When my children were younger, I had the naïve expectation that they would be willing accomplices in my plan to create a “poetry at sunset” moment, a time taken out of the day to celebrate this art form, memorizing or reading something that had meaning for them or was just plain fun to read out loud. My reasoning was that, if they could recite commercial jingles or sing the lyrics of their favorite songs, they could rather painlessly indulge Mom in her hare-brained scheme to make them familiar with a mode of expression and creativity that has been around for ages.
HA! Reality set in after the third or fourth session. Having 3 children, with 8 years between the oldest and youngest, and all the attendant school and extracurricular activities, as well as my having to work evenings after my husband got home, I began to realize that it was a scheme that may have worked in a different era, one with more leisure and time for reflection, but not in my time!. As the years went by and I became a single mother, it was all I could do to keep the our home together, financially and emotionally, much less indulge in activities that seemed so trivial in the face of everyday reality.
Reading has always been my escape, and around this time I began listening to audiobooks, as well. Listening to Martin Jarvis reading P.G. Wodehouse’s hilarious stories of Blandings Castle saved me during the darkest times and helped me to keep a positive mindset for my kids. The language of another era, from another place, distanced me from my present, and the absurdity of the characters and their situations helped me to maintain my ability to laugh.
As it so happens, poetry, reading or creating it, does this for so many in need of emotional support. The action of reading or hearing someone say what you can’t find words for, or to find that someone feels the way you do, can be reassuring and provide a deep source of comfort. Also, poems can be celebrations, of nature, of love, of family, of life. The framework of poetry, although made up of numerous styles, allows the poet to weave together images and ideas that must stay concise and to the point. The format is powerful in that its impact is concentrated; one word may conjure up many associations, perhaps a variety of them, depending on the audience. The connection is visceral, personal and highly subjective.
Of course, the beauty and musicality of language is what draws the reader to poetry, as well. Nursery rhymes, read or sung, are usually a child’s first introduction to poetry. Rhyming picture books introduce language being shaped to fit a story. Many studies show the importance of poetry as a tool for teaching literacy to children and new language learners (how many of us sang “Frere Jacques” growing up?).
Poetry for kids is usually fun and instructive. Incidents and accidents of childhood are described with humor (Shel Silverstein) and scary things explained away (Jack Prelutsky). Nature, siblings and school are frequent topics, being of paramount importance to the young reader. There are also poems that teach history or science in small, digestible bits that are nonetheless potent.
Novels in verse for young readers have become increasingly popular in recent years. Ostensibly, it’s because books in this format come across as deceptively short and easy to read. The authors say so much with fewer words and more white space. Yet once drawn in, the readers are taken on a journey that allows them to access the pertinent parts of the story, sometimes an emotionally difficult one, and fill in with their own perceptions what the author has not overtly written.
And eventually I was validated in my desire to introduce poetry to my children. One day my eldest son came home from a college English class and recited William Blake’s “The Tyger” to me, saying “Mom, this is for you.” My cup runneth over!
Although the Holiday season is well underway, there are more fun things to do this winter:
Magic of Lights - Jones Beach State Park: November 17 - December 31
Pile your family into the car and drive through this eye-catching, enthralling, 2 1/2-mile-long light show that returns to Jones Beach. There’s an "Enchanting Tunnel of Lights," animated figures, and holiday characters. New this year is a holiday festival village, where families can walk around and enjoy cocoa, s’mores, holiday music and movies, a hay maze, and pictures with the big guy himself, Santa.
14th Annual Girl Scouts of Suffolk County's Holiday Light Show Smith Point Beach: December 1 - December 30
The Girl Scouts of Suffolk County and County Executive Steve Bellone have joined together to present the Girl Scouts' beloved light show for the fourteenth holiday season. This year, the show will include more lights and displays than ever before, with proceeds supporting girls' programs. For more information call 631-543-6622 ($20 per car).
Frosty - John W. Engeman Theater, Northport November 18 - December 31
(sensory-sensitive performance on December 28)
Frosty and friend Jenny are united again in their adventures as they try to save the town of Chillsville. Kids in the audience help the duo in their quest to stop evil Ethel Pierpot from melting all the snow. Take a stroll along Northport’s picturesque Main Street after the show.
For further information, call (631)261-2900 or see engemantheater.com.
Polar Express Trolley Ride - Riverhead and Southampton November 24 - December 23
Inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s award-winning book The Polar Express, families take an interactive trolley ride while listening to actor Liam Neeson’s reading of the book and interacting with a character from the story. A visit from Santa and his elves along with hot cocoa and cookies await passengers as they disembark at the “North Pole.” For full effect, families are encouraged to wear their pajamas (Children must be 2 and older.)
For further information and pricing, see northforktrolley.com
Barnaby Saves Christmas - Theatre Three, Port Jefferson: November 24 - December 30
(sensory-sensitive performance November 26)
An hour-long musical is just long enough for the littlest theatergoers. Celebrating its 14th season, Barnaby Saves Christmas follows the journey of the little elf and his reindeer as they set off to save Christmas, ultimately learning the true meaning of the holiday season. After the show, enjoy the many restaurants and shops that line the streets of nautical Port Jefferson. For further information, call (631) 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.
Brookhaven Town Holiday Spectacular - Holtsville: December 3 - December 17
For three weekends in December, visitors can enjoy this indoor, walk-through holiday light show at the Holtsville Ecology Site. There are raffles, and children can have their picture taken with Santa. All proceeds help to take care of the more than 100 animals that live at the site. Call (631) 758-9664 for further information.
Bayville Winter Wonderland - Bayville November 24-January 1
Captain Bay's Yo-Ho Holiday Light Show tells the story of a pirate's first Christmas. Santa's Toy Factory Fun House boasts bright flourescent-colored walls that can be seen in 3-D with glasses. Wander through a tricky hall of mirrors and then to Santa's workshop as you listen to sounds from the North Pole. Other attractions include Blizzard Bay's Arctic Skating Adventure, the Holiday Express train ride, and a magical meeting with Santa. To purchase tickets, visit www.bayvillewinterwonderland.com
'Tis The Season at Long Island Maritime Museum Sat. December 9, 4 PM - 7 PM
West Sayville's Dutch heritage and holiday traditions will be celebrated with a holiday lantern tour, ornament crafts, face painting, live entertainment, and tasty refreshments at the Long Island Maritime Museum. Reservations required. Call 631-HISTORY. ($5 per person).
5th Annual Long Beach Electric Light Parade at West Beech Street Sat. Dec 9, 6:30 PM
Free. Come down and check out the antique cars, fire trucks, floats and bicycles wrapped in Christmas lights for this festive holiday parade. Floats line up at the Sands parking lot at 5pm and step off at 6:30pm. There will be parking available at the Long Beach Catholic School lot, with shuttle buses to the West End. For further information, call (516)432-6000.
Holiday Festival at Coe Hall Sat. December 9; Sun. December 10 11 AM - 4 PM
Coe Hall at Planting Fields Arboretum will be decorated for the holidays and will have live entertainment perfect for both the young and young at heart. Call 516-922-8678 for more info.
The Chocolate Expo: Holiday Edition at Cradle of Aviation Museum: Sun. December 10, 10 AM - 7 PM
Dozens of vendor booths will be packed into the Cradle of Aviation for a full day of chocolates, specialty treats, and live demos by celebrity chefs. ($10 per person).
Santa Brunch at Long Island Aquarium Sun. December 10, 10 AM - 2 PM
$22.95 - $49.95 per person. Families will be able to enjoy a Santa brunch at the Long Island Aquarium on December 10th. The brunch also includes admission to the aquarium. Call (631)-208-9200 for more info.
Light The Night Sun. December 10, 5 PM
This event, coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce, is intended to bring the community together for one night to show unity and support for a worthy cause. This year’s proceeds will go to the Jeannette Feminella Scholarship fund, in honor of Commack Road Elementary’s beloved principal who passed away this year. Please purchase your luminary kit ($10) at Nook and Cranny,469 Main Street, Islip or Mojo Printing, 169 Islip Avenue, Islip.
Trollstice Express: A Celebration of Light and Spirit - Port Washington: Sat. December 16
$35.00 per person.Trolls guide youngsters on a magical nighttime journey that departs from the town dock on Lower Main Street. The trip climaxes at the Long Island Science Museum in Manhasset with a campfire, cocoa, and music. Reservations and payment are required in advance. Go to www.eventbrite.com.
Candlelight Evenings Holiday Show - Old Bethpage December 26 - December 30
Experience how the holidays were celebrated on Long Island in the 19th century. Walk among the historic houses, barns, and buildings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Enjoy traditional music, performances, storytelling, a vintage model train show, and a roaring bonfire. For more information on this and other events there, see www.obvrnassau.com.
End-of-Year Beach Hike - Jones Beach December 30
Grab your coat, and maybe your boots, and take the whole family to the Jones Beach Nature Center for an end-of-year beach hike. It’s a great way to work off some of those holiday calories, get some fresh air and exercise, and say goodbye to 2017. Phone (516) 780-3295 to register (required).
And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down,
We’re captives on the carousel of Time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind from where we came,
And go ‘round, and ‘round and ‘round
In the Circle game.
– The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell
With summer vacation nothing but a pleasant memory and autumn just around the corner, it’s a good time to assess where we stand by revisiting our best moments of the season past, while looking forward with excitement (and some nerves) to the upcoming school year.
For children’s librarians, summer is our busiest season. While others see it as a more laid back time, an opportunity to travel, make visits to the beach, enjoy picnics and gather at backyard barbecues, our time is taken up with the Summer Reading Program. Parents are able to keep their children from losing hard-won skills by having them continue to practice what they’ve learned during the school year. We’re always so pleased with the number of children enrolled who are encouraged to read by our contests, games and prizes.
This year, in particular, the fourth through sixth graders (or “tweens”) have really made us proud. This group counts the amount of pages they read, aiming for the goal this year of 100,000 pages with a prize being offered for the person who reads the most. The 135 members’ combined number of pages read was 172,100! The two top readers tied with 10,000 pages each (!), but this was a very competitive group, with the lowest amount in the top twenty readers being 1800 pages. (Note: this number was as of August 18th, the last official day of the Summer Reading Club for the group. However, we have continued to register and accept reports for those sixth and seventh graders who require a certificate of completion for their teachers this coming school year). These truly awesome readers have taken reading for pleasure to new heights, and deserve accolades and recognition from their families, schools and peers.
Meeting new teachers and classmates doesn’t have to be overly stressful. There are various aids to negotiating the unfamiliar terrain of new circumstances. Feeling confident that you have the skills to perform academically can ease some of the anxiety. Here at the Library, there are many resources available to enhance a student’s skills.
For learners struggling in a particular subject, a resource of note is Brainfuse offered by Live-brary through the Suffolk County Library system. There you can find tons of skill-building lessons and activities, practice tests, a writing lab, a language lab, and free one-on-one tutoring with a teacher. All you need to do is go to our website (www.isliplibrary.org), click on “Children” at the top of the page, and scroll down to the “Homework Help” area. Just put in your library card barcode and you’re ready to go!
Younger children just starting school are able to play “A B C Mouse” along with other educational games on the computers here at the library. We offer Hooked on Phonics kits that go from Preschool through second grade to enhance reading skills.
The Atrium or Picture Book area has separate sections for concept books:
There is a separate section of books in the Children’s department especially for emergent readers that can help parents select appropriate titles that promote a child’s feeling of accomplishment and pleasure in mastering this crucial facet of learning .The Easy Reader section then lets them go on to the next phase of becoming fully independent readers.
We also have a large selection of DVD s that give instruction in most subjects for all grades, from preschool to middle school, from Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse to School House Rock and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
And needless to say, our diverse book collection has titles for all ages, fiction and non-fiction, humorous, adventurous, enlightening, or tragic, that are set in, or are about going to, SCHOOL!
A small sampling follows:
Don’t forget that our Parenting collection offers books and videos to help students with math and English language arts for Kindergarten through 8th grade, including common core standards.
Good luck to everyone this new school year, and remember what Emerson said:
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
One of the easiest and enjoyable activities to share with your children is bird watching. Taking time to observe our feathered friends while at the park, on the beach, or even in your backyard gives families the opportunity to increase their appreciation for nature and its cycles. Even if you can’t tell a cardinal from a blue jay, there are numerous guides for determining types of birds, both online and here at the Library. Most birding organizations offer tips and advice as to how to engage children and teens in discovering the beauty and habits of our feathered friends. For instance, recent scientific research has determined that birds are closely related to dinosaurs, so perhaps you can draw in reluctant participants with this fact to promote observation and discussion. Out on a trail, you can make your walk into a competition to see who can spot and name the most birds. And at one local Long Island preserve Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge, chickadees will land on your hand to eat seeds—now that’s getting close to nature!
Just remember not to feed birds at the park with bread…it’s not good for them. Also, remember that ducks, geese, and swans are wild creatures, and can become aggressive, especially if their young are nearby. Seagulls show no fear of humans if there’s food involved and large numbers of them will swoop in and surround you if you deliberately feed them. Please be cautious.
With that in mind, here are a list of links, blogs and Facebook pages about activities that revolve around families and birds:
June Outdoor Program at Brookside
When: Thursday, June 15, 2017
Time: 6:00 pm Rain or Shine
Place: Great South Bay Audubon Society's Headquarters - Brookside County Park - 59 Brook Street, Sayville, NY
Program Description: Our program this year will be presented by members of Quogue Wildlife Refuge. They will discuss the adaptations of various birds of prey that allow these animals to be such incredible hunters. Find out why they live at the Wildlife Center and learn about their role in the wild. You might see a screech owl, a barn owl and maybe even a great horned owl. You won't want to miss it! This program is free, open to the public and will be held rain or shine. There will be a raffle and refreshments. Bring a blanket and/or chair. Parking is also available in the High School Parking lot across the street. Hope to see you there!
Also, for a great craft that will “Build A Better World”- our Summer Reading Club theme - for our feathered friends, the Islip Public Library Children’s Department will be offering a program that gives kids ages 8 - 12 the opportunity to decorate birdhouses with (bird) edible materials! Program will take place on Friday, July 28th, 3:00- 4:00 PM. Please register beginning July 5th.
And come visit us to checkout our display of non-fiction and stories dedicated to all kinds of birds.
March is National Women’s History month. What better time to focus on raising confident girls that will grow into strong and self-assured women? From how-to guides to the real-life revelations of other girls, from rambunctious fictional role models to actual heroines of history, the library offers a wide selection of readings and videos that explore the various experiences of those who came before us, as well as encourage the potential that lies within each of us. With that in mind, what follows is a listing of library resources that will enlighten and entertain:
Very often, growing up and changing physically, emotionally, and psychologically can leave young girls feeling isolated and confused. Being available to talk with your child goes a long way toward helping to reduce the angst and pitfalls of tweenhood. These are some resources that can provide a good jumping off point for those discussions:
Dealing with Bullies & Bossiness and Finding a Better Way By Patti Kelley Criswell. A guide for girls on how to recognize and handle bullying. Shares quizzes for identifying one's personal "speak-up" style and offers advice from real-world girls on how to use words to manage bullies and get an adult's help when needed.
Staying True to Yourself in Changing Times By Nancy Holyoke. Full of tips, quizzes and advice from real girls to help you keep your head and heart during tough times and put your best self forward.
By Patti Kelley Criswell. This book is designed to help you learn how to make new friends and to make the most of the friendships you already have. It's full of quizzes, crafts, thoughtful advice, and true stories of friendship shared by real girls.
Real Stories by Real Girls About Real Stuff Compiled By Jack Canfield. This book is designed to help you learn how to make new friends and to make the most of the friendships you already have.
A Girl's Guide to Feeling Safe and Having Fun by Dottie Raymer. Explains what to expect when one is left home alone and how to respond when the unexpected happens, with activities to help learn about one's home, neighborhood, and capabilities.
Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure By Caroline Paul. A book about the glorious things that happen when you unshackle from fear and open up to exhilaration.
Honest Talk About Growing Up and Your Changing Body By Sarah O'Leary Burningham. Being a girl isn't always easy, and growing up is far from a walk in the park. This time of transition is particularly confusing without a confidante to help. Meet Sarah O'Leary Burningham, a real-life big sister here to coach preteens through all of life's big moments, from first bras to first periods.
These thoughtful advice books will guide you through the steps of growing up. With illustrations and expert contributors, these books cover questions about periods, your growing body, peer pressure, personal care, and more.
More Girls' Questions Answered By The Editors of The Care & Keeping of You. A fact-filled resource answers questions about adolescence and the body from real girls, from pimples and periods to ear piercing and eating disorders, and includes advice on how to talk to parents about uncomfortable subjects.
Talking to your Kids about Sexting by Joani Geltman. Covering a broad range of issues--80 different topics in all--this straight-talking guide helps parents understand why teenagers (and sometimes tweens) behave the way they do and what developmental factors are involved.
Although still not as recognized as boys’/men’s sports, female athletes continue to make inroads into the public’s consciousness. For example, Islip School District has proven to have incredibly talented and dedicated students that more than justify our “Pride!” These are guides and biographies to instruct and inspire:
By Kate T. Parker. Celebrates, through more than 175 memorable photographs, the strength and spirit of girls being 100% themselves.
By Erin Downing. From training techniques formations and strategies- this book has it all!
By Stacy Wilson. Hockey rules, equipment, exercises, and drills for girls who want to play. Includes profiles of the top women hockey players.
[Videorecording DVD] Chalk Talk Productions. Learn the fundamentals of lacrosse with one of America's top women's lacrosse coaches. With beginning players and their coaches in mind, University of North Carolina Head Coach Jenny Levy shares her secrets to mastering the basics of the sport.
The story of the young women who won the world championship by Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan; pictures by E.B. Lewis. Margaret experiences the excitement of watching the 1946 championship game of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as it goes into extra innings.
(Electronic resource eBook) by Alex Morgan. From her beginnings with the American Youth Soccer Organization to her key role in the 2015 Women's World Cup, Alex shares the details that made her who she is today: a fantastic role model and athlete who proudly rocks a pink headband.
The legendary life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace. On the court, track, field, or golf course, Babe was determined to be the best - and she was. An action-packed story of a woman ESPN ranks as #10 of the top North American athletes of the twentieth century.
A body in motion, a life in balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford. Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
The True story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff. This rollicking romp tells the true story of one fearless magician's rise to glory. Extensive information, including instructions for performing one of Addie's original tricks, makes this a dazzling celebration of one of the first female conjurers in show business.
Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals by Stephanie Warren Drimmer. Discover true stories of superstars, war heroes, world leaders, gusty gals, and everyday women who changed the world.
What You Never Knew about the Women and Girls of the American Revolution by Laurie Halse Anderson. A superbly researched and illustrated celebration combines historical facts and humor to pay homage to the ladies who played important roles in the founding of our nation.
By Andi Diehn. Introduces readers to technology and coding, discussing how it developed and what it can be used to create, before providing profiles on three women who have greatly impacted the field. The series also includes titles about women in engineering, astronomy, and aviation.
How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough. Examines the story of how librarian Ann Carroll Moore created the first children's room at the New York Public Library.
Lessons from leaders on raising the next generation of empowered women edited by Nina Tassler with Cynthia Littleton. A diverse group of women--from Madeleine Albright To Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from Dr. Susan Love to Whoopi Goldberg and more...reflect on the best advice and counsel they have given their daughters either by example, throughout their lives, or in character-building, teachable moments between parent and child.
Clara and the shirtwaist makers' strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel. An account of immigrant Clara Lemlich's pivotal role in the influential 1909 women laborer's strike describes how she worked grueling hours to acquire an education and support her family before organizing a massive walkout to protest the unfair working conditions in New York's garment district. Also available in book format.
By Misty Copeland. Middle grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling memoir by the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history.
Produced by Stacey Reiss, Sharon Chang and Otto Bell; directed by Otto Bell. This film follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been typically been handed down from father to son for centuries.
Of course, the library also has juvenile-level biographies of well-known women who have changed the world, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Alice Paul and Malala Yousafzai.
Never underestimate the power of story to shape someone’s path. The heroine of A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret L’Engle, Meg Murray, inspired astronaut Janice Voss (Science Director at the NASA Ames Research Center) to become interested in math, science, and outer space. She says that what appealed to her was the aspect of joining together with family and friends, pooling resources, and solving a problem. The cues that were given in the book, that women and girls are smart and capable, were absorbed and internalized. The idea that a little girl could save her father turned the traditional rescue stories on their head, though it never occurred to her that there was anything unusual in that. On one of Janice’s flights, she took a copy of the book into space and then sent it back to L’Engle with a note of appreciation. You never know when the heroine of a story can change your life.
By Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. After her castle and clothes are destroyed by the dragon, Princess Elizabeth, dressed only in a paper bag, sets out to rescue Prince Ronald, who was taken captive. A classic!
By Diana Wynne Jones. Polly Whittacker has to rescue cellist Thomas Lynn from the evil power of the Fey. This fantasy filled with sorcery and intrigue, magic and mystery - and a most unusual and satisfying love story. Also available in print.
By Karen Cushman. The thirteen-year-old daughter of an English country knight keeps a journal in which she records the events of her life, particularly her longing for adventures beyond the usual role of women and her efforts to avoid being married off.
By Kate Hannigan. In 1859, eleven-year-old Nell goes to live with her aunt, Kate Warne, the first female detective for Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. Nell helps her aunt solve cases, including a mystery surrounding Abraham Lincoln, as well as the mystery of what happened to Nell's own father.
By Sharon M. Draper. When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.
By Kirsten Miller. Life becomes more interesting for Ananka Fishbein when, at the age of twelve, she discovers an underground room in the park across from her New York City apartment and meets a mysterious girl called Kiki Strike.
By Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking is the only girl in the world who can do exactly what she wants to. She is nine years old, fearless and extremely strong. She lives in a cottage by herself, with a horse and a monkey for company, and her adventures are the wildest imaginable!
By Nancy Springer. Enola Holmes, younger sister of detective Sherlock Holmes, must travel to London in disguise to unravel the disappearance of her missing mother. The first of a series. Also available as an eBook.
By Tamora Pierce. Eleven-year-old Alanna, who aspires to be a knight even though she is a girl, disguises herself as a boy to become a royal page, learning many hard lessons along her path to high adventure. The first book in the Lioness Quartet. Available in several formats.
By Deborah Ellis. After her father is arrested, eleven-year-old Parvana and her family are left without someone to earn money or even shop for food in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. As the family conditions grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.
Of course, there’s always the classics featuring strong female protagonists that have inspired generations of girls: Alice (Lewis Carroll), Jo March (Louisa May Alcott), Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery), Meg Murray (Madeleine L’Engle) and anything written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Also of note is New Moon Girls magazine, available in print in the J department and at www.NewMoon.com. This is a publication in which girls from around the world are the editors and content providers- and it’s ad-free!
Coincidentally, the foremost organization for empowering girls, the Girl Scouts of America, was founded on March 12, 1912, by Juliet Gordon Low. The library has several biographies of this remarkable woman. We also have the manuals for each level of scouts: Daisys, Brownies, Juniors, and Cadets, as well as guides for leaders.
For further information on the Girl Scouts in general, see their website: www.girlscouts.org.
For information about local troops and activities, see the Suffolk County website: www.gssc.us
It is said that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In the case of books, illustrations enhance a story by pulling the reader into the world of the characters in an immediate and visceral fashion. Traditional picture books rely on the artwork to tell a good portion of their stories and children often love to spend time looking at or, depending on the complexity of the pictures (think Jan Brett), finding tiny details that reveal hidden jokes or clues, as well as correlations to or discrepancies between, the illustrations and the text.
Even popular books that are categorized as Juvenile Fiction can contain illustrations, most notably the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and its ilk. Graphic novels have enticed kids into reading history (The Nathan Hale series, for example) and realistic fiction that confronts difficult issues in a manageable way (El Deafo, Smile). Regular comic books with their broad range of topics will always have an audience, whether it’s made up of adults or children.
In recent years, many teachers and parents are discovering the merits of “Picture Books for Older Readers,” as many libraries call them, and what we refer to here at Islip Public Library as “Illustrated Books.” These are books which usually have, more or less, a full-page color illustration on each page, but also have either a large amount of text or complex subject matter that would not appeal to younger children. The visual aspect of an illustrated work can be a powerful medium for both storytelling and teaching, belying any suggestion that picture books are just for small children.
For instance, Patricia Polacco writes books that are highly autobiographical and appeal to younger readers, but she also draws upon memories of older relatives and friends to create works that illuminate parts of history (Pink and Say, The Butterfly, Tucky Jo and Little Heart). Using a personal point of view with pictures depicting those times creates an intimacy with that subject that can be far more illuminating than a history lesson from a textbook.
Unique works that are in unusual formats or handmade works of art from other countries depicting that region’s culture are also included within our collection (Drawing from the City by Tejubehan; Migrant by Jose Manuel Mateo). Teachers who are interested in reinforcing the Common Core standards that concern visual literacy – evaluating and integrating content with written text and assessing how a point of view shapes a work - would do well to consider books such as these. Many standardized tests have “DBQs” or document-based questions that very often include political cartoons of different eras that students are asked to interpret and write about. Reading and discussing an illustrated book is a step toward mastering this skill.
Also, English language learners can employ picture books. Reading illustrated works increases comprehension and vocabulary, and in the case of families, the opportunities to connect parents to children in a rich and rewarding way.
Some children’s authors have said that they have observed their books being utilized by middle and high school readers and see no reason to limit their audience to children of a certain age. “You can get different things from picture books depending on your age. An adult can read a whole other meaning into the book and readers of all ages can appreciate the poetry, the rhyme breaks, hidden rhyme schemes. The possibilities are infinite. ” says Jacqueline Woodson. She urges parents, or the adults who are the “gatekeepers” to what books a child has access to, to eliminate the stigma of reading picture books and consider the range of social issues and relevance of the story, as well as the complexity of the text and artwork.
Naturally, the book works best if the language and artwork blend well. Illustrator Chris Soentpiet says that reading deeply the text of a book he is working on is how he develops the ideas for his pictures. “One word, just one word, might inspire an entire painting. It’s about studying the word.”
The potential of these types of books is still evolving and will continue to do so in our current multimedia culture. They are poetry and portable art galleries. They contain insights and object lessons. And they are relevant for readers of any age.
The following “Illustrated Books” are some of my personal favorites:
The renowned cat conservationist reflects on his early childhood struggles with a speech disorder, describing how he only spoke fluently when he was communicating with animals and how he resolved at a young age to find his voice to be their advocate.
The nineteenth-century American humorist, Mark Twain, offers alternatives to little girls who sass their teachers, hurl mud at their brothers, or covet their friends' expensive china dolls.
Cowboy and Octopus maintain their friendship despite different opinions about things like beans and knock-knock jokes.
A fictionalized account of the night Amelia Earhart flew Eleanor Roosevelt over Washington, D.C. in an airplane.
As a testament to his courage, Jackie Robinson's daughter shares memories of him, from his baseball career to the day he tests the ice for her, her brothers, and their friends.
When China's leader Mao Zedong declares a war on sparrows, Ming-Li cannot think of the sky without birds in it, and while her countrymen are killing the birds, she and her brother try to save as many as they can.
In this powerful memoir, annotated Illustrations, maps and dreamscapes explore how the artist-author’s life was shaped while growing up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.
In 1881 Amherst, Massachusetts, six-year-old Gilbert finds it both challenging and wonderful to spend time with his aunt, the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, who lives next door.
A World War I veteran tells his grandson of his experiences in 1914, when British and German soldiers declared a truce from fighting to celebrate Christmas together. A music CD is included.
For further picture book suggestions suitable for older readers try the Cooperative Children’s Book Center: https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu
When my son was younger, I thought of him as my “prickly pear.” On certain topics he had to be approached in a particular way to elicit cooperation. Looking back now, I believe that he had sensitivity issues that were glimpsed but not fully comprehended, i.e. not liking the beach because of the feel of the sand, anxiety when traveling (worried about getting lost) and a most definite aversion to most foods. Almost every situation could be negotiated with reason, comedy and positive peer pressure -he has a great sense of humor and a very social aspect to his personality, as well as an older brother who could sometimes talk him into doing fun family things. Eating poorly, however, because of its very life and death nature, was an area that for me was fraught with dangerous consequences.
A great part of nurturing, of course, involves food and the role it plays in the life of a healthy and thriving child. However, when our best efforts are thwarted by what seems to be mere stubbornness on the part of our offspring, it can be frustrating and hurtful, especially if we see resistance as a reflection of our parenting skills. It’s easy to see how food then becomes so inextricably entwined with our emotions, usually love. If we can take a step back and look at what else may be happening with the child, we may be able to employ strategies for de-escalating the conflicts arising at mealtimes. You might find that being a little flexible helps lessen the stress and signals to the child that you are paying attention to what their aversion to certain foods may signify. Of course, the issue is a complex one with many variations on the theme, depending upon the individual child and family, but, if it is any consolation, know that you are not alone!
This is just a small sampling of the many online sites a desperate parent could find useful. Some also cite additional sources for further information on the topic.
Hopefully, with all this advice now available, parents and children will be able to reach a peaceful accord and make mealtime a much more harmonious occasion. As for my son, he has reached the ripe old age of 25 by eating snow-covered trees (cauliflower), olives (pitted, slip on fingers), elbow macaroni (the only acceptable shape), and spoonfuls of peanut butter, and, even though you would have to tie him down to make him eat cheese (involves mold, utterly disgusting) he still manages to be one of the healthiest people I know!
A disability should not prevent anyone from using the services of the library. The challenges posed by physical or mental impairments can be daunting for both children and adults, but the services and programs offered by or accessed through the library can benefit and even enrich the lives of individuals who have special needs.
For instance, all children, including those on the autism spectrum, can use the library as an opportunity to develop public behavior skills, such as using a quiet tone of voice, staying out of restricted areas (such as offices), and refraining from running. For those with trouble speaking, asking for materials (or directions to specific areas of the library) is a way to put into practice pre-rehearsed scripts. Also, for those new to the library universe, learning and deciphering the Dewey Decimal system can give anyone a feeling of accomplishment!
The Library offers programs that are inclusive and can integrate children of varying abilities into the wider community. The upcoming program given by certified special education teacher Lisa Joy Walters, “A Circle of Friends”, is specifically designed for children with developmental delays, those along the autism spectrum and other special needs (Monday, July 11 and Wednesday, August 3). We also have our frequent Caregiver and Me sign language program presented by Lisamarie Curley that teaches children how to express themselves before they have verbal mastery (this summer’s theme is “Sports”), but these skills can be used for hearing-impaired children and their caregivers, too.
The Summer Reading Club is another opportunity for children with different ability levels to practice reading and speaking or writing about their books. Reading is important for every individual and should be expected of all children. We have a variety of wordless picture books and audiobooks, both fiction and non-fiction to support each person’s unique interest and capabilities, as well. Materials can be interloaned if we do not have them, and referrals provided for additional resources available to children and families. The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City is Long Island’s resource for the National Library Service which provides free materials by free delivery to visually and/or physically handicapped people. Applications for this service are available at all Suffolk County libraries including the Islip Public Library. You can also call the Suffolk Cooperative Library System and ask for the Talking Books Department at 631-286-1600 to learn more about this free service.
In addition to visiting the Library this summer, the following are resources for recreational activities geared toward children with special needs:
Adler Center for Special Needs- offers Zumba-Yoga and fitness classes along with summer camp options for kids of all ages. http://www.miyjcc.org
Pump It Up in Plainview offers monthly sensory playtime for kids on the spectrum. Call (516) 575-2300 or go to their website calendar for the next date it’s given. (https://www.pumpitupparty.com/plainview-ny/)
Safari Adventure in Riverhead offers a “Sensitive Safari” at 9:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Call (631) 727-4386 for more information. www.thesafariadventure.com
K.I.D.S. Plus in Babylon offers a variety of sports programs, including martial arts. http://kidsplusinc.com/programs.
The Miracle League of Long Island (http://old.mllongisland.com) and League of YES in Babylon (www.leagueof yes.com) both offer baseball programs.
Camp Kehilla (www.campkehilla.org) in Wheatley Heights and Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck (camppaquatuck.com) in Center Moriches have special needs programs for children with Asperger’s and ADHD as well as physical disabilities.
If someone should ask you to recite the alphabet, would you automatically sing it? Most English speakers in the United States were taught the names and order of the letters by the “ABC Song” (Honestly, don’t you find yourself singing snatches of it in your head when having to alphabetize something?). Words and music join together to imprint a lesson that is the basis for literacy. Just like pieces of Velcro, the music and the message become bonded.
The so-called “hooks” of songs are lyrics created for the purpose of insinuating themselves into our brain by being insistent, assertive, and having a catchy tune. Endless repetition is what creates “ear worms” and Top Ten Hits. In a darker vein, think of all the commercial jingles imprinted upon your mind by advertisers since childhood. Because the words are attached to a melody, the retention of information regarding a product becomes inevitable; think of Peyton Manning who can’t get that Nationwide jingle out of his head.
Many studies have been done regarding the use of music as a teaching tool. There are numerous websites that promote using music in the classroom as an aid to learning a variety of subjects and explain the rationale behind their methods (for instance, see www.songsforteaching.com). For generations, nursery rhyme songs have been used to teach children about the wonders of the natural world (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”), along with cautionary tales about climbing hills and having an overlarge family (“Jack and Jill,” “There was an Old Lady”). At the same time, however, they are teaching phonological awareness by using rhyming words and stressing syllables, usually giving each a different note. This breaking down of language into discernable components aids in early literacy skills, such as sounding out written words, and building vocabulary. Best of all, this kind of teaching can take place in any setting, not requiring props or electricity. (Caregivers, who feel self-conscious about singing, take note: a child doesn’t care if you can carry a tune as long as you’re singing with them!) For a great sampling of songs beneficial and fun for young children, take advantage of programs given by the Children’s Department that implement music and movement.
At the other end of the spectrum, great strides have been made in helping people with Alzheimer’s regain a connection to the present world by listening to music from earlier times in their lives. Daniel Cohen, founder and Executive Director of Music and Memory (musicandmemory.org) has used iPods with personalized playlists to connect individuals suffering from memory loss to beloved tunes from their youth, creating a pathway by which individuals can regain a sense of identity. Just as a particular smell or taste can trigger a recollection, a song can bring back where you were and what you were doing at the time when you listened to it. By the way, you can learn more about this group via the Adult Reference Department here at the library.
Perhaps music aids in memory because it moves us emotionally. It can trigger a response that becomes indelibly linked with those words and melodies. It can recall a celebration or a tearful break up. It can remind us of friends and family. Music sets the tone for our various forms of entertainment, signaling the romantic kiss, alerting us to a frightening villain, or creating suspense for an inevitable denouement. We use it to soothe us, to rouse us into action (or a funky dance routine for us ex-disco queens), to stir our patriotism, to give praise, to clear our minds, to create bonds with others, to give us pure joy. With all that is still unknown about the brain and its relationship to our less tangible components (“soul,” “essence?”), music may be one key to unlocking the complexities of human cognition. It should be a memorable moment when and if it is found to be so.
When borrowing a movie from the library, most people seem to want the latest blockbusters or something by way of children’s television shows to keep the troops busy while grown-ups take care of business. How about trying some family viewing that’s a little out of the ordinary when making your video selections?
Our Children’s department offers a large and varied collection of non-fiction videos, some of which will open your eyes to fresh experiences and fill you with a sense of wonder. Others will teach you a craft or skill you always wanted to learn. Yet more may explain something you’ve always questioned but never got an answer for, whether it concerns events or people in history, how something works, or what it’s like in places you’ve never been.
For instance, we have many DisneyNature, National Geographic, Eyewitness, and family-friendly PBS videos. Of special note are Mysteries of the Unseen World, a Blu-ray that reveals phenomena all around us that is invisible to the naked eye; Animal Odd Couples, which celebrates heart-warming friendships among different species; and visually stunning IMAX films that open our eyes to the glorious natural wonders of the Earth, such as Ring of Fire, Tropical Rain Forest, and Deep Blue Sea.
Are you interested in learning sign language, origami, or how to play the drums? Are you coaching children’s baseball, basketball, lacrosse or soccer and need some drills for practice? Are you an educator or home-schooling parent who would be helped by science, math, and history videos that teach and reinforce skills vital to the Common Core (our Schlessinger Media films even include booklets that aid in creating lesson plans)? Curious about the lives of the famous (or infamous)? We have DVDs that cover all of these subjects and more!
Short historical documentaries and biographies (10-15 minutes long) are also available at the end of each episode of George Lucas’s Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, a television series that covers Indy’s exploits from ten years old to young adulthood. He encounters revolutionaries, inventors, artists, writers, idealists, criminals, and other major historical figures while participating in world changing events. This special features option expands on topics and people Indy meets, and even includes an interactive timeline.
Also, as parents, we don’t always have the answers to child rearing dilemmas. Our Parenting Collection videos can come to the rescue! Notable experts have created films that cover a wide range of subjects, such as potty training, the vaccination debate, sleep solutions, child development, discipline, learning about and living with differently-abled family members, grieving, and divorce. Newly pregnant couples have access to resources that ease the transition from pregnancy into parenthood, including exercise and breastfeeding. Babies can learn about their world with our Baby Genius videos. Family vacations can be planned, and experienced with ease as well, by watching our Travel with Kids series.
Whether they are informing us about our world in an entertaining fashion or creating a way to share an “I didn’t know that!” moment with our families, non-fiction videos are a great alternative to the usual and the ordinary.