it by heart. Your child loves the book so much that he can tell you the story without even knowing how to read. While this repetitiveness may seem like torture to you, it actually is a good thing. Narrative skill, or the ability to tell stories, is one of the tools your child needs to start reading.

Knowing that stories have a beginning, middle and end, and the ability to talk about activities in a sequence are important to developing narrative skills. Want to make a story more fun? Act it out! Acting out a story helps your child understand and remember the order of events in the story. One of the favorites in our household is “Mud Puddle” by Robert Munsch. I love to pretend to be the mud puddle and get my son “completely all over muddy.” Continue reading