Blogs: Parents

Image of a rain puddle.

Winter in Portland brings short days, long nights, holiday celebrations, extra expenses, and So. Much. Rain. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors near and far.

Note: For the most up-to-date information on resources all over Oregon, contact 211info by dialing 2.1.1 (toll free), texting your zip code to 898211, emailing, or searching 211info's online Community Resource Directory

Keep warm

Find holiday meals and food boxes

  • Radio Cab Foundation's Turkey Project will be delivering Christmas turkeys with all the fixings to people living in Greater Portland. If you know a family in need these holidays, or are in need yourself, fill out their Dinner Request Form
  • Lift Urban Portland will have a Christmas meal open to all on December 25 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm; call 503.221.1224 for the address.
  • SnowCap will also have a Christmas meal open to all, from noon to 2:00 pm at Rockwood United Methodist Church (17805 SE Stark St.).

Image of small child in the rain.

Get toys and gifts for your kids

  • On December 22 from 1 to 5 pm, Sisters of the Road Cafe will host a Winter Wonderland Kids Day full of gifts, games, movies, food, and arts and crafts.To reserve a spot on the gift list, call 503.222.5694 ext. 120.
  • Portland Toy & Joy Makers is providing gifts for children of low income families. Call the Toy Request Line at 503.231.8697 between 9 am and 3 pm from November 16 thru December 20.

Help out your community

Donate money

There is no shortage of organizations that could put your charity to good use, so how do you choose where to give?


Questions? Call, text, or email a librarian to get personalized help -- or ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library.  We will do our best to find the right resource or service for you!



A college degree is one of the most expensive items you will ever buy. It can leave you in debt for years, so you want to be as smart as you can about your education. When you attend college, you are "buying" a college degree, much as you purchase other big-ticket items. So, you want to make sure you get your money's worth.

Barnard College

Figuring out what college is going to cost

The U.S. Department of Education has a useful website called College Scorecard. You supply information about the type of degree you are looking for and locations or regions that you are interested in, and you'll receive results that show the average annual cost of tuition and fees at each matching institution, the graduation rate, and the annual average salary of their graduates. It's a great website for getting an overview and comparing what different colleges cost.

Another great place to research college pricing and student aid is at The College Board website. There is a wide variety in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country, so it can really pay to do your research. 

Be sure to add in what your room and board costs will be, including your meal plan, books and supplies, and other personal expenses

Your Personal Resources

Before you apply for student aid or scholarships, you'll need to figure out the amount of money that you and perhaps your parents can afford. Some parents choose to contribute and others believe that it is the student's responsibility to pay for college.

If you are saving for college, the State of Oregon offers the Oregon College Savings Plan which provides tax advantages. 

Federal Student Aid

If you plan to apply for aid, check and double-check the application deadlines. State and college aid may have earlier deadlines than federal aid. When you apply, you want to be in the first stack of applicants, not the last. You can check the federal and state application deadlines at

The first step to apply is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Financial aid experts recommend that all students fill out the FAFSA because it is used by colleges and grant-makers to figure out financial need. 

The fastest way to fill out the FAFSA is online at, but you can also get paper forms at all our public library branches: Just ask at a reference desk. Give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form. You'll need to have information about your financial situation and you or your parents' federal tax forms from the previous year at hand.

Using the information that you supply on the FAFSA, the financial aid office at your college will determine that amount of aid you may receive.

"Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination." -- W. Wonka

 Multnomah County Library Golden Ticket

First graders of Multnomah County, welcome to the library! 

If you attend a school in the Portland Public, Corbett, Parkrose, Reynolds, David Douglas, Gresham-Barlow or Centennial School Districts, you and your family should receive a Golden Ticket at your school's fall conference, directly from your teacher.

Learning to read is a very exciting time, and Multnomah County Library can help you on your way to becoming a stronger reader. Bring your Golden Ticket to any Multnomah County Library location to choose a free book to keep and learn about all about what the library has just for you! Parents of first graders, fill out the information on the back of the ticket and you will be entered into a drawing for a family smartphone. The library has a lot to offer you too.

If your first  grader goes to a  public school in one of the districts listed above and didn't get a Golden Ticket at fall conferences, be sure to ask your teacher or principal.

Golden Tickets can be redeemed for a free book until January 4, 2016. You can come in any time to experience the magic of Multnomah County Library!

Made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation and reach through private support.

Whether you love algebra or not, I've had more students ask me, "What's the point? How will I ever use this in real life?" I even asked my own 8th grade math teacher this. I didn't get any satisfying answer back then, but luckily, you have some great algebra resources online to explain real world applications for the math you are learning. 

 Maybe you thought real life uses of algebra would be boring, but Get the Math shows you how a hip-hop team uses it in music  production. More interested in video games? Algebra is used all the time in video game production. Or do you want to learn how  you can create the perfect basketball free throw shot using algebra? Visit Get the Math for these and other videos about fashion and special effects. Or watch a video about the impossible soccer free kick that explains mathematically why Brazil's Robert Carlos' now famous 35 meter free kick in 1997 made the goal. 

So now that I've answered the 'why' question, where can you begin learning about algebra and pre-algebra? I'm a fan of learning through play, so check out Math Playground, pre-algebra math games online to learn math while having fun. In addition to games, Kids Math TV also offers math lessons and worksheets by both grade level and math topic, so go explore! 

Find Out What's Available

Trinity collegeIt's never too early to start looking for scholarships. The best time of year to start looking is in the summer or early fall. This lets you find programs before their deadlines have passed, and gives you enough time to complete a well-planned application. Many scholarship programs require an essay and recommendations from teachers or other adults who know you, and these take time to prepare.  

There are many scholarships, grants, fellowships, internships and work-study jobs available. You'll likely encounter some common eligibility criteria. These include which state you live in, if you've performed military service, whether you have minority status or a particular nationality or ethnic background, a religious affliation, or if any of your family members belong to a national or local organization or civic association. If you fit the eligibility criteria, be sure to consider applying! 


The library is a great place to get started as you research scholarships. Whether you are looking for a scholarship in the humanities, the sciences, the social sciences, or sports, we can help you discover ways to find scholarship awards for higher education. 

Scholarship HandbookThe Scholarship Handbook is organized by common eligibility criteria. It lists scholarships based on which state you live in, whether you have performed military service, if you have minority status or come from a particular nationality or ethnic background, if you have a religious affliation, and whether any of your family members belong to a national or local organization or civic association. Each scholarship program is described by eligibility, basis for selection, application requirements, amount awarded, application deadline, and contact information.


Ultimate Scholarship Book"Billions of dollars in scholarships, grants and prizes." The Ultimate Scholarship Book organizes awards into categories such as humanities, social science, science and general. You don't need a perfect GPA or financial need to win a scholarship. There are plenty of awards that have none of these requirements.



College help for teens: More resources for financial aid, admissions, guides, and Study Abroad.

Saving and paying for college: Additional help with financing college.

International breastfeeding symbolWhen I came back to work six months after having my daughter, as a breastfeeding mama, the first thing I had to figure out was how to pump at work. Where would I do it? When would I do it? I pictured a cluttered janitor’s closet or a bathroom (places I have both pumped in a pinch, by the way!). Luckily my workplace is very accommodating toward breastfeeding moms, and I was able to use a discreet office during my pumping times. In fact, at one time there were three women from one department all actively pumping, and there are five of us who are currently still nursing! Wow!


But not all new moms are so lucky to have such workplace support. Even though it is Oregon and federal law for a workplace “to provide a break time and space requirement for breastfeeding mothers,” some workplaces may be reluctant to accommodate, or not accommodate at all. In fact, before working at MCL, one of our mamas told a story about being forced to pump away from her workplace because her employer misinterpreted the law, and refused to provide her a space at work. So she literally had to go down the street to a cold, empty building with her own heat source in tow where she fought to keep the lights on. Yikes.


If this situation sounds familiar (and hopefully it doesn’t), the important thing to know is requesting a safe, discreet place to pump during your work day is within your rights. If your employer is giving you the run around, you can report them to the Bureau of Labor and Industries, as well as request help to receive a workplace accommodation. It is also within your rights to breastfeed anywhere in public (that includes the library!). So never fear, the law is on your side!


My baby is now a two-year-old (sniff), and I love the special bond we have been able to cultivate through breastfeeding. But I couldn’t have done it alone. There are some great organizations out there that support breastfeeding families like KellyMom and La Leche League. Interested in joining a group? The local chapter of La Leche League, La Leche League of Oregon, has meetups and support groups by neighborhood. And if you are looking for some additional breastfeeding resources, be sure to check out what the library has to offer.

Getting ready for college is a state of mind


Florida State 1904Every year, hundreds of high school juniors and seniors in the Portland area are faced with the decision of whether to go to college, which colleges to apply to, what to study, how to get accepted, and how to pay for it. The library can help! 

If you’re wondering if you’re ready or not, ask the advice of a trusted high school counselor, teacher, or librarian. They can help you find resources to decide whether you have learned to set clear, achievable goals, can manage your time well, and have the skills you’ll need for college-level courses.

Compare your options

College Blue BookThe library has several different resources to help you evaluate your options. One of the best available is the six-volume College Blue Book. You can look at it online or come in to Central Library to browse.

The first volume has the most narrative information about different options. Find the number of students and faculty, entrance requirements, costs per year, and lots more. You could use this volume, for example, to compare the campus at George Fox University to Lewis & Clark College.  

Looking for which degrees are offered by college and subject? Volume 3 is where you can find, for example, that Portland State University and University of Oregon both offer degrees in architecture. Volume 5 has an up-to-date list of scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans. And if you're interested in distance learning programs, look at Volume 6. Almost every course, certificate, and degree program that you can take on campus is also available in a distance learning format.

Deciding what to study

Occupational Outlook HandbookDuring high school, students typically begin forming some idea of what they want to study or do for work. The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help with up-to-date vocational guidance, employment forecasting, and information about different occupations. You can also use their electronic resources online for career information about hundreds of occupations.

For each job, the book discusses work tasks, job outlook for the next few years, training and education needed, pay, work environment, similar occupations, and additional information sources.

The library also has the Oregon Career Information System (CIS) database which provides information about occupations in Oregon that relate to your interests, aptitudes, and abilities. After you create a portfolio, you can use CIS to take college admissions practice tests, upload your career search, and build a résumé. Deciding whether to return to school? CIS has career assessment tools to help you out.

Considering whether to use a college consultant

College consultants can help you develop strategies about planning for college. Look for someone who is knowledgeable about a wide range of colleges and their admissions processes. They can help identify your strengths and weaknesses, and help find schools that are a good fit. They can also advise on what you need to do to prepare for applying to college, such as choosing college prep classes, participating in school activities, and volunteering in the community.

There are many college consultants in the Portland area. The following sites have tools for finding phone numbers and addresses of local consultants.

Independent Educational Consultants Association

Higher Education Consultants Association

As I write this, my coworkers and I are all a little excited. Our boss, who we really like, will any minute now become a father for the first time. The parents who work here are especially delighted because we’ll be reminded of our own experiences of becoming parents, and maybe we'll get to share some hard-won wisdom with the new dad.

One thing I’ll definitely share, when the time comes, is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.

Feeding babies and children can be really fun. I remember the summer that my first child was able to eat real food; the parade of summer fruits she got to experience for the first time--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches. We got marionberries that were as big as her fists, and she ate them with concentration and joy, purple juice dripping down her chin.

But feeding small children can also be hugely frustrating. One day they love scrambled eggs. The next, they are affronted that you would even suggest they eat such a thing. Many parents react by feeding their children only the tried and true favorites, which can lead to a pretty limited diet, and there’s frequently a lot of stress and discord around feeding issues. Child of Mine can really help. The main thing I got from this book was a firm grasp on what should be my responsibility and what should be my children’s. My job is to provide a variety of healthy foods at regular intervals -- so I decide “what” and “when”. My kids decide if they’re going to eat and how much. I haven’t followed this perfectly, but it kind of set us on our course, and my kids definitely eat their fruits and veggies. So if you have a small child and feeding is an issue -- which it is for just about everyone at one time or another -- check out Child of Mine.

I have a toddler at home. She is curious, funny, likes to sing songs, is fearless on the slide. And lately she has been driving me a little crazy. If you are the parent of a young child, or have ever hung out with a two-year-old for a couple of hours, you know how things can be fine one moment before they suddenly go terribly wrong. Toddlers feel every emotion with their entire bodies. They have their own seismic counter at work, with an earthquake they have somehow swallowed that threatens to go off inside them at any moment. My block tower fell over? I will throw myself on the floor! I tore the paper I was coloring? I will rip it to pieces in frustration!

Sometimes I get a little jealous that adults can’t get away with acting out their emotions the way toddlers do. It looks so freeing to be able to let it all out and not care what anyone thinks. It’s that amazing ability children have of living forever in the present---the only moment is the here and now. It’s too bad one of us has to be the grown up and drive us home from the grocery store---otherwise I’d gladly trade places and stomp my feet up and down the aisles.

What has saved me from pulling my hair out is getting outside. There’s something magical that happens when fresh air hits her cheeks---she’s like a different kid! Tantrums turn into playing with whatever we might come across: rocks, sticks, leaves, pine cones. Everything is interesting and worth examining closely.

Activities can also help. Need something to do with your little one? A while back my colleague Joanna posted about fun things to do with kids this summer. And Portland is a great town for always having a cool festival going on in the summer months. The library will have a table at the Portland Pride Festival on June 13th and 14th, so come check us out! This year my wife and I are planning on taking our daughter to her first ever Pride Parade, as long as it doesn’t coincide with naptime. No one messes with naptime.

Five years old by September? Sign up for school by June 1!
If your child will be five years old by September 1, he or she is ready to start school. Register at your school by June 1 to give your child a good start, connect to summer activities and get access to free resources. School offices close for the summer, so don’t wait! When you register by June 1, you have time to get to know your school and your teacher, and your teacher has time to prepare the classroom for your child. To identify your school or get help with other childhood issues call 211 or email Interpretation is available.
How can the library help you and your child get ready for kindergarten? Bring them to storytime!  By the time your child is 5 years old, you may have heard many messages — on TV, in magazines, from other parents — about the importance of learning letters and numbers.
But kindergarten teachers care much more about having children who are ready and excited to learn. Kindergarten readiness includes things such as playing well with others, following simple instructions and talking about feelings and thoughts. There are lots of fun ways to develop these skills, and the library is here to help you!
At storytime we read stories and sing songs. We talk about the things we’ve read. We work on following directions with shakers and scarves and simple group games. Storytimes are a great opportunity for your child to learn to socialize with other children and adults. In storytime children also learn to ask questions and function well in a group; develop language and problem-solving skills; and perhaps most importantly, discover that books and learning are fun!
What else can you do?  Read, talk, sing, write and play!  




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