Like many people, I struggled with math throughout most of my education. I say “most” because I got very lucky in seventh grade when my mother found an awesome tutor for me. His name was Ken. He was math professor who took a three year sabbatical to write the “great American novel.”

Ken was a fantastic storyteller, and he used stories to explain math concepts to me. In the context of a good story, the concepts came alive. Under his engaging tutelage, my grade in algebra went from a D+ to an A in the course of several months. More importantly, for one glorious year, I loved math. I realized math is a language I could apply to problems in the real world. He showed me fractals, and encouraged me to doodle them in the margins of my homework when I got bored. He is the one and only person who ever said that I had a great mind for math.

Recently, however, with the push for better STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) a number of math teachers and mathematicians have been urging their colleagues to find new ways to explore this critical subject in the classroom.

Conrad Wolfram is a mathematician and founder of computerbasedmath.org. In his 2010 TedTalk, Conrad Wolfram, discussed why it’s important to rethink math education and how adapting it to computers is the future. If you think math is all about terrifying tests and endless calculation give this dynamic video a chance to show you that math is for everyone.

Here is a list of library materials that will get you and your family excited about math: Let’s Be Math-People!

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Summer Reading at the Niles Library is a big deal! We work for months and months to get ready for kids to come in and play our giant-sized games. Now it is up and ready to play! Here’s how it works.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step One: Come to KidSpace and sign up. You will get a reading folder.

Step Two: Take a free turn on the game! You will already have earned your first Glummy token to spend at the store.

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Younger kids play our Read-to-Me game, where they can play animal games with our volunteers. They win a prize every time!

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You might be thinking, That sounds like fun, but there’s a lot of other fun stuff to do over the summer. But kids work hard through the school year to improve their reading and pre-reading skills, and if they stop reading over the summer, they will lose what they learned. Studies show that kids who participate in summer reading programs do better in school. So take some time to read this summer, and come to the library and play.

For more information about our “Paws To Read” Summer Reading Clubs for adults and teens, click here!

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middleground

Being a children’s librarian involves a bit of psychology, beginning with the need to see different segments of the PreK through Grade 8 population as having distinctly different needs. So it is with middle school students (sometimes dubbed tweens): they know they are way different from elementary school kids, and different yet again from the high school students who rule the Teen Underground on the Lower Level.

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boysread

American boys are falling behind girls in reading. Many experts believe that and, if it’s true, it is a source of deep concern. Just the fact it might be true keeps librarians awake at night. Niles, no more nor less than anywhere else, has such boy readers and needs to understand what’s at stake.

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lego

The Niles Public Library’s Lego Club is built on the idea that motivated and creative kids, ranging from Kindergarten through 8th Grade, will produce clever and interesting projects if you take these steps:

1) put a few thousand Legos in front of them

2) maintain a safe space where they are free to experiment, plus “show off” creations to each other and their parents or caregivers

3) take photos of Lego-makers with their creations (everyone who wants theirs taken) and post to social media

4) provide a tasty treat when Lego Club ends (a “thank you” for everybody’s cleaning up and putting Legos back in their bins).

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boysread

“What can I do to help my son enjoy reading more?”

Imagine you are me – the only male librarian in KidSpace – and the person asking is a harried mother (it is usually the mom who’s asking). Her son gets so-so grades and reads below his grade level; what’s more, getting him to read at all is like pulling teeth. The only incentive left is to withhold the Xbox controller until his school-assigned reading is done… And reading books for pleasure? That aren’t even on the school list? Forget it!

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jp2

You’ve got to hand it to best-selling author James Patterson: he is doing his part to get young people to read. He’d already put $1.5 million into student scholarships and essay competitions, then set aside $1 million to help independent bookstores.

Now he is bankrolling the 2-million-hits-per-month website ReadKiddoRead.com, which profiles high-interest books. Asked about what’s at stake, Patterson minces no words: “I’m here to save lives.”

Strong words. But Patterson should know: he is a one-man publishing empire, author of youth and young adult classics such as Maximum Ride, Alex Cross and, most recently, Treasure Hunters and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. He knows his audience — and is alarmed. “There are…millions of kids in this country who’ve never read a book they like,” he told Kirkus magazine.

Patterson knows what dangers loom for those who hate to read: “[I]t’s going to be hellish…to get through high school, and…[get] jobs and a life that has some satisfaction.”

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battleauthor

Niles Public Library hosted its Battle of the Books Awards Ceremony Friday night, Feb. 7, with help from the author of Kimchi and Calamari and Rocky Road: Rose Kent, ex-naval officer, Kraft Foods employee, and business writer turned bestselling children’s author.

Not the usual career path (if there is such a thing). Anyway, it all started in the third grade when a teacher, impressed by a poem Rose Kent had written, told her, “You know, Rose, you are a writer.” She didn’t especially believe it, and didn’t actively pursue that vocation for a couple of decades, but it made an impression.

It came as no surprise to her mother when the third grader raced home: “She just asked me, ‘Who do think has been using all that loose leaf paper?,’” said Kent. A self-professed “freckle-faced, shy kid at school,” Kent would come home, grab handfuls of paper, and start writing. Her stories featured bold characters (not like the shy person she felt herself to be) having amazing adventures all over the world. “It was my way of making sense of things,” she says.

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Are you constantly picking up after your kids? Do you trip over toys when you walk down the hall? Do your kids’ bedrooms often look like the Tazmanian Devil just snuck in the door and out the window? Do they whine or freak out when you ask them to clean their rooms? If so, you are not alone. Learning to keep a place neat and tidy is a lifelong struggle for many families. That’s why it is important to get kids accustomed to participating in the day-to-day tasks that keep your household running smoothly.

More importantly, chores teach children the importance of community and responsibility. Kids who have a “job to do” feel a sense of purpose and competency. When kids do their “jobs” they are, in a very real sense, becoming productive members of the family. This sense of self-worth bleeds into other aspects of their lives.

That said, kids will be kids. And getting kids to do their chores without protest is all but impossible.

Here are a few tips to help you win the chore war:

1) Choose age-appropriate chores. Here is a Montessori chart of “Age Appropriate Chores for Children” that offers a few ideas of what kids can handle at various developmental stages:

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Kids-Best-Books

2013 was a year of brilliant books for kids.

From picture books to novels, KidSpace librarians read all year long.

Along the way, we noted our favorites in five categories: Picture Books and Readers; Chapter Books for 3rd and 4th Graders, Chapter Books for 5th Grade and Up; Illustrated Fiction (picture books for older kids), Graphic Novels, Poetry and Folklore; and Non-Fiction. To create a list of 100 or so books, we combined our favorites with the top picks of the children’s literature journals we follow.

Below are links to the Niles Public Library KidSpace Best of 2013 choices.

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