Literacy Week: Spongebob, Olaf, and Letting Them Pick

Why do we have so many Spongebob and Dora books? So kids can choose.

When I was in library school, I had a WONDERFUL children's literature professor who one day went on a rant about not buying what I will refer to as "junk" for our libraries (she used a more colorful four-letter word). "I don't want to see any [junk] on your shelves!" she told us. "There are too many good books out there for you to be buying [junk]."

By [junk] she meant books like these:


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Literacy Week: Kids in the Hall Find ‘This Beautiful Thing Called Writing’

For incarcerated youth and adults literacy is about more than spelling words “correctly.” It's about believing you have something to say and learning that people will listen.

By Peggy Simmons, Library Assistant, Elmhurst Branch 

“When I’m locked up, I see a pencil and paper as my best friends …. I’ve been locked up over 18 times, and writing is one of my strongest traits.”

– Pengo in The Beat Within. Read his entire article, “Why I Write,” here.

Cover of The Beat Within magazine

When Pengo was 11-years-old, The Beat Within, an arts program that publishes writing by incarcerated young people, came to the juvenile hall where he was locked up and “turned him on to this beautiful thing called writing.” Pengo writes so clearly about how writing helps him deal with the situations he is in. He is also very clear that

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Literacy Week: Bringing the World of Words to Families

When parents – especially mothers – have trouble reading, their children often do too. We can help!

By Ann Daniels, Families for Literacy Coordinator

If you have children, you’re surrounded by a world of words: On forms and flyers from school, instructions on toys, medicines and equipment, party invitations, homework your children want you to help with … But what if you struggle to read?

When parents – especially mothers – have trouble reading, their children often do too. According to the National Coalition for Literacy, studies show that a mom’s reading ability is the single best predictor of her kids’ success in school — more than race, ethnicity and family income. It’s also true that children from higher income homes hear 30 million more words by age 4 than children from lower income homes. Thirty million!

Families for Literacy, a program of Second Start at Oakland Library, works with low-literacy adults who have children to help close the 30-million-word-gap and make reading a

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Literacy Week: Lifelong Learning at OPL

We’re celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week by highlighting lifelong learning programs. New posts daily Sep. 21-26.

Happy Adult Education and Family Literacy Week!

This week is a chance  to recognize the hard work and resilience of adult learners who juggle family, jobs, and the challenges of life — even as they dedicate hours to pursue their educational goals. To celebrate we're highlighting a few of our lifelong learning programs for adults, young adults and families! Check back for daily blogs celebrating literacy this week.

To kick off, here are some our top programs:

Adult Basic Education

Second Start logoAcross this country, one in six adults struggles with low literacy, one in three with basic math, and one in ten speaks limited English. In Oakland those numbers are much higher. Navigating life without these skills takes hard work and a lot of

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Hey, That Harry Potter Lady Can Write

Career of evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith, comes out in October. How does Robert Galbraith's new adult mystery series compare to J.K. Rowling's world of Harry Potter, you ask?


I imagine that JK Rowling began her new Cormoran Strike mystery series under the pen name of Robert Galbraith so that readers wouldn’t make assumptions or judge it alongside her ubiquitous children’s fantasy series. I can only speculate that her publisher then leaked the author’s true identity to boost the modest initial sales of the first title in the series, The cuckoo

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Delilah Beasley: Oakland's crusading journalist

Delilah Beasley (1867-1934) was Oakland's first Black newspaper columnist who chronicled the activities of Black residents for the Tribune from 1915-1934.

Any serious student of California history will encounter the name of Delilah Beasley, African American author of the 1919 classic work, “Negro Trail Blazers of California.” Her natural curosity about Black life and culture led her to writing early in her life. As a teen, she wrote articles for the Cleveland Gazette, the Catholic Tribune, and the Ohio State TribuneMs. Beasley came to California from her native Ohio in 1910 at the age of 39. To support herself, she found work as a nurse, a masseuse, and maid. Soon after her arrival, she began to immerse herself in the study of Blacks in California. 

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Q&A: Patron's Ask; Librarians Answer: I'm out of time, can we do this later?

My hands are full, my meter just ran out, my kids are knocking things off shelves, I can't remember if we read that already, I have to take the little one to the bathroom...but I need your librarian skills - HELP!

Q: I love coming in to my local library to get one-on-one help from a children's librarian, but I only have a few minutes! A clock - meant to show time is running out.How can I get your expert help faster?  My middle-school-age daughter is dyslexic, her younger brother is an avid reader of comic books - exclusively, and my toddler has just figured out how to undo her seat belt on the stroller. I need book recommendations for all three of them, and I have to get to the market before dinner. Actually, forget it, I have to take this call from the pediatrician. We'll come back next week!

A: We love it when you come in person to the library, because speaking with you one-on-one allows us to be our most effective. Getting to know you helps us figure out which materials will be right for you. First of all, thanks for making time to bring your 

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Be Who You Are - How Boring!

Local author Alex Gino shares a good reason to hope your book is boring -- and gives us a totally awesome new heroine.

Local author Alex Gino has a new book with a powerful message: “Be Who You Are.”

That’s easier said than done in the 4th grade. But it’s especially hard for Melissa, because everyone still calls her George (her birth name) and they don’t know what she knows: She is a girl.

Melissa is transgender and the book George, published by Scholastic, is one of the first middle grade books to give voice to a transgender heroine.

We introduced you to George in a post last week

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How hot was it? Too hot for these joke books!

Joke books might just be the coolest thing around.

How hot is it in Oakland right now? Well, this morning I saw two trees fighting over a dog!* LOL

If that joke made you want to punch me in the face, chances are you're a lil' cranky over this heat wave we're having. And if that is the case, for the love of pickles, do NOT let your child anywhere NEAR this number:


That is the Dewey Decimal number for joke books. Your local OPL branch has a treasure trove of irritating, groanworthy jokes that are sure to make your kids howl with laughter, while you howl in pain. Whatever you do, keep your child away from 793.735, or risk getting pummeled with awesome jokes like these:

Q. Why don't cookies go to the library when it's hot out?
A. Because they feel too crummy.*

Q. Why did the lady leave her purse open when she went outside?
A. Because the newscaster said there would be some change in the weather.*

Q. Why do we

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Happy International Literacy Day!

Today is International ‪Literacy Day‬! What are you doing to observe the day? We have an idea...

Celebrate literacy today by doing some homework: For the next 30 minutes try to count the number of times you have to read or write something to go about your day.

How many street signs or bus routes? Text messages or Facebook posts? Menus or store prices? Bills or important mail? Job applications or work-related emails? Instructions from a teacher, doctor or pharmacy? What else?

What did you notice? How did you feel? Ask a friend to do the same and talk about your experiences.

Keep Noticing.
Cover of Push by SapphireI'll never forget the book Push by Sapphire (which inspired the movie

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