children

Q&A: Patrons Ask; Librarians Answer: My pre-teen wants to visit the library this summer with her friends. Without me! Is it okay? Is it safe?

Q: My pre-teen wants to visit the library this summer with her friends. Without me!  Is it okay? Is it safe?  --- Nervous Parent

A: Hi Nervous Parent. Kids are some of our best customers! Whether they come with parents (or responsible caregivers) or venture into the library alone, they embrace the library as a place of fun and exploration.

According to the our Guidelines for Behavior it is acceptable for minors who are at least 8 years old to visit the library without adult supervision. But please keep in mind that we are not In Loco Parentis: a legal-Latin-term that means “in place of the parent.” In layman’s terms: Unlike school or a community center that takes responsibility for children in place of the parent, the public library is not responsible for your kid, and we don't directly supervise them. So, a preteen who is asking to come to the library with her friends is asking permission to take an unsupervised outing. That baby girl of yours is growing up and ready to spread her wings. Congratulations.

I am not saying anything calming to your nerves, huh? It’s okay, relax Nervous Parent. The library is generally a fun place for your child to have an unsupervised outing provided they are prepared, and you both understand that is a public space, where all are welcome. Here are some tips to consider in preparation for your child’s solo visit to the library. You can revisit them at any time at http://oaklandlibrary.org/kids/welcome-parents.

 

1. Explain to your child you expect them to behave, and remind them how to be safe.

The library promotes a safe environment for everyone. Now we cannot promise your child's safety; but following our behavior guidelines greatly reduces the opportunity for unsafe experiences. Review the Guidelines for Behavior with your child before visiting the library. Make it clear to your offspring that if they do not behave in the library, they will be asked to leave. Everyone, (not just children) appreciates defined boundaries and a clear understanding of guidelines. Following them promotes a safe environment for everyone.  Make sure, too, you discuss basic street safety with your child, and remember that anyone may enter the library.   We don't supervise, but we are your child's go-to person whenever they feel that something is not right. 

 

2. In the event of an emergency or unexpected event (earthquake, power outage, gas leak, fire drill, alien envasion, Zombie Apocalypse, etc.), or in the event your child is asked to leave the library, prepare your child with: 

  1. i. a way to contact you. Our phones are available for emergencies only, and in a real emergency might be tied up. 
  2. ii. an alternate place to go if they cannot go home right away.

I do not want to make you more nervous, Nervous Parent. However, a bit of emergency preparation on your part will result in you being much calmer when thinking about your child in the library (or any place else) without you. Additionally, this preparation will be beneficial as your child grows older giving them the confidence to navigate the world independently. Be sure to sign-up for Zombie Apocalyse Preparedness Training when it is offered in the fall for specialized training on managing a world with the undead.

 

3. Explain to your children they have the right to be respected.

Everyone is welcome in the library: all races, languages, religions, sexual orientation, gender identity, income level, housing situation, etc. Because we are for everyone, we strive to have a community space free of prejudice and bullying. If there is ever a time your child feels bullied, uncomfortable, or unsafe in the library, encourage them to talk to us. If s/he does not feel comfortable talking to us, encourage them to talk to you, and then you contact us. Either way, we want to know about it so we can help rectify the situation. The library is a supportive environment and we promote anti-bullying.

 

4. Please sign your child up for a library card.

Visiting the library without a library card is like visiting the airport without a ticket in hopes of going somewhere. We all know that the library card allows children to use the public access computers and check out books. But did you know it also provides access to our vast collection of online databases like Tumblebooks, which will read stories to your children via their personal tablets and smartphones? With a library card you can use Overdrive, a database with access to movies you can download and watch for free. For your music lovers Freegal allows free music streaming and free music downloads. Did you know that some branches require a library card to borrow board games for playing in the library? If you want your child to have the best experience possible in the library, and enjoy all of this fabulous free stuff, having a library card is essential.

 

5. Keep the visit short.

The longer a child is in the library unattended the more likely it is they will become…. BORED! That’s right bored. And parents, boredom is the #1 reason children misbehave in the library, resulting in a negative experience. Why? Because bored children find “something” to do and that “something” can be disruptive. How long can a child stay in the library before becoming bored? Well that really depends on your child’s temperament, and if they have a library card to enjoy some of the FREE activities we provide (see #3.)

 

6. Pick your child up before the library closes!

Our libraries have a variety of open hours to accommodate almost any schedule. So make sure you know your location's hours of operation. If you cannot pick them up yourself, please make sure your child has a safe way to get to his/her's next destination when the library closes. It makes us nervous when we close the library for the evening and minors are waiting outside. We are not obligated to wait with minors for someone to pick them up. Although librarians are not in loco parentis, we are human. We care about your children too and want them to be safe and happy lifelong learners.

So remember:

1. Explain behavior guidelines and safety
2. Make an emergency plan
3. Embrace a culture of respect
4. Get a library card
5. Keep the visit short
6. Leave by closing time

Following these tips will result in a fun, safe, and potentially educational event for your unsupervised preteen. We look forward to seeing your family in the library soon.

 

If you have any more questions hit us up here             

Now don’t ask personal questions about your library account. We post  questions and answers on the blog twice a month. For more personal service you can visit me at Eastmont, or any of my colleagues at your local library.  And yes, we value your privacy.

 

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have books that explain about the birds & the bees?

Shocked dadQ: My eight-year-old son is asking me about how babies are made. I gave him a short-version answer, and now he has a lot more questions. I'm realizing that my older daughter (now 12) probably had a lot of questions she didn't ask out loud when I gave her the simple answers a few years ago. What books do you have for both of them?

It's Perfectly Normal - a book cover.

A: We have plenty of books on this topic for different ages. You will find it much easier to answer your children's questions with the help of some well-chosen books! Whether you read a book aloud to a younger child, give one to an older child to read herself, or simply read one yourself to get ideas of the best ways to respond to their questions, having some published information will help you teach your children about human development and reproduction.

Cover of a COMPLETELY inappropriate book for this blog post.You may not agree with every statement in all of these books – each family has their own set of values and perspectives. However, these books represent ideas that exist in the world, so responding to them either with agreement or disagreement will clarify for your children what you believe and what your expectations are for them, while at the same time sharing essential information they need to know.

Here are some books for kids to read on their own, or for you to read aloud to them:

    Sorry, this book (Asking about sex & growing up) is no longer available at the Oakland Library.              

As you can see, they range from those books that simply explain how babies are made to those that explain what changes a body goes through that enable people to have babies! Those questions come up more as a child grows.

Here are some books written for adults that give tips for talking about reproduction and sexuality, and about setting boundaries as they grow up:

Children of every age have questions, and it's never to early to present an age-appropriate answer to any question they have. (See the blog post from last month for books about how babies are made that are best for preschool-age kids.) If your kids see you as a neutral and reliable source of information, you will have the basis for continuing communication as they become teenagers.

We'd love to answer your question next! We assure confidentiality. Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.   

Button to push to submit a question!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have some books to prepare our child for the new baby we’re expecting?

Erica's daughters - age 3 and newborn!

Q: Do you have some books to prepare my child for the new baby we’re expecting?

A: Yes, we do! Different issues come up for kids who are about to have a new sibling. I’d like to share books that include some different angles on the question. I think of them in these 5 rough categories:

Books that simply explain what welcoming a new baby might include. If you don’t know yet what your child is thinking or feeling about the whole thing, simple books without drama may be a good starting place.

New Baby at Your House by Cole Baby for Max cover illustration Cover image of A Baby's Coming to Your HOuse cover image of Babies Don't Eat Pizza cover image of How Does Baby Feel cover image of Now We Have a Baby

Books that show and tell how babies are made. If your child has already started asking questions, we have books that provide answers in kid-friendly terms – arranged here from youngest/simplest to oldest/most-detailed.  

cover image of When You Were Inside Mommy cover image of How you were born cover image of How Babies Are Made  cover image of How I Was Born cover image of Where Do Babies Come From cover of Mommy Laid an Egg cover image of Everybody has a bellybutton cover image of What Makes a Baby cover of Where Did I Come From? cover of Amazing You! cover of What's In There? cover image of It's Not the Stork 

Books that acknowledge the long wait. For your child, it’s half a lifetime away – from the time your family & friends start talking about the coming baby and the birth-day. These books help put the calendar in perspective. 

    

Books that address strong feelings that older siblings might have. If your child has already expressed negative feelings, there are books that address their fears, with humor, information, or simple acceptance, any of which could be a big relief for you both. Many of these stories start out disastrous, but they turn out fine in the end, of course!  

          

Books that give ideas of how to enjoy a baby. Whether the baby has arrived yet or not, you can build positive anticipation brainstorming ways your older child can enjoy the baby.  

       

Actually, there are tons more! My hands are all clicked out...this will have to be a starter list! 

If you’d like some advice about how best to prepare your child for a new sibling, there are a few websites to get ideas. Ask Dr. Sears, Baby Center, WebMD, and What To Expect each have their own advice, but most of it is consistent, so reading any one of those will give you some basic suggestions.

watercolor of a baby on a blanketGuess what?!?! Now that you’ve reached the end of this blog post, I’d like to invite you and your child to our New Sibling Workshop coming up in March, 2015. We’ll read a few of these books and you’ll make one of your own to help your first child welcome the new baby. Spread the word! 

Finally, despite the steady stream of questions coming to us at the Oakland Public Library every day, we’d still be happy to receive your question online! Leave a comment if you like, but if you have a question you’d like to see answered in depth, on this blog on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, CLICK HERE

Link to submit a question to the Children's Services Blog

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: What’s your opinion on this movie?

Q: What do you think about this movie for my kids?

A: Here’s what goes through my mind when I hear this question, which happens a few times a week:

  1. I really appreciate your effort to figure out what’s best for your children!  

  2. Image that made Isabel cry in Schoolhouse Rock.I need to know a little about your children. I might ask you; “How old are your kids?” “What movies have they enjoyed lately?” “Which of those movies seemed just right to you?”

  3. I need some parameters for what you usually find suitable & appropriate for your child.  “We prefer realistic movies, not fantasy.” “We’re looking for movies that don’t follow old-fashioned gender roles.” “No violence! We don’t believe in that.” “It’s okay if there’s fighting, but not too much.”

  4. What’s enjoyable and exciting for one child could be disturbing, offensive, or boring for another child – even in the same family. Give me an anecdote. “She burst into tears watching Unpack Your Adjectives in the Schoolhouse Rock animation.”Marzipan Pig - a movie that is not for everyone, but some people love it!

  5. What can I recall from previous conversations with other patrons about this movie? What age were those children?  “My 4-year-old son & I adored The Marzipan Pig.” “The Ring of Bright Water was such a sweet movie! But we were horrified when the otter died!”  

Based on your answers, I’ll give you my feedback on the movies you selected, or suggest a few for you. It’s a fun game for both of us. On the other hand, as Maimonides might say, “Choose a movie for a patron, and she’s entertained for a day; teach her how to choose a movie for herself, and she’s entertained for a lifetime.”

How To Train Your Dragon - a very popular movie with wide age-range appeal.When it comes to film, parents are motivated to find content that resonates with their values rather than contradicting them. People don’t do this as much with books. It’s as if a book is invited into our consciousness as a visitor who we can safely be open to, whereas moving-pictures are more like a group of invading guests, who could easily bowl us over, dominate, and take control.  

Moving visual images seem to bypass our intellectual process to some degree, and connect viscerally to our psyche. Adults know that these responses may stay with us for a lifetime.

How can you help your children weather the invading-guest’s philosophies and values, and hold on to their own values and principles?

  • Observe your child watching a film, to guide future choices. Maimonides thinking up good quotes that could be used 800 years later on Hanukkah in an overly long blog.

  • Pick appropriate films at each stage of development. See details below.

  • Maintain a dialogue with your child. Routine conversations about mundane films build a habit that you can rely on when something is upsetting.

  • Build their healthy self-esteem. Children with a strong sense of self are not as vulnerable to the manipulations that are often found in media. But that’s a topic for another day!

So the question is; How do we pick appropriate films?

I suggest you consider ALL of the following aspects. No single aspect is sufficient:

  1. Length in minutes. DVDs under 30 minutes are usually intended for under-5-year-olds, and DVDs over 1 ½ hours are usually for over-9-year-olds. If a DVD contains multiple shorts, count only one, but for television episodes, 25 minutes is standard for all ages, so you can’t use length alone to determine intended audience.  

  2. Visual imagery on the cover. Does it appeal to your child? The Lego Movie is not something we need to advertise.

  3. Synopsis. Look on the box, in the Oakland Public Library catalog for the DVD, or on a website such as Common Sense Media, or IMDb.

  4. Age suggestion from the film-maker.  See same sources as the synopsis.

  5. Rating. The Common Sense Media ratings of “Off, Pause, & On”  are much more useful than the MPAA ratings, because they relate to developmental benchmarks for each age.  

  6. Reviews. See databases mentioned above. Common Sense Media gives the perspective of their own reviewers as well as ordinary parents and children.

  7. Trailers. Available directly from IMDb or YouTube.

  8. Friends’ advice. They know you and your child, and you know them, so you can triangulate over time.

It takes time to gather this information. Remember you can place a hold on the DVD at Oakland Public Library – you can place up to 10 holds at a time, you can check out 10 DVDs at a time, you get to keep them for 3 weeks, and you can renew them for another 3 weeks. Free!

A library made of Lego.Nevertheless, that’s a lot of work just to watch some movies, right? Feel free to ask the librarian for suggestions. Remember; we librarians are most effective when it’s a two-way conversation. Your feedback on what books & movies you & your children enjoy (and don’t enjoy) helps us give better suggestions to everyone!Click this link to submit a question to the children's librarians

Oakland Public Library Children's Librarians answer your questions on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. 

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Do you have true information about dragons?

In the following scenario, Q is a boy, age 4½, accompanied by his mother, known here as Q(mom), and A is the children’s librarian. (btw: When Q says, “Guys!” he’s looking straight at the librarian. This is a bit unusual, but only because it’s plural. “Hey, you!” is more common.)

Q: Guys! Do you have a book about a dragon? A fierce dragon! A real, live, true dragon! Dragonology

A: So, you don’t want one of those stories where the dragon turns out to be friendly, I see. You want to know about real, fierce dragons! Okay, I think we can find something. Tell me, would you prefer a short book with pictures, or a long book, without pictures?

Q: A long book with pictures!

A: In that case, the best one is: Dragonology by Drake. Here you are. It’s very thorough, and it doesn’t get bogged down with reality-based theories.

Q (mom): I think we’d also like a shorter one with pictures… Behold the Dragons!

Q: …but TRUE, not pretend!

A: Probably the best one for that purpose is: Behold, the dragons! by Gibbons. This includes dragons from cultures all over the world, and in two succinct pages, respectfully presents the reality-belief-fantasy framework.  

While you are looking at those two, I could also gather up some stories that are pretend, but have fierce dragons. Would you like that?

Q (mom): Absolutely!

Q: All right, I guess that’s okay.

A: These two books have the fiercest dragons. I warn you, they are ferocious! They should come with a parental guidance warning sticker!  Saint George & the Dragon by Hodges and The Deliverers of their country by Nesbit & Zwerger. 

 Saint George and the Dragon  The deliverers of their country

Q: Great! We’ll take them.

Q (mom): Wait, there’s a severed arm in here, and a bloody sword…and this dragon is definitely dead at the end!

Q: Perfect!

A: Before you go, there are a few more that I like very much, which you might consider taking with you as well:

cover; Max's Dragon cover; Polo & the Dragon cover; Trouble With Dragons cover; Again! cover; Have You seen My Dragon? cover; When a Dragon Moves In  How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head cover; Room on the Broom cover; A Gold Star for Zog cover; Seven Chinese Sisterscover; George & the Dragon cover; The Dragon Prince

Max’s Dragon – Banks, Polo and the Dragon – Faller, The Trouble with Dragons – Gliori, Again! – Gravett, Have You Seen My Dragon – Light, When a Dragon Moves In – Moore, How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head – Peet, Room on the Broom – Scheffler & Donaldson, A Gold Star for Zog - Scheffler & Donaldson, The Seven Chinese Sisters – Tucker, George and the Dragon – Wormell, Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale – Yep (folktale section)  cover; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

A: Choose a few to take home, if you like.  We have lots more, there are tons! You can do a search in our online catalog if you want more picture books about dragons, and if you ever want to read chapter books about dragons, there are SO many!

cover of My Father's Dragon - all 3 stories in one!You know one of my favorite books of all time is My Father’s Dragon by Gannett. If you ever change your mind and want a pretend story about a friendly dragon, that’s a chapter book with pictures, you gotta try it!

Q: Do you know, guys, I’m going to be a dragon for Halloween!

A: That’s great! See you again soon.  

DIA: Great Kids' Books with Multiracial Characters

This week is the library holiday with the longest name: Día de los Niños / Día de los Libros; Children's Day / Book Day. It's come to be called just DÍA!--Diversity In Action. Want to come party at the library? Click here!

A lot of people are talking about diversity in children's books right now, which makes me very happy. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and every family in our city deserves to find books on our shelves with characters who look like them, talk like them, have seen and felt what they've seen and felt. 

If you're still searching for your book, the library's giving you a little help this week. Each day, we'll be pinning a new list of recommended children's books with characters of various racial backgrounds; characters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; and characters who live with disabilities.

You'll be able to find all of these books here at OPL; or, if you're taking the Birthday Party Pledge and promising to "give multicultural books as gifts to the children in [your] life for one year," take these lists to your local independent bookseller.

Today: a list of children's books with characters who are multiracial! I'm listing just a few here; for the complete list, click over to our Pinterest page.

Got little ones? Try Whoa, Baby, whoa! by Grace Nichols. This little guy gets around! Or, if you'd rather spend your days at an A's game than crawling the kitchen floor, pick up Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon. Party girls can look for Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash / Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual, by Monica Brown. And for a story about the different kinds of families we have, check out Who's In My Family?: all about our families, by Robie Harris.

  

Did you know you can put books on hold before they hit our shelves? Get in line now for these next two. The first has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods. Violet may be the first biracial character in children's literature to lighten her hair, but I can't vouch for that. If you're feeling something a bit heavier, try Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick; Zane visits the family of his late father, who was African-American, in New Orleans, and ends up facing one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. There's some fear and sadness and death, but it's a gripping story, and appropriate for grades four and up.

A few already on our shelves: first, Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi, which I ended up plowing through in one afternoon (and it's 300 pages). It's funny, exciting, fast-paced, and while definitely not for kids who are young and/or sensitive, not as gory as you might expect. Rabi, a baseball stats geek from a mixed white and Indian family, has to help an undocumented friend whose family has been deported to Mexico, and oh, by the way, there's a zombie apocalypse. Fun, thoughtful, and checked out almost everywhere, so you know it's good. 

 

Doodlebug: a novel in doodles, by Karen Romano Young, for your Wimpy Kid fan who likes a more substantial story. Includes a strong depiction of a multiracial family. And if fun and fluffy's what you want, go for Amy Hodgepodge, a series by Kim Wayans (yes, that Kim Wayans) about a girl who is African-American, Japanese, white, and Korean. Her latest adventure is Digging Up Trouble, and if you like it, there are more!

 

Older readers may want to dig into Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt de la Peña, in which a San Diego teen spends a summer with his dad's Mexican family. So hot when it first came out, it took me weeks to get it. (Related: check out de la Peña's powerful essay "Sometimes the 'Tough Teen' is Quietly Writing Stories," but only if you have some Kleenex handy.) Finally, one that I really enjoyed: Kekla Magoon's Camo Girl. Ella is biracial and has a skin condition that makes the colors of her face uneven; she faces bullying and growing up and away from her best friend, who is autistic.

Want even more kids' books with multiracial characters? Click over to Pinterest for the complete list. Oh, happy Día!