Lisa C.'s blog

Ask Me: Bonding with Books and Stories


"Truly listening to someone reminds them that their lives matter; and reminds us all of what matters most."

The statement above is included in a short video produced by StoryCorps and Google encouraging people to take part in StoryCorps' "Great Thanksgiving Listen." The StoryCorps organization aims "to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives." This Thanksgiving, Storycorps encourages high school students, especially, to interview grandparents, or another older friend or relative, and use the StoryCorps app to record and share the interview. But you don't have to be in high school to take part. And taking time to talk with and truly listen to the stories our friends and relatives have to tell is a gift we can give each other at any time.

The picturebook Ask Me by Bernard Waber, echoes the message promoted by the StoryCorps initiative. Illustrated by Suzy Lee in rich red, yellow and orange colors, it shows a father and daughter enjoying the outdoors together on a lovely Autumn day. "Ask me what I like," the girl says to her father. And he does. And after she answers, he asks: "What else do you like?"encouraging continued conversation as they examine bugs and flowers, kick through fallen leaves and enjoy made up words like sploshing and splooshing.

Throughout the peaceful story, the father gives his daughter his full and undivided attention. He's not trying to shop for groceries, clean his home, or check his phone for messages. He's listening and responding and encouraging his daughter's curiosity and letting her know that her words and stories matter to him; that what she thinks and says is important; that she is important to him.

Reading to children also provides an opportunity to pause our busy lives and spend time together. Picturebooks, notable for their informative and appealing illustrations, often include a greater variety of words than we normally use as part of our everyday conversation. Reading and listening to picturebooks and other stories can help children increase their word knowledge - and world knowledge - as the subjects represented in picturebook format range from friends and family to rabbits and robotics.

And after you've finished the story, you can ask your listener: What do you think? What did you like best? What would you like to read about next?

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom


"I would like for young people to know that each day of your life is a journey into history and that you are making that history. And you have the ability to change something each day of your life. Believe it or not, people, it can't happen without you." 

- Lynda Blackmon Lowery, interview on National Public Radio

Lynda Blackmon Lowery was the youngest person to walk with Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis and other civil rights activists who marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965 to demand that African Americans have the freedom to vote. She was 14 when the march began. She turned 15 on March 22, 1965, the second day of the four-day march, and was admittedly terrified of what harm might come to her and others as they proceeded toward the capital city governed by devout segregationist George Wallace. But she was also determined."Determination is a way of overcoming terror. So by the end of second day, I felt fine. I was ready."

Lowery's memoir is a powerful account of and tribute to the many young people who participated in the Civil Rights movement. Her personal experiences are followed with succinct explanation of the injustices many African Americans encountered when they attempted to vote in the 1960s and earlier, and the need for their voting rights to be legally delineated.

Her story does describe the violence she endured during some of the public demonstrations. But it is framed by the strength and courage she gained by joining her classmates and adults leading peaceful protests designed to overcome hate and racism. And it concludes in victory, as we celebrate this year the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, passed by Congress on August 6, 1965.

Says Lowery: "We were determined to do something and we did it. If you are determined, you can overcome your fears, and then you can change the world."

For additional stories and nonfiction books about the participation of young people in the Civil Rights Movement, see our Civil Rights Movement booklist. World Book Online, an informational resource available to Library cardholders for free through the Library website, includes a Timeline of the Civil Rights Movement. You can also find a display in the Children's area at the Main Library of images from the Civil Rights Movement to help prompt discussion about this time period and help inform children who may be attending the Power of Words presentation at the IU Auditorium September 21, where Congressman John Lewis will be speaking about his book March and the pivotal role he played in the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Display

Find Your Superpower at the Library!

SRP 2015 landing page

A library is a place for collecting information and cataloging factual knowledge, but it is ooooh so much more. Your public library also is a place of wonder and discovery, a place to play and create; a place to exercise your reading or computing skills; use your imagination and develop new talents. This is the library we want children to experience this summer when we invite them to play our Summer Reading Game and “Find Your Superpower at the Library!”

What are you interested in? What do you want to learn more about? What do you enjoy reading? We encourage children to choose reading as a fun, recreational activity because literacy studies indicate that children who read more, read better - as researcher Stephen Krashen summarizes his findings. And we emphasize this aspect of choice - we let children know they get to choose what they’d like to read when they participate in our reading game - because literacy studies indicate that self-selected voluntary reading leads to the greatest gains in reading achievement and other aspects of literacy. (Krashen, Power of Reading, 2004.)

SRP 2015 Superhero CapesThe Library’s Summer Reading Game also presents children with opportunities to develop other superpowers. In addition to reading, they can solve math puzzles, design and construct with different building materials; draw, and create unique videos using equipment at the Library. Check our events calendar to see the variety of activities you can do at the Library this summer, and let us help you and your children discover your superpowers. Come in costume, if you like – we’ll be wearing our superhero capes!

Week of the Young Child, April 12-18

Month of Young Child CalendarJoin us at the Children's Expo on Sunday, April 12 as we kick off Week of the Young Child with the South Central Chapter of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children and other community organizations celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families. 

Promoting the importance of early learning is something we do year-round, of course. But as the National Association for the Education of Young Children notes: The Week of the Young Child is a time to "recommit ourselves to ensuring that each and every child experiences the type of early environment—at home, at child care, at school, and in the community—that will promote their early learning."   

Find a listing of all the programs Monroe County Public Library offers children and their families on our calendar of events page. To learn more about how you can help your child develop essential early literacy skills, see the Every Child Ready to Read section of our website, or ask us about this early learning initiative the next time you visit the Library. We are fortunate to be part of a network of community partners dedicated to providing children with the best start in life. This month, and throughout the year, we can connect you with resources that help you provide your children with all that they need - from quality nutrition to quality care including daily opportunities to play, read, learn, discover and create.

We Need Diverse Books

Brown Girl Dreaming Book Cover"If someone had been fussing with me
to read like my sister, I might have missed
the picture book filled with brown people,
more brown people than I'd ever seen 
in a book before.
The little boy's name was Steven but
his mother kept calling him Stevie.
My name is Robert but my momma don't 
call me Robertie.
"If someone had taken 
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed 
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."
- Jacqueline Woodson, author
Brown Girl Dreaming
2015 National Book Award Winner
2015 Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award Winner
2015 Newbery Honor Book Award Winner
Jacqueline Woodson's recollection of discovering the picture book Stevie by John Steptoe at her local public library when she was a young girl encapsulates one of the motivations for the We Need Diverse Books campaign: increasing the possibility for young people to find a book/read a story about "someone who looked like me."
The campaign was launched in April 2014 by several authors to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. The website for the campaign states: "We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."
Empowering a wide range of readers... because the flip side of discovering that someone who looks like me has a story, is learning that someone who doesn't look like me has a story. Or as one supporter of the "We Need Diverse Books" initiative notes:  "We need to meet our familiar selves in stories, and we need to meet our unfamiliar selves."

Over the years, the American Library Association has established a number of awards to help promote awareness of stories written and illustrated from the "non-majority" perspective.
The Coretta Scott King Book Award, founded in 1969, is presented annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 to recognize a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
The Schneider Family Book Award was first presented in 2004 to honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

This year, the major awards for Children's Literature - the Newbery and Caldecott Awards - made a point to honor stories from a variety of races and cultures. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, received the Newbery Award for most outstanding contribution to children's literature. This story about African American brothers also was named as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Viva Frida, the Belpré Illustrator Award winner, also earned recognition as a Caldecott Honor Book for the most distinguished American picture book for children. El Deafo, which describes in graphic novel format the author's experience with hearing loss as a young child, was named as a Newbery Honor Book, along with Brown Girl Dreaming.

A complete list of the American Library Association's Youth Media Award Winners for 2015 is available online. You will find these award winning books and many more materials celebrating diversity at the Monroe County Public Library because we are your public library, and we strive to reflect the diverse experiences, interests, needs, cultures and stories that make up our community. We also want to make it possible for us all to step outside our own community and learn about another's.

Saying Goodbye to Dear Friends

For weeks now, I have been carrying around two new picturebooks about friendship. The stories serve as bookends - one describing a burgeoning friendship; the second depicting not an ending of a friendship, but a realization that the friendship will change when one friend moves away. Of all the many picturebooks about friendship that landed on our shelves in 2014, these are two to remember:

ImageTwo Speckled Eggs by Jennifer K. Mann presents the dilemma familiar to many grade school children whose parents insist they invite all their classmates to their birthday party - or none at all.
"Since 'none of them' wouldn't be a very fun birthday party, Ginger invited all of them - even Lyla Browning."
It's obvious that Lyla, who has arrived at the party with her magnifying glass in hand, is not someone Ginger considers a friend. Instead of joining the party games, Lyla looks through her magnifying glass at a ladybug she's found in the house. But after some of Ginger's friends spoil the party games and disapprove of her cake, it is Lyla who cheers Ginger up and presents her with a unique home-made gift. After pretending to be birds and pecking at leftover birthday cake together, Ginger and Lyla have formed a friendship that continues to grow on the school playground.

ImageIn The Good-Pie Party by Elizabeth Scanlon, we meet three close friends (Megan, Mae and Posy) who are gloomily packing Posy's belongings. Posy doesn't want to move - and she really doesn't want to say goodbye to her friends. How do you say goodbye when you don't want to? The girls decide to console themselves by baking a pie together and determine that instead of throwing a good-bye party for Posy - they will host a good-pie party.
You're invited to Posy Peyton's Good-Pie Party,
We'll say so long, but not good-bye
We'd love it if you'd bring a pie.
And a wonderfully eclectic group of friends responds to their party invitation with a diverse array of pies to share. Perfect. For isn't that what we do to honor our friends and their unique gifts - whether celebrating the anniversary of their birth, remembering them at their end of life, or even reluctantly saying goodbye to the dear friend retiring after 40 years? We bring out the sweet breads and casseroles, the cookies and cakes, soups and pies - the comfort foods that spread good cheer and soothe our sorrow. And we lift a glass and offer a toast as Posy does: "To good friends."

ImageThese two books resonate with me even more now as the old year rolls into the new and I reflect on a friendship shared with a colleague and speckled-egg friend who retires next week. Salud dear Pat Firenze. And thanks for all the chocolates.

Children's Book Week, Then and Now

2014Children'sBookWeek_thenTo celebrate Children’s Book Week this year, we’re reflecting on some of the favorite books we read as kids. We may not remember all the details of stories read decades ago, but there are images, passages, and feelings that have stuck with us through the years. Interesting to note that many of the titles we chose as our favorite childhood reads, are books that were first published before we were born. So who turned us on to these memorable stories? A parent? A teacher? A librarian? Do you find any of your childhood favorites among the ones we feature here?


My Side of the Mountain initially interested me because I always loved nature and animals. While reading it, I remember feeling empowered and inspired to imagine that I, just a child, could live in the wilderness on my own. – Kathy

Harriet in Harriet the Spy seemed real to me - not as chirpily cheerful or melodramatically tragic as many other child characters in books I was reading. She didn't always say or do the right thing, and she was nosy and selfish - but she mostly redeemed herself in the end. I could relate to her imperfections! – Ellen

I loved the Little House series because of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s descriptions of pioneer life and the warmth of her family. My grandparents lived on a rustic farm with cows, pigs, chickens, and a protective border collie named Shep. The Little House books kept me connected to my grandparents on that farm, even though I lived in a city far away. - Mary

As a young girl who loved animals, but especially horses, Black Beauty became one of my all-time favorite books. A fictional autobiographical memoir told from the point of view of a horse, the story describes Black Beauty's difficulties and experiences with humans, who often failed to recognize the unconditional love and loyalty that he was so willing to share. This book gave me a sense of responsibility, respect and compassion for all living creatures. I found it sad, hopeful, and in the end, comforting. – Janet

Ballet Shoes was an oasis for me as a young ballet student. Each of the young protagonists (Pauline, Petrova, and Posy) were able to follow their passions, with the support of a collection of knowledgeable and caring adults who understood the importance of having Big Dreams. The urban London setting was thrilling - and the European characters inhabiting the book made me eager to reach out and explore the world. I can’t help but think this book planted the seed for all the wonderful experiences I’ve had in life, thus far. I’ve travelled overseas, performed professionally in the theater, and now support the Big Dreams of my own children (which currently include being superhero millionaires who do charity work)! – Christina

As a child, I loved camping with my family and spending time by the water. The idea of suddenly finding myself alone on an island was both thrilling and terrifying. I admired Karana’s courage and tenacity and wondered if I could have managed to survive on my own as she had. Island of the Blue Dolphins also gives a personal perspective on living in and out of sync with the ebb and flow of nature. As an adult, I have experienced several island camping adventures, satisfying my desire to enjoy time by the water. But I was content that I did not have to hunt any further than my backpack to find my own food. – Lisa

Watership Down is a mixture of the best elements from The Wind in the Willows and The Odyssey. Since reading it at age 11, I haven't been able to look at hedges, meadows or overgrown alleyways without wondering what sort of tiny, cosmic dramas are unfolding beyond our vision. Truly inspiring. (Because of Watership Down, I got a cool looking rabbit on my arm as my first tattoo when I was 21.) – Josh

I read Little Women several times between the ages of 9 -11 . Growing up with lots of cousins, most of whom were female, I found it easy to identify with Jo March and her family. Plus, the story has some sadness, romance and drama! This book made me an avid reader. – Pat.

I think the idea of private spaces with little adult interference, like the ones in The Secret Garden or The Boxcar Children, is super appealing to kids. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house in the country with lots of land and tree cover perfect for creating little hideouts. So the idea of discovering and cultivating a secret garden was both relatable and compelling to me. – Aubrey

Give Children Words to Love...


“Poetry is a rhythmical piece of writing that leaves the reader feeling that life is a little richer than before, a little more full of wonder, beauty, or just plain delight.” - Aileen Fisher

Poet Aileen Fisher was the second person to receive the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children presented by the National Council of Teachers of English to a living American poet in recognition of their work. The award was first given in 1977. But before then and certainly ever since, teachers have recognized that poetry is a marvelous form of literature to share with new readers, reluctant readers, budding writers, and, well – everyone! Like songs, poetry is meant to be shared aloud. The rhyme, rhythm and repetition that are characteristic of poetry help children hear the different sounds of language.

“Research and experience tell us that children are most likely to be successful in reading and writing a word if they’ve had repeated experiences with hearing and saying the individual sounds in the word,” notes teacher Babs Hajdusiewicz, author of Phonics through Poetry. Poetry is an invitation to play with language, to relish the different sounds and meanings words make, and to pause and reflect on how something looks or sounds or feels. Invite your child to experience the joy of poetry and its descriptive power. You can find a wide variety of award winning poets and notable collections of poetry for children in the Library.

And join us for Storyhour Extravaganza this month, when we celebrate some of the first poems a child learns: Mother Goose rhymes. While you’re in the library you might like to listen to some Mother Goose rhymes on the iPad in the Children’s Department. (The Mother Goose on the Loose app, which can be downloaded for free through iTunes, also lets you play with Mother Goose characters and tell your own stories.) You can also pick up one of our handy pre-printed poems for your pocket - and as poet Eloise Greenfield recommends: “Give children words to love, to grow on.”


Things That Go


I anticipated needing to learn many new things as a new parent, but when the time came, I was wholly unprepared to engage in “truck talk” with my toddler. Whether my inadequacy was due to having grown up in an area that did not have combines rolling down the highway, slowing traffic for miles, or the fact that my own interest in vehicles has never expanded much beyond whether it’s green or blue – I needed to get up to speed fast to help satisfy my son’s thirst for knowledge on all “things that go.”

Fortunately, MCPL Children’s Services offers a wonderful variety of books and DVDs to meet the demand for information on this topic. We can help you find the right nonfiction book the next time you need help distinguishing a bulldozer from a compactor (See Cool Construction Vehicles by Bobby Kalman), or want to satisfy curiosity about what's inside a fire truck. In the meantime, here are a few new picturebooks to share with your young fans of cars and trucks...

And The Cars Go


Go, Go, Go, Stop!

Night Light

 Alphabet Trucks

Testing, Testing, Testing...


It’s test time again for Indiana students. Children in grades 3-8 are taking the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+) tests to measure student achievement in the subject areas of English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science (Grades 4 and 6), and Social Studies (Grades 5 and 7). This seasonal event - and the recent news that teachers and parents in Chicago decided to boycott the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, an annual test for Illinois students in third through eighth grade - brought to mind the book: The Report Card by Andrew Clements.

Clements is one of my favorite authors. He writes thoughtfully about school-age students, the issues they face, their relationships with each other and with their teachers. And many of his books pose a “what if” question that make for marvelous discussion opportunities.  In The Report Card, it’s 5th grader Nora who ponders:  what if students just all refused to take tests? What if they intentionally answered all the questions incorrectly?   Read more »

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