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

Don’t Call It “Terrible Twos”

Toddler having tantrumHave you ever heard a parent say “I just want to skip past the “terrible twos”? While toddler-hood might be one of the most challenging ages (perhaps second only to the treacherous teen years), would anyone really want to skip a portion of their child’s life? I’d like to think not. Below are some ways to both better understand what toddlers are going through and also to help everyone in the family adapt to the changes that a toddler brings. And be sure to check out our many resources on toddler development at our library.

Routines and Repetition

While many adults crave variety, a toddler needs repeated activities both to help learn expectations and also to experiment. The repetitive pattern of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” for example, is popular because the child knows what to expect and can add different sounds/animals as the child’s knowledge develops. This is also why your child may want you to read the same story over and over again, night after night. Being able to predict what characters are going to do is a skill toddlers don’t immediately possess, so knowing what comes next is the fun part. Routines also help children learn what to expect. Toothbrushing and a story right before bedtime can teach children when bedtime is to be expected. Continue reading

Put a Poem in Your Pocket

National Poetry Month LogoI’m convinced that children are made for poetry. They are geared toward finding delight in the everyday, infuse common objects with magic and are hard-wired for play. And so much of poetry is indeed playful.

Literacy experts tell us that teaching children the joys of playing with language will help set them on the path to becoming confident readers, and poetry is a great tool for encouraging children to enjoy the sounds of words. Poems emphasize the rhythm of language and the ways individual sounds make up words. In “Reading Magic,” author Mem Fox argues, “Rhymers will be readers. It’s that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are 8.”

Not all poetry rhymes, of course, but reading non-rhyming poems can also benefit children. Poems often introduce new vocabulary through unusual or interesting word choices, and rich visual imagery can stimulate a child’s imagination, spurring them to see the world around them in a new way.

April is National Poetry Month, and April 18 in particular is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Encourage the kids in your life to choose a favorite poem, copy it on a piece of paper, and then share it throughout the day. Celebrate further by exploring books of poetry together. Your library has a number of poems for children, both in picture books that illustrate a single poem and in anthologies. Check out our catalog list of recommended poetry for children, and if you have a favorite poem, please share it in the comments!

Auditory Processing Disorder? What’s That?

girl with headphonesWe had a diagnosis from an audiologist, but I still wasn’t 100% certain my son really had this Auditory Processing Disorder thing. I finally became convinced when I went to a presentation about APD. Every parent in attendance had variations of the same stories. One woman said, “I observed my daughter’s gym class, and she didn’t run when the coach told them to. She waited until she saw everyone else running, then took off behind the pack.” Yes! That was my son exactly. “We couldn’t use the vacuum when he was little,” someone else said. “For us it was the blender,” I volunteered. “My kid screamed when we turned it on.” For the first time in my mothering life, I was with other parents who understood. Continue reading