The Power of Singing

Today’s blog was written by one of our very own children’s storytellers: Miss Alex. You’ll find Miss Alex sharing stories with children of all ages as well as creating wonderful children’s programs at a couple of our branches.

Singing is fitting for the “Libraries Rock!” summer reading theme (are you signed up?)! Singing is a popular activity in story times too. As the post, “Sing to Your Baby,” said, “Sharing stories, songs and rhymes with your child has many wonderful benefits.” What do those benefits look like in your life?


I can think of many personal benefits in my own – I once signed up for a continuing education graduate class without knowing it was basically a choir, which was such a wonderful adventure in confidence and perseverance.

As a librarian,

I recently used this printed “board game” on my school visits to promote the Día program;  when children landed on the “nursery rhyme” square, so many of the elementary students remembered and loved “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” as much as the babies and toddlers I work with do, too.  At one elementary school, w


hen groups landed on the “sing a funny song” square I used my latest joke, “The Itsy Bitsy Spiderman,” to great success! One boy in particular was inspired to make up an entirely new song about a superhero and had more confidence to try to sing it as he created it.

I totally believe in the power of singing to not only “start smart” but “stay smart.” Check out Ready Rosie videos of ways to sing with the children in your life, as well as one of my favorite songs from the Scottish Book Trust’s Song and Rhyme Library, below. Let us know in the comments or at your next library visit what you think about them, how you feel about singing, and your favorite songs!



Out of this World Summer Fun

This summer you can go on an outer space adventure without ever leaving the comfort of your house and yard!cartoon girl in spaceship

Before we begin, you will want to pick up a few books about outer space and astronauts from the Library. Click the subject links below for some fun books to read.

Now the fun begins! Take a little time a read through one or two of the books you have chosen. Talk about the illustrations (don’t be afraid to use the word illustration). Ask your child what it would be like to fly to the moon. Or what he/she thinks space is like.

Next get two giant sponges (the kind used for washing cars). Rubber band them to your child’s shoes. Let them walk around the house. Ask them what it feels like. This is to simulate walking on the moon or on another planet!

Pick up some astronaut ice cream. You can usually find this at a local museum or toy store. Let your child try a couple bites. Explain it is freeze dried. Try other freeze dried fruits from the grocery store.

Pour flour in a large Tupperware container or baking sheet. Drop a rock on to the flour. When you pick it up, explain that you have just made a crater. Talk about what it looks like. Let your child drive little cars or rocks through the flour for fun.

Or make your own moon sand! Materials Needed: 6 cups play sand (you can purchased colored play sand as well!); 3 cups cornstarch; 1 1/2 cups of cold water.

Don’t forget to comment below with some of your favorite out of this world activities!

Secrets of a Library Storytime…

Shhh…what you are about to read is top secret. Very top secret. I’m about to de-mystify storytime at the library. But you can’t tell anyone.

Librarians are people. There I said it. Storytellers are just ordinary people reading children’s books and singing songs in what might seem like extraordinary ways. Have you ever wondered how your librarian tells those stories and sings those songs so flawlessly? It takes practice. Lots of practice. Trial and error. Flexibility. Research. Flexibility. Trial and error. And did I mention practice?

So when you attend storytime with your child, keep in mind, these literacy tips, songs, stories, rhymes, and activities are for your benefit. For baby storytime, it’s entertainment for the child and modeling literacy skills for the parents. For the toddler and preschoolers, it’s entertainment and learning for the child, in addition to modeling the literacy skills for parents.

If you are looking for some storytelling ideas to try at home, visit some of my favorite storytime websites from some very talented librarians. Keep in mind these are written for librarians, but I think some of the activities, songs, and books could be translated very easily in a classroom or home setting:

Before I wrap up this post, let’s talk briefly about why libraries provide storytime to children and their families and why you should be attending:

Remember when we discussed the early literacy skills: Loving Books, Using Books, Sounds, Storytelling, Vocabulary, ABCs

  • It will help instill a love of books
  • Your children will learn how to use a book
  • Children will practice rhyming
  • You’ll learn new ways to tell stories and sing songs with your children
  • Children will learn new vocabulary
  • It will increase letter and number knowledge
  • Good reason to visit the library
  • Meet and interact with other children and families
  • Free entertainment!

And…if you’ve never been to storytime, please click here —-> Story Time at the SCDL.

Letting Your Child Choose…

Recently, I have been seeing articles about children’s attitude toward reading as they get older. As I think back to my own childhood, I remember loving books, going to the library, and spending time reading outside in the backyard. I also remember some of my classmates disdain for reading. I remember them saying it’s boring, it’s hard, it’s not fun, or they don’t have time. Much of what they said is echoed in this post from Reading is Fundamental.

Credit: Real Teacher of NY

Credit: Real Teacher of NY

Reuters recently posted an article that states a study that found when children choose books they want to read reading scores can improve. Researchers asked students in elementary grades to choose a books they wanted to read over the summer. The researchers also gave another group of students books to read but did not let them choose the titles. Based on a series of reading tests before and after summer break, the results showed students who had the opportunity to pick their own books had higher test scores than those who did not get to choose.

Students, especially those living in low-income neighborhoods, typically lose learning over the summer. This is what many educators call the “summer slide.” Researchers also noted, though, that it’s still important to provide preselected materials to readers in order to help them hone their reading and comprehension skills.

By offering your child choices, it gives him the freedom to find something within his own interests. If you are struggling to find something your child wants to read, here is a checklist of ideas from Scholastic:

  • Don’t pressure your child.
  • Make time to read and let your child see you reading for pleasure.
  • Try audiobooks. (Check out our awesome app HOOPLA for free audiobooks you can download to your smartphone or tablet.)
  • Read book reviews and find popular booklists, and then share them with your child.

Asking Questions…

Sharing a book with your young child can be a fun experience. (I realize it can also be stressful–especially if your child is having a wiggly kind of day!) Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to books and allowed the chance to touch and explore the book are more likely to appreciate them as they get older. So why not let your toddler and preschooler have the same experience? And by experience, I don’t mean letting your preschooler put a book in his mouth to explore it. No. By this age, preschoolers are more interested in the actual content of the book. And if they aren’t quite there, it’s okay. Maybe they haven’t found the right book, yet. (You can always ask your local librarian for a little help on that front!)

familySo what do I mean? During story time, read through the book one time just the way it was intended. But as you read it a second or third time, here are a few questions you can ask while reading:

1. Pause on each page. Point to an object on the page and ask your child what it is.
For instance, if you see an apple tree, point to it and ask, “What is that?”

2. Respond to your child’s answer by repeating what he said.
If your child says, “A tree!” you can respond by saying, “Yes that is a tree.”

3. Expand on your child’s answer if possible.
“Yes, that is a tree. It’s an apple tree!”

4. Have your child point to the object.
“Can you point to the apple tree?”

From there, you can also expand on other things that are the page (objects, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, etc.). Repetition is so important, so read the story over and over (not in one sitting). Start leaving words off at the end of a sentence. Let your child fill in the blank. Use the pictures as your guide and tell a story based on the illustrations and not the author’s words. Relate the words or pictures in the story to an event in your child’s life. Ask questions like who, what, where, why and when. If you read the story using more questions and relying less on the actual text, you’ll notice your child may start reading the story to you!

It may seem a little early in the life of a child to start practicing these reading techniques, but when he gets to Kindergarten, these are the same questions teachers will be asking. It’s never too early to start preparing–just keep it lighthearted and fun. When it becomes frustrating, stop and take a break.

For more information on reading techniques, visit

Skills to Practice for Summertime Kindergarten Readiness

School will be starting before you know it, but we still have about one-half of our summer left–depending on when you start school. While summer is a time for relaxing and taking a break from studying, it’s also a great time to get your child ready for their first day of Kindergarten because there isn’t any pressure or deadlines.


Lalymom has a great post on creative and fun ways to practice skills like learning personal information (phone numbers, address, name), following directions, getting dressed independently, strengthening those gross motor skills (running, jumping, etc.), understanding routines, writing and more! She has put together a great round-up of blog posts–so instead of duplicating her efforts, I’m going to post a link to her blog and ask you to stop by at some point this week.

And then I’m going to remind you to stop by your local library to check out a stack of books that you can read with your child to help get them ready to read and get them excited about school!

For those younger readers who need a challenge…

Why I Love Ally Carter…
By: Rebecca Baldwin, librarian and manager at the East Canton Branch

Recommending books to kids is the best part of my job.

Your eight year old son wants a book about dogs? We’ve got that! Your fifteen year old daughter wants a series about a girl in love with a werewolf? We’ve got that, too! Snowboarding, dragons, French cooking, and time travel? We can get that for you! Your 10 year old is reading on a high school level and needs a book with a Lexile level over 900 and please make sure there aren’t any questionable themes or language? We have that too, but it is a little more difficult.

tumblr_mmtdv0CuhN1rd346vo2_250In a world where many fourth graders are on the same reading level as their middle school age siblings it is often difficult to find a book that is the perfect balance between reading level and content. As a librarian, I have developed an appreciation for authors who create stories filled with action, romance, and aghast that appeal to the older reader while keeping the content tween friendly. Ally Carter is my favorite author for just this case as she is able to walk the tightrope between reading level and recommended ages with her popular series Gallagher Girls and Heist Society.

Readers will devour the five Gallagher Girls books that tell the story of Cammie Morgan as she and her friends navigate their teen years filled with parent issues and boy troubles while attheist-society-1ending an elite academy where they learn the ins and outs of the spy business. The series is filled with the perfect mix of espionage and drama to appeal to even the most reluctant readers while never giving into the dark side of YA lit.

The same appeal can be found in Carter’s Heist Society series where the reader is drawn into the lives of Katarina Bishop and her ragtag group of teens thieves who banned together planning art heists around the world. The series, composed of three books and counting, is a fun fast read that blends intrigue, suspense, with just a dash of growing pains without ever venturing into the scary or salacious.

Carter’s books are a treasure trove of action, adventure, and mystery with high Lexile scores appropriate for the youngest precious reader.

More Great Teacher-Approved Apps

In October, I shared with you three apps perfect for your preschooler who is working on his/her early literacy skills. Today, I will be sharing three more great apps for your school-ager (Kindergarten through 2nd grade). These apps come from a teacher workshop at one of our local school districts.

k123 1. Kindergarten BINGO: Letters, Numbers, Shapes, & Colors –
Ages: 4 to 6
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Teaches shapes, alphabet, and numbers. Children can choose BINGO games based on colors and shapes, alphabet letter or sounds, and numbers. Parents can choose the difficulty settings.



grammarjammers2. Grammar Jammers Primary Edition – Pearson Education, Inc.
Ages: 5 to 7
Cost: Free!
Purpose: Animated songs and chants that explain adjectives, contractions, nouns, pronouns, verbs, punctuation, and sentence structure. Quick checks at the end of a song help with review.



pbsparents3. PBS Parents Play & Learn – PBS KIDS
Ages: Birth to 5
Cost: Free!
Purpose: An app for both children and parents to use together. The app comes with just a couple games that can be played on your tablet. The rest of the information teaches parents how to turn everyday activities like taking a walk, bathtime, and a day at the zoo into literacy- and math-based experiences.

*Links take you to the Apple iTunes App Store.

Homemade Monday: Write a Letter

Looking for something creative to do while on Winter Break? Why not write a letter? There’s nothing like running to the mailbox to find a letter from a friend or relative!


Stop by the library and pick up a couple books to inspire your writing. Sitting down at a table, on a couch, or on the floor with your child to write a letter to someone special is a great way to give him or her attention, bond and communicate: the three most important things a child needs.


Stay Connected

I’m always looking for great resources to share with parents as they delve into the world of early literacy. It doesn’t have to be a scary or overwhelming task–and I’m here to make sure it’s not a scary task.

This week check out the Center for Early Literacy Learning. Don’t let the name concern you! This website has some nice guides, videos, and tools to help you promote early learning at home and in the community.

Click here to take you directly to the Parent Page.