Category Archives: Raising Readers

Posts giving parents tips on how to engage their young children in reading.

Celebrate Reading Month

March is Reading Month!   Celebrate by participating in one or more of the many Reading Month activities taking place at Capital Area District Libraries.

OliviaStudies show that children who read for fun are more likely to become lifelong learners.  Take time this month to not only focus on reading, but by also finding ways to make reading fun.

Kick off the month by attending one of the Dr. Seuss celebrations where you can enjoy stories, games and activities.  Then check out the schedule of storybook character visits that are happening at many of the CADL Branches.  Throughout the month you can take your child to meet their favorite characters like Clifford the Big Read Dog, Olivia the Pig, Maisy the Mouse, Curious George or even Pete the Cat!

Check out the CADL events calendar for full programming details.

- Cassie V., Children’s Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

Defeat the Winter Doldrums

Call it the winter doldrums or cabin fever, but there’s no denying that winter canTheLegoAdventureBook leave both kids and parents feeling restless or bored.  When you’ve had enough of reading, try some of these activities to beat the winter blues while still practicing reading skills:

  1. Building with blocks. Studies have shown that building with blocks supports reading skills.  Many of our libraries host Lego Club.  Or take home TheLegoIdeasBooksome books and have a Lego-building marathon:
    The Lego Adventure Book: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More!
    The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination
  2. Walk in a winter wonderland. Take a walk around your neighborhood or even visit a nature center. Talk ExploreWinterwith young children about what they see and hear to help build vocabulary. Help an older child create a nature journal. Check out these books that will help you discover the sights and sounds of the winter landscape:
    Explore Winter!
    Snowflake Bentley
  3. Make your own winter Olympics. Kids practice listening WinterDayPlayskills and sequencing when playing games. These books are full of activities for indoors and out:
    The Kids Winter Handbook
    Winter Day Play! Activities, Crafts and Games for Indoors and Out

- Lynn H., CADL Youth Services Specialist

Favorite Kids Books of 2012

The end of the year is upon us, and there have been some great books published in 2012 for the younger set. Just in time for holiday shopping, scores of “best books of the year” lists are published by sources like NPR and Publisher’s Weekly. While it’s interesting to see what titles make the cut, there are always titles we wish made the lists, and titles that are on almost every list we don’t want you to miss.

These are unscientifically-selected favorites of two youth librarians, whose selections reflect our distinct reading tastes. Our lists may include hidden gems that receive much publicity, or debut authors who haven’t made it big yet.
Happy reading!

Picture Books

Chapter Books

  • Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood – The short chapters make this a great pick for reluctant readers.
  • Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile – This one is for beginning readers.
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio – This story touches on bullying without even mentioning the word.
  • What Came from the Stars by Gary Schmidt – Schmidt injects just the right amount of humor OneAndOnlyIvanand fantasy into circumstances to which many kids will relate.
  • The Secret of the Fortune Wookie by Tom Angleberger – McQuarrie Middle School’s students mis Origami Yoda when Dwight leaves for Tippett Academy, but he sends Sara a paper Fortune Wookie that seems to give advice just as good as Yoda’s — even if, in the hands of girls, it seems TheSecretOfTheFortuneWookiepreoccupied with romance.
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant, he decides he must find her a better life.

- Lynn H., Youth Specialist Librarian & Cassie V., Children’s Services Librarian

You call it snow, I call it a good reason to curl up with a book

As the parent of a toddler, I’m repeatedly reminded just how quickly young children develop an awareness for the world around them. The other morning I was getting my daughter ready to leave the house and explained there was a chance that it would snow. She remembered snow from last year and was excited at the prospect of playing in it and wanted to wear her full snowsuit. I told her there are different kinds of snow, and that her full snowsuit was unnecessary for the sleet mixture expected. She was disappointed until we decided she should wear her puddle-jumping boots instead.

These ‘teachable moments’ crop up frequently with young children in the course of everyday living. And while English language speakers may not have as extensive a vocabulary for snow as the Inuit, the conversation that I had with my daughter about the weather illustrates two of the key components of learning to read: vocabulary and background knowledge.

The toddler and pre-school years are a great time to introduce your child to concept books, which cover specific topics ranging from shapes and colors for younger children to the seasons, the senses and animal families for older children. Reading concept books helps to satisfy children’s natural curiosity and provides them with a vocabulary for asking about and describing what they see in their own world. As a parent I’ve discovered the joy that comes from reading concept books together — often something we read about in the book sparks an interesting conversation.  And at this young age children begin to realize books aren’t only a source of entertainment, but also a means for learning and understanding.

So the next time it’s snowing — or sleeting or raining — stay inside and explore the greater world with a concept book. Here are some of my favorites:

My Five Senses by Aliki

Hippopposites by Janik Coat

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert

Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids  by Gail Gibbons

Leaves, Leaves, Leaves by Nancy Wallace

Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh

- Lynn H., CADL Youth Services Specialist

Michigan has a Moose on the Loose!

The 2012 Michigan Reads! book is Moose on the Loose by Kathy-Jo Wargin and illustrated by John Bendall-Brunello.

The Michigan Reads! program seeks to highlight the importance of reading and sharing books with children and to recognize the vital role of libraries in providing access to quality books, programs and services to families. Each year a title is selected based on literary merit, readability and appeal to children.  Preference is given to Great Lakes area authors, but any picture book could be considered.

The Library of Michigan provides public schools, libraries, Head Start and Great Start Readiness programs in the state with a free copy of the book, posters and programming ideas.

As with adult orientated “One Book” programs, parents, caregivers, older siblings, teachers and librarians are encouraged to read the selected book with younger children throughout September and October.  In addition, many schools and organizations hold special events or share the title during storytimes or other programs.

Moose on the Loose is a rather imaginative story which ponders the question, “what would you do with a moose on the loose?” As the book continues, the moose’s antics become more daring, including entering a house and taking a bath! It’s a rhythmic romp and a fun story to share aloud.

Be sure to check out Moose on the Loose at your local CADL branch and share it with your little ones today!

An Apple a Day

Due to some pretty challenging weather this spring there are few places
to pick apples this fall, but you can still enjoy the season. Head on down to
your local branch of the Capital Area District Libraries system where you will find bushels of books on apples as well as other fall favorites like pumpkins, leaves and scarecrows. While you are there, be sure to check out these great titles:

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Simple projects or activities that relate to books or ideas you have
been sharing with your child can help reinforce learning as well as provide
some fun, quality time together! If you would like to try a simple apple
activity with your child, check out one of these:

1. Coffee Filter Apples: Yes, that big, red apple is made out of a coffee filter using washable markers, a sprinkling of water and some magazine pictures cut into the shapes of leaves and a stem. Let your child color a coffee filter with washable markers. Any color will do, but popular apple colors of red, green and yellow would work best. When your child is done, place the coffee filter on a piece of newspaper or paper towel and spray lightly with water until the colors start to bleed. While that is drying, look through a magazine searching for leaf and stem colors in pictures – this is a great hunt and find activity and provides opportunity to talk about different colors found in nature and the world around us. When the coffee filter apple is dry, cut to shape (or leave round) and glue on the leaves and stem. The apple looks great hanging in a window!

2. Sand Apple: The small yellow apple in the photo is decorated using colored sand! For this project, cut out an apple shape on white heavy paper (like construction paper, card stock, or a cereal box). Have your child paint the apple with glue and then decorate with appropriate colored items from around your house: colored sand like I used here or, torn magazine paper, beads, tissue paper, shaved crayon, thread, yarn, etc. The sand was a bit messy, but I loved the texture. To spice it up, add a sprinkling of cinnamon to the wet glue for a wonderful smelling apple!

Reading Without Words: Wordless Picture Books and Early Literacy

Books without words can help your young child learn to read.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  Looking at books which tell a story using only pictures can help young children with many skills, including vocabulary development and narrative skills.  The problem with these books is that many parents are uncomfortable “reading” a book like this.  Here are a few tips on how to read wordless picture books with your little ones.  Let the imagination fun begin!

  • Make up your own story as you go along. Use your own words to describe what’s happening in the pictures, how the character feels, etc. If your child can speak, ask them to help you make up the story.
  • Play “I Spy” with the pictures as you go through the book. Use phrases like, “Where is the bird?” or “What is that, sitting in the tree?” This will help with vocabulary acquisition.
  • Discuss with your child what you see happening in the pictures. “Do you think the girl looks sad? Why? What happened to make her sad?”

To get you started, here are a few amazing wordless picture books to share with your child:

Sea of Dreams by Dennis Nolan

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Seasons by Blexbolex

Flotsom by David Wiesner

Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage

-Liz V., Youth Services Librarian at
CADL Holt-Delhi

Sending the Class of 2025 off to School

Turn on the television or open the newspaper, and the signs of the approaching school year abound in ads featuring backpacks, folders, clothing and shoes.  For families with children entering kindergarten, the new school year signals a major transition for parent and child – one that may bring on excitment and anticipation as well as anxiety and worry.  The Michigan Department of Education has compiled parent guides that address the transition to kindergarten and provides the following suggestions for a successful start:

  • Parents should express a positive attitude about attending school.
  • It’s important to provide your child with a good breakfast.
  • Offer choices about clothing, food and school supplies to give your child a sense of control.
  • Prepare in advance to avoid rushing around in the morning.  Clothes, school supplies and lunches can all be readied in the evening.
  • And maybe most important, when dropping your child off in the classroom, make a point of saying goodbye instead of slipping off unnoticed.

Reading books together about the first day of kindergarten may help some families work through their emotions and feel better prepared.  At the very least, children (and parents) will realize that their feelings about starting school are universal.

Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten by Toni Buzzeo

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson

Ready for Kindergarten, StinkyFace? by Lisa McCourt

Eliza’s Kindergarten Surprise by Alice B. McGinty

Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum

- Lynn H., Youth Specialist at CADL Downtown Lansing

The Mitten Award

Each year the Children’s Services Division of the Michigan Library Association selects a book to receive its Mitten Award. Established in 1999, the award recognizes and promotes quality literature for ages up to 12.

As a Youth Services Librarian for the Capital Area District Library, I’m always excited to hear which titles have been selected. This year’s announcement was especially exciting for me, since I had the honor of serving on the 2012 selection committee. Along with 14 other librarians around the state, I spent countless hours reading and considering over 300 titles.

I was delighted to learn that the winner of the 2012 Mitten Award is Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, published by Henry Holt. It’s the story of ten-year-old Sasha Zaichek, who lives with his father in the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. When the police unexpectedly take his father away and leave Sasha homeless, his entire life and belief system begin to unravel.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose will grab kids from the first chapter. The pages are not crammed full of text; there is plenty of white space and many illustrations (also by Yelchin) that add to the story and help it flow.  Although kids will find the reading easy to handle, the story itself is thoroughly thought-provoking. It provides a good look at a slice of history as seen through the eyes of a child, using just the right touch to keep from dwelling on the true-life violence and atrocities of the time period.

The San Francisco Chronicle review called the book “a miracle of brevity…juxtaposing hope and fear, truth and tyranny, small moments and historical forces, innocence and evil.” I highly recommend it for ages 9 and up.

Four honor books were also chosen by this year’s committee: 

  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick—Another illustrated marvel from the author of the Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate—A lovely story about art, hope, and  the friendship between an easy-going gorilla and a baby elephant
  • Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet—A gorgeous book that pays tribute to the creator of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio—The story of a funny, courageous boy named August who, despite his facial deformities, is looking for the same things as everyone else—friendship, understanding, and the freedom to be himself

Find these titles and many more for the young readers in your life by visiting your local CADL branch or

- Cassie V., Youth Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

If You Liked the Show…Reading Suggestions for our Summer Events!

Summer reading events are starting up at our libraries, featuring magicians, storytellers, puppet shows, live animal demonstrations, musicians and more. These talented performers teach kids through entertainment, so that kids may not even realize they’re learning. If your kid is especially excited about the topic of an event, why not extend the experience with books? This can be a great way to entice a reluctant reader or to beat summertime boredom.

Amazing Feats & Magic

Amazing Magic Tricks series by Norm Barnhart

Escape!: the Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman

Magical Illusions by Jon Tremaine

Art, Music & Theater

Cool Performances series by Karen Latchana Kenney (includes titles on costumes, makeup, props & sets)

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

M is for Melody: a Musical Alphabet by Kathy-Jo Wargin

More than Meets the Eye: Seeing Art with All Five Senses by Bob Raczka

Rock ‘n Roll Camp for Girls: How to Start a Band, Write Songs, Record an Album, and Rock Out! edited by Marisa Anderson

Creatures & Critters

Adopted by an Owl: the True Story of Jackson the Owl by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

Little Lost Bat by Sandra Markle

Night Science for Kids: Exploring the World After Dark by Terry Krautwurst

Thunder Birds: Nature’s Flying Predators by Jim Arnosky

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Puppets & Storytelling

Balloons Over Broadway: the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Jim Henson: the Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull

Pete Seeger’s Storytelling Book by Pete Seeger & Paul Du Bois Jacobs

Simple Puppets from Everyday Materials by Barbara MacDonald

Three-Minute Tales: Stories from Around the World to Tell When Time is Short by Margaret MacDonald

- Lynn H., CADL Youth Services Specialist