Friday, February 25, 2011

Building Grassroots Support for Libraries.

Another library will be closing their doors in Southeast Michigan. This is cutting to close to home. Way to close. To top it all off, Governor Snyder's recent release of budget cuts will basically leave more libraries hanging by a thin thread for dear life. The words "unsustainable" comes to mind quite often when listening to the litany of cuts aimed at libraries. While understanding that our country is experiencing economic turmoil and sacrifices must be made, it seems that all too often the library is the one who bleeds the most in local, state and national cuts. Before it is too late, and another library is lost. Leaders from every type of library across the United States, should stand firm against the cuts and fight like mad to save libraries. In this economic environment, no library is safe. Not even yours.

Fellow colleagues have commented to me that they believe that this is the end of librarianship. The future for libraries is dark at the moment, granted, however, it is not the end. It's merely a new chapter. While this "chapter" in the history of libraries will not be a very happy one, there is an opportunity for some positive outcomes that librarians can learn from in the years ahead. Pardon me if I sound as if I'm repeating myself from my earlier blogs, but I believe some things must be repeated and repeated often.

As a profession, I think now is the time to start singing our praises about libraries in general to the public we serve. More often than not, librarians will talk among themselves about how horrible it is to see libraries close or cut hours. Attending conferences that teach librarians on how to be advocates is a wonderful place to start, but let's face it those who attend the advocacy conferences are preaching to their kin. We'll consider that a practice session. It's time to go out into the world and do the "hard" sell.

Recently a patron boldly asked me why should libraries be paid for by tax dollars? The library services are not as important as the fire or police departments. Before going into the spiel of everything the library had to offer, I tried an easier approach. We can agree that every community needs a police department to protect them from crimes. We can also agree that every community needs a fire station to protect families from fires. Libraries are needed in every community to protect access to information. When put into that context most patrons will be satisfied with that response. If the counter argument is made that the internet has replaced the library, all one needs to do is point to the statistics that demonstrate that communities are using their libraries now more than ever. It's not hype, it's fact.

Every moment that librarians are given to be in the public eye should be shrewdly taken advantage of in the way of cheap marketing. Everywhere, every minute and to every person, libraries and their benefits in society should be promoted. Talk isn't cheap when it is associated with action. Going out into the community is a huge step towards reminding people that libraries build and sustain communities. Perhaps this is a Pollyanna dream to believe that librarians could build a grassroots support for libraries within every American Community. I don't believe so. There are many librarians who are coming to realize that we can not really solely on our professional associations to protect our libraries. Librarians have got to build it themselves, one citizen at a time. What did Costner say in Field of Dreams, "If we build it, they will come." Well? It can be done. Is anyone willing to help begin the grassroots movement to save libraries? Here's hoping there are at least a few yeses. If there is not, we're doomed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teens, Technology and KISS (Not the Rock Band)

Simple minds, simple pleasures. That is the theory that has explained many situations in my career. it seems that the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule does apply in just about everywhere I look. Except one area of working in the library: Teens. Need I say more? Don't get me wrong, I love working with the teens. They are a fascinating group that views the world in ways I would have never dreamed. In other words, they keep me young. Except, when it comes to technology. I'm not a dinosaur by any stretch of the imagination. I'm hip. I can use an iPod or iPad. Cell phone with texting, yeah it's fun but I like human voices. I tweet, blog and catch up with friends on Facebook. Email, is so yesterday! So why does KISS rule not apply with teens? They take technology and multitasking to a whole new level.

On any given Saturday, when most teens come into the library to do homework, it is an amazing site to see how things get done in the realm we call Teens. A snapshot of what I typically see is this: teen sitting at table with homework. Between the books and laptops is the cell phone. Mighty important because it is ready to receive the next important text from friends. In the ears are earbuds attached to the MP3 player of choice. When walking pass the table, a glimpse at the laptop reveals that three screens are open, one for Facebook, one for their email account and finally Google page for quick searches. I get exhausted just thinking about doing all these tasks. Yet, there they are reading, texting, listening, updating, and researching all in a single bound. My concern: With so much distraction while they are working, how are they analyzing information? Are they absorbing the information or are they going through the motion of completing homework without thought to what they are learning?

This is a question that all educators, librarians and parents should be asking themselves. It is after all our duty to ensure that teens will be ready for the challenges they will face in the future. Our challenge is how to teach teens to KISS without sounding like we are technophobic. I'd like to suggest that the first step begins with teaching them the art of communication. Now, I know that teens can communicate with their friends quite well, but let's face it when they get into the workforce they will have to know how to communicate with people of all ages. In a world of abbreviated words such as ttyl, btw or lol, there seems to be little time to have a meaningful conversation. Challenge your teens at home or in the library to join you for chat time at least once a week. Make it an appointed time and place where they know they are welcome to drop in anytime. The stipulation to joining this chat: no cell phone allowed. Once you've got their attention, let the conversation flow naturally, allowing them to talk about their world. What could be a more interesting topic to them?

Once teens begin to learn the art of communicating the next step of keeping it simple stupid should be easy to take. Honing their concentration skills. Teens often tell me they concentrate just fine even with a million other things going on around them. My response has been that I am glad they feel that way because the next time they need major surgery (knock on wood that does not happen anytime soon) I hope that they are okay with the surgeon receiving sending texts during the operation. Better yet, listening to hard rock music, singing along, catching up on the Tigers baseball game via Google and updating his FB status with "Hey, dude just closing up the guy I'm working on. I hope I didn't forget to take out the appendix. lol" . Yes. I get the look that tells me I'm nuts. They don't tell me that directly, but they will say, "Mrs.Nowc that will never happen." Maybe, but wouldn't you want to have your surgeons' full attention? Shouldn't your homework get your full attention? The reality is, they don't want to admit I'm right. To prove the point about concentration, challenge teens to complete two simple puzzles. Both 48 piece puzzle that is easy enough for a 5 year old and they will be timed to compare how "quickly" they complete each puzzle. The first puzzle must be done with all the distractions they like, including texting, ipods, anything goes in this game. The second puzzle should be done without any distractions at all. No phones, no ipods, nothing. The objective here is to prove how much quicker things get done when teens are concentrating on one task.

Most importantly when teaching teens the KISS rule, it's wonderful that they have the ability to do everything at once. However, remember that its not only important to find information, its equally important to be able to understand, use it and apply it in the right way. it is one of my greatest fears concerning teens and their use of the internet. The can understand how to find information, but what to do with it or how to evaluate it is another story all together. In essence, they are skipping over the most important part of research. As educators, if we allow this to happen we are sabotaging the teens' future. We are sabotaging our future. Teens must be given the knowledge on how to properly use and apply the tools given to them. The Internet made research a wee bit easier and made this generation a wee bit lazier. Using KISS should make it easier to teach teens on the awesome capabilities of technology and using it wisely.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reaching the Reluctant Reader!

Reading is an activity that can either be pleasurable or painful. Librarians have always known that good reading skills help students to succeed in all their subjects. it is what I call a foundational skill in which all other subjects build upon. Everything for English to Math to Vocational Education. To remind parents of this fundamental truth is like preaching to the choir. They understand all to well the importance of reading and success. So when dealing with reluctant readers in their family, they turn to librarians and teachers for advice on the best methods to motivate their children to read. Every child is different and there isn't one magic solution that will help every child. One piece of magic that always works can be summed up in one word: FUN. Here are some suggestions that might make a difference for your child.

Children love quality time with their parents. Whether it is going out to the park, watching a movie together or just hanging around the house together. New parents always ask when is it appropriate to begin reading to their baby. It is never too soon to read to your baby. With so many great books and authors to choose from, even in board books, that finding a book should not be difficult. Not all children respond to being read to the same way. There are some children who just can't sit still or lose interest in the book. One solution to this is to not finish the book. Sounds silly doesn't it? Think of it this way, you want the reading time to be enjoyable for both you and your child. Before you begin reading with your child, let them know that you will only read two or three pages of the book. After that place a bookmark on the page you've left off and announce you will find out what happens next in the story tomorrow. If your child is okay with that, good. If they are not, and they want to hear more, than continue on with the story until they tell you they are done listening.

Another good tactic to use is letting a child be active during the time you are reading to them. Especially if you have a child who needs to move constantly. During a Dr. Seuss story time with over active boys, I've brought out puzzles that are based on the title that I am sharing. Fox in Socks is one of the titles I use for story and puzzle time. The puzzle has very large pieces (48 count) which is quite easy to put together for small hands. After reading a page or two, I would stop and direct the children's attention to the puzzle. At first they don't know what the puzzle will be since the box is hidden. Together, we picked out pieces and connected them. (HINT: I know the puzzle inside out, so I guide the children in what pieces to pick. It's cheating a little but it moves things along faster) After a couple of pieces are connected, I begin reading again and repeat the process until the book and the puzzle are completed. Children are surprised to find out that the puzzle is a picture of Fox in Socks.

When the child is ready to read and finds the process difficult, parents sometimes begin to force their child to read. Never use force. The children will relate the unpleasant experience with reading and from that point it will be that much harder to get them to read later in life. One program that I have found to benefit struggling readers are the Paws for Reading programs. Many libraries and schools have used this program which allows children to read aloud to a friendly canine. The cost to run a program like this is minimal to the library. The return on this small investment is huge. Not only do reluctant readers gain confidence in their reading skills, but they begin checking out library books, telling their neighbors about the program and participating in other library programs. What does the library gain? A library supporter for life, hopefully.

Large type books are wonderful for patrons with vision problems. They are also wonderful for children who hate reading. When a book is in large type, the book "seems" to flow faster. Fewer words on the page than in normal type makes page turning go much faster. What is the benefit of that? The reluctant reader finds it easer to finish a book. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride. This is the ultimate goal that librarians and parents strive when working with children on their reading skills. They need to find out that they can read, and they have the ability to become better readers with time and practice.

My last piece of advice, is simply this: read aloud to children at any age. You'd be amazed at how reading aloud helps children in school. It improves their memory, their reading skills along with comprehension and most importantly it opens their mind to their own imagination. In third grade, I had a wonderful teacher who read aloud to our class every other day. The first time she did this, she read from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Listening to the story helped our minds to concentrate one activity during reading, the imagination. This opened up a whole new concept in reading to me! Reading was a chore, something to "finish" and say that I had done the job. It never occurred to my young mind that if I could learn to read and imagine at the same time, the story would come alive. That's when the "light" came on for me and reading became pleasurable. I suspect that this can happen to children today as well.

This topic has always hit close to home for me. Libraries are my passion for a very good reason. The power of reading has changed my world and in a small way, I've wanted to help others find that power as well. Having said that, this will not be the first or the last entry on reluctant readers. Stay tuned, there is much more to come.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Library Naysayers: Don't Know, Don't Care, Don't Come

Recently I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper (Macomb Daily February 10, 2011). In the letter, I urged the new governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder not to cut state funds for libraries. The comments that were posted, were to say the least, disheartening. It is amazing to see in my own community there are citizens who don't know, don't care and don't come to their local library. My first response was to be hurt. Time to lick the wounds, again. How many times have I heard the arguments against libraries? They are always the same and eventually it always comes down to calling libraries and librarians "dinosaurs". Next came the anger. Again, the blood starts to boil and the terms, "useful idiots" come to mind. What else could they be? People who don't think for themselves and go along with the popular "idea" that the Internet has EVERYTHING. It is too bad that they buy that line, because they are missing out on so much more that the library has to offer. Last, the idea came to mind, if at first you can't convince them, educate them. It's time to educate the Don't Know, Don't Care and Don't Come crowd.

Let's begin with the basics of helping them find their library. In our virtual world it is easy to get directions from home to anywhere in the world. However, with this crowd, they don't think they need a library, let alone want to ask for directions on how to find the local library. What is a savvy librarian going to do to draw this tough crowd into our world? Go where they hang out. Internet cafes, bars, bowling alleys, or where ever. Get to know them so they can get to know what the library has to offer. Show them how easy it is to access databases, ebook downloads and in some cases homework help for children. That can be done all at the cafe, the bowling alley and even from home. It's a safe bet that this crowd does not even realize the resources that are available.

The next step is to invite or if need be, challenge them to come to the library to discover what they have been missing. Host an Open House, where everyone in the community is invited to meet the library staff and tour the building. This is a good time for librarians to remember that libraries are not just about books, they are about people. This message needs to be repeated loud and often. Libraries are places where people of all ages can come to educated themselves on any topic they wish. Not only are there books, movies, and periodicals. There are fantastic library programs that are not available anywhere else within the community. Programs range from, story times for children to planting spring gardens to Estate planning. Invite this tough crowd of library naysayers to explore everything that the library has to offer. Afterward, ask them if they still believe that their libraries are obsolete.

Finally, as professional we have to educate the naysayers that The internet is not a replacement for librarians. The best way to demonstrate how librarians are necessary is to show how technology has affected other fields. For example, the other day, a program about modern medical technology caught my attention. It was astonishing to learn how robotic arms were now performing some of the more delicate procedures that years before were the responsibility of surgeons. This piece of technology helps to reduce error during an operation. It does not completely remove the need for a doctor. Ask yourself, would you feel comfortable if your surgery were to be done by a programmed robot and not a capable surgeon? Of course not! Any sane person would want the doctor, and the robotic arm would be an extra but not a necessity. The same is true in the case of the Internet and librarians. The Internet is wonderful for some tasks, such as looking up stock prices or finding the latest news headlines, however it is not a replacement for what librarians do on a day to day basis. When complex research or homework questions can not be answered with a quick click of a mouse, a librarian is able to direct patrons to the sources that contain the precise answers patrons need and want. The internet is just a tool, nothing more.

Going about educating the library naysayers may seem like it will be daunting. However, I'm convinced, that if everyone who loves libraries would help reach out to this crowd in a grassroots efforts to save libraries, mountains of misinformation can be moved! Libraries could and can be saved.

Monday, February 14, 2011

President Who Loved Libraries!

Mixing it up a bit with the two holidays that are celebrated in February. Today we celebrate Valentine's Day. A day to celebrate feelings of romance and friendship by sending a card decorated with hearts and flowers. Cute little phrases like "Be Mine" or "Friends Forever" are stamped onto heart shaped candy to validate our affection for others. February is also the month in which we celebrate Presidents. Most notably Washington and Lincoln, since their birthdays are in this month of Love. With this in mind, I began to wonder if we could find Presidents who actively supported libraries. This venture took longer than I originally thought. However, the task of searching for the answer did not go in vain. Indeed, there are at least ten Presidents who supported libraries and used them often. It wouldn't surprise me if every single President used and enjoyed the library's resources, after all they were smart men who occupied the Oval Office. Having said that, the list of ten that are placed on the list, there is concrete proof to back up the assertion that these men supported and used libraries.

George Washington had many virtues to emulate. However, not returning library books is not one that should be followed. In the dusty records of the New York Society Library there lies the "ugly" truth that the First President checked out the book : The Law of Natons by Emer de Vallet. Better late than never, the book was returned 221 years later by the museum at Mount Vernon.

The second President of the United States, John Adams signed a bill to spend $5,000 to purchase 740 volumes and three maps from England for the collection of the new Library of Congress, which was housed in the Capitol.

Thomas Jefferson followed in Adams' footprints to help the library build it's collection Jefferson sold 6,487 books, which was his entire personal collection, to the library in 1815. Jefferson strongly felt that "a government was best served by an informed and involved citizenry” Not only is he credited with uttering those words, he also stated to James Madison, " Books constitute capital. a library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. it is not then an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital." Lucky for librarians today, we still have his words to drive home the point of the the library's "value" in our society.

Between the Third and Thirteenth President, there are no documented records of these Presidents showing support for libraries. The Thirteenth President, Millard Fillmore, who became part of the Know-Nothing movement after his presidency, really did know quite a lot. Upon finding that the White House was devoid of books, Fillmore established the collection for the White House Library. This is where the President will on occasion address the Nation.

Our beloved Sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated man. Young Abe had taught himself Law, became President and was an avid reader. The argument can be made that not only did President Lincoln use a library to further his education. He was also the first President to support "Story time". Need proof? John Hay, Lincoln’s personal secretary, wrote in his diary that Lincoln read Shakespeare aloud to him until he could no longer keep his eyes open. Lincoln then sent him off to sleep. (Had Mr Lincoln consulted a Children's librarian, they may have given him a tip or two on how to keep your story time audience involved.)

Sixteen presidents later, another president comes to support libraries. Well known for his New Deal programs, Franklin D. Roosevelt established federal funding for libraries. In 1941 Roosevelt issued a proclamation supporting libraries as "essential to the functioning of a democratic society".

Harry S. Truman, the Thirty-third president, shared his Predecessor's view of the local library. His contribution to this list is a personal one. In his memoirs, Truman recalled that as a boy he read all the books in the local library. That's quite an accomplishment. It's too bad they didn't have Reader's Advisory at libraries back in his day. Librarians would have loved to have had him help patrons choose books!

As the Thirty-fourth President, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the speech at the Dartmouth College Commencement Exercises on June 14, 1953. His words were stirring as he spoke about censorship. "Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as that document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship."
This list could not be complete without adding President George W. Bush, our Forty-third President. Not only did he marry a school librarian, Laura, who is the first librarian to hold the title of First Lady, he is also a book worm. As an avid reader and competitor, he was known to challenge Karl Rove on how many books they could read in year. Rove won three years straight but give Bush a break. After all, he was tied up with a full time job as President of the United States. Bush has stated, "Libraries promote the sharing of knowledge, connecting people of all ages with valuable information resources. These dynamic and modern institutions, and the librarians who staff them, add immeasurably to our quality of life." Contrary to what Paul McCartney would like everyone to believe, George W. does know what a library is and how it affects our society.

Last on the list is our current President. It was interesting to find that Barack Obama made this statement as a Senator "At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better." This is an excellent endorsement for why children need and deserve libraries. These words should be plastered on every library's door. There are many moments when I disagree with the President, but got to give credit where credit is due. This time, he hit he nail on the head.

All of these endorsements from our Past Presidents should be used in one way or another to promote and protect our libraries. It seems it doesn't matter if you are Democrat, Republican, or Independent, it is a presidential act to support and love libraries. Share this with community leaders, they need to be reminded this President's Day that libraries are great!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Bad News ?

To say the economy is not doing well would be an understatement. In good times, libraries feel budget pinches and in bad times libraries feel budget punches. This time around it almost feels like a TKO, total knock out. Cities are appealing to their citizens to approve milages in order to secure funding needed to keep their libraries open. Routinely, the American Library Associition sends out bulk emails urging their members to contact their representatives in Congress and the Senate to include support to libraries in the jobs bill. The only problem with this, is that everyone else and their cousins are asking for the same thing. The Detroit Public Library recently announced that in March of 2011 they will be forced to use furlough days and layoffs in order to keep the library open. America is not the only country losing their big cities libraries. In the UK, libraries are fighting to remain open, which leads to the conclusion that this is not just a national problem but a global one. When the global economy rebounds, will libraries receive the financial support they need? My fear is that once the money is stripped from libraries, there will be no turning back. That support is gone for good. Is there still time to stop this from happening? There is no question that the tock is ticking, but yes there is hope.

The American Library Association has been on the front lines for library advocacy. As an organization, it has done it's part in keeping the membership informed of legislation, advocacy tools through various outlets such as and Both sites provide useful information but there is a key component that is missing. It is preaching to the choir. Those who truly care about the plight of libraries will search out the information. Those who don't, will simply ignore the argument as they plug into the Internet for information that is repeated often, shallow in quantity of research and ease of access with a click of a button, creating the illusion of the Internet is the ends to a means in retrieving information.

Libraries are the backbone of a free society. It just may be that this is where the concept of "Do-It-Yourself" originated. Library patrons have always used the resources available to them to educate themselves on a variety of topics. Anything for classic literature, politics to home improvement is available under one roof. As a profession, librarians have taken for granted that the community knows about the library, and will use it when needed. Since the 1980's and 90's especially, the society has become more demanding in how much "time" it takes to receive service or to complete a project. Time has become a valuable commodity. Almost priceless. To survive in a fast paced world, public and private businesses give the people want they want: fast service. This it seems to me, is the library's biggest foe. Time.

The general public views libraries in nostalgic ways. A symbol of simpler times, when life seemed to go at a slower pace, neighbors knew each other and everyone felt safe. It is in essence, the view of Norman Rockwell's America. Case in point, years ago borrowing a book from the library came as second nature. In 2010, with the rise of popularity of eReaders and digital books, most patrons do not even consider the library as a place to "borrow" ebooks. In their minds, libraries have not moved with society and are from a bygone era. Why? They want information fast and convenient. Librarians need to change this view and quickly. While there are many supporters of the library, there are many more who are critical of libraries and our profession. Reaching out to the critics will be the best way to survive. Not only in this country but worldwide.

No one can deny that a culture with an educated class has a better chance to have open debate which ultimately can lead to a democracy. For this reason alone, it is worth saving libraries. Having said that, this is not enough to drive home the importance of libraries. Libraries must go to where the critics are, the coffee houses, the parks, the gym or the mall, to promote and educate what the library has to offer. It is simply not enough to go to our legislators to ask for support. It is simply not enough to ask Friends of the Library for fundraising ideas. Libraries will survive when a community rises to support them. This is bigger than a grassroots effort. This is going to heart of what the library is all about. Serving people of all ages and at every stage of life.

Finding critics of libraries is easy. Librarians find them around every corner. The real challenge, as stated before, reaching out to them. A bold attitude to invite ourselves into the most unlikely places should be used. Grab a microphone and start talking about the wonders to be found at the library. The key here is don't stop talking and don't stop moving. Light the proverbial flame in every community. No longer will our critics be able to say that librarians are quiet and mousey. Hopefully, they will have a better understanding of what librarians do and an even better appreciation for their local libraries.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The World At Our Fingertips

By now it should come as no surprise that I love libraries. Every chance I get, I'm either promoting libraries, going to a library (and not just for work) or reading about libraries. If there were a library choir, I'd be in it. Programs such as summer reading clubs, teen advisory groups and adult book discussions are great ways in which to reach out to the community. This year's SRP (Summer Reading Program) theme is "One World, One Story" for children. The teens theme is "You are Here" and Adult's theme is "Novel Destinations" All very clever angles on the same idea. However, I'm going to shake things up a bit and add my own spin. Why not use this opportunity to point out that at the library everyone has "the World at their fingertips."

Our world is becoming smaller every day due to digitizing information, social networks and technical capabilities that seemed science fiction just a few years ago. The tired argument that the Internet has replaced the library is a myth that can be put to rest by seizing this opportunity to invite patrons to explore the world at their fingertips. These ideas not meant just for the wee ones but for the big kid in everyone. Just imagine, it's a Saturday afternoon, children and their families have come in for a program where the guest speaker is Justin Sumpter, author of Vampirates Series. How could the library afford the air fare? Did the Friend's group do an awesome job at fundraising? Nope. This was all made possible by the wonders of Skype, a voice over the internet service. Skype has also become popular for its ability to provide video conferencing that is fits in every library's budget. It is free if both parties sign up for the service. The technology is there, free and fun. Why shouldn't libraries take advantage of this opportunity to have a global author visit. (Hint to Justin Somper, please consider this an open invitation to "visit" my library) In addition to Skype, another tool at the library's disposal is YouTube. Any library around the world can use this site to film their programs or give a virtual tour of the library. Once the video is posted on YouTube. the world can "visit" the library.

On the same track Facebook has opened the doors for friends far and wide to get together. There should be no reason why U.S. libraries can not become friends with their counterparts across the pond. Think of the possibilities of becoming Facebook friends with London's public library. Librarians could share what programs are scheduled for the day their library and even invite their patrons to say "hello" to readers at your library. Sort of like a "virtual" pen pal. Perhaps they could even give suggestions of good books, or music CD. Who knows, this could lead to world wide advocacy for libraries. (A geeky librarian's dream come true to be sure)

What can we say about Twitter? There are possibilities here, but perhaps not as dramatic or easy as the other two tools. Twitter is challenging because it forces the writer to be witty and concise in 140 characters or less. Is this not a contest waiting to happen? With a little luck and a little work, invite libraries from US to China and everywhere in between to show their support of their libraries in 140 characters or less. Would patrons get excited about this? I don't know, but it is worth it to toss out ideas to see if it has wings.

As librarians, we truly have the world at our fingertips. News from around the world can be viewed almost instantaneously. Communication tools have become affordable, adaptable, and available everywhere around the world. Allowing the task of reaching out easier than before. Showcasing these social media tools in the library reminds patrons that the information they need is no further than their library. Even if the librarian has to "go all the way to China" to get the information desired.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Different Take On Valentine's Day Story time

I love holidays, even the minor ones. It's an opportunity not only to celebrate but also to uplift the spirits and think about the positive side of life. As a children's librarian, holidays lend themselves to wonderful story time hours. In the dreary month of February, when many of us in the cold north are thinking about escaping to somewhere warmer, reading Valentine's Day books can warm the coldest hearts. The lesson plan for story times can be quite easy. Find several books on the holiday or books on love, mix in cute fingerplays and add simple heart crafts. Viola! Planning was easy as one, two three. However, this Valentine's Day why not be daring. Escape the traditional story time routine where all the books share the same theme. Excuse me while I put on my Cupid wings, aim my little bow and arrow just right while I target the reader's heart hoping that they will fall in love with the books I will be sharing with them this Valentine's Day. None of these books listed here have anything in common, except that they are in the category of "loves" on my personal list of children's books.

First on my list of "loves" , is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I love visiting with the monsters and seeing how the other side "lives". Max's fearless gaze into the Monster's eyes always gives hope that no matter what monsters we face in life, there is always the opportunity to become "King of the Forest" and overcome the fear. The artwork is wonderful, imaginative and captivating. After sharing the book with younger readers, I put on a little music and invite them to dance like the monsters. Inevitably, it ends in a monster parade. If this doesn't get the children to love the story, I'd be really surprised.

Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont is a tale of paint and misbehaving. Goodness, how does one little girl get into some much trouble with a little bit of paint and a brush? What goes along great with this story is either let the children imagine that they have paint brushes or give them a small one. Each time the narrator of the story talks about painting a certain part of the body, like arms, invite the children to do the same. It is so much fun to watch them giggle at the pictures while doing the actions. Ah, but at the end our poor little heroine has to take a bath to clean up her mess. After all that fun, the children reading along with you must remove the "paint" from themselves also.

I can always find children to fall in love with Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. This adorable book about a sneaky, but friendly Gorilla pick pockets the keys from the Zoo keeper, allowing each of his zoo friends to escape. Well, of course they are caught and brought back to the zoo for the night. Does this deter the Gorilla from trying again? Nope. That's why children by the end of the book are marveling at the Gorilla's ability to get away with his plan again. Allowing the children to set my animal zoo free one by one when I am "unaware" usually ends up with children who are sneakier than Gorilla. If I plan to have the children act like Gorilla, extra time is always needed. That's okay. Once you get the "love" is planted for stories, parents don't mind hanging around a little longer to watch their children having fun in the library.

A very long title for a very short book, but it made the "love" list because it is a perfect book to share with young readers. The Little Mouse, The Big Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Woods is an example of what you see is what you get. The title gives away most of the story but who cares! The plot of the story is not ruined by it one bit. As a matter of fact, because of the colorful artwork, readers can almost taste the strawberry. Not only that, each emotions that the mouse feels about his situations come through the pages clearly, allowing the reader to really want to help the furry little mouse. This story about sharing is important because it reminds this librarian, not only to share great stories but to maybe just maybe share a big juicy strawberry with her favorite group of children.

Got a purple crayon? With this next story, the children in my group are invited to help decorate a mural for our reading area. With only a purple crayon, they are instructed to draw whatever is in their imaginations. Once in awhile the complaint of "I don't like purple" or "I need more color" is voiced, but they are always satisfied when told that there is a special story to share soon. After allowing them time to draw for fifteen minutes, they gather to hear the story of Harold and he Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson. It doesn't take long for them to realize why their masterpiece was done in purple. Interesting discussions often take place after the story is read. Children have no problem explaining their imagination took them when they were drawing. The mural is placed on the wall with the title "The Afternoon Story Hour and The Purple Crayon." One child even commented that his story hour mural was better than the book! I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that that story hour LOVED Harold and the Purple Crayon.

What picture books are your favorite? Share the books that you love with the ones you love! That is the best Valentine's Gift to give. The memories and the stories can last a lifetime. Happy Valentine's Day a wee bit early!