When the weather outside is frightful, we suggest a good read— for parents to young children! We check in with Cathy Lancaster Coordinator of Youth Services at Traverse Area District Library to get her thoughts on some great reads for kids this winter, some upcoming youth programs and more!

Cathy, what stand-out reads do you recommend for kids who are at the beginner reading level this winter?

Early literacy skills begin at birth, so I always encourage parents and caregivers to begin reading aloud right away, and to include rhymes and songs into their daily routines. Picture books are great for encouraging your child to take a “picture walk,” telling you the story as they see it in the illustrations. As they grow older and begin reading, Early Reader books are a great match. Early Readers are made up of short words and sentences, repetitive wording, as well as common sight words. We remind those checking out Early Readers from TADL to use the Five Finger Rule: start reading a page in the Early Reader, hold a finger up for every word you don’t know.  0-1 Fingers, the book is too easy.  2-3 fingers, the book is just right. 4-5 fingers and the book is too hard; try reading it with a buddy!

All that being said, some great books to start those just reading off with the Elephant & Piggie Books, by Mo Willems, they are large print, repeat words and are engagingly funny for young readers and their caregivers.  The “I Can Read!” series features many titles, including a favorite character of mine, Biscuit,  and covers 5 reading levels from emergent readers to beginning chapter books.  Finally, another favorite for beginning readers are the “Bob Books” from Scholastic.  These sets cover various skills, such as beginning readers and word families to more advanced readers focusing on short and long vowel sounds.

How do you differentiate reading age levels in the youth department?

A public library’s youth collection is laid out differently than you might find in your child’s school library. Basically we have 5 main sections with general age/grade ranges: Picture Books & Board Books (baby-3rd grade), Early Readers (K-3rd), Juvenile Fiction (4th-6th), Non-fiction (up through 6th grade, interfiled) and Media (such as audio books, DVDs, magazines, etc). The Young Adult collection is often housed outside of the youth services department. Schools vary in what tools they use to measure students’ reading levels, so we are set up to be more of a browsing library, and of course the 5 finger rule I mentioned above comes in very handy.

I imagine there are a lot of timeless tales that parents gravitate to. What books are the most popular for parents to share with their kids?

Parents still love to share the classics, books they grew up with, such as Goodnight Moon, Madeline and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. However, there are new characters that both parents and kids really enjoy, such as Scaredy Squirrel and Pete the Cat.

My current favorite read-aloud is: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. It was a Michigan Reads book a few years back, but I find it great for all ages because of the rhythmic text and the humorous storyline.

tell a tail

Reading a story during “Tell a Tail”

How can parents use the new Hoopla Digital to encourage their kids to read?

Hoopla Digital offers streaming audio books, movies, music and more.  Audio books are a great way to engage a reluctant reader, as they can read the real book along with the audio version or simply just enjoy the story itself.  Once you engage children in stories that interest them, they will pick up more books.  We also have many downloadable e-books and audio books available within our district through OverDrive and OneClickDigital, for all ages. You can access our digital offerings at www.tadl.org/digital.

Are there any books hot off the press that you recommend?

Award winning author and illustrator Tony Diterlizzi [The Spider and the Fly] is introducing the original Star Wars trilogy to a new generation with “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight,” in a picture book format, which is sure to be a huge hit.  It’s on order and will be added to the collection soon!

A new series of Early Readers by Kate DiCamillo is coming out: “Leroy Ninker Saddles Up,” with book 1 having been published in late 2014.  DiCamello, an award winning author who is a favorite for kids and parents alike, introduces a fun cast featuring a cowboy, his horse and the love of his life.

Do you have any favorite children’s book illustrators?

Do I ever!  Honestly, it is hard to list just a few, but I can start with a classic and one of the first illustrators I spent hours as a child pouring over her books; Tasha Tudor.  Also, there is Donald Crews, Peter Spier, Jerry Pinkney, Lois Ehlert, Tomie DePaola, Eric Carle… I can go on and on.  What I love about picture books are the stories layered within the illustrations.

What are some upcoming youth programs?

In addition to our regular weekly Storytimes and Afterschool Adventure programs, which you can find at www.tadl.org/events, we have some exciting new programs coming up for families.

Make & Take: An Interactive Parent & Young Child Time

  • 6:30-7:15 pm, the 2nd Wednesday of the month
  • Baby Time Winter Break-out! Come to the library for a short story time followed by a parent make and take and social time.
  • January 14: Calming Jars
  • February 11: Felt Story Boards
  • March 11: Rainbow Shakers

Pajama Jam

  • Saturday, March 14, 11 am
  • McGuire Community Room
  • Wear your pajama’s, bring a favorite stuffed animal and get read to hear some stories and a puppet show.  Participants are encouraged to bring a pair of new pajamas (sizes newborn-Teen) to donate. Donations will be accepted March 1st-March 14th in the Youth Services Department.

Finally, we’re collaborating with other community organizations for Embrace the Dream:

AAHM 2015More Northern Michigan Kids

Photo(s) by TADL