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And It’s Back to School Again

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

School's First Day of SchoolFor families with school age kids, this is the weekend when everything catches up to us. It’s time to clean up the room, set out the school supplies, get new shoes and a new haircut.  Time to try to get excitable summer-smitten kids to feel sleepy at 8 p.m.  School is here!

Along with the new duds and backpacks, kids might be carrying additional worries or trepidations as they enter school halls. Reading some of these books together might ease their stress and put a positive and humorous spin on the beginning of the school year.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex (The True Meaning of Smekday) humorously covers the well-worn territory of first day nerves.  Of course, the children coming to school have a wide range of emotions and experiences, but what about the school itself? The new school is worried and excited, friendly and embarrassed, and finally kind of comfortable, too. Artwork by the most recent Caldecott Medal winner Matt de la Pena (Last Stop on Market Street) is a bonus.

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is a treat for little learners who enjoy a bit of intellectual content in their picture books. Newbery Medal winner Lynne Rae Perkins introduces a boy and his canine best buddy as they experience running and playing together, as well as time apart during the school day. Although they are in different situations, both boy and dog learn important lessons. Readers will get just a taste of fascinating topics like molecules, infinity, and fractions through the eyes of Frank and Lucky.

Kindergarten is Cool by Linda Marshall will give those 5 and 6 year olds a better idea of what to expect when they walk into their first school classroom. For those just entering preschool, Bear’s Big Day by Salina Yoon addresses the paradox of wanting to be an independent big kid, but not ready to leave the toddler realm entirely. Need a gift for a teacher or a great story to volunteer to read to the class? Todd Parr’s simple text and bright illustrations in Teachers Rock! affirm all the ways teachers impact their students. It will be a favorite for Teacher Appreciation Week, too.

Older readers will find out how a bad school situation can get much worse in Mac Barnett’s second chapter book about the Terrible Two. Miles Murphy and Niles Sparks are best friends, and they are members of the Terrible Two pranksters club…the only two members.  When one of their school pranks goes too far, their annoying principal Mr. Barkin is relieved from duty, but in his place reigns the even more horrific new principal, Mr. Barkin’s father!  Filled with humor and funny illustrations, this will suit fans of Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid. The Terrible Two and The Terrible Two Get Worse are available at the library, or as downloadable ebooks from the Sunflower eLibrary (Overdrive) and Hoopla, so you can read it anywhere you like.

Last but not least, don’t miss out on Gary Paulsen’s new novella for middle to upper elementary grades.  Paulsen (Hatchet, Mr. Tucket, Liar Liar) is a seasoned writer for kids and knows how to keep their attention with just the right touch of sarcasm and wit. In Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat, he throws six random students together in a bizarre situation that ultimately leads to new connections and friendships. Teachers will also love this book for its high level vocabulary, short length, and the opportunity for a class activity using the second half of the book – a one-act play retelling the story.

When you visit the library to check out new books, you’ll notice that back to school at the library means new, exciting programs for youth.  Look at the library’s events online to find out about STEM Club for K-3rd graders, Tween Club for 4th-6th graders, and CanTEEN for middle and high schoolers.  Homeschool Afternoons are back, as well as Read with a Dog Sundays, and nine Storytime options each week. Hundreds of kids participated in the Summer Reading program this year, 2,902 to be exact, and we hope you all will be back this fall!

 

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Kids, Mercury Column, News, Parents

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Why Adults Should Read Children’s Literature

By Gigi Holman, Adult Services Librarian

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreI have recently come across a few opinion pieces about how adults shouldn’t read children’s literature. They say it is too easy, that we should leave it for the kids, or one columnist even went as far as to say that “…children’s literature doesn’t have the depth of language and character as literature that is written for grown-ups.” While there might be some truth to this observation, I am here to make the case that there is fantastic children’s literature, and adults should be reading it, too. Now, I am not saying that you should cross every adult book off of your reading list; I am arguing that you can have a healthy balance in your reading by sprinkling a few children’s books every once in a while. So without further ado, here is my list of reasons why you should read children’s literature with some excellent book and author suggestions.

1. Children’s literature provides a fantastic escape from reality. Most children’s authors can weave enticing stories with elements that are silly, funny, playful, historical, and magical. They can take us to a place where we can forget about all of the heavy issues that adulthood brings. For an experience such as this, give Roald Dahl a try. Even he has said that “A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men”.

2. Great stories come in small packages. Picture books can reach a wide audience. The stories, though short, have many layers and can be packed full of meaning. My most recent favorite is this year’s Newbery Award winner, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. This charmingly written story is about a boy and his grandma who, during a bus ride, learn to enjoy the people and sounds around them. Throughout the ride, the boy asks his grandma a series of questions, and each time she replies with an answer that points out the beauty in the everyday world. The ending is sweet and meaningful and reminds us about the joy of giving back to our community.
I also highly recommend The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, whose film version was awarded the best animated short film in the 84th Academy Awards. This imaginative story is a reminder that everyone’s life story matters.

3. Some stories become sweeter over time. Can you recall your favorite book from your childhood? Remember reading Charlotte’s Web, Make Way for Duckling, or the Goosebumps series? Try re-reading them. Sometimes the story can take on a whole new meaning as an adult.

4. The illustrations. There are some beautifully illustrated children’s books. You can get lost in the details of the art in some books. Exploring the Caldecott Award list, which offers awards for excellence in children’s book illustrations, can lead you to a wide variety of techniques in art. A few illustrators that I suggest you explore are Beth Krommes, who is a scratchboard artist; David Wiesner, whose illustrations reveal something new each time you read one of his stories; and Denise Fleming, who uses a technique called pulp painting to create her vibrant and colorful illustrations

5. Children’s literature can fit your schedule. Everyone is in a time crunch. Reading can sometimes be a chore instead of an enjoyable experience, but children’s books tend to be shorter. You have time to read a 200 page novel, right?

6. They help you connect with your kids. If you have young readers in your life, read books along with them. Reading books together can give you topics to share and talk about. And, kids who see adults reading are more likely to become readers themselves. There are so many benefits to reading with your kids.

Everyone can benefit from remembering what things look like from the perspective of a child, and reading children’s books helps us not forget that we were once silly, goofy, and playful too. In the end, no matter what you choose to read, come by the Manhattan Public Library and get lost in a good book.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News, Parents, Young Adult Dept

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We Like Sports and We Don’t Care Who Knows

by Amber Johnson, Youth Librarian

With only a few weeks left of school, the Youth Services Department at Manhattan Public Library is gearing up for the summer reading program and all the summer events planned for children of all ages.  Parents: you might be gearing up for summer in a different way, stocking your minivans with snacks and sports equipment, preparing for a summer of activities with your children.  For many students, summer is the time to try out a new activity or improve their skills in their favorite sport.  With NBA finals in motion, are your children obsessed with the Golden State Warriors?  We have books for them.  Do your children watch the Royals and wonder how Alcides Escobar knows how to make such great plays?  We have books for them.  Here are a few of my favorite titles about sports:

Jake Maddox series

An early chapter book series, the Jake Maddox books are perfect for students reading at a kindergarten to 2nd grade level.  Book topics range from dance to football to paintball.  Each book takes place over just a few days, so the comprehension level is low, but the action level is high.

Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica

As a sports columnist for many publications, Mike Lupica knows how to write and talk about sports.  But in his Comeback Kids series, it is evident that he knows how to write about life as well.  This middle grade series, recommended for 2nd-4th grade reading levels, details the sports lives and personal lives of students.  As they deal with issues at home or issues at school, playing on a team gives them an escape and a way to process how life works and how to become the person they want to be.

Baseball Great series by Tim Green

Similar to the Comeback Kids series but for older readers, Tim Green pairs sports and personal issues to offer books that will entertain sports lovers, and give them a gateway to reading other types of realistic fiction.  Green’s books are full of action, and readers will enjoy the play-by-play of the games being experienced by the characters.

Nonfiction series about teams and athletes

The Children’s Library has many series and books on individual athletes and professional sports teams.  Look in the general non-fiction section under the call number 796, or ask a librarian to help you find a specific title.

Parents and caregivers: the library has books for you as well.  Whether you are spending hours on the bleachers at games, or traveling to weekend tournaments, there are multiple ways to access audiobooks for free.  Check out a physical copy of an audiobook on CD, download from the Sunflower eLibrary, or download the Hoopla app to access even more free titles.  Here are a few titles you might enjoy listening to:

Those Guys Have All the Fun by James Andrew Miller

A compilation of over 500 interviews, this history of the sports media tycoon that is ESPN brings to light just how it grew to be what it is today.

Wonder Girl by Don Van Natta, Jr.

Babe Didrikson was quite possibly the most phenomenal female athlete of the early 20th century.  After achieving All-American status in basketball and winning gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, she moved on to try her hand at golf.  Finding success there as well, she used her skill and influence to make a name for women in sports and conquered personal difficulties in the public eye.

The Long Run by Matt Long

New York City firefighter Matt Long suffered a tragic accident that had him in the hospital for five months, enduring through more than 40 operations.  After being told he would be lucky to walk again, Long went on to run the NYC marathon a mere three years later.  The Long Run details the physical and psychological difficulties that he faced during this journey.

Summer can be a rich time for students and parents, and the library is here to help you make the most of your time.  Ask a librarian for help finding your next great book or audiobook.

 

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Garden for Wildlife

Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian

Gardens are a wonderful way of gaining joy from the outside world. The visual beauty of flowers and plants is pleasing to the eye, but when a butterfly drops in for a visit, another dimension is added to heighten your gratification. It doesn’t matter if you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat can be created. The month of May is “Garden for Wildlife” month, so, it is a fitting time to plant your own wildlife-friendly garden. Find significant resources at the library to help you get started.

“Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” by Douglas Tallamy, will get you off to a great start. Tallamy indicates that the gardener plays an important role in the management of our nation’s wildlife. The plants in your garden attract insects which are necessary to attract wildlife. He tells us which particular insects are best to have in your garden and what particular plants will lure them. This is a comprehensive book that will also help you decide which native plants will work best for your area to draw in desired wildlife.

What is more native to the garden than the bee? “The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity” by Kate Frey, is filled with beautiful photos. Frey tells us that spending time in a bee garden can be a source of pleasure, as well as therapy in your own backyard. Bee-friendly gardens also attract butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds. It’s important to remember that bees provide many benefits, and they only sting when provoked.

Wildlife that you expect to see in the backyard are birds. “Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds” by Julie Zickefoose, explains what type of plants you’ll need for different types of birds. The plants invite birds to the yard because of the food or shelter that they provide. Water is especially important to keep birds coming back, and Zickefoose shares some creative ways for you to supply the water they need. No matter which birds frequent your backyard, the experience of sharing your plot of earth with them will be rewarding.

Whether you want to attract birds, bats, or butterflies, “Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden: Creating Backyard and Balcony Habitats for Wildlife” by Catherine Johnson is an impressive asset. She not only shares which plants you should grow to entice the wildlife of your choice, but also gives simple instructions for building feeders, nesting boxes, and arbors.

The garden is an awe-inspiring place for children to discover nature. In April Pulley Sayre’s book “Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids”, simple steps are given that families can follow to create their own wildlife habitat. April reminds us that sound is often the first clue to the presence of wildlife. Children learn to listen, then look for the creatures that have tickled their ears. She also points out that the winter garden is a place of discovery; footprints in the snow give substantial clues to the wildlife that visit and can be a magnificent source of entertainment. Sharing life in a garden with children is sure to be lots of fun.

In this book, “Nature-Friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People” by Marlene Condon, the author not only gives insight on how to attract the right kind of insects, but also gives guidance in selecting the right binoculars for up-close viewing. Ms. Condon likes to use nesting boxes in her garden. As a result, she has seen eastern screech-owls, southern flying squirrels, and opossum take-up residency in them. She tells us that a gardener must plan to coexist with wildlife as well as their predators to make gardens imitative of the natural world.

There are many other selections available at the library to help you attract and enjoy wildlife in your own backyard. Why not get started today?

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Perfect Weather and Perfect Books to Share

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Spring weather has blown in to Manhattan. It’s a time to appreciate Earth’s beauty, head out on the nature trail or spend an evening at the ball diamond. Here are some children’s books that pair nicely with the season.

Greensburg, Kansas is celebrated in Allan Drummond’s newest picture book, Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. Beginning with the aftermath of the 2007 tornado, Drummond portrays the damaged town, the worried citizens, and the many decisions that had to be made. Children can see how a few bright ideas about rebuilding Greensburg “green” caught on and took hold throughout the whole community. Sidebars give further information about influential townspeople and building sustainable structures. Published just in time for Earth Day, this will be a popular resource for teachers and an inspiration to young students all over the U.S.

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter will set the mood as your day comes to a close. Beautiful illustrations using watercolor and ink show frogs, foxes, otters and whales settling in for their evening. The calming text intertwines animal sounds with poetic prose, perfect for reading aloud to a toddler or preschooler. “The frogs puff their throats full of cool air from the woods, where the poorwill calls poorwill! poorwill! and listens for the footfall of the fox.” The framework of the story connects one sleeping child at the beginning to another sleeping child at the end, with the land and ocean and all the animals between them. Another gorgeous title to share is Kevin Henkes When Spring Comes, with enticing illustrations by Laura Dronzek. Young children are amazed by the green and the blossoms and the critters that come with springtime. Henkes captures this wonder and the joy it brings.

moMo Jackson is the star of a beginning reader series by David Adler, who also writes Cam Jansen mysteries, picture book biographies and a slew of other series. In Get a Hit, Mo!, Mo’s baseball team, the Lions, is playing the Bears. Mo was excited about the game, but after he arrives, he remembers that he is the smallest on his team. He always bats last and is stationed in boring right field. The Bears, on the other hand, look big and strong and they pitch fast. Mo strikes out, not once but twice. Many kids will identify with Mo’s moods and will cheer him on to the very end. Adler, a seasoned writer of beginning readers, has the formula down perfectly with just the right amount of text, controlled vocabulary, and illustrations by Sam Ricks that will clue readers in to the story as they decipher harder words.

Headed out to the park with your “helicopter parent” shoes on? Check out some facts and advice from Heather Shumaker’s It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids, a recent addition to our Parent and Teacher Resource Center. There’s a reason why your child wants to go up the slide. In fact, the urge to take risks or try new challenges is part of healthy development. Shumaker uses her Renegade Golden Rule, “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property,” to sort through many situations kids and parents encounter. She tackles topics parents may not have even considered questioning, like talking to strangers or doing homework, and includes a helpful section on limits for screen time. With each new chapter, or “rule,” Shumaker includes examples, facts about child development, and practical tools for parents to try. She provides words to say (and words to avoid), as well as how to “take off your adult lenses” to get past preconceived notions. Chapters can easily be read alone, so busy parents or teachers can read what they need instead of tackling a 300+ page book.

Enjoy the transformation of spring with your kids, and if the wind or rain drives you inside, curl up with a good library book.

 

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Amazing Superpower Graphic Novels that Pack a Punch…Without Any Superheroes

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Ever since I discovered Renee Telgemeier’s graphic novel Smile and Hope Larson’s Chiggers, I’ve been scanning our new graphic novels for more great stories of girls growing up. This year brought some wonderful surprises.

deafoPicture book author and illustrator Cece Bell came out with a 200+ page graphic novel that blew my socks off. El Deafo has an intriguing cover with a bunny/girl soaring through clouds with her red cape and a harness contraption with cords to her bunny ears. With a title like El Deafo, I knew I had to read it. Cece is the main character, reinvented as a bunny person, showing us the author’s childhood through illustrations, dialogue and inner thoughts. When Cece gets meningitis and loses most of her hearing, she has to learn how to read lips because the hearing aid makes everyone sounds like they are speaking under water. When her family moves, Cece can no longer attend a special school with other hearing-impaired children, but she gets a “new, superpowerful, just-for-school hearing aid: The Phonic Ear.”

The illustrations of Cece with bunny ears emphasizes her hearing aid, which is a challenge for Cece but also becomes her superpower. When her teacher forgets to turn her microphone off, Cece can hear everything the teacher says…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom, and her new friends think it is awesome. Plus, Cece can use “the On/Off Switch of Awesomeness” to tune out her bossy friend, Laura. Cece’s trials of childhood are intensified by being different from her peers, but at the same time, they help her find her own voice and define the person she becomes.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is the story of twelve-year-old Astrid coming of age, ala roller derby. When Astrid’s mother takes her and her best friend Nicole to a local roller derby bout for “an evening of cultural entertainment,” Astrid finds she has a new dream. She joins the Rosebuds junior derby team, but simultaneously deals with the realization that her best friend is growing in a different direction. While Nicole befriends mean girl Rachel through dance class, Astrid gets rolled over on the skating rink. Making new friends is tricky, and learning a new sport is tiresome, but Astrid keeps going despite naming this part of her life as her “black period.” Astrid makes mistakes, tries to fix them, still stinks at roller skating, but does not give up. You will love the determined “Asteroid” by the end of the book, and while Astrid’s story is not autobiographical, Jamieson is known as Winnie the Pow on her Portland, OR team, the Rose City Rollers.

mayThe brother/sister team of Jennifer and Matthew Holm has been a favorite of mine for a long time, with Babymouse and Squish coming to mind, but also Jennifer Holm’s historical fiction like Our Only May Amelia and Boston Jane. Veering in a new direction of realistic fiction, the talented pair recently published Sunny Side Up. The artwork in this graphic novel expresses humor and emotion, with help from Lark Pien who added the colors, and the story propels the reader through Sunshine Lewin’s strange summer vacation. Sunny was supposed to be able to take her best friend with her on the family vacation to the shore. But somehow she ends up on her own, spending the summer in her grandfather’s retirement community in Florida, so close to Disney World…yet so far. The story flashes between the present – getting settled at Grandpa’s, meeting his old lady friends, and making a new friend with the only other kid in the neighborhood – and the past – snippets of Sunny realizing something was wrong with her older brother Dale. Eventually, the reader finds out beloved brother Dale was developing a serious drug problem, and Sunny feels like she made things worse and was sent away for the summer because it was her fault.

This moving story will make readers laugh out loud, as well as tear up, at the ups and downs that come with being a kid stuck in the middle. A note from the Holms at the end relates a little about their personal experience in their family: “We had a close relative who had serious issues with substance abuse. As children, we were bystanders to this behavior and yet it affected our whole world…it was something that we felt we had to keep secret.” They wrote this book for kids like themselves, showing it is okay to talk to others and explain how they feel.

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Notable November

by Brian Ingalsbe, Youth Services Library Assistant

October is already behind us, and our lives seem to get more eventful as the holidays draw near. Manhattan Public Library is no exception. Throughout the month of November, the Youth Services Department has a wide variety of programs and parties that will keep you on your toes!

Read with a Dog is one of the most engaging programs MPL has to offer – occurring Sundays, November 8th and 16th. At this event, children can sign up for a fifteen-minute time slot to read to a dog. All dogs are certified therapy dogs; they are eager and waiting to hear your favorite stories! Read with a Dog is a great program because it offers a lot of flexibility for all ages. What if your child doesn’t read? No problem! These dogs thrive on human contact and would love nothing more than to sit and keep your child company. Let’s be honest: is there anything more exciting than corgis in the library?

Fast forward to the week of November 16th. This is when the real excitement begins! Kansas Reads to Preschoolers (KRP) is a statewide event that celebrates a love of all things literacy. Every year, an esteemed board chooses a book, which is featured during this week-long celebration. This year’s winner – Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino – features a young llama, comparing his mother’s attributes to those of his close animal friends.

MPL will be endorsing this book at our regular storytimes throughout the week, by focusing on animal families and llamas. A FREE book will be given to children attending a storytime. The week will culminate with the wonderful Zoofari Tails storytime, a partnership between MPL and the Sunset Zoo, which will feature animal bio facts pertaining to llamas. Can you think of a better way to celebrate early literacy?

If KRP is not enough of a reason to come and visit the library, let me give you another: story quilts – courtesy of the Konza Prairie Quilter’s Guild – will be on display the same week as KRP. The guild’s theme, Cuddle Up in a Good Book, was chosen to commemorate the 2014 children’s expansion. Each quilt will feature children’s works in some capacity – including Dr. Seuss books, Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, and The Pokey Little Puppy, as well as some more traditional quilts with fabric and shapes inspired by children’s literature. I have not seen them for myself, but my sources have informed me that these quilts are absolutely stunning. Do not miss this wonderful opportunity.

The week of November 16th keeps its momentum moving forward until the very end of the week. As mentioned above, Zoofari Tails will be hosted Friday, November 20th. That same day, Youth Services staff will host a Holiday Card Crafts party. Children ages three to twelve will have an amazing time creating crafts and cards for the upcoming holiday season. The party is a come-and-go event beginning at noon – meaning you can craft till your heart’s content, or until 4:00, whichever comes first. If you have a teen – grades seven to twelve – we will be hosting a Holiday Pinterest Party on Saturday, November 21st. This party will be full of crafts and creations inspired from the near infinite number of Pinterest boards. Do you have the crafting ability to create a masterpiece? Come and find out!

As the week of November 16th comes to a close, MPL has one more event to keep your child occupied before Thanksgiving. The Youth Services Department will be hosting a kids’ movie marathon on Wednesday, November 25th. A movie for preschoolers will be shown beginning at 10:00, followed by a school-aged-appropriate movie at 2:00. Feel free to bring your own easy-to-clean-up snacks!

MPL is a great resource, and our staff is always ready to help you find your next great read, explore the online world, or answer any question you may have. You can contact the Youth Services Department staff at kidstaff@mhklibrary.org or (785)776-4741 ext. 125.

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Special Celebration for Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week 2015

Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week is an annual event that promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth to age five. Through the statewide program, parents, librarians and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen title to every young child in Kansas during the week of November 15-21. This project is made possible by the State Library of Kansas and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

A copy of this year’s featured book, “Is Your Mama a Llama?” by Deborah Guarino, will be given to every preschooler who attends storytime at the Manhattan Public Library between November 15 and 21. Storytimes will be held Monday through Thursday at 9:30am and 11:00 am, and on Saturday at 11:00am. Visit the Manhattan Public Library’s online events calendar for more details.

As a special part of the celebration, quilts created by members of the Konza Prairie Quilters Guild will be displayed in the children’s library that week.  Each quilt was inspired by a children’s book, and the theme “Cuddle Up in a Good Book” was selected to honor the completion of the children’s library expansion project.

More information about Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week can be found on the Kansas State Library’s website https://kslib.info/prek.

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What’s Tween and Why Does It Matter?

Rachael Schmidtlein
Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Across the far reaches of the Internet are articles, surveys, and studies about how to raise children to be reasonable, functioning human beings (some day). Children approach learning differently, and those approaches differ depending on their age, attentiveness, activity level, etc. New research is constantly being published to help parents and educators figure out how to increase literacy in children. This is a wonderful thing! A side effect of all of this research is that new age groups are constantly emerging.

The idea that a child is not, in fact, just a short adult is relatively new. Until 1836, no labor laws existed. The first children’s department within a library didn’t even come about until the Boston Public Library opened their children’s room in 1895, which was followed quickly by the practice of storytelling in the library.

Young adult literature and services were still slower coming. After World War I, children stopped going into the job market at the age of 14 (instead finishing school or even attending college). Libraries realized that by designating materials for teenagers, they could give them a sense of belonging and keep them engaged in continuous learning. In the 1990’s, libraries began dedicating services and librarians exclusively to teenagers.

A pattern, however, began to emerge. Children’s services were seeing a huge drop between the number of children using library programs and the number of teens using library programs. Even more troubling, children who were initially “reluctant readers” stopped reading entirely and would continue to have trouble in school. What was happening? Where did they go?

As most parents know, in grades 4-6, kids start get super busy. They become less easy to attract to library programs. Sports, religious activities, mountains of homework: the list just keeps going. To make the over-programmed juggling act more difficult, parents have to drive their children from place to place because kids can’t start driving until high school. We know that keeping preteens connected with reading is an important step in creating lifelong learners, especially for reluctant readers, but the question is how?

That’s where I come in! My name is Rachael Schmidtlein, and I am the new Tween and Teen Services Coordinator at the Manhattan Public Library. Our Youth Services staff at MPL has already been working on some awesome tween programs. At the Manhattan Public Library, we’ve defined a Tween as someone between the 4th and 6th grade. Every time we have an event that is specifically for tweens, we witness kids excited that they have a place to come just for them. Our programs may not seem like they are directly related to literature, but no matter if it’s a haunted library after hours, a holiday card craft or something equally as cool, we make sure that the tweens know that there are resources here for them to read and study on every subject imaginable.

Tweens are at the perfect age for library programming. They’re starting to get into the more complicated elements of their subjects at school, and the library offers them a fun, free place to explore those core learning elements, without the restrictions of state education standards. We often offer programs that are based in popular culture, like Doctor Who, and then we dig even deeper into the STEAM, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math components of the topic. This leads to some seriously creative and out-of-the-box thinking. Our tween programming is just beginning to take off, and we have a lot of ideas planned for the future! If you have any questions about tween or teen services at the Manhattan Public Library, you can email our staff at YA@mhklibrary.org.

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Using the Fall for Developing Early Literacy Skills

Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

As summer changes into fall, there are lots of opportunities to introduce literacy concepts to your child.  At Manhattan Public Library, we encourage parents and caregivers to embrace organic ways to instill a love of reading in children.  One of the important factors in a child’s learning to read is their enjoyment of the books and stories.  It is important to find stories that your children enjoy and look forward to reading with you.  In the Children’s Room, there are numerous books on leaves, hibernating animals and other aspects of fall. Here are a few books that you can read with your children, followed by any or all of the described activities.


Apples and Pumpkins
by Anne Rockwell

In Apples and Pumpkins, a little girl and her parents visit Comstock Farm, where they pick apples and pumpkins.  Visit an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch with your children.  Ask them questions about what they observe around them.  What does the air feel like? How many people do they think are there picking apples or pumpkins? Are they feeling happy?  When you get home, count how many apples were picked.  Have your children join you in making a special treat with the apples or carving the pumpkin.  Suggest that they call a friend or family member to tell them about the experience that they had.

Imitating activities from books gives deeper meaning to the story that your children are reading.  Retelling stories and experiences builds the concept of “beginning, middle and end.”

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Man uses photos of leaves and other pieces of nature to tell the story of how leaves progress through the fall.  Take a nature walk with your children and have them take notes in a homemade or store-bought journal.  They can look for specific things or just simply observe the world around them.  Gather leaves and sticks to bring home.  Use the sticks to make letters on the sidewalk.  Try to find bits of letters or shapes in the veins of the leaves.   Make your own leaf man and exchange stories with your children about what your leaf man has done or will do.

As you observe nature, you will most likely use words that your children don’t yet know.  When children are exposed to a larger vocabulary, they tend to have greater reading success.  Don’t be afraid to use new words to describe the scenery around you.  Making letters out of real objects gives more depth to the letters themselves and emphasizes the fact that they form words and have meaning.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

The Busy Little Squirrel follows a squirrel as he prepares for hibernation, gathering seeds, nuts and fruit.  Make your own “snack mix” with your children and try to form letters out of the pieces of food.  Have them help you cook a meal and talk about what you like to eat in the winter.  The more you talk with your children, the more they will learn about communication, words and stories.

Visit the Animals Neighborhood at the library to find non-fiction books on squirrels and other hibernating animals.  Consider reading non-fiction stories about the changing of the seasons, found in the Science & Nature Neighborhood of the Children’s Room.

Attending a storytime at MPL is a great way to get your child engaged with stories in different formats.  Storytellers coordinate activities during storytime that associate with the books being read.  Visit the website to see the current storytime schedule, or stop by the Children’s Room to pick up a schedule. Youth Services librarians are always willing to offer ideas to help your child develop early literacy skills, even starting from birth.

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column, News, Parents

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