Raising a Reader, Naturally
                     Through Sensitivity, Guidance and Grace
This entire book, Raising a Reader, Naturally, is free -- and always will be.
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Chapter Thirteen
The Big Library: Helping Partners Grow
You Are Invited….
Before two diligent and dedicated reading partners know it, a new and much larger world opens before them. Of course, the world was never meant to be little. There is just so much to learn and so many opportunities for new experiences -- and so many books to browse, to read.
As their world continues to grow, active reading partners soon find there is precious little time to take advantage of it all. Senior partners soon find themselves scrambling for new and more resources as their little partners continue to learn.
As a little partner’s new interests and needs begin to seemingly deplete all the hours in a day, senior partners too often find themselves worrying about getting the most benefit out of the resources they share. In fact, the answer can often be found right down the street, down the road if you will—right in your own public library.
Just walk into your local public library and you’ll find a world that is ready and willing to grow with you. In fact, you’ll find that today’s public libraries have pulled out all the stops in replacing yesterday’s rules with accepting, warm, nurturing and inviting environments. Yes, the book stacks are still there, but now they are easily accessed even by small hands reaching out from the comfort of a stroller.
 So Inviting
Today books are colorfully and comfortably displayed, because today’s patrons want to touch. All partners want to hold and flip through the pages. They want to pile up their choices (more than just two) until they are ready to check them out—automatically. But even as they checkout, partners find today’s library has already planned for their return.
Today’s libraries are far more than places filled with books: they are places filled with activities, services and ideas. Big ideas and little ideas, designed to appeal to all sorts patrons, big and little.
For the big patrons, modern libraries are now community centers, places to exchange ideas (like parenting classes), places to share, as well as research on one’s own.
For little patrons libraries entice them with Baby Boxes, Book Babies’ story and activity hours, and even supply Book Buggies for home delivery if they live in a rural area. Family Read Aloud Nights, special library nights with dad, and unique bilingual story hours are just a few of the many special offerings both partners can expect to find at their local library.
A Community Larger than Oneself
It is easy to see that today’s public libraries have definitely grown up. In fact they have grown to play important roles in our communities -- often in a very personal ways. They work hard to bring together in one place a larger community of ideas and knowledge and collective wisdom. They realize that right from the beginning for a little partner and throughout life for a big one, people grow and learn best when they are a part of or participate in a community larger than themselves.
As active members of our community (as well as active partners), we all exercise a natural inclination to seek out both new and reliable sources of information. Such information is most often found in the wisdom or treasures gathered, realized or experienced through other’s lifetimes which, of course, leads us to a library full of books.
Today you can expect to find your public library working at breakneck speed to keep up with or satisfy an increasingly literate community’s  ambitions. As a result, libraries have evolved to become among the most reliable – and generous -- of all our public institutions.
Each time I enter my own library, I am astounded by its vast collection of new information and resources—and my library, by most standards, is very small. As I walk along each book stack, peek around one more corner, there is always a book, a display, a program announcement or some electronic assistance that I never dreamed existed.
And while I marvel at all those books and displays, at all those resources and opportunities to gain new knowledge, I realize that perhaps the greatest benefit of all is a library’s potential to provide the places and services where individuals (not just avid readers) and communities, and yes, reading partnerships, can gather and grow.
Book Buggies
The growth and popularity of our modern public library system should come as no surprise. Today, the New York Public Library boasts of tens of millions of items in their collection, freely available to all. In their salute to democracy, this massive library system boasts, “but one criterion for admission: curiosity.”
The New York Public Library system is certainly among the largest in this country, but smaller library systems work equally hard to meet the curiosity of their own constituencies.
In Bend, Oregon, the Deschutes Public Library System serves a population of 160,000 people. Yet this system circulated more than 2.5 million items in 2013/2014.  And not every library patron walked through the door. Like many other small library systems across the country, assess often means delivering books and materials directly to you.
For instance, the Book Buggy, the library’s bookmobile service, delivers the library’s resources to  surrounding rural communities carrying (not surprising) materials targeting children and parenting. As we know, this is where literacy, and new library patrons, begin.
Book Mobiles and More
And if you can’t get out to meet the Book Buggies or book mobiles? The Timberland Regional System in western Washington state shares its resources with 27 small, and sometimes remote, communities. For those whom the system cannot serve otherwise, library books and other materials are mailed directly to the patrons, easily requested through the phone system or the internet.
No service, however, satisfies our need or kindles a desire for knowledge like a visit to a local library. All small partners and their senior partners, even wealthy toddlers, need to make public library visits a regular part of their routine. With our library systems among the best in the world, members of our modern society, little or big, who do not take advantage of the many resources our libraries have to offer are not only cheating themselves, but their community as well.
Too Many Good Books
Sure there’s lots of “stuff” – even valid information and knowledge -- on the internet and internet access is easy (libraries offer the internet on their computers too). But the most reliable and attractive information is still to be found on library shelves or stacks. There is no advertising or disturbing "pop-ups" here: only intellectual and aesthetic challenges and appeal.
And who cannot boast of discovering something personal, something special, just by making even a casual search of one’s local library’s shelves? If you have not by chance visited a children’s section since your own childhood, be forewarned...
Today’s stacks are filled with an abundance of very good books – too many very good books. So plan on spending some time to browse, that is if your little partner doesn’t become too impatient or impulsive, before you make your selections.
Most of all, encourage your little partner – even a very young one – to make his or her own selection. This probably won’t take much encouragement since most small children are not at all shy about pulling things off a shelf.
But be advised that just because a young child (and even an older one) selects a book off a library shelf, that the “catch” may not be a favorite. But a book is a book, and whatever a little partner selects is still a good beginning.
From my own experience, I’ve watched in panic as one of my little partners, Jack grabbed all the books within his reach. Once I came to my senses, however, I reminded myself that we were not on a formal mission. I let him go ahead. From the pile of books on the floor I kindly suggested he make a selection or two. We then picked the rest up and put the "discards" back on the shelf.
The Friendly Librarian
For most of us, the library is a big and busy place – even the small, regional ones. Where do you start? The library has become so much more than a place to check out, or in, books. In fact today, a library visit is an event in itself – especially for curious and enthusiastic partners.
A good place for partners to begin their visit is with an introduction to the always friendly children’s librarian. You can expect your librarian to suggest specific books for your child and interests. Continue to nurture this relationship – for as your child grows so will the librarian’s suggestions and lists.
New and interesting titles? You’ll be among the first to know.
While you are at the children’s desk, pick up a list of the award winning children’s books. The Caldecott awards, the ALA’s recommended books, Coretta Scott King’s award winners, as well as many others. Start with the best, and you will set standards for your little partner for years to come.
Before you leave the librarian’s desk, make sure you have all the information you need about the library’s other services, specifically for children. (You probably won’t have to ask).
These services are all designed (1) to make your child smarter and more knowledgeable; (2) to help your child as well as your partnership grow; and (3) to teach your child to take pride in having a stake in this valuable institution.
Once more, before you leave the library, look around, explore the obvious and vow to return to discover more. Libraries displays are designed to appeal to both children and adults alike.
Sometimes it may only be a corner filled with stuffed toys, capturing specific titles and current themes. Other libraries have permanent displays. At the Central Children’s room in the Donnell Library Center in New York young patrons can visit the real Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Highly imaginative or plain, each display helps to stimulate a little partner’s imagination and ultimately his or her desire to learn to read on his orher own.
Active Story Times
No longer silent places harboring intellectuals or social misfits, libraries today have become very active places. Notice the warm corners filled with readers in comfortable chairs. Peek over the shoulders of the newspaper readers and you’ll see mastheads (and readers) from around the world.
Surely someone is previewing a video while other patrons, relaxed and comfortable in the audio section are listening to tapes or CD’s. Of course you’ll probably have to wait your turn to research the library’s computerized book catalog or e-resources.
While you are waiting, check to see if a story hour is in session. You will soon find yourself scheduling future library visits to coincide with story (activity) times. Most libraries offer a full variety of story hours, reflecting the needs and interests of their patrons.
Take for instance the King County Library system which includes the Seattle area. Their offerings include Young Toddler/Lapsit Stories, Toddler Times, Preschool Story Times, Family Story Times, and Bilingual Story Times for young listeners. Often referred to as “Mother Goose” story time, the Young Toddler/Lapsit sessions include songs and stories for babies up to 24 months, but the brochure forewarns, “Babies must bring a caregiver with them!”
Like most preschool story times, adult attendance is required -- something reading partners can easily meet.
And don’t overlook the family programs and activities. The King County Library System brings families together for story times as well as offering special events for “Dad and Me at the Library.” Mother and daughter book clubs have also gained popularity around the country – and by then the youngest partner is well on her way to becoming an avid reader.
Sorry, No Excuses!
In fact, there are probably no acceptable excuses left for not using your local library. Library cards are free. Loan times can be generous. Short of time? Search for titles, reserve a book or renew books through the internet.
Once I make my requests through the internet, my local Timberland Regional Library system holds my requests and all I have to do is pick them up. No computer? No internet access? Use the phone. Just dial up and all the services are at your disposal. While for a small child nothing replaces the actual library visit or experience, time need not be a factor in keeping a good supply of books on hand.
A Library Card of One’s Own
I well remember that special moment when I received my first library card, my very own. In my family, library day was always an event to look forward to. Our arms filled with books to return, Mother, my little brother and I, would board the city bus and head to the Central Library in downtown Portland, Oregon.
When I was four-years old, I learned to print my own name. At the library I recall stretching up to reach the librarian’s large desk under the huge central, ornate domed ceiling. Thereupon, using my new skill, I carefully printed my name on the application for a library card. That was the only requirement. From then on, I had the pleasure of not only selecting, but actually checking out my own books.
I recently visited this magnificent library which has now been restored to its former glory. As I walked through the heavy brass trimmed doors, my mind rushed to that exact spot (at least in my memory) where that momentous first-library-card event took place.
Even now I can remember the pride I felt in being a card carrying member of a larger community of readers. Even at a young age there is nothing like the feeling in knowing that in some small way you are a participant in the grand continuum of knowledge and learning. Just knowing that with the simple act of printing your name on a black line you have gained permission to select your own books, to read them or not, and grow along with the rest of your community.
Every child deserves a library card of their own.
Children’s Book Lists
You will find two of the most reliable sources for lists of the best children’s books at:
 (1) Your local library where the librarians absolutely delight in making their recommendations. You can find their lists in the children’s section of the library. Or just ask. Often their recommendations will include books with local interest.
 (2) The American Library Association book list at http://www.booklistonline.com/book-awards. The American Library Association offers an extensive and impressive list of award winning books on their website. Current award winners are featured, but the site also contains an archive of past winners.
The ALA List Includes:
The Schnider Family Book Award honors books that artistically portray the disability experience for children and adolescent readers. A recent winner is:
  • Dad, Jackie, and Me, by Myron Uhlberg. The story centers around a deaf father.
The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Some winners are:
  • The Hello, Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster.
  • Rosa, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Nikki Giovanni.
  • Zen Shorts, illustrated and written by Jon J. Muth.
  • Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot Air Balloon Ride, illustrated and written by Marjorie Priceman.
  • Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems, illustrated by Beckie Prange and written by Joyce Sidman.
The ALA Notable Children’s Book List identifies the best of the best books for children. Here is a partial list of selections for young readers:
  •  A Splendid Friend, Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom. A friendship between a polar bear and a goose is the subject of this book.
  • Cowgirl Kate and Coco, by Betsy Lewin. The adventures of Kate and her beloved horse.
  • Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas, by Cynthia Rylant. Henry and his dog visit his Great-grandpa at the “grandpa house.”
  • Hi! Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold. The story features a friendship between a boy and a fly.
  • Oscar’s Half Birthday, by Bob Graham. Oscar’s family celebrates his six-month birthday with a picnic.
  • Walter Was Worried, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Walter is worried about an upcoming storm then is delighted when the sun comes out. The illustrations are notable for using letters rearranged to spell the characters’ reactions and shape their faces.
  • White is for Blueberry, by George Shannon. An unconventional concept book that introduces ten colors found in nature.