Where’s All The Noise Coming From?: A Spotlight on StoryTime

Where’s All The Noise Coming From?

The library!

But, I thought libraries were quiet?

love storytime, and that is definitely not a secret. But I also love StoryTime. What’s the difference you might ask? Storytime is the actual reading of a book to at least one person. The StoryTime Program at Books For Kids includes much more than just reading stories to children. It is composed of library storytime, book lending, book distributions, and family, teacher, and community literacy-based events.

So what is StoryTime like with Ms. Sam? LOUD! The louder, the better, in my opinion. When we read books that are interactive and fun, students should be able to participate. Reading is a social activity. When an adult reads a book they love, they share it with their friends. The same is true at the BFK libraries. During book lending, students proudly show their book selections to their friends. This is one of the reasons we have waiting lists for certain books (I’m talking about you, Peppa Pig).

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Over the past two years, I have formed strong bonds with the children in the libraries I visit, and Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings are my favorite days of the week. When the children see me in the halls, their eyes get big and they say something along the lines of, “I forgot my book!” or “MISS SAM! It’s Thursday.” I hypothesize that our StoryTime program assists the teaching of calendar skills, as each student surely knows which day they visit the library with their respective Library Specialist.

IMG_4666.JPGOn library day, I arrive at the school at least thirty minutes early. This is when I run into children as I am collecting their returned books and checking in with teachers. Once this is finished, I select the books to read.

I use StoryTime to introduce new books and also revisit familiar, favorite books. Some of the favorites in our libraries are: Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter, Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite by Nick Bromley and Nicola O’Byrne, and The Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera. The more we re-read these books, the louder the library becomes because the students are reading along with me. Aside from the major benefits of re-reading, reading loved books is exciting. The students also know my major weakness: book requests. If a child walks into the library and asks me to read a specific title, I simply cannot resist! How does one say no to a three-year-old who asks, “Can we read Pete the Cat Buttons today?” meaning Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.

After the stories are through, it’s time for lending! I absolutely love this process because the students have complete freedom over which book they choose. Usually, at the beginning of the year, students will simply choose the books that are on display, but after a couple of months, they know where their favorites are and ask for books read previously during Storytime.

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As I was greeting the rest of the class at the door, someone decided to be “Miss Sam” and read Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus to the class!

I have been a Library Specialist with Books for Kids since September 2015, and I have read over 1,400 books during StoryTime. Almost 1,400 of those readings have been a boisterous event, but as Maya Angelou said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” If I don’t follow Maya Angelou’s lead, then what am I doing in a library?

 

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Reading the Build-A-Home-Library book, Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tiene Una Llamita in English and Spanish with Mr. Chris

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By Samantha Murray Doktor, Books for Kids Program Officer.
Follow Sam her on her literacy Instagram account @gabandgrow for more book recommendations and tips.

Saturday Stories: Earth Day with Kids

Butterflies fascinated me as a child. They still do, and I have to believe at this point that no matter how old I get I’ll always have to stop whatever I’m doing when one flutters by and shout the obvious: “Look it’s a butterfly!” People raise their eyebrows now as if to say, Yes, Sam. What powers of observation you have. We have eyes too. But when you’re a kid, such exclamations are met with a much different reply. A chorus of people will smile and praise your wonder at the natural world and ask you what you know about butterflies and what books you’ve read and if you know that a caterpillar actually becomes a butterfly.

This fact is still as shocking to me now as it was then.

I had to know more, and books were my way in. My parents shared with me the classic Eric Carle tale, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. And whenever we visited my grandparents we stopped by the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It became my new favorite place.

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My mother and I “waiting for wings” to appear at the Butterfly Center. 

From there I moved on to non-fiction books and promptly decided that my favorite butterfly wasn’t a butterfly at all, but a moth. The Luna Moth became my obsession, and suddenly there was a lot of reading to do about the differences between moths and butterflies. Then in the third grade our teacher did a butterfly project with the class where we raised Monarchs and released them. I can still see them flying away from me. I won’t forget that moment, or the books I read, or standing with my mother looking for butterflies in the museum.

Earth Day is the perfect time to spark a year-long love and sense of awe for nature in children and in yourself. It’s important to teach about sustainability and how to meaningfully interact with the environment, but it all starts with that sense of wonder and appreciation for all the Earth does and is. We keep many books about nature in our libraries (we have a whole shelf for the topic plus additional books in the non-fiction section) and love to work with teachers and caregivers to help them develop creative ways to encourage children to care about their world, no matter where they live- rural, urban, or suburban.

The list of ways to inspire children to love and care for their environment while still keeping literacy goals in mind is endless. It’s all about making connections and reinforcing learning while you’re out and about in the world together.

Was you child enamored by the pigeons on the walk home? Remind them of Pigeon, the lively main character of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, and read it together at home or in your local library.

Are you planting seeds together now that spring is here? Share Lois Ehlert’s Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf to learn about the life cycle of a tree.

One of the best ways to reinforce vocabulary acquisition and letter recognition in young children is to point out signs as you go through your day together. We may look past all those “Don’t walk on the grass” warnings where grass seed or flower bulbs have just been planted, but it will be a new concept for children and will reinforce words they’re learning.

Here are some of our favorites books about nature and environmental awareness that both children and adults will love to share together:

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The Earth Book 
by Todd Parr

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Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers 
created by Lauren Child

curious garden
The Curious Garden 
by Peter Brown

By Samantha Salloway, Books for Kids’ Administrative Assistant and caretaker of our blog. She spends her time doing all manner of reading, writing, editing, and learning.

From Page to Screen: Addressing Screen Time for Children

“From birth to about three years of age, each second represents the creation, by the brain, of seven hundred to one thousand additional neuronal connections.”

Dana Suskind

Lately, I have been on what feels like “A Screen Time Crusade.” Whether I’m informing parents of the dangers of their child spending too much time in front of a screen or questioning our nation’s obsession with technology-literate toddlers, I am working to educate caregivers and help them combat the potential consequences of prolonged exposure to screens.

Research about the long-term effects of screen time are still developing, but because we know that interacting, playing, talking, and reading with our children is crucial to maximum brain development, we also know that constant screen time will not match or exceed the value of face-to-face learning. For this reason, among others, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children under 18 months old should only be in front of a screen while video chatting. Children ages two to five should not exceed one hour of screen time each day, and that is only for high-quality and interactive programming (AAP).”

What are babies really learning if they are passively watching material while simultaneously over-stimulating their brains with the pace, sounds, and colors of videos and “educational resources” presented to them on a screen? “In 1970, the average age in which children began to watch television regularly was 4 years. And today, based on research that we’ve done, it’s 4 months. It’s not just how early they watch but how much they watch. The typical child before the age of 5 is watching about four and half hours of TV a day. That represents as much as 40 percent of their waking hours” (Dr. Dimitri Christakis on NPR’s When It Comes to Kids, Is All Screen Time Equal? September 11, 2015). Each of those seconds matters, and it’s important to not waste time with screens that overstimulate the brain with flashing colors and sequences that are too fast to process. These types of programs teach the brain that life is constantly moving, changing scenes, and that one can receive immediate gratification. This is why it’s not surprising that one study from Seattle Children’s Hospital found that, “For each hour of daily TV viewed by the child before age three, the risk of Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by age seven increased by 10 percent,” (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook, 145).

Have you ever come up with amazing ideas in the shower? Perhaps while walking your dog? Maybe when you’re about to fall asleep? That’s because you’re allowing your brain to reflect on the day and make new connections. We all know we should not fall asleep in front of screens, “but scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas” (Matt Ritchel, Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, New York Times, August 24, 2010).

All parents and caregivers want their children to achieve their greatest potential, which is why we must lead by example. It breaks my heart when I see adults wearing headphones or earbuds, ignoring the child’s needs and curiosity of their surroundings. Not only is wearing headphones during daily interactions sending a message (intentionally or not) to the child that their questions, desire for interaction, and love are not important, but they are learning that those adult behaviors are acceptable, and they will do the same as they age. Just like we model good reading behaviors to our little ones, we need to model appropriate usage of screen time. We cannot avoid technology, but we can put the screens away in order to be more present in our children’s lives. How about pointing out the signs and logos in your neighborhood, grocery store, or on the bus? It’s an easy way to read, wherever you are. And is there anything better than reading together? You can also make sure you are prepared for times when you may need to occupy your child by carrying board or paperback books, paper and crayons, or word games you can play together.

Not all screen exposure is harmful to children, which is why the AAP includes video chatting as the acceptable form of technology use for children younger than two. Another way you can make screen time valuable is to use closed-captioning. “Enabling the TV’s closed-captioning is the equivalent of a newspaper subscription, but unlike the subscription, it costs nothing” (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook, 153). This is especially beneficial to lower-income families who may not have access to a library or additional income for books.

Screen time is an almost unavoidable activity in all of our lives. In order to make the most of technology, participate with your child, even if it’s simply asking a question when the program is finished, discussing the topics covered, or pointing out features from the program in your real life. Make the screen time valuable, and share the experience.

Your turn! What are some of your favorite strategies for making the most of and limiting screen time? Let us know in the comments below.

Book recommendations to enjoy with little ones:

screen time recs

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty & illustrated by David Roberts
Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Play by Dr. John Hutton & illustrated by Sarah Jones
Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

And a book recommendation for those interested in further reading:

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The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

by Samantha Murray Doktor, Books for Kids Program Officer
Follow Sam her on her literacy Instagram account @gabandgrow for more book recommendations and tips.

Stories to Learn From: Women’s History Month and Beyond

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March was Women’s History Month, but that doesn’t mean that because March is done we have to stop learning. We created a book list so that you and your family can keep the learning going all year round. Picture books are great for introducing young readers to famous women in history while novels and biographies can be perfect for older children looking to learn more about an era in history or a woman they admire. Whether reading about the arts, science, or politics— you can be sure there’s an admirable lady for kids to look up to and learn from.

Happy reading!

3 Ways to Increase Children’s Vocabulary

 

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All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” — Ernest Hemingway

Words are currency for conversation. We all have the ability learn more valuable vocabulary. The best part is that when we teach others words, it doesn’t make us poorer, but rather enriches both lives. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or just want to help the next generation succeed, there are simple ways to help children increase their vocabularies.

Talk & Read More

In order for children to have high vocabularies, they need to be exposed to as much language as possible. This may seem obvious once children turn a certain age, but it is actually important to begin speaking to children from birth (or sooner!). It’s even beneficial to read to newborns. The bad news is that television and other recorded voices won’t work as well as a live person speaking. The good news is that you can read any material to a newborn. This can be a great way to catch up on reading the news or any book you’re currently working on. As vocabulary expert Dana Suskind explains, “While babies may not understand the words, they are comforted by the sound of a parent’s voice, the rhythm of speech, and the warmth of the touch.”

Keep Language Positive

As kids grow and begin to comprehend what adults are saying, it’s important for them to hear an abundance of positive language. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) specialists agree that our brains struggle to process negative words. This is why when people are told not to think of a purple elephant, it becomes difficult to think of anything else. With children, this can mean when you say, “Don’t touch!” their brains are focusing on “Touch!” Luckily, we can easily counteract this problem by rephrasing what we say with a positive spin. For example, “Don’t touch!” can be traded out for, “Please keep your hands to yourself.” The more words a child’s brain can process, the more words they will remember.

Repeat & Rephrase

Rephrasing is also useful when it comes to what children are saying. Repeating what a youngster has said, and slightly correcting the wording, is a wonderful way to increase vocabulary. For instance, if a child exclaims, “That dog is real big!” you might respond with, “Yes, that dog is huge!” Using new words in the context of what a child is already talking about makes it easy to introduce new words.

BONUS:

If a kid’s home language is differentchild in library and Spanish book than the one spoken at school, it’s important to develop literacy skills in his or her native language as studies have found that strengthening skills in any language is beneficial while learning a new one. If you want your child fluent in English, vocabulary from other languages can help show connections between the words. 
Look in your local library for some our favorite books which are available in multiple languages or have bilingual editions:

1. Spot Goes to School by Eric Hill (Arabic Edition)

2. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (English and Spanish)

3. Janjak and Freda Go to the Iron Market by Elizabeth Turnbull (English and Creole)

Follow these tips and the children around you will be rich with words! What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.

What are some of your favorite tips for increasing vocabulary? Let us know below.

by Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper. Hannah is a Library Specialist with Books for Kids and works in our Las Vegas libraries. This post originally appeared on her blog at Medium.com. 

Stories to learn from: Black History Month and Beyond

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Black History Month ends today, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop! The stories shared in February need to continue being shared during the rest of the year. For children, seeing themselves represented in their literature in early learning (and throughout their lives) is as imperative as learning about the experiences of others. Having these stories presented in formats kids can understand, in a developmentally appropriate way, not only connects them to their larger world but aids in their personal growth and the strengthening of their literacy skills.

For the last week of Black History Month, we did a #7Days7Books series on Twitter. To keep the learning and sharing going all year round, here is an expanded list.

BFK’s Best Picture Books of 2016!

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2017 is finally here, so we thought we’d do a recap of our most loved books from the previous year. The kids in our libraries have pulled these books off the shelves and brought them home again and again, and we’re sure the children in your life will love them just as much. Many of these books are new additions to dearly loved series with some of our favorite characters, and some are brand new, but all of them are sure to bring smiles and excitement to story time. Adults will love these picks too and won’t mind hearing, “read this again!”