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Litchfield MN 55355

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Those Long, Lazy Days of Summer


  By Jan Pease

“Tell her  the candy story!”  This from my friend’s son, who was sitting with us while we enjoyed coffee.  His mom, in turn, told me about a funny experience involving her son and some special candy from the giant candy store in Jordan, Minnesota. 

 Telling stories is both an art and a science.  There has to be a beginning, middle, and an ending so there’s a bit of structure involved.  But connecting through story telling is an art.  There has to be that perfect timing that gets you to the ending.  If you’re telling a joke, the tension before the punch line has to be just right.

Narrative skills are an important part of early literacy.  Telling a story in the correct order helps with later reading comprehension.  I found information on a website for parents of children with speech difficulties, www.afasic.org.uk.  “Students with poor oral narrative skills have difficulty sharing their experiences with others;  difficulty making and keeping friends;  dealt with social situations in aggressive, non-verbal ways; were more aggressive and used direct action to solve interpersonal problems. Young offenders had poor oral narrative skills.”

How do children learn narrative skills?  They learn these skills as they read books and listen to stories.  And they in turn, tell their own story.    Here is more information from the afasic website: “The ability to compose a coherent narrative comes before and predicts successful access to literacy at school.   Poor oral narrative skills [in] pre-school is a predictor of difficulty with early literacy skills.  Oral narrative skills in the early years predict academic progress.”

Do you have memories of long, lazy afternoons spent sitting in lawn chairs, sipping iced tea or lemonade?  What were the conversations like?  I remember listening to stories. Grandma Emma told the story of how as she was walking home from work, some boys tried to grab her large black purse.  She used it as a weapon and  bashed them until they ran away from her.  Grandma Emma always had a large, black purse.  Grandma Pearl told the story about a boy who tried to steal a kiss from her on the buggy ride from church.  She slapped his face! He said, “Your sister always lets me have a kiss,” and she retorted, “Well, I’m not my sister!”  My dad sometimes brought a bulky, reel to reel tape recorder to Kimball that he alone could work.  I’ve heard those dear voices from 50 years ago, and can still recognize them. 

What will become of our stories?   I’m afraid that our kids will have memories of long, lazy afternoons spent with their parents glued to their phones.  It might not be noticeable, because the children, in turn, have their eyes fixed on their own phones.   

At my mom’s funeral, her brother, who is now deceased, told one of my favorite stories about mom, who never lied.  Ever.  Her high school class was learning about nutrition in Home Ec, and had to report on what they’d had for breakfast.  Now, my mom had cherry pie for breakfast, her favorite breakfast if there was pie in the house.  (Grandma Pearl was an excellent pie maker so there was usually pie in the house.) Mom didn’t want to admit having pie for breakfast, so she said, with a poker face, “an egg,  1 piece of toast, and coffee.”

Tell those stories.  Use those phones to make a video of grandma telling a story.  Listen as your children tell you stories.  And treasure those stories.     

Litchfield Library invites you to “Ralph’s World,” a family concert, which will be presented at the library Friday, June 29th at 10:00.  See you at the library!



 

Ralph's World Family Concert


Friday, June 15, 2018

Space, Cars, Food: Adult Books for All Ages


by Beth Cronk, Meeker County Librarian

The Litchfield Library has recently added some beautiful nonfiction books that could be entertaining and educational for the whole family.  Sometimes adult books with great illustrations and photos can be very appealing to children who love a subject.  I’ve known kids who poured over books about tractors, dinosaurs, and stars, even though they were officially published for adults.

One appealing new addition to our collection is Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Latest Images by Terence Dickinson.  An update to a previous edition, this book includes over 300 high-resolution images from the Hubble Telescope.  The Wall Street Journal said that this book is “a reminder that the finest telescope in space might also be the greatest camera ever created.”  The author worked with the scientists who work with the telescope to include accurate facts about the images. 

Drive: The Definitive History of Driving is a large new book from DK Publishing that should appeal to car enthusiasts.  Starting with the invention of the car and the birth of the automobile industry, this book showcases the cars of every era, plus related topics like car racing, traffic lights, and advertisements.  Even a child who can’t read yet could enjoy the hundreds of pages of photos.

Another new book from DK Publishing, The Story of Food: An Illustrated History of Everything We Eat is a gorgeously illustrated overview of a whole world of food.  Covering all of the major types of food (grains, fruits, meat, etc.), cuisines from all over the world, and the history of how foods were developed, this coffee table book is likely to make you curious – and hungry.  I’m sure I would have loved this book as a child.

Nick Offerman, famous for playing woodworking enthusiast Ron Swanson on the television show Parks and Recreation, wrote the foreword for The Tool Book: A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tools.  Once again, this is a DK book, with their signature clear and appealing photos and illustrations.  I’m not interested in tools, and I still think this is a beautiful and interesting book.  I can just imagine a small child who likes hammers and saws studying all of the varieties of tools and techniques featured in this book. 

Animal lovers of all ages can enjoy the Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises by Erich Hoyt.  Hoyt is a scientist who studies whales in the wild and who has written many books about them for children and adults.  This book has detailed profiles of ninety species of cetaceans with photos of each.  If you have a child who has enjoyed seeing these creatures at the zoo, they may like a chance to study a book about them.

If you’d like a book that gives the whole family something to look for outside, try Searching for Minnesota’s Native Wildflowers: A Guide for Beginners, Botanists, and Everyone In Between by Phyllis Root.  This new book from University of Minnesota Press is described as a family-friendly, photographic guide to the variety of flowers that grow right here in our state.  The book not only identifies them, it describes where and when you can go to look for them.

If you have young ones interested in a subject – or if you’d like to spark an interest - remember to look in the adult nonfiction section for books that are appealing to all ages.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Peek at my Reading List, or What Was I Thinking?

 By Jan Pease

Do you ever look back at your reading list and wonder why on earth that title appealed to you?  Well, if you look at my recent reading list, you will definitely wonder, “why?”

I often read fantasy, but this spring I made a foray into horror.  While poking around some website or other, I ran into the movie, “Let Me In,” a creepy Scandinavian vampire movie.  There is also a remake titled “Let the Right One In.”  The book these movies were based on also has two titles: “Let the Right One In” and “Let Me In.”  If I have it sorted out correctly, he published his book with the title “Let the Right One in.”  Then it was called “Let Me In” for the Swedish movie.   Then the book was called “Let Me In,” but the American movie was titled Let the Right One In.  I might have it backwards.  After all of this confusion,  it seemed like a good idea to read the book.  It was interesting to read a vampire story written by a Swedish author.  His name is John Ajvide Lindqvist and he specializes in horror novels and short stories.  






My next journey into reading horror novels was the Golgotha series,   “Six-Gun Tarot,”  and“Shotgun Arcana,” and “Queen of Swords.”," all written by R.S. Belcher.    I don’t know how to describe this  series.  Steam punk Western horror comes to mind.  Each book expands the characters and stories introduced in the first book. 



Of course after that series, I needed to cleanse my palate, so to speak.  I read “Jars of Hope,” the story of Irena Sendler, written by Jennifer Roy.  Ms. Roy’s aunt was a Holocaust survivor whose story is told in “Yellow Star,” also written by Jennifer Roy.   Irena saved 2500 children from the Nazis and kept careful records of each child, buried in jars in a friend’s garden.  Most of the children, however, lost their entire families and were never reunited with their loved ones.  We read this book for Beginner’s Book Club.









I stayed in the realm of nonfiction for another book, “Educated: a Memoir,” written by Tara Westover.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Tara was born into a family of survivalists who lived up in the mountains of Idaho.  She wasn’t even homeschooled.  She simply didn’t go to school.  Her   family ran a junk yard and survived a series of accidents, injuries which usually went without medical care. Tara taught herself enough math, history, science and language to successfully take the ACT test.  She started at Brigham Young University, where she was exposed for the first time to issues like the world wars, the Holocaust, civil rights, etc.  She went on to Harvard and eventually earned a PhD in history in 2014. Her book is somewhat controversial because her family members have different memories of their younger years. 






Finally, I went back to the horror genre.  I don’t know why.  I read “The Final Winter: an Apocalyptic Horror Novel,” by Iain Rob Wright.  This chilling (pun intended) book presents a small group of survivors trapped in an English pub during a horrific snowstorm.  Is it really the end of all things?  This book reminds me of some other things I’ve read and seen, especially by Stephen King, and it needs a ruthless editor.  But I finished it.    This last book is available on Kindle as a free book.  We probably won’t add it to the collection.  See you at the library!

   


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Celebrating books with The Great American Read


by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Have you heard about the new PBS show The Great American Read?  This is an eight-part television series about Americans’ favorite books.  The premiere was broadcast recently, and the final episode will air in October, when they will announce which book won first place in the voting. 

Host Meredith Vieira will introduce the 100 featured books, plus she will interview authors, celebrities, and regular people about how particular books have influenced them and our culture.  PBS is hosting a virtual book club on Facebook to discuss a couple of the books per week, and there will be some live public events, including some in select libraries across the country.  The public library in the little town of Cook, up in northern Minnesota, was the only library to receive the grant in our state. 

The list of America’s favorite 100 books was compiled by PBS and a polling service through a public survey asking people to name their most-loved novel.  Each author is represented only once, and book series are listed as one entry to increase variety in the list.  So, for example, the Harry Potter series is listed, rather than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Books could be from anywhere in the world as long as they were published in English; only fiction was included.  The books span a wide range of time from the 1600s to 2016, as well as a wide range of genres and styles. 

Voting for favorite books has already opened online through the PBS website, and voting by phone will be available in the fall.  You can vote once per day.  It sounds a bit like American Idol for novels.

Our library’s adult book club has read some of the books on the list.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is an elegantly-written young adult novel narrated by Death.  An orphan named Liesel in Germany during World War II is taken in by the gentle Hans and his prickly wife Rosa, as is a young Jewish man named Max who needs a place to hide. Liesel becomes fast friends with Max as well as with Rudy, a scrappy, poor neighbor boy.  The friendships and the words in this book are beautiful, and it is a favorite of mine.

We have also read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, a quiet epistolary novel about generations of ministers in a small town in Iowa.  Members found it thought-provoking.  The Giver by Lois Lowry was another young adult novel we’ve read that most of the readers enjoyed; it’s an intriguing look at a supposedly utopian society.  We have also read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Martian by Andy Weir, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  I would say they are all worth reading.

The idea behind the series is to get people reading and talking about books.  This is a goal the library shares.  Look on the display on top of the DVD shelf to easily pick up some of the 100 books from the Great American Read. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Reading Gap


By Jan Pease

 I’ve been telling students about an experience we had at the Minnesota Zoo one summer a few years ago.  We were sitting in the tiger house when suddenly a huge, male Amur tiger came in to view.  I felt that one minute I was looking at the brush, and then this huge beast came out of nowhere.  It was  amazing, to say the least. There really was no tiger in sight, and suddenly there was a TIGER! I was so glad to have thick glass between us.

I feel that way about the school year.  It seems to be winter, winter, winter, spring and SUDDENLY! It’s summer!

With the school year finishing so soon, I need to remind parents and grandparents about a   problem   called “summer slide.”   Our summer reading program, iREAD, from the Illinois Library Association, states on its website that “Young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.  Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. Libraries are part of the solution.”  


One statistic that I’ve found on the educational site, Oxfordlearning.com, an educational site based in Canada, is that students lose an average of two months of their reading achievement over the summer break.  Students may lose as much as 2.6 months of math achievement over the summer. 


The problem expands as students go farther in school.  The video website youtube.com  has several significant videos about the education gap.  To watch them, go to www.youtube.com and search for the NBC News video  with Brian Williams called “Summer Learning.” There is also a really good video called “ the  6,000 hour Learning Gap.”  Each of these present an easy-to-understand look at a national problem. 




https://youtu.be/ZolcNG3GVCs


https://youtu.be/l8i4U-WWfho


I suggested to a group of third-grade students that the answer to this problem might be having year round school.  They gave a resounding NO!  They do like that long summer break.  As we move farther and farther away from being a rural, agriculture – based community, year round school with significant breaks of, say, 4 weeks might be an option.  

It isn’t all just work.  Summer reading time lets students have the chance to choose what they want to read.  Reading for fun, not just reading enough to get by, is part of what produces a fluent reader. 

There was once a girl in Iowa who liked to daydream away her school days.  She remembers going to school in the fall, having forgotten how to hold her pencil.  Sad story, but true.  Don’t let your children be that little girl (although she turned out ok!)

See you at the library!