Hello dear neglected unadulterated! I love my little old blog, I really do, but man, life goes by so fast these days! I am not as good at posting here as I used to be - nowadays I am more likely to post reviewlets to Goodreads or Instagram. This summer I've been keeping up with #bookaday - and lots of others have too, it's a good hashtag to browse.
What else is happening this summer? I've been pounding the kids' graphic novels (Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Graphic Novels Subcommittee REPRESENT!) and ferreting out new middle grade novels that would make good read-alouds. I'm noticing more really stellar entries into the early chapter book market - Princess in Black and Yeti Files were just the start of a very nice trend, it seems. And my library system recently had our annual Make a Difference to Children Week.
Which always makes me laugh. Make a Difference to Children Week - as opposed to the other 51 weeks of the year, when we kind of just ignore them, right?
Ha ha NO. Of course not. But during MaDtC Week, we have additional opportunities to have enhanced interaction with kids. Not to bog you down with program details, but parents and kids are given incentives to spend quality time with library staff. These interactions are pure gold. Everybody learns something - the kid, the library staff member, and, if you do it right, the parent. Here are some highlights just from my week - and it's a big system, just think what was going on all over:
"You guys are GREAT readers. Do you read to your little sister like this when you're at home?"
"Do you like it when your sisters read to you?"
I got to praise them for taking turns really well, and for helping each other out if they got stuck on a word. We got to speculate on "What's Little Owl going to do when he finds the balloon?" and "Where do you think that balloon went?" And then we picked out books for everyone!
THESE GUYS. Cousins, I think, who despite being competent independent readers, chose a picture book to read to me. "OH! We love this one book, it's called The Book With No Pictures! Do you have that?" Do I have that? I have a video of myself and my grown-up niece reading it to the whole family before it even came OUT.
They took turns reading, and when the BOO BOO BUTT page was coming, excitedly called the youngest member of their party to come listen. "He loves this part!"
What did we learn? We learned the word onomatopoeia. Will they remember it? They'll remember that it has PEE in the middle of it, I guarantee you that much.
I am a tall-ish person, so I try to get low whenever I'm going to be talking to young people. If there's no chair or stool around, I do a really low lean against that counter back there. These guys are telling me about the book their mom is reading to them at night - The Fellowship of the Ring. Yep. That's one mom who's like, Goodnight Moon? I DON'T THINK SO.
So I asked, "What's your favorite part so far?"
"The part when the Black Rider stabs him!" says the little girl.
"What?! You mean Frodo, at Weathertop? Weren't you scared for him?"
"Nope," chimes in her brother. "Frodo wasn't going to die - he's the main character!"
I told those guys that they were excellent readers. "Well, WE'RE not reading the book," clarified the Littlest Shieldmaiden of Rohan. "Mom's reading it to us."
"Reading isn't just using your eyeballs to figure out words," I told them, hoping Mom was within earshot. "You figuring out that Frodo is the main character and then knowing that the battle at Weathertop may be scary but won't kill him - those are called narrative skills, and yours are so good! That's a really complicated story, and the best way to get good at understanding complicated stories is to keep reading them! Or listening to them!"
I was so happy to have a chance to praise those kids, and to give Mom incentive to keep reading to them. Not that she probably needed it - I got the feeling this woman had been waiting to share epic fantasy with her offspring since... well maybe it was the whole reason she even had children.
Wanted a book on jellyfish. Wanted a GROWNUP book on jellyfish, specifically, I think because grownup books tend to have better pictures. Sadly, we didn't have any jellyfish books on the shelf, but we did have OCEAN, one of those crazy board books with the lenticular photos that seem to move. For some reason my system catalogs them as adult books. Anyway, we flipped through those pictures and had a fine old time.
Who's an adorable baby? She's an adorable baby! Not a lot of talking, but she knew a strawberry when she saw one! And could point out objects of various colors, and sat still while we squeezed every drop of identification, counting, and print awareness out of that book - in front of Grandma.
This wee fella scrambled away from his mom and I every time we tried to settle him on my lap with a book. "He usually LOVES reading," his mom said mournfully. She seemed embarrassed that her bouncy toddler wouldn't sit still for a book. "Well, this is a very exciting place!" I said. "Of course he wants to explore!" So as he crawled around our fancy picture book room rug, I pointed at the letters on it. "Yee!" he said when I pointed at the letter B. "That's right!" we cheered. I pointed at the C. "Yee!!" he said. All the way around the rug, I'd point at a letter and he'd point at it too.
"His letter knowledge is fantastic!" I told Mom. "The fact that he understands these symbols as having sounds associated with them - and he can't even talk yet - he's going to have such a leg up when it comes to decoding!"
The developmental milestones and firsts just go flying by when your babies are that small. Plus, you're so exhausted just keeping up with them, making sure they don't fall down stairs or climb on top of the fridge. I was always grateful when we met professionals who could decipher and point out just what those tiny brains and bodies were up to while I tried to keep them from eating sticks.
"I don't WANT to go over Auntie Whomever's!" cried Ricky Ricotta. "Uncle Flerdlewhatzit always shakes my hand too hard!"
"What's going to happen when Ricky gets to Auntie Whomever's house?"
"Uncle Flerdlewhatzit is going to shake his hand."
"How's he going to do that? Here, shake my hand."
Shakes my hand with a big flappy motion.
"Oh my gosh! That IS annoying! Let me do it to you!"
I didn't get a picture of the little girl who read a few pages of a Nancy Clancy chapter book to me. But there was a part where Nancy grew SKEPTICAL. It's a hard word - I helped the kid out with it. I let her finish the paragraph, and then asked, "Can you tell what 'skeptical' means from what you just read?" She shook her head 'no.' "How about if I told you that the librarian who's going to take over for me in a few minutes is an elephant?" She gives me a face.
"That face you're making! That's your skeptical face! What do you think about the librarian being an elephant?"
"I think that's probably not true."
"Well you are just going to have to hang around here and find out, aren't you? What's Nancy skeptical about in the story? What is she pretty sure is not true?"
And I can't remember what it was, but it probably involved Uncle Flerdlewhatzit again. That guy gets around.
JUST before closing, she ran to get a joke book off the shelf. "Tell me a joke, quick!" I said. But instead she read the title, and the author, and then read the Preface. And then I had to turn off the lights and shoo them out the door. Lord, if I've said it once I've said it a dozen times - authors, ditch the Preface. But I've seen them back in the library since. She and her sister have had ALL the joke books out.
Another kid I didn't get a picture of was the distracted little boy who did NOT want to pick out Beginning Reader books with his mom. "He's just not feeling it tonight," I said. "How about if I show you a couple of series that he might know from school - sometimes those are an easier sell."
While we were doing that, he ran up to us to say something else. He looked at my Summer Reading shirt...
...and said, "Look, mom! Orioles!" She was like, No honey, that says "Read" and then sort of apologized to me. "He really loves baseball." I told her, "Well, that was really great - he recognized that swoosh under the word Read and associated it with the Orioles logo - that's visual literacy. It's just as important as verbal literacy, given how much information comes at us in the form of images nowadays." I was so happy to point out something she could be proud of about her kid - it was the end of a long, hot day and I could tell they could both use a little boost.
Ok this one's cheating. That little bit of dandelion fluff is a library kid - my friend Dances With Chickens's daughter. She lets me play with her whenever she comes in. BUT. She's a big Bigfoot fan, so I got to introduce her to the Yeti Files.
"What's a Yeti?" I asked her.
"It's a Bigfoot who, who, who lives in other places, where it's REALLY COLD."
"Which one's the Yeti?"
"Him! He's the Yeti!"
"How can you tell?"
"I don't know! How can I tell?" she asked herself.
Some kids, you just don't have to lead 'em to the meta - they live there.