Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Reading Club: The 1000 Mark

We hit 1,000 signups for the Summer Reading Club this week!

This is something that usually happens during the first two weeks of our Summer Reading Club. Typically, we have around 2000 kids sign up over the course of the summer, although last year it was around 2400, so we'll see how it goes this summer.

It's definitely been quite a transition moving over to using Evanced's Summer Reader online, but my staff and I (and, I think, patrons, too) are really liking it. We have a station set up with four laptops next to our service desk, so we can let patrons set up their own accounts. After they're done, they come to the desk to pick up their book bags.

I had a little trouble getting into my groove last week since we've changed our program this year, but now I'm feeling comfortable with my spiel and more confident that patrons are getting the information they need about our programs. I also keep thinking about how much easier it's all going to be NEXT year when patrons will be familiar with the online program.

I can see the minutes and books rolling in as patrons log from home - over 10,000 minutes and 700 books read so far! We'll start awarding prizes on June 1.

The other part of our program that's going well so far is our new Daycare/Summer Camp Summer Reading Club. I have four facilities signed up with over 200 kids so far and I am pretty sure we'll get more as we get into June and the groups start figuring out their summer plans. It's so much easier to put a kit together for them than it is to try to individually sign up all those kids! We'll see how the finisher rate goes as we go through the summer months!

Our "summer kickoff" program is actually tomorrow and then our programs start next week. We'll be back with our weekly storytimes, lots of special programs, and a few large performers throughout the months of June and July. It's really worked well for us to avoid programming during the first couple of weeks of the SRC. As you can see, we've got our hands full with getting kids registered!

Have you started Summer Reading Club yet? How's it going?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Matilda 25th Anniversary Blog Tour!!!

Matilda is turning 25 this year! Kind of unbelievable, right? How can it already be 25 years since this wonderfully witty, intelligent five-year-old sprang onto the literary scene, inspiring all of us to read more and fight the man with our powers of telekinesis (er, or just wish we had powers of telekinesis)? We’re celebrating this milestone with an epic 25-stop blog tour! Follow along to find out how your favorite bloggers feel about Matilda, and for a chance to win a Matilda prize pack at each and every stop!

I received Matilda for my 7th birthday. Now, here's something to know about me: I have always liked to pick out my own books. I have never particularly enjoyed getting books as presents, I have never successfully participated in a monthly book club... because I like to choose what I read. (Just call me Moxy Maxwell?)

So the book sat around for awhile. But finally, one loo-oong, boring summer day, I deigned to pick up the book that someone else had chosen for me. 

And I fell in love. 

I loved Matilda's story. I loved that she walked down to the library and started reading all the books there. I loved the creative pranks she pulled on the adults that did her wrong. I loved the deliciously evil Miss Trunchbull (and her eventually comeuppance). 

As a librarian, it's my job to match books to readers. And I loooove picking out books for other people. Librarians strive to find the right book for the right reader at the right time. But I know that sometimes kids don't want to be told what to read. And sometimes a book is more special when a kid discovers it on her own. 

What can librarians do to make that happen?

Make sure to build a collection that's wide and varied. Bonus points if you read widely so as to be able to show readers the way, no matter what genre they prefer. Be receptive to patron feedback and order patron suggestions whenever possible. 

Display, display, display! If you don't have space for a lot of physical displays in your room, consider adding book cover pictures to your endcaps, the side of your desk, your windows, or any blank walls or doors you might have. 

Encourage parents to check out a selection of books when they come looking for recommendations. And let them (and kids) know that it's definitely okay to put down a book they're not liking. Life is short; there's no time to read books you don't enjoy! 

And above all, let kids choose their choices. I wouldn't have read Matilda if it had been forced upon me. But because my grownups allowed me my space to pick up the book in my own time, it became one of my all-time favorite, treasured books. 

So make sure your kids have access to Matilda and point them to it if they're looking for recommendations. 

And since April, families have had a new way to experience MatildaDid you know Matilda is now a Tony Award-nominated Broadway Musical? The show opened in April and has already been nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical! You can buy tickets, see pictures, and listen to music from Matilda the Musical on their website:

Since not everyone can go to New York City to see the show in person, Penguin Teen is bringing the show to you with a Matilda the Musical prize pack giveaway! Enter to win a copy of the Matilda the Musical soundtrack, a Matilda the Musical poster, and a paperback copy of Matilda by Roald Dahl!

Be sure to visit the Official Matilda Facebook page to keep up with all things Matilda!

To find out more about Matilda the Musical on Broadway, visit their Facebook page! 

For the next stop on the Matilda 25th Anniversary blog tour, head to Book Journey tomorrow!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The False Princess

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal. Grades 6 and up. Egmont USA, 2011. 320 pages. Review copy provided by my local library

Princess Nalia's days are spent in study and reading, occasionally exploring the castle grounds with her best friend Kiernan. Until suddenly Nalia's life is turned upside-down. She is informed that she's not actually the real princess, but a stand-in, chosen to thwart a dooming prophecy made about the princess on her birth. Nalia's real name is Sinda. She must leave the castle and start a new life with her only living relative, an oddball aunt in a tiny backwater town. 

Sinda is crushed by the loss of the only life she's ever known, but soon more important issues arise. And Sinda finds herself caught up in a deadly mission to protect the true heir to the throne.

First of all, Sinda is a character you'll love to love. She's caring and very much imperfect, and when her life is turned completely upside down (which happens more than once), she perseveres. Sinda finds a way. She may not be the most coordinated. She may even be timid and shy, but Sinda's not giving up. And she grows so much throughout the book that it was really a pleasure to see her coming in to her own. It's not necessarily a story that's focused on character development (there's a lot going on, plot-wise), but when you reach the end you can really see how much Sinda grew and changed throughout the course of the novel.

The plot is twisty-turny, but never in a way that felt implausible. And I actually never saw anything coming (I maybe thought I did, but I never actually did!). Everything fit together and threads started in the beginning of the book come back around at the end of the book. The intricate plot makes for a very rich story and plot points were tight, making it a satisfying story, too. 

There's definitely a bit of romance, and kind of a swoony one, too. You'll definitely be rooting for those two crazy kids to get together, but it's all very PG. This is a great choice for tween fantasy fans, particularly those who enjoy an adventure story and some romance. 

Readalikes: The first series that came to mind as I was reading was the Song of the Lioness Quartet (starting with Alanna: The First Adventure) by Tamora Pierce. The political details of Tortall and the strong female narrator may appeal to readers of The False Princess

I'd also recommend Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore for their intricate political details. Particularly Bitterblue, which is a story about a young queen coming into her own. Bitterblue's journey is similar to what Sinda goes through and the volume can stand alone, although readers won't want to miss Cashore's other titles and Bitterblue is probably richer for having read the first two books. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Summer Reading Club: I am In It

Yesterday was the first day of our Summer Reading Club. (Yes, yes, we start very early. Our public school system is moving towards a balanced schedule, which means their last day is tomorrow and they'll go back August 1 [not that I'm counting down already or anything.......]).

April and May are always the worst for me because the anticipation, the worrying over every detail, the not-knowing-how-it's-gonna-go is the worst. This year was maybe worse than most since we changed a bunch of things about our program - we changed the requirements, we're doing it online this year, and we have three new staff people who haven't done SRC before.

But we started yesterday and... I forgot how busy it gets. We had over 100 people registered by the time I left around 5 and some kids have already started to track their minutes. :)

This is our first year using Evanced's Summer Reader module and so far we're really liking it. We've got four laptops set up at a table near our Children's Desk so we can help people sign up. The only thing (so far) that I don't like about doing it online is that I feel like we're not talking with people and explaining the program as much as we have before. BUT maybe that's because the first day is the first day and we're not in our routine yet.

We've had some sign up online from home and I think that'll be bigger next year after people learn about it this year. We distribute information to all the school-age students and many of the preschools, but it seems like very few people actually read it. Or maybe we should have explained it better? I think people are just used to coming down to the library (hooray!), so that's how they're doing it.

We're wrapping up school visits this week and Miss Teresa and I are going to do booktalks for some fourth grade classes on Wednesday. Thursday will be the first day that the public schools are out. And then after Friday we get a nice, long Memorial Day weekend and the library won't be open on Sundays anymore (thank goodness).

Summer Reading Club? I am in it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Audiobook Review: We've Got a Job

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson, read by Ervin Ross. Grades 6 and up. Listening Library, 2012 (book copyright Peachtree Press, 2012). 6 hours and 22 minutes. Review copy purchased. Hey, I'm an Audible affiliate, so if you purchase audiobooks after clicking on links in this post, I get a small commission. 

In 1963, the people leading the Civil Rights movement were desperately trying to make headway in Birmingham, Alabama - sometimes called "Bombingham" because of the high amount of bombings connected to the Civil Rights struggle. When leaders of the movement got the idea to demonstrate and protest with the goal of filling up the jails to make a media splash, it seemed like a good idea. But the stakes were too high for many adult protesters... So the children and teens decided to go to jail.

Yes, this is a book about the Birmingham Children's March of 1963, but it's also a really rich resource on civil rights in general. There were many civil rights demonstrations that led up to the Children's March - sit-ins at lunch counters, ride-ins on segregated buses, marches and parades by adults - none of which really had the desired effect. This is an important book, not only for telling a little-known story, but for telling a story about kids and teens making a difference. The story of the Birmingham Children's March clearly illustrates that kids can make a difference and sometimes their efforts are essential.

Ervin Ross's narration is steady and clear and it fits the content nicely. This past year I've gotten into NPR and I'm enjoying listening to nonfiction audiobooks all the more (they're like long NPR episodes! You learn so much!). A very nice feature of the audiobook is that parts of Cynthia Levinson's recorded interviews with the featured activists are included. It was great to hear them talking about their experiences in their own words after reading about them in the book.

Often, listening to youth nonfiction books on audio is a little bit of a trade-off because there are photos, diagrams, or illustrations that you're missing. We've Got a Job is no exception, so you may want to hunt down a print copy to see photos of the four featured activists and other events mentioned in the book. I will say that, having listened to the audiobook first and then picked up the print book, there were less photos than I had thought there would be. There's a great deal of uninterrupted text, which may scare off some young readers.

This book is rich with content that would fit Common Core standards. It has much to add to units on Civil Rights and American history. Don't miss it!

We've Got a Job is on shelves now!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Emerging Readers: Start With a Book (Blog Tour)!

I'm so pleased to be part of the Start with a Book blog tour, featuring some great resources for librarians!

Fluency. Building comprehension. Sight words. These are words that teachers of reading are very familiar with, but children's librarians might not be. And why should we be? We're not teachers. We don't tutor kids who are learning to read. We weren't taught that in library school!

But if we're doing our jobs well, we're supporting the people who are teaching kids to read. And we can best support teachers and parents if we know what they're talking about and what they're looking for when they come in asking for resources to help little Johnny who is struggling.

Enter Start with a Book. This awesome website is a great resource for librarians to start learning about how kids learn to read and what parents can do to help them. We're heading into Summer Reading time, so now's a great time for you to do a little research and get an idea of how to help parents practice reading with their kids.

It seems like more and more librarians I know are starting some kind of beginning readers storytime: a program to help get kids ready to start school and/or help reinforce reading skills and strategies after school. Start with a Book has some great activities that you may be able to incorporate into these types of programs.

Check out the following sections for ideas:

  •  Fluent Kids explains what fluency is (reading like you're speaking, basically) and why it's important. This page includes several ways that parents (and librarians!) can help kids practice their fluency. 
  • Reading Aloud contains many links to pages on the Reading Rockets site with activities to help kids build comprehension, build critical thinking skills, and more! Check these out for a wealth of information on learning how to read. 
  • Literacy Resources includes activities to practice writing and spelling, as well as lots of ideas for early literacy. 
  • The 24 learning themes include tons of age-appropriate book suggestions on popular themes and links to the Reading Rockets adventure packs which provide activities to accompany each theme. This is a great source for finding books to share in programs with this age group and activities to round out your program. 
Even if you're not planning programs centered on emerging readers, learning more about how kids learn to read and how parents can help them is great professional development. At the very least, keep Start with a Book in mind to refer parents who come to  you with questions about reading.

And don't forget to enter this fabulous giveaway!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reading Wildly: Funny

I'm so glad that we talked about humor this month for our Reading Wildly staff reading program! This time of year, public librarians definitely need to get our laughs in. Plus, funny books are such a popular request with kids that it's great to have some on our minds as we head into the summer months.

As we shared and discussed the titles that everyone read this month, one thing I definitely noticed is how many of the books we read were readalikes for each other. We kept mentioning the same series again and again, namely Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Those cartoony, diary-format series are certainly hot, but my staff chose a wide range of books this month, as well.

As we each discussed the books that we had read, we made certain to note the type of humor in the book, since there's a wide variety. Whereas Dear Dumb Diary might have some wacky bathroom humor, the Bink & Gollie books have a much more gentle sense of humor. We also had a conversation about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, since most of us had read that book, and talked about whether Greg was a likeable character and whether kids realized that he's kind of a jerk and why they relate to those books.

Since we talked last month about book talks, I had challenged my staff to write a book talk for their books and everyone did a really nice job. I pointed out at our meeting that the necessity of practicing our booktalks is not just theoretical anymore. T and I will be visiting four 4th-grade classes next week to booktalk and I'm really hoping that we can expand our booktalking next year!

Here are the books that my staff and I shared during our Reading Wildly meeting:

For next month, we'll be reading bestsellers. I passed out the NYT Bestsellers lists from the past couple of weeks (the middle grade and series lists), as well as a print out of the Top 100 Children's Books from last week. I've told my staff that I don't care what list they get it from, as long as it's somewhat recent, and if they choose to read a book from a series they may read any book in that series. It's important to stay on top of new books being published and to know what's popular with kids right now!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Popularity Papers

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldbatt and Julie Graham-Chang by Amy Ignatow. Grades 4-7. Amulet Books, 2010. 208 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Sixth grade is coming. And best friends Lydia and Julie are getting ready! They've both seen Lydia's older sister go through middle school, ending up a social pariah, and they're determined that their fate will be different. They will be popular! So they devise a plan to observe the most popular girls at their school and write down what they do so they can try it. Some tactics backfire, like Lydia trying to bleach a blonde streak in her hair using the bleach she finds underneath the counter. (Note to self: that bleach will burn off a chunk of your hair.) But the girls will persevere... until it starts getting in the way of their friendship. Why is being popular so important anyway?

We're talking about funny books this month in our Reading Wildly book discussion and this has been a popular series since I bought them for the Children's Room last year, so I knew I wanted to pick up the first book. It's no mystery why these are popular. The cartoony, handwriting-y format is reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the myriad of funny cartoon diary books that have sprung up in its wake. Full color illustrations makes this series stand out. But, more than that, Amy Ignatow hits the nail right on the head with her dual tween narrators. As I was reading, I could totally imagine myself starting a notebook like this with one of my best friends in 5th-7th grade.

It's easy to mess up dual narrators, even when handwriting styles can help the reader differentiate, but Ignatow gets it right. She's created two distinct characters here, passing the notebook back and forth as they record their adventures in popularity. She also gets bonus points for diversity (Lydia and her sister are raised by just their mom and Julie has two dads, a fact that's obvious throughout the book but also no big deal).

The book is laugh-out-loud funny and I found myself wanting to continue reading the series purely for my own enjoyment (not because I had to for our book discussion).

Readalikes: Obviously the cartoon diary format and the humorous tone is going to make this a readalike for all those Wimpy Kid-esque books (Big Nate, Dork Diaries, etc.).

I'd also suggest Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm for the format. I think the full-color told-through-stuff format might appeal to kids who like all the full color cartoons in The Popularity Papers.

I might also try Smile by Raina Telgemeier. This graphic novel is full color, so format is one appeal factor. Smile also deals with a girl trying to navigate the tricky waters of middle school and the story is sometimes funny and sometimes poignant.

The Popularity Papers is on shelves now! And don't miss the further adventures of Lydia and Julie in subsequent books (book 5 just came out this spring!).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Daycare Summer Reading at the @ALSCBlog

Flickr CC: usnavy

I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about the special Summer Reading Club we're creating for daycares and summer camps this year! Click on over to hear all about it and post your advice or questions in the comments.

(Sadly, Michelle Obama is not part of our daycare Summer Reading Club. Hopefully it will still be fun!)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bink & Gollie

Bink & Gollie and Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile. Grades 2-5. Candlewick Press, 2010 & 2012 (respectively). 81 & 96 pages (respectively). Review copies provided by my local library.

Am I the last person to read the Bink & Gollie books? I very well may be, but in case I'm not: don't let Bink-and-Gollie-absence syndrome happen to you!

Bink is short. Gollie is tall. Bink is a little reckless. Gollie is quite practical. Bink loves brightly colored striped socks. Gollie thinks brightly colored striped socks are tacky. They're opposites in a lot of ways, but you know what? Bink & Gollie both love to roller skate. And they both love having adventures. Together.

I had a patron the other day who just might have loved Bink & Gollie. This particular patron was starting to read chapter books, but still much preferred books with lots of pictures. He devoured the books in our graphic novels section, but was also ready for a little bit of a challenge. Bink & Gollie with its somewhat sophisticated vocabulary and plethora of humorous illustrations would have fit the bill perfectly.

These are very sweet, funny stories about two friends who like to do everything together. From roller skating to buying pets to eating pancakes to visiting the carnival, Bink & Gollie are inseparable (even when climbing mountains). Their friendship reminded me of my beloved Frog & Toad and I think this series would be a great readalike for those books. They're a bit longer, but many pages are filled with funny, expressive illustrations, limiting the text on each page.

For this reason, I would hand these books to reluctant readers, as well. The vocabulary may be more suited to kids who are reading well, while the format may entice kids who aren't yet sure that they like to read. Bink & Gollie's ages are never explicitly stated and, really, they could be any age. Although the text is short, these are funny stories that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

So, what are you waiting for? Get thee to the shelves and pick up Bink & Gollie. And do not be at all surprised if reading that first one makes you a lifelong fan. I'm warning you now. ;)

Bink & Gollie and Bink & Gollie: Two for One are on shelves now! Also look for the recently released Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever.

Monday, May 6, 2013

2015 Newbery Committee, Here I Come!

The Newbery Award is administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Newbery Medal image copyright ©2013 and used with permission of ALSC/ALA.

Well, the ALA Election results were announced last Friday and I am thrilled to announce that I have been elected to the 2015 Newbery Committee!! I'd like to thank everyone who voted in the election. It is so important for ALA members to make our voices heard within the organization. And congratulations to my fellow Newbery committee members and the elected members of all the other ALSC and YALSA selection committees! 2015, here we come!!

(And if you're wondering what that means for this blog, well, I'm not entirely sure yet. I will certainly refrain from reviewing anything eligible for the award here, but I hope to continue blogging about library programs and services during 2014!)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lessons Learned at the Craft Table

In December, one of our long-time staff members retired from the Children's Room after 40 years at this library and we had a card drive for her. Not wanting to leave her beloved young patrons out, we put up a little table right by our reference desk so that kids could make cards for Miss Jan. It was such a hit that it's stayed up ever since!

Okay, yes, it's messy sometimes. And yes, sometimes parents argue with their young children about whether or not they're allowed to use the scissors. But here's why we love our craft table:

1. It attracts kids to the desk. From there, we may be able to have a conversation with them or at the very least, we can be a friendly face.

2. It gives kids something to do when mom or dad is engrossed with filling out a job application (or, let's face it, checking Facebook) on the computer.

3. Coloring or scribbling with crayons helps develop fine motor skills. Using scissors is a skill that kids need to learn in Kindergarten. Depending on the craft, kids may get a chance to practice their writing. Crafts that require instructions require kids to read and/or to practice following instructions.

4. It gives kids a chance to make something for their families. Right now, we've got Mother's Day cards as our craft. Kids can't drive to the store. They may not have craft materials at home or their parents may not use craft materials with them. This is a very simple activity, but kids love to show appreciation to their loved ones and this station helps them do that!

You can see how we've got it set up in the picture above: a small half-table that butts up against our reference desk. (We'll probably find another place for it come summer when we're sure to have lines at the desk.) We place a couple of stools there and we made sure to have a trash can nearby. Depending on the craft, we'll set out crayons, scissors, glue, construction paper, scrap paper, stencils, and/or templates. Another good thing about having it right at our desk is that it allows us to keep an eye on the materials and we haven't had any incidents so far.

We aim to change out the craft about once a month and we're planning to change it out every other week over the summer. The crafts we've done so far include: retirement cards, cut-paper snowflakes, Valentines, game boards (you can find the template on this blog post), paper kites (template here), and this month's Mother's Day cards. We're also planning on doing a bookmark craft to get kids ready for summer reading and Father's Day cards.

A couple of tips:

  • Yes, it'll be messy. Especially glue. And cut paper. To me the benefits outweigh the potential hassle of cleaning up the station. Make sure you have a trash can nearby and monitor the table regularly to help keep a handle on the mess.
  • Remember that the process is more important to the kids than the final product (generally). Don't be dismayed if you find finished crafts left behind. 
  • Sometimes the parents want to sit down and color, too, and that's okay. 
  • Have some scrap paper handy for littles who maybe aren't really old enough to do the craft but would like to color. Or be prepared to throw away a lot of construction paper or templates with scribbles on them. 
  • Think about taking down the craft station if you have a class coming to visit. Our station is very small, so it can be overwhelming to have 15 kids all wanting to do a craft at the same time. We'll typically take down the sign and supplies if a group visit is coming in or when we have our toddler programs and expect a lot of young children in the room. 
  • Keep statistics! We make sure to count how many templates or sheets of paper we're putting out so that we can count this activity in our department statistics. It may not be an This is a passive program, so make sure you're counting it towards your stats!
Anybody else have a make-and-take craft space in your children's or teen area? What crafts have you loved?