Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding, Cinderella and Happy Endings

It seems that everyone loves a true-to-life Cinderella story. William and Catherine will be married on April 29th in England with many millions eyes from around the world watching this historic wedding. It seems that it was only yesterday, the world watched Lady Diana's Cinderella story on television. Times have changed but Royal weddings still catch the attention and imagination of millions around the world.

The Royal Wedding excitement is making it's way into classrooms and libraries. As a current event issue, students are discussing the Royal wedding with their teachers and friends. Some of the teens that frequently come into the library where I work will be doing extra credit assignments by watching the wedding live and "reporting" what they witnessed. Libraries also have caught the William and Kate fever. In Muskegon, Michigan which is not too far from where I am writing this blog, Friends of the Hackley Library will host a Royal Wedding Breakfast fundraiser at the Muskegon Athletic Club. The proceeds to be donated to the library’s children’s department which is in need of repair. With all the chatter about the royal wedding, it seemed appropriate to look at other culture's version of Cinderella. There are several children's authors who retell the story very well.

Shirley Climo has written several Cinderella stories from other cultures. One of her best works is The Korean Cinderella (1993) Pear is beautiful and is the daughter of an elderly couple. The father remarries when Pear's mother dies, her father remarries a woman with a daughter the same age as Pear. Just like the American version, the stepmother is jealous of her stepdaughter's beauty and requires her to perform many impossible chores, while her own daughter, Peony watches. Pear completes a set a chores with the aid of magical creatures such as a frog, sparrow, and black oxen. This allow Pear to go to the festival, where she loses one of her shoes and catches the eye of the Magistrate. What happens next? Well of course the Magistrate returns the shoe and falls in love with Pear. In The Egyptian Cinderella (1992) Climo again spins a wonderful tale that resonates closely to the traditional Cinderella story that most children know. This is Rhodopis's Cinderella story. She is a Greek slave girl in ancient Egypt, who has a rosy complexion and fair hair. As one might expect this is a rarity in Egypt and Rhodopia is often teased by the Egyptian servant girls. Rhodopia's fate changes when a great falcon deposits one of Rhodopis' rosy-gold slippers in the lap of the Pharaoh. He decides that this is a signal from the gods to marry the maiden whose foot it fits. Climo introduces young readers to Prusia and the Arabian Nights story in The Persian Cinderella (1999) In this story, kind-hearted Settareh gives money to a beggar and foolishly spends the rest of her money on a cracked jug instead of purchasing fabric for a new dress to wear to the prince's celebrations. To her great surprise the jug is inhabited by a pari that is able to grant her every wish. Now she is able to attend the festival and catches the attention of the prince. Settareh leaves behind a diamond ankle bracelet which is found by the queen. In an unwise move on Settareh part, she tells her stepsisters that the jug contains a pari. What else would jealous stepsisters do but steal it and instruct it to get rid of the the sweet Settereh. Their wish is granted and the jug leaves six jeweled hairpins that are placed in Settareh's hair, which then turns her into a turtledove. The prince befriends the bird and removes the hairpins, revealing that the bird is Settareh.

Several versions of the Cinderella story can be found in Native American folklore. A fine example of one of these version is Penny Pollock's The turkey girl (1996). This version focuses more on keeping one's promise than on finding one's true soul mate.
A poor orphan girl's kindness is repaid when a tribe's turkeys dress her in a fine doeskin robe so she will be able to attend the Dance of the Sacred Bird. There is one catch. She must promise to return to the turkeys before dawn. She is so enthralled with the dancing that she breaks her promise and loses her friends forever. From the Algonquin folklore, Rafe Martin presents The Rough-face Girl (1998) This story begins with two domineering sisters who are determined to marry the Invisible Being, who is everything a girl could want. Rich, powerful and supposedly handsome. They must prove that they can see him. They failed, but their mistreated younger sister. Rough-Face Girl, can see his sweet and awesome face all around her. He then reveals himself, and the Rough-face girl's true beauty is shown and the two marry.

Robert D. San Souci's work on the Cinderella stories takes his readers to the Caribbean. . Cendrillon (1998) is told from the godmother's point of view, this story is about a poor washerwoman whose mother leaves a magic wand behind. The godmother figures out how to use the wand and is able to help her beloved goddaughter. With one wave, A fruit a pain is transformed into the coach; six agoutis become the horses; and the slippers are bright pink with roses embroidered on them. San Souci's next effort Little gold star: A Spanish American Cinderella tale. (2000) is about Teresa who lives peacefully with her father, Tom in the hills of New Mexico, until he remarries. When Tom returns On a rare visit home, he gives his daughter a lamb. Killing the beloved animal, stepmother sends the brokenhearted girl to wash its fleece in the river. When the fleece is snatched by a fish, a beautiful woman wearing blue appears and promises to get it back if she will tend to the old man and the baby in a hut on the hill. Teresa agrees readily to do this but is unaware that the woman is the Virgin Mary and the old man and the baby is Joseph and Jesus. Teresa's reward is a gold star, planted on her forehead. When she returns home, the stepmother is again enraged, and sends her daughters to do the same as Teresa. However, their results are the opposite of Teresa's. After this episode, the story ends in the traditional way.

There are so many Cinderella-like stories around the world. These stories are a wonderful way to celebrate the "true life" princess story that will be televised around the world on April 29. Whether attending a fundraiser in Muskegon, watching the Royal wedding for pure enjoyment or missing the event all together, the Cinderella stories from around the world can provide the fairytale ending that everyone seeks. It will make for a great story time on the 29th or for the library's Summer Reading Program, One Story, One World.

For an extended bibliography of Cinderella Around the World please email,

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Great Reading Tool For Everyone: Family Literacy Kits

Every parent wants to see their child succeed in school. It's an ingrained desire of every parent and yet, they never trust their own instincts. Regardless of what library I've worked at, be the an academic, public or high school library, parents seek advice on how to motivate their child to read. That's like saying, "how can I get my child to eat their vegetables?" There is no "right" way to motivate a child to read. Just as there is no "right" way to get children to love carrots or peas. Sometimes it is just a mix of the right book at the right time. In other words, keeping trying but have patience. There is one "tool" that is different and most of the time effective.

A creative approach to enticing children to read is a Family Literacy bag. What is a Family literacy bag? These bags are designed to encourage family reading nights. This literacy tool can be purchased as a set ( or put together with a little creative imagination, time and money. A successful and creative literacy kit has a colorful bag to hold the following items: a content sheet, books, parent tip sheet, interactive activities and a parent/child response form. Each kit has a theme that parent and child will explore together. An example of a literacy theme kit is the zoo. Select titles that fit the theme, like Goodnight Gorilla, Dear Zoo, or I Am Pangoo the Penguin. Along with the books (Some literacy kits be as simple as one book) add a tip sheet to aid parents in asking their children questions about the book, suggested activities, plush toy that compliments the story, a content sheet to identify each item in the bag, and a comment form for parent and child to fill out and return to the library. This form is optional, however for the library it can provide a valuable tool in deciding on new literacy bags theme.

Providing family literacy kits is a positive reinforcement in motivating families not only to read together but to see the library as a place for a safe, inexpensive family night out activity. Of course, family programming accomplishes the same objective, however this is an affordable way for the library to support family literacy one step further. Additionally, librarians will find that the library-family connection is strengthen. Regardless of the social, economic, cultural background of the family, these kits allow the parents to feel comfortable in approaching the librarian with questions and concerns about helping their children with reading. With the literacy kits in hand, parents now feel they have the library as a partner in helping them help their children.

With that said, there is nothing that can replace the valuable moments that a parent shares with their child when reading together. It sparks conversations, it helps children relate to the world around them and most importantly it can help a child become confident in their ability to learn new things and to read on their own. Literacy kits can demonstrate to a child how reading can open the doors to new ideas, activities and other wonderful possibilities.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Never Too Early for the Bard of Avon!

It would be a terrible injustice to Sir William Shakespeare to not mention his birthday and how his works still influence authors today. Again and again, Shakespeare’s works are studied, referenced, updated and performed in schools, parks and professional theatre. One might think he’d get old and boring by now but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Why? In his own unique way he has crafted memorable characters who portray the human condition so well that if you were to change the clothes, hairstyles and the way they talk, they’d fit in well in the modern world. Let’s face it, jealousy, love, hate, betrayal are still present and as humans, we haven’t found any new twists that make us much different than our ancestors. Authors today still find inspiration from Will’s work. Sometimes the inspiration is right on the mark and other times not so much. However, there are gems out there that can not be missed. Would it be surprising to know that there are some very good children’s books based on the Witty Bard’s work?

It would seem a bit premature to introduce little one’s to William Shakespeare but when you think about it, wasn’t it a few years ago when it was believed that playing classical music to the child in the womb would have a profound effect on the child’s intellect? Introducing a child to Shakespeare at a young age should not be anything out of the ordinary. Instead, we should delight in the fact that they could learn a few of the classic lines, like “To be or not to be!” or “Romeo, Romeo where for art thou?” A little much? Perhaps no words need to be spoken or read at all. The Boy, The Bear, The Baron , The Bard is a delightful romp through Shakespeare’s world told in pictures. Imagine a young boy stumbling upon an old theater and begins to try on the costumes that look very similar to the ones an actor in a Shakespeare play would wear. He steps through the curtains to go on stage not realizing that he has stepped into a time machine that lands him on stage during one of the Bard’s performance. Gregory Roger’s illustrations of old England and the Globe Theater is a treat for the young and old. No words were needed to narrate the story because the illustrations draws the reader into each panel. Thankfully Rogers decided to do a second title Midsummer’s Knight which is as enchanting as the first.

Of course there are many other ways of introducing Shakespeare to the very young. There are finger puppets of the various characters in Shakespeare's plays. Again, it may seem to be going a bit overboard. However, in defense of all those who love the Bard, it is very difficult to contain the enthusiasm for great works of literature. As the Bard would say himself “Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart courage to make love known?”. Is it really too early to share something that is a treasure? Of course not! It would seem that authors like Mr. Rogers would agree!

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Does My Favorite Childhood Book Say About Me? Plenty!

A couple of weeks ago posted an article about favorite childhood books and what they may possibly indicate about the reader. Clearly this was done for pure fun and entertainment, but it caused me to think what if you were not a "reader" in your younger days? What if half of the books listed on the site were read within the last four years as an adult? (I will not reveal my age, but we will say that its not born yesterday and not older than dirt. Somewhere in between.) Should one suppose that my childhood was less than exciting since nothing can be said about me through my reading habits, or lack of, in my childhood? I would grudgingly admit that i missed out on great stories as a child. Having said that I do recall a few books that stood out to me as my favorites.

Snow-White and Rose-Red, the German fairy tale about two sisters who befriends a bear i when he appears on their doorsteps on a cold winter's night. The bear is really a prince who has had a spell placed on him by a wicked dwarf. The spell is broken once the bear has killed the dwarf. As luck would have it, the prince has a valiant brother who marries Rose-Red. Snow-White marries the Prince/Bear. What does this story say about the reader? Frogs turning into princes is boring. Bears are much more appealing. Go the non-traditional route to get what you want.

The Ghost of Saturday Night should be a spooky book, right? Nope. It's about Professor Pepper claiming to raise a dead outlaw live on stage. Opie, smart little boy he is, thinks there is something strange about the whole event. On the night the dead outlaws is raised, the town's bank is robbed. What does this book say about the reader? The readers is not one to believe everything that is advertised. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is!

Beverly Cleary's books were wonderful. Mitch and Amy is definitely a childhood favorite of mine. The story is about siblings Mitch and Amy who are very different and argue about everything. Things change when a common enemy, Alan begins to make their life a little uncomfortable for their tastes. Once they decide to join forces, it is Alan who begins to understand what it means to be humiliated. What does this say about the reader? Hey, the only person who can get away with making my sibling's life miserable is me! So back off buddy!

To think of it now, my childhood wasn't so boring after all. These wonderful stories taught me very valuable life's lessons. First, find your own path to finding what you want in life. Second, use critical thinking skills when deciding what's true and what's false. Finally, the family bond is stronger than anything the world can throw your way. Hope your favorite childhood books says something positive about your past.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Summer Reading Program: One Story One World and America's Melting Pot

The them One world, One Story is perfect to highlight America's colorful and diverse history. In almost every American family, there are stories of great-grandpas, grandparents or parents who immigrated to the United States to pursue a better life. America is unique in it's identity around the world as the "melting pot". It is something to be quite proud of and not to be taken for granted or lightly. when children come to your library this summer offer them the opportunity to explore their family's heritage with books. If working with older children bookmark on the public computers to encourage them to visit the famous Ellis Island. There they can search the records for their ancestors names or learn about how this Island was the first stop in the immigrants journey to America.

Many children's authors have attempted to depict the immigrant experience in America. The tales often take a look at the difference between their own and America's culture. At times it can be humorous and sometimes the reality of "homesickness" is shown so vividly the reader's understand with the characters' loneliness. When sharing these books, it is important to emphasize that all though the story may be fiction, the feelings that some of the characters feel are based on reality.

Librarians can use the immigration in a storytime program. A good ingredient to a memorable storytime is props. For this theme, have a black pot sitting in the front of the room. As the children arrive, have them choose a country's flag that represents their heritage. When the program begins, call off different countries and ask the children to place the flag in the "melting pot." After all the flags are collected, distract the children with music and a game. Then with a bit of magic (or as magician say "slight of hand") to replace the melting pot with a new pot. At the end of storytime, tell the children you will empty the pot and let them come up to get a flag. Lo and Behold! All the countries' flags are gone and now they are all American flags! Another approach to take is as the program begins, ask the children to close their eyes for a moment. Instruct them to imagine they are on a boat, as the boat is starting to pull away from the dock, they are waving goodbye to friends and families that they may never see again. How would they feel? Next, inform them on how many days it would take to cross the Atlantic to get to New York's Ellis Island. (Usually it took about a week) Hold up a picture of the Statue of Liberty and explain that this was the first sign of "hope" that many of the immigrants saw as they entered New York's harbor. Ask the children again, how do they think the immigrants felt when they knew they were going to start a new life in a new country? if this sounds too much like school for the summer time, then invite the grandparents to come to the storytime. It's a perfect time for a "generational program" and grandparents can share their own stories with their grandchild. Who could resist an opportunity like that? As an added bonus why not dedicate a bulletin board to showcase the grandparent and child's heritage and an old family photo of life in the old country versus life in the new country.

Whether reading the books aloud or providing a bibliographic handouts for patrons to take home, here are a few titles that tell the immigrant story well.

When I First Came To This Land Harriet Ziefert

The Name Jar Choi Yangsook

Chicken Sunday Patricia Palacco

Picnic In October Eve Bunting (This is title deals specifically with Ellis Island and The Sateu of Liberty.)

How I Learned Geography Uri Shulevitz

For a complete annotated list of great picture books on Immigration to the United States, just send an email to Stay tuned, there are many more ideas yet to come for this summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer Reading Programs --- One World, Many Stories, One Awesome Summer

What makes summer reading programs fun and exciting for everyone involved is the anticipation for what this summer will bring. The themes pave way for creative juices to flow out of the imaginations of librarians and into the hearts of young readers. Without a doubt there is a magic that cannot be duplicated any other time of the year. Any library can have a successful summer program, but it takes a "superhero" librarian to make it extra special. Here are a few tips to make the summer program a smash hit and make your director delighted.

Planning is everything. If there isn't a good plan, there is no fun. The best way to plan programs in the youth services area is to have a little bit of something for everyone. For example, plan on two programs for each age level and one program that is for the entire family. The age levels can be separated into four reading levels: Baby/Toddler, Preschool through Kindergarten, Independent Readers and Tweens/Teens. If the library has the time and money, which are both nice luxuries these days, splitting the tweens and teens is not a bad route to follow. The program for the entire family is typically the finale of the summer. Sprinkled in with the programs are various activities that will keep the children coming all summer long.

This year's theme offers a wonderful opportunity to explore different cultures. The ideas for programming and activities are endless. Having said that, librarians should not go it alone when planning every program. If money is available, hire someone to do one or two programs for you. One such group to consider is The Wild Swan Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a group of fine actors who occasionally travel to libraries to do live performances. These talented actors first began their company with performances in Sign Language. However, they have started to perform plays in Spanish and English. It is a treat to hear a play in both languages and along the way the audience can't help but learn a few words here and there. They are energetic and entertaining to say the least.

If money is an issue, and for some libraries it is, consider asking your teens to do a reader's theater for the youngsters that come to the library. This is a perfect way to get teens involved and get "cheap" actors to perform. If done right, children and parents will enjoy watching the teens hone their acting skills. It is one of the win-win scenario that gets everyone into a festive, community feeling.

Once the programs are in place, the next step is advertising. Patrons who have come out for last year's summer program will be ready to return for another two months of fun. Invite them back and ask them to bring a friend or two. Attach an incentive for them to do so, like winning a free book or receive a bookmark. Also, reaching out to the local schools, government departments and businesses is key to finding new "readers' for the program. It's not a bad idea to ask local dignitaries to do a PSA to record on the city's cable stations announcing how they love their libraries and love summer reading programs.

The various activities for children to participate in can range from a picture scavenger hunt to reading records to complete in order to qualify for grand prizes at the end of summer. Reading records can be as simple as having a child write down the books they have read or glitzy with a maze for the readers to follow to the end by coloring each box for every time they read a book for 20 minutes per day. The more the child reads the more chances they have in winning the grand prize. One of the best things to do for these readers, is to provide them with a reader's advisory list of books that highlight the summer's theme.

This is just the beginning of a successful reading program. There is still so much more to share. Throughout the next couple of weeks, ideas for this year will be presented. Feel free to use them, share them and comment back on how they worked at your library. This summer's program will be a trip to remember. Hm... could be that a vacation won't be necessary, the stories will carry our readers to where ever their little hearts desire.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Library Is A Dangerous Place!

On a relatively quiet afternoon, as I sat at the reference desk reading the latest YALSA magazine, a small redheaded boy with a dash of freckles on his nose felt the urge to share his discovery with EVERYONE in the library. What was his announcement? "Wow! This Library is dangerous!" This young boy's view is definitely not mainstream. As a matter of fact, most people, would probably say that the library is a wonderful place to visit. Quiet. Safe. Sometimes, even cozy. But Dangerous? Nah! Not the library. What was this kid talking about? Upon further investigation it turns out that he had discovered a whole new world of rocket, volcanos, magnets and wrestling. Could a boy dream of anything better?

The thought comes to mind that perhaps this little boy is right. This library or any library for that matter is a dangerous place. Where else could boys who like to shot things into the air like a model rocket find the inspiration to make their craft fly? There are wonderful books that demonstrate all types of dangerous activities from creating electricity with magnet to forming hot black lava to ooze out of self made volcano. The possibilities are endless! This actually should be a marketing ploy to lure boys into the library on a Saturday afternoon. Send home letters to parents and children in a red envelope with the worD DANGER in block letters on the front. The letter inside would warn parents of the dire consequences of letting Johnny or Jenny go to the library. They might find out cool facts about fire, wrestling and darts. All very dangerous to young children. What would happen if you utter these words to your child, "No! You can't do that?" You get the picture.

Danger can come in all forms. Kids sometimes find the novels which challenge them to "think" dangerously. Titles like Atlas Shrugged, Brave New World and Animal Farm all deal with individuality and the price for not conforming with authority. A more recent trilogy that has become one of my favorites is The Hunger Games. Collins' book is riveting, compelling and dangerously thought provoking. This book has been used in the teen's book discussion. Teens' comments and insights about the role of government and citizens were candid and a little suprising. One teen jokingly said that dictators were cool, as long as he got to be the dictator!" Indeed, the idea of absolute power can be a very dangerous.

What can be more dangerous than the tricks that our minds play on us from time to time? Series like Michigan Chillers and American Chillers from Jonathan Rand explore the world of creepy scary things that make the skin crawl. No one really wants to believe that these creatures exist, but there is a small nagging feeling that just maybe there is something to these stories. After reading Rand's Chillers, thee are some kids who dare to poke around in the paranormal sections to investigate if things really go bump in the night. That is a very dangerous section indeed.

AS National Library Week comes to a close, it's a nice thought that libraries can be very dangerous places. A place where a kid can find out how to make their own big "bang", explore ideas that ignite debate or scare oneself silly that their own heart might dangerously stop. As a librarian, its satisfying to know that this is what living on the edge is all about! It is absolutely true, libraries are dangerous for kids of all ages. Go ahead and let them loose in the library. I dare you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Look At State of America's Libraries Report

On Monday, the American Library Association released their report on the state of libraries in our country. The facts that were uncovered were not surprising. The trend in libraries has always been that when tough economic times hit library services are in high demand. It is not even surprising that libraries are find ways of doing more with less. Librarians have had a talent for doing this for years. It is a miracle that many of our nation's libraries have remained open and it is in large part to librarians and advocates who diligently serve the public with the best possible service. What is surprising and encouraging to note is that Americans do see the value in their libraries. This would indicate that the message is getting out about the library's role in the community. While this is terrific news, it is also a "call" to continue putting the library at the forefront of community news. In advertising, it's all about being seen.

The picture of today's American library is of an institution that passes the test of time. Americans still see the public library as the "source" for books, information and lifelong learning. There may be some misconceptions that libraries are "archaic" but it is few and far between. Avid library users know that libraries today have wifi services, internet access, electronic databases and ebooks. it may not look like your grandfather's library but it still provides the opportunity for lifelong learning as well as entertainment. For the nay sayers who believe that the library's days are long gone have not walked into a library lately. If they had, they would see the enormous change and realize what they have been missing.

It would be misleading not to mention the communities that lost their libraries due to mileages failing or city councils who refused to find a way to keep the "jewel" of the community. One closed library is one too many. Having said that, a valuable lesson can be learned from these unfortunate circumstances. When communities lose a library, it is not just losing a building that holds books. It is essentially cutting off the information flow to the public. As an example, in my own backyard, Troy Public Library will be closing it's doors soon. For good. Most of Troy's citizens do not realize that this means library services will not be available to them anywhere in Southeast Michigan. The surrounding libraries that provided reciprocal borrowing to Troy residents in the past will no longer provide that service. Leaving Troy residents with a locked up library. Sure they can visit a library, but internet access, borrowing materials and perhaps some programs will not be available to them. In situations like this, it seems that a PSA ad would do wonders to demonstrate what is lost when a library closes its doors. Its all about showing a picture that speaks louder than words.

Libraries have been known to take a couple of punches, get knocked down and get back on their feet again. Just like any other industries, there are cycles of good times and bad. What makes this year different is that unlike previous years, libraries have many more outspoken supporters. This can only lead to good things for the future. Stories of eight year olds like Paul Valleau, patron at Jersey City Public Library starting a fund raiser for the local library not only warms the heart, but gives hope that the generation that seems to be glued to their computer gadgets and cell phones will want and need libraries in their busy lives. If the message of this year's State of America's Libraries Report suggests anything, it is that now is the time for libraries to be visible, vibrant and valiantly defending the rights of all citizens to have access to libraries.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrating With Weird & Wonderful Facts About Libraries

National Library Week kicked off officially yesterday, April 10th. At the beginning of any week's celebration, be it National Pie Week or National Fire Prevention week, there must be the obligatory statistics and weird facts to share about the week's topic. Libraries are not from weird facts. Some may come as a surprise, while others might generate a yawn or two. However, if you love libraries these facts will not seem boring at all. In fact, it offers a shot of morale for those who sit behind the reference and circulation desk or conduct storytimes. In no particular order are ten wonderful facts about libraries.

1. The Library of Congress, which was established in the 1800's, is the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation.

2. The largest library in the world is the Library of Congress. Care to guess how may miles of bookshelves there are in this historic building? If your guess is 745 miles, you are correct.

3. There are more library cardholders than VISA card holders. It must be because libraries help families of all sizes save money.

4. Who do you think would have more outlets McDonald's or public libraries? If you guessed that it was the all familiar Golden Arches, you would be wrong. It's actually, the blue and white library signs that point to the many library outlets.

5. The world's "greatest lover" Giacomo Casanova spent the latter part of his life as a librarian for Count Waldstein of Bohemia.

6 Children's materials account for 35% of all circulated transaction in US public libraries.

7. During his undergrad years, Edgar Hoover supported himself by working nights at the Library of Congress.

8. It's common knowledge that Melvil Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal System which is still in use in many public libraries today. Mr. Dewey was a true pioneer in the field of librarianship. He served as the head librarian for Columbia University for five years, and later became the director of the New York State Library.

9. Outside the New York Public Library are two library statues whose names are Patience and Fortitude.

10. What book holds the record for being the book most often stolen form the Public Library?
Guinness Book of Records, of course!

At the next social gathering, perhaps its a library fundraiser, enlighten your friends with library trivia. Who knows? it might even earn you a spot at the head table.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Celebrating National Library Week 2011: Making Everyday Count!

April is the month of spring, silliness, and showers. Mixed in with the warmer weather, jokes and puddles is tax season, baseball begins and National Library Week. It's a nice mixture because libraries blends in well with every spring activity or holiday. Literally, there is a book, film, dvd, database and the list goes on just about every topic. The library is the best place to find the answer to any question on any topic. Which is precisely the reason why there is a week in April devoted to celebrating libraries and all they do for a community. National Library Week begins on April 10 and libraries across the country will be recognizing this week with special events. However, this should not stop a library enthusiast from finding their own creative ways to celebrate libraries this week. Here are some simple ways to celebrate for each day of the week.

April 10: Sundays are perfect for going to the library to find a book to read for pure enjoyment. Your local library is closed on Sunday? Contrary to popular belief that libraries are old and out of date, anyone with a library card can visit the library 24/7. To find that perfect book to read go to your library's website to download an ebook edition.

April 11: Monday is the day when everyone is back to business as usual. It is the perfect day to write to your local, state and federal representative informing them of your support and need for your local library. Don't know where to send your email or letter to? Call the library and ask the librarian for the information.

April 12: Tuesdays are typically the day where everyone eases into the tasks that need to be done for the rest of the week. The American Library Association dedicates this day to library workers. Most people assume that if a person works in a library that automatically suggests that the job title is "librarian". That is not the case. There are many people behind the scenes and at the front desk that help the library run smoothly on a day to day basis. They are the clerks, book shelvers and administrative assistants. Give a shout out of "thanks" on the library's Facebook page or their website's comment page to let them know you appreciate everything they do on a daily basis.

April 13: Wednesday is hump day and the weekend is just around the corner again. It is also National Bookmobile Day. Not every library is fortunate enough to provide this outreach service to their community. A bookmobile basically goes out into the community and brings the library to those who otherwise do not have the opportunity to visit the library. in the spirt of reaching out, spread the word about your favorite library service or programs to your family, neighbors, and coworkers. You could even suggest a "road' trip to the library to attend or use the wonderful services.

April 14: Thursday is one day closer to Saturday. The excitement of what the weekend has to offer is starting to affect everyone at home and work. Libraries are traditionally busy on Saturdays with programs for the entire family. Check out the library's calendar to see what programs the library has to offer. Today is also the day to Support Teen literature. Check out the latest Young Adult best sellers. It just may surprise you to see who is writing for Young Adults these days. (Would you have guessed James Patterson?)

April 15: Yeah it's Friday! However, it is also Tax Day. This year's taxes should be done, but if you need an extension form, they are available at the library, along with all the other forms for city, state and local taxes. Hopefully you were able to claim a deduction for a donation to the library. No? There's no time like the present to do something positive for next year's filing. Make a donation to the library, either in materials or monetary. It will make you feel good and the library would appreciate the gift.

April 16: Saturday is finally here and so is the end of a week long celebration in honor of libraries. what better way to cap off the week than by thanking the librarians for finding the answers, reading the stories, and encouraging life-long learning. (Yes, shameless plug for my profession. Can you blame me?) The best way to show your gratitude for librarians is to visit the library and visit it often. Cards are nice too, but it is much more rewarding when librarians' hear patrons, young or old, say, "I LOVE MY LIBRARY".

There are so many ways to support libraries. Hopefully, some of the suggestions will motivate you to visit the library. For me, I'll be celebrating in my unique way. I will need to find my "I Love My Library" and "Hug A Librarian" pins. They will be the wardrobe accessories of the week. It goes without saying that my Nancy Pearl Action Figure will be on display at my desk. To all my peers in libraries, have a wonderful week. To my favorite patrons, thank you for supporting the library which allows me to have the best job on earth.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pass On The Joy Of Reading Donate A BooK!

This month libraries will be celebrating National Library week beginning April 10th. One may think that for many libraries there is not be much to celebrate because of budget cuts, library closings or staff furloughs. As any optimist will say, there is still plenty of other positives to celebrate when it comes to our nation's libraries. For example, in the past year, library usage has risen. Proving that there is still a need for libraries in growing communities. Corporations have also come to the aid of libraries in unique ways such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations Geek The Library. The Direct Brands' Book-of-the-Month Club has formed a partnership with the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundation (ALTAFF) to support libraries with an old idea but with a new twist. On their 85th Anniversary, Direct Brands' Book of the Month Club is promoting for the first time National Donate A Book Day beginning on Thursday, April 14th. Pardon the pun, but what a novel idea!

Many avid libraries users are aware of the policies of local libraries concerning donating personal books. This national day is for everyone else, who ever thought, "I have books that I haven't read in years, where can I donate them?" The answer to that is your local library. To participate all one has to do is go through their private library, find gently used books that are in good reading condition and bring them to the library. Its spring cleaning time anyways, right? This is the perfect way to clear out some books, and help the library at the same time.
Libraries would welcome books for readers of all ages, which includes books children have outgrown.

Libraries have always counted on the support of library users to keep the doors open. In these financially strapped times, the idea for this day is long overdue. It is a creative spark libraries need in trying new ways to fill the community's needs. Hats off to Direct Brands' and ALTAFF for promoting a positive and effective way to support America's libraries. If there is an award for BFF of American Libraries, it should go to them. However, they can not make this day a huge success alone. They will need library supporters to spread the word to friends and family. One way to accomplish that is to go wall next week and share this information with friends. A good book should not sit on a shelf and collect dust. It should be shared, don't you agree?

Monday, April 4, 2011

SRP One Story One World: Folklore's Magical Creatures

It's spring now, but just around the corner will be summer. The time when children start the chants, "No more pencils, no more books.." and they rush outdoors to begin their few weeks of freedom. For most public libraries across the country, this is the busy season. Especially in the children's area, where parents with children in tow search for activities to keep everyone busy and happy. Summer Reading Programs change the end of school chants to, "Know more characters, Know more books". This year will be no different. The theme "One Story, One World" gives an opportunity for children to explore the world through tales from long ago, the present or into the future.

Every culture has favorite tales that are unique to them. It is true that from country to country, continent to continent, the tales can be unique but they also share some similarity. The themes usually deal with good versus evil or teaching a moral lesson. Each tale may have one or more magical creature who either brings chaos or clarity to a story. These magical characters come in all shapes, sizes and sometimes are familiar to young readers. This year's SRP theme is perfect for inviting these magical creatures into the library for little ones to find. Of course these creatures don't exist except in the imagination and between the covers of books. This should not deter any librarian from collecting statues or pictures of them to grace the library during a summer program that could stir the pot of imagination. As a matter of fact, it can stir up some fun if it turns into a scavenger hunt.

What magical characters should top the list at this year's summer program? For starters, Leprechauns, Gnomes, Trolls and Elves. These are the magical little people that either cause mischief or good will towards humankind. Although they are small they are mighty. (Gnomes were fabled to be seven times stronger then humans.) Everyone knows that Leprechauns are part of the Irish heritage, but where did the other little people originate. A bit of trivia here, Gnomes are said to originate from Scandinavia. Trolls are from Norway, while Elves are from the German tradition. What could possibly be smaller than all of these characters combined? The Abatwa which comes from South Africa folklore. Abatwas are the size of ants, and life among them in ant hills. In folklore, are very shy but will show themselves to young children, pregnant women or wizards.

No list of magical characters would be complete if unicorns, centaurs and pegasus. Each of these creature have features similar to horses. While mentions of the unicorns can be found in the bible, most avid readers would place the origins of these three with Greek mythology. In he Chinese tradition, the unicorn is called Qilin. Close your eyes and picture an animal that has a body of a deer, the head of a lion, green scales and a long forwardly-curved horn. Nope not a unicorn in our book, but then again, variety is the spice of life!

Going off to the sea, magical creatures from Ireland , Scotland and Iceland, such as mermaids and selkies show up in folklore as beautiful female creatures who capture mens' hearts. In the case of mermaids, some of there tales involve luring fishermen to their watery grave or trading in their scales to become human in order to live with their human soul mate. Selkies are from the Scottish and Icelandic traditions. These beautiful creatures who are half human and half seal, and when they come to shore, if they strip from their seal skin, will become human. Their fate is doomed if a fisherman steal the selkie's seal skin and makes her his wife.

Not to be forgotten are fairies and pixies. Both of these creatures are often depicted as little helpers or notorious pranksters. Either way, they have fluttered their way into the hearts of many readers around the globe. Perhaps the best known, and loved fairy around the world is Tinkerbell, from J.M Barrie's Peter Pan.

Each one of these magical creatures add a vibrant chapter to the world's storybook. It is well worth the effort to find stories, songs and images of them to demonstrate how cultures have similar stories and characters but each adding a unique perspective. The gnome sitting in front of this computer is anxiously waiting to be used as a scavenger hunt prop. He will have to wait along with the leprechaun, troll, unicorn and fairy for summer to roll around. Until then, a reader's bibliography featuring these lovely creatures will be compiled.

If interested in the bibliography, just drop a note at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Humor in Children's Books: Laugh Out Loud Favorites

Most of the reluctant readers that come into the Youth Services area of the library tend to sing the same song: Books are not fun! Whenever that song starts coming out of a child's mouth, it's time for an intervention. What these lost readers need are books that will capture their imagination as well make them smile. Not all authors can pull off humor effectively but those who do will hook the reader in by the first page. There are many types of humor, such as sarcastic, slapstick and silly. Humor in books is a perfect genre to demonstrate that reading can be fun. Contrary to popular belief, humor in children's literature does not begin in chapter books. Over the years many authors have cleverly used humor, in words and illustrations, to entertain their readers. If the funny bone is tickled, chances are the reader will move from reluctant to reaching for another book.

There are very good picture books to introduce to children who are learning to read but find it a tedious task. Doreen Cromin's Click Clack Moo i, a tale of labor negotiations between Farmer Brown and the striking cows, has become a story time favorite. Children giggle as the frustrated farmer tries to come a "reasonable" solutions with his very literate cows. All ends well, until the ducks decides to make demands too! Another picture book whose star is a literate cow is Adventures of Cow. marshall Taylor uses a play on words and humorous pictures to tell the tale of how Cow gets lost and finds his way home. The sequel to this title is Adventures of Cow, Too.. Both books are well worth the time to read and share. Even with older children who love a good laugh and will catch the play on words.

A different take on a well known fairy tale will have children rolling on the floor. This book has been around for a while, but it is a testament to it's ageless appeal. Jon Sciexka's True Story of he 3 Little Pigs is told by the Wolf himself who defends his actions of blowing down the pigs' houses. He's been framed. The unique few point allows the reader to wonder if indeed the poor wolf has been wrongly accused and misunderstood. More often then not, no matter how sly and silly the wolf is in telling his side, the little pigs still win the verdict.

To chase away the monster fears which plague many small children, Sean Taylor uses humor in When A Monster is Born. This bright, hilarious look at the monster world will have children begging for the kind of monster who lives under their bed. Who couldn't love a monster who goes to school, eats the principal and falls in love. This book is wonderful for story time because the refrain "That's that" encourages the kids to join in the fun.

17 Things I Am Not Allowed to do Anymore is Jenny Offil's tribute to a little girl who just can't stay out of trouble. This book is not for the faint hearted. Some of the heroine's brilliant ideas are absolutely hilarious. However, little minds who are seeking inspiration may get ideas about flies in ice cubes, stapling siblings' hair to a pillow or gluing slippers on the floor to keep them in place. Sure they are all innocent and seem like a good idea at the time, but actions have consequences. This is a wonderful laugh out loud book that parents will enjoy reading with their kids. However, before opening up the book, they may want to warn their audience to not try this at home.

Reading does not have to be a serious task. Moving children from the reluctant to the reaching for new book category can be as simple as using the "laugh" factor. Let's face it, no one likes doing things they do not enjoy. Children are no different. Discover what "quacks" up the reluctant reader in your life and watch their attitude change when it comes to reading.