Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Books for Developing Empathy

In  our community there is not much opportunity for children to have direct interaction with children from other cultures or social/economical classes.  Yet our children will be our country's future leaders and it is important for them to understand what life is like for people all across our nation.  How can our children learn empathy for people who grew up very differently than they did?  Through books, of course!

Sometimes we feel reluctant to recommend books to our kids that might be too sad or frightening because they depict racial violence or cruelty. Here are some books for older grade school and junior high that have a lighter touch, but still show what it is like to grow up in a different environment.

New Kid by Jerry Craft
Jordan is going to a new school for the first time.  He is from the Bronx, but his new school is a private school uptown.  Jordan experiences subtle acts of prejudice, but eventually makes friends with two other boys who each have their own reasons for feeling like outsiders.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude lives in Syria with her parents and older brother.  When the war gets a little too close to home, Jude and her mother travel to America to stay with Jude's uncle until it is safe to return. Jude has always loved American movie stars, but living in America is full of challenges Jude didn't expect. As she struggles with ESL and prejudice because of her decision to wear a hijab, she wonders if her dream of being in the spotlight could ever come true.

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
Clayton loves it when he can sneak away with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and jam with the Blues Men in Washington Park.  Then one day, he grandfather is gone. Clayton's mother and grandfather never got along, and when Clayton's mother takes his last memento of his grandfather, Clayton decides to run away and join the Blues Men on the road. Thus begins his adventure in the rich musical culture of New York's underground.
J FIC Williams-Garcia

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
Arturo and his large extended family live in a small town in Florida.  When their family run restaurant is threatened by a developer who wants to put up high rise apartments, Arturo, his family, and his new found friend, Carmen, find strength from the words of Arturo's grandparents, and the Cuban Poet, Jose Marti, to face the threat to their family business.
I FIC Cartaya

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Brandon Sanderson (By Teens/For Teens)

I fell down the Brandon Sanderson rabbit hole last year after a friend recommended I read Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. Let’s just say I’ve never been able to recover.
Now, some of you might be asking, “Who the heck is Brandon Sanderson?”
I’ll give you the brief run-down:
Brandon Sanderson is the author of over twenty novels in the SFF genre. He is most well-known for his Cosmere universe (Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, Elantris, etc.) and finishing Robert Jordan’s high fantasy series The Wheel of Time. His first published novel was Elantris in 2005. He is a fifteen time New York Times best-selling author. He also lives in Utah.
If you’re interested in joining me in the hole but don’t know where to start, I have a few recommendations to make.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
So there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.”
If that opening line above doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will.
The concept of this book is so fun. It takes superhero fiction and turns it on its head by asking, “What if the superheroes had everyday powers like being late, tripping, or breaking things?”
This series is what got me hooked on Sanderson. It’s fast-paced, witty, and really wacky. If you enjoy writing from authors like Brandon Mull, Rick Riordan, or Lemony Snicket, I think you’ll be right at home with this series. It’s a great place to start.

You get to choose who you are. Legacy, memories of the past, can serve us well. But we cannot let them define us. When heritage becomes a box instead of an inspiration, it has gone too far.”
This series is a little more standard YA SFF fare. In describing the series, I think the author puts it best:
“How to Train Your Dragon but instead it's a girl who finds a spaceship and goes to Top Gun school. It's like a mashup between Top Gun and Ender's Game and How to Train Your Dragon with an old broken-down spaceship with a really weird personality.”

It’s got aliens, aviation, robots, space—the whole bit. If you enjoy books like Ender’s Game or The City of Ember, this series will be right up your alley. Books 1-2 are currently out with at least two more planned.

The Stormlight Archive
Life before Death. Strength before Weakness. Journey before Destination.”
I get chills just thinking about this series. To me, it’s Brandon Sanderson’s magnum opus: a truly epic fantasy with outstanding characterization, world-building, and plotting. I’ve never been a big fan of fantasy, but I think this series has converted me.
Because the series is so big (and it’s only going to get bigger: book 4 is coming out in November, with 10 books planned in total) it’s honestly kind of hard to describe.
It’s set on the planet of Roshar, a world ravaged by storm and war. Honor is dead. A slave fights a war, struggling to survive. A general leads his armies, trying to uncover the meaning behind the visions he receives. A young woman seeks training under the hands of a scholar, but only to eventually rob her in order to save her family. Ancient magic that was once lost appears to be returning along with an order of knights who betrayed humanity centuries ago.
So if you’re into that kind of stuff (and why wouldn’t you be? It’s way cool sounding), I wholeheartedly recommend this series.

If you are a teen and would like to contribute a book or author review, email librarydirector@highlandcity.org.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Singing with Preschoolers

At story time we teach that parents should Talk, Sing, Read, Write, and Play with their children every day to help them be ready to be good readers.  Why is singing important for early literacy?

Reading requires two skills, decoding and comprehension.  A child needs to be able to figure out what the word is (decoding) and what it means (comprehension). For example, you can sound out (or decode) the word "fresas" but if you don't know Spanish you may not know that it means "strawberries" (comprehension). Kids need both skills to be successful readers.

Singing helps with both these skills.  When we sing we naturally divide words into sound parts. Think of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. "Twinkle" is one word, but in the song we divide it up into two parts, "Twin-kle".  Learning that words are made of sound parts is the first step to understanding that each letter in a word contributes a sound. Singing songs helps children be ready to learn to "sound out" words as part of decoding.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is also a good example of how singing helps with comprehension. Language is made of common words, ones we say frequently, and rare words, ones that don't often occur in daily conversation. Most children easily learn the common words, but not all children are exposed to the same amount of rare words.  How often do you use the word, "twinkle" in daily conversation? A child who never sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star might not know the word "twinkle" when they start kindergarten, but any child who has sung the song, will. Think of other common children's songs. What rare words do you find?

So that is why we sing every week in Story Time. We want kids to learn decoding and comprehension skills. We encourage parents to sing with their children as well. It doesn't really matter if you have a good voice, or even if you can carry a tune. The more we sing with small children, the better prepared they will be to become good readers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April Fish!

No one is entirely sure why fish were chosen as part of the French celebration, but to this day Poisson D'Avril (which means April Fish) is a day for games and all around silliness. April 1st, or April Fool's, is a day for French children (and adults) to play silly pranks, one of which includes attaching a fish onto someones back and seeing how long before they notice.

The holiday is known to date back to at least 1564. For a long time New Year's had been celebrated on April 1st, but in 1563 King Charles IX of France decided that henceforth the New Year would begin on January 1st. It is likely not everyone was happy with the change, and also possible some people had no idea the change was made at all. Regardless the first day in April was still a day of celebration. Those who got on board with the new calendar started to make fun of those who weren't. They used the day to play tricks, including to attach a dried fish to the back of the "fool's" shirt.

Some have said that April is not a good month for fishing, so perhaps individuals threw dried fish into the water hoping to trick fishermen, and then sat and watched them try to "catch" the fish. It is also possible that the use of fish has to do with Lent. April 1st often coincides with the end of Lent during which the faithful are forbidden to eat meat - but fish is still considered appropriate. Perhaps this is why people began using false fish to trick their victims. Regardless of how it began it is still a lot of fun today. Today French children will color their own paper fishes for use in their very own pranks. If you do trick someone with a fish make sure to shout "Poisson D'Avril!"

Monday, March 30, 2020

How to Love Your Neighborhood

Do you love where you live, or is it starting to wear on you? Maybe you recently moved and still haven't decided how you feel about your new location? Melanie Warnick author of This is Where You Belong says walking can help. Of course, science has proven that walking is good for your mental, emotional, and physical health, but Warnick argues it's also good for your "place attachment."

Here's how it works. First, walking helps you know where you are. You are more likely to understand the lay out of your streets, restaurants, grocery stores, malls etc. if you walk rather then drive. Walking is slower and allows you to absorb more of what you see then a car windshield. You also will start to notice little things you might otherwise miss such as: whose kids play in the yard all the time, that neighbor only plants purple flowers, this neighbor has the same dog as you, or that neighbor must be an expert on berries. This noticing and memorizing your streets increases what is known as "place attachment" or how much you love where you currently live.

Warnick says that loving where you live is a lot like falling in a love with a person. You need to put in time and effort. And no, a drive through date with your block while you are late for a doctors appointment doesn't count as a relationship. So, if you are wondering how to begin building the bond with your new home, or you need to shore up the relationship with your long time home - go for a walk. Go on lots of walks. Put some time into knowing your neighborhood and you just might fall in love.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Talk it up, Mom and Dad

Did you know that there is a huge difference between kids whose parents talk to them a lot and those whose parents don't.  Studies show that kids with talkative parents can start kindergarten having heard as much as 30,000 more words than kids with less talkative parents.  The more words kids hear, the better readers they will be because it is much harder to learn to read a word you have never heard before than one you already know. 

The best way to talk with kids is through two way conversation.  Don't just give directions, like, "Come here," or "Turn of the TV." Ask questions and listen to your child's answers, and then listen and answer when they ask you questions. Conversations involve more complex grammar and sentence structure than simple commands.  By using these complex patterns early with your child, their brain develops structures ready to understand the wonderful richness of language.

To learn more about Early Literacy visit our Early Literacy 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Most Popular Picture Books: Willems and Seuss on the Loose!!

The Library has over 8000 picture books.  Have you ever wondered which ones check out the most? During 2019 two authors dominated the top ten, Mo Willems and Dr. Seuss.  Most people know who Sr. Seuss is, but if you haven't had a pre-schooler in the house in the last ten years you might not know Mo Willems.  If you don't you are in for a treat!  Wickedly clever and amazingly funny, there is a reason he is on this list over and over again.  Stop by the Library and check him out.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy: by Mo Willems
The Lorax: by Dr. Seuss
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog: by Mo Willems
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: by Mo Willems
The Pigeon Needs a Bath: by Mo Willems
Oh, the Places You'll Go!: by Dr. Seuss
We are Growing!: by Mo Willems
If I Ran the Circus: by Dr. Seuss
Dragons Love Tacos: by Adam Rubin
Emeraldalicious by Victoria Kann


Many of the Pigeon books are available as video through Overdrive?  Why not keep one downloaded on your phone for "long check-out line" emergencies.

Click on the Top Ten label on the right to see other top 10 lists from last year.