Grown-Ups Choice: Homelessness and Building Community

I bought this book for myself. I read it to the children in my life – they like it too – but this is one of a small selection of children’s books that I bought specifically because I really liked it:

Julia’s House For Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke – quote found HERE.

The story-line: Julia lives alone, in a house built on the back of a giant turtle. When the turtle moves, Julia and her house go with it.

It’s a rather large house and a positively enormous turtle. So, when the turtle settled by the side of the ocean, Julia found herself feeling lonely in her great-big-house and decided to hang up a sign outside the front door: “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures”.

Before long, she has a house filled with mythical, magical and homeless creatures of every possible type, shape, and size. There’s a bit of a problem keeping things clean, organized and under control; but Julia solves the problem and everyone settles down into a happy communal life.

While the story is a bit idealistic (it IS a children’s book, after all), it presents a positive perspective on building community, helping others and homelessness.

Also, the pictures are positively wonderful.

Sometimes I pull this one out, look through the pictures and read, by myself….just because.

Suggestions for Building Excitement Over The Holidays

Ordering Books: Whether you are building a family library or simply looking for a fun way to build-up to the holiday celebration, having brand new books shipped to your home, in your child’s name, is a great way to do it. To a child, it is super exciting to receive a package in the mail, addressed to them! They may even want to read their brand-new book immediately AND before bed.

Library Holds: If you’d prefer to review the books before buying them, or need to maintain a tight budget, then use the local library. Go to the library website, locate the book and place it on hold. When the notification arrives, bring the child along and let them help find the books in the on-hold shelves.

Giggle Book Advice: Building a Family Library

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For the month of January, the Giggle Book Award is focusing on the art of creating a family library.

Adulting Is Hard

Choosing books for kids can be a frustrating endeavor. As the adult, the first questions are about quality and content. Does this teach useful skills or proper values? Is this something a child can quote or discuss with friends and family, without insulting people or raising eyebrows? How does it handle race, gender, family and other relationships?

Personally, I have found children’s books at used books sales and on library shelves that leave me wondering HOW this thing got published in the first place! I have no doubt that there are books quoted, reviewed and discussed on this blog that leave other parents scratching their heads and wondering the same.

To further complicate matters, walking into a bookstore, browsing stacks of hundreds (thousands?) of books and flipping through pages only provides the adult half of the matter. Even if you manage to randomly select a book that meets all of your own criteria, there’s no guarantee the child(ren) will like it.

What to do?

The Library Is Your Best Resource

Personally, I have found the library to be the best possible resource for encouraging kids to read while identifying really good books for the family library. Here’s the process that works for us:

  1. Take the kids to the library and let them play. These days libraries have a lot more than books and kids are not expected to be ultra-quiet all of the time. It’s a wonderful way to spend a super-cold winter day or a super-hot summer afternoon. As a bonus, children learn early on that the one place in every geographical location that is really and truly devoted to the care and use of books is a fun and welcoming spot to spend a few hours.
  2. While the kids play, select 15 books that seem like a good fit. Don’t spent a lot of time flipping through pages or reading the text; just browse through the stacks and grab books with covers that jump out at you. Here are a few of my own go-to topics: dinosaurs, pirates, superheros, ninjas, adventure stories, rescue pets (e.g.: lost cats and dogs finding a home) anti-bully stories, friendship stories and stories about building families or communities. While some of these topics may seem either difficult or overly common, I’ve passed over many books that don’t fall into any of these categories. It’s amazing just how wide and varied children’s books really are.
  3. Visit the library a couple times each month. Make library-time a regular part of the family schedule. Books are checked out for 2 weeks, so we usually make a library visit once every two weeks.
  4. Read every day at the same time. Most people read books right before bed. Some people like to set up a daily story-time earlier in the day. It doesn’t matter when it happens, as long as it happens in a consistent and predictable manner.
  5. Let the child(ren) know that you have NOT pre-read this book. Most adults don’t think about this (I didn’t!) but part of reading to children is introducing them to the basics about BOOKS. Specifically:
    1. Some books are disappointing because the story isn’t about what you thought it would be about. If a book turns out to be a dud SAY THAT – and let the children provide their own opinions on the matter.
    2. Sometimes I like a book and you don’t. Sometimes you like a book and I don’t. That’s OK. Encourage kids to respond to a story and express an opinion.
    3. Books contain lots of information, sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong. I once found a children’s illustrated book at used book sales that was blatantly (mouth-droppingly) racist, which put me in the unexpected and uncomfortable position of having to (semi-publicly) explain the negative side of race relations to a child who had simply asked me to take a break from shopping and read a book. In the end I realized the book was a problem but the conversation about race was not – it was just one of those uncomfortable things that the big-people in the family have to do. Also, the child witnessed a book-sale staff-member remove the book from the stacks after hearing me read-and-explain the book – that was a positive. Remember: When a book presents information that is inaccurate or offensive, reading-time is an excellent opportunity to discuss and explain why the information is wrong or bad. Don’t worry about protecting children from every bad thing, teach them how to discern the good from the bad, right from wrong, polite from offensive, etc.
    4. Books can be informative without being entertaining. Not everything has to be a super-fun, wild and exciting adventure! Sometimes books can be collections of facts that are interesting to the reader. An example? Dictionaries of dinosaurs complete with drawings, long Latin names, and current scientific evidence pertaining to potential habitats and behaviors. For a child interested in dinosaurs, this stuff is FASCINATING!
    5. Some stories are happy and some are sad. Most children’s books have happy endings, but some tell stories that are really sad or hard to hear, particularly for children. Again, this is an opportunity for discussion and not (necessarily) something a child should be protected from ever experiencing. Personally, I’ve found the most heart-wrenching stories in the biography and history sections of the children’s library, so I tend to preview those more than others – that way reading time focuses primarily on books that are fun with happy endings, with a few sad stories thrown into the mix here and there.
  6. Let the child choose the books during story-time. Personally, I lay out all of the library books and let the child(ren) pick out three based on the title and cover. Sometimes the child will look over the library books and decide to pick something from the family library instead. Usually, one or two books from the library will be requested over and over again. Sometimes a few library books will never get read. All of this is OK.
  7. When a book is a hit with both the children AND the adults, add it to the list. We keep a shopping list of children’s books that worked really well for the members of this household. A couple of times a month we buy one or two books from the list and add them to the family library – which is why I caution all adults to take a moment to evaluate whether or not they want to read a particular book over-and-over-and-over again BEFORE placing it on the list. Sometimes a book is a huge hit with the kids, contains information or a story that is perfectly fine, and gets on the nerves of the big-person reading it. If you can’t imagine yourself happily reading a book many times over, then don’t add it to the library.
  8. When a book is a hit with just the adults, add it to the list. Every once in a while I will find a children’s book that I REALLY like. It gets added to the list and the family library because I like it. Sometimes I will pull these books out and read them on my own. Honestly, I never thought I would enjoy a children’s illustrated story that much, but there have been a few that have proven me wrong. It’s good for children to see adults reading books, including kids books, so adding the big-people favorites to the library is both natural and positive. It’s important to note that I don’t force the children to listen to (read) these books, I just read them to myself. Of course, when they see me reading, this usually results in the child(ren) asking me to read it out loud, but that’s a bonus. When it comes to story-time, the child(ren) choose the books.
  9. When it’s time to buy a book, let the children choose something off of the list.  We order books online and have them delivered to our home via standard mail. Looking over the list of books and picking out a copy that will be in the family library and, therefore, always available for story-time is an important job. Kids LOVE it!
  10. Put the child’s name on the shipping address. To a child, receiving a packing in the mail, with their name on it, is like getting a birthday or holiday present, even if the book inside if one of the big-people favorites.
  11. Give the child the honor of shelving the book. Putting the new book on the shelf, along with all of the others, is also a fun and important-feeling thing to do. Sometimes simple things like this are a big part of our lives.

Making the joy of receiving/acquiring a new book part of a child’s life is a positive influence on their lives as readers, curious fact-seekers and future problem solvers. Have fun with it!

I hope these tips help other families build their own family library. I would love to see reactions and ideas from others!

Save

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Insignificant Soul

Quote

Amazon.com

It was a small thing, insignificant beyond notice, that the fall of the House of Lilterwess had severed Emil’s soul, separating the scholar from the soldier, leaving his heart on the steps of the library while his duty called him away to war.

Fire Logic (Elemental Logic) by Laurie J. Marks

Boston Library Update

Quote

Amazon.com

“In Boston, the physical changes reflect the evolving nature of libraries…

“As it happens, the entrance, on Boylston Street, is close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where bombs last year killed three people and injured more than 260 others. With this wound at their front door, the architects are even more determined for the library to be inviting.

“This is a strong statement of pride in the city and its civic life, in spite of what happened across the street,” Mr. Gayley said. “The library is opening its doors and not retreating behind solid walls.”

Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond by Katharine Q. Seelye at the New York Times

Other innovative libraries: