Children's Book Columns
The beginning of a new school year always feels like a new chapter, with students from preschool to college starting fresh on a year full of learning and growth, working toward goals, like reading independently, conquering quadratic equations, creating a website, or writing a research paper. Whatever level you or your student are at, the public library has resources to help you be successful.
Where has the summer gone? I feel like it has flown by, and I was starting to get a little down about that, but rather than think, “Oh, my gosh, it’s almost August!”, I decided to take a glass-half-full approach and tell myself, “There are still six weeks until Labor Day!” Plenty of time to enjoy all that summer has to offer. Six weeks of summer means plenty of time to still sign up for Summer Reading at the library, earn fun prizes, and become eligible for raffle drawings for other terrific prizes, including tablets, book bundles, and movie passes.
Birth to age five is a critical stage of development in a child’s life. Particularly in the first three years of life, babies’ brains develop at an astonishing rate. Reading and the positive experiences around reading promote babies’ development and can create a love of reading that will last a lifetime. Reading books on a wide range of topics introduces a variety of new words that children may not hear in everyday conversation, building their brain power.
Publishers have been responding to parents’ and caregivers’ desire to have board books that expand on the traditional approach by creating books for babies that introduce areas such as science and history or that take a new approach to learning ABCs, colors and shapes.
Through a partnership between Central Rappahannock Regional Library and 14 area middle schools, each year seventh and eighth graders across Spotsylvania County, Stafford County, and the City of Fredericksburg participate in Cafe Book. Reading from among 16 recently published young adult books, they have lively book discussions over lunch and vote on their favorites.
With Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s 3rd annual CRRL-Con coming up on May 20, now is the perfect time to indulge your comic book craving. Whether you are new to comics, getting back to them after a break, or have always been a comic book fan, the variety of characters and storylines in comics means there is always something out there to entertain you. The public library has an extensive collection of comic books and provides a great way to “test drive” something new to see if you like it. Checking comics out means you can try one and, if you don’t like it, return it and try another, no financial commitment needed. You can even borrow several and see which is your favorite. The library has the big names, like Thor, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and even Archie and Casper. But the possibilities are endless, so here are a few more suggestions.
April is Poetry Month, the perfect time to share the beauty of poetry with a child. If you are an adult who enjoys poetry, you are probably already regularly reading poetry with the children in your life. If you are an adult who is either intimidated by poetry or simply doesn’t enjoy it, I urge you to take a look at poetry written for children. I often enjoy children’s poetry much more than that written for adults. I like the humor, wit, and silliness of children’s poetry, as well as the simplicity of the more serious poems.
Of all the seasons, spring seems to be the most anxiously awaited. It brings the promise of warmer weather, longer days, and the explosion of nature’s beauty with spring flowers, soft spring grass, and baby animals in abundance. Celebrate all the wonders of spring with a child by sharing one (or a bunch!) of these spring-themed books.
March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting books about women and their roles in history and the world today. Though I hope that young readers are exposed to books about a variety of people and places all year long, the focus of a history month provides an opportunity to pay closer attention to groups of people who have been underrepresented in literature and the study of history. As usual, I had a hard time choosing my favorite books for this theme, so instead I’ve selected titles that exemplify a few of the ways women’s stories can be presented.
Books that contain a collection of profiles or short biographies can be a great way to learn a little bit about several people in a short amount of time and are also helpful in gaining a big-picture view of what that group of people have in common. Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, both by Kate Schatz, present short profiles of women from history and today who have made an impact in their professions, their countries, or the world. Some of the women, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Nellie Bly, and Malala Yousafzai, are fairly well-known, but many are not, a reminder to readers that women have often made significant contributions that have gone unrecognized.
For young readers who have mastered the leveled or beginning reader, there is a great sense of accomplishment. They are independent readers! Bring on the chapter books! That can be a pretty big jump, though. Many of these children would feel intimidated with the heft and vocabulary of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Early chapter books can be a great transition to the rich world of children’s fiction, as they are less word-dense than a traditional chapter book, have illustrations throughout, and are just long enough to give a sense of accomplishment when finished but not so long as to seem insurmountable. Like fiction for readers of any age, early chapter books come in a wide range of genres, from realistic to science fiction to fantasy, so there are early chapter books to fit any reading taste.
The Alien in My Pocket series, by Nate Ball, is for fans of science and science fiction. In book one, Blast Off! an alien spaceship crashes into Zack’s bedroom. But it’s not just any spaceship. It’s a miniature alien spaceship, with a miniature alien inside. Zack must help Amp the alien repair his ship so he can get back to his home planet, but not before Zack and Amp cause some serious chaos around town. Science tidbits are included throughout the story as natural parts of the plot—for example, talking about pressure when figuring out how to launch Amp’s spaceship.
Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Rappahannock Reads runs throughout the month of February and is an opportunity for everyone in the community to read and discuss the same book. CRRL’s 2017 Rappahannock Reads title is Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, which tells the true story of the African American female mathematicians who went to work as “human computers” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in Hampton, Virginia, during World War II.