Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth Blog

Building Better Readers

By: Leigh Ann Vock, Youth Department Page

Our summer reading program is titled Read to Build. Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity will be helping to build homes. In addition to the physical building of homes, summer reading can also be a time to build better readers. Reading is a fundamental function but the benefits go beyond that. To name a few, it helps develop our minds and our creativity. When we read our communication skills increase, we discover new things, our imagination soars, our listening skills are honed, and our vocabulary improves, along with our attention span and memory retention. Phew, that’s a lot of reasons to build better readers.

Reading can be a challenge in the summer time when everything from the pool to a new movie release can put it towards the bottom of our warm weather bucket list. One thing is for certain, making books available throughout the home can help to put the thought of reading in a child’s mind. Consider having books EVERYWHERE in the house, not just on a book shelf. Baskets, buckets and bins can all be used to house a variety of books. Make sure that reading is not just reserved for bed time or quiet time. When books are always present and available, the option to read is viewed as an indulgence and not a chore. Enjoy the creative possibilities below for book provisions in your home.

Consider reading as a vital form of entertainment for your family and build a better reader today.


Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Read, Just For The Fun Of It!

By: Amy Waters, School Liaison

A visit to the second floor of the library to see the Smithsonian display Patios, Pools & the Invention of the American Backyard, was a trip down memory lane. As children of the 60s and 70s, my siblings and I spent much of our time out in the yard, playing games with our friends, digging in the sandbox, celebrating birthdays and running through sprinklers. But my favorite thing to do, indoors or out, was to read.

Lolling in a hammock with my favorite novel, or spread out on a big blanket with my brother and sister and our comic book collections, summer was the time to explore reading for fun. No worries about the level, the challenge, the “just right” book; I could, and did, read anything and everything just for the pleasure of reading.

If you want more encouragement to let your child pick the books that they want to read this summer, there is this statement from the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English):

“Research shows that leisure reading enhances students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary development, general knowledge, and empathy for others, as well as their self-confidence as readers, motivation to read throughout their lives, and positive attitudes toward reading.”

Check Out B Is For Betsy by Carolyn HaywoodDepending on my age at the time, the reading I chose, and the source of the material varied. As a younger child, a trip to the library would often find me in the “Hs” looking for the next book by Carolyn Haywood so I could continue reading about Betsy and her friends, family and community. “B is for Betsy” and its companion books was the perfect book for then 1st grade me.

Next came the fantasy of a miniature talking dog in “No Flying in the House” by Betty Brock.  When I got older it was “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth” by E.L. Konigsberg.

Check Out The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn KeeneWhen I could ride around town on my own, I would save my money and take a ride on my bike to the local bookstore to purchase the latest Nancy Drew novel by Carolyn Keene. I started with “The Secret of the Old Clock” and read every book I could get my hands on after that. Owning my own collection of Nancy Drew books was a joy of my young life and I indulged by reading them over and over. I also read and re-read “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett until the cover fell off.

Does your child have a collection of best loved books that they can return to time and again?

Archie Giant Comics SpotlightFinally, there were the trips to the news stand at the local “el” stop. With its racks of comics and gruff but kind proprietor I spent many a quarter (yes, they were that inexpensive!) buying up all the newest Archie comics. Back home, my brother would share Spider-Man, my sister her Richie Rich comics and I would toss my Archies into the mix as we relaxed in our yard and read the day away.

What will you read just for fun this summer? Share your favorites in the comments.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Helen Keller

By: Deanna Siegel, Youth Programming Associate
Hello Everyone!

Can you believe June is ending already? And what better way to welcome July than to celebrate one of the most resilient people in history. Helen Keller was born deaf and blind. Because of this, she had trouble communicating her thoughts and feelings to others. Through her courage, determination and life-long teacher, Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller was able to overcome several challenges. Throughout her lifetime, she learned how to read and to write, attended university and became a dedicated political activist.

Make sure you check out these titles the next time you’re in the library so you can read more about this extraordinary woman. Celebrate this day by encouraging your friends and family in all that they do!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Reading Slumps

By: Katy Almendinger, Early Literacy Librarian

Have you signed up for our Summer Reading Program yet? We have programs designed for babies to adults. Kids have started to come in and log their reading hours. It’s pretty impressive. So many readers have already reached their 10 hour prize. But there are also a handful of kids who have already read 35 or more hours. I’m so proud of every reader that I’m starting to feel guilty about my own reading habits.

Check Out Booked by Kwame AlexanderMy current reading habits are kind of pathetic. I’ve read two books since our summer reading program has started. Only two. One was The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin. The other was Booked by Kwame Alexander. And the fact that I haven’t been reading much has been bothering me. But it’s not just something that happens to me–it’s known as a reading slump. If you’ve ever found yourself not reading for a while, you might just be in a reading slump. Here’s a few ideas to help get you out of that evil slump.

Listen to an audiobook. You can listen to an audiobook while doing something else at the same time. Audiobooks are especially helpful if you’re busy or if you don’t have time to sit down and read.

Re-read an old favorite. Harry Potter, anyone? Enough said.

Check Out A Time to Dance by Padma VenkatramanAsk a librarian for a recommendation. A solid recommendation can even help you out of a book-mourning period. We also have plenty of book recommendations on our blogs. You could also check out a book from the Monarch, Bluestem and Caudill lists. I did that–I’m currently reading A Time to Dance.

Set goals. I hear a lot of kids talking about how they want to read at least an hour a day to help get them to their prize levels. I should follow their advice. Set aside a specific time, maybe right before bed, to read a little bit every day.

Put the book down. That’s right. Put the book down. If it’s taking you a really long time to finish a book, it might be causing a reading slump. One of the things librarians believe in is that it’s totally okay to abandon stop reading a book if you aren’t into it.

Check Out The Honest Truth by Dan GemeinhartSwitch genres. I tend to get frustrated with reading when I read a lot of one genre in a row–usually with fantasy. I read so many fantasy books in a row that I start to crave realistic fiction. I recently picked up The Honest Truth as a change from fantasy and I loved it.

Read with a friend. Talking about a book with a friend can help motivate you to read it. Or, if you’re ambitious, you could even try to start a book club!

Ultimately, it’s okay if you don’t want to read. It doesn’t hurt to take some time away from it. But I know that, eventually, you’ll find a book that’s perfect for you and pulls you out of your reading slump.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

The Classics

By: Emily Richardson, Youth Programming Associate

Introducing your children to the classics can be difficult; they’re old, boring, have stilted language, etc. What if there were books that made reading about classics fun, even for the littlest readers?


BabyLit: This series might be more fun for the parents than for the kids. Each book is a “primer,” focusing on different learning activities, such as counting, clothing types, emotions and weather, all based loosely on the world of the original classic.

Les Petits Fairytales: This series tells simplified fairy tales quickly and in ways for the smallest children to understand and begin to become familiarized with them.

Picture Books/Early Readers

Graphic Novels and FictionWhile reading the original classic is always fun, sometimes it can help to start off with an adapted or shortened title instead.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Because Cats

By: Renee Grassi, Youth Department Director

Cats Sanchez and Gus Lay Together On A Couch

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Albert Schweitzer

I happily embrace the cat-loving librarian stereotype. If I happen to see a cat book on display in the adult section of any library, I can’t help myself—I must absolutely check it out. I proudly display my cat calendar and cat mouse pad in my office. You will often find me gravitating to the cat themed cards in any card or stationary shop, as they are one of my favorite things to purchase. And I have spent many hours volunteering at shelters helping socialize and taking care of cats in need.

I am also the proud cat guardian of two adopted cats: Gus and Sanchez. Both of my cats know how to sit on command, as long as a salmon flavored treat is provided. And when an Amazon package arrives, they eagerly size up the box by sniffing and stepping into it to see if it will make for their new favorite bed.

Cat Gus Sits Among A Pile Of Tissue Paper
Gus has beautiful grey and white markings. He’s a quirky gentle giant who loves people. He’s quite a talker and often wakes me up in the morning with a friendly greeting. He has an affinity for sitting in tissue paper and has an aversion to storms. He loves to run around my home chasing his feather toy. And every time I take the ice tray out of the freezer, Gus runs to the kitchen with excitement. One of his favorite things is having fresh ice in his water bowl.
Sanchez Sits In A Box
Sanchez is the quintessential feline diva, and he knows it. He loves to be pet and carried around like a baby, but only on his terms. He has a gorgeous black coat from head to toe like a jaguar. Actually, his namesake is a black crow named Sanchez from an episode of Scrubs. Even at 10 years old, he will still jump and spin around mid-air to chase the laser pointer or his favorite caterpillar toy. And it’s become part of my routine to open the blinds every morning just for Sanchez because he loves to lay next to the windows and sunbathe.

All you cat lovers out there may know that June is Adopt-a-Cat Month. For me, my two adopted cats are part of my family. If you have a young person in your life who shares this sentiment or has an interest in learning more about cats, take a moment to peruse this list. You just might find them the purr-fect book!

Cat Gus Laying On The Couch
Picture Books and Early Readers
Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea
Captain Cat by Syd Hoff
Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert
Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj
Square Cat by Elizabeth Schoonmaker
Cool Cat by Nonny Hogrogian
Space Cat by Doug Cushman
Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Love by Kim Dean
Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton

Juvenile Fiction
Cat Diaries by Betsy Byars
Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties by Tom Watson
Cat Found by Ingrid Lee
Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech
Kaspar the Titanic Cat by Michael Morpurgo
Fat Cat of Underwhere by Bruce Hale
Binky the Space Cat (Bink Adventure Series) by Ashley Spires
The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin
Into the Wild (Warriors Series) by Erin Hunter
Sanchez Laying On The Couch
Juvenile Non-Fiction
M is for meow: A Cat Alphabet by Helen Wilbur
Cat Crafts by Linda Hendry
Choosing a Cat: How to Choose and Care For a Cat by Laura Jeffrey
Toots the Cat by Karla Kuskin
Dewey the Library Cat: a True Story by Vicki Myron
Is My Cat a Tiger? How Your Pet Compares to Its Wild Cousins by Jenni Bidner
How to Talk to Your Cat by Jean Craighead George

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Summer Weather

By: Deanna Siegel, Youth Programming Associate

We’re so close to summer I can almost taste it! And with summer, comes lots of changes in climate. Here are some books that you can take home in order to prepare for the upcoming weather. Get ready to grab your umbrella and to pull out your sunglasses!

But of course, the best part of summer weather is the Sunshine!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Road Trip Books and Media

By: Kate Easley, Youth Librarian

I’m about to embark on a 10 hour car trip to Alabama with my husband and our two kids (ages 4 and 1). To say I’m nervous is putting it lightly. This could all go very wrong within the first hour of the trip. However, I have been preparing my bag of goodies for weeks. It contains treats, crafts, toys, movies and lots of books. I’m packing books the kids can look at independently, like search-and-find and touch-and-feel books as well as books that come with a CD.

I’ll also be checking out Playaway Views. If you haven’t had a chance to try out the Playaway Views, you should. They are like little tablets that are pre-loaded with multiple videos and are small enough that your child can hold them easily. My kids are big fans of them because they are easy to use and fun to watch. Hopefully, the trip to Alabama will just fly by. Wish me luck!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Five Senses Science

By: Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate

Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

Children use their five senses every day to gather data about their world. Here are a few fun activity and book ideas to fuel your young scientists’ explorations.


The outside world shapes children’s development through experiences, which include using their five senses—hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Drawing a child’s attention to the five senses and discussing them increases understanding of and communication about the world around them.



When children play games that involve sight, they’re also practicing early literacy skills! Sight games help children recognize words, patterns, objects…and help them develop their memory!

  • Play “I Spy”: While reading a book or taking part in everyday activities, play “I Spy” with the child about things he/she sees on different pages of the book, throughout the house or out on errands.
  • Memory Game: Place four or five familiar objects on a tray. Give children one minute to look at all of the items and then cover the tray and ask the children to share what they saw on the tray. As children get used to this game, they will begin to focus more on the objects so that they are able to share when the tray is covered again.



Over time, children will recognize certain smells as comforting, yummy, scary, exciting, etc. Encourage the child to experiment with scents and smells that he/she recognizes and those that are more unfamiliar.

  • Blindfolded Smell Test: Blindfold the child and place some familiar scents under his/her nose, such as chocolate, cinnamon, playdough, etc. Ask him/her questions such as: What do you smell? Do you recognize it? Does it remind you of something else?



Like other skills that children learn, listening takes practice. Developing good listening habits helps children get important information from family members, teachers, friends and coaches.

  • Patterning: Using your hands or another object, make clapping patterns. Take turns having the adult lead, followed by the child leading a pattern, and vice versa. After doing clapping patterns, try the same routine with bells or another noise-making object. Ask the child: Which sequence is harder to repeat—the claps or the bells? Which sound do you prefer to listen to? Which sound is louder?
  • Take a Sound Hike!: Whether taking a sound hike at the mall, a nearby park or on a family trip, ask children to notice the sounds they hear and then use sound words as they describe them.



Children develop taste preferences based on what they are fed when they’re in the early years of their lives. Helping children think about which tastes they do and do not prefer will encourage them to try new foods and/or new combinations of foods.

  • Identify Foods: Gather up different foods (preferably that the child enjoys!) and have each child taste each food and guess what it is as he/she is blindfolded or has their eyes covered. While the child is tasting, discuss certain words such as sweet, salty, sour, bitter, fruity, etc. that will help him/her understand the meaning of the words.



Children learn about their bodies and how to communicate with others through touch. Most of the feeling that we do happens through our feet and our hands.  Taking part in activities where children feel with their feet and hands help them learn how to write, button their shirts, tie their shoes, etc.

  • Feeling With Your Feet: Have the child, barefooted, feel things with his/her feet and think about the way it feels. Some things to try include paint, playdough, grass and carpet. Ask the child questions such as: What does it feel like? Do you like the way it feels? Is it rough or smooth? Cold or hot? Does it tickle your feet? Do the same activity with your hands!
  • Pillow Play: Place familiar objects inside of an empty pillowcase. Let the child try to guess what the objects are. Help the child describe how each object feels. Vary the activity by using holiday/seasonal items or items with a theme such as animals or shapes.


Sources For More Ideas:

Read, Write, Think: Engaging the Five Senses to Learn About Our World

University of Illinois Extension: Teaching Children about the Five Senses

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Happy Birthday!

By: Emily Richardson, Youth Programming Associate

Multi-Colored Balloons
It’s my birthday month! Cue celebratory balloons!

This year I became curious about who shares a birthday with me, and thought I’d do a little research. Check out the list below to find your own birthday, then check out a book to learn more about your new birthday buddy.

J.R.R. Tolkien Creator of Languages and Legends by Doris Lynch Book Cover
Betsy Ross (Revolutionary)
J.R.R. Tolkien (Author)
Elvis Presley (Singer)
Duchess Catherine (Kate Middleton, World Politics)
Ernie Banks (Sports)
Al Capone (Crime)

Elizabeth Blackwell (Medical)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (Author)
Barnum Brown (Paleontologist)
Wilson Bentley (Snowflake Photographer)

Justin Bieber (Singer)
Alexander Graham Bell (Inventor)
Dr. Seuss (Author)
J.S. Bach (Composer)
Cesar Chavez (World Politics)

Hans Christian Andersen (Author)
Imogen Cunningham (Photographer)
Abigail Breslin (Actor)
Charlie Chaplin (Actor)
James Buchanan (US President)

David Beckham (Sports)
Catherine the Great (World Politics)
Adele (Singer)
Nellie Bly (Reporter)
Johannes Brahms (Composer)
Gary Paulsen (Author)
Mary Pope Osborne (Author)
Mary Cassatt (Artist)
Rachel Carson (Biology)

Anne Frank (Author)
Eric Carle (Author)
Helen Keller (Activist)

Diana Princess of Wales by Tim O'Shei Book Cover
Princess Diana (World Politics)
Calvin Coolidge (US Presidents)
P.T. Barnum (Circus Owner)
Ringo Starr (Drummer)
J.K. Rowling (Author)

Tom Brady (Athlete)
Louis Armstrong (Musician)
Neil Armstrong (Astronaut)
Suzanne Collins (Author)
Usain Bolt (Athlete)

Beyonce (Singer)
Jane Addams (Activist)
Ruby Bridges (Activist)
Roald Dahl (Author)

John Lennon (Singer)
Robinson Cano (Athlete)
Richard Byrd (Explorer)
Hillary Clinton (US Politics)

Daniel Boone (Explorer)
Marie Curie (Scientist)
Louisa May Alcott (Author)
Winston Churchill (World Politics)

Black Elk's Vision A Lokota Story by S.D. Nelson Book Cover
Black Elk (World Leader)
Clara Barton (Medical)
Jacques Cartier (Explorer)
Ty Cobb (Athlete)

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth