Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We gather together, now please get lost.

Tutuban Mall (The Sprawling Shopping Mecca)

We're only a day away from the holiday where it is perfectly acceptable to eat your weight in pie.  Okay, maybe that's just my family.  Somehow this holiday snuck up on me.  I haven't even finished off the kids' Halloween candy yet.

So, today is baking day.  A pumpkin pie, because it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without one.  I'm also bringing a chocolate cream pie for those who aren't lovers of fruit pies.  I volunteered to bring sweet potatoes, because I love them.  I don't know that anyone else in my husband's family does, but I do.  A lot.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

buttery sugary sweet potatoes

We're fortunate in that we never have to travel very far for holidays.  This year we're only going a couple hours east to Duluth, MN.  Besides the food, it's a day to spend time with family.  Games and conversation with people other than the people who live in your house. 

This year is a little different.  Lots of stores are opening their doors at midnight.  Oh good, I don't have to go to bed for a few hours before waking to get the Black Friday deals.  Or not.  I'm not a huge Black Friday shopper to begin with.  Not much of a shopper at all.  I've gone the past couple years, lured in by great deals.  It's the thrill of getting something for closer to nothing.  Whether you need it or not.  It's kind of fun.   

But, I don't really care for this opening at midnight business.  Some stores are open on Thursday.  Talk about cutting into family time.  Sure, you may be getting things for your family for Christmas; but what about time spent with family?  Shouldn't that be worth more than the material gift you're giving later?  I suppose if you aren't spending Thanksgiving without your family, this would be a great time for joining in with a throng of people to fight over the hottest selling items. 

I think I'm going to skip Black Friday shopping this year.  I don't need anything that bad.  I'll just sleep in and have a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast instead.

pumpkin pie for breakfast

But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie;
Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin-pie!
~Margaret Junkin Preston

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly. ~~Bertrand Russell

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lost Treasures: Not Ramona, James, Henry, or Laura

 I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure.
-Virginia Woolf

When thinking back on your younger years, what book memory is forefront in your mind?  Which book was not an enduring classic that everyone around you read?  Which book do you remember reading that perhaps no one else in your class read?  What book did you love that disappeared?

Last winter I ordered a book for my mom that she loved as a kid.  The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton was a fun read for me and an even more fun read for her.  I had never even heard of the book; but she read it more than once as a kid, and never forgot it.  

On Tuesday I placed a request for the book a man read when he was in 5th grade.  There is one copy in the whole state of Minnesota.  How fun to sit down with a book you haven't seen in over forty years.  It's fun even when it's only been a decade.  This patron talked about another of his childhood favorites, but I didn't have to order that one for him.  He had found it at a book sale.  It was obvious the joy he has to have found this treasure from his youth.

I have a missing book.  I know exactly where it stood on the school library shelf.  I have no idea the name of the book, but the author's last name starts with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet.  I only vaguely remember what the book was about.  It had something to do with a garden gazing ball with some sort of mysterious power.  I suppose I should harness my super human book finding abilities and try to track that book down.  I know I've looked for it at used book sales and never found it.  It was a book I read while members of my class devoured James and the Giant Peach and Deenie.

I would have another missing book if I hadn't been fortunate enough to get it when they weeded it from the school library.  Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd.  Never heard of it?  No, I suppose not.  This book may have something to do with my love of houses with towers.  A girl travels back in time when the elevator at her building goes a bit crazy.  Magic, mystery, a problem solved, and a happy ending.  What more could a 4th grader want?  I read it many times.  When I read it again last year, it had been at least 25 years since my last read.  It still held all the charm as it did when I was ten, but maybe with some different nuances to it.  A little nostalgia, a little flashback to the kid who read it for the first time, a little added sweetness to the story.

I'm often found reading books that are off the beaten path.  I've been doing that almost as long as I've been reading.  After reading my mother's lost book and re-reading my own treasure from the past, it was interesting to see how similar the stories were.  I read hers first and kept thinking of mine.  The same magic appealed to us both as young girls. 

How does your lost book compare to the books you read now?  In what way/s did it influence your life?  Have you looked for that lost book?  Have you found it and re-read it?  If you are a kid, have a kid, or know a kid; ask them if they've discovered a book to treasure.

See if your librarian can track down a copy of one of the treasures of your youth.  Ask me, please.  I'd love to see if I can find a copy for you.  I'd really love to see your face when it's placed into your hands; like a lost treasure, found.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Would you persuade, speak of interest, not of reason. ~Benjamin Franklin

Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves. If a person speaks with genuine earnestness the thoughts, the emotion and the actual condition of their own heart, others will listen because we all are knit together by the tie of sympathy.  ~Thomas Carlyle

JJA June 2

I just started reading this book a few days ago.  It's one of a few non-fiction books I'm currently reading, so I'm only about half way through it.  It's a great book so far.  I keep thinking that everyone who is in any way involved with children should read this.  If you are a teacher, you should read this book.  If you are a school administrator, you should read this book.  If you make policies for/about children, you should read this book.  If you are a parent, you should read this book.  Everyone else should read it too.  If you don't consider yourself a reader, read this book.  If you can't read, get an audio version.

I've only read the first half, but from what I've gathered so far, it's a book about sparking children's interest in reading.  Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade reading teacher. You may not be a reading teacher, or one with 6th graders; but the lessons she's learned and shares in this book can be applied to anyone, anywhere.  Most library workers have been doing a version of what she's talking about for years. We talk up a book and peak the interest of perspective readers.  If you're a reader, you've probably done it yourself.  It's talking about this great book you read.  In my case, sometimes I'll even talk about books that have piqued my interest but I haven't had a chance to read yet.  The best part about that is that I can get some feedback to prompt me to remove it from my list of want-to-reads or to move it up on my list. 

Donalyn Miller also states her opinion that reading shouldn't be linked to rewards:

     "I have never observed a student who developed a long-term reading habit because of an incentive program.  Even if the students are somehow motivated to read because of the ticket, free pizza, or other prize, odds are that they will abandon reading as soon as the incentive is earned.  Unfortunately, the only purpose these programs serve is to convince students there is no innate value in reading and that it is only worth doing if there is a prize involved." 

That's pretty much been my experience in my 12+ years of winter and summer reading programs.  The kids who are avid readers rack up points like nobody's business and those "reluctant" readers read a few books and take home some cheap trinkets.  The playing field leveled once I started valuing the time spent reading vs. the number of books read.  But again, the avid reader already has a habit of reading.  It's just a matter of writing it down in order to get a prize.

I pick out the prizes for the winter and summer reading programs.  You would think that with the avid readers I have at my house I wouldn't buy junk.  But, you'd be wrong.  Money is tight and we want to make sure we have something for everyone.  I run a prize store.  The kids get a library dollar for every 20 minutes they read.  Some kids come on prize day and earn $3 while others earn $60.  Guess what they all look at?  Yep, my kids have brought home all kinds of $1-$5 things.  Guess what I stick back in the prize box at the end of library store.  Yep, a lot of "good" high ticket items.  You would think that after 12+ years I'd know what the kids would want.  But, as soon as I figure it out, it changes.

This year our winter reading program's theme is Curl Up With A Good Book.  Yep, there's a bookworm curled around a book on the ice at the curling arena.  I don't know much about curling.  But, I've got left-over polar bear, penguin, snowmen/snow-women and snowflake stuff from past years.  I started looking over the trinkets available last week and just couldn't get myself excited about it.  So, this year we're going to do something a bit different.  Bigger set prizes for each minute of reading goal met.  Yep, incentives.  They're expected for the library reading programs.  And, I'm happy to hand them out.  Every year I hope to turn on the bulb and light someone's way to a life-long reading habit.  I don't think the incentives have ever sparked that, but perhaps the repeated reading and talking about books over the course of the program points some kids in the right direction.

The young mind is pliable and imitates, but in more advanced states grows rigid and must be warmed and softened before it will receive a deep impression. ~Joshua Renolds

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where did you find that book?


“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.”   --- Katherine Patterson

No, this isn't a posting about AWOL library books found in weird places.  Although I have a lot of experience with that.  This is one about books for kids.  My sister recently asked for a few suggestions for her oldest child who is reading way above grade level.  He was given a list of books at school that he could choose from.  On the list were books like the Nate the Great series by Marjorie Sharmat and the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osbourne.  I do love those books, but they don't hold a whole lot of interest for a kid who recently finished the Percy Jackson & the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.  So, where do you go to find books that are age and reading level appropriate for your child?

Ask someone who works in the children's section of a library.  If the library is too small to have one specific person working the children/young adult section, then anyone behind the desk should be able to help you.  Generally we have a pretty good idea about what is popular.  Or what is going to be popular.  We've got resources at our fingertips to help you find a book for young and old alike. 

I'm not going to lie.  Some of us have more fun with that than others.  It's one of the things I love about my job.  Finding a new book for someone to love.  Usually I hit the nail on the head, but there have been times that I've failed miserably.  I work at a couple very small libraries where the times I've failed keep getting brought up.  Oh well, I know as well as they do that what I recommend is usually pretty good.  Three strikes and you're out, I haven't gotten that yet.  Or, maybe once I strike out those people know to come when I'm not around.  

Back to where to find a good book for you/your child to read.  Easy enough.  Search Barnes and Noble or any of the other national bookseller websites.  Type in the name of a book you really like and see what other books people who have bought that title have purchased.  One click will lead to another and another and another until you have a whole list of books.  I generally have one tab open to the bookseller site and another to the Arrowhead catalog.  Read a title that's appealing and request it all within a few minutes.

Another place to look are the best-seller lists.  I enjoy checking out the New York Times book section.  You no longer need to live in New York city to get a copy as it's all available online.  (Although when I'm in NYC I love to get the Sunday NYTimes in paper form, but I digress.)  Their book section has a bunch of best seller children's lists: children's series, children's chapter, children's paperbacks, graphic hardcover and paperback, manga, and children's picture books.  Chances are pretty good that you will be able to find something appealing on one of those lists.

One database that I use A LOT is Novelist.  You can find it on the Arrowhead website under Services for Library Patrons and then under Magazines, Newspapers, and other Databases.  If you're looking at it from your computer at home, you will need your library card number in order to access the database.  This database was one of the main reasons I memorized my card number.  I use it all the time.  It's a handy tool for kids and adults alike.  There's a tab for age group on the left hand side, with a listing of recommended titles by genre.  H-A-N-D-Y!!  There's also a section for ages 8-adult with titles selected by other books you like.  If you like. . .The Lightning Thief. . .here are 15 or more other books you might like.  Seriously, how does this database not get more attention?  I love it.

By far, the easiest of these ways to find a book is to ask a librarian.  Or a library worker (technically, I'm not a librarian.)  They can be your best asset.  

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya Angelou