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.
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).
“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!
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.”
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.
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:
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.
Are you planning a road trip this year?
If so, there is a good chance you will find yourself stuck in a not-so festive traffic jam. Here’s a mind-hack to help you keep the gas-break-honk blues at bay: imagine the sea of cars is a huddle of penguins.
According to a study published in the New Journal of Physics, emperor penguins use stop-and-go movements similar to dense highway traffic to protect themselves from the harsh Antarctic winter.
Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute filmed penguin huddles from above, and studied the time-lapse footage looking for patterns. Every minute or so a single penguin waddled about 2 cm causing all the surrounding penguins to waddle 2 cm in response. These small movements sent waves of corresponding waddles through the entire huddle. This pattern is similar to that of cars making their way through dense traffic.
Ah, the holidays.
There are any versions of cherishing the holidays as there are families. They may watch (for the 27th time!) Ralphie’s quest for an air rifle in A Christmas Story or George’s redemption in It’s a Wonderful Life. Never any shortage of baked goods around this time, either. If a tree is involved, out come dusty boxes of ornaments and in comes a five foot evergreen. Others will light the Menorah to celebrate Hanukkah. It’s all good.
But the holidays also bring something which strikes fear into the hearts of parents: Children with no school to go to! A few hours of TV-movie nostalgia and cookie-munching and tree decorating may not be enough. Where to find things for them to do, watch, listen to, and — yes, even over the holidays — read?
Here. Video games help the holidays speed by. If the holidays are a “blast your enemies”-free zone, maybe they’d go for electronic hockey or Sims or Diego. If blasting is allowed, they could get in touch with their inner Harry Potter. A little laid-back wizarding — in Kinect, Wii, Playstation 3, Nintendo DS, or Xbox — might be just the thing.