A Year of Pretend Play at the Library: Part One

Playing is learning. This probably isn’t news to the people who read this blog, but it bears repeating because it’s easy to forget. Kids play all the time at home, and it can become something that happens in the background that we don’t think about. At the library, we place a priority on play. We make it a point to invite kids and grownups to play together. If asked, I could go on and on about the ways that pretend play, in particular, helps kids develop early literacy skills, but my goal with this post is to show off some of the fun pretend play themes I’ve had at my library over the last year. So here goes! :)

 

Narrative Skills:

img_4257.jpgWe celebrated Picture Book Month with an Enchanted Forest theme. Kids could dress up as fairy tale characters or use the stuffed animals to tell their own version of familiar stories. The story cubes could spark a creative retelling that mixes up all sorts of fairy tale elements. I made these myself by covering some wooden blocks with construction paper and tape, but you can also buy story cubes or story sticks aimed at preschoolers to encourage storytelling.

 

Social Skills:

img_4985.jpgIn the grocery store, the ice cream shop, and other community based play spaces, kids can imagine themselves in various roles. They can take turns being proprietor or a customer, seeing the interactions from different roles and developing empathy for experiences outside of their own.

 

Vocabulary:

img_4905.jpgIn the Fix It Shop, we named the tools. In the Sense Lab, we encouraged the use of descriptive language as kids explored the world with their senses. Our Space Station offered various science words. Don’t underestimate kids’ willingness to learn complex vocabulary if they are interested in the topic!

 

Print Awareness:

img_5551.jpgIn the community based play spaces (World Café, Ice Cream Shop, etc), the menus and other signage are examples of the way that we interact with printed words as we life our lives. Understanding just how much we rely on printed language is an important part of learning to read.

 

Print Motivation:

img_5727.jpgKids and caregivers are always encouraged to learn more about the topics with books. Learning to read is hard work, and if kids are interested in the topics they are reading about, they be much more motivated.

 

Letter Knowledge:

img_4413.jpgExploring shapes and sorting objects based on likes and differences is a first step to letter knowledge. Our grocery store featured pictures of letters made out of food, and the Sense Lab encouraged sorting objects based on how they feel.

 

Phonological Awareness:

img_5842.jpgSinging songs and chanting rhymes help kids hear the sounds of words more clearly than in regular speech. We included the words to a rhyme in our Ice Cream Shop and our Space Station to add an opportunity to build phonological awareness while at play.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my library’s pretend play space relates to early science skills!

Hidden Gems at the Library

As I celebrate one year of working for the library, I thought I would highlight one of the perks of the job: discovering hidden gems in the library collection. I already blogged about Through the Barricades, which I came across while browsing the library’s shelves—something I never had time to do as a patron. Others I have discovered while looking at circulation reports and pulling books that haven’t checked out in a long while. Sometimes when you are doing this kind of work, you feel like you understand why a book hasn’t checked out. Maybe it doesn’t look appealing or the description makes it sound a little strange. But there are other books with low circulation numbers that I find myself reading—and enjoying, and I just know that other people would love them too if they found them.

Catlantis by Anna Starobinets, for example, falls into this category. This short book is actually a rather silly story about how cats came to have nine lives. It involves time travel and other magical elements, but it never takes itself too seriously. If you are a kid who appreciates cat-oriented wordplay, this is the book for you.

Speaking of wordplay and laugh-out-loud humor, The Short Con by Pete Toms is another lonely book with few checkouts. It’s a shame, really, because this graphic novel will appeal to grown ups as well as kids. There are pop culture references, cat puns, and just plain weirdness. It’s small, but a lot of fun. I’m glad I found it, and I hope other people do too.

I’m glad it’s part of my job to discover these hidden gems and help them get into the hands of the right readers!

Warnings on Teen Books: Helpful Tips or Censorship?

Teen fiction is in the news, and it’s bad news again.  Last time it was too dark.  Now there’s too much profanity, and some people are suggesting a rating system or content warning on books for teens as a solution for parents who are overwhelmed by the thought of reading each and every book their kids want to read.

Today I sat at my desk, which happened to be piled high with the latest in teen fiction, as I listened to an MPR segment discussing the issue.  It hit all the usual points about protecting kids or empowering them as readers without reaching any kind of consensus.  That’s understandable.  It’s a nuanced topic, as many librarians have said.   What stood out to me in the show was the host’s apparent surprise at the passion of those arguing against a warning system.

The anti-ratings passion does not surprise me.  I think many of us, myself included, argue so fervently against rating the literature of our youth because we remember what we read as teens.  We remember how it resonated.  It moved us.   In many cases, it shaped us.  I think we know there’s a strong chance that many of those life-shaping books we connected with at a young age would not have been available to us if they’d had a rating or warning label for our more conservative parents, teachers, or other well meaning adults to see and judge.

I was one of the lucky ones.  Mom, if you’re reading this, I am incredibly grateful that you empowered me as a reader.  It is a big part of what made me the person I am today, and I am proud of who I have become.  I hope you are too.

Friday Finds: Mayda, Storyland, & more

Music Finds:

  • World premiere of Mayda’s new music video.  Watch it here:

Library Finds:
Family Finds:
  • We went to a sneak peek of a new exhibit at the Minnesota Children’s Museum tonight. I’ll be blogging about it sometime in the next few days, but if you can check out Storyland this weekend, you’ll be glad you did!
  • Tomorrow (Saturday, September 10) is the Target Book Festival in Bloomington.  See Koo Koo Kanga Roo and meet lots of children’s book authors and illustrators.
See more of my blog finds for the week in my Google Reader Shared Items.  Have a good weekend, everyone!

Happy anniversary, Hennepin County Libraries

What I like about the Hennepin County Library:

  • First of all, the library staff have responded to my suggestion, which makes me feel pretty good. :)
  • The Central Library in downtown Minneapolis is open seven days a week.  I wish more locations were open on Sundays and Mondays, but I’m quite grateful that there is one I can count on for my Sunday and Monday reading needs.
  • Speaking of the Central Library, it really is a cool building.  There is even a children’s book about the construction of the new library that came out in 2006.   You can get a free tour of the library on weekends.  I have yet to do this myself.  If anyone wants to take the tour sometime, let me know so I can join you. :)
  • The Central Library celebrates Minnesota’s rich literary history in its auditorium.  Each of the chairs in the auditorium has a name of a Minnesota author on it.  I, of course, love this connection to the community.
  • I’ve been to several cool events at the library in the past couple of years, such as the screening of a documentary about children’s books, and a celebration of Minnesota libraries.  In addition to the various storytimes I’ve attended with my little one.
  • An actor plays Gratia Countryman in an old library building at a local arts festival in 2010.

    Perhaps the coolest reason to like HC Lib is its history.  Gratia Countryman, in particular, is a notable figure in Minneapolis history as the first female director of the Minneapolis Public Library and the founder of the Hennepin County Library.  She was a strong advocate for women’s rights, and she was active in various organizations in the Twin Cities.   If you have an opportunity to catch a performance by a Minnesota Historical Society player, do it. Ms. Countryman is a fascinating historical figure that deserves wider name recognition.

Read more about Ms. Countryman and local library history in this brochure or visit the Central Library during the months of July, August, and September to view the exhibit on display in Cargill Hall, For Use: 125 Years of Library Service in Hennepin County.

I recently attended the opening celebration of the exhibit, which featured commentary from library figures about the nature of public service in Hennepin County (particularly in light of the current government shutdown) and the future of libraries in Hennepin County.  The exhibit will be open the same hours as the Central Library, so you can view it seven days a week through September 30th.

Explore how Minneapolis Public Library and Hennepin County Library have worked together to achieve the vision of Gratia Countryman, who said,

“The public library is an institution so pliable that it bends to every growing need of community life; so susceptible to social needs, so eager to render all possible service, that it must by virtue of its own nature reach out beyond the city borders.”

How has your public library responded to community needs?  How do you wish it would respond?

What do to this weekend in the Twin Cities

With the kids:

For the kids:

Without the kids: