Students in a classroom taking a standardized test.

The point of the SAT and ACT is to determine a student’s readiness for college and many colleges and universities have required them. So the library is here to help get you ready!

Please note that many colleges and universities are going test-optional for 2021 Admissions. This means ACT/SAT scores are not mandatory for admission. The list includes Eastern Oregon University, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University. 

But if you still need (or want) to take these tests, your first question might be, which one should I take? According to a recent article by US News & World Report, the tests “vary in structure and timing as well as the content matter and scoring.” One statement in the article suggested that students with a “strong English background” might do better with the ACT, which puts a stronger emphasis on verbal skills. And for those who are strong in math, well “the SAT may reflect that much better.” They suggest taking the practice tests for each and seeing which suits you best. And that makes sense to us.

But where do you get free practice tests? The library offers free exams for the SAT and ACT through a resource called LearningExpress Library. You just need your library card number and PIN to login. You will need to set up a free account, so you can track everything

LearningExpress Library also gives you access to the most up-to-date prep books, it can help you figure out colleges to apply to, it can locate scholarship information, and help you write your college essay! Just log in and take a look under “College Admissions Test Preparation.” We librarians always wish more people knew about this amazing free resource, so please use the LearningExpress Library and tell a friend!

And if you like to hold books in your hand, rather than read ebooks, you can find test prep books for the SATs and the ACT in our catalog and place them on hold for curbside pickup. If you want more information in general, try our posts on College Help for Teens and Searching for Scholarships

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

Baby playing with food

You’ll hear a lot of different opinions about this topic, but many doctors and early childhood educators actually believe it is a good idea.

Playing with their food:

  • Helps babies learn to feed themselves
  • May prevent picky eating
  • Helps babies build their brains
  • Gives you a moment to catch up!

Playing with food begins as soon as babies are old enough to sit in a high chair. They love to reach for food and explore it in a hands-on, messy experiment of texture and taste. It may not be pretty, but it is a normal and healthy stage of development.

There is an element of play, but there are also important stages of learning taking place. Like mastering the pincer grasp, which eventually leads to holding a pencil! And kids who play with their food can be faster to learn words associated with food textures. In a 2013 study, toddlers who poked, prodded, swirled, mashed and even threw their food were interacting with key developmental concepts more than other children.  

And playing with your food isn’t just for babies, many preschool programs include activities where children participate in "sensory sessions," and touch, listen, taste, and smell different kinds of foods—then share observations with each other.

At any age it's fun to sing a song while you and your child “play” with your food. Here is one where you can make up your own variations together about the foods you like and how you cook and eat them.

All Around the Kitchen
Soup, soup, put it in the pot,
warm it up, warm it up, eat it while it's hot!

Bagel, bagel, put it in the toaster,
warm it, toast it, eat it with some jelly!

Ice cream, ice cream, put it in my tummy,
I like (flavor), yummy, yummy, yummy!

This post was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here, and email us at learning@multcolib.org if you have any questions.

Family having dinner at the table

I know in my own family, it can be hard convincing my child to drink enough water and eat their veggies. And just saying, “it’s healthy” doesn’t cut it. So how do we convince our kids that eating healthy is important? 

Before we start, the most important thing is to never connect eating well to losing weight, being slim, or being attractive. All bodies are fabulous! It’s just great if they can feel their best, too. And second, healthy eating looks different to different people. Some families are vegetarian or vegan or keep halal or kosher.  What people do or don't eat can be driven by values and culture, as well as health.

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can handle or turn every meal into a lecture. But you also want them to know that everything they put in their mouths affects their whole body. And the more nutritious the food they put in, the better they will feel, the more energy they will have, and hopefully, the more fun! 

One idea is to talk about the properties, or nutrients, of food and how they can help give our bodies energy for playing our favorite sports, help our brain and mind focus on schoolwork, and make us better with our hobbies, even video gaming! Some of the books in this booklist might help with these conversations.  

Another tip is to avoid calling foods “good” or “bad.” Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Try labeling foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids should eat “go” foods, like vegetables, every day. But they might want to go “slow” with less nutritious foods, like pancakes. And say “whoa” to foods like candy bars, and leave those for special occasions. Foods with less nutrition don’t need to be off limits, but the goal is for kids to stop and think twice before they eat them often. 

Another great idea is to have your kid help plan and post menus for the week. Include some favorites and try some new foods, as well. You can even check out a kid’s cookbook from this booklist.

In some cases of extreme pickiness or disordered eating, it's important to remember that doctors and occupational therapists can help and you should talk with your child's pediatrician.  

Perhaps the most important thing is teaching through modeling. Seeing their grownups eat nutritious food, will help kids want to do the same. Talk to them about how eating well is fun, makes you feel good, and gives you energy!

This post is part of our "Talking with kids" series, and was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here, and email us at learning@multcolib.org if you have any questions.  

Child baking with grownup

For many, food is an important part of family life. Gathering together for meals is a way to share warmth, community, and family history. A recipe passed down through generations is a treasure. Exploring different cuisines is an opportunity to learn about other cultures. Homemade food is more nutritious than take-out or convenience foods and youth who learn to cook have healthier eating habits later in life. Beyond that, the kitchen is also an ideal place to teach kids reading, science and math.

Children under five learn about the world by using their senses. By touching, tasting, and smelling they’re being little scientists trying to figure out what the world is about. Using these senses is an integral part of the cooking process. Helping with simple tasks such as stirring, washing vegetables, and tearing lettuce helps these young learners develop their fine motor skills. Following step-by-step instructions teaches children executive functioning and gets them ready for school. 

As children get older and gain confidence, they can take over reading the recipe. There is so much that can be learned by reading a recipe. Recipes are math. Children need to understand fractions and ratios. They need to understand different units of measurement. It also supports literacy by exposing them to vocabulary that they won’t find elsewhere. How often are words like sear, tablespoon, dice, drizzle, or crimp used in daily conversation? Through trial and error children learn problem solving and that failure is just another opportunity to learn.

They say that baking is chemistry and cooking is art. The truth is that each one is both chemistry and art. Both allow for creativity once you understand the basics of a recipe. But it’s important to understand the basics for your recipe to turn out right. This is where science comes in. You probably don’t even realize how much science you use in the kitchen. Foods go through chemical and physical changes as they’re prepared and cooked. Certain elements are necessary in order for the recipe to turn out correctly. Which elements can change and which need to stay the same? Why? What adjustments, if any, do you need to make for any modifications? Why? These are scientific questions. Encourage children to ask questions. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer. You can search for the answer and learn together. You can even ask the library for help!

Looking for more ideas? Look no further than Oregon State University's Food Hero program. They have lots of learning activities for all ages!

By grounding learning in the real world, kids are more likely to understand why the skills they learn are important and are better able to retain them. They’ll also have the satisfaction of eating the results of their lesson and the pride of sharing it with others.

- Keli Y, Teen Librarian, Rockwood Library

This article was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter, you can sign-up here to receive your copy!

Crayon drawing of a person walking a dog, with the words "Thank you for the walks!"
2020 has been a year with a lot of challenges. We want to give thanks to those who have helped us with things big and small throughout the year. Join us in showing gratitude for those in our lives that have brought us joy!

We've started writing and drawing!

  • Librarian Kimberly is writing to her mom to thank her for making fig jam.
  • Librarian Violeta is writing a note to her cat to thank for the delicious cuddles every day.
  • I drew a picture for my dog to thank her for our daily walks. 

Who do you want to send your note to? 

If you’d like, share with us on social media! Tag @multnomahcountylibrary with your #gratitude notes and drawings. 

Want to learn more about the power of gratitude? See our post and booklists here!

Would you like more tips for things to do that don't involve a screen? Sign up for our Family Newsletter. And we are always available to help support families, especially through Home Learning. Connect with us at learning@multcolib.org

- Jen May, Home Learning Support Librarian

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