Summer Reading Challenge #2- First Grade List

Summer Reading for First Grade, the Librarian Challenge Continues

So the end of Kindergarten is a tricky time.  Some kids are reading fluently, some kids are just getting started reading, some parents are reading to their children, and some parents think they are done and it’s the kid’s turn.  That makes a mess of a going into First Grade reading list.  Are kids supposed to be able to read by the end of Kindergarten?  Yes, according to the NY State Department of Education, they should be at least at the “emergent reader” level, which is things like sight words and “Mat sat on the cat.” (Great School’s answer.)

First, no matter how well their children are doing, parents should keep reading to their children.  If the parents are feeling out of their depth because of language or literacy issues, then audiobooks are a great alternative.  Audiobooks are good for any family, listening in the car, during quiet activity or for bedtime.  Listening to books beyond their reading ability improves vocabulary and comprehension. Talking to your children about the type of book is also important- fact or fiction?  Some things we take for granted have to be taught- reading is left to right, this is a book cover, an author is a person that wrote the book, and an illustrator made the pictures.  Many teachers give a tour of a book before they read it out loud.

826584Here’s our school’s list for First Grade:

  • Alexander and the Terrible Horrible …Day – Vorst
  • Amelia Bedelia SERIES  -Parish
  • Arthur SERIES – Brown
  • Bark, George – Feiffer
  • Berenstain Bears SERIES – Berenstain
  • Boy Who Turned Into a TV Set- Manes
  • Dragon SERIES – Pilkey
  • Frog and Toad SERIES- Lobel
  • froggy SERIES – London
  • George and Martha SERIES – Marshall
  • Henry and Mudge SERIES- Rylant
  • If you give a..SERIES – Numeroff
  • Junie B Jones SERIES- Park
  • Kids of Polk Street School SERIES – Giff
  • Little Bear SERIES – Minarik
  • Little Critter SERIES – Mayer
  • Magic School Bus books- Cole
  • Miss Nelson SERIES – Allard
  • Moonbear SERIES – Asch
  • Nature up Close SERIES – Himmelman
  • Olivia SERIES- Falconer
  • Pete the Cat – Litwin
  • Pinkalicious SERIES – Kann
  • Ugly Duckling – Anderson
  • 39 Kids on the Block – Marzollo

Some of the things on this list make sense, with books for early readers as well as books for caregivers to read to their children.  There are books for advanced readers.  Then there are books that baffle me.

The Boy Who Turned Into a TV Set was written in 1984.  I have never seen it on any list of children’s classics.  No one in our entire library system owns a copy of this out-of-print book, and it has one review on Amazon.  If the reason for keeping it on the list was to extol turning off the tv once and a while, the Berenstein Bears and Too Much Television would fit the bill just as well.  A more modern chapter book covering the issue is Zeke Meeks Vs. The Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week, (2012).  

I read Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (book 1).  I’ve seen these books around for years, but I’d never read one before.  Ugh.  What an ignorant, mean little brat!  Does the series get any better?

I don’t get the appeal of Pete the Cat.  It’s a reader that is very bland and repetitious, which can be good for struggling readers, but the art is awful.  I much preferred Dragon Makes a Friend, which had full color pages, a sentence per page, but set up like a chapter book.  Kids can get in on the jokes.  The Magic School Bus just came out with revised books on the body, solar system, sea creatures, weather and planet earth, which are also available as e-books.  Is Ms. Frizzle a time lord or a wizard? The “If you give a…” series is cute and funny (If you give a mouse a cookie was the first, I think).  I’m not sure why just one fairy tale by Anderson is specifically listed- it would be good to have your child well-versed in fairy tales and mythology to prepare them for references in other books.

Books I would add:

the Association for Library Services for Children’s 2014 list


  • Bob books- these are tiny reader books in a set.  The art work is beyond horrible, but struggling readers can be proud that they read a whole book.  The series increases in difficulty as you go along. Other phonics book sets are helpful as well.
  • Max and Mo Go Apple Picking by Patricia Lakin
  • Bully by Laura Seeger – Bully the bull doesn’t realize that his words hurt, until…
  • browse the “reader” section of your library with your child (note that every publisher has a different criteria for reading levels) and have them try the first page.
  • Silly Milly and the Mysterious Suitcase- Wendy Lewison12233119129594
  • Starfall books- free online reading books with different settings
  • Between the Lions videos and activities.  Click on “parents” to get book lists and tips.
  • Reading Rainbow app

To read aloud to your child:

  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs- Judith Barrett (follow it with the Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord)
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales (flip through the book before reading it- some editions are the original, dark and violent versions, and some are watered down)
  • How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz
  • Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson (non-violent versions of the classics)
  • Arabian Nights by Wa’fa Tarnowska
  • Biography picture books: your library should have great books about famous people
  • How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
  • Any of your favorite childhood books- share your love of them
  • 365 Penguins by Jean Luc Fromental
  • Flotsam by David Weisner (amazing artwork in this wordless book)
  • the Empty Pot by Demi (great story about honesty)
  • Watr! Water! Water! by Nancy Wallace
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  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
  • Mythology, tall tales, fairy tales from around the world
  • science books about weather, time, animals, vehicles, dinosaurs…

I’m beginning to ramble again.  Enjoy your summer.   Be a role model and read some books yourself!


Alien Autopsy Craft at the Library #Fizzboomread

Gross Alien Autopsy for kids!

Here’s a cool program that involves gross stuff and aliens, two things that kids love.  They examine an alien corpse and make scientific observations.  The “corpse” is a jello mold full of strange objects.


I got this idea from Catherine Brenner of Bethlehem Public Library, who made a presentation for our summer reading workshop.  She did a whole series of programs centered around “grossology”.


The gelatin mold above is actually a British import for a “giant jelly baby”.  Other options would be a gingerbread man cake pan.

The recipe I used has about a half-bowl extra, which was fine with my family.

  • 2 6 oz. packages of gelatin mix (orange or lime)
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • small plastic toys, jiggly eyes and boiled spaghetti

Pour the boiling water into a large bowl with the gelatin mix, stir for two minutes, add cold water.  Spray the mold with oil.  Pour the gelatin into the mold along with the weird objects.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


To un-mold, run a knife along the edges of the mold to break the seal.  Put mold in a bath of warm water (do not submerge).  I used plastic shoe boxes to store the aliens.  Moisten the inside lid of the box and carefully flip the mold onto it, peeling it off.  Aliens should either be stored in the fridge or a cool, dark place.

For the program, make your kids into scientists.  I recommend plastic aprons and plastic gloves.  Remind the participants not to eat their specimen (to avoid accidentally ingesting toys, and also, ew).  Before they begin dissecting, have your scientists make observations, notes, and drawings.  Ask them to use their senses to describe what they see without using emotional words like yucky or gross.

WARNING: this consistency of gelatin is as sticky as glue- it can stick the fingers of your gloves together if you get too covered.


Great tools to have for the autopsy would be plastic knives and tweezers.


My exuberant five year old demonstrated to me why this program is best for ages 8 and up.  He was all about the texture of the jello and mashing it between his fingers, sending it everywhere.  For his age group, an ooblek project would work better (non-newtonian fluid).

Pair this project with nonfiction and fiction books about aliens, and possibly some about surgery or anatomy.  P1100120

Summer Reading Challenge #1 – Kindergarten list

Kindergarten Reading List

Picture books are works of art, and like any art, are subject to differing opinion as to what is wonderful and what is not.  Looking over the list the school gave, I don’t have much to complain about.

Book Author
ABC I Like Me! Carlson
Alphabet Under Construction Fleming
Better Not Get Wet, Jessie Bear Carlstrom
Biscuit SERIES Capucilli
Caps for Sale Slobodkina
Cat in the Hat Seuss
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Martin
Den is a Bed for a Bear Baines
Each Peach Pear Plum Ahlberg
Goodnight Moon Brown
Growing Vegetable Soup Ehlert
Inch by Inch Lionni
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for K Slate
My Five Senses Aliki
Napping House Wood
Snowy Day Keats
Toot and Puddle Books Hobbie
Very Hungry Caterpillar Carle
Wheels on the Bus Zelinsky
Where the Wild Things Are Sendak
Who Hoots Davis
Who Hops Davis

I’ve read 90% of these.  I loved Where the Wild Things Are since I was a little girl, but after I attended a lecture by Matthew McElligott about how much care and design went into each page, I love it even more.  Reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar is a tactile, interactive experience for little ones.  The Napping House is a fun romp (but not actually good for bedtime reading).  Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten not only is a clever alphabet book in disguise (not only are the characters names in alphabet order, so are their species), it also shows how much work a teacher does to make a room welcoming.  Each Peach Pear Plum is a look and find using nursery and fairy tale characters.  I love Toot and Puddle-two close friends who are kind and loving.  Caps for sale was a favorite when I was little.  I don’t like Goodnight Moon, but that is just my taste- I find it too sappy.

They cover nonfiction with books about the senses, gardening, and animals.  Not bad, I suppose- though we have so much more to offer than this selection.  This list, as I said in my previous post, is to give suggestions.  There are so many wonderful books out there for Kindergarteners that teachers would have to give something the size of a telephone book to recommend them all.

Go to your local library and talk to a Children’s Librarian.  Bring your child!  The Librarian will be able to find picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, to delight your child.  If she loves trucks, we can find story books about cute talking trucks, but also books with lots of pictures of real trucks and little snippets of facts.  If he’s struggling learning concepts, we can recommend books about colors, numbers, opposites or time.  That leads me to my next thought- alphabet books.  Books like Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom embed the alphabet into the story.  True alphabet books have a letter per page.  I’ve seen so many of them that I now instantly flip to X and then judge them by that page.  Did they use X cleverly, or chicken out?  I really don’t like the artwork for ABC, I Like Me!  I find it too childish.



What I would add to this list:

  • fairy tales
  • Mother Goose and nursery rhymes
  • books about your child’s favorite interests
  • chapter books to read aloud
  • audiobooks to listen to
  • Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells
  • Courage of the Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker
  • Any Caldecott Award winner
  • picture books of mythology or tales from around the world
  • Tuesday by David Weisner
  • Journey by Aaron Becker
  • White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker5198qlX1tbL._AA160_
  • Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer
  • early reader books- gauge your child’s ability and don’t force it (Bob books to start)
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  • the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood
  • Stellaluna by Jannell Cannon
  • A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw51iJdPufLuL._AA160_
  • the Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg
  • The Puddle by David McPhail
  • Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
  • How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
  • Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino
  • Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton
  • The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone (Grover!)
  • The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie De Paola
  • Superhero ABC by Bob McCleod

……wow- I could just keep going.  Go to a library.  Get a book.  Read it to your kid.  Repeat.

The Dreaded Summer Reading List- a Librarian’s Perspective


Librarian’s Summer Reading List Challenge

I’ve decided to take on a challenge, to go over the school’s recommended summer reading list, read at least two from each grade, and blog about it.

Every year I, a public library director, chase down teachers and school librarians for their summer reading list.  I have to track down leads, hound sources and twist arms, and still, I sometimes get a redacted list!

I have found that 6th grade fluctuates the most, those poor in-betweeners not quite ready for YA, but so done with kiddy stuff.  I’ll think I’m ready to help students come in and get a book for their optional assignment, only to find the list has changed without being notified.  Then instead of calmly purchasing books in spring, I’m scrambling to buy books, catalog them and get them on the shelf, or doing lots of inter-library loans.  I hate that- I want to be able to get the right book in their hands immediately.  On the other end of the spectrum, some grade’s lists haven’t changed since I was in elementary school, which was …quite a while ago.  With that I have to contend with out of print books and books that aren’t great enough to become classics and have lost their relevancy.

Every year some ambitious parent marches their child into the library to read everything on the list.  They don’t understand that these titles are examples.  If one book in a series is on the list, another can replace it.  There are wonderful books coming out each year, heck each month, that are excellent for your child and would be approved by the teacher if asked.

I have a big concern with assigned reading.  It should be presented as “here are some ideas”.  My goal is to increase the number of people reading for pleasure.  We want kids coming in and finding the book that fits them, that appeals to them.  The book they stay up late at night reading, and continue while chomping down their cereal in the morning. I love reading, but I remember some assigned books with horror- tedious, out-of date, mother dying and Nazi death camp stuff that made me miserable.  There are some great literary classics out there that should be discussed in class, ones that shaped culture, that have deep meaning.  Some kids would happily read these on their own during the summer, and that is wonderful.  Other kids need support reading such difficult books, and definitely do not derive pleasure from reading them.

ANY READING IS GOOD READING!   Let kids read what they want.  Gently encourage them to discover new series and authors, suggest read-a-likes for their favorites that are slightly higher in reading level, but most of all, put books in front of them that they can choose from.

This week I’ll be going over the Kindergarten list.  Each grade list is by the grade the child is going into in the fall, so the Kindergarten list is for preschoolers who are age 5 before September.


Getting Kids Interested in Science #fizzboomread

Stand back, I’m going to do SCIENCE!

We had a science expo at our library to kick off summer reading.  This year’s theme is Fizz, Boom, Read!  Instead of just focusing on encouraging reading, libraries want to get kids into S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math).  The way to do that is to make it hands-on, fun, and allow room for creativity and play

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Our library system lent us a Makey Makey kit, which is a controller that uses everyday objects to complete circuits.  So we could play Tetris using a banana, cucumber, tomato and orange.

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I am loaning my son’s snap circuit kit, which allows kids to create different configurations to power devices- a fan, a siren and a light.

We are fortunate to have two parent volunteers who are great at doing science demos.  The most popular experiment was making a “fake shake”, a foaming colored substance that becomes hard.  (I need to get the information on how it was done!)  My daughter’s example was a little over the top.  (heh)

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Book Expo for Librarians

Book Expo America Adventures- Episode 2, BEA14 From a Librarian’s Perspective

(Episode one covered travel/tourism of NYC)

I will disclose right away that I am a VIP Librarian.  Book Expo has never told me why I was selected, but they give me a free four day ticket to BEA and have done so for the last three years.  I have no idea why, exactly.  Was there a random selection? Because I’m a director?  Was it because I was given a professional’s ticket for NY Comic Con?  Did I blog something?  Maybe I shouldn’t say anything in case they look it over and say, hey now, why DID we give that lady VIP status?  I am one of those aliens in Toy Story.  “oooooo.  The claw!  You have been chosen!”


They have this neat little area for VIPs where you can sit down and enjoy coffee, internet computers and random selections of food, just like the staff room in any library.  They make a list of vendors to visit and if you collect 15 signatures, you are entered into a raffle. The woman at the counter did not like the term “scavenger hunt” that I used.  I enjoyed the gamification of wandering the show floor.

P1090916This was not the only place I felt important.  On the show floor there is also the Librarian’s Lounge, a little island for librarians to be amongst their own.  They have refreshments (I kept missing them, but there was evidence they had once been there) and exclusive author signings.  I got my advance copy of Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid signed. The lounge is sponsored by Library Journal.

Librarians come to Book Expo for several reasons.  The first one is obvious, to get away from their library.  The second is to learn about upcoming books, new vendors, authors, trends and technologies. The third is for knowledge- new ideas, new perspectives and to diversify their world view.

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I immensely enjoyed the AAP Librarian’s Luncheon, where I got to see Cary Elwes, Kathy Reichs, Deborah Harkness, Matt Richtel and Garth Stein, get signed copies of their ARCs and have a very tasty packaged lunch.  Kathy Reichs has never seen Princess Bride.  She also referred to her young adult science fiction series as a fantasy.  I forgive her, because she actually counted how many people left after Cary stopped talking.  27.

I was so upset for coming in 15 minutes late to the Worst Social Media Advice ever.  Having to get all the way across Manhattan took longer than I thought.  The panel was just… so much bad advice.  Tor covered it and posted a small video segment.  I took a picture of my favorite slide, because it’s so meta.  This is going to go viral!


I love unshelved- the comic strip really captures what working in a library is like.  It’s Dilbert for Librarians.  Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum presented a panel called Too Much Information.  There was a lot of joking around and references to sex, but their final advice hit like an arrow through a coconut-wielding servant’s heart.  Stop trying to reinvent the library and go back to our roots.  Be an authority, curate quality and stop trying to please everyone with everything.


As well as Publishers presenting what they are coming out with during their “Book Buzz” panels, there is the Librarian’s shout and share.  This is a wild free-for-all with the audience being pelted with chocolate when they stopped paying attention, and much offers of vodka to all.  The presenters had searched the floor for things they wanted to see, and held up pictures, arcs and iPads showing their finds while describing them.  I am impressed with their eclectic tastes and sheer voracity for books.



I think the thing I found most useful personally was the presentation about LibraryReads.  We as librarians need to help the good books rise to the top, not just the celebrity or “bestselling” thrillers, but books that move us, resonate with us.  We can give books the “library bump” and get them known.  So libraries across the country are nominating 10 books that are coming out that month as the best adult fiction and nonfiction, and anyone who works in a library can contribute by voting and by creating blurb reviews for each nomination.  What I learned is that you can become a reviewer and possibly have your quick blurb picked up by newspapers starving for book reviews.

There was much at BEA for librarians, even though it is not a librarian’s show, really.  We are not the main focus, that honor is given to booksellers and publishers.

(up next, Episode 3, BEA for writers and readers)

My Book Expo America Adventures- episode one

BEA in NYC 2014- Episode One- travel

I’m just back from Book Expo America in New York City.  I will start by a travelogue  and then have further posts relating to my perspectives as a Librarian, a self-published writer and a book fan.

I want to start by saying I did all of this without a smartphone, which to my husband is an extreme survivalist skill like eating bugs in the jungle.  I think because I “cheated” and had an iPad mini that can use free wifi, I am not going to brag.


I drove to New Hamburg train station early Thursday morning.  Parking there is $3.50 a day.  I bought my train ticket from a machine on the platform.  Do your research in advance and find out if your train is “peak” or “off-peak” because there is a difference in the price, and the conductor won’t refund overpaying but will charge $5 for underpaying.  Metro North is a pleasant train, and if you sit on the right side going south or the left side going north you have a great view of the hudson, including Bannerman Island‘s castle ruins and West Point.


Metro North arrives at Grand Central Terminal, which is a beautiful building.  It was fascinating to see how the Apple Store adapted one of the main balconies into a genius bar.  Do me a favor.  Before stopping stock-still to stare at the beautiful ceiling, check to make sure no one is right behind you.  The terminal is a good place to buy metro tickets, which can be used for the subway and bus system. If you don’t have a smartphone, grab train schedules there too.

There is a a free shuttle for BEA, but it is only until 10 am and is hard to find the stop.  I took the M42 bus, which goes all along 42nd street.  Quick tip- streets run East-West, avenues run North-South. The bus stop was clearly labeled with a schedule and route map.  Busses take Metro cards and the fare is $2.50.  The blocks are deceptively long.  Take the 11th Avenue stop and walk down 11th to 39th street and the entrance to Javits- the registration desks are right there when you walk in.

I’m wondering if Manhattanites are issued a personal force field.  They certainly are trusting that cars and trains will not hit them.  I saw many people start to cross the street anticipating the light would change, hanging out into the street as cars zipped inches from their face, and so on.  When walking the city, try to exude that type of daredevil confidence.  Don’t wear your backpack on your stomach while walking and reading a map.

Javits center is huge and has a food court, but the prices are insane.  $5 for a soda?  Try to grab something on the way there, a good choice would be a sub from Subway (there’s one on 42nd).

I did a day trip on Thursday, taking the train back to New Hamburg and staying over at a relative’s house, which allowed me to take back some of my haul of swag and advance reader copies.  If that is not an option for you, BEA has a coat check and a shipping center.


On Friday, I stayed overnight at Yotel.  Yotel is a futuristic little hotel in Hell’s Kitchen.  It’s not for everybody, but I found the robot coat check, the tiny cabin that looked like it was from a space ship and the “galley” on every floor to be endearing.  The bed folded up into a couch that was excellent for reading.  The mattress was as hard as a rock, it’s a thin futon.  Bring shampoo and soap if you are sensitive to fragrances, as I was given the unpleasant choice between lavender and eucalyptus.


I went over to Times Square to walk around.  Times Square is extremely crowded and a bit confusing, as it is in no way square shaped.  Many of the big stores are on Broadway, which runs North-South-ish.  I stopped in to the Giant Toys R Us and the Disney Store.


I wanted a quick inexpensive dinner, so I chose Schnippers Quality Kitchen, which was recommended in one of my travel books.  I had an excellent turkey burger and ginger ale.  They had a cool pager system- you put your pager down on the table you choose and your server can find you when your food is ready.

Another American quick-eats is the Shake Shack.  They have a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal as well as other locations around the city.


Being a Librarian, I made a mecca to New York Public Library on 5th Avenue (also known as the Schwarzman Building).  The architecture is inspiring.  The Reading Room was closed.  Bryant Park, behind the building, has a wide lawn and many neat little features.  Ping pong tables, a putting green and a small outdoors “reading room”.  When I was looking around they were having a mass yoga lesson in the middle – it looked like at least 100 people, all doing the same pose while the instructor called out with a megaphone.


I should have brought sneakers.  I wore sandals, anticipating it to be very hot, but my feet were gross at the end of the day and I could have used the support for all the walking I did.

There are tons of options of things to do- take the time to research locations, hours of operation and prices before you go.  I ran out of time to do some of the things I wanted to do, like visit the Museum of Natural History or Central Park Zoo, or have tea at Alice’s Tea Cup. I  want to take the family on another trip.


What Makes a Great Public Library?


Elements of a Four Star Library

I was in a meeting with a group of Library Directors who were describing their trials and tribulations.  I started wondering what criteria we should use to rate our libraries.  As a library user, what gets the four star rating?

It starts out like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  Without the basics covered, nothing added on will matter.  It’s not just a minimum standard, like having a director, computers or space.  It’s even more basic than that.

Level One of library needs:

  • needs to be open
  • electricity, water, heating/cooling
  • accessible
  • bathrooms
  • clean, not foul smelling
  • materials
  • someone there

Level Two of library needs:

  • internet access/wifi
  • organization of materials
  • access to catalog
  • seating, tables
  • friendly staff person able to find items and answer questions
  • office services like copier, faxing

Level Three of library needs:

  • programs for kids, teens and adults
  • function as community hub with local information
  • friendly, professional, knowledgable staff
  • up-to-date materials, in-demand materials in stock
  • easy access
  • beautiful, pleasant surroundings
  • meeting the needs of all ages
  • collaboration with other educational facilities

This helps me to clarify what level four is.  Level four is a beautiful, inviting facility that is open when the user needs it, has the materials the user is looking for, and works to be innovative in providing services to their entire community.  The level four library is known to everyone in that community as the place to go to get information, entertainment, informal education, referrals to assistance, social interaction, cultural enrichment and access to new technology.

The question is, can you achieve a level four (or at least three) library on a tight budget?  Or does it take a lot of money to make excellence?