Great Books and more

Winter Reads!

Winter break is short and sweet; and it is nothing like a cold winter's day that makes you want to curl up in you favorite fuzzy socks, with a good book, while enjoying the seasonal festivities.  The biggest question is, what can you read that is quick and enjoyable?  Using our winter bingo card as a guide, we have some books for you to consider:

Remember that we want to you enjoy the break, it doesn't matter what you do. So if you enjoy

writing poems, 

telling jokes for big belly laughs,

or building with Legos

while singing and dancing,

 making magic,


or spashing in puddles,

We wish you all a fun and restful winter break and a happy new year! 

Children's Books about Ramadan and those featuring Muslims

Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, began this week, making it a good time to highlight recently published books about Ramadan and those that feature Muslims.

My wonderful colleague, Erica, wrote a great post in 2015 about books that feature Muslim characters.

In the few years since her post was published, the representation of Muslims in children’s books has increased.

Here is a list of some of those books.


Books about Ramadan:

Ramadan: the Holy Month of Fasting by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Amal’s Ramadan by Amy Maranville

Ramadan by Hannah Eliot

It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan

Drummer Girl by Hiba Masood

A Moon for Mo and Moe by Jane Breskin Zalben

It’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr by Richard Sebra


Additional children's book titles about Ramadan can be found here.



Picture Books:

Under my Hijab by Hena Khan (on order)

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets by Hena Khan

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales



Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (on order)

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai

Museum Mysteries featuring Amal Farah by Steven Brezenoff


Early Readers: (Fiction for beginning readers)

Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khan


Moving Up: (Fiction at about the 2nd - 4th grade levels)

Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi



Proud: Young Readers Edition by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar

Malala: Activist for Girls' Education by Raphaële Frier


Father's Day Books that Aren't Hop on Pop

For Kids


Franny's father is a feminist by Rhonda Leet

Daddies who are feminist allies are just the best.

Oh, oh, baby boy! by Janine Macbeth

A loving celebration of brown dads and babies.

My daddy rules the world : poems about dads by Hope Anita Smith

Poems about all kinds of dads.

Harriet gets carried away by Jessie Sima

Harriet's daddies have lost her to a crew of penguins! Will she make it to her birthday party?

Two white rabbits, by Jairo Buitrago

The journey from Central America to the United States through the eyes of a child traveling with her father.

My dad used to be cool by Keith Negley

Dad used to be in a band, get tattoos... why did he stop being so cool?!

For Grownups


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What does it mean to be a Black man in America? A personal and historical exploration of race that takes the form of a letter from father to son.

Fairyland: A Memoir of my Father by Alysia Abbott

A tribute to Abbott’s father, who was a devoted single dad, creative force and gay man who raised her in 1970s and 80s San Francisco.

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Ruth Young decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. A novel that is tender, funny and poignant.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies: a novel by John Boyne

The story of Cyril Avery, born in post-World War II Dublin to an unmarried teenager and adopted by well-off but unusually aloof parents. Cyril comes of age and tries to come to terms with being gay in an extremely repressive society, finding love, family and unconventional fatherhood in a story that is loaded with both pain and humor.

Pops by Michael Chabon

A brand-spanking-new collection of essays from the local acclaimed author with reflections about his father and being a parent to four children.

Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith

Essays by authors, musicians and other thinkers selected from among the best from Rad Dad Magazine and the Daddy Dialectic blog.

Wonder how a book ends up on the shelf? Let me tell ya.

Child choosing a book off the shelfHave you ever wondered how books end up on the shelves in your library? There’s a whole process behind how librarians select books, and it’s not even a secret!

The Oakland Public Library spends approximately $2,000,000 on materials each year, which includes about 50,000 books. While libraries’ capacity for knowledge, information, and creativity is limitless, our buildings and shelf space are not. Every library practices regular weeding of collections for the simple reason that one can’t put new books on the shelves if there is no room.

I’d like to share with you a great example of how we keep our collection updated. 

A book on Fannie Lou Hamer was withdrawn from Elmhurst Branch. Here’s how that decision was made: The children’s librarian worked closely with classes coming in from neighborhood schools, and realized that the children asking for biographies were younger than the intended audience for some of the biographies she had on her shelf. The book that was withdrawn was a chapter book for readers in middle school, and she was fielding biography requests primarily from third to fifth graders. The children’s librarian had just purchased a phenomenal new title: Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer, spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. Published in 2015, Voice of Freedom was a Caldecott Honor book, a Robert F. Sibert Honor book, and the winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration

cover of voice of freedom by carole boston weatherford

Both the author and illustrator are African-American, one a longstanding author of high esteem among African-American writers of children’s books, the other a breathtaking newcomer who has since published another book--Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Kwame Alexander—and contributed art to the book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina. (Both of these books are widely held at OPL, and both are available from the Elmhurst Branch.)

cover of out of wonder by kwame alexander  cover of thirteen ways of looking at a black boy by tony medina

The Fannie Lou Hamer book that was discarded was of a different reading level than the children seeking biographies at Elmhurst, and was part of a corporate-issued educational series on history, written by David Rubel, a White author.

A large branch, for example, might keep multiple books on historical figures. Elmhurst, however, is one of OPL’s smallest branches, a tiny building that resembles a house nestled in the Elmhurst community. The Elmhurst children’s collection is about 1/7 the size of that of the Main Library Children’s Room. With such a small size and excellent new books coming in continuously, there’s generally only room for books that are in current demand. The Elmhurst children’s librarian determined that Voices of Freedom was a better fit for the children at Elmhurst seeking to learn about Fannie Lou Hamer than the book that was discarded. However, for those who do wish to read this book, it is currently available at the Brookfield Branch, Rockridge Branch, and there are three copies at the Main Library Children’s Room.

At OPL, children’s, teen, and adult librarians in each branch select the books for their communities. That means that the person choosing children’s books at every site is also the person who talks with neighbors, welcomes classrooms full of children, visits schools, researches books for local teachers, and sings songs with neighborhood toddlers. Librarians get to know their community as part of their job, and are the best people in the library system to choose the books for their site.

I train all our children’s librarians on selection, and build carts of titles for them to choose from each month. I consider every single children’s book being published each month, reading reviews and other information about the books on the site we order from. I divide them up by sections like the ones we use at OPL—board books, graphic novels, picture books, etc. Then I look for “highlights,” books that are special and our librarians should strongly consider purchasing. I highlight each and every title that features characters who are people of color, and I note when those titles have authors or illustrators who are people of color (we call these books “own voices” in children’s literature). I do a monthly presentation and printed list for children’s librarians of books I think are especially important to order, and this always includes titles that represent diversity. After orders are submitted, I go through each cart and make sure we are buying every excellent book that represents diversity--if not, I add them.

Woman reading a poetry book to children

OPL maintains bibliographies of recommended children’s books, and in the last couple years, we have created new lists of titles for a range of young readers: Great African-American, Asian-American, Latino, LGBTQ, Differently Abled, Multiracial, and Native American and First Nations Books for Children. When we update these lists, we also do a bulk order of titles on them so every branch can make sure they have the diverse books we recommend to kids. When we make bibliographies that are not centered in race and identity, such as Books for Third and Fourth Graders, we put physical copies of the books together and look at them in person to make sure we’re including primarily books with diverse authorship.

Even if Oakland were not among the most diverse cities in America, diversity would be a priority in our collections. Children’s librarians are trained to meet the standards set in the Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, a set of guidelines published by ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children. The first two tenets of these guidelines are:
1. Demonstrates respect for diversity and inclusion of cultural values, and continually develops cultural awareness and understanding of self and others.
2. Recognizes racism, ethnocentrism, classism, heterosexism, genderism, ableism, and other systems of discrimination and exclusion in the community and its institutions, including the library, and interrupts them by way of culturally competent services.

We talk often about the idea by Rudine Sims Bishop that children need “mirrors and windows” in books, and we strive to purchase books by people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and Native and First Nations people as much as possible.

And most importantly--we love getting suggestions! Does OPL not yet have your favorite book? Since the person who buys books for your local branch also works at that branch, you can suggest it the next time you visit, or Suggest a Purchase online. Let us know what we can buy for you!

Kids Bike: A Booklist from the Women Bike Book Club

Did you know that the Oakland Public Library co-hosts a Women Bike Book Club with Bike East Bay? We gather to discuss biking, feminism, and the intersection of the two on the second Thursday of each month at 6:00pm, at our Golden Gate Branch (5606 San Pablo Avenue). The book club was started by Bike East Bay as part of their Women Bike initiative, which brings women and gender nonconforming folks together in social settings to share experiences and resources with each other. 

Ok so the book club sounds awesome but why are we talking about that here?

Our meeting on November 9th will focus on children’s books! We'll have some great selections of bike-related children's literature, and we'll talk about moms, biking, and the next generation of cyclists. Join us to enjoy beautiful illustrations, good conversation, and maybe even pick up some gift ideas for the little feminists in your life. 

If you can’t join us, here are the books we’ll be looking at:

Picture books

Cover of Mei Mei loves the morning              cover of A Bike Like Sergios

Mei-Mei loves the morning by Margaret Tsubakiyama

The girl and the bicycle by Mark Pett

New Red Bike by James Ransome

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts

Along a Long Road by Frank Viva


cover of Tillie the Terrible Swede            Cover for Wheels of Change

Tillie the terrible Swede : how one woman, a sewing needle, and a bicycle changed history by Sue Stauffacher  

Wheels of change: how women rode the bicycle to freedom (with a few flat tires along the way) by Sue Macy 

Chapter Book

Cover for the green bike

The green bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour 


On Saturday May 6th 2017 visit ANY OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY during open hours and get a free comic book. Eastmont and Brookfield branches are closed on Saturday so you can get yours tomorrow: Friday May 5th.

Someone might be asking: is this like giving away candy? They are fun to read but bad for you if you have too much of it? Nope! Actually comic books are more like giving away free homemade carrot cake muffins made with applesauce instead of oil; and you snuck some shredded zucchini in it. All the fun and flavor of a tasty treat, and it’s good for you too. So enjoy. 

What, you don’t believe me? Is it that you don’t believe that I have a really delicious recipe for a healthier carrot cake muffin, or that comic books are a good reading choice? Both are true.  To quote my favorite book referral resource, “but you don’t have to take my word for it.” Check out these links for more information:


Right now someone’s mind is...

What? You have comic books that teach grown-ups about the benefits of comic books? But of course! There is no better way to illustrate that accurate, timely, factual, current, or interesting content is not suddenly eliminated because the material is placed in picture frame format. But none of the reasons the doctors and researchers give for reading comic books are why I want your kids to read comic books. Okay yes they are, but it’s not the biggest reason.

The biggest reason I want your kids (and you) to read comic books is because they are fabulous. The character development, plots, and storylines are complex, engrossing, and straight out some of the best stuff you and your kids will EVER read. Reason number two that I want you to read comic books with your kids is the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie is coming out tomorrow, and it would help if you know who Groot is before your kids drag you to the theater.  

So remember Saturday May 6th is Free Comic Book day at the Oakland Public Library. (Friday at the Brookfield and Eastmont branches.) Come to the library and get yours.

And get a new library card while you are at it. They have cool designs, but that is another blog post. 

Just Read!

It is my rare evening alone without my children.  I decide to go to the local Mermaid Cafe for my favorite pseudo-Italian caffeinated beverage and read a new book by my favorite author; one that I have been anticipating for months. 

While enjoying this book and sipping my caffeine a random person approaches me to criticize my reading selection and ask if I have read the latest Michael Eric Dyson book. When I state I have no interest in reading Mr. Dyson's book, this person tells me I should put my "drivel" away and “learn something.” That Mr. Dyson will "enlighten me" and his book is "good for me."  So I reply:

“You have inaccurately deduced that I am socially and politically antiquated based on my recreational literature selections. Furthermore you have deduced based on my preferred leisure activity that I am academically deficient. It is quite abhorrent of you to assign yourself authority to malign my literature selections, and reassign materials you ascertain more appropriate. Your sentiments are objectionable and unsolicited. Take your leave, sir!”

The person looked at me with a confused expression and said: “huh?” 

For those of you who do not want to grab a dictionary I basically used a lot of big words to say: "you are assuming I'm dumb and not "woke" because of what I chose to read for fun. That’s rude, I didn’t ask your opinion, and leave me alone.”

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Dyson and his work, you may not understand how snarky my reply was. I borrowed Mr. Dyson's persona to reply to this rude stranger in Mermaid Cafe. Mr. Dyson likes big words.   He delights, educates, and entertains by using multisyllabic words in his books and speaking engagements. He also talks about race relations and politics alot.  

I may not read Mr. Dyson, but unbeknownst to the stranger I know who he is, and I respect his talents and body of work. I’ll even happily recommend his books to others. His topics of expertise is just not something I'll read for fun. 

So what does this story have to do with kids? 

Some parents are guilty of belittling their children’s reading choices, just like that stranger did to me; yet unlike me, children do not have the authority to contradict their parents and defend their reading preferences. 

For example have you heard a parent say?

  • That book is too easy for you.
  • You read too many comic books; you need to read a “real book.”
  • Why are you always reading _____________ series? Can’t you find something else?
  • Ugh. (eye roll) That book again.                                                               

My professional recommendation: Stop that. Just stop it and let the kid read what they want.


I want your kid to FALL IN LOVE WITH READING. I want your kid to read not because they have to for homework, but because reading becomes vital nourishment to their souls.  The only way for a child to fall in love with reading is to be allowed to freely read whatever they want.  I am speaking from experience when I tell you that just like adults, children have different preferences about what they read for fun. Some kids like graphic novels while other kids will enjoy poetry. It doesn't matter. Unlike, food, there is no such thing as a "bad book." 

 I can provide you with so many professional papers written by experts explaining how reading for fun makes your child smarter, healthier, happier, and a better person. But this blog is already getting too long. So trust me on this one. 

Okay fine, don't trust me. You can read a lenghy report titled "Reading For Pleasure -- A Door To Success from the National Library of New Zealand on the subject, or this brief but equally factual report titled Kids and Family Reading Report from Scholastic.

If you don't want to read either report I'll quote two very important facts:

  • “89% of kids ages 6-17 agree ‘My favorite books are ones I have picked out myself”
  • "A majority of kids pick out the books they read for fun at least most of the time (63%) and 88% say that they are more likely to finish books that they pick out."

So to rephrase: 1. Kids know what they want to read. 2. Kids will finish the books (aka actually read the books) they pick out for themselves.

Reading for pleasure is a big deal. Children benefit greatly academically, emotionally, etc when they fall in love with reading, and read regularly for fun.  Besides, I learned my big words from reading “drivel,” not from any of my homework assignments.

Often, the comments some parents make about a kid’s reading choices are demoralizing. If a child loves Goosebumps (or any series) and the parent has a poor opinion of Goosebumps, the child may not read them. However the child may not read anything else either. In turn the child learns to view reading as an uninteresting chore, something they are forced to do, and an activity they never find any pleasure in, even when they reach adulthood.

Before you panic, understand a love of reading does not measure intelligence or potential. The children who do not love reading will succeed in school, grow up and have good jobs, raise beautiful families, and have wonderful friendships and memories. But they won’t read for fun as children or adults, and will lose the benefits that come with reading for fun and making it a lifelong habit.

So let your kids develop a love of reading and allow them read what they want without judgment.  If your 10-year-old prefers Goosebumps to The Crossover just go with it.  The more kids read what they like, the more they will read.  Take it from a librarian who reads “drivel.” Your kids will be fine. 

Black History Homework

Library Kid:   I have the hardest person EVER!!!!

Me: Who? 

Library Kid: I'll never find annnnnnything on herrrr... 

Me: Who?

Library Kid: Fannie Lou Hamer. 

Me: What about this book?  ( I pulled it out of our newly created Black History Books Display) 

Library Kid:  umm.... I wrote my report already.

Me: Really? Okay well you should take the book now anyway. Because if you "lose" your report before it's due the book might not be here.

Library Kid: 

This conversation and many more can be enjoyed by you and your child if you run to your nearest library and get the homework assignment book NOW. Odds are your child's teacher has already assigned your student the person they are required to study. Don't delay. But if you come later in the month and the books you need are all checked out, our online resources are ready to assist you!  And please pretty please for the love of accuracy and facts don't just "Google it". Ask a librarian to help you, or get started with the websites below. 

Biography in Context: An Oakland Public Library Database

You will need library card number and pin is required to use Biography in Context if you are not using a library computer.

African American Inventors

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Geographic Kids: Black inventors and Pioneers of Science

Challenge Extended: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten!

Shhh.  Listen.  Did you hear that? 

Yes, it was the sound of librarians everywhere shouting hooray while reading about Daliyah Marie Arana. This amazing young book worm visited the Library of Congress, met with the newest Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and was Guest Librarian for the day, a most prestigious title, especially when bestowed upon an impeccably dressed 4 year old! Daliyah's special afternoon was in celebration of a big reading accomplishment that her family celebrated with their local public library.


When Daliyah was 3, her mom enrolled her in her public library's 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program in Georgia. This program encourages families to read 1000 books before the first day of kindergarten and when her family completed this most impressive feat, her mother contacted the Library of Congress to share the sweet accomplishment and request a tour for her young reader. Cue the collective sighs of joy.


Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden welcomes 4-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana of Gainesville, Georgia to be "Librarian for the Day," January 10, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Adorable? Yes

Impressive? Oh yes!

Doable? Totally!

Now, I know that 1000 books seems like a lot but think about it, how many times have you read that one book? You know the one. That one with the bunny, or the truck or...heaven forbid, Caillou? You probably read that book 10 times just yesterday! When we run the hypothetical numbers, if a parent read  just one book, one time each day to their child every day since the day they were born until the day they turned five, that would be 365 books for 5 years, 1825 books!  

baby at library   

So Many Books, So Much Time! 

baby at library 


This means we all get wiggle room for busy days, or busy years. Even if your baby was colicky and you just walked around the house rocking her for the first three months and didn't get a chance to pick up Moo Baa La La for a while, you have probably already read a TON of books together.  Or maybe when your daughter was 2, she decided that sitting was just the worst thing ever so your bedtime snuggle with a book became a wrestling match with a toothbrush, it's okay, because I can bet on bowl of mush that you have read, Goodnight Moon about a million times. Or maybe it was a Pigeon book or maybe one of those floppy paperbacks that has way too many words but your daughter is so smart that she knows exactly what Thomas just said so you can't skip even one line.  Sigh.  


Where was I?  Oh yes,1000 books.  

So while librarians everywhere loved and widely shared the heartwarming story of the youngest librarian in our ranks, Ms. Daliyah, we know you can to it too. Oakland Public Library hereby extends the challenge to you and your family today. We may not be able to offer personal tours of the Library of Congress, but our online badges are colorful and our high-fives plentiful!  

Sign up today!

Beanstack logo



Nitty Gritty Details

  • How does this all work?

Oakland Public Library has teamed up with Beanstack to help you reach some amazing reading goals!  Just click here and follow the steps. You can create a reading profile for each child in your family and keep everything together in one place. Choose the "1000 books before Kindergarten Reading Program" when registering and you're done! You can also choose to get one email a week with a personalized book recommendation, a link to the library catalog and reading tips based on your child's profile. 

  • Does it really count if I read the same book 5 or more times?

Yep! Repeated reading of the same book is extremely beneficial for pre-readers. It helps develop vocabulary, memory, positive connections with literature, self-confidence and more!

  • My kiddo is 3, is it too late to join?

No way! Even if your child starts kinder next year, you can still join! You can even go in a enter all of your favorites from back in the day and move on from there.

  • What if we don't make it to 1000 by the time kindergarten starts?  Did we fail?

Nope, you are awesome.

  • What do we do when it is done?

Keep reading of course! The Beanstack software can come in very handy for those homework reading logs too!

Bad Words




This election has gone off the chain! I had to stop watching the news. The 6 am/pm news! Because thanks to a leaked Access Hollywood video, and some exhaustive news coverage, my 4-year old son asked me to explain a 5-letter word that begins with the letter "P."

I am not linking  the video. If by some chance you haven't seen or heard about it because you were living off the grid for the past two months, just Google: "Donald Trump,"  "Access Hollywood," and "Video." 

It's bad enough that my 4-year old son with autism, who is just learning to talk, quickly learns to say THAT WORD, but he wants a definition too? 

Yes Oakland I am upset. When I was 4- years old the only reference I had to that "P-word" was this guy:



and when I was 8-years old I knew all about this band: 


but I had no adult reference to that word!

So I chickened-out. I sure did. I had no desire to explain the adult version of a word when saying "it's a cat" would do. I read my kid Puss in Boots, checked out the movie from the library, and sat him down for a very important talk. I explained that sometimes adults use words in rude ways, and we shouldn't repeat everything adults say. Then I read this book to him:


He thought it was funny. He runs around the house saying "flarf"  and "shalark" repeatedly now.  Hey a momma's gotta do what a momma's gotta do.