Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pleasure Reading for Success

reading1One of the main goals of my job as a librarian is to help children become lifelong readers. I believe that a love of reading enhances life, opens new worlds, and expands minds. It can help children become happier, more well-rounded, more empathetic, more educated, and generally better citizens of this country and of the Earth.

Recently, a scientific study by the Institute of Education showed that what librarians have long suspected is indeed true: reading improves achievement. The study found that children who read for pleasure did better in school than their non-reading peers. The kids who read regularly scored better in vocabulary, spelling, and even in math. This is huge! There is a somewhat obvious link between more reading and better vocabulary and spelling skills. After all, it makes sense that the more words you see, the more familiar you’ll be with what they mean and how they are spelled. With this new study, we not only know that to be true, but now understand that pleasure readers even do better at math. The benefits of pleasure reading continue to expand and amaze.

The study showed that reading aloud to your kids matters too. Children whose parents read to them regularly at age five scored better in spelling, vocabulary, and math at age 16 than those who were not read to.

reading3Reading for pleasure was in the news again last week, when author Neil Gaiman delivered an impassioned speech that started by saying, “reading fiction, … reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do.” Gaiman is the Newbery-winning author of The Graveyard Book, as well as numerous other books for adults, teens, and children. He spoke about how fiction is a gateway drug to more reading, and “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.” It is a terrific speech and well worth reading.

So what does all of this mean in practice? The librarians at the Mill Valley Public Library have a wide host of ways to encourage a love of reading in our children.

reading2Our five story times every week not only entertain the kids in attendance but also model great early literacy activities and ways parents and caregivers can read aloud to their kids.

The librarians love to recommend books to all readers, both reluctant and voracious. Our Personalized Reading List program is designed to give kids in grades 4 through 8 a host of book suggestions.

We love to promote alternate forms of reading too. Remember that graphic novels and audiobooks are terrific ways to read!

In that same speech, Gaiman stated, “I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children… We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy.” We librarians will echo that: whatever way children enjoy reading is a good way. A child’s life is dramatically impacted by their love of reading. Keep reading fun, and the payoff will be immense.


Eddie Madril, Native American Hoop Dancer

Sunday Special, November 10, 11:00 a.m.
Main Reading Room

eddie_picExperience the skill and artistry of Native American hoop dancer Edwardo Madril, Pascua Yaqui tribe member. He’ll share the rich traditions of America’s indigenous peoples through the beautiful song, story, and dance. Learn some American Indian sign language, too. FREE – All ages – No sign-up needed.

Spooky Stories for Halloween

ghostsdinnerThe Ghost’s Dinner by Jacques Duquennoy
What happens when ghosts dine together? Find out when Henry hosts a dinner party for friends. Ghosts enjoy what you and I like – drinks, appetizers, the main course, and dessert. But these ghosts turn into the colors and shapes of what they eat! Delight in this meal that is out of this world. The Ghost’s Dinner‘s simple text makes room for fun conversation and laughter, while the material gives a reader the opportunity to perform and interact with the kids being read to. More whimsical than scary, this is an ideal choice for kids who are just learning about traditions like Halloween, or who want to participate but do not want to be too scared. The Ghost’s Dinner received a Parents’ Choice Award in 1994. (ages 4-7)

ghostnamedA Ghost Named Fred by Nathaniel Benchley, illustrated by Ben Shecter
George has no one to play with. Out on a lonely adventure, he discovers an abandoned house and inside, and he can feel a presence. There is someone there, and it’s a ghost! But this ghost has a name, and his name is Fred. Fred is having trouble finding something. Can George, Fred, and some new acquaintances find what they are looking for? Written with large text and ample spacing between sentences, this is a terrific “I Can Read” early reader from our Red Dot collection.  Most of the pages have a distinct background color of black or variation of yellow along with an illustration. This is a clever way for children to learn color associations, since the yellow pages connect with notions of daylight, action, or triumph, while the black pages connect with concepts such as night, reflection, and anticipation. A Ghost Named Fred is a great book for kids who want a little suspense, adventure, and friendship in dark and unusual places. (ages 5-8)

coraline-neil-gaiman-ictcrop_300Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Looking for something a bit scarier? How about a lot scarier? Try Coraline, a book about a bored girl who just moved into a new flat with her constantly working parents, where the only company she has are eccentric older neighbors. Coraline fills the time by exploring her new world and discovers a door that appears to lead to nowhere. But she finds that the door does lead somewhere after all, and one night Coraline discovers in a world that looks identical to her own but is decidedly not. This is where she meets her other mother and other father, who have buttons for eyes and desperately want to entertain and love her. Coraline is not easily fooled, and her bravery is tested as she navigates through this world of trickery to save her captured real parents and three other forgotten souls from the pale and sinister creature: the other mother who loves her “as a miser loves money.” This psychological thriller is terrific for readers seeking a genuinely scary story. Each chapter features a gothic black-and-white illustration, including a bone-chilling portrait of the other mother with the button eyes. Coraline has been adapted into a graphic novel and a film, and it won Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards. (ages 10 and up)

littlevampireLittle Vampire Goes to School by Joann Sfar
And now for something that will humor, spook, and gross you out: try this graphic novel about a vampire kid named Little Vampire who wants nothing more than to go to school. His grisly but friendly community hatch a plan to teach him at school during the night. Little Vampire sits at a desk that a boy named Michael occupies during the day. He is not supposed to make the dead’s existence known, but Little Vampire does Michael’s homework and they start to correspond through notes. When they get in trouble with the Skeleton Captain, Little Vampire must invite Michael over to meet the quirky family and set things straight. Will these youngsters be friends even though they live in two different worlds? Eccentric and laugh-out-loud funny, Little Vampire Goes to School is more than just an entertaining, gory comic book. The illustrations of the scary creatures have a funny and even cute appeal to them. (ages 8-12)

– Courtney

SHARE-A-Book Dogs

Saturday, November 9, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.

SHARE-A-Book Dogs

SHARE-A-Book Dogs

Kids in kindergarten and older can make 15-minute appointments to read aloud to friendly four-legged friends. It’s a great way to increase confidence and improve read-aloud skills in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Program takes place in the Children’s Room.

Call 389-4272 x4741 to register for a 15-minute appointment.

A Mouse, an Owl, and a Mountain Dog: New Books for Older Readers

sugar-by-jewell-parker-rhodesSugar, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
On the River Road Plantation, ten-year-old Sugar hates all things sweet, and hates her name. Slavery is over, but she and her family must harvest cane to make a living with her fellow plantation workers. Sugar is curious and vexed by this “freedom,” and cures her restlessness with the elders’ African folk tales and a new secret and trouble-filled friendship with Billy, the plantation owner’s son. Then, life at River Road Plantation takes a turn when the community learns that new workers from China will come and work side by side with them. Everyone is scared, but Sugar is eager to get to know her new neighbors. Through the eyes of a spunky girl, Rhodes gives depth to racial tensions, generational differences, bridging cultural gaps, and finding light in dark places. Coretta Scott King Award honoree Rhodes has written another great book for young readers who enjoy historical fiction, courageous protagonists, and emotional dramas. (grades 3-7)

mouseThe Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, by Richard Peck, audiobook narrated by Russ Bain
Mouse Minor is always asking questions. Perhaps that is why his tail has a most peculiar shape – the shape of a question mark! Mouse Minor is not his real name; in fact, he does not know what his real name is, who his family is, or where he came from. All he knows is that he is the smallest mouse in Buckingham Palace with a big question: Who is he supposed to be? After ditching school, scaring a princess, and riding in a horse’s ear, Mouse Minor heads toward Queen Victoria herself to get his questions answered. Mouse Minor wants to find his place in a world of aristocratic animal and human societies. Newbery award-winner Peck weaves together the themes of self-discovery, complexities of social order, and the overall mystery of life. Kids who enjoyed Kate DiCamillo‘s Tales of Despereaux and E.B. White‘s Stuart Little will gravitate toward The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail. (grades 4-6)

laskyThe Rise of a Legend, by Kathryn Lasky
In this prequel to the popular Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, Ezylryb the screech owl hatches into a war-torn forest. He has a thirst for knowledge but when his baby sister perishes in an enemy raid, Ezylryb changes his priorities to focus on battle. He becomes the voice of a new generation, though the elders are aghast at Ezylryb’s unorthodox war strategies and his notions to recruit snakes and use guerrilla warfare. Fans of Lasky’s series will be thrilled to learn about the respected teacher of the great tree. The Rise of a Legend can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel as well, and will be appreciated by readers who like Kenneth Oppel’s Silverwing and other action-packed animal fantasies. Written like a memoir with captivating footnotes that describe how this world works, Lasky captures the brutalities and solid bonds during conflict, the sorrows and the triumphs. (grades 5-8)

mountainMountain Dog, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov
When his mom goes to jail for pit bull fighting, eleven-year-old Tony is sent to live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with his uncle, a forest ranger. In the mountains, Tony learns that people can treat dogs like partners instead of profit makers, and he is particularly drawn to Uncle Tio’s search-and-rescue Labrador, Gabe. With a nose that has 230 million scent receptors, Gabe can smell lost hikers and human feelings. Tony finally feels understood by someone. Struggling with the difficulties of visiting a parent in prison and knowing his home on the mountain may be only temporary, Tony decides to volunteer with his uncle on search-and-rescue missions. He longs for the calm that the rescue crew achieves in a crisis, and tries to emulate that in his own troubled life. Mountain Dog is written from the perspectives of both Tony and Gabe, whose narratives alternate throughout the book. Gabe is given an equal voice in this novel, which will be appreciated by dog lovers who consider their dogs their family members. Newbery honoree Engle, a former search-and-rescue volunteer, includes numerous details of the wilderness and of rescue activities, establishing an authentic feel to the book. (grades 4-7)


Big and Mighty!: New Books for Younger Readers

the-mighty-lalouche_cover-imageThe Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Lalouche is a humble french postman with a yellow finch for a best friend. One day his boss pulls up in a fancy new electric autocar and tells Lalouche he’s been replaced, “A walking postman’s far too slow.” Poor little Lalouche, worried he will lose his rented room, spies an advertisement for the Bastille Boxing Club and turns up to fight. Though he is small he is quick, and her runs circles around his much larger opponents: the Piston, the Grecque, and Ampere. Finally, little Lalouche is ready to face the Undefeated Champion, The Anaconda! Author Matthew Olshan includes a terrific Author’s Note that explains that while this story is fiction, French boxing in Paris in the late nineteenth century was quite popular. A bit more like modern kickboxing than what American boxing, the sport favored speed and agility over brute strength, so a wily entrant like little Lalouche might have had great success. It is a lovely story of overcoming odds and finding a place in the world, but the true stars are the images. Illustrator Sophie Blackall captures the feel of Paris beautifully. Her boxing scenes are fantastic, with the oversized Anaconda looking ten times the size of our humble hero. (ages 4-8)

nowimbigNow I’m Big!, by Karen Katz
Round and friendly faces tell the story of growing from a baby to a toddler. Each two-page spread compares “when I was a baby…” to “NOW I’M BIG!”: from crawling to running and jumping, from riding in a stroller to walking with Mommy, and from chewing on everything to playing with toys. Toddlers and preschoolers can see the differences between their baby lives and the lives they lead now. After moving to that big-kid bed, we see that now there’s a new baby sister in the family, and big sister helps with all those things she used to need when she was a baby. The positive big-sister message, the multicultural faces, and the large, repetitive text make this book terrific for the toddler and preschool set. (ages 1-5)

goodnightGood Night, Sleep Tight, by Mem Fox
Bonnie and Ben are home with their favorite babysitter, Skinny Doug. Doug tucks them in to bed and says, “good night, sleep tight. Hope the fleas don’t bite! If they do, squeeze ‘em tight and they won’t bite another night!” Tickled, the kids beg him to say it again. Instead, he tells them another rhyme, and another and another. They hear Pat-a-cake, This Little Piggy, and many others before Skinny Doug finally tells them once and for all, “good night, sleep tight.” These traditional rhymes, some well-known and others less-so, are imaginatively illustrated throughout. In Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the three characters are shown as astronauts standing on top of a crescent moon. In This is the Way the Ladies Ride, there are so many horses that they ride right off the page. In her book Reading Magic, author Fox stated “Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.” The rhymes in this book provide a great start down that road. (ages 3-5)

AesopAesop in California, by Doug Hansen
In this terrific compilation of Aesop’s Fables, Hansen has transported the traditional tales into beautiful California settings: the original African lion in The Lion and the Mouse is now a mountain lion; the fox of “sour grapes” fame roams through the vineyards of Napa; the city mouse lives in a house looking out on the Hollywood. Each story takes up just one page, which distills the stories to their essence and yet includes beautiful details about the California animals and settings. Setting The Tortoise and the Hare in the Mojave Desert allows Hansen to race a jackrabbit against a desert tortoise, and the course goes past cholla cactus to the finish line at a creosote bush. Maintaining the familiar morals, these stories fit almost seamlessly into the California setting, making them even more relatable for today’s California kids. (ages 4-8)


Scare Up a Dark Drawing with Ane Carla Rovetta

Sunday Special, October 20, 11:00 a.m. to noon
ane_carla_rovettaFearsome feathers, frightening fur — Halloween animals might be more fun than you ever imagined! Hear artist, naturalist, and storyteller Ane Carla Rovetta weave slightly spooky stories and watch as she draws the mysterious creatures of the night. (Age 5 and up, Main Reading Room)

Pizza & Pages Book Club

ship-breaker-paperbackTuesday, October 15, 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Grades 6 – 8
Read Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi on your own. This award-winning novel takes the reader to a futuristic world, where teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living. When he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl. Join your fellow readers and eaters for a lively discussion over pizza and dessert.
Call 415-389-4292 x4741 for more information or click here to register. (Creekside Room.)

SHARE-A-Book Dogs

Saturday, October 12, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Kids in kindergarten and older can make 15-minute appointments to read aloud to friendly four-legged friends. It’s a great way to increase confidence and improve read-aloud skills in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Program takes place in the Children’s Room.

Call 389-4272 x4741 to register for a 15-minute appointment.