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by: 
Barbara and Robyn, Columbine Library

Toys have started to appear in all of the libraries. And with their arrival, patrons and staff are asking, “Why toys?” The answer is, toys lead to play and play leads to the development of literacy skills. Play is the way young children learn. 

There are three stages of play. Exploratory or Object play occurs with 0-3-year-olds. They love to chew on board books and everything else they can get their hands on. From there they move on to Imaginative play at 3-5 years. They are developing vocabulary and social skills, such as sharing. And, they love to pretend! All of this play leads to the last stage, Investigative play, for 6-8-year-olds, which includes physical play like riding a bike. They also love to build things, draw, paint, and explore.

Through play, children learn about their world. These activities help them understand language and stories. Play is so important that the United Nations High Commission has recognized it as a basic right of every child. Offering blocks, bricks, and other manipulatives increases STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skill building opportunities in our libraries. Our goal is to reinforce the importance of play by offering a variety of activities to children and caregivers.

The toys you see in the libraries are the result of a donation from the Gerald M. Kline Family Foundation. Jerry Kline is the founder of Innovative Interfaces and has worked in and with libraries for more than 30 years.  A sizable portion of the Foundation's activities are offered to enhance libraries and their communities. 

We hope you’ll help us encourage play by spreading the word!

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Yesterday, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) announced the winners of the first annual Bell Awards - an award that honors "five high-quality picture books that provide excellent support of early literacy development in young children." One book in each of the categories of READ, TALK, SING, WRITE and PLAY is chosen from hundreds of books published in 2013. The 5 categories have been identified as best practices to support early literacy learning in young children.

Each of these books is great for sharing with your young child, and lend themselves perfectly to extension activities that lead to even more fun and learning. The CLEL Bell website has activity sheets for each book that offer wonderful extension ideas! 

The winners are: 

READ:

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier; illustrated by Suzy Lee

TALK:

Moo! by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (coming soon to JCPL!)

SING:

Nighty-night, Cooper by Laura Numeroff; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

WRITE:

The Things I Can Do by Jeff Mack

PLAY:

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Check 'em out today!

by: 
Marcy, Arvada

I rarely read a book twice...unless it is a choose your own adventure. Then I have to read all possible endings and end up going through it four of five times! Parents often are amazed when they find these childhood favorites at the library. They can't wait to share their love for these books that you don't just read, but that youcan  control! I explain to kids that it is kind of like a video game. You reach a point in the book and you get to choose what to do next, "To go through the haunted hallway turn to page 50, to return to the safety of your room turn to page 32."

There are literally hundreds of adventures awaiting you at your local library!

History buff? Look for Interactive History Adventures!

Choose your own Star Wars Adventure!

Or how about an American Girl adventure?

It's fun to choose your own adventure! Try one.

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Remember those 5 little words I asked you to remember last month? (Hint: they were READ, TALK, SING, WRITE, and PLAY) Today we're going to talk about READING.

You know that reading aloud to your young child, beginning at birth, is important. Yes, babies can't respond to you when you're reading a book to them, but they ARE absorbing so much information: about language, about how books work, about what their most important people (the people who read to them) sound like, and much, much more. So even if your baby can't tell you what that picture on the page is, he will someday be able to identify it - and many other things! 

The most important thing about reading with young children is to keep it POSITIVE. That means do the voices (if you can - at least try to make a sad character sound sad), be silly, and share books when you and your child are in the mood to snuggle together and read. This doesn't only have to be at bedtime! Children learn more when they feel safe and loved, and they feel that way the most when they're with the people that love them best. Science has shown this to be true! It's a brain thing! So when you cuddle up together with a good book, your child learns even more. 

Tune in next month for more "Ready to Read Reminders!" 

 

**Photo via flikr: BrendanC

Creative Commons Attribution license

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Do you have a kid or know a kid who hates to read, lacks the confidence to read, or thinks there are better things to do besides reading? Well, you are not alone. Almost daily, folks ask me for suggestions to help their reluctant readers. So, I thought this would be a worthy topic for an on-going series for the JCPL Kid's blog. 

To start things off, I find it most helpful to have a conversation about reading with reluctant readers by asking them a few questions. These questions will help you better understand why your child is reluctant to read and will help you (and your librarian) find materials to spark an interest in your reluctant reader.

#1. Have you read a book that you really liked? If so, what was it?

#2. What kinds of stories do you like? You don't have to think about books, you can also think about your favorite movies or tv shows.

#3. What kinds of things are you interested in? Do you have any hobbies? Play any sports? Collect anything?

And #4 (the BIGGIE). What comes to mind when you think about reading? What are your feelings about it?

Asking this last one can help you gain a tremendous amount of insight into why you child is reluctant to read. Perhaps they think they are not good at it. Maybe they haven't found a book they like or they find most books to be too long. Most often I hear "because it's not fun." This demonstrates why questions  1 - 3 are also very important. The key to getting any kid to read is to make it FUN. Starting with materials that support your child's interests can make reading a fun event rather than a task to be tackled.  As librarians, we want to help you help your reluctant reader discover that reading is in fact fun. So try asking your reluctant reader these questions and then come to the library where we will be more than glad to help you find a match.

In the coming months I will share with you more ideas on how to help your kid become an eager reader instead of a reluctant one. In the meantime remember READING IS FUN!

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

If you’ve ever had a conversation about Star Wars with me, I apologize for making you late to dinner, or missing a meeting, or just putting you to sleep. My love of Star Wars knows no bounds. There is even a shelf in my house for my Lego Star Wars collection to prove my dedication to Mr. Lucas’s creation. Anyway, while boring a dear friend recently with my hobby, she mistakenly made me aware of Wookieepedia. And now I share it with you! This site is filled with fun and useful (wink wink) information for the Star Wars enthusiast in your house. Read biographies of your favorite characters and those lesser known to the novice. Or learn more about locations, creatures, and vehicles mentioned in the movies, books, and comic books. A kid (or adult) could spend days on this site! So, have fun exploring with your young jedi and may the force be with you.

 

by: 
Marcy, Arvada

It's that time of year again...time for flowers and chocolate and making 32 original valentine's for your child's classmates!

If you are running short on ideas this year, check out this cool video from Family Fun that shows you how to make adorable little mice out of hershey kisses. In fact, I thought these little guys were SO cute that we are going to be making them at the Arvada Library on Saturday February 8th from 11am to 1pm as part of Old Town Arvada's 13th annual Chocolate Affair. During this celebration of all things chocolate, you and the kids can do a chocolate scavanger hunt or sample the chocolatey delights at the DNote. You can even enter the brownie baking contest! Be sure to drop by the library for our chocolate themed storytime and activities from 11am-1pm.

 

by: 
Sarah, Golden Library

I love to play “pretend” games with kids, repurposing everyday objects for the purpose of creating new experiences. The capacity to use one’s imagination has increasingly been recognized as a vital skill that is honed in childhood. Time spent in imaginary play as a child translates into an adult capable of visionary thinking (like Steve Jobs!) 

Structured activities like music lessons and sports are valuable to children, but don’t forget to “schedule in” some time for your kids to spend powering simple objects with imaginary fuel.

Here’s an easy game that you can play at home with your kids to get those imaginations fired up: 

All you need is a scarf for each of you (any cloth or dish towel will also do.) Crumple the scarf up between your hands and tell your child that you are going to change this scarf into different objects with the power of your imagination. Encourage your child to scrunch up their scarf and follow along:

First, tell your child that the scarf has become a picnic blanket. Lay the scarf out on the ground and sit on top of it. Pretend to eat a picnic.

Next, scrunch up the scarf between your hands again. Tell your child that the scarf has now become a magic flying cape. Tie on the scarf as a cape and zoom around the room!

Scrunch that scarf up between your hands again for another transition. This time, tell your child that the scarf has now become a washcloth and it’s time for a bath. Pretend to fill up the bathtub, get inside and wash with your washcloth! Don’t forget to towel dry afterwards!

Scrunch up the scarf one last time and turn it into a blanket. Now it's time to act out getting pajamas on, brushing teeth and curling up under the blanket to sleep!

You can easily play many variations on this game at home using the most basic of objects. Next time, try playing the same game with a box or a stick as a prop!

Do you have any other great examples of pretend games that you already play at home? Please share them with us!

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Welcome to a new regular feature here on the JCPL Kids' Blog: the Ready to Read Reminder! Parents and caregivers, you know that learning to read begins at birth. Young children's brains are developing all the connections they need to be successful readers and we, the adults in their lives, can help them build those connections by doing simple things at home (or in the car, at the library, at daycare...wherever!). In this feature I'd like to share with you some of those simple ideas - many of which you may already be doing (but didn't necessarily know how they help a child get ready to read) - that help build the foundation for reading.

For this, our first post, I'd like to give you 5 words to remember. Just 5. Remember these 5 words, and that you should engage in these activities with your young child often, and you'll be an expert at helping your child get ready to read!

Here the are....(are you ready?)...drumroll please....

READ

TALK

SING

WRITE

PLAY

 

You can remember those 5 words, right? Of course you can. In future posts I'll elaborate on each of these words and why these activites are important, share with you some really cool stuff I've learned about babies brains and how reading develops, as well as give you some fun, simple activity ideas that help grow a reader.

And remember, the library is a GREAT place to visit with a growing reader! We've got  storytimes for all ages (even babies!) that are designed to help build early literacy skills, thousands of great books for kids of all ages to explore, and a literacy-rich environment with opportunities for learning and play! Our trained staff, too, is ready and willing to answer your questions and help you find the best books and media to take home! 

Stay tuned for next month's post! Just a reminder...

[photo via seandreilinger]

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Children's librarians often act as their family and friends' personal librarian. We regularly get asked for book recommendations for children of various ages - and we LOVE it! Talking about kids' books is one of our favorite things to do. So, before you even have to ask, I've put together, with the help of some friends, a list of books that would make great holiday gifts for the children in your life. But because we can't read EVERY book that's out there (although we try), at the bottom of this list there are links to other 'best of' lists that will also help you make your book-buying choices.

NON-FICTION

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? by Catherine Thimmesh

For the true dinosaur aficionado in your life, this book explores the history of dinosaur exploration. Since we've never actually seen a dinosaur, how have scientists used the information they've found - bones, fossils, etc. - to re-create the look of a dinosaur?

Locomotive by Brian Floca 

Young train enthusiasts will love this richly illustrated story of traveling on one of the first steam trains from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco. They'll pore over the endpapers that explain how steam trains work (including a cross-section drawing) and provide historical context of the Transcontinental Railroad. They'll learn about all the different people who worked on the train and what their jobs were. They'll even learn how the bathroom worked - remember not to use it when the train is in the station!

Poems to Learn By Heart by Caroline Kennedy; illustrated by Jon J. Muth

This book is truly a keepsake. Jon J. Muth's ethereal watercolor illustrations set a perfect tone, and Kennedy has chosen a nice variety of poems - there's surely one or more to delight every reader. The poems are divided into several categories - including family, friendship and love, school, sports, and nonsense. There are both contemporary writers like Billy Collins and Nikki Giovanni and the likes of Shakespeare and Ogden Nash. I've already decided which poem I will learn by heart - Eve Merriam's "Catch a Little Rhyme," the last one in the book.

The Silver Moon: Lullabies and Cradle Songs by Jack Prelutsky

A collection of serene and lyrical poems, this book makes a perfect gift for a family with a new baby. What really makes this book stand out are the illustrations by Jui Ishida. Soft and deep, these loving images evoke a feeling of snuggling with the one who loves you most. - Marcy, Arvada Library

The Animal Book: A collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest- and most suprising- animals on earth by Steve Jenkins

Jenkins is a Colorado author/illustrator and creates his animals out of paper. They are TRULY amazing. He's organized this book not by type of animal, but by things like "defenses," "animal senses," "predators," and "animal extremes." There's so much fascinating information to pore over in this book - kids (and adults) will spend hours with it. 

 

BOARD BOOKS (MADE FOR HANDLING AND CHEWING!)

My First Touch-and-Trace ABC and My First Touch-and-Trace Count 123 by Tiger Tales

These books are a great way to start your baby or toddler on the road to reading and writing! The letters and numbers are indented, allowing the child to trace the shape with their finger. Learning the shapes of letters and numbers is one way literacy starts! 

Diggers Go by Steve Light

A variety of construction vehicles are shown, and, in bold print, we learn their noises and can make them ourselves! Did you know a dump truck goes: BEEPbeep BEEPbeep SCREEEECH RUUURRRUMP PA-LUMP? Making sounds like these help young children learn about language! There are two other books in this series: Trucks Go and Trains Go

 

PICTURE BOOKS

Green by Linda Vaccaro Seeger

I think my love of children’s books is derived from my love of art and this book is a work of art. You can get lost in the lush up-close illustrations that allow you to experience each new manifestation of green. Just follow the die-cuts from one scene to the next and enjoy the journey. - Marcy, Arvada Library

Journey by Aaron Becker

This is a stunning wordless picture that will spark a lot of conversation. Follow a girl through a magic door that she draws on her bedroom wall into a world full of adventure - including a dangerous encounter with a bird! - Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Mo's Mustache by Ben Clanton

This read aloud will have everyone laughing. Mo loves his mustache and feels very unique until all of his friends want one of their own. - Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea

While the rainbow colors and sparkle on the cover may draw some young readers in - the story inside lives up to the cover's hype! Goat thinks the things he can do are pretty great, until Unicorn arrives and does something "greater." But just as Goat's ready to give up, he discovers that Unicorn actually thinks Goat is pretty great too. 

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

This story of Flora, who imitates a dancing Flamingo, doesn't have any words. But it doesn't need any - the beautiful lift-the-flap illustrations clearly tell the story of the budding friendship between the two pink-bedecked pals. 

Again! by Emily Gravett

Little Dragon wants Mama Dragon to read his bedtime story again. And again, and AGAIN! At first, she concedes, but when she falls asleep, little dragon reacts, well, the way a dragon would. Parents and young children will find this story pretty familiar. 

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger, a proper animal in a suit and hat, decides that he's tired of city life. It's time to GO WILD! But will he want to stay wild, especially after all the other (buttoned-up animal) city residents express their disapproval? Brown's graphic illustrations are as much fun as the story.

I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudreau; illustrated by Serge Bloch

“Yawns are like colds, they spread.” Parents and kids alike will get a laugh out of this. During story time it even garnered a few yawns from my audience. Just remember DO NOT LET IT OUT! If they catch you yawning, they are going to send you to bed! - Marcy, Arvada Library

 

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

Playtpus Police Squad #1: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

In this story written in what adults will recognize as a noir style, follow along as newbie Detective Zengo, anxious to prove himself, and veteran Detective O'Malley crack the case of the missing teacher and a possible illegal fish trade. Bonus: this book is only #1 in a series!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Know a kid who loves the library? Or puzzles? Or mysteries? They'll all love this tale, in which a group of kids compete to find their way out of a brand-new, state-of-the-art playground - um, library. The contest is run by the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello, a Willy-Wonka-esque character who has a few tricks up his sleeve. 

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by K.G. Campbell

When Ulysses the squirrel is accidentally sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, he develops the ability to write, understand humans, lift heavy things, and fly. Flora, who saves him and takes him home, believes he's now a superhero and must use his powers to vanquish evil. But perhaps there's a relationship that needs saving even more?

Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Young Roan Novachez is SURE he'll be accepted to Pilot Academy. He's disappointed when that doesn't happen, but when he gets a mysterious invitation to attend Jedi Academy, he decides that's a much better option than learning to be a farmer. Master Yoda takes a particular interest in Roan, and while it's rough going for a while (he CANNOT seem to manage to use the force to get that rock to float!) he soon feels like he's found the right place. Young fans of Star Wars will love this graphic novel series!

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman 

Dad goes to the corner store to pick up some milk for his kids' cereal (and his tea), but is a long time returning. What happened? Well, there are aliens, pirates, wumpires, and a hot-air-ballon-flying Stegosaurus involved. Fortunately, he managed not to lose the milk. Wait - did all of this REALLY happen? Brilliantly illustrated by Skottie Young, this tale by legendary writer Gaiman will make a great read-aloud and might spark some parental storytelling of your own!

MORE LISTS!

If none of these titles spark your (or your child's) fancy, DON'T DESPAIR! Here are some more "best of" lists with even more great suggestions!

Reading Rockets Holiday Buying Guide

School Library Journal's Best of 2013 (includes lists for non-fiction, picture books, apps, dvds, and more!)

New York Public Library's 100 Books for Reading and Sharing 2013

Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books of 2013

Happy holidays!

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