Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth Blog

Technology and Kids

By: Christina Keasler, Middle School Librarian

Technology is taking over the world! But that’s not a bad thing. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives, making them better and easier. Why not embrace it?

Some may think kids these days are born with a mouse in one hand, and a touchscreen in another, but just because middle schoolers were born in this technological era, does not mean that they’re naturally competent in all things digital. It’s important to immerse yourself and your child in technology so you can both learn savvy techniques to survive in our digital world.

While it can be challenging, it’s important to steer into the techno-wave instead of skirting around it and hoping it’ll all blow over. With gift-giving season upon us, it’s hard to avoid things that need wires and batteries. Technology can be a great starting point for a conversation, or even a stronger relationship. Now is the time to start across the technological bridge into the future.

Talkies by ToymailYou can adjust slowly by using technology at a lower competency level. Maybe you don’t want your kids to be staring at a screen. Perhaps you want a way for them to connect to you or other loved ones without the hassle of their own smart phones or social media accounts.

Talkies by Toymail suggested age range goes from years 3 and up, but they’re so adorable that people of all ages will love them. Adding in the gold tooth factor ages these to younger middle schoolers easily.

Kids can have up to ten people in their “trusted circle” of messaging. Voice messages can be up to 30 seconds, and don’t delete until the Talkie runs out of storage. The toy messengers work on WiFi, not Bluetooth, but can only be assigned to one WiFi network at a time.

If your child is selfie ready, but you’re worried about the dangers that come with potentially hazardous selfie situations, you can try Snap Pets by Wow Wee. These adorable creatures, that come in dog, rabbit, or cat, help take hands free selfies – known to the older generations as a camera with a timer. They hold up to 20 pictures at a time, and can be sent to a trusted device where they have the ability to be edited or shared.

Technology can enhance and improve your life as well. Most know that fitness trackers can help with health goals and running techniques, but technology has taken it one step further with Wilson, who makes a “smart basketball” that can track and improve your skills on the court.

Like the idea, but not a basketball fan? Try the smart football instead.

Cozmo Robot Toy by AnkiYou can’t have a blog about technology without bringing up robots! Robots that are available today can be for educational or recreational purposes. The Cozmo by Anki is beyond cute, with facial expressions and its own attitude. Cozmo can play games and evolves the more time you spend with it. For the more advanced user, Anki offers an open-sourced platform where you can edit and build new features for your little friend.

There are a few robotic options that have a more obvious educational track. Spheros have single and multiplayer games on them, but also teach simple coding structures. The coding missions are challenging but not impossible. Third graders from Wisconsin went above and beyond and programmed a set of Spheros to replicate our solar system’s orbit and were featured on Astrology Night at the White House. Students programmed speed, distance between planets, and the degree of their rotation to achieve this feat.

Ozobots teach basic concepts of coding with color coded line sequences. You don’t have to worry about purchasing expensive refill packets, since any brand marker will work providing that it can make a ¼ inch line. Ozobots come with markers, a helmet, and a book of activities and puzzles to get your child started. Once they get the hang of it, they can think way beyond the parameters to create costumes and even stories for the tiny robot that fits in the palm of your hand.

Dash from Wonder Workshop is the more advanced bot from the Dash and Dot duo. Kids learn coding starting with the Dash tutorial. Their free apps can teach kids by playing, and you can enhance their entertainment with add-ons like brick connectors and xylophones. Kids can operate Dash with any smart touch screen device, and can do anything from complete an obstacle course, to make a ball launcher.

Technology has advanced beyond the physical realm and into virtual reality. Devices like Google Cardboard, Playstation VR, and Oculus Rift all allow people to enjoy virtual reality in their own home, at different quality and price tiers. Virtual reality can be used at home or in the classroom to provide more personal experiences in environments that would otherwise be unattainable, allowing for more knowledge retention.

While new technology might be daunting and intimidating, there are a lot of benefits that can enrich your life, as well as your relationship with your middle schooler. Maybe you will purchase one of these gadgets for hours of family fun, or maybe you’ll stop by the library to play with them here. Either way, there’s nothing to be scared of. Jump in!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Picture Books – Categorized for Easy Selection

By: Melissa Hilt, Youth Assistant Director

Row of shelved picture books.We have been in our newly remodeled Youth Department for almost a year and the excitement is still alive as we hear our members express how much they love the new play area, the layout, the colors, the 3D printers and the picture book categories to just name a few.

In the beginning we had comments from people wondering why we decided to categorize our picture books and I am always happy to tell them that we did it because we listened to how our members asked for books. Because picture books tend to be for children who are not reading yet, it was hard for them to understand how to find books. Now they learn where their favorite topics are and know where to go each time they visit. Just the other day a three year old walked in with his grandmother and said, “let’s find a new truck book,” and he knew exactly where to go! The grandmother started to stop at the desk to ask but he said “come on, this way.” He was so proud of himself and I loved seeing the smile on his face as he showed his grandmother right where to go without any hesitation.

Shelves of picture books.As I was coming up with the 15 main topics and countless subtopics for categorizing our collection of picture books, my coworker and I tried really hard to think of all of the popular topics children like. I think our members have been more than happy. With the new way to find picture books, our collection check out has grown from about 20% to 30% at any point in time.

If you have questions about the new way we shelve our picture books, please stop at the Youth Desk and ask us for assistance. We are here to help you. We love to hear feedback and have even made a couple of changes after hearing our members ask for a certain author or character.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Funny Books

By: Leigh Ann Vock, Youth Page

“The book ends?!” Elephant – We Are in a Book by Mo Willems

We Are in a Book by Mo Willems is a story about best friends that discover they are in a book that a reader is reading! They go along in this delightfully funny story until one of the characters discovers that the book ends. Despair ensues and the hilarity of how it is dealt with is worth reading over and over again. I love funny books.

It is sheer brilliance in writing when an author makes adults and children laugh simultaneously. Funny picture books are at the top of my list followed closely by tear jerkers, which is another blog post entirely, stay tuned.

I have found over the years that funny books are usually the ones that children choose to be read over and over again. Usually they end up memorizing the book which is a great reading readiness skill. So gather your giggles together and pick up one of my favorite funny books:

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Speak Your Mind, But Keep It Civil

By: Amy Waters, School Liaison

Kids smiling at the camera.There was an election this week. If you’ve listened to radio or TV, or if you have spent any time on social media, you know that people are stressed out, angry and anxious. And if adults are feeling this way, kids are going to be worried and anxious, too.

As I write this, I do not know the results of the election. But we all know that it has been contentious and we have heard difficult things from both sides. As we exercise our right to vote, let’s also exhibit our best behavior toward one another, the children are watching.

In a 2012 Psychology Today online article (written long before this election!), Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D. talks about civility like this: “The foundational virtue of citizenship, civility is behavior that recognizes the humanity of others, allowing us to live peacefully together in neighborhoods and communities. The psychological elements of civility include awareness, self-control, empathy, and respect.”

So, how do we help our children navigate some of these complex feelings and relationships, which are essential to who we are in community with one another? I believe that books can be great gateways to difficult conversations with kids of all ages. Take time to snuggle up with your sweet child, offer a hug and share a story. Here are a few books that may help foster discussion, empathy and respect for the world around us. Ask at your library for help finding more titles.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Snuggle Up with These Series

By: Deanna Siegel, Youth Programming Associate

As we all know, winter is just around the corner. While some may be dreading winter, it happens to be one of my favorite seasons! The time is coming for hot chocolate, mittens, ice skating, and yes, that’s right, Christmas! But I am getting ahead of myself. The chilly air and sprinkling snow presents several opportunities to snuggle up with a good book. And what is better than a good book you might ask? A great SERIES of course! Here are some fantastic series that will make you happy that you have the chance to sip on some hot chocolate and cocoon yourself in blankets.

Check Out A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events
This is an older series, but still a really magnificent read. The completed series follows The Baudelaire orphans—Violet, Klaus, and Sunny—and the terrible Count Olaf, who is after their family fortune.

It is full of adventure, humor, angst, and even vocabulary lessons. This is a great series to snuggle up with this winter (if you haven’t already) and will keep you guessing until the very end. Grades 3 and up.

Number of books: 13.

Check Out Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
You’ve probably heard of this graphic novel series. It is extremely popular, and for a good reason. The story follows siblings Emily and Navin, who move with their mother into their great grandfather’s house. The story unravels from there when they discover an old secret and an evil monster that will change their lives forever.

If you enjoy action and fantasy, then this series is for you. Grades 4 and up.

Number of books: 7 (with two more to go!)

Check Out The Grimm Legacy by Polly ShulmanThe Grimm Legacy
This series centers on Elizabeth, a young girl who has just started working as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository. This place serves as a library of objects, including something called the Grimm Collection. When objects start disappearing from the Grimm Collection, Elizabeth and her co-workers find themselves wrapped-up in a daring adventure.
While each book follows a different person, readers will learn more about the overall world in which the characters live. Grades 6-8.

Number of books: 3

Check Out Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Three Times Lucky
This action-packed series centers on Moses LoBeau and takes place in Tupelo Landing, NC. Moses lives with a Colonel and Miss Lana, who own and work at a café. Moses’ world turns upside down when a lawman comes to the café talking about a murder. With the help of her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, Moses embarks on a perilous journey to save her family.

Buckle up as this story keeps you on your toes and has you laughing from page to page. Grades 4 and up.

Number of books: 3.

Check Out Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka
Lunch Lady
If you are looking for something lighter, and perhaps funnier, then this is the series for you. This ongoing graphic novel series takes place in a school where the hero is the lunch lady. Join her as she serves up justice for the school and its students. Grades 3 and up.

Number of books: 10.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Preschool Fair

By: Katy Almendinger, Early Literacy Librarian

Picture of four preschool aged kids with arms around each other's shoulder.Do you have a preschooler at home? Or maybe you have an almost preschooler? We know that thinking about sending little children to preschool for the first time can be intimidating. Believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about preschool enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year.

Don’t know where to start? Well, if you’re like me, you probably headed right to Google. A quick Google search will pull up great lists of qualities to consider and questions to ask preschool directors. It will provide distinctions between the different educational approaches, from Montessori to Reggio-Emilia. It can also help you decide whether or not preschool is right for your family. But what Google can’t do is provide face-to-face opportunities to interact with preschool directors and educators.

That’s where the Preschool Fair comes in. The library will host a Preschool Fair on Wednesday, November 2 from 6-8 pm. Think of it like a college fair but for preschool. Glen Ellyn Preschools have been invited to host an informational table at the library. Preschool directors and educators will be on hand to meet prospective families, answer questions about their program, and share specific information about curriculum and enrollment. It’s a great opportunity for families to come and explore all of Glen Ellyn’s fabulous preschool options in one place.

We hope to see you there! Questions about the Preschool Fair or the library’s preschool services can be sent to Early Literacy Librarian Katy Almendinger at calmendinger@gepl.org.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Go Retro With Classic Disney Movies

By: Emily Richardson, Youth Programming Associate

Back in March, I went to see Zootopia in theaters. I consider myself fairly savvy when it comes to figuring out movie plots ahead of time; but by halfway through, Disney had upended my entire idea of where the movie was going and who was actually behind the terrible plot. Disney is good at this. While some might fall through, there’s usually one or two every five years that really shine.

Disney’s next big film, Moana, is slated to release at the end of November. But what’s a Disney fanatic to do in the next month before this new and amazing princess graces us with her presence? Why not take a trip into the past? Go retro and find that old Disney animated film from the 1930’s, or discover an unsung hero, overshadowed by the larger films during Disney’s Golden Era of the 1990’s.

Check Out Pinocchio

Snow White, the first film by Disney ever, is still fairly well known. But did you know Pinocchio is the second oldest? With classics such as the song “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and the character Jiminy Cricket, this movie is a must.

Check Out The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone often gets overlooked (and, in the spirit of honesty, I actually prefer Quest for Camelot, but the two are very different).

Following the story of King Arthur before he becomes king, The Sword in the Stone is a fun, forest-filled romp through Merlin and Arthur’s training, leading up to the actual joust where Arthur pulls the legendary sword from the stone.

Check Out The Aristocats

“A Lady does not start fights. But she can finish them.” Classic Marie in The Aristocats.

Check Out The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under

The Rescuers brings mice solving crimes and rescuing kidnapped children, missing diamonds, evil crocodiles, poachers, bird “airplanes” and one of the most adorable marriage proposals ever.


Check Out Hercules

Overshadowed by greats such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, Hercules is a hero in its own way.

From witty Megara to the three muses’ singing, to Hades sass and Phil’s grumpy nature, this cast of rambunctious and loveable characters will make you laugh for the entire length of the movie.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Homework Help Available @ GEPL!

By: Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director

Research, projects, and papers….oh, my!

We in the Youth Department can tell this new school year is officially in high gear. We are fielding all sorts of homework questions from kids and caregivers alike—and we love it! This is the time of year when your friendly librarians can help you and your child find the perfect book or the right resource to support your educational needs. Aside from our comprehensive juvenile non-fiction, biography, and fiction collections, we have a plethora of kid-friendly online resources available FREE 24/7 from home with your Glen Ellyn Public Library card. So, take a look at some of our favorite resources below. Who knows—they might come in handy the night before that big project is due!


CultureGrams LogoStudents in grades 2 through 8 will have the world at their fingertips—literally. Learn about history, customs, and everyday life of countries around the world. Culturegrams features concise, reliable, and up-to-date information about the world’s countries. There are four different editions available, including a World Edition, Kids Edition, States Edition and Provinces Edition.

New Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia

The New Book of Knowledge from Scholastic GoNew Book of Knowledge is that go-to research tool for students in grades 3 through 8. It is a generalized reference resource, which means it provides overviews of a variety of topics that are accessible and credible. Students will find a variety of digital nonfiction texts and articles across a wide range of core content areas. Information is organized by topic, grade, level and Lexile.


ScienceFlix Logo

With the increase of STEM related research and school projects, ScienceFlix is the perfect resource for your child. Perfect for students in grades 3 through 8, ScienceFlix offers a mobile-ready interactive interface designed for those wanting to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Multimedia content is closely aligned with the latest science standards as well.


TrueFlix Logo

TrueFlix is an online resource for students in grades 3 through 8 providing digital books, texts, and videos that help student build knowledge of subject-area content. Offering information across a wide variety of topics that are aligned with 21st Century Skills and state standards, TrueFlix helps support student’s academic needs through inquiry and discovery.

To access the library’s complete list of online resources available for kids, simply click here!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Toddlers and Technology

By: Megan Stepniewski, Youth Programming Associate

30% of children are obese.

30% developmentally delayed.

14.3% diagnosed with mental health disorders.

20-30% of children experience learning difficulties.

And 1 in 11 now have technology addictions.

All aforementioned problems are associated with overuse of technology.


After reading these statistics and seeing parenting and psychology articles spouting all over the place about the dangers of technology, it is no wonder that many parents feel like banishing technology from their house all together! It becomes harder still when you take into account that despite wanting to abstain from technology, it is everywhere and eventually your child will need to learn how to properly utilize technology to function in school and eventually in the workplace.

But some of us love technology! The great storytelling and complex critical thinking in gaming, the complete access to information about anything and everything, being able to communicate with friends and loved ones at any time in any place, and the opportunities for creativity, all stem from the wonderful use of technology in our lives. It’s no wonder that we would want to share these exuberant experiences with our children!

So what is a parent to do? Use Aristotle’s Golden Mean.


Aristotle was definitely not a moron when compiling his Golden Mean. Essentially, it boils down to this: the right course of action falls in between two extremes — one of excess and one of deficiency. Here we have our two extremes: let our kids have free rein on any and all technology (our excess), or completely vanquish technology from our children’s lives altogether (our deficiency).

This is what I kept in mind after diving through a plethora of academic articles, scholarly journals and research papers to find a decent road for parents to take. Here is what I found:

  • For the purpose of linguistic, physical, mental, emotional and relational development, all children under the age of 2 should not be passively exposed to screens and/or touch screen technologies.
  • Children need their parents, and in the absence of a connected parent, children will attach to devices.
  • During the earliest years, infants and toddlers interact primarily with people. Their interactions with toys are usually in the context of human interaction as well. They need to freely explore, manipulate and test everything in the environment to properly develop.
  • Technology creates wonderful bonding experiences where parent and child can enjoy gaming, reading and exploring together.
  • Enjoyable and engaging shared experiences that optimize the potential for children’s learning and development can support children’s relationships both with adults and their peers.
  • Effective technology tools connect on-screen and off-screen activities with an emphasis on co-viewing and co-participation between adults and children and children and their peers.

For children with special needs, technology has proven to have many potential benefits. Technology can be a tool to augment sensory input or reduce distractions. It can provide support for cognitive processing or enhancing memory and recall.

Ultimately, we need to keep in mind that technology is a tool — just like a book, a crayon, a microwave, or a car. Way back when, parents and psychologists held the belief that when books became more accessible to children, it would harm and damage their proper development. Now we see children’s books as a wonderful growth tool and is encouraged for proper development. We may not have all the scientific research on how technology affects children yet, but technology is here to stay and so it is best that we learn to adapt it into our lives while continuing to proceed with caution.

Don’t stress. You are an AWESOME PARENT! YOU — CAN — DO — IT!

If you liked this blog post, then check out these articles and books about toddlers and technology! (It’s where I got most of my information from.)

Remember proceed with caution, because a lot of them use scare tactics — obviously to get more readers, but you have Aristotle on your side, so what is there to fear? 


Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Lego Creative Building VS Sets

By: Kate Easley, Youth Librarian

Check out The Lego Ideas Book by Daniel LipkowitzIf you have a school-aged child in your house, the chances are good that you have some LEGOs lying around. If you are like me, you have three giant tubs of LEGOs in your house. It makes me cringe every time my 5-year-old son asks me to buy him another LEGO set. “Do you really need MORE LEGOs? What about the 52 million already in the basement, in your room and all over the carpet?” I ask him.

The appeal of the packaged LEGO sets is strong. Kids love the themed designs and fancy vehicles and who can blame them? They are super cool! There is much discussion on whether these building sets hamper creativity. I think it’s good to encourage both free-building and also building the themed sets. Free-building can cultivate a child’s creativity and imagination while the sets help him follow directions and work on spatial reasoning.

My goal has been to encourage my son to do more free-building with his loose LEGO bricks, mainly so I can avoid buying more of the costly sets. This has been a challenge, but I have found some ways to push him along. First, I pull out the tubs of loose LEGOs and show him the cool bricks I find. Then I ask him what he thinks we can build with the bricks we have. Usually he builds a small castle or spaceship and then plays pretend with his minifigures around his new creation. At least it gets his creative juices flowing! The Lego Ideas Book is great for coming up with ideas of what to build. So, pull out those tubs of LEGOs and get building!


Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth