Blogs: Families

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!

According to the AARP Foundation, across the United States almost 5.8 million children are living in grandparents’ homes, with more than 2.5 million grandparents assuming responsibility for these children. Grandparents are often isolated in their endeavors; they report a lack of information, resources, and benefits to successfully fulfill their caregiver role. Armed with these statistics and anecdotal evidence from community members, I gathered a team of staff members to figure out a way the library could celebrate these grand families. The team agreed on a simple mission statement to direct our efforts: it is through the infinite wisdom and experience of their elders that children learn the unique cultural and familial values that help them grow into valuable contributors of the community. After meeting with different agencies and groups across the County, we saw a unique need the library could fulfill--a space where grandparents could share their stories. Our goal was a series of programs that would highlight a variety of methods of storytelling. Grandparents, Grand Stories was born. 

 

We began with storytelling through film. In partnership with MetroEast Community Media, Midland and North Portland libraries hosted media camps for teens and their grandparents. Our internal tag line for the media camp was simple and spoke to the team’s main objective: “You are a Storyteller, Come Share Your Story.” We wanted grand families to feel empowered to share their voice with the community. Each participant also had the added bonus of learning great technology skills. Jennifer Dynes, Education Director at MetroEast Community Media, reflected on the experience:

As a filmmaker, I learned so much by working with the families of the Grandparents, Grand Stories media camp. Sure, there were the usual lights, camera and action. Of course each participant learned about lighting and audio and interview technique. But when I look back on this camp, I recall a summer filled with more than basic filmmaking workshops. I recall a summer filled with laughter, stories, new friends and revelations about the experiences that make us who we are. In meeting these families and hearing the stories each person told, I glimpsed the connections that we all have with each other.  Families are the fabric that holds us together, and grandparents are often the weavers of this fabric. I am humbled  by the commitment and deep love that I saw each grandparent display to their grandchildren, both in action and in words. I hope that I can carry this lesson to my own family and one day live up to their example.  And I am proud to help bring these stories to you.  

The other forms of storytelling the team chose to focus on were storytelling through music, dance, spoken word, and written word.  Throughout the month of September look for other Grandparents, Grand Stories  programs at a location near you.

AARP fact sheet

See more videos from participants
 

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.

 

 

Hearing and using lots of words helps children get ready to read.  The more words they know, the easier it will be for them to learn how to read.  So how do we help kids develop a BIG vocabulary?  By talking with them!  

Of course every day we might use words like breakfast and shoes and bedtime.  But when we expose children to the world, and then have conversations about what they experience, we introduce them to lots of new words!  

There are so many fun places to take young children in Multnomah county.  Some of them are free (like your neighborhood playground) or inexpensive (like Portland Parks & Rec’s indoor parks), but some of them can make a pretty big dent in your wallet!  

Fortunately many of our local attractions offer discount days on a regular basis.  Admission to OMSI only costs $2 the first Sunday of the month.  The Oregon Zoo charges only $4 on the second Tuesday of every month.  The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is free every Tuesday and Wednesday, free from the day after Labor Day through the end of February, and free year-round for children under 12.  The Chinese & Japanese Gardens and the Art Museum also have free days periodically each year.  

Pairing your adventures with books on related topics provides a great opportunity to continue and extend your conversations.  If your toddler loved watching the monkeys at the zoo, try reading Busy Monkeys together.  After building a tower at OMSI, your child might enjoy Dreaming Up.  Try pairing a trip to the Art Museum with Katie and the Water Lily Pond or a visit to any of the gardens with Flower Garden.  These are just a few suggestions to get you started.  We can help you find just the right book for you and your child.  And you can help your child get ready to read by having fun conversations every day.

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.

Read it Again!

Does that sound familiar? How many times have you read Goodnight Moon or Where the Wild Things Are with your little ones?  I know many parents who can recite The Cat in the Hat from memory. Young children love to hear their favorite books again and again. There’s a good reason for this: the developing brain needs repetition. Repetition strengthens brain cell connections. For example, when a child encounters a new word in a  book and begins to understand the meaning of that word, each time the book is read the child’s brain secretes a chemical called “myelin,” a substance that strengthens that connection. The child’s understanding deepens each time. This is true for new words, new concepts and new experiences; learning occurs with repetition.

That’s not all. Young children notice different things each time a book is read. They just can’t take it all in on one reading. Repeated readings also help a child understand how stories work, an important skill for beginning readers. Your child will develop confidence when you stop reading at a dramatic point in a familiar story and encourage her to tell what she thinks will happen next. Children feel secure with books they know, and they learn best and absorb new information when they feel confident and secure.  So when you hear “again, again,” know that your willingness to indulge that request one more time will reap lovely rewards.

Do you read Nursery Rhymes to your child?  Do you sing to your baby?  These are wonderful ways to bond with your child.  Rhymes, such as, Itsy Bitsy Spider or songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star are rhymes that many of us have known since our childhood, but I bet you didn’t know that nursery rhymes or childhood rhymes helped us learn to read and can help your child as well.  

Whenever you talk, read or sing to your child you are building connections in her brain that will last a lifetime.  Babies will show interest by widening their eyes, moving their arms and legs and smiling when they recognize a rhyme.  When you sing songs and do fingerplays with your child, you will find that they will soon imitate you.  These fingerplays and movement rhymes can help children associate words with their meanings.  Singing songs is a fun way to bond with your child and it also helps kids learn Phonological awareness or that words are broken into smaller sounds.  When children achieve phonological awareness, they are able to think about how words sound, apart from their meaning.  Research shows that children who play with sounds of words in preschool years are better prepared to read in school.  So, you can help your child from birth start getting ready to read and it doesn’t involve flashcards or videos.  It only requires you to have fun singing, rhyming, talking and reading to your child.  

Attached is booklist of rhyme collections that you can check out from the library.  Within these collections, you should be able to find rhymes and songs you may know from your childhood, as well as, new ones to use with your baby, toddler or preschooler.  Happy Rhyming!

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!

Have you ever wondered why some picture books make children giggle uncontrollably or they are so engrossed that they begin to talk directly to the book itself as a one-on-one conversation? Or maybe why she holds on to her security blankie for dear life but still wants you to keep reading even though she is peeking through their fingers?  Well have you…huh?

Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to experience all of the above both as a youth librarian who does storytime and as a mother of two rambunctious readers, ages 7 and 8. Somehow after the first few pages you just know when a picture book is the most perfect-est, out of this world, fantabulous, read it to me again and again and again mommy, puh-leese!!!, type of picture book. 

Although you may think these great picture books are few and far between they are not as rare as you would think. They can actually happen quite often when you, the reader, commit to reading a good picture book the bestest way (yes, bestest is a technical term) you can.  Here, allow me to explain…

Look at the illustrations - what is the book about and what sort of emotions do the characters evoke? Are they excited, scared, curious or grumpy? Is there a loud race car vroom vrooming or a roller coaster whooshing by? Is there a bird chirping loudly or a child whimpering softly? And can you try to read the words and pictures in a way so that your child will feel the book?  In most good picture books the emotions will tell the story, and if you read the story with the umph of those emotions each turn of a page will surely be a cliff hanger for your young listener.  And chances are if the book is a cliff hanger for your young listener, if they can put themselves in the book because of how you read it to them, then they will probably want you to read it again and again.   And if you read the book to them again and again and again chances are you are fostering a love of books and reading in your young listener that will last a lifetime all because you read with a little umph.

 

A pro at this type of umph reading is the most wonderfulest Australian Author Mem Fox. Check her out reading the beloved Koala Lou and tell me you didn’t have to dry a tear when Koala Lou comes in second! 

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.

Pages

Subscribe to