Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fun with Letters!

Letter knowledge (the ability to recognize upper and lower case letters, know letter names, and the sounds they make) is one of the six early literacy skills children need to have in order to learn to read. It is also the most important early literacy skill used to predict a child’s success in learning to read.

Come see how learning letters can be fun! The library will be hosting Fun with Letters, a workshop for parents and children ages 2 - 5 to enjoy together on Wednesday, March 1 at 10:00 a.m. This workshop will show parents how to use the five early literacy skills - reading, writing, talking, singing, and playing - to help children learn letters and letter sounds. Register online at, in person at the Centerville Children’s Desk, or by phone at 433-8091, opt. 3.

If you can’t attend the workshop, here are a few fun ways to help your child develop letter knowledge:

· Start with the letters in your child’s name. These are the most important to them. Write your child’s name where he can see it (magnetic letters on the fridge, etc). Point out the first letter of your child’s name anywhere you see it.
· Write your child’s name on heavy cardboard so he can trace it with a finger or a crayon.
· Sing the ABC song.
· Play with letters - magnetic letters on the fridge, blocks with letters on them, and foam letters in the bathtub.
· Read alphabet books.
· Hide magnetic or foam letters around the room. When your child finds a letter, ask her to name it or say the letter sound.
· Let your child scribble or practice writing a few letters.
· Play with shapes and point out shapes around you.

Guest post by Allison C. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wolf in the Snow

This nearly wordless picture book, set on the prairie, tells the story of a little girl who gets lost in a snowstorm on her way home from school and a wolf pup who becomes separated from his pack during the same snowstorm. Before the title page, there are vignettes of the child with her family and in her red parka setting off for school. The story opens with the little girl leaving school to walk home as the snow starts to fall. As the snow picks up, the wolf pup gets separated from his pack and the little girl gets lost. The two meet in what has now become a blizzard, and the child picks up the frightened wolf pup and trudges on. She hears the wolf pack howling in the distance and moves toward their howling, carrying the pup over hills, across a stream and through the woods, reuniting the pup with his pack. She tries to make it back home but falls, exhausted and unconscious in the snow. The wolves have followed her, and lick her face to wake her. When that doesn’t work, they start howling. Their howls alert her parents and guide them to her. The last scene shows the parents and child at home, cozy in front of the fire with hot cocoa.

The pen and ink drawings and watercolor illustrations in this book have just the right amount of detail and do a wonderful job depicting the emotions of the story. The desperation of being lost in a blizzard, the girl’s exhaustion, the wolves’ concern for the girl and the cozy safety of home at the journey’s end are all clearly conveyed without a word. Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell, is a heartwarming story of kindness and courage that is perfect for one-on-one sharing.

Guest post by Allison C. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Write On!

Reading, writing, talking, singing and playing are the five primary early literacy practices that the library promotes in our storytimes, programs, and conversations with parents and caregivers. Many parents wonder at first about the “writing” component of this list. Most children won’t write intelligibly until they are older, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage the elemental foundation of writing from a very early age.

Children naturally want to imitate the things they see us doing, so making to-do lists, generating grocery lists, and composing lists of books to look for at the library are all common tasks that may spark an interest in writing for them. Thank-you notes from children, even when they’re not entirely legible, are always a joy to receive. Resorting to good, old-fashioned pencils and paper instead of a keyboard will show them that the act of writing still serves a purpose. While it’s true that keyboards will probably be their primary tool in the future, there are definite benefits to learning to write and form the letters they’re learning to recognize in print. The physical act of holding a pencil or crayon has the extra perk of stimulating certain pathways in the brain that add to their readiness to read in the future. Taking it a step further, cursive writing has been found to help the brain learn how to better integrate visual and tactile information, and develops even greater fine motor dexterity.

Making sure there are always writing utensils nearby is the first step in creating a “writing-friendly” home. Chalk boards, white boards, or large pads of newsprint, and plenty of crayons, pencils, and markers give them the opportunity to practice writing on a blank surface. I know it may sound scary to leave those things within reach, but at least having them readily available on request will make it easier for them to indulge a desire to “make their mark” on a blank sheet. There is even paint you can buy that simulates a chalk board, making an entire wall eligible and ready for decoration and letter-writing practice. Sidewalk chalk is a great choice for outdoor practice, and special notepads or cards for letters to grandparents, teachers, or cousins can make the exercise even more meaningful. So encourage the writers in your house, as young as they may be. You may find some fan mail waiting for you in the future!

Guest post by Bridget W. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Family is a Family is a Family

In a world as diverse as ours, it’s always exciting to see a new picture book that represents children and adults from a variety of backgrounds. Families have taken on new shapes in recent years, a situation which offers us lots of opportunities to understand and appreciate the wealth of culture and experience around us. In Sara O’Leary’s A Family is a Family is a Family, a school teacher asks her students to describe what makes each child’s family unique. One little girl is afraid to talk about hers because she’s sure she’s the only “odd” one in the room. As the other children ahead of her relate what they perceive to be their own families' special qualities, her trepidation gradually dissipates.

Simple but effective illustrations by Qin Leng show one child saying: “There are lots of kids in my family. Mom and Dad just keep coming home with more.” Another believes the new baby at his house was ordered online. One girl lives with her grandmother. Yet another tells the class that both of her moms love to sing, loudly, in spite of their terrible voices. An artist who’s also a sports fan splits her time between her mother’s and her father’s homes ~ “fair’s fair”. A boy in the class has two dads, one tall and the other short, but they both give great hugs. Blended families, a mom in a wheelchair, and a child with “more grandparents than anyone else I know” give our nervous child the strength to speak up about her own foster mom, who, when at the park one day and asked which are her real children, responds that she doesn’t have any imaginary ones.

Young children are amazingly open-minded and resilient, yet, as they grow, they become more susceptible to doubts and fears that can make them self-conscious about who they are and the environments in which they function. Acknowledging those things that make us different can also help us become more aware of our similarities, and we find ourselves stronger in the process. A Family is a Family is a Family is a nice addition to the growing list of children’s books that foster a spirit of inclusiveness and acceptance.

Guest post by Bridget W. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tips for Reading to Toddlers

Recently a library patron asked me for book suggestions for her very active toddler. She wanted to read with her child to introduce her to books and encourage her love of reading but was having trouble getting through any picture book with her. Reading with toddlers can be challenging. If you have an active toddler, here are some tips for creating a positive reading experience:

· Have realistic expectations. Toddlers have very short attention spans and are easily distracted. You may be able to read to them for only a few minutes, and that’s okay. Just put the book down and try it again later, or try another one later.

· Choose your reading time carefully. Toddlers are busy little people, playing, exploring their world and constantly on the move. Snack time, after bath time, before bed, after a walk or a long playing session are all good times to try a story.

· Choose books that you and your toddler will enjoy. Choose books based on their interests, or let them choose books for themselves at the library or bookstore. Make sure the books are ones you don’t mind reading multiple times, as toddlers may want to read the same favorite book (or even the same few pages) over and over again.

· Bring the stories to life. Use exaggerated, funny voices, gestures and sounds while reading. Act the story out or use puppets to tell the story or even sing it!

· Encourage participation. Your child can help you act out the story, join in on repeated words or phrases, or find objects in the illustrations as you read together.

· Choose books that let your toddler explore/invite action. Pop-up books, books with flaps, touch-and-feel books, and board books all allow toddlers to explore through action - lifting flaps, feeling different textures, or turning pages.

· Read often. Let reading become part of your regular routine, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, so that reading becomes an expected part of the day and a fun family tradition.

Guest post by Allison C.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Greyhound, a Groundhog

This is the story of a greyhound and a groundhog who meet and begin to play, chasing each other around and around until they are stopped short when the greyhound spies a butterfly. Multiple butterflies fly up and away from the two friends who then continue to chase each other through a bog, a log, and around and around until the last page shows them happily exhausted, lying on the ground.

The wordplay in this story is delightful! The story is told in words using just a few vowel and consonant sounds throughout the book in rhymes and tongue twisters that beg to be read aloud: “A groundhog, a greyhound, a round little greyhound. A greyhound, a groundhog, a brown little groundhog.”

The simple, muted watercolor illustrations depict the story perfectly, capturing the joyful energy of the two friends at play and the wonder of the butterflies in flight. A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins is a wonderful picture book for reading aloud and is sure to be a favorite for all ages!

Guest post by Allison C.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Let's Pretend!

Every child utters these words at some point in his or her life, some more frequently than others, and some every day! Adults often wince when they hear the phrase, because pretending becomes harder as we grow older. We tend to lose the ability to let our imaginations soar, and we definitely feel more inhibited about pretending to be something we’re not.

Children, on the other hand, feel no such restraint, and it’s a good thing. In truth, when children pretend, they are not only fulfilling dreams, but also learning how to communicate, solve problems, and become more flexible human beings in pursuit of their goals. They can discover new talents, both their own and those of their playmates, and learn to express themselves in ways they may not have experienced yet. Imaginative play can give them the opportunity to imagine an uncomfortable or scary situation in a safe environment.

“Emotional intelligence” is an attribute that serves all of us well. Pretending has the potential to help expand a child’s ability to read personal cues and understand how to find a mutually beneficial path to long-term goals. Social skills are developed as imaginary roles are taken on or assigned. Sometimes they have to wait to be the princess or the monster in the story. They share knowledge of how they think the situation should play out, and learn to negotiate when necessary. All of these are beneficial skills for adults as well as children, so the next time your child wants to play pretend, do your best to indulge them!

Guest post by Bridget W.