Ways to Engage Kids’ Literacy Skills in a Semi-Quarantine Summer

Families and time spent at home always play a significant role in the development and maintenance of a child’s literacy skills. This year, the family and home are a much bigger part of everyone’s life, including our children’s education.

This summer, it’ll be particularly important to engage kids’ literacy development. Luckily, there are so many creative and fun ways to do this beyond just reading. 

Invite your kids to try out some of these activities to keep them busy and learning this summer and beyond: 

  • Practice reading aloud to family and pets.
  • Spend time in the kitchen reading ingredients, product labels, recipes, and anything else you can find.
  • Learn all the words to your favorite song and practice singing along or even doing karaoke.
  • Choose a book for the whole family to read and discuss together.
  • Listen to a book or story while making art inspired by it.
  • Move your body while listening to a story, book, or song.
  • Learn your family history, funny stories, and jokes from friends and relatives and practice retelling them.
  • Follow instructions for a new skill or craft, and teach a friend or relative how to do it, too.
  • Play vocabulary-based board games like Scrabble, Boggle, or Bananagrams.
  • Play verbal games like taking turns coming up with rhyming nonsense words or words that start with a certain letter.
  • Find a favorite picture or piece of art and practice describing it in detail to a friend or relative.
  • Create your own newspaper for your house or keep a journal of your daily experiences.
  • Write letters or notes to friends, relatives, neighbors, or even community representatives.
  • Listen to a podcast for kids (https://app.kidslisten.org/).
  • Learn to type.
  • Write your own story, poem, or book, leave it for a while, and then come back to revise and edit.
  • Research a topic you’re interested in and teach a friend or relative about it.

Welcome Back to Wonderland!

Welcome back to Wonderland! Tomorrow – Tuesday June 23 – our library opens back up to the public, and we are very much looking forward to seeing our young patrons again!

We want you to know that the library, including the children’s department, looks just a little different, as we adhere to social distancing and other virus-initiated protocols.

Here’s what to expect for you and your children when you visit the children’s room …

When you arrive at the library:

  • A maximum of 60 people are allowed in the library building at any given time (including staff and service workers). An automatic people counter device keeps track of the number of people entering and exiting the building. Please be prepared to wait outside the building, if necessary, at designated spots to the right of the front door.
  • Every person entering the building (including children) is required to stop to have their temperature read by the thermal temperature reader inside the front door.
  • Face masks are required for every person in the building over the age of 2. If you do not have a mask, the library will provide you with one.
  • Please do not visit the library if you are exhibiting any signs of the virus. We are still happy to help you over the phone, and both our contactless curbside pickup and our drive-up holds window will remain in service.
  • Returns must be dropped off at the drive-up book drop or in the bin outside the front of the library. No returns will be accepted inside the building.
  • You must maintain at least six feet of space between you and other people. Many directional signs will help with the flow of people throughout the library.
  • The second floor is closed, but adult reference librarians are available in the café space to assist patrons and retrieve items that are kept upstairs.
  • The café is closed.
  • Public restrooms are still available in the front lobby.
  • The water fountains in the building are not usable.
  • The Friends of the Library bookstore is closed, and no donations are accepted at this time.
  • Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

The Youth Services department:

  • Please stop at the Information Station at the entrance to the room, staffed by the children’s librarians. This is where you can ask questions of any kind and retrieve prize bags and other Summer Learning Program materials.
  • Most materials are still available for checkout: books, themed book bundles, DVDs, CDs, tablets, playaways, video games, books on CD, puzzles, and some STEM kits.
  • Puppets are not available for checkout at this time.
  • The Born to Play Room is closed, and all of the toys and computers in the children’s department have been put away.
  • The Teen Room is closed. However, our staff is happy to retrieve any items that you would like to check out from the Teen Room.
  • All study rooms in the library are closed.
  • The patio is closed to the public.
  • You may use the public restroom in the children’s room: one is designated for staff use, and one is for the public.
  • We have lots of directional signs and floor signs to help create a smooth and safely-distanced flow of people in the room.
  • We have placed large bins throughout the room for you to put books and materials that you have handled but do not want to check out.
  • You may still use the self-checkout machine in the children’s room.
  • You may pick up Summer Learning Program prizes in the room (at the Information Station) or call us to request a curbside pickup.
  • Please keep your young children with you while in the library, including the children’s room.

We know that there are many changes, and that our spaces and services will look a bit different at this time. But we have a wide variety of materials for you to check out, and we are happy to help you find what you need – just ask!

We hope to see you soon!

Kids’ Crafts & Activities on the Blog

Here on the Youth Services blog, we now have a page of crafts and activities that our staff has made for our young patrons. The page is easily accessible in the top menu on each blog page.

Make a monster puppet, create a car wash for your toy cars, practice some zen art, or take our body and mind challenge! There are many possibilities, and each one can be done at home and with materials that you already have.

On this new crafts and activities page, you will find a variety of crafts, as well as printable games and challenges, and also crafts from specific children’s programs at our library. Each project is both viewable and printable as a PDF file. Have fun completing them!

We would love to see what you create and appreciate any feedback you have about other items we can provide.

We will be adding to this page regularly, so please check back often!

Fun Holidays in June

Can you believe that June is almost here? Each month ushers in a variety of annual celebrations that are great ways to get the family together and have some fun or learn something new. For example, did you know that June is both National Candy Month and National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month?

On June 1, you can celebrate Say Something Nice Day. And the first Friday of June is always National Donut Day.

At the library, we love that June is Audiobook Appreciation Month. Want to listen to an audiobook? Check out our online services.

Here are some official special days in June this year:

  • June 1: Trails Day
  • June 4: Cheese Day
  • June 5: Hot Air Balloon Day
  • June 6: Yo-Yo Day
  • June 7: Frozen Yogurt Day
  • June 8: Best Friends Day
  • June 11: Corn on the Cob Day
  • June 12: Flip Flop Day
  • June 14: Flag Day and Monkey Around Day
  • June 15: Nature Photography Day
  • June 18: Go Fishing Day and International Picnic Day
  • June 19: Take a Road Trip Day
  • June 20: Ice Cream Soda Day and World Juggler’s Day
  • June 21: Father’s Day and Selfie Day
  • June 23: Pink Day
  • June 24: International Fairy Day and Swim a Lap Day
  • June 26: National Canoe Day
  • June 27: Sunglasses Day
  • June 29: Hug Day
  • June 30: Meteor Day

Here are several other fun annual celebrations in June:

  • Accordion Awareness Month
  • Adopt a Cat Month
  • Camping Month
  • Children’s Awareness Month
  • Foster A Pet Month
  • LGBTQ Pride Month
  • Ocean Month
  • Potty Training Awareness Month
  • Safety Month
  • Smile Month
  • Sports America Kids Month
  • Zoo and Aquarium Month

June is a great month for family fun! How can your family engage and celebrate together during this first month of summer? We’d love to hear about it!

Living Through an Infodemic with Teens

In a recent post, we addressed one of the greatest challenges of the present moment: the information (and misinformation) overload we experience each day.  

The primary place we encounter this misinformation is social media, where the challenge of avoiding it is amplified by the very nature of these platforms, especially those frequented by teens. Content on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter comes directly from other users. We see their faces, hear their voices, feel a connection to them. These connections put us at even higher risk of falling for false authority. For instance, someone in scrubs is not inherently an expert on viruses, no matter how convincing their “treatment” for COVID-19 is.  

The unfortunate reality is that some segments of the internet are dedicated to misinformation. Young people are often targets of conspiracy theories about governments and supranational governments as well as false advertising about home cures, beauty products, and “life hacks.” Falling for these hoaxes, especially now, can take them down some strange and potentially dark paths.  

Fortunately, however, these platforms also have safeguards against negative rabbit holes. TikTok and YouTube users can curate a positive online environment for themselves by simply focusing on what they enjoy. Skipping right over content flagged with a coronavirus label will eventually remove it from their feeds altogether. The same goes for content that is just awful or infuriating. On Instagram and Twitter, users choose who they follow and can mute or block topics and other users. Again, not looking at upsetting content will keep them from seeing it!  

Caretakers of teens can help them avoid ruining their own days by engaging them in regular conversations about what they’ve been seeing and hearing. Encourage them to not watch or engage with content or people that upset, anger, or scare them. Remind them that they are in control of their experience online, and they can make it a wonderful place by refocusing on the funny stuff, the dance videos, the craft tutorials, or whatever helps them cope, relax, and grow.  
 
Also, be sure to keep yourself informed of hoaxes, conspiracies, and misinformation that’s circulating. The Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center provided by NewsGuard and official sources like WHO,  CDC, and FEMA can help with this. Remind yourself and the teens around you to double check what’s shared on social media with other sources. (This is especially important for information found on TikTok as the date and geographical location of a post is not always clear!) 

And, of course, remind yourself and the young people in your life to just log off sometimes! 

Emotional Resilience Through Picture Books

Raising healthy children requires not just providing for their physical health, but also their mental health. In order for any individual to develop and maintain good mental health, they need a set of skills and attitudes known as emotional resilience, or the ability to cope with failure, difficult feelings, traumatic events, significant life changes, and other adversities.

Emotional resilience lies in the ability to recognize and accept negative experiences for what they are and then effectively heal from them. Fortunately, there are a number of picture books out there to help children and caregivers hone their emotional resilience skills together.

Here are a dozen great choices …

Mistakes and Trying Again: 

  • Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts  
  • It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr 
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Difficult Emotions and Personal Experiences:

  • Pilar’s Worries by Victoria M. Sanchez & Jess Golden
  • When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland
  • After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up by Dan Santat
  • A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams  

Scary World Events:

  • Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaître 
  • The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul 
  • What Are You Scared Of, Little Mouse? by Susanna Isern & Nora Hilb
  • Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna

Several of these books are available digitally on Overdrive and Hoopla for free with your library card.

Outdoor Family Fun at Home

Just because we are at home doesn’t mean we have to be bored or feel stuck! It’s time to get everyone outside and enjoy some fresh air, play some games, and maybe even learn something new.

Here are 20 ideas for outdoor family fun at home, brought to you by our fun-loving Youth Services staff!

  • Play hopscotch (learn to play here).
  • Play four square (learn to play here).
  • Set up a driveway tic-tac-toe game (learn to play here).  
  • “Paint” things outside, using large paintbrushes and buckets of water.
  • Enjoy a family car wash at home (for your family’s cars, bikes, scooters, etc).
  • Play “I Spy” on a family walk.
  • Have some old-fashioned fun with a backyard game of Duck Duck Goose, Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, Freeze Tag, or Red Rover.
  • Get your moves on with a family dance party.
  • Make a homemade outdoor obstacle course.
  • Make a birdhouse out of things you find at home (for one version, see here).
  • Take a backyard safari.
  • Paint some rocks to decorate your porch or yard.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood and find objects of every shape and color. Make it more challenging by looking for specific combos like a red square, a blue circle, etc.
  • Make a kite and see if it will fly (such as this one).
  • Do an indoor activity outside, such as coloring, reading, playing a board game, or telling a story.
  • Have a picnic meal in your yard, and let the kids help plan it.
  • Find shapes in the clouds, the trees, etc.
  • Collect Spring flowers to press and display:
    • trim flowers to desired length.
    • flatten the flower.
    • press between wax paper inside a heavy book for about two weeks.
  • Make your own bubbles:
    • 1 1/2 cups of water
    • 1/2 cup of dish soap
    • 2 tsp sugar (optional: sugar slows down water evaporation, which lets the bubbles last longer)
    • bubble wand (or anything with holes that can be dipped into the solution: fly swatter, slotted spoons, etc)
  • Check out these creative outdoor literacy activities.

Most of all, have fun with your family, make some memories, get some fresh air, and stay safe!

Living Through an Infodemic with Kids

We’ve been hearing it everywhere, from work correspondence to every commercial: we are living through challenging, uncertain times.

What makes these times so challenging and uncertain is how difficult it is to figure out what exactly is going on and what it all means. There is a lot of information to take in about coronavirus and its larger impacts, that information changes daily, and there is a whole lot of misinformation to sift through, too.

All of this is especially hard on children and teens. They already have a harder time processing information and difficult emotions, even when they’re not scared and only partially informed.

Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to get a handle on living through this pandemic and “infodemic” together.

First and foremost, limit children’s direct exposure to the news as much as possible. Get yourself informed and understand your own emotions and biases before talking younger people through what’s happening. Be careful to only tell them the basics, but answer their questions honestly if they want more details.

When we first hear about a current event, it’s essential to ask ourselves how it makes us feel. (It can make us feel lots of ways all at once.) And, then, we must ask ourselves why it makes us feel that way. Did we learn about it in a shocking or harsh way? Does it involve people we like or dislike? Does it involve subjects that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t understand?

Once we’re aware of our initial feelings and what’s behind them, we can start to gather more detailed information and make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate.

To evaluate a source or a claim, first consider the source as a whole. Some websites will try to dupe you with URLs like worldhealth.net, CDC.news, or NYTWatch.org. Explore the full website to see their other content. Is the source a blog or forum? Is it trying to sell you something? Has it made other claims that seem outlandish or that you already know are false?

Whenever you’re doing any kind of research, but especially when you’re trying to understand current events, consider what multiple sources are saying. If you only see something in one place, it may not be true. Additionally, a source may only be giving you one side or one part of the story. Be sure to check lots of sources and check out their sources to get a more complete picture. (Also, check the dates! And be extremely wary of alleged cures. The vast majority of these claims are not based on medical research and can even be dangerous.)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember to take breaks from the news and social media to rest, relax, and help. It’s okay and, in fact, essential to log off and spend some time outside, reading or watching something funny or soothing, or talking to friends and relatives. Help your family and neighbors in whatever ways you can (while maintaining appropriate social distancing!). Keep your eye out for community groups and individuals who are working to make things a little easier and find ways to join in, too.

Fun Holidays in May

May is right around the corner! And every month brings something to look forward to. For example, did you know that May is both National Bike Month and National Hamburger Month?

At the library, we love that it is also Get Caught Reading Month! Where do you like to read?

Check out these other fun annual celebrations in May:

  • National Pet Month
  • National Smile Month
  • Home Schooling Awareness Month
  • National Comfort Month
  • National Community Action Month
  • National Inventors Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Youth Traffic Safety Month

How can your family engage and celebrate together this month? We’d love to hear about the fun things you do!