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The ABC's of being a children's Librarian

Too Many Cats by Lori Hashkins Houran

Too many cats

Too Many Cats by Lori Hashkins Houran

Easy Reader: Level 1

Ages: 5+

Genre: Cats

Find this book at your local library

Black cats, grey cats. Stinky, slinky, silly and chilly cats are just a few of the cats that are mentioned in this easy reader book. This level 1 book is a great start for new readers. The text is minimal, two to 4 word sentences. Cat is the most used word, the rest are just descriptors. This book is a great way to build vocabulary. There isn’t much of a story in this book, but at this stage of a child’s reading, they are really just learning how to read the words aloud. The story is very simple. Cats jumping over the fence to hear a woman play her cello. Joe Mathieu’s illustrations are full page color spreads that are eye catching and very detailed. Kids will enjoy pointing out all the different objects they see on each page.

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Why Today’s Kids Need to Know Nursery Rhymes

I won’t lie. I wish I came up with the idea for this post. But I’ll just do my librarian-duty and redistribute the information.

Why Today’s Kids Need to Know Nursery Rhymes via The Measured Mom

Anna Geiger lists 10 reasons why nursery rhymes are important for young children. The list can go on forever, but I think the main points come across very strongly:

They are the perfect first short stories. They teach children at a young age that stories have an intro, a middle and an ending. This will help them anticipate stories and lengthier books.

They can boost language development and foster a love of books. Speaking from experience, our nursery rhymes book is one of my son’s favorites. We act out the motions (rolling our arms with Jack and Jill, tumbling on our backs with Humpty Dumpty). We just have to say the title and he will open the book up to the appropriate page.

They help children become better readers by utilizing a variety of sounds that children otherwise wouldn’t hear in regular conversation. They pick up on the meter of the text and the flow of the rhymes which improves language comprehension and listening skills.

They can improve fine motor skills. The itsy bitsy spider is a tricky move for little kids. Getting their fingers to do these small motions is a fantastic development.



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Sausages by Jessica Souhami


Sausages by Jessica Souhami

Picture Book

Ages: 3+

Genre: Folk & Fairy tales, Wishes

Find this book at your local library

If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for? An elf grants three wishes to John and his wife being rescued. As husband and wife think of all the nice things they could have, the hours pass and John starts to get hungry. Only then do they realize that they need to be careful for what they wish for.

This book is one of my favorites to read for a preschool story time. The story is funny and the kids get such a laugh of a giant string of sausages being attached to John’s nose. The message is clear in this story, be careful with your words. You never the effect of your words.  John and his wife go back and forth bickering while chaos ensues with errant wishes. The illustrations are very descriptive, young children will be able to guess the story without being able to read the words. This is one of the more child friendly folk stories. Many tend to be aimed for older children.

The Three Wishes story has been traced back to Ancient India and Greece. The first popular version was published in France in the 17th century, although there is another version of the story from Britain going back to the 12th century. You can also find another version of this story from the Grimm Brothers going back to the 19th century. Many authors use elements of the “be careful what you wish for” theme in children’s, teen and adult fiction.

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What’s the Matter Bunny Blue? by Nicola Smee

What's the matter, Bunny Blue?

What’s the Matter Bunny Blue? By Nicola Smee

Picture Book

Ages: Birth – 3

Topics: Rabbits, Missing Persons

Find this book at your local library

Little Bunny Blue is lost in the forest , boo hoo hoo. A friendly group of animals keep Bunny Blue company and help him look for his grandmother by asking questions about her.

Nicola Smee is one of my favorite authors to read for my baby/toddler storytime. I read Clip Clop all the time. Little Bunny Blue is another one I’ll soon be adding to my rotation. Particularly since many grandparents are the ones bringing the young ones to the library. I think this book is very important for little kids. Especially those that are able to speak clearly (the 3 and olders, really). It’s dreadfully frightening to be separated from someone, especially when you are little and the world is big. With the help of friendly adults, Bunny Blue is able to offer some distinguishing trademarks about his grandmother that help the other animals reunite the pair. I think this book is a great way to discuss this topic of separation with little kids. It will happen at some point, whether the caregiver steps away to use the bathroom, or the child wanders away distracted by something shiny. It’s important for young children to learn who they can talk to when they are lost and confused and what they should say to find their way back home.

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Reading Print is better for comprehension than reading digitally

A new study from Norway reveals that reading print is actually better for reading comprehension than reading digitally, on the computer or on a tablet. The study was done by the researchers from at the Reading Centre of the The University of Stavanger on a group of 10th graders. The teens were broken up into 2 groups, those who read print and those who read digitally. They were given the same texts, one being fiction and the other non fiction. When they were quizzed on comprehension afterwards, the print group did better overall than the group that read on the computer. Why? Because reading print helps the brain form mental maps.

An obvious difference between PC screens and paper is that paper is material. You can feel the weight, texture and thickness of a pamphlet or a book. You can see where it begins and ends. You can quickly leaf through the pages with your fingers.

This perceptible, direct experience gives you a mental map of the entire text. The brain has an easier task when you can touch as well as see.

Previous research has demonstrated that a mental map is particularly important if the text is long. Lengthy texts call for quicker navigation. You need to be able to leaf back and forth through different parts of the text to see, review and comprehend relationships and contexts.(

This is important to keep in mind when letting young children play with tablets and computers, especially when reading is involved. Although if you do let them read on the computer, I would recommend discussing what they read and asking questions right away, to help reinforce the subject matter. So much is being shifted online, with online textbooks, ebooks, and school digitalizing everything from simple homework assignments to major reports and projects. Especially for young adults, whose brains are still so flexible and developing. We need to make sure they have access to the best possible methods of learning possible. Granted, that’s easier said than done.


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The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre

The trouble with boys : a surprising report card on our sons, their problems at school, and what parents and educators must do

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre

Peg Tyre provides a sobering look at how the modern school system is failing boys. Boys nationwide, across all lines of wealth and poverty are straggling behind girls. Boys are less motivated, less inclined to participate in school activities. This goes from homework to extracurriculars (not including sports). Since so much effort has been put into supporting and promoting female success at school, the success of the boys has fallen by the wayside.

One of Tyre’s main points is that this is a highly controversial topic. How do you discuss supporting boy curricula without is coming across as anti-girl? Boys and girls learn differently. Tyre discusses that in-depth in her book using a number of examples and studies. She visits schools and speaks with teachers and administrators across the nation. As it stands, boys are suffering. Boys are constantly trying to be reformed to be less aggressive, more docile and that is not cohesive with the developmental milestones. Boys are squirmy, they are wiggly. They cannot sit still for hours on end. Schools are cutting back on recess and lunch hours, and in the end, boys are being misdiagnosed with ADHD all because they don’t have the space or time to exert their extra energy. It’s very troubling to me, a mother of a young son. I already worry about his education in California (one of the worst ranked in the nation), but to add this on top of my other concerns is just disheartening. Tyre does end each chapter with advice for parents, teachers and administrators. The book is about 6 years old, so I do wish she would update this edition. I’d love to know what the state of the national school system is now, particularly with the introduction of the Common Core standards.

Tyre discusses a wide-range of options, solutions and explanations for why boys are struggling in the school system. Often, it starts when they are very young, and are somewhat forced to sit still and learn in a setting that is not conducive to their learning styles. Boys are highly visual learners, they learn by doing, not so much by rote memorization. The new trend is early education is really leaving the boys struggling. They usually lag behind girls in verbal and gross motor skills. By Kindergarten, most boys are still having trouble holding a pencil, when they are supposed to be writing daily journals. This can discourage boys from succeeding in school because it seems like they are set up to fail from the start.

One of the reasons why I love my child’s daycare, is because they promote play so heavily right now. He is only 18 months, but even my husband was asking me if he should be learning something in daycare. It seems like there should really be a public discourse and debriefing about how much children learn from play. They establish all the foundation for future academic learning through play periods in their childhood. I feel like I have an advantage as a librarian, being able to cull a number of resources and citations to explain why play is so much more important for my child than being drilled on the alphabet. But I wonder what other parents are hearing. Is that why Baby Einstein videos are so popular? It seems like a cheap way out. I want my child to grow and learn at his own pace, but that doesn’t seem to jive with what the modern-day school system is demanding. I learned how to read in 1st grade, now most kids are expected to read or at the very least, fully know the alphabet before entering Kindergarten. Is too much expected of kids these days? Is all of our talk and promotion of Read, Talk, Sing pushing kids to exceed what is developmentally appropriate?

This is a great book for parents of boys, especially the highly active ones. I feel like I am more on-alert about his proclivities and personality. I feel more prepared for whatever future discussions I’ll have with teachers about his classroom participation.

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Who Says Woof? by John Butler

Who says woof?

Who Says Woof? by John Butler

Age: 0-3

Picture Book

Topics: Animals

Find this book at your local library

John Butler is hands down one of my absolutely favorite children’s book authors. It’s a shame that his books are out of print in the US. They are wonderfully simplistic and his illustrations are so emotive and endearing. The children love his books every time I read one at story time, and my son adores his books. He’ll run into up to us, book open to his favorite animals waiting for us to make the appropriate animal noise (the squeaky mouse for this particular book). I love that the illustrations are so life-like and almost three-dimensional. The sentences are short, but sometimes filled with humor. Who Says Woof? covers a broad range of animals from domestic pets to exotic farm animals. The background color on each page leads to the next animals, along with the next animal noise. On the very last page is a headshot of all the animals with their sound. This is a great book for a baby/toddler story time and also a great gift for new parents. He’s an author I tend to look for in used bookstores because you won’t be able to find him in the regular bookstores.


I read Who Says Woof? with Nancy Tafuri’s Spots, Feather’s and Curly Tails and found that the books really compliment each other. They each start with a clue about the animal, and cover most of the same animals. Spots, Feather’s and Curly Tails is all farm animals though, and used different clues for the same animals (cow, pig, horse, etc). It was a nice way to recap and add-on to what we learned from Who Says Woof?

Spots, feathers, and curly tails by Nancy Tafuri

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7 Action/Adventure Books – That are not Fantasy

In the ever-evolving world of children’s literature, more books than not have some element of fantasy or magic within the pages. Often, when I’m doing a book talk or giving reader’s advisory, I tend to the lose the boys as soon as there is talk about something out of the norm. Not all boys want dragons, or wizards or parallel universes. For those boys, finding the right book is getting harder and harder. Here’s a small list of 7 Action/Adventure titles in the vein of Gary Paulsen for those kids who are interested in something other than fantasy. Although the protagonists are male, I would not discourage girls from reading these books. There are no boy books or girl books. There are good books and bad books. Captivating characters and boring characters. Well thought out plotlines and not-so-well thought out plotlines. You see where I’m going. Just hand the book over to the child and let them decide if its right for them.

action adventure

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

Weighed down by guilt, Joel searches for the courage to tell the truth about the disappearance–and apparent drowning–of his best friend Tony while the boys are playing near the treacherous, and forbidden, Vermillion River.

Storm Warriors by Elsa Carbone

In 1895, after his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Nathan moves with his father and grandfather to Pea Island off the coast of North Carolina, where he hopes to join the all-black crew at the nearby lifesaving station, despite his father’s objections.

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

The fifth grade’s annual camping trip in the woods tests Mark’s survival skills and his ability to relate to a teacher who seems out to get him.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

A young boy relates his adventures during the year he spends living alone in the Catskill Mountains, including his struggle for survival, his dependence on nature, his animal friends, and his ultimate realization that he needs human companionship.

Earthquake Terror by Peg Kehret

When an earthquake hits the isolated island in northern California where his family had been camping, twelve-year-old Jonathan Palmer must find a way to keep himself, his partially paralyzed younger sister, and their dog alive until help arrives.

Shipwreck by Gordon Korman (Book 1 of the Island Series)

Six totally different kids have to learn to work together to survive a vicious storm and a shipwreck that leave them stranded in the middle of the ocean with no food, no water, and almost no hope for survival.

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

When Michael is swept off his family’s yacht, he washes up on a desert island, where he struggles to survive–until he finds he is not alone.



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Playtime is Hard Work

Playtime can sometimes be seen as a distraction from the more traditional educational lessons of numbers and letters. But play is one of the most valuable ways in which children learn about their world, hone in and define their skills, as well as develop new skills in the process.

  • Play promotes the ability for children to learn deliberately.
  • Play gives children a way to express themselves when they don’t have the words to do so.
  • Play promotes language, critical thinking and organizational skills.

What it looks like: Painting/Drawing                                      What is really is: Writing skills

For young children, working with crayons and markers is a basic introduction to literacy. They are working on their fine motor skills by learning how to hold onto a writing tool. They are learning brush strokes, which will help with forming letters as they get older. They are learning in an easy and relaxing environment, allowing them to be creative with their designs.

What it looks like: Rhymes and Singing                                 What is really is: Storytelling, narration

Basic nursery rhymes, fun and silly songs help children develop their narration / storytelling skills. Through nursery rhymes, they learn that stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Singing allows them to develop and learn about concepts outside of their daily experiences. Library storytimes are a great to learn new songs and introduce your child to their peers in a relaxing, fun and safe environment. Most libraries also hold a stay & play with educational toys after the story time.

What is looks like: Trips to the park, zoo, etc.                    What it really is: An awareness of the larger world

Play can be done safely in the home, it can also be done outside in parks, grocery stores, the zoo, museum, or even the post office. Every outing has the potential to be a fun and educational venture. By exploring the world around them, children learn about the societal functions of their community. They learn about community helpers (police, fireman) local retailers, volunteers, organizations, business, vehicles, buildings, etc. All the details that make up the world around them. Exposing children to a variety of cultures, people and experiences broadens their knowledge of the world.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.

Fred Rogers

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A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na

A Book of Babies by Il Sung Na

Picture Book

Ages: 0-3

Topics: baby animals

Find this book at your local library

This wonderfully illustrated book talks about all the different types of families, using baby animals as a guide. There are babies with many siblings, some with none. There are babies who live in their mommy’s pouches and others who live in their daddy’s pouches. It’s a great book to start the conversation on diversity, different family models as well as the basic facts of certain animals (like how baby ducklings are noisy). This book was well received at my storytime. Both parents and the toddlers enjoyed the book. There were a lot of “oooh, a zebra!” and I think many kids could relate to each type of family mentioned in the book. The animals in the books are lively, with hilarious facial expressions. One each page, you can find the mother duck, either hidden or in plain sight, observing the other animals. Next time, I might read this in conjunction with Todd Parr’s The Family Book or one of Laura Numeroff’s What Brothers/Sisters, Mothers/Fathers, Aunts/Uncles Do Best books.

About the Author

Korean author, illustrator Il Sung Na is the creator of a number of picture books. Each one is beautifully illustrated. A Book of Sleep is perhaps his best known book, although I loved Hide and Seek. His titles have been nominated for, and received, many awards, including Best Children’s Book 2012 for Hide and Seek.

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