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What Counts as Reading

By: Emily Richardson, Youth Programming Associate

We’re coming to the end of our summer reading program. It’s been a wonderful reading-filled summer, and we’re on schedule to meet our reading goal. In the Youth Department, we’ve stamped and entered hours and hours of reading time. But what really “counts” as reading? What filled up all those hours?

In an oversimplified definition, reading is any formatted words, spoken or written, that cause a response from the reader. This could be emotional—a tie to a certain character or world—or influential—learning more about the history of WWII or the biology of snakes.

Read Interactive Digital Stories with BookFLIXBut, what does reading include? Reading includes audiobooks, graphic novels, non-fiction, magazines, playaway views and online books (BookFlix, Tumblebooks, ICDL), books read outside of a child’s reading level, rereads, any books read to children (storytime, bedtime stories, teacher-child reading, child-to-child reading), and more. If it fits the simplified definition, it counts. Even if it doesn’t fit, that doesn’t mean that the activity is not a useful or fun one. 

Reading aloud is great, because both the reader and the listener are interacting with the same material in different ways. It also allows the reader and listener to talk about the material together and share with each other their personal responses, a challenge that can build communication and reflection skills.

Personally, I love listening to audiobooks while cleaning or driving. Some are simple, just a single person encompassing the personalities of a multitude of characters through changing the tone and inflection of their voice. Some are more complex, with lilting music accompanying a variety of actors as we journey together through the chapters. I experience the same joy, terror and frustration with characters as I might when reading with my eyes.

Read eBooks, Graphic Novels Read-Alongs and More with TumbleBook LibraryLooking at a few of the more common formats, there are lots of great educational reasons to branch out into different formats!

Audiobooks help children learn fluency, vocabulary, sentence structure and word pronunciation.

Graphic Novels help children learn interpretation through pairing text and visual imagery, as well as gain a higher level of visual literacy, a valuable skill.

Online Books, with added video and sound, allow children to learn and interact through different formats.

Magazines convey information quickly and concisely, and can teach children the value of words.

But the most important thing to remember is that any reading is good reading!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

The Dreaded College Essay

By: Sophie B., Teen Blogger

Keep Calm and Write the EssayAs an incoming senior at one of the “Most Challenging High Schools in America,” as proclaimed by the Washington Post, college has been on my mind since the first day of freshman year. And since I am about to embark on the journey known as my final year of high school, I am almost done with my college process, and am currently working on my college essays to submit with my applications.

While some may believe that narrowing down which colleges to apply to, taking the ACT and SAT, or maintaining my GPA was the most difficult and nerve-racking part of this lengthy process, surprisingly, I found that writing my essays came to be the part I dreaded the most. If not for a few tips I had picked up along the way from friends who had already been accepted into the schools they applied to, I would’ve found myself panicked and scrambling come time to submit my college applications.

Every college requires that their prospective students submit essays with their applications – whether they are answered with prompts provided by the “Common App” or other topics that the school has already provided for you. Even though writing essays for colleges might seem like the most difficult part in the college process, I have found that there is no need to sweat it. The purpose of writing essays with your application is for schools to see what type of person you are, and what you will contribute to their university. Universities want to get to know who you are, behind your test scores, GPA, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. So if you are worried that your ACT, SAT, and GPA aren’t as competitive as you would like, your essay is the place to shine!

When writing your college essays, make sure you start them early. I recommend that you try to get them finished by the time school starts for the fall, that way you won’t feel totally overwhelmed when it comes to doing school work and balancing your extracurricular activities. Also, if you get your essays done early, you will have plenty more time to edit and revise your final product. Whether it be by yourself, with the help of family and friends, or even your teachers once school starts back up again for the fall, try to get as many eyes on it as you can, that way your essay can be the best it can be!

Even though most schools provide prompts, most students find themselves at a loss about what to write about. I recommend that you write about something that schools can’t see when viewing your applications. For example, if you play a sport, refrain from writing about the time you scored the match winning point for your team. For one, the reader may not know any rules about your sport, and two, the school already knows you play that sport from your application. Try thinking outside the box and write about something that will set you apart from the other applicants. For example, if you have a specific hobby such as drawing, you can write about how drawing is an outlet for you when it comes to the stressors of school and other extracurricular activities, and how drawing has made you the student and person you are today. The heart of the matter is, try to set yourself apart from the other applicants applying in addition to relating who you are as a person.

I know the college process is scary, but to all you future seniors, getting your applications done early and thoroughly can help put your mind a little at ease before entering your final year of high school. Good luck writing!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Middle School Reviews: Riding Freedom

Check Out Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz RyanWhat’s your name?: Charlie Morawski 

What school do you attend?: Hadley

What grade are you in school?: 8th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Riding Freedom

Did you like it?: The reason why I liked Riding Freedom is because it was very fun and exciting book. It is about a girl who leaves her orphanage and becomes a driver for a horse-drawn carriage. She ended up getting kicked in the face by a horse, and she lost her vision in one eye. She become the first woman voter dressed as a man and first woman to drive a carriage.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes fun and exciting books.

How many stars would you rate this?: Four Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Check Out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingWhat’s your name?: Laura 

What school do you attend?: Hubble

What grade are you in school?: 6th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Did you like it?: I enjoyed Harry Potter. As soon as you start reading you seem to never put the book down. As soon as I started I came in sink with the book every spare second I seemed to go to my room and read. That is how munch I liked Harry Potter.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes mystery and magic

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: The Land Of Stories (Book 5)

Check Out The Land of Stories An Author's Odyssey by Chris ColferWhat’s your name?: Grange K. 

What school do you attend?: Hadley Jr. High

What grade are you in school?: 6th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: The Land Of Stories (Book 5)

Did you like it?: I am on chapter 5 but it is really good so far because there is a lot of really good detail about the fantasies in the story. The main characters, Alex and Connor, continue in this book from the series. You MUST read books 1, 2, 3, and 4 before you read book 5 to best understand the story.

Who would like this?: People who like fantasy.

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Carnival of Embarrassment

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Summer reading is almost over, and you may have noticed something lacking this summer. Specifically, Middle School Librarian Christina and me making idiots of ourselves and posting the videos online. That’s because we decided to do a little something different this year – rather than ongoing humiliation throughout the summer (which, aside from being extra embarrassment, was really time-consuming) we are instead saving all our stunts for the end of summer reading. Next week to cap off summer reading, you can come see Christina and me undergoing a whole series of humiliations live and in person. We’ll be engaging in a hula hoop contest, a dance off, and more. And for the grand finale if you meet all your reading goals, we will be subjecting ourselves to a dunk tank – along with one of your teachers and some staff and faculty from local middle schools.

Now, while all this is super exciting (I know) there will be more to do than just watching Christina and me look like goofs. We’ll have non-embarrassing games for you to play and prizes to raffle off. Those of you who have read more than 10 books will get to take your turn trying to dunk me, and the rest of you can cheer and laugh when I go under…probably a lot.

But! To make this happen, you all need to read an average of six books each. You blew through your goals last year, so we upped it a little, but I think you can do it. You still have a lazy summer weekend left to get reading, so make sure you finish up a book or two while you relax. And if you’ve been reading but not logging, now is the moment to enter all those books in! I’m not exactly in a hurry to get thrown into cold water, but if it means you all hit your reading goals and helped buy appliances for a Habitat for Humanity family in need? It will definitely be worth it.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

By: Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director

“When in doubt, go to the library.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

You may have noticed a resurgence of Harry Potter hysteria in the last week. And for good reason! Not only was it Harry Potter’s birthday on July 31, J.K. Rowling’s newest installment of the beloved series was released!

Harry Potter and The Cursed ChildCheck Out Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Parts I & II) picks up where J.K. Rowling left off at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Unfortunately, most of the details of the book’s plot have been kept secret, preventing others from releasing spoilers before the book’s official release. What we do know is that The Cursed Child tells the story of Harry Potter’s son Albus and Draco Malfoy’s son Scorpius as young boys. This New York Times review also talks about how the power of time is a central theme in The Cursed Child—something fans of the series know all too well from Book Three: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

But The Cursed Child is not your typical novel. In fact, it’s not a novel at all. It’s actually a theatrical script of the play of the same name. This past June, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child previewed in the West End to London theater audiences. Written by Jack Thorne, this two-part stage play is based on an original new story collaboratively written by Thorne, John Tiffany, and J.K. Rowling. So, don’t be surprised when you or your child open the hardbound book and discover stage directions and an intense amount of dialogue.

Want to make sure that you are one of the first to read this magical story? Search our catalog and be sure to add your name to the waitlist! And if you want to relive the magic of the other 7 books, search the catalog and check out one of the books or audio books from the library!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Hamilton Is Coming to Chicago

By: April G., Teen Blogger

Hamilton An American Musical PosterThe 11-time Tony Award winning musical, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a musical about the life of the Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Many would think that due to its rich history content, it would be filled with dialogue and portrayed by white actors. Lin-Manuel Miranda did the opposite when Hamilton was written, which is one of the many reasons it became a cultural phenomenon.

Across the country thousands, if not millions, of people became fans of Hamilton and felt as if it truly spoke to them. Hip-hop and rap are used to explain Hamilton’s plan to fix America’s financial debt, and the world went crazy when they saw it worked, since theatre and hip-hop have never been friends. A true piece of art was created. Hamilton will continue to thrive for years to come as new generations emerge and hear Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton fight via rap about establishing a national bank. Teenagers in particular have a sense of connection with Hamilton because it uses rap and hip-hop elements to explain such a boring part of history. Nobody cared about a dead man’s struggle to make a name for himself until it was given a great soundtrack.

As Hamilton went into the Richard Rogers Theatre, it became the hottest ticket on the scene and sold out instantly. The tickets started off at $300 for a seat in the balcony area, which is the farthest seating option, and a seat closest to the stage started off at $900. People became disappointed as they had no funds to see the show or there were no seats available to the public anymore. The tickets may seem really expensive but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and everyone has to be paid for their work. The original cast won 11 Tony awards for their skills, and actors in Chicago have to live up to this set of expectations. Hamilton is a musical that has broken records and is unique in every aspect. The ticket prices are fair and the public will get a big bang for their buck. History is happening in Chicago and we just happen to be a part of it.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Middle School Reviews: Fish in a Tree

Check Out Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntWhat’s your name?: Elsa

What school do you attend?: Glen Crest

What grade are you in school?: 6th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Fish in a Tree

Did you like it?: Yes, Fish in a Tree is a very good book. The main character, Ally, hated reading. No one believed in her, but when her old teacher left and Mr. D came he had faith in her and later, did some research only to find out Ally is dyslexic.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes books that show persistent characters.

How many stars would you rate this?: Four Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

What I Just Read – Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Check Out Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara FarizanA few years ago, I read a haunting debut novel called If You Could Be Mine, and was thrilled to hear that the author had a new book coming out. Somehow though, I never got around to her second offering until this summer, and boy am I glad I did.

What I Just Read: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

What’s It About (Jacket Description): High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Do I Like It: Yes, and I can’t believe I waited so long to read this!

Thoughts: If I had to really distill Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel down to one word, I think I would choose “realistic.” Not just because it’s part of the genre of realistic fiction, but because every detail of the book rang so true to me, from things that were painfully familiar to experiences totally outside of my own. Leila was an amazing main character in part because she is simultaneously average and extraordinary – just like most people are. She’s a middling student, hates running in gym class, both loves and resents her family, and falls hard for someone who might not be the best choice for her. In short, she felt like someone I knew – or someone I once was.

Not surprisingly for a book I loved, this book centers almost entirely around Leila’s relationships with others. Sure, there’s a play, and some parties, but most of the tension, drama, and wonderful scenes are focused on Leila re-negotiating her relationships with those around her after Saskia enters the picture. From Leila’s “perfect” older sister to her wallflower best friend, from the new people in her life like Saskia and Tomas to the old friends like Lisa, Leila is forced to realize time and time again that she may have been wrong about even the people closest to her, or that even if she wasn’t, her relationships to them could change when she forces them to realize they may have been wrong about her. It’s a fascinating interplay between Leila being forced to question herself and her judgments while at the same time her confidence in herself grows.

And then, of course, there’s Saskia. Even in audiobook format, which in this case I thought detracted from my appreciation for her as a character, she shone. She was compelling, entrancing, and engaging, but also remote. Just like Leila, it’s hard for readers to really wrap their mind around her, especially as she sends inconsistent signals. She’s at the center of the story, but somehow, absent from the page – like Leila, we have a hard time seeing what, if anything, is below the surface, which makes her all the more fascinating but also inconsequential. If all these descriptions sound like contradictions, that’s because Saskia if full of them. Ultimately though, she is really only a catalyst – someone who comes in, changes everything, but remains unchanged herself. And that makes her both a really unique and interesting character, as well as one of the least important and relatable characters in the book. Love her or hate her, Saskia is worth the price of admission – but the changes she brings about in Leila’s life are worth so much more.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School