Monday, August 25, 2014

The Complete List ot Why, When, Where, Who and How to READ. From A To Z

It's time to get back to basics.  Maybe this feeling comes on stronger now because school is starting soon.  It's that time when the mind goes back to the days of reading, writing and arithmetic. It is this time of year that libraries will be filled with students and backpacks clamoring for the books on the reading lists assigned to them.  It is also the time when reading skills are tested.  It has been suggested  that due to the digital age reading is becoming a lost art and form of entertainment.  Perhaps it is for some but not for all.  This list is for those who have forgotten why  reading is so important.  It is also for those who love to read and need help in defending their addicting habit.  Even perhaps get their families hooked on reading.  The challenge is always to come up with ten ways that an certain activity will improve life.  Well, overachievement is never an understatement here.   Getting carried away with the alphabet to list when, why where , how and who should be reading from A to Z was far to easy and fun.  It is hoped that it is inspiring as well.

Anytime is a good time to read.  Anywhere is a good place to read.  It's really quite simple, reading is an activity that can be done virtually anywhere.  Well, not in a dark cave unless you have a flashlight handy. 

B Babies and books naturally go together.  Reading to babies stimulates vocabulary, imagination and love of books.

C Classic Literature is always in style.  Whether it's a classic children's book that has stood the test of time or classic literary novel that was read in high school.  Classic literature bridges the gap between generations of readers. 

D Donating books to the library or school is an act of paying it forward.  Clear out the bookshelves and spread the joy of reading to others.

E  Everybody in the family should read.  Even if it's only fifteen minutes a day, the routine of reading everyday is a tremendous investment that results in value.

F Fictional characters become life long friends.   Don't misunderstand, reading will not have you walking around speaking to imaginary friends.  However, some fictional characters have a way of staying with readers long after the last page has been read. 

G Goodreads is the  Facebook for bookworms.  It is one of the best sources to get honest reviews of books from friends, which helps in picking out he next must read book.  Sign up with a Facebook account or at

H Holiday are always better with a story that brings out the best of the season.  Ever tried reading a Christmas book in July?  It's a real treat when someone asks "What book are you reading?"  The look on their face is hilarious.  What ?  Why read that now?  Because I can!

I  Independence is the goal for all readers.  It has been clearly demonstrated that once a person learns to read their confidence is increased.  This naturally leads to a reader becoming independent thinks.

J Join a book discussion. Local public libraries have wonderful programs for i for readers who just can't get enough of the book they are reading.   Sharing with peers views about the author's style, characters and plot makes for interesting conversation.  Not only that, it encourages the reader to find more books to read and discuss.  It's a wonderful never ending cycle.  By the way, if your library does not have a program be daring, start one of your own.

K Kindle may have changed the way readers pick up a book but it hasn't transformed readers into non readers.  (Thank goodness)  In some cases, Kindle may have converted a few non readers to lifelong readers due to mobility of the gadget.  Will Kindles ever replace hardcopies of books?  The verdict is still out on that idea.  There are futurist who predict electronic versions of books will completely replace hard copies in five years.  While others say there is a growing consensus that there is a place for both digital and paper copies.

L Libraries are here to stay. As long as there are readers in the world who demand to be nourished by the written word (and yes, admittedly this is a bit dramatic) there will be a need for libraries.  The statistics have proven that in a rapidly changing technological era, libraries still remain relevant in our society.

M Movies need books, writers and readers. Since movies began taking the books to the silver screens, readers have faced the age old questions.  Should the book be read first?  Yes.  Always yes at least from  the avid reader's view.  Will the movie ruin the book's plot and intent?   Sometimes and when it does, have pity on the director for he (or she) will have to face the wrath of many angry readers and fans.

N Night time reading is always the best time to get ready for sleep. It works wonders with children and for adults as well.  Turn off the tube and pick up a good book.

O Once upon a time never gets boring.  There will always be that special place that every reader wants to revisit as a child, as an adult or as someone looking for a place to escape.  How many times can Camelot be visited?  Many, many times over.

P Picture books are the perfect entry into the world of reading.  Why?  The illustrations do so much more than just help tell the story.  Some are just wonderful works of art that engage and engulf the readers into the story.  To see a child get lost in the words and pictures of a book is nothing short of magical.

Q Questions arise and curiosities are stirred when reading becomes a habit.  The quest to know, read and learn more becomes part of the readers life.  It is an addicting habit but what better addiction could one have?

R Rebel against authority. Read a banned book.  September marks the celebration of Banned Book Week when the American Library Association puts out the list of books that have over the years been banned from schools and libraries.  If ever there is a time to get a teens attention, this would be it.  Tell them the adults don't want them to read book X.  That book will fly off the shelf faster than any magician can make his rabbit disappear from a hat.

S Silence is something that children today need to be taught.  In a world that is filled with noises, gadgets and screens, children need to be taught to have moments of silence and appreciate them.

T Thinkers are not born, they are made. Abraham Lincoln did not become one of the greatest Presidents by being elected president.  He read continuously which helped him become one of the greatest political minds in history.

U Universally in every school, every country, and every city it is accepted that one of the surest way to success is to read. It may sound corny to say but it still is true that reading is fundamental.

V Vocabulary improves with daily reading.  It's easy to spot the child or adult who is an avid reader and one who does not.  Oral and writing skills for readers are superior than those who don't.

W Weapons against poverty?  Books, reading and libraries.  Once a child or adult learns to read, the opportunities are endless. 

X Xenophobes is an ugly word.  It denotes that someone can not accept another person because of their ethnic or religious background.  In other words they can not accept anyone who is different.  Books open a path to the world for readers of all ages.  It is the best way to communicate what everyone has in common and what makes cultures unique.  Quite frankly, it what makes this world wonderful.

Y Yet another reason to read because a person can.  No one should ever take that pleasure away from another.

Last but not least...

Z Zero excuse not to read a book a month or every other month.  Yes, we are a busy society.  However, as stated previously just as a child needs to learn the value of silence,  adults need to relearn that as well.  There should never be a moment when one says no to reading.

There it is, from A to Z, why reading is an activity for all ages.  Maybe this may turn some heads.  Better yet, maybe it may cause more people to turn pages.  Lots of pages in the quest to read, learn and grow.  Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back To School ... Seven Ways The Library Can Make The Year Suceessful.

This is the time of year that students face with mixed emotions.  First emotion, dread.  The lazy hazy days of summer are quickly passing and by all accounts, there is still so much fun to be had! (So many new books to read too! )  The second emotions, excitement.  School days are great for catching up with friends that have been gone for summer months and the routine of seeing each other again is back in full swing.   The first day of school offers so much promise for the year ahead.  One way to be sure that the school year is kicked off right is by starting with the library.  It doesn't matter if it is the school library, the public library or both.  Libraries, small or large, can be the keys to a successful school year.   Here are seven ways a library can help students of all ages.

1. Libraries are mobile.    Libraries are mobile in the same way every person is in this modern life.  When going to your library's website, look for an app that can be downloaded on to a smart phone.  Most major libraries are investing in up to date technology to keep up with the demands of patrons who want convenience and accessibility.  Most library apps will allow patrons to place materials on hold, view patron records and even see what is new a the library.  Very handy for students who need to manage time wisely.

2. Volunteer opportunities  Many school districts are requiring students to complete community service hours in order to graduate.  Check with the Youth Services or School librarian to find ways to complete the requirement by volunteering to work at the library. 

3.  Get To Know Your Librarian  It is amazing that most students don't know or are afraid to ask from the librarian.  Think of it this way, when you are sick and not sure what is wrong or what to do to stop a pain, a doctor is called.  When you don't know where to go next when trying to find answers for a geography assignment or research paper, who would know best on where to search for the best answers?  The librarian.   Don't be shy ...ask.

4. Take Time to Read For Pleasure  Every once in awhile it's good to kick back and take a break from the grind. Most libraries have an area where new books are featured.  This    Reading for pleasure is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get away from it all and let the mind wander to the places in between the pages of a book.  As a side note,  an extra benefit to libraries supporting readers is that readers become better writers.  

5. Libraries are Practical Tools  Libraries are the places where experiments begin.  Not the type in the Chemistry lab but in the research way.  Students learn the best methods of searching through databases, websites and books by using the resources at the library.  Think of it as a hands on training for finding information in the "real" world.  These skills will be used long after students leave schools.   It's skill building for a lifetime.

6.  Group Studies Are Better At The Library   Computers are wonderful tools for many activities but they can't replace true interactions with others.  As the library space begins to shift to more computers,  less book shelves and larger open spaces, it is only citing that these open spaces be filled with students,  adults, and educators collaborating on projects.  Many public libraries have invited High School Seniors to "exam week" or "SAT" prep programs.   This is a great opportunity to demonstrate support for the school district and students in providing a day just for them to study of the all important exams that could determine the directions of their college careers.

7. Preparing Little Ones For Preschool   Storytime for Toddlers and preschoolers offers a unique opportunity for children to not only develop reading skills but to get use to sitting still and taking directions from another adult other than mom or dad.  More importantly children develop social skills that will help them make the transition from home to school much  smoother.

There it is in a seven seemingly little ways that students can be supported in their studies with access to libraries.   These may seem like little things that can be overlooked but the impact is huge.  Students learn, communicate and do more when library resources are available to them.  When taking that stroll through the school's open house it should become obvious to all visitors.  Libraries are not just another gathering place for the students, it's actually the heart of the school.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Story To Inspire Readers To Dream Big and Do More.

Every once in awhile there is a story that stirs up hope in humanity.  Society sometimes is so busy blaming the younger generations for not caring about the world that they miss out on learning about the ones who are making a mark.  Nonprofits are not easy to build or run.  Especially in an economic environment where everyone is basically either trying to find a job, trying to make ends meet or all of the above.  It's been a rough couple of years.  However, some may see this as a dismal time to ask folks for money to contribute to a worthwhile cause while others see a golden opportunity in any situation.  It's the age old debate of if the glass is half empty or half full.

Adam Braun's The Promise of A Pencil is just the type of book that makes a reader think, "if  he could do it why can't I? "   The title in itself is enough to catch a reader's attention.  What promise can a pencil hold?   A pencil by itself, obviously it has no value of it's own until someone,  a child picks it up and uses it to learn about their world.   The story begins with Mr. Braun's own background growing up in a stable middle class home where he was given the opportunity  to succeed at every turn.    Every young adult would die to have the opportunities that this man had.  He Attended Brown University, was on the fast track in building a career in hedge funds,  and a future so bright shades wouldn't  have been enough to keep the glare from getting to the eyes.  However, Mr. Braun let go of the traditional path of success to forge a different one into the nonprofit.  After traveling in underdeveloped  countries like Laos and Myanmar,  the desire to build schools for the children grew.  Mr. Braun observed that in every culture there is a  universal theme which  every parent wants an education for their child in hopes that the child will have a better life than they had.   With that observation and the desire to make a difference,  Promise of a Pencil (PoP) grew into a strong thriving nonprofit corporation that has since opened several schools in impoverished countries.

One of the hints that the reader is given that this is not the ordinary how to book, is given in the first chapter, "Why be Normal?"    This is one of the first lessons Mr. Braun learns from his parents.  One an have everything that the Jones' have but why be normal.  Why not do something different and explore the possibilities.  The writing is simple and precise. Without even realizing it, the  reader is reading a step by step process of starting a nonprofit.      Granted not every nonprofit begins the same as PoP but the struggles, the luck of running into the right people, and the volunteers who share a vision are the common threads shared by the author.  The book comes short of demanding actions from it's readers.  Its not asking for donations to PoP but it is asking what's holding a person back from pursuing their passion.

Braun's book debuted at number 2 on the New York Times Bestsellers list and is listed as one of the must read titles for CEOs.  However, in all honesty,  this book  can  easily be placed on a library's bookshelf and be forgotten about.   Not because the story is boring, it's not.  Not because the writer comes off as a snotty know it all, he doesn't.  However, it is precisely that this book is being labeled as a go to book or how to guide to building a nonprofit.  Not everyone is in that frame of mind or ambition level to go out on that limb.  This story is compelling because it introduces the readers to a world where children want to learn but have not had the opportunity.  If this book is placed on the shelf as another business how to book it gets lost.  This book is really about reminding each reader that the  path chosen doesn't need to go straight in order to find the success.  It can zig zag into a journey that is unexpected, amazing and worth the bumps along the way.  This book should be highlighted on every library's bookshelf in September when school begins and every May when school lets out.  In addition to that,  every month in between.  In other words,  don't just sit there. Go read the book!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Best Tales of Friendship

Before getting into the serious matter of going back to school there is just one last "fun" to be had. Yesterday was a minor holiday that is unnoticed year after year.  That celebration would be called National Friendship Day.  Yes, it is curious that Hallmark, or other greeting card companies for that matter, has not seized upon this and declared that it is unfair that we go about our day on August 3rd as if National Friendship day was just an ordinary summer day.  Well, it may be to some people but not to librarians who look for new ways to get readers to get into a good story.  What better story can there be than about friendship.   Throughout literature there are many tales of friendship that no matter how old readers, the friendships among their favorite characters remain in the memory.  From Children's literature to comics to Classic literature, here are a few of the favorite "friends".

In the category of forever friends which is defined as  characters that when readers think or read about them, they are never separated.  For example,  A. A. Milne's  Winnie the Pooh and his delightful friends, Rabbit, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Christopher Robin .  If readers come across anyone of these names, the other friends are sure to come to mind as well.  You just can't have Pooh without Piglet and vice versa.   Another iconic friendship that come to mind are The Peanuts.  Charlie Brown is always surrounded by his good friends who give him grief and comfort all at the same time.  Charles Schultz's gang has remained timeless.    Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes are a pair that will never be separated.  Calvin's imagination is inspiring and readers are delighted to be able to join him and his beloved Hobbes on the adventure.

In the category of Classic Children's literature, readers will have to agree that E.B. White's Charlotte's Web portrays the truest form of friendship.   Wilbur finds in Charlotte an unlikely friend who turns out to be his hero.  What are true friends for if they can't save you every once in awhile?   Louisa May Alcott's Little Women portrays the very first friend children have, their siblings.  All four girls have dreams, hopes and fears yet when they lose Jo the reader realizes that each of the sisters will never be the same.    Mark Twain's children's classic makes this list a complete with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  No matter what era this book is read in, everyone can relate to the two boys who are wholesome,  clever and always getting into trouble.  It doesn't matter if they are together or apart, mayhem is a part of their day.  They could very well be the next door neighbors who always made life a bit more interesting.    Which makes it a delight to visit with them over and over again.

Finally in the Classic literature category,  there are so many to choose but lets begin in Camelot.   King Arthur and Sir Lancelot's friendship was based on trust and respect.  However, when the trust is betrayed all that King Arthur had ever hoped for diminishes before his eyes.   Cervantes, Don Quiote and Sancho were a team that could not be beaten.  Of course,  the windmills,  the fights, and the beautiful Dolcena were all a figment of Quiote's imagination but Sancho is a true friend.  He follows his friend to the end and even begins believing that dreams are not just for dreamers.   If  one is going to be facing unspeakable horrors,  a best friend is in order.    Stoker realized this when he wrote the classic horror novel of his day.  Facing evil is not something one can not do alone.  There needs to be someone to confide in and face the fear together.  Mina and Lucy do just that in Dracula.

There are tons of friendships of other new friendships that will not be forgotten anytime soon.  Some that come to mind are Harry Potter and Ron Weasley,  or  Katniss and Peeta.  As Mark Twain once wittingly observed, "Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience is the ideal life."  Yes indeed. Who could possibly disagree with that statement?