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A Word from Pat Scales

November 03, 2014

Celebrate American Education Week

“Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility” – Theme of American Education Week

This year marks the 93rd annual celebration of American Education Week. The National Education Association
suggests daily activities or ways to spotlight education during the week November 17-22. But the focus on the importance of education leads to many programming opportunities for school and public libraries during this week
and all year long. The fact that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who speaks out about the importance of education for girls in a country where girls aren’t honored, received the Nobel Peace Prize is reason enough to help students in the United States understand how lucky they are to live in a country that offers free public education to all. At the same time, students need to know that educational opportunities haven’t always been available to every school-age child. Our history points to the fact that slave owners didn’t think that slaves had the right to an education. Nightjohn and Sarny by Gary Paulsen tell the story of two people born in slavery who risked their lives to teach black children to read. The early immigrants, farm families, or those suffering economic challenges often kept their children home from school to help earn a living. Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop tells of one girl who desperately wants to continue her education but must drop out to help her family by working in the mill.

  • Read aloud Dear Malala We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney (picture book). Ask readers to discuss why girls aren’t offered the same educational opportunities as boys in Pakistan. What makes Malala different from other girls in her country?
  • Explain what Malala means, “One child, one teacher, one book and one person can change the world.”
  • Have readers name one book they’ve read that has broadened their view of the world. Instruct them write a letter to their parents that state how the book changed their global view. Suggestions from Random House include:

Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario
Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg
Slumgirl Dreaming (middle grade) by Ribina Ali with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar
A Time of Miracles (young adult) by Anne-Laura Bondoux and translated from French by Y. Maudet
The Book Thief (young adult) by Markus Zusak
An Ocean Apart, A World Away and Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (young adult) by Lensey Namioka
Shabanu, Haveli or The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

  • Ask readers to read about The Nobel Peace Prize and write a front-page story for a national newspaper that pays tribute to Malala and her efforts on behalf of girls.
  • Have students research one of the milestones in public education in the following timeline of events documented by the NEA.
    The following books from Random House may help them understand these important events:

Sylvia & Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling
Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpool
Wonder (middle grade) by R.J. Palacio

  • Recognizing and honoring teachers is one of the activities that NEA suggests for American Education Week. Ask students to read a book about a special teacher and think of a way to honor them. Suggestions from Random House include:

Miss Brooks Loves Books and Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Where Tales are Told and Ogres are Welcome) (picture books) by Barbara Bottner and illus. by Michael Emberley
The Magical Ms. Plum (picture book) by Bonny Becker and illus. by Amy Portnoy
SCAT (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen
Burning Up (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney
Ringside, 1925 (young adult) by Jen Bryant

September 29, 2014

October: Family History Month

by Pat Scales

October is Family History Month, and school and public libraries have many books to help readers focus on the idea of family heritage. Some families have family trees that date back to the time their ancestors immigrated to America. Others may only know names of two or three generations. Family history projects in schools have sometimes been an issue with adopted children: Do they place their name on the tree of their adoptive family? Many families have no problem with this, while others feel as though it doesn’t represent the truth of their child’s heritage. In the event this is an issue with their parents, these readers may focus on fictional families (as in the activities below for all readers). If the adoption is a foreign adoption, then these readers should be asked to share something about the culture of their birth.

● Have readers ask the oldest member of their family to tell a favorite story from his or her   childhood.
Then read aloud the picture book Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.
Have readers use the method of storytelling used in the book and tell their family story to the group. (Even adopted
children may find this a fun activity.)

  ● A good way to help readers focus on family history is to look at old family photographs. Ask them to make
photocopies or digital copies of at least five photographs (don’t risk losing the originals) and write captions for
each photograph. These may include school pictures, baby pictures, and family reunion photos.

  ● Have readers find out about an object that has been in their family for generations. Perhaps it’s a household item, a
baby garment, a toy, or a wedding dress. Then have them draw a picture or take a digital photograph of the item
and write a creative story about it.

  ● Invite someone who immigrated to the United States to talk with the group about their family’s immigration story.
Prepare for the speaker by having students read one of the following:

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
(picture book) by Dan Yaccarino

I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II
(picture book) by Marisabina Russo

Children of the River (middle Crew) by Linda Crew

A House of Tailors (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Ashes of Roses (young adult) by Mary Jane Auch

Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nazario

Goodbye, Vietnam (young adult) by Gloria Whelan

  ● Ask readers to read one of the following books and then write a family history for the main character. Be creative,
and embellish the story by taking it back two more generations.

Stitchin’ and Pullin’ (picture book) by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Child of the Mountains (middle grade) by Marilyn Sue Shank

Family Ties (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Nest (middle grade) by Esther Ehrlich

The Quilt (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Hattie Big Sky (young adult) by Kirby Larson

The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Orchards (young adult) by Holly Thompson

Roots and Wings (young adult) by Many Ly

What the Moon Saw (young adult) by Laura Resau

  ● Have readers make Family Heritage Boxes. Decorate them with photocopies of old photographs. Then pick at least
five items to include in the box that would tell their personal story to future generations.

  ● Refer to the following websites for ideas of other ways to celebrate Family History Month.




September 13, 2014

September: Fall Hat Month

by Pat Scales

In my neck of the woods it seems a little early for Fall Hat Month, but for folks who live in some areas of the country warm hats may well be in order in September. Hats are worn for all kinds of reasons: some people wear them to protect themselves from the hot sun; some wear them to keep their head warm in the winter; some wear them for religious purposes; others wear them simply to accessorize. The Queen of England loves her hats, and the journalists covering the last royal wedding for television and newspapers focused much space on the fascinators worn by female wedding guests.

Hats can be a lot of fun, and library users of all ages should be invited to join in the celebration of Fall Hat Month. Here are a few ideas:

- Read aloud (to all ages) The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss. Lead a discussion about
  Bartholomew’s experience in the Kingdom of Didd.

- Ask readers to bring in the oldest hat belonging to their family and tell the hat’s story. Then have them create a five-
  frame cartoon strip that explains the significance of the hat.

- Have them write a short story that is about a favorite hat.

- Provide a box of fabric, feathers, beads, etc. and ask older readers to create a fascinator. Have them choose a model
  to wear the creation in a runway show.

- Create a hat museum in the library. Ask readers to make a hat for a favorite fictional book character for the museum.
  Then have them write a description of the hat and why it’s appropriate for the character. Suggested characters from
  Random House include:

Miss Brooks from Miss Brooks Loves Books (picture book) by Barbara Bittner & illus. by Michael Emberley

Grandpa in Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

Widow tulip Jones from Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (picture book) by Anne Isaacs & illus. by Kevin Hawkes

Alex Hart and brother Chuck from Racing the Moon (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong & illus. by Tim Jessell

Gabriel Finley or one of his three friends from Gabriel Finley and the Raven Riddle (middle grade) by George Hagen

Little Man in Paperboy (middle grade) by Vince Vawter

Ophelia Jan Worthington-Whittard from Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (middle grade) by Karen Foxlee

The ex-governor in Skink (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Crash Coogan from Crash (young adult) by Jerry Spinelli

Pearl DeWitt from Dark Water (young adult) by Laura McNeal

Pearl from Written in Stone (young adult) by Rosanne Parry

Zach in Road Rash (young adult) by Mark Huntley Parsons

- Offer research opportunities for older readers and ask them to find out the type hats worn in historical periods.
  Ask them to cite their sources. Then suggest that they read a book set in one historical period and create a cover for
  the book with an illustration of an appropriate hat. Suggested books from Random House include:

Colonial Era

Storyteller (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Woods Runner (young adult) by Gary Paulsen

Civil War

The Storm Before Atlanta (middle grade) by Karen Schwabach

Western Expansion

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Immigrant Experience

Ashes of Roses (young adult) by Mary Jane Auch

World War II

The Eyes of the Emperor (middle grade) by Graham Salisbury

August 18, 2014

August: Last Days of Summer

by Pat Scales

August is a symbol of the end of summer to most school-age children and teens. Many actually begin their school year in the month of August; others start back to school after Labor Day. Almost all will spend the remaining days of summer soaking up last bits of fun before they have to focus on their studies once again. Summer reading programs may be ending in public libraries, but that doesn’t mean that reading should end. There are so many ways that libraries can celebrate the end of summer with patrons, even with those who haven’t participated in the summer reading program. Consider some of the following ideas?

  • Have older readers write an online essay for the library website called “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” from the point of view of the main character in a book that is set in the summer.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (middle grade)

Crow by Barbara Wright (middle grade)

How Tía Lola Saved the Summer by Julia Alvarez (middle grade)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (middle grade)

Paperboy by Vince Vawter (middle grade)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (middle grade)

The Quilt by Gary Paulsen (middle grade)

Turtle in Paradise by Gary Paulsen (middle grade)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (middle grade)

The Living by Matt de la Peña (young adult)

Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña (young adult)

Orchards by Holly Thompson (young adult)

  • Encourage younger readers to share orally how main characters in books spent their summer vacation. Suggestions from Random House include:

The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp by Stan and Jan Berenstain (picture book)

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold (picture book)

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora and illus. by Raul Colón (picture book)

Going, Going, Gone! With the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume and illus. by James Stevenson (easy reader)

  • Ask readers to share a main character with whom they would most like to spend the last days of summer. Then play charades and have readers act the activity that they and the main character are likely to enjoy. Some readers may choose the following main characters:

The grandfather from Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman and illus. by Stephen Gammell

Junie B. Jones from the series (beginning reader) by Barbara Park

Alvin Ho from the series (easy reader) by Lenore Look and illus. by LeUyen Pham

Calvin Coconut from the series (easy reader) by Graham Salisbury

Piper Reed from the series (middle grade) by Kimberly Willis Holt

Brian from Brian’s Return (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

April or Melanie from The Gypsy Game (middle grade) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Ned from Jelly Belly (middle grade) by Robert Kimmel Smith

Stanley Yelnats from Holes (middle grade) by Louis Sachar

Georges or Safer from Liar & Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

Jack from Hokey Pokey (middle grade) by Jerry Spinelli

Amanda from Zero (young adult) by Tom Leveen

Mikey from Lord of the Deep (young adult) by Graham Salisbury

Sammy Keyes from the series (young adult) by Wendelin Van Draanen

Simone from A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (young adult) by Dana Reinhardt

Zach from Road Rash (young adult) by Mark Huntley Parsons

  • Finally, because even the youngest school-age students have summer reading lists, the public library may have a summer reading night for readers and their parents or caregivers. Make it fun and suggest that readers share a summary of the book in rap.

July 18, 2014

July: Anti-Boredom Month

by Pat Scales

Most children and young adults look forward to summer vacation, but many express boredom two weeks after school is out. Perhaps this is why July is “Anti-Boredom Month.” No one should be bored when they can enroll in a summer reading program at their local library, but some children don’t have transportation or caregivers who can get them to the library. In these cases it’s important that the library come to them. Some libraries do this by offering summer reading programs through book mobile services. It may also be done through organizations that provide summer care for children. For example, the Girls and Boys Clubs programs may be a natural partnership. Even Title I programs in schools may not offer a full range of library services and would welcome the public library involvement in serving this population. It’s common for libraries to have summer reading themes, but the program will bring in more readers if there are activities beyond a focus on the numbers of books read. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Introduce a new genre each week. Include activities that call upon readers’ imaginations: (1) Write a rap that conveys the plot of a book (2) Write teasers to introduce a book to other readers (3) Produce a video to entice others to read the book. A sampling of titles from Random House include:


The Ballad of Wilbur and the Moose by John Stadler (picture book)

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson (middle grade)

The Living by Matt De La Peña (young adult)


Nate the Great series by Majorie Weinman Sharmat & illus. by Marc Simont (early reader)

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt & illus. by Iacopo Bruno (middle grade)

Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise by Wendelin VanDraanen (middle grade)

Mojo by Tim Tharp (young adult)


Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss (picture book)

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (middle grade)

Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck by Dale E. Basye & illus. by Bob Dob (middle grade)

Spoils by Tammar Stain (young adult)

Science Fiction

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Red Robot by Margaret McNamara & illus. by Mark Fearing (picture book)

The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta (middle grade)

Indigo by Gina Linko (young adult)

Touched by Cyn Balong (young adult)

Historical Fiction

Born and Bred in the Great Depression by Jonah Winter & illus. by Kimberly Buicken Root (picture book)

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (middle grade)

Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff (middle grade)

Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury (middle grade)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (middle grade)

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson (young adult)

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen (young adult)


How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan & illus. by Lee Wildish (picture book)

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale by Sally Lloyd-Jones & illus. by Alexandra Boiger (picture book)

Chessie Mack series by Steve Cotler (middle grade)

Middle School Cool by Malya Williams (middle grade)

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm (middle grade)

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk (young adult)

Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart (young adult)

Will by Maria Boyd (young adult)


In New York by Marc Brown (picture book)

The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen (young adult)

Cause by Tonya Bolden (middle grade-young adult)

A Passion for Victory by Benson Bobrick (middle grade-young adult)

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario (young adult)

  • Older readers may enjoy creating a webpage where readers can share a favorite book. Encourage them to help younger readers with posts. Readers using book mobile services may post when the book mobile comes to their neighborhood.
  • Sponsor a writing contest that grows out of a favorite novel. Ask readers to write an essay called “Name of a character Is Not Bored.” (e.g. “Harriet Welsch Is Not Bored,” or “Woohoo Cray Is Not Bored”)
  • Finally, have readers plan a musical production called “Anti-Boredom Reads” that includes a sampling of books read during the month of July. Each reader should be included in the production. They should pick a favorite book to present. They should design and create appropriate props and scenery. Younger readers may need to work as a group. Have readers make invitations for their family members and posters advertising the program. This type of activity is easily accomplished in childcare facilities outside the public library. Teens might coordinate this activity. Many need volunteer hours for school, and this is a perfect opportunity for them.

May 30, 2014

June: A Whopper of a Tale

by Pat Scales

Most young readers study tall tales and folklore at some point in school. Even those who haven’t actually studied the genre may be familiar with stories about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Blackbeard, Davy Crocket, Daniel Boone, Annie Oakley or Buffalo Bill. Most of these stories have a tall tale element. Since June 28 is Paul Bunyan Day, libraries may take the opportunity in June to have some fun with tall tales. Discuss the following elements of the genre:


• Hero is larger than life and stronger than real people
• The hero has a specific task
• The problem is solved in a humorous or outrageous way
• The details are exaggerated
• The story is difficult to believe

1. Read aloud a Paul Bunyan story (http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/paul-bunyan/). Apply the characteristics of a tall tale to the story read aloud. How do the exaggerated details make the story humorous? Why is the story unbelievable? Discuss why the stories called “tall tales.”
2. Discuss symbolism with readers. Ask them to discuss how Paul Bunyan symbolizes “might,” “a willingness to work,” and “a resolve to overcome obstacles.”
3. Libraries should have books that include many different Paul Bunyan stories. Display them and encourage readers to borrow them for their own personal entertainment.
4. Introduce other tall tales such as American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Michael McCurdy (all ages). Allow readers to work in small groups and read aloud a tall tale other than Paul Bunyan. Have them consider the following questions:

a. Why is the story considered a tall tale?
b. Is the story based on a real person?
c. How is the person a hero?
d. What is the exaggerated element?


5. Have readers read about a hero or heroine of their choice, and write a tall
tale about the person. Encourage them to illustrate their story, placing emphasis on the exaggerated part of the story. Suggestions from Random House include:

The Bravest Woman in America by Marissa Moss & illus. by Andrea U’Ren (picture book)
The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen (picture book)
Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs & illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (picture book)
New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher (picture book)
The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan & illus. by Sophie Blackall (picture book)
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (middle grade)

6. Encourage older readers to create a tall tale from a work of fiction. Let them know that tall tales are traditionally short and often grew out of the oral tradition. For this reason, they should use a specific scene from the book, and plan to tell the tale to the group. Allow them to make the larger than life hero or heroine either the main character or a secondary character from the novel. Ask them to think carefully about the details to exaggerate. What is the outrageous resolution? How does the hero of their story embody the symbolism of Paul Bunyan? Suggestions from Random House include:

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino (picture book)
Chompby Carl Hiaasen (middle grade)
Holes by Louis Sachar (middle grade)
Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale (middle grade)
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (middle grade)
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (middle grade)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (middle grade)
The River by Gary Paulsen (middle grade)
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (middle grade0
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel (young adult)
North by Night by Katherine Ayers (young adult)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen (young adult)
Nature Girl by Jane Kelley (young adult)
Roy Morelli Steps up to the Plate by Thatcher Heldring (young adult)
Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan (young adult)