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Recommendations

by: 
Sarah, Golden Library

Parents and caregivers, grab your smartphones and tablets! Today's featured app is full of adorable little monsters who are ready and able to help your little monsters learn their sounds, letters and words.

Playing with the sounds that make up a word is called "phonological awareness" and is one of the important pre-reading skills your child needs to practice. Learning their letters is called "letter knowledge" and is an equally important early literacy skill. Fortunately, practicing these skills with monster friends is a ton of fun!

Pick a word to play with (all words are organized alphabetically) and watch the letters scramble around the screen. Pick up each letter with your finger and hear its sound as your move it. Put the letters back in order to get an adorable mini-movie that illustrates the meaning of the word along with a spoken-aloud definition that's easy to understand. Check out the video below to see the app in action:

Endless alphabet is available for both Android and iDevices. The app and base word set are free with optional paid downloads to expand the game. This app is rated 4+ on iTunes, but has been getting rave reviews from parents with children as young as 16 months. So don't be afraid to try it out with your toddler! :)

Download app for Android Devices

Download app for iDevices

In case you missed it, visit last month's app post. Keep reading for another awesome app next month! :)

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Think back to when you were a kid. You wanted to do the same things your friends were doing, right? You wanted to listen to the same kind of music, wear the same kinds of clothes, and read the same kinds of books. For struggling readers this is not so easy.

But did you know that the library has High-Low books? High-Low books are also known as High interest-low vocabulary books. These are books specifically designed to appeal to kids and teens that are not ready to read books at their grade level but they don't want to read "baby books" either. High-Low books can do wonders to build a kid's self-esteem about reading. The plot summaries of these books sound no different from the ones their peers are reading. Instead, the authors use vocabulary better suited to help kids who are reading at a level lower than their grade. 

Sometimes struggling readers lack confidence. If they think their only book options for reading at their level are stories or subjects that appeal more to younger kids, their fragile spirits can be crushed. We have tried to make it easier to find these books in our catalog by grouping them together under the genre High interest-low vocabulary books. This group contains a variety of books that will appeal to a variety of ages and reading levels.

Need some more help figuring out which one is right for your child or teen? Feel free to ask your librarian. Be sure to tell your librarian what your child's interests are and the names of some of the books your child has had success reading. This will help us fill your arms with titles that will encourage your child to read because they are appropriate for their reading level and not lame.

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: 
Sarah, Golden Library

If you're a parent or caregiver and you've got a shiny gadget (think iPad, Smartphone or eReader) chances are your child is interested in using it too! According to a study by Common Sense Media, Seventy-two percent of children age 8 and under have used a mobile device for some type of media activity such as playing games, watching videos, or using apps.

Even among very young children, mobile device use is high: More than a third of children under the age of 2 use mobile media. Specifically, the study found that 38 percent of kids under age 2 have used tablets or smartphones.

As families incorporate more digital technologies into their lives, I get a lot of questions here at the library about which apps are best for kids. So, I've decided to do a monthly appvisory series here on the blog. If you're looking for great free apps for the kids, I've got you covered!

Today's app is a digital version of a classic game: Simon! :)

Like the classic Simon game, this app increases concentration, improves memory and works reflex and motor skills. Suitable for ages 4 and up.

Challenge your child to a Simon competition and work out your grey matter, too! :) 

Download Simon app for Android devices

Download Simon app for iDevices

Stay tuned for next month's app! :)

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!

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Super cold days like today make me think about comforting things - a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and Ballet Shoes. 

Wait. WHAT was that last thing?

Ballet Shoes - A book by Noel Streatfeild I read over and over again as a kid, and still read at least once a year.  You know those books - the ones that, even though you've read them a gazillion times, you still pick them up from time to time because that familiarity is a comforting feeling.  Ballet Shoes, the story of Pauline (the acting prodigy), Posy (ballet dancer-to-be), and Petrova (who really just wants to fly aeroplanes, thankyouverymuch), and their struggle to survive in 40's London with their guardian, Sylvia, is one of my comfort books.

Another one is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. While I know whodunit, I still revisit this puzzle mystery regularly in order to spend time with Turtle and the rest of the quirky Sunset Towers residents. I like to follow along as they try to figure out how Sam Westing died, and if one of them is responsible. It's a mystery unlike any other I have ever read - and it should come as no surprise that it won the Newbery Medal in 1979.

I also pick up John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain every now and then. Fitzgerald's semi-autobiographical story of his life growing up in turn-of-the-century Utah focuses on his brother, Tom, aka "The Great Brain." Tom's really good at problem solving, but unfortunately, uses his skill primarily to swindle friends and neighbors out of money. I especially like the chapter in The Return of the Great Brain when his family gets the town's first indoor plumbing (which everyone is convinced will stink up the house) and Tom decides to charge the local kids to come in and take a look.  In fact, I loved these books so much that in grade school I won a contest to create a slogan for the school library (nerd alert!) with a drawing that included these two titles. My slogan? "A book a day keeps the lazies away." Winner!

I think I'll go home tonight and grab one of these comfort books off my shelf (I still have all my original tattered copies), fix myself a cup of hot chocolate, and warm up with some comfort reading. 

by: 
Mary, Kids and Families Outreach

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I hope everyone has a wonderful day filled with family, friends, fun, and, of course....FOOD! I've got a quick post for you today, as I've got a pie to finish. But I was thinking about how my sister and I, when we were younger, were able to help out with the festivities. Sure, there's the food preparation, and kids can certainly help out with some of that, but what I remember most from my youth was setting the table. This was our very important job - making the table pretty and special in honor of a special day. The centerpiece was always the most important part, and we used leaves, candles, nuts, fruit, and a variety of other objects to fancy things up. 

I took a look on pinterest (oh, how I love Pinterest!) and found some kid-friendly, easy-peasy centerpiece ideas that involve items that I think most folks would have on hand at home (because I know we'd all rather avoid the store today if at all possible!). Check 'em out, and set your young ones to work!

  • Thankful tree - branches in a jar with paper leaves on which everyone can write what they're thankful for!
  • Pear and clove centerpiece - send a message with lovely-smelling fruit and spice! 
  • Paper roll turkey (picture only) - write what you're thankful for on the feathers! 
  • Fall trees - more ideas on this blog!
  • Turkey vase (from a soda bottle) - this one's a little more labor intensive, but oh-so-cute! 

Enjoy! We're thankful for you!

[Picture via San Jose Library]

by: 
Jennifer, Lakewood Library

Are you piling the clan into the family truckster for the Thanksgiving holiday? Why not make the trip more enjoyable by listening to an audio book? To help you avoid more fighting from the backseat (or front seat), below is my list of audiobooks the whole family can enjoy. These audiobooks are not only great stories that will captivate a variety of ages, but the talented narrators on these recordings have created some tasty ear candy as well.

 

If you like happy stories filled with good things, then this series is unfortunately not for you. But if you like darkly hilarious adventures and wildly bizarre characters, then you will unfortunately find yourself driving extra miles to listen to more of The Series of Unfortunate Events. I can't think of a better actor than Tim Curry to vocalize the side splitting humor of Daniel Handler, I mean Lemony Snicket. Available for checkout or download.

Want something that will transport your family to a magical land full of adventure and away from that sweaty sock smell coming from the back seat? A who's who of English actors came forward to be readers for the classic series The Chronicles of Narnia and used their talents to the max. Follow Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund through the wardrobe and into the captivating world of Narnia.

Dead End in Norvelt will have you rolling with laughter by the time you are over the river and through the woods. This semi-autobiographical  tale connects with kids and the kid in all of us. Jackie is grounded for the summer and as further punishment he is sentenced to help Miss Volker with her job of writing obituaries for the town newspaper and with things around the house like dipping her hands in hot wax to help her arthritis. This is definitely not how he planned is summer to go. Together they get themselves into several ridiculously funny situations. In my opinion, Jack Gantos is one of the few authors who does his writing justice by reading it himself.

by: 
Marcy, Arvada Library

 

This fuzzy headed blast from the past was king of the rock parody with hits like, "Another one Rides the Bus" and "I love Rocky Road." You may recall his video of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" entitled "Eat It." I had a teen one time who came to the library to request all the Weird Al CD's he could get.  I guess he learned about him when his Dad had turned him on to Dr. Demento. Most people don't know, however, that a couple of years ago Al Yankovic charted new territory as a children's book author.

When I Grow Up is a perfect read aloud for the older elementary school kids. Billy's teacher asks the class to answer the perennial question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Billy's answer goes on for 22 pages of fun filled, fast paced comedy. I have shared this book with kids up to sixth grade and gotten laughs. Who doesn't want to be a "gorilla masseuse or an artist who sculpts out of chocolate mousse." Some of us grown-ups are probably still contemplating what we want to be when we grow up. What do you want to be?

PS: Look for Billy's next adventure, My New Teacher and Me, coming soon to a library near you! 

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