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Story Time Sampler

Here's an example of the story times our children's librarians offer.

Fairy tales benefit young children in many ways. The magical stories engage the imagination, which instills a love of reading. Their rich vocabulary also helps children learn words we don’t use in everyday conversation. Children who enter school with a rich vocabulary are likely to become strong readers.

I recently discovered that fairy-tale activities also can help children develop engineering skills. Here are a couple of fairy tales you can use to explore structural engineering. In other words, you get to build what you read about.

Once upon a story time, we read The Three Little Pigs. After the story, I gave children materials to build the little pigs’ houses. We used drinking straws for the straw house, popsicle sticks for the stick house, and blocks for the brick house.

After we had built these houses, we used a hair dryer to create wolf-strength breath. Then we talked about which building material was the strongest. This would be a fun and easy activity to duplicate at home.

I borrowed this idea from Amy Koester’s The Show Me Librarian blog. You can read more about it here:  Children’s librarians are Amy’s target audience, but she also has some helpful posts that explain how children’s books can promote math and science skills.  

At another story time, we read The Three Billy Goats Gruff, then built bridges for the goats to cross. We talked again about which building materials were the strongest: blocks, popsicle sticks, or straws? Some creative young engineers also added a house for the troll to live in. 

I got this idea from one of my favorite blogs, The Imagination Tree. Parents are the target audience; in fact, its author is a stay-at-home mom with early childhood education experience. This post provides some questions you can ask as you build, and identifies the different skills your children will learn in the process:

Happy reading and building!

Read On...

"Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick

“Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Demick

One of the great benefits of reading is the chance to step outside your world. Some readers prefer fiction for this, but given a book like Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, one is reminded that truth is stranger than fiction. This is full of astounding information on the lives North Koreans have been living for the past fifty years. The title, a line from a patriotic North Korean ballad, does double duty as a warning of what is ahead for the reader: a journalistic look at what must be the modern world’s most completely totalitarian regime.

Demmick, a newspaper bureau chief stationed in Seoul, got to know former North Koreans who defected to South Korea. She tells the stories of six of them. No matter what their station in North Korea, they all suffered through waves of famine in the 1990s, and watched malnourished countrymen drop dead in the street. Privileged university students and professionals hardly fared better than the rank and file; even if they had their daily rations, they had no heat, electricity, or medicine to get through their days.

This review can’t do justice to the deprivations and fear that are customary for North Koreans. People who gathered the courage to defect knew that if discovered, they would be banished to prison camps, and that fate would meet their families if the government realized their disappearances were defections, not deaths. Defection required either a great deal of money for bribes, or a willingness to endure arduous border crossings in terrible weather with little or no gear for protection.

While the book focuses on six North Koreans, it’s also a summation of the history of the Korean peninsula post-World War II, and an insightful look at how totalitarianism functions from the ground up. It’s full of details on everyday life, and every page presents a tremendous contrast to the life we know.

–Leslie Tate

Now My Story's Begun

"Never Too Little to Love" by Jeanne Willis

“Never Too Little to Love” by Jeanne Willis

It’s February, so that must mean love is in the air. Everything is pink and red, and there are hearts all around. Of course, it doesn’t have to be just on Valentine’s Day that you and your child can fall in love with these great books:

Tiny Too-Little is a very small mouse with a very big problem: he’s in love. All he wants is to be able to plant a big kiss on the object of his affection, but he’s just too little to get to her! He gets creative and uses all the resources at his disposal. Disaster strikes! Will he get the kiss he longs for? You’re Never Too Little to Love.

Froggy’s First Kiss is a great book to read aloud with children. Kids love Froggy’s antics and they know things are never going to turn out like he planned. And of course, the book is filled with the familiar refrain of, “FRROOGGY!” which kids love to help with, and lots of other sound effects, like squeaky voices and a very loud “Ewww” which you can have a lot of fun reading. It’s a great book to get kids talking about feelings that they have but may not be able to explain, like when Froggy feels all wiggly and funny inside whenever Frogalina looks his way.

Hugless Douglas is a bear that wakes up from a long winter in desperate need of a hug. He hugs whatever he can find: rocks, trees, shrubs, and a variety of other animals that are not too pleased, but none of the hugs feel right until he gets one from someone who loves him. It’s a great book to lead children into talking about what they think love is, and how they find love with family and home.

–Kelli Parmley

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