Great Books and more

Q&A Patrons Ask: I want to read a book that is “too hard” for me…

Hello Everyone,

Over the past week I have answered the same question many times, so it must be a trending topic in Oakland right now:

  • My second grader wants to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid but doesn’t read chapter books yet. Do you have any suggestions?

  • I borrowed The Sorcerer’s Apprentice DVD from the library and my kid loved it. Now she wants to read the book, but she isn’t a strong reader. Do you have any suggestions?

  • I want to read a book with my child but I am not the best reader, do you have any suggestions?

  • I want read with my child in English, but I need help with my pronunciation, what do you suggest?


Every one of these questions can be answered with the same answer:

Read along with an audio book!

An audiobook, otherwise known as a recorded book, is an audio recording of a talented thespian (that is a fancy word for actor) conducting a performance-style reading of the book for your entertainment. In addition to enjoying a wonderfully read story, your child can develop and/or strengthen their reading skills.

Following along with audiobooks will help children:

  • Recognize the letter patterns of words with many syllables. Words like "multiply", "indifferent", and "Constantinople" can be hard to break into pieces in your head. Hearing someone else say the word can help them break up the syllables and learn to read it independantly. 
  • Learn all of the different ways to say “OUGH” in English. “OUGH” is one of the most tricky letter combos in the English language because really are no rules or reasons for how it is supposed to be pronounced.  But listening to an audiobook may help a child (or anyone really) figure out the different sound patterns for "OUGH". If by chance listening to audiobooks doesn’t help you figure out all the different "OUGH" sounds, I’d recommend using this handy website as a cheat sheet.
  • Become familiar with words that they have never seen before. Younger readers need help with words like "spaghetti" and "croissant." And let’s be honest, unless you studied Latin or linguistics, Expelliarmus and Sectumsempra threw you for a loop the first time you saw them too. Reading along with an audiobook is wonderful for learning these newfangled (or old fangled in some cases) words. If by chance your child wants to know the English translation of Expecto Patronum...

                   Harry potter


If reading along with an audiobook interests you we have many  audiobook kits available for you to borrow. An audiobook kit is a picture book with a CD recording included for your convenience. Most popular chapter books are also recorded to CD for your listening pleasure, but you have to borrow two items and create a kit yourself.  Ask a librarian to help you find a chapter book and its accompanying audiobook. We would love to help you out. You are allowed to check out up to 10 audiobooks on your library card, which are included in your 40 item limit.

Here are some suggestions of great audiobooks:

                           Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

If you have any more questions you would like us to answer please click:  

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Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. Help! My preschooler won't sit through a whole picture book!

Q: My Preschool-aged child is having trouble paying attention while I read her an entire picture book. Can you suggest books that will better hold her interest?

A: First of all, don’t get frustrated if your child isn’t paying attention to books as long as you would like them to—it’s totally normal for kiddos to tire of a book or get distracted before you think reading time should be over. The important thing is to make reading a fun and special time, so if your child becomes restless go ahead and move on to another activity! You can always return and finish the book when your child is ready.

Oakland Public Library also has MANY interactive and sensory-friendly read-aloud picture books that will grab your kiddo’s attention and not let go! Interactive picture books are a great way to involve your child in the story, by asking them questions, inviting them to dance or move around, or providing flaps to lift.

Check out these super fun and interactive picture books at your local Oakland Public Library branch—or put these on hold in our online catalog using your library card!

Wiggle book jacketWiggle by Doreen Cronin

This rhyming picture book encourages kids to do something they’re already good at: wiggling! As the book asks questions and encourages participation (“Can you wiggle in the water? Wiggle one fin on each side”) wiggle along with your kids and join in the fun!

Can You Make a Scary Face jacketCan You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

The narrator of this funny, action-packed picture book talks directly to the reader (“Hey, you! Yes, I’m talking to you! Stand up!”), and encourages kids to get up and move, dance, pretend, and—of course—make a scary face! Great to read one-on-one with your kiddo or to a group of children.

Press Here book jacketPress Here by Herve Tullet

This book begins with a single yellow dot on a white page, and invites you and your child to follow the clear, simple instructions (“Press here and turn the page”). Watch your child’s excitement grow as each action builds to a satisfying finale! Besides being a lot of fun, this picture books offers learning opportunities such as following instructions, practicing left vs. right and up vs. down, and identifying colors.

Peek-a-Moo book jacketPeek-a-Moo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti

Kids love books with flaps to lift, and kids love books with guessing games—and this picture book has both! It’s a simple premise—which animal is playing peek-a-boo?  Invite your child to guess which barnyard animal is hiding behind the flap, and then have fun learning animal names and sounds together! (“Guess who? Peek-a-COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO! Says the Rooster!”)

Your local library branch will have lots more wonderful picture books that encourage participation and will grab your child’s attention. If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help. 

As always, if you have a comment, leave it below, and if you have a question you'd like us to answer online, click the button below.

Q&A Patrons Ask: My Kid Only Reads Junie B. Jones....

Q: My child only wants to read Junie B. Jones and Junie B is a bad influence. How can I encourage my child to read more substantial literature?

A:. I don’t know when it happens, but somewhere along the process of raising children and wanting only the best for them, we forget that sometimes kids just need to have fun. Unlike too much television and video games that have a negative effect on a child’s physical and intellectual development, excessive reading will only have the opposite effect. Kids who read regularly perform well in school, become critical thinkers, have quality writing skills, continually improve grammar and vocabulary, and a host of other benefits.  The only way to develop a voracious reader is to allow the child to read what interests them. So if you want the best for your children, (and I know you do) my professional advice is to relax and let the kid read any age appropriate material they want to. Yea, I’m drawing a line in the sand at your 6 year old kid reading E.L. James. I am not recommending that!

Remember children have similar interest as adults, and before we judge their reading choices for being “too easy” or a “poor influence” let’s just quick look at an adults guilty pleasure reading habits: 


Compared to Dexter,  Junie B. is an angelic cherub. 


Considering Tressa's exploits,  Junie B. is merely precocious!  


 As compelling as Anna and Christian's romance may be, no one can mistake this series for “quality” literature. And we won’t even begin to mention how many holds are placed on the movie!

Based on the three examples given, it is clear that adults enjoy reading a diverse collection of books with unorthadox writing styles, and about characters with questionable morality.

Adults don't mind that the writing is not at a collegiate level,  the characters do not converse in standard English, or the plot does not promote the highest ideals of morality. So why are we holding our children to a high standard when it comes to selecting reading materials?

Don't be so quick to judge your kids choice of reading materials. Remember, children love anti-heroes too!  So Junie B Jones, Stink, Captain Underpants and other such characters are enjoyable for the fact they are NOT role models. The vast majority of children understand that Junie B is a misbehaving protagonist. When a child picks up a Junie B Jones (or other similar story) they are reading purely for the enjoyment of reading. At the end of the day, isn’t that what is best for our children; they learn to love reading?

So the next time you visit the library borrow another paperback/mystery/erotic romance/urban fiction book,  understand your son or daughter wants to pick up Junie B for the same reason:  READING IS FUN!

Hey parents, teachers, anyone interested: Do you have a question for us? Click on the link below and we will happily answer it for you. 

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer. How do you know if a person is cheating on the Summer Reading Challenge?

Q: How do you know if a person is just cheating by filling in all the stickers but not reading?A volunteer (unnamed) looking sneaky with her reading log.

A: We don’t know!

Of the approximately 500 kids who have signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge at my branch library, only 3 have had the audacity to ask this question.

However, at the beginning of June, when I visited classrooms at a number of Oakland Public Schools (all the children's librarians do this every May & June) to tell kids about the Summer Reading Program, another dozen kids asked the same question. At every school, there is always at least one person, usually in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, who asks me, "What if someone cheats and fills in all the stickers without reading anything at all?"

So I've answered this question a LOT. Here is what I say:

Bookshelves at Oakland LibraryWe use the honor system, which means we trust you to read a little every day (we count days; not time, not books). We are confident that it's more fun to read something than it is to lie about it and then skulk around feeling like a cheater. 

However, if you are one of the people who can't find anything you want to read for 15 (or even 5) minutes a day, you need to come talk to me!  We have over 30,000 kids books at my branch alone, and it's my job to find the 1 book you really, really, really want to read this summer. (Maybe that is why we call it the Summer Reading Challenge!)

Everyone needs help finding the right book sometimes. If you haven't yet found the book that makes you want to read, it's could be because you haven't yet asked your librarian for help. Come talk to me, and I will do everything I can to find the best book - the greatest book - the most fantastic book for you! 

You know what else? This is your summer vacation! We want you to be able to relax, rejuvenate, and enjoy yourself. You get to pick whatever you want to read, so the 15 minutes a day should be 15 minutes that please you. If you hate fiction, pick up some non-fiction. If you had a bad experience with a fantasy that all your friends loved, try some science fiction, or a mystery. If you are sick and tired of comic books, read some history - or vice-versa!

If we can't find a book that looks like fun for you to read, then probably what we need to do is find a book that looks like fun to hear read aloud. (I wish we had 20 copies of The True Meaning of Smekday - a patron recommended it to me and it's the best.) It's my opinion that kids who don't like to read should sit back, close their eyes, and listen to a wonderful story reader. Usually, it's your mom or dad, a grandparent, or a sibling. If they are all busy, then there are professional story readers who make recorded books that you can listen to on CDs or as downloadable audiobooks.

I'm not worried about you cheating, but it will break my heart if I missed the chance to help you find a good book.

If your librarian never seems to be available when you come to the library (waiting in line is SO hard for kids), try our new online service called Book Me! to ask for help finding a book, or call your local branch library to find the best time to ask for personalized help.

As always, if you have a comment, leave it below, and if you have a question you'd like us to answer online, click the button below.

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It's Summer at Your Library!

The Oakland Public Library has reading, fun, and adventure for children, teens, and adults this summer.

Smiling girlWe invite you to hang out, play, meet new people, and read for fun this summer.

Studies show that kids who don’t read during the summer lose approximately two months’ worth of gains made during the school year.  But we have you covered, with the kids Summer Reading Challenge.  

We know (because studies also show!) that when kids choose their own reading, they enjoy reading more, and when reading is fun, they become better readers.  We'd like to celebrate your child's summer experiences by rewarding them for reading, which they can track in their own reading log.  Come to any Oakland Library to pick one up.

While you're here, check out our amazing activities and performances. Music, puppets, marble runs, an instrument petting zoo and a live animal petting zoo...there's always something to do at your library. 

Baby Bounce ProgramCelebrate reading with the whole family. 

Any child can participate in the Summer Reading Challenge whether they know how to read or not.  Even babies are learning important literacy skills when you or another loved one read to them.  Read together, read often, it all counts, because it all makes a difference.  

You can also get prizes for your own reading, for attending a library program or bringing a friend to the library, or checking out a free Discover & Go pass.  Just ask for an Adult Summer Reading raffle card at any location.  And, yes, your teenager too!

Girl and boy reading togetherStart now.  Here's our favorite reads. 

We love to talk to you and your children at the library to find the perfect book, but your can always browse our favorites at our Great Reads page.   We also love OUSD's Elementary Summer Reading list, and hope you will try our new service, Beanstack. Set up a free account and select your child's age, interests, and reading level. You’ll receive a weekly email with recommended books from the Oakland Public Library!

We've got plenty in store...

Don't miss our end of summer extravaganza at the Oakland Museum, or that special event that just right for you and you child.  We are also serving free lunch for youth at many of our libraries. Check out out events calendar any day this summer.  We can't wait to see you. 

Girl eating lunch in the library

Don't know what to read? Try Book Me!

At some point, it happens in every reading family: You've worked your way through all the Ramonas and all the Fudge books. You've read all the Wimpy Kids and all the Dork Diaries. Harry Potter is history. Every bit of Narnia has been Chronicled. And you don't know what to read next.

You're in luck! OPL has a new service called Book Me! that will help you find your next family favorite. Fill out the form online, and a librarian will reply with a list of suggested titles. Easy peasy.

If you're looking for children's books, your Book Me! request will go to a children's specialist. We can help you find a chapter book to read at bedtime, a picture book about getting a new baby brother or sister, or an exciting fantasy read for your book-hungry tween. Give it a try! Recommending books is our favorite thing.

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: What book comes next in the series?

This Frequently Asked Question is VERY easy to answer! Your librarian may use the old-fashioned way if she's standing next to you in the stacks, but if she's in front of a computer, she'll use NoveList, which is seamlessly woven into our online catalog. I'll walk you through both ways, so if the librarian is busy helping someone else at the moment, you can figure it out for yourself!

The old-fashioned way:

Q: I love this book! It was so great! What comes next in the series? 

A: Walk over to the shelves that have the author's books (the author’s name is on the cover), and look for the series numbers on the spines. If the number you want is gone, grab one of the higher numbers, and look inside the front or on the back cover for the list of titles published so far. If it's not on the shelf, we have to use our online catalog to place a hold on it. Ask the library staff - what if someone else just returned it?!?

Q: I am going to read this whole series, in order! I’m on number 4. Do you have numbers 5, 6, & 7 here today?

A: First let’s check the series-paperback shelves, under M for Magic Tree House, and then on the fiction shelves, by author (O for Osborne). If you don’t see the ones you want, we'll use our online catalog. You can search the series title and the number you want. For example, “Magic Tree House 5.”  Look to see if there’s a copy here today, and where it’s shelved. If it’s not here today, click on the little basket “Add to bookcart” so you can place a hold on it.

The twenty-first century way:

Q: We found this book, Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door and we're reading it together as a family. We realized it's not the first book in the series, but which one is? 

A: Type the title in our online catalog and click on the first item on the list. Scroll down the page, past the list of locations that have a copy, farther down until you get to a section called “You Might Also Like” and just below that, “Books in This Series.” Six titles are listed there, in order. If you click on the first title, you find yourself in the entry for book 1, and can see if it's here today, or place a hold if it's not. Excellent, right? How easy was that!

Q: My friend told me about the series The 39 Clues. Who wrote it? Which one is book one?

A: This is possibly the MOST tricky series ever published! Different authors, spin-offs, and related series make this simple question complicated, unlcess you just happen to know the title of the first one (which your children's librarian does). If you use the online catalog, type the series title “39 clues” plus the number “1” to get a short list of titles - but they are all the first books in all FIVE of the "39 Clues" series! If you limit them to books, and English, the book you want (Maze of Bones) should appear at the top of the list.

However, you might have to sort by publication date, and click on the oldest date – the bottom of the list! That's because there are multiple series. The best source for this kind of complexity is the Kent District Library's excellent database, which lays it all out.

Not so long ago, to figure out the series-order, librarians always had to sort a list of titles by date, or look the title up in an online database that wasn't available on our public computers. But now that we have NoveList's “Books in the Series” in our online catalog, anyone can get this information instantly! 

Give it a try and let us know if you like this feature. Also, human beings are doing the data-entry, so report it to us if you catch a mistake.

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Keep them coming by clicking on this button! 

Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase

Let's face it: everyone who's into illustration, cartooning, design or just plain old fine art is into the art of the picture book. Next Thursday, May 21, the Oakland Public Library is joining the Octopus Literary Salon to show off some of our newest favorites....

It's the Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase! Won't you come on over, buy yourself a drink, and enjoy the show? A surprise musical guest will make an appearance. Copies of the books will be for sale, too.

OPL's Spring 2015 Picture Book Showcase
Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6:30-8:30pm
The Octopus Literary Salon
2101 Webster Street in Oakland

Here's a sneak preview:

Vegetables in Underwear, by Jared Chapman


Last Stop on Market Street, by Christian Robinson

The Spider, by Elise Gravel

What else will make the cut? Who knows! I do. And soon you will too. See you next Thursday!

The Octopus is a literary salon, re-interpreted in the 21st Century to engage and entertain readers and writers of all ages in Uptown Oakland, California. The Octopus Literary Salon includes a café, a small-scale specialty bookstore and publisher, and a space for public readings and discussions as well as other literary spontaneity.

Oh, LiLo! Arabic Resources at OPL

By now you've probably heard about Lindsay Lohan's Instagram gaffe--yesterday, she tweeted a picture of Arabic writing with the English words "You are beautiful" underneath. Except that the Arabic words in the picture don't mean "You are beautiful;" they mean "you're a donkey." Whoops! 

If LiLo wanted to build some skills in Arabic, she could very well start at the Oakland Public Library. Did you know that OPL offers language learning courses you can access for free with your library card? Follow this link, and scroll until you see Transparent Language Online. When you sign in with your library card number, you can begin an audio program on any language you like. Great resource for travelers, btw.

But what if Lindsay wants a more intensive course, with a book to go along with her lessons? She could check out one of OPL's language kits, which contain both print books and CDs with audio instruction. Here are the kits we have on learning Arabic. If you don't see one at your local branch, you can place a hold and have it sent to any Oakland library location. We also have language learning kits for Arabic speakers who want to learn English.

Once the former Mean Girl has some basic skills in her repertoire, she could check out some books in Arabic from any of the branches in this list. Our Arabic circuit collection is relatively new and growing, and has books for adults and children. The book that appears in the thumbnail is Alwān al-ḥayawānāt = Animal colors, by Brian Wildsmith.

What we're saying, Lindsay Lohan, is that your buddies at the Oakland Public Library have got you covered. Next time.

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: How old do you have to be to get a library card?

Q: How old do you have to be to get a library card?

A: Five years old, or in Kindergarten.

Chloe (age 5): [beaming at her mom] I am five!

Librarian: Great! You can get your first card today! You can fill out the registration form on paper, or online, at the computer right next to the desk or at home.

Mom: Should we do it right now?

Chloe: Yes! Let's use the computer! Can I help you type?

Mom: Sure!

[After some interruptions from little brother, Leo, who just turned 3, they have completed the form, visited the Circulation Desk to get the card, and had a discussion about whether it would be better to put the "Now I have a library card" sticker on her shirt now, so her friend could see it, or tomorrow, so her friend AND her teacher could see it. Chloe couldn't decide, so she tucked it into her new blue wallet (comes with the card) to decide later.]

Mom: What book do you want to check out on your new card?

Chloe: Do they have more Charlie & Lola books? 

Librarian: We might, let's look! ... Here's a list of all the Charlie & Lola books that you can get at Oakland Libraries. [Everyone crowds around the computer screen, while the librarian reads the titles aloud.] Which ones do you want to read? 

Chloe: I want to read Snow is my favorite! 

Librarian: Okay. That one isn't here today, but we can put a hold on it for you so you can pick it up here next week. In the meantime, let's see which ones are here today for you to take home right away.

[There are 3, but she has read one of them already, so she takes the other two. Leo gets excited about a Dora book, and a few items from the Picture Book Non-Fiction section are tossed in Mom's bag - a book about dogs and a book about creatures in the garden, along with a number of other picture books and a few beginning readers. Finally, the family comes back to the desk.]

Mom: Are there any other books about getting a library card, or libraries in general?

Librarian: There are a few, let's see... [Again, we crowd around to see the list of titles. There are a lot! They decide to look for a few of them, and we jot down the authors of the picture books and the readers. The librarian shows them the shelves where they are kept.] If you can't find any of these, come get me, and I'll help you track them down. Don't forget to come back to put a hold on that one book!


[Again the family comes back to the desk.]

Librarian: Okay, so we're going to place a hold on a Charlie & Lola book, which will get here in a week.  

[After some discussion, Chloe generously offers to check out books for her little brother on her new card.]

Librarian: That is very kind of you!  How about today, you pick out two books for yourself on your brand-new card, and Mom will check out the other books for herself and for your brother. Then in 3 weeks your books will be due. After you return them, you can check out up to 40 items, and some of them can be for your brother.

Chloe: Okay. [She shrugs.] Wait, did you say FORTY BOOKS?  [Mom & the Librarian nod YES.]

Librarian, to Leo: Your sister got a sticker today with her new library card. Would you like your own sticker?

[Leo sorts through all the stickers in the box, and picks out a Dora sticker. He immediately puts it on his shirt. The family then settles in with some coloring sheets, and Chloe happily gives the librarian any markers that have run out of ink. This is an important job that young people often help accomplish at our branch.]

Librarian: By the way...Did you know this week is National Library Week?

Mom: We did not know that! That's pretty special!

Librarian: I'm curious; What made you decide to get a library card today?

Chloe: I was talking about library things and mommy said, "Speaking of the library, I think you could get a library card now."

Librarian: I'm so glad you came in today!  See you again soon.

And speaking of library things; Did you know...

...There are about 3,500 Kindergarten-age children in Oakland who have a library card!

...Oakland Public Library issued first library cards to 6,764 children (people under age 13) in the past year!

...A total of 35,000 children (people under age 13) currently have an active Oakland Public Library card.

If you don't yet have your own library card, click here, or come talk to us. Whether you paid taxes or got a refund this year, library workers appreciate your participation in the economy, and want to reciprocate by providing you with the best service, all throughout the year.

As usual, we'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, or ask us your question in person, or online.