Blogs: Families

“You need a rest, and so do I," I'd say firmly, and then I'd close the door (also firmly) and brew myself a cup of tea. Then, with a sigh of happiness, I’d pull out a book or pop in a DVD and take at least an hour for myself. My kids both stopped napping at about three and a half, but I didn't stop being a quiet time-enforcer until both of them were in the care of Portland Public Schools five days a week. Days with young children can be very long, and I found that if we had this time to refuel, the rest of the afternoon and evening would be much more pleasant for everyone.

A library patron recently told me that she uses audiobooks to entertain her preschooler during quiet time and I think this is a brilliant idea. Let them be diverted for a while by Frances, a badger who likes to make up charming little songs, or let them spend some time enjoying the sweet friendship of Frog and Toad. I’ve made a couple of lists to give parents ideas for audiobooks that would be perfect. The first list contains audiobook CDs and the second contains downloadable audiobooksI offer them with the sincere hope that the stories you'll find on them will provide enough time for both parent and child to feel refreshed.

My brother is a fifth grade teacher and he sometimes asks me for ideas for books he can read to his class. With all the hoopla that attended the release of the first couple of movies, his class was trying to get him to choose The Hunger Games, but he thought that it contained too much violence and romance for 10-year-olds. I agreed and then suggested Lois Lowry's classic dystopian novel, The Giver.

I’m excited about the movie based on The Giver, which is being released on August 15. I really love the book, about Jonah, a boy living in some future world in which individuality, intense emotion and even color are outlawed, and in which all of life’s important decisions are made by the community’s leaders. Everything seems very calm and ordinary in this world-- but then Jonah is assigned a new and mysterious job that allows him to discover the truth about his community.

Parents should know that the book contains no sexual content and not much in the way of overt violence, although there is definitely some darkness. Jonah was twelve in the book, though, and in the movie he's about sixteen, so the filmmakers seem to have taken some liberty with the story. Do have the kids read the book before they see the movie, and read it yourself, too. It’s a very good novel, beautifully written and thought-provoking. And if you have kids who are interested in young adult dystopian fiction, but you think they’re a little young for The Hunger Games and Divergent, check out this list.

I'm a library geek, so of course I was disappointed when  someone in the press asked Michelle Obama if she and Barack still read to Sasha and Malia at bedtime, and she replied, “No-- the girls are old enough to read their own books themselves now."  The Obama girls were about 8 and 11 at the time.  I know that the President and his wife are very busy, and they seem to be pretty wonderful parents, but I was still a little sad.

Working in the library, I am often asked to help parents find books to start with when their children are ready to begin listening to chapter books. And don't get me wrong, I'm very enthusiastic about Charlotte's Web and The Boxcar Children. But I'm always especially excited to get a question about read-alouds for older children, kids who are at least 8 or 9 years old. Reading to older kids is a great way to keep your bond with them strong, and it's so much fun! They get the jokes. They're more able to feel compassion for the characters, to follow an intricate plot, to feel surprised by what happens, more likely to be moved and delighted by a story in the same exact way that you are, which is such a pleasure. 

I basically decided to have children so that I could read to them, and reading books together has been a deep and sustained joy, just as good as I imagined it would be. My younger child, who is 10, still lets me read to him if I find something that grabs him right from the start. I finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk to him just last night. This rollicking little book features the following: a brilliant, time-traveling scientist who is also a stegosaurus; pirates, vampires, a volcano, snotlike green aliens with a penchant for redecorating new planets, and two innocent children who are in desperate need of something to pour over their cereal at breakfast. At one point, we were laughing so hard that if we’d been drinking milk, it would have squirted out our nostrils. We laughed so hard that we cried.  I couldn’t read the next line until we settled down after a full five minutes of helpless laughter-- at which point, we started all over again. When I thought of it this morning, I started laughing out loud in the shower.

It won't last forever, but reading books at bedtime has been a wonderful thing to share with my kids. Here’s a list of great read-alouds for you to enjoy with the not-so-little children in your life.

Why this cure? An antidote to screen time, a break from the princesses and ninjas, finding time to share a passion with your children of all ages, even something to read for grownups that can be digested in small bites.

Where’s this cure? Right here in the greater Portland metro area, in our backyards and urban forests.

What’s this cure? Reading books that have inspired me to delight and revel in the natural world, followed by a visit to a nearby park to answer questions I didn’t know I had. What? I was trampling on efts? What are those again?

Here are some of my favorites: fiction that includes natural history and natural history that reads like a story. Find out why voles turn somersaults or learn to tell bird nests from squirrel dreys in books about your backyard or our urban forests.

Did you know that there are regular programs for preschoolers at many of our natural areas?  Or that you can see live owls and vultures at Audubon’s Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center? You might also try a guided family hike to explore painted turtles or working to evict invasive species. One great website that consolidates these opportunities is Exploring Portland's Natural Areas.

Maybe instead of a cure we should just call it fun.

Photo of Beverly Cleary from beverly cleary dot com

One of the most popular and honored authors of all time, Beverly Cleary has won the Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw. Her books Ramona Quimby, Age 8 plus Ramona and Her Father have been named Newbery Honor Books.

Beverly Cleary was born in McMinnville, Oregon, and, until she was old enough to attend school, lived on a farm in Yamhill, a town so small it had no library. Her mother arranged with the State Library to have books sent to Yamhill and acted as librarian in a lodge room upstairs over a bank. There Mrs. Cleary learned to love books. When the family moved to Portland, where Mrs. Cleary attended grammar school and high school, she soon found herself in the low reading circle, an experience that has given her sympathy for the problems of struggling readers. (1)

Celebrate Oregon's beloved author and famous characters from her novels with the self-guided walking tour Walking With Ramona Map, published by The Library Foundation. The tour begins at the Hollywood Neighborhood Library, 4040 N.E. Tillamook Street, and continues through nearby neighborhoods, exploring the places where the events in her books "really happened." Visit the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, a special gift to the City of Portland from Friends of Henry & Ramona. Cast in bronze by Portland artist Lee Hunt, the life-sized bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry's dog Ribsy welcome young and old to Grant Park.

Continue on through the park, scene of endless adventures: "He passed the playground where he heard the children's shouts and the clank and clang of the rings and swings. Henry didn't stop. He had work to do. He went to the edge of the park where there were no lights and turned on his flashlight. Sure enough, there in the grass under a bush was a night crawler. Henry nabbed it and put it into his jar."

Sculpture of Henry;  photo by Beverly Stafford, Multnomah County LibraryRamona sculpture - photo by Beverly Stafford Multnomah County LibraryRidby the dog sculpture - photo by Beverly Stafford, Multnomah County Library

We hope you enjoy this walking tour. Please be mindful of current residents as you pass by the homes where Beverly Cleary once lived.

Beverly Cleary now resides in California but her influence is always local for us.


Print: Walking With RamonaMap    Copies available at the Central and Hollywood libraries

Sources:

  1. D.E.A.R. : Drop Everything and Read
  2. City of Portland: Grant Park Sculpture Garden. Dedicated on October 13, 1995.
  3. The publication Walking With Ramona was made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation.

 

I blame the library. The first time my four-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Thing One, saw a Disney book at the library, she became obsessed, and soon, her babysitter told her there were movies, too. It wasn’t long before she was wearing nothing but pink and purple, and insisting on wearing tiaras to the supermarket. She wanted new princess books all the time. I didn't mind her fashion choices, but I wanted her to value things like bravery, loyalty, brains, individuality, and diversity, and to see that a woman’s main job in life was not to be pretty, well-dressed, and passive. Princesses with the enormous eyes and tiny waists were getting too much power over my child's imagination. It was time to fight back...With research.

I found a number of picture books and several collections of folk tales that celebrate female strength. I especially like Jane Yolen’s Not One Damsel in Distress, a collection of stories featuring strong, clever girls. And some of them are actually princesses! The young women in these stories defeat serpents, outsmart sultans, discover underground caves full of treasure and steal ships to sail away from the controlling men who want to trap them in marriage against their will. Jane Yolen’s writing is engaging and suspenseful enough to charm any princess wannabe between the ages of, say, four and eight.

Here’s a list of more good books for princess loving girls, or boys, that will make their feminist parents happy. Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have other titles that should be included in this list!

Professional genealogists say you start your family tree with YOU. You find the records for YOUR birth, for YOUR education, YOUR travels, YOUR relationships and family AND your photos.

Do you need a copy of your birth certificate? a marriage or divorce record? a death record? If you were born in the United States or one of our territories, you can find the sources for these records at Where to Write for Vital Records.

When you are doing genealogy on other people in your family, if the event (the birth, marriage, divorce, death) occurred in the U.S., this will help you find out where the information you need may be found (and costs associated with obtaining it.)

As you look through your papers, the family file cabinet, the attic or other storage places for your records, keep an eye open for documents that will help you know where and when the important life events for other family members occurred.

If you find information for other family members, ask their permission to copy it. You will be able to use it as you move on to research the generations before you.

 

 

A teacher from a childcare center recently contacted me for some library resources. She was looking for few board books, a picture book or two, a music CD, and a few rhymes with interesting content for infants and toddlers, all related to the same theme. My immediate thought was Multnomah County Library’s collection of Storytime It’s in the Bags. We have 20 themed bags for toddlers (ages 18 mths—3 yrs) and another 21 bags for preschool-aged children (3—6 years). Each bag centers on a theme and contains five books, a small toy, game, puzzle or music CD related to the theme, and an activity sheet. The sheet has a couple of rhymes or games to play with children to extend the theme, as well as some tips for sharing books with children to effectively help them gain the skills they need to become successful readers. These bags are perfect for busy childcare teachers, family childcare providers and parents who want to share thematic materials with the little ones in their care. The Storytime bags are a popular resource and they are available on the shelves in some MCL locations. The easiest way to get your hands on these bags is to look through the toddler and preschool bag lists and place holds on the ones you would like to share with the kids in your life.

MCL also has bags for infants and their caregivers (0-6 months, 6-12 months and 12-18 months). Another new set of resources are the Bolsitas de Cuentos, which are themed bags with books in Spanish and bilingual English/Spanish. The Cuentos bags contain books appropriate for children 0-5 years old, and are fun for Spanish-speaking families and families who are working at being bilingual.

Storytime is most rewarding when you find just the right song and book that can captivate a child’s attention, elicit laughter and bring out joy from having so much fun!

The following songs and book, with the theme Fingers and Toes, have proven to do all three for me in actual storytimes at Multnomah County Library.

This mini storytime also incorporate Talking, Singing, Reading and Playing - four of the five activities to prepare your child for reading.

Start out by waving and wiggling your fingers and count them one by one. Your child may already be mimicking your actions by this point, otherwise encourage him/her to do the same. Once all fingers are wiggling start singing the Finger Family song and do the actions accordingly:

 

Finger family’s up (wiggle fingers up in the air)

And finger family’s down (wiggle fingers down)

Finger family’s dancing all the around the town (wave and wiggle fingers all around)

Dance them on your shoulders (wiggle fingers on shoulders)

Dance them on your head (wiggle fingers on head)

Dance them on your knees (wiggle fingers on knees)

And tuck them into bed (quickly, move wiggling fingers and tuck them into underarms – left hand into right underarm and vice versa)

Barbara Allyn copyright SOCAN

 

Here’s a great video of the song created by the King County Library System

 

Now, hold out those hands and you can even play peek-a-boo (an activity that is always a hit with babies and toddlers!)

Tell your child that in addition to fingers we also have toes. If you can be bare foot bring out those toes, wiggle them and count them too. Then sing one of my favorite songs, Everybody Knows I Love My Toes and point to each body part accordingly:

Everybody knows I love my toes

Everybody knows I love my toes

I love my eyes, my ears, my mouth & my nose

And everybody knows I love my toes

You can use this song to sing about other body parts that you and your child also love, i.e. tummy, elbow, etc.

Here’s a sample of the song

A lovely and fun book that ties the Fingers and Toes theme together is Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox. Add your own style and pizzazz as you read together and the fun will naturally emerge.

Requests to repeat the songs or book is a reflection of how much your child enjoys storytime with you so feel free to "sing/read it again" as many times as you like!

You are your child’s first teacher and your home is where your child begins to learn.

It’s never too early or too late to help your child develop language and other early literacy skills. Here are five daily practices to follow to get children ready to read:

Talking

Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and others talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge. This will help children understand the meaning of what they read.

  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.
  • Respond to what your child says and extend the conversation. “Yes we did see a truck like that last week. It’s called a bulldozer.”
  • Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Repeat what your child says and use new words. “You want a banana? That’s a very healthy choice.”
  • If English isn’t your first language, speak to your child in the language you know best. This allows you to explain things more fluently so your child will learn more

Singing

Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words. This helps when children begin to read printed language.

  • Sing the alphabet song to learn about letters.
  • Sing nursery rhymes so children hear the different sounds in words
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children hear the syllables in words.

Reading

Reading together - shared reading - is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. Reading together increases vocabulary and general knowledge. It helps children learn how print looks and how books work. Shared reading also helps children develop an interest in reading. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

  • Read every day.
  • Make shared reading interactive. Before you begin a book, look at the cover and predict what the book is about. Have your child turn the book’s pages. Ask questions as you read and listen to what your child says. When you finish the book, ask your child to retell the story.
  • Use books to help teach new words. Books can teach less common words, words that children may not hear in everyday conversation.

Writing

Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information. Children can learn pre-reading skills through writing activities.

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Encourage this by providing many opportunities to draw and write.
  • Children can sign their name to drawings, which helps them understand that print represents words. As they practice eye-hand coordination and develop their hand muscles, children can begin to write the letters in their names.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw and write captions or stories together. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.

Playing

Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.

  • Give your child plenty of playtime. Some of the best kinds of play are unstructured, when children can use their imaginations and create stories about what they’re doing.
  • Encourage dramatic play. When children make up stories using puppets or stuffed animals, they develop important narrative skills. This helps children understand that stories and books have a beginning, middle and end.
  • Pretend to read a book. Have your child tell you a story based on the pictures in a book. Or ask your child to “read” a book you’ve read together many times and tell you the story. This develops vocabulary and other language skills.

Look for future blogs with fun things to do that incorporate these activities for you and your child.

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