Friday, October 29, 2010

Are You Ready for Halloween Fun?

It's almost time for spooky fun! If you haven't already, please take a look at our Kids Corner Halloween spotlight.

We have links to fun activities for children, including Halloween recipes, coloring pages, online games, jokes, scary stories, jack-o-lantern patterns and more.

And if you're a procrastinator, check out this gallery of great costumes inspired by the Mo Willems Pigeon books. Some of them look easy enough to put together at the last minute.

Enjoy this not-too-scary video of Five Little Pumpkins with your littlest trick-or-treaters!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mock Caldecott Discussions Underway!

Youth Services librarians are excited to be out in the community visiting Arlington elementary schools for Mock Caldecott Committees.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the preceding year.

Our committees are made up of school children from Ashlawn, Science Focus, Barcroft, Barrett, Campbell, Carlin Springs, Drew, Glebe, Henry, Jamestown, Key, Long Branch, McKinley, Randolph, and Taylor elementary schools.

These “committees” of children meet during lunch or after school to talk about the merits of the picture books nominated this year and to decide which book they think deserves to win the Caldecott Medal. During their visits, librarians ask questions to initiate critical discussion on how each book's pictures work—or don't.

Overwhelmingly, the thirty students participating at Glebe thought that the illustrations in Elisha Cooper's Farm didn't tell a story and that the author had left lots of white space to fill up with words.

In contrast, they could see a story taking shape in My Garden by Kevin Henkes, just from looking at the pictures. Despite the students' different reading levels and reading habits, they all have the skills to look at pictures and form an opinion on their effectiveness. The children did a wonderful job last year and this year should be equally exciting!

Other books up for discussion include:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead

Art and Max by David Wiesner

The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colon

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon Muth

Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan

Little Black Crow by Chris Raschka

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

If you're interested in past winners, Central Library has a non-circulating collection of Caldecott Medal Books. Central also has collections of past Newbery, Geisel, Sibert, and Coretta Scott King award winners. Come take a look. And let us know which book you think deserves the Caldecott Award.

(Top photo from last year's Patrick Henry committee.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Video: Where is There a Place for You and a Place for Me?

There's a place for the Arlington Public Library, of course!

With special thanks to Mariela!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who or What is Little Pim?

Little Pim is where kids can learn a language online!

This brand new online product, free with your library card, is interactive and brings a new level of access to language learning resources for kids.

Little Pim is specifically designed for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Each lesson provides the basic building blocks of a second or third language, and incorporates Julia Pimsleur Levine’s Entertainment Immersion Method™, as well as a series of practice quizzes, designed to increase the child’s comprehension and retention of the content.

The languages available on Little Pim include:
• Spanish • French • Mandarin Chinese • Italian • Japanese • Hebrew • German • Russian
• Arabic • English/ESL for Children

The technical requirements include:
* Internet Explorer 6 or higher, Firefox, Safari or Opera
* Adobe Flash Player 9

The only other requirement is your free library card! So give it a try with your child and let us know what you think.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Are Reports of the Death of Picture Books Greatly Exaggerated?

With a tip of our hat to Mark Twain, the recent New York Times article about the "death" of picture books has thrown librarians, parents, and others in the children's literature universe into a righteous frenzy.

Jumping into the fray, the idea that pushing children to quickly pass through the "picture book phase" and moving them onto chapter books will increase their reading abilities and academic opportunities is questionable, at best.

Lisa Von Drasek from Early Words Kids takes issue with the Times article and powerfully outlines "what picture books do for young minds." If you feel the need to force your child to "move up" to chapter books, please read her article.

MotherReader calls for us all to take a deep breath and to remember that just because the New York Times says it's so doesn't make it so. In fact, Amanda Gignac, the mother who was quoted in the article as saying she and her husband kept picture books away from their six and a half year old son because "he doesn’t want to work to read," claims her comments were taken out of context.

If you need more inspiration, Pam, the long time children's books blogger at MotherReader (and at the recently retired PBS Parents Booklights) also has a great post about the value of reading picture books aloud "until the kids actually roll their eyes and walk away." She knows of what she speaks.

We here at the library obviously recognize that picture books are not merely some stepping stone to higher level reading; they are valuable resources for children of all ages and stages. As librarians, we've experienced the delight of captivating a room filled with three years olds with a great picture book, as well as a 5th grade classroom. And judging from the circulation numbers of our picture book collections all around the library system, it looks like many Arlington parents agree with us.

What about you?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Impact of Preschool Storytimes on Early Literacy Skills

Preschool storytimes at all the Arlington library locations are hugely popular, fun, and an enjoyable way for young children and their parents to spend some time outside of the house. But there is much more going on than might seem evident at first glance.

The succinct definition of early literacy is "what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write," according to the Public Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a division of NIH, identified 6 skills which must be acquired before learning to read: Print Motivation, Vocabulary, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Phonological Awareness, and Letter Knowledge.

Arlington Public Library Youth Services librarians have participated in extensive early literacy and child development training based on the NICHD research, learning how to design developmentally appropriate programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers which incorporate these six key early literacy skills.

Our librarians model early literacy interactions with children during storytime presentations for the parents and caregivers who are the child's first teachers. We also "train the trainers" by going out into the community and doing early literacy presentations for groups working with preschoolers, such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and licensed day care providers.

We do have a great time presenting our stories, songs, flannel boards, and finger plays. At the same time, we are working hard to encourage development of these essential early literacy skills and helping parents and caregivers learn some of the valuable tools we incorporate into our programming.

So bring your child to one of our storytimes throughout the library system. And please take a look at our early literacy page for more information. As always, we'd love to hear your feedback!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Cool Tool for Creating Computer Games

Maybe you're tired of arguing with your children about playing computer games all the time. But what if they were playing and sharing games of their own creation?

Scratch is a simple educational programming language developed by M.I.T. that makes it easy to create interactive stories, games and animation and to share them on the web.

It's intended for kids ages 8 and up, but even younger children can work with parents or older siblings to create games. A 2007 New York Times article likens Scratch to playing with blocks.

Scratch is free to download and easy to use, but don't be deceived by its simplicity. Designing these games and animations builds systematic reasoning and mathematical and computational skills. Scratch programming encourages creativity and logical thinking. Best yet, Scratch is fun.

You might be surprised at the projects that children have created. Take a look, and maybe you can give it a try along with your kids. But don't be surprised if they are better at it than you!

Photo from Microsoft Office Online