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A Word from Pat Scales

March 28, 2013

April: What’s So Funny?

There is no one who loves a good laugh more than the young.  They giggle over knock-knock jokes like they were the ones who created them.  They double over laughing at silly pranks, and look for hilarious stories to share with one another.  Since April is National Humor Month, I thought it appropriate to offer program ideas to help young patrons focus on the lighter side of life. The nation has been celebrating National Humor Month since 1976 with the idea of making the public aware of the importance of laughter.  Before searching for humorous books to recommend to the young, think about how the concept of “funny” changes as children get older.  You can discover this by asking various age groups to share something funny that happened to them in the past month.  What is so funny about what they share?  Is there a difference in how boys and girls see humor?  Do you see humor in what they are sharing?  After identifying the “funny” side of the young, try these programming ideas:

  •  Display books of humorous poetry.  Divide readers into small groups and ask them to select a poem to perform as a choral reading.  Suggest that they make a hat or a prop that best characterizes the humor in the poetry.  Books from Random House include:

For Laughing Out Loud: Poems to Tickle Your Funnybone (all ages) by Jack Prelutsky

Revolting Rhymes (all ages) by Roald Dahl

  • Many readers find humor in simple nonsense.  Ask readers to share a nonsensical book that appeals to their funnybone.  Readers of all ages may gravitate to books by Dr. Seuss.
  • Introduce humorous picture books to the youngest readers.  Select a few to read aloud and ask them to tell you why they think the books are funny.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Anatole by Eve Titus & illus. by Paul Galdone

 Erroll by Hannah Shaw

Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String by Bob Boyle

 Frederick by Leo Lionni

 Pirates vs. Cowboys by Aaron Reynolds & illus. by David Barneda

The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes

  • Display humorous books for beginning readers.  Have them select one to read and then ask them to draw a funny scene from the book.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman

Have You Seen My Dinosaur? By Jon Surgal & illus. by Joe Mathieu

Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

Porky and Bess by Ellen Weill and Mel Friedman & illus. by Marsha Winborn

  • Older readers respond to humor in many different ways.  Sometimes they find delight in specific scenes in novels, and other times they find humor in the characters.  Suggest that they locate several humorous books and identify the humor in each novel.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Chomp (ages 9-12) by Carl Hiaasen

Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes (ages 9-12) by Louis Sachar

The Elevator Family (ages 8-11) by  Doouglas Evans

The Fast and Furriest (ages 9-12) by Andy Behrens

Flipped (ages 9-12) by Wendelin Van Draanen

I Don’t Believe It, Archie! (ages 9-12) by Andrew Norriss & illus. by Hannah Shaw

The Willoughbys (ages 9-12) by Lois Lowry

Crash Test Love (YA) by Ted Michael

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop (ages 8-11) by Kate Saunders

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan (YA) by Sean Rudetsky

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (YA) by Rachel Cohen & David Levithan

Spanking Shakespeare (YA) by Jake Wizner & illus. by Richard Ewing

Teen Angst? Naaah… (YA) by Ned Vizzin

  • Sponsor a contest called “What’s So Funny?”  Allow each reader to submit one title for the contest.  Then ask all readers to read the books and vote.  Have a winner for elementary, middle and young adult readers.


  • Enlist the help of readers of all ages to create a bibliography of “funny” books to post on the library’s website as a resource for families.

March 01, 2013

March: Music in Our Schools Month

Budgets cuts in schools often affect the arts programs first.  Yet, most children and teens enjoy all that the arts offer them.  March is Music in Our Schools Month and this is a good time to celebrate with readers of all ages the role of music in our nation’s history, and how it relates to all cultures.  Public libraries might also make music a part of their programming during the month.  Here are a few ideas for school and public libraries:

Ask readers to share a favorite song.  Then have them teach the song to a group. Have the group perform the song for a class. Include some research skills by asking them to find out the origin of the song.  What is the genre?  Is it a folk song, ballad, contemporary rock piece, show tune, or country song?
Invite local musicians to talk with a class or reading group about their journey as a musician. At what age did they begin taking music lessons?  Was there a music program in their school?  Is music their career, or hobby?  How can it be both?
Introduce books that celebrate music of all types.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Picture Books

Early Reader

Middle Grade

Young Adult

Have readers pick a favorite rhyming picture book and write a rap using the text of the book.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Ask those who play an instrument to demonstrate their talent to the group.

Have readers pick a zoo animal talk about the musical instrument that best describes their sound.  Which animal is a trumpet? A French horn? A flute? A Bass?

Encourage older readers to find out the role of music in our history.  Ask them to find out the kind of music that the main character in the following historical novels might know:

Play a few ballads for readers.  Then divide them into small groups and ask them to write a ballad about a favorite book character.  Suggestions from Random House include:


January 31, 2013

February – Love is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate relationships.  Whether it a friend, family member or a romantic relationship, readers like to send Valentine’s Day cards.  This special day has indeed become commercial, but readers should be encouraged to make their own cards rather than spending money on ones someone else created.

Here are suggestions for celebrating Valentine’s Day:

  •  Divide older readers into two groups, and ask each group to research St. Valentine and write a one-act play about him.  One group should make their play for younger readers, and the other for their peers. Then have them to perform it for appropriate groups.
  •  Bring in samples of Valentine cards for readers to study.  Include cards for all types of relationships:  parent, child, grandparents, and friends.  Also include serious cards and humorous cards.  Engage readers in a discussion about what it means to select or make a card that is appropriate for a specific person.
  •  Ask readers from middle to high school to use books in the library or sites on the Internet to find images of historical Valentine’s Day cards.  Then have them make a card for a character in a historical novel.  Suggestions from Random House:

            All the Way Home (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

            Hattie Big Sky (middle grade) by Kirby Larson

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

            Sylvia and Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling

            A Far Away Island (YA) by Annika Thor

            Ashes of Roses (YA) by Mary Jane Auch

            How I Found the Strong (YA) by Margaret McMullan

  •  Display books about love and Valentine’s Day and suggest that readers pick one to share with a special friend.  Suggestions from Random House:

            The Berenstain Bears’ Funny Valentine (Picture book) by Stan and Jan Berenstain

            I Haiku You (picture book) by Betsy E. Snyder

            Who Needs Love? (picture book) by Elise Primavere & illus. by Laura Park

            Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine (early reader) by Barbara Park &         illus. by Denise Brunkus

            Bad Hair Day (YA) by Carrie Harris

            Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love (young adult) by Pat Mora

            How They Met and Other Stories (YA) by David Levithan

           Love and Other Perishable Items (YA) by Laura Buzo

            Meant to Be (YA) by Lauren Morrill

            Romeo Redeemed (YA) by Stacey Jay

            Unleashed (YA) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

  • Make a valentine for the main character in a novel.  Suggestions from Random House:

            Hugo in Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String (picture book) by Bob


            Autumn in Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (middle grade) by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

            Madison in No Cream Puffs (middle grade) by Karen Day

            Carson in The New Kid (middle grade) by Mavis Jukes

            Primrose Squarp in One Year in Coal Harbor (middle grade) by Polly Horvath

            Sally J. Freedman in Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (middle grade) by Judy Blume

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

  •  Read a novel and make a valentine that two or more of the characters might give to one another.  Suggestions from Random House:

            The kids to their grandfather in Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Staphen Gammell

                     Georges and Safer in Liar & Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

            Hattie and Delores in Finding Somewhere (young adult) by Joseph Monninger

            Melanie and Miguel in Melanie in Manhattan (middle grade) by Carol Weston

                       The girls in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (middle grade) by Ann Brashares

  •  Make a valentine that the following characters give to their teacher:

      Gooney Bird in Gooney Bird Greene (picture booy) By Lois Lowry

            Missy and her classmates in Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don’t) ( picture  book) by Barbara Bottner & illus. by Michael Emberley

            Melonhead in Melonhead and the Vegalicious Disaster (middle grade) by Katy             Kelly & illus. by Giallian Johnson

  • Ask readers to think about novels they have read and determine which main character most needs a valentine.  Then have them write an essay that explains why.  Suggestions from Random House:

            Charlie in Flightsend: A Summer of Discovery (middle grade) by Linda Newbery

            Roy Morelli in Roy Morelli Steps up to the Plate (middle grade) by Tatcher Heldring

            Zitlally in Star in the Forest (middle grade) by Laura Resau

            Will Halpin in The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (YA) by Josh Berk

            Vinnie in Not Exactly a Love Story (YA) by Audrey Couloumbis

            Andi Alpers in Revolution (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly

            Jace Witherspooon in Split (YA) by Swati Avasthi

                        Karyn in You Against Me (YA) by Jenny Downham

  •  Make a valentine that a character in a novel might send to one or both parents.  Suggestions from Random House:

                  Andres in Freckle Juice (middle grade) by Judy Blume

            Karen Newman in It’s Not the End of the World (middle grade) by Judy Blume

            The Penderwick sisters in The Penderwicks and the Penderwicks on Gardam  Street (middle grade) by Jeanne Birdsall

            Amanda in Unraveling (YA) by Michelle Baldine & Lynn Biederman

January 04, 2013

January — Celebrating the Presidential Inauguration

Inauguration Day takes place on January 20, but the public swearing into office of President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden will be on Monday, January 21, 2013. There will be a small, private swearing in on Sunday, January 20.  The theme of the inauguration festivities is “Faith in America’s Future,” which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The festivities will begin on Saturday, January 19 with a National Day of Service, which celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many school children will watch the events on Inauguration Day.  Help them prepare by engaging them in a variety of library activities.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Have readers suggest activities for National Day of Service.  Ideas may include cleaning up litter in neighborhoods, or around the school, shelving books at the public library, reading aloud to young children in the neighborhood or public library, or working with a local service organization that welcomes student volunteers. Then have them post the suggestions on the school or library website.
  • Sponsor a Presidential Trivia Contest.  Have students use books in the library or sites on the Internet to locate the answers to the following questions:

(Ask them to site their sources)

Which amendment to the Constitution changed Inauguration Day from March to January?

Who was the first President inaugurated on January 20?

Who was the first President inaugurated in Washington DC?

Who was the first President to live in the White House?

Which President is the Father of the Bill of Rights?

Who was President when Ellis Island opened?

Which President is responsible for the American Disabilities Act?

What President signed the Civil Rights Act?

Who was President when women won the right to vote?

How many Presidents have had more than one term of office?

Which President brought the nation out of the Great Depression?

Which Presidents didn’t complete their term of office?  Why?

Who was President when NASA was founded?

Name the five Most Environmentally Friendly Presidents.

Name the Top Ten Most Outstanding Presidents.

Name the oldest man elected to the office of President.

Name the youngest man elected.

Which President delivered the longest inaugural speech?

Which President was the first to travel abroad while in office?

  • Encourage readers to use books in the library or sites on the Internet to add to the trivia questions.
  • Ask them to use the trivia question to test adults in their family and neighborhood.  How well did they score?
  • Have students read a work of fiction and identify who was serving as President when the novel was set.  Suggestions from Random House include:

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

As Good as Anybody (picture book) by Richard Michelson & illus. by Raul Colon

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (picture book) by Deborah Hopkinson

Tar Beach (picture book) by Faith Ringgold

 All the Way Home (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

 A Thousand Never Evers (middle grade) by Shana Burg

 Boston Jane: An Adventure (middle grade) by Jennifer L. Holm

Crow (middle grade) by Barbara Wright

Counting on Grace (middle grade) by Elizabeth Winthrop

Eli the Good (middle grade) by Silas House

Heart of a Shepherd (middle grade) by Rosanne Parry

Lily’s Crossing (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

 Hattie Big Sky (middle grade) by Kirby Larson

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

Moon Over Manifest (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpoole

                        No Cream Puffs (middle grade) by Karen Day

Penny from Heaven (middle grade) by Jennifer L. Holm

Racing the Moon (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong

Rodzina (middle grade) by Karen Cushman

SCAT (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Stealing Freedom (middle grade) by Elisa Carbone

True Colors (middle grade) by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

 All the Earth Thrown to the Sky (young adult) by Joe R. Lansdale

 Ashes of Roses (young adult) by Mary Jane Auch

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (young adult) by Gary D. Schmidt

The Devil’s Paintbox (young adult) by Victoria McKernan

The Revenant (young adult) by Sonia Gensler

The Things a Brother Knows (young adult) by Dana Reinhardt

Three Rivers Rising (young adult) by Jame Richards

November 30, 2012

December: The Spirit of Giving

The United States is a country of many cultures and religious beliefs.  For this reason, families celebrate holidays in a variety of ways.  Regardless of faith, the December holidays are often observed with food, music, games, and even gift giving.  While public schools don’t focus on the traditions of any one religion, it’s important for children and teens to learn about all religions, and to understand that the best way to celebrate any holiday is by sharing.

  • Allow readers to share their December family traditions.  Is there a religious observance?  Do they gather with family and friends?  What foods do they eat?  Is there special music?  Do they exchange gifts?
  • Have readers use books in the library or sites on the Internet to research worldwide religious observances.  Ask them to find out if there is a place of worship for each of these religions in your community.  Consider sponsoring a panel discussion in the library that includes someone from these different religions.
  • Talk about the “spirit of giving.”  What organizations in your city or community sponsor a “giving” event?  Is it food, clothing, shelter, or toys?  Find out about the history of the organization.
  • Read aloud We Planted a Tree (Picture Book) by Diane Muldrow & illus. by Bob Staake and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (Picture Book) by Mark Alan Stamaty.  How do these books represent the “spirit of giving”?
  • Have readers look through their toys and games and choose one item to give to one of the following characters:

Calvin Coconut
Junie B. Jones
Anastasia Krupnik
Gooney Bird Greene
Nate the Great
Marvin Redpost
Sammy Keyes

Ask them to state why they selected the particular item for the character.

  • Display books that represent the “spirit of giving” in some way.  Sponsor an essay contest called “What I Learned about Giving from Reading  (Book’s Title).”  Remind readers that the “giving” may be in the form of friendship. Book suggestions from Random House include:

Bud, Not Buddy (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Everything on a Waffle (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Faith, Hope and Ivy June (Middle Grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Flipped (Middle Grade) by Wendelin van Draanen

The Friendship Doll (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Gingersnap (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Hattie Big Sky (Middle Grade) by Kirby Larson

Holes (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Hoot (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg

Liar & Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

One Year in Coal Harbor (Middle Grade) by Polly Horvath

Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Racing the Moon (Middle Grade) by Alan Armstrong

Small Steps (Middle Grade) by Louis Sachar

Turtle in Paradise (Middle Grade) by Jennifer L. Holm

I Am the Messenger (Young Adult) by Markus Zusak

Lord of the Deep (Young Adult) by Graham Salisbury

The Lost Songs (Young Adult) by Caroline B. Cooney

  • Instruct readers to exchange written holiday greetings between main characters from any two novels they have read.  Encourage them to make the greeting personal.
  • Finally, ask all readers to give the gift of story by sharing a special book with a friend.  Ask them to write a letter to the friend telling them why they want them to read the book.




November 02, 2012

November – American Education Week

November: American Education Week

American Education Week is celebrated annually in schools and libraries across the nation in November.  This year’s celebration takes place November 11-17.  This is an excellent time to engage students in various activities that commemorate the importance of education in our country.  Here are programming ideas for this week:

  • Have readers read about the history of American Education Week.  While the National Education Association spearheads the event, there are a number of co-sponsors.  What other organizations join hands with NEA to celebrate education?  Why is education such an important mission for these organizations?  When was the U.S. Department of Education formed?
  • Instruct students to find out about their state’s Department of Education.  Is the Superintendent or Director of this department elected or appointed?  What are the educational issues facing your state?  How is your school district celebrating American Education Week?
  • Take a look at the timeline for American Education Week on the following website. http://www.nea.org/grants/47607.htm.  Have readers recommend a book to use in honoring each of these important milestones.  For example, note the date that the American Disabilities Act was passed.  How are the main characters of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (YA) by Josh Berg and Wonder (Middle Grade) by R.J. Palachio served by this act?   How could Helen Keller in Annie and Helen (Picture Book) by Deborah Hopkinson & illus. by Raul Colon have benefited from such an act? Think about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the difference it could have eventually made to Kenny Watson in The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis and Addie Ann Pickett (Middle Grade) in A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg.  What is the Title IX Act?  Have readers find a biography of a girl that was given a chance to excel because of this act.
  • Pick a main character to be a teacher for a day.  What subject might they teach?  Examples from Random House include: Mena from Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature(YA) by Robin Brande; Brendan in Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment (Middle Grade) by Jacqueline Harvey; Roy Morelli in Roy Morelli Steps up to The Plate (Middle Grade) by Thatcher Heldring; Hollis Woods in The Pictures of Hollis Woods (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff; Deza Malone in The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis; Ruthie and Jack in The Sixty-Eight Rooms (Middle Grade) by Marianne Moore; Roy Eberhardt in Hoot (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen; and Andi Alpers in Revolution (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The National Education Association establishes a special celebration for each day of Education Week.  Have readers locate an appropriate book for each day.

Monday – Veterans Day – Suggest that students focus on Nick’s father in Scat (Middle Grade) by Carol Hiaasen and Brother’s dad in Heart of a Shepherd (Middle Grade) by Rosanne Parry, both soldiers in the Middle East.

Tuesday – Parents Day – Instruct readers to suggest a book for their parents to read.  These may include: Faith, Hope, and Ivy June (Middle Grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; Child of the Mountains (Middle Grade) by Marilyn Sue Shank; Blubber (Middle Grade) by Judy Blume; Laugh with the Moon   (Middle Grade) by Shana Burg; and Liar & Spy (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead.

Wednesday – Support Professionals Day – Remind students that this includes teachers’ aides, office staff, cafeteria staff and janitorial staff.  Readers may enjoy introducing the Lunch Lady series (Elementary and Middle Grade) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka to the cafeteria staff.

Thursday – Educator for a Day – This is a time to celebrate all teachers. Sponsor an essay contest titled “What it’s like to Teach _________”  Have student fill in the blank with a character from a favorite book.  They may select Junie B. Jones, Anastasia Krupnik, Olivia Bean, Rosie Sprout, or Stanley and Zero from Holes (Middle Grade).  Instruct them to think about the chosen character as a student.  Would they be fun to teach, or a pain? Illustrate  conclusions with specific examples from the books.

Friday – Substitute Educator Day – Introduce readers to Miss Matlock in To Come and Go Like Magic (Middle Grade) by Katie Pickard Fawcett.  What is she like as a substitute? Then write a letter to a teacher from a novel and ask  them to substitute in your class for a day. Readers might consider Mrs. Starch  from Scat (Middle Grade) by Carol Hiaasen; or Tia Lola in How Tia Lola Learned to Teach (Middle Grade) by Julia Alvarez.  Tell them why you would like for them to teach you for a day.