reading aloud

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Superhero books for my 4-year-old; bad idea or good idea?

Q: My child wants to read about superheroes, but those DC & Marvel comic books are too violent! Do you have anything for younger kids?  He’s only 4 years old. Kapow by O'Connor

A: Yes, we do! Here's a list of titles you can read aloud to your kids today – all of them about superheroes, most aimed at younger kids, ages 3 to 6.

The past decade has seen an explosion of picture books about superheroes. Many parents are concerned about violence in books and other media for children, and the basic idea of a superhero is that there's a bad guy to stop. If there's a bad guy, there's a strong likelihood that there's going to be fighting, maybe blood, and possibly death.

Wonder Woman by CosentinoClever authors & illustrators have managed to craft stories that include all the positive elements of superheroes (standing up for what's right, working together as a team, using your own special abilities, helping others, and wearing a cape) while de-emphasizing the terrible elements of the evil villains. In these books, the villains are not indestructible, the violence is off-screen, the battle doesn’t cause massive destruction, and the bad guy is stopped - not killed.

If you are hesitant to read these books aloud to your child, here are some further thoughts on reading violent books to children. First, there are books for every emotional, social, and intellectual stage of development. Can a case be made in favor of books that contain “violence” that is appropriate to each level? Consider these observations from the Children's Librarian's Desk: Courageous Captain America by Thomas

  1. Violence is clearly fascinating to many children (as well as teens and adults). The Mighty Thor by Thomas
  2. Families who shelter their children from violent literature do not seem to eradicate their interest in it nor their impulse to act it out.
  3. Reading superhero books does not seem to make a child more violent. (There is a little recent research on comic books and other literature with superheroes. However, anecdotally, my observations of library patrons indicate that readers become thinkers, and thinkers take a breath before they act violently.)
  4. Violence and aggression still exist in the real world, and many children are already trying to make sense of it. Even children who have been spared the direct experience of violence (or of witnessing it) meet other children who are experiencing it and they observe & interact with them with or without the presence and guidance of adults.
  5. Reading aloud together is an excellent way to start a dialogue about violence, consequences, and justice. The characters in literature can be good or bad examples, and while reading, you can discuss the best way to resolve conflict, recognize violence, avoid aggressors, and keep yourself safe.  

It's important to choose books that are right for your individual child -- luckily, most books for 4-year-olds are short enough so you can pre-read them and get ready to answer questions, discuss ideas, and give real-life examples. You can avoid those books that may be a trigger of specific fears -- until you both are ready to read them.Nino Wrestles the World by Morales

It makes sense to avoid gratuitous bloodshed, exploitative costumes, and stories about truly depraved, twisted evil-doers, and stick instead to superheroes who fight simple crimes and lay out the concepts of consequences and justice plainly.

Isn't there something wonderful about super-powers, heroism, and winning a righteous fight? Even young children appreciate the vivid images of that glorious moment, of overcoming adversity, of standing proudly together, of your cape flowing in the wind!

The Picture Books that seem to me to best capture the awesomeness of superheroes, while respecting the sensibilities of younger readers are these:

Astonishing Secrets of Awesome Man  Batman by Cosentino  Superman by Cosentino  Max by Graham  Lucha Libre by Garza  Art Dog by Hurd  Marveltown by McCall  SuperHero ABC by McLeod  Superhero School by Reynolds  Superhero by Tauss  The Amazing Spider-man, an Origin Story by Thomas  Avengers, an Origin Story by Thomas  Wolverine, an Origin Story by Thomas  

There are a few board books:

Superman Fights for Truth by Lemke.  Batman is Brave by Lemke

...and in our Comic Books section, we have a few superhero series that avoid gore and give positive messages:

Fashion Kitty series  Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series  Squish Super Amoeba series  DC Super Friends series  Tiny Titans series

Enjoy this one last book!

Kung Pow Chicken series

Q&A Patrons ask; librarians answer: Starting School

Q: My daughter is starting school in a few days...what books about school do you have that we could read together?

A: We have so many!* No matter what age or grade, we've got something for you to read abocover of Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouseut school, to set the stage so that your child's anticipation is more likely to stay positive. Some kids need to know exactly what will happen, some are looking forward to joining the world of their older siblings, and some have worries or anxieties. Thankfully, authors & publishers have recognized the recurring need, and we have plenty of books to fill it.*

Click here to see an extended list of First Day of School books for Children at OPL.

Reading a book or two about the school experience gives you an opportunity to talk about it together. With so many books at the Oakland Public Library to choose from, you may want to narrow it down to the right age-level for your child/children. That makes the search a little trickier, but here are some book lists for different age-ranges. You can click on the age you want, below, or talk to your local children's librarian to get favorites.

Preschool          

Cover of Llama Llama Misses Mama cover of Maisy goes to preschool cover of See You Later, Alligator  cover of My Preschool by Rockwell  cover of Making Friends by Fred Rogers

Llama Llama misses Mama by Dewdney  // Maisy goes to preschool by Cousins  // See you later, alligator! by Kvasnosky  // My preschool by Rockwell  //  Making friends by Fred Rogers

Kindergarten

cover of Vera's First Day of School  cover image of Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner  cover image of The Kissing Hand cover of Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready cover of My Kindergarten by Wells  cover of Bilingual English/Spanish Look Out Kindergarten  cover of How to be a Friend

Vera's first day of school (Rosenberry)  // Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner (Schwartz)  // The kissing hand (Penn)  // Miss Bindergarten gets ready for kindergarten (Slate)  // My kindergarten (Wells)  // Look out kindergarten, here I come! = Prepárate, kindergarten! Allá voy! (Carlson)   // How to be a friend : a guide to making friends and keeping them (Krasny & Brown)

Elementary school

cover of First Day Jitters  cover of It's Back to School We Go cover of Feelings  cover of Judy Moody (#1)   cover of Monster Frights    

First day jitters (Danneberg)  // It's back to school we go : first day stories from around the world (Jackson)  // Feelings (Aliki)  // Judy Moody (McDonald)  //  Monster School : first day frights (Keane)

Middle School

cover of A Smart Girl's Guide to Middle School cover of Too Old for This, Too Young for That cover of Middle School Survival Guide cover of Amelia's School Survival Guide cover of Dork Diaries (#1) cover of Middle School the Worst Years of my life  cover of Stuck in the Middle

A smart girl's guide to starting middle school : everything you need to know about juggling more homework, more teachers, and more friends! (Williams)  // Too old for this, too young for that! : your survival guide for the middle school years (Mosatche)  // The middle school survival guide (Erlbach)  // Amelia's school survival guide (Moss)  // Dork diaries series (Russell)  // Middle school, the worst years of my life (Patterson)  // Stuck in the middle of middle school : a novel in doodles (Young) 

 

Usually when parents or kids ask for books about school, it’s simply to celebrate or take a moment to focus on the occasion. Sometimes, however, it’s because they’ve got some anxieties about it. Like any life transition, starting school can bring up some pretty big issues for a person. Helping your child understand her thoughts and feelings -- and explore the thoughts and feelings of others -- helps her grow and understand. Reading books together gives you a way to start a conversation and find out how you can support your child.

Children each have their own point of view, and their own inner thoughts to sift through. The themes within back-to-school stories often include important life lessons about some or all of the following:

    • Being a friend
    • Getting along with new people cover of A Friend for Dragon
    • Accepting differences
    • Mending relationships with difficult people
    • Protecting yourself from dangerous people
    • Calming general anxiety
    • Conquering specific fears
    • Facing new situations
    • Accepting separation from loved ones
    • Celebrating accomplishments (your own & others')

           …and…

  • Being ready for and open to learning

Even if the book you read together doesn’t match your own thoughts and feelings, it could spark a discussion that helps clarify your observations, or helps your child relate to the other students she meets. As usual, I encourage everyone to make time to talk to and listen to your child.  cover of Going to School in India

* NOTE: We do have many books about starting school – but given the fact that Oakland is home to almost 16,000 children ages 3 to 5, and about 47,200 students are enrolled in the Oakland Unified School District, we may not have the book you want on the day you want it. You can place a hold on the title you want by clicking the “Request It” button and using your library barcode and pin number; or, let us help you place a hold! 

In the Comments below, please leave us the title of a back-to-school book you especially enjoyed, including the age of the student. We want to share what you like best! 

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: What counts for Summer Reading?

Q. What counts for the Summer Reading Challenge? My kids are 3, 6, and 11 years old. What's expected of them in this game?

A. So, your three kids signed up for the Summer Reading Game, got their reading logs & stickers, picked out some stuff to read, and now you all want to know what really counts, right? Here's what matters about summer reading:

  1. Daily habit    Iron-on badge for the Summer Reading Program

  2. Personal choice   

  3. Any level

  4. Reading OR listening

  5. Library visits

To get the most out of the Summer Reading Program, and to see the beneficial effects in terms of school success and building a lifelong reading habit, these are the five elements that young readers and their families will see reinforced as they are reading over the summer.

Drawing of a calendar to symbolize the Daily Habit of readingDaily habit: Kids get prizes for how many DAYS they read this summer! 10 days = a whole batch of coupons for things to do and eat in & around Oakland. It doesn’t have to be 10 days in a row, but that makes it a fun challenge! 20 days = a free prize book, an iron-on badge, and a raffle ticket. Each additional 10 days is rewarded with an additional raffle ticket. Babies get a sippy cup with the library logo instead of the badge.

Photo of a clock to symbolize ANY amount of time is sufficientIMPORTANT NOTE: Kids put a sticker on the calendar date for any amount of reading they do. We’re aiming for 15 minutes or more, but if that seems like a struggle for your reader, come talk to us! Your Children’s Librarian will find something that is captivating enough that the 15 minutes will fly by! 

Drawing of a heart to symbolize Personal Choice in readingPersonal choice: Yes, read whatever you want! There are no required titles, no leveled lists, no judgment of your choices. Participants may write the titles on their reading logs; that’s just for fun. Everyone can choose whatever pleases them; something new or an old favorite; short or long; fiction or non-fiction; books or magazines or comics; fantasy, mystery, sports, action, adventure, magic, realistic, historical; humor; poetry; biography – anything! 

Any leDrawing of foothills & mountains to symbolize that Any Level reading is greatvel: During the school year, teachers are expecting your kids to read books that range from Just Right to Challenging. In the summer, Vacation reading is good enough! Some readers like to challenge themselves with complex plots and advanced vocabulary & grammar, but some need to relax, recover, and re-kindle their joy in stories or characters. Predictable reading goes quickly and is easy to understand, and therefore builds fluency and comprehension while at the same time feels relaxing and enjoyable. Just right books are best – but focus on the content and delight; if it’s not fun, it won’t be a daily habit.

Drawing of headphones to symbolize that Listening OR Reading are both okayReading OR listening: For this game, kids can read on their own, listen as someone reads aloud to them, or read aloud to someone else. All of it counts! Listening to a recorded book also counts. Hearing a book read aloud helps kids learn vocabulary, improves pronunciation, and increases comprehension, all of which builds fluency. This is true even for kids who already know how to read. Take turns, and treat each other to good read!

Guess what? Adults who sign up for the Adult Summer Reading program get points for reading aloud to a child, so grown-ups can get prizes, too! Not only that, older kids & teens (ages 12 to 18) can get prizes, too!  The Teen Summer Passport program has great ideas for teens, one of which is reading aloud to younger children. 

Drawing of The Library Symbol that shows you where to find the library

Library visits: Most kids come in at least 2 times over the summer – to sign up, and to pick up prizes. However, we love it when kids come in every week to pick out more books to read & movies to watch, or to attend one of our many special programs. When people come to the library often, they get familiar with where things are found and how to get things done, they make friends with our staff, and they learn how to ask for help. We want every young person in Oakland to feel like he or she belongs here. Your taxes (and donations to our Friends groups) pay for the library and our programs – make sure your kids take advantage of it!

So…the Summer Reading Program is a friendly challenge, meant to encourage the habits that will give your child lifelong rewards. I want to tell you more about how important recreational reading is to school success, but there’s a line of children asking for help to find a good book right now…I've got to run. See you soon!

Q&A: Patrons ask; librarians answer: Can picture books fix my kid’s behavior problems?

Q: Is there a Berenstain Bears book about not biting people? My daughter has been biting other kids at preschool. Her teachers say it’s getting worse! Is there a book I could read to her showing how wrong this is?

A: Yes! Your question is a profound one. Children’s authors, publishers, teachers, parents, therapists, and children themselves have been seeing books as bibliotherapy for generations. As a result, there are a variety of books both silly and profound that could help in this siNo More Biting for Billy Goattuation. How can bibliotherapy help?Among other things, kids realize...

  • It's okay to have feelings

  • It's okay to talk about it

  • Other people have faced similar problems

  • There are different solutions available

  • Kids can solve problems 

So, where to start? The easy answer is to look up your preschooler’s particular issue in our online catalog. (...type in biting – or any other behavioral issue – and limit to children's books.) If nothing comes up, we'd take a look at A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books. It has picture books indexed under 1,215 subjects, including 53 different behaviors, from “animals, dislike of” to “worrying,” although, biting is not there – but we can look through the 35 books about “fighting.” A cool online resourcehas a few more titles. The Berenstain Bears books often have a clear behavioral message, and kids like to hear stories about characters they know and love. Since there isn’t one on biting, you might take a look at this one; The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends

Berenstain Bears & the Trouble with Friends

I am often asked for books to help a child overcome a particular problem – biting, hitting, whining, lying, stealing, teasing or bullying others, fears, sucking her thumb, screaming or throwing tantrums, etc. Practically every kid does something, sometime! So...is misbehavior a universal experience?

When I was a new parent, I read several parenting books that put forward the view that all children's negative behavior is an attempt to communicate. (Like the 3 below.) These authors proposed that when the behavior annoys, angers, scares, or hurts others, it's very likely an indication that the child has some strong or negative feelings. Therefore, the solution – to all irksome behavior – is to teach the child how to effectively communicate negative feelings & whatever caused them.

   

An adult who spends a lot of time with a child teaches this vocabulary simply by saying aloud what they observe and guess about the child's feelings – but some things just don’t come up until a moment when the parent isn't there to interpret.

Books provide extra scenarios to absorb or to discuss feelings – the characters’, your own, and your child’s – so you don't have to wait for something to surprise you. Any book that shows characters having any feelings can start a conversation. The language of feelings is complex and may take a lifetime to fully explore. Here are my favorite books on the general topic of expressing feelings, in order from those for the youngest kids (2 years) to the oldest (about 9+ years):

         

In addition, the popularity of some rather uncomfortable books illustrates how negative feelings are human and common– it really is a comfort when someone else (even a character in a book) struggles through similar feelings. Here are a few that are wonderful to read to a child. They convey that you will love her and take care of her, even when she has so-called bad feelings, and even when she makes mistakes:

     

All these books (and many others on unrelated topics) show characters feeling something and being heard – by the reader if not by the other characters in the story!

You may not need a book about a biter, a hitter, a screamer, a liar, a thief, or a tantrum thrower. Children's books, by providing a wide range of situations and responses, build the child's repertoire of familiar life experiences. Each book, on any topic, can build understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, and allow your child to witness or imagine possible responses.

 

Q&A Patrons ask; librarians answer. My middle-grader is refusing to read.

Q: I love to read, my older son loves to read, but my daughter hates it. How can I get her as excited about reading as the rest of us are? I’d be happy if she read anything, but she’d rather do anything else than read. I bring home stacks of books, and she rejects them all. When she’s tested, she can read, but she won’t do it. She’ll start a book, and abandon it. Help!

A: It may be time for a reading intervention if your child consistently answers “What do you want to read?” with; “I don't.” Emergency measures are needed!

It sounds like you did just the right thing with one child, but it's not working with this one. I'm going to suggest that you put aside your expectations about your family's reading characteristics and take some time to observe this child as if you hadn't really done that before. It might help to think of yourself as a personal assistant rather than a parent, teacher, or friend when it comes to reading.

 

Here's a step-by-step guide to try:

 

girl enjoying time with a pet dog

Observe or ask your child, and then tell the Children's Librarian what most inspires her outside the world of books. Maybe she loves movies, animals, baseball, drawing, cooking, chess, silly humor, snowflakes . . . whatever it is, we will look for books related to what really inspires her,;what really grabs her attention.

Take home a variety of books – short or long; illustrations or photos; fiction or non-fiction; comic books or magazines; biographies or fantasies; jokes, magic tricks, cooking, knights, dragons, spies, warriors, talking owls; a sample of stuff that includes anything that catches the eye. (NOTE: If your child gets overwhelmed by choices, take 3, not 12. girl overwhelmed by pile of books

Do not worry about the level. Assume that you are going to read it aloud to her. By doing this, we open up the possibilities – and we're more likely to find something she really wants to hear about. Choose books with attractive covers or any super-appealing characteristics.

When you get home, lay out all the choices in front of her – on the floor or the bed or couch. Don't use her homework area. Ask her to choose based on the cover illustration, or read the front flap or the first page to see if it grabs her attention. Ask her to pick which one to try.

If she’s still resisting, arrange a relaxed, quiet time. On the couch, in a hammock, or the backseat of the car, invite her to close her eyes as you read aloud. Let the author weave his magic threads...and remember to see the last blog post on reading aloud. There was some stuff about fidgety children listening...

Remember you can ask the Children’s Librarian to help you find both the printed book and an audiobook. Don’t get fixated on your child reading along with the recording; the focus here is on getting her engaged in a story. However, it may help to have the book to consult – to see the illustrations, or a map to the fantasy world, for example. That is enough!

 

headphones and books

Audiobooks are also great if she has time on her own without you, or if you don't read aloud well in English, or if you commute together and can both listen as you drive – or if your child gets hooked on a series you dislike; she can use headphones. We give out audiobooks frequently to working parents, commuters, immigrants learning to pronounce English better, reluctant readers, and of course kids with vision impairments, as well as garden-variety avid readers.

 

 

Before you leave:  Send us your questions!  Post below, send a message through Facebook, or stop by the library.