Books are for More Than Just Reading!

Picture book art has come a long way.  Back in the day, publishers could only afford to do black and white or 2 to 3 colors.  Modern day picture books are an explosion of rich details and colors.  Through paintings, drawings, photography, mixed media and collage, picture books have become works of art.  They can be used as a tool to develop observational skills and art appreciation in children. 

Here are some sample questions to ask toddlers, preschoolers, and grade school children:

  • What colors did the illustrator use? 
  • What do you see in the picture?
  • Does it look realistic?
  • What do you think the artist used to create the picture?
  • Why do you think they chose to do it that way?  When comparing picture books you can observe how one illustrator drew an alligator with purple squiggly lines and another illustrator used the color green and short straight lines.
  • How would you have drawn that picture?
  • Is that a happy or a sad picture? How can you tell?

Here are some examples of books that use different illustration techniques:

Smoky Night written by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by David Diaz .
This book won the Caldecott Medal (an award for outstanding art in picture books)  in 1995.  Smoky Night is the story of how a riot affects a  young boy and his mother.  Diaz created and photographed collages and paired them with acrylic paintings.  The highly detailed collages relate directly to the story on the page.  The intensity of the illustrations match the intensity of the story. As things are resolved the illustrations become less intense.

Not A Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. 
In direct comparison to the detailed illustrations in Smoky Night, Not A Box uses simplicity to stimulate children’s imagination.  There are only five colors in the book and Portis used simple line drawings to show children that a box could become anything they want it to.  Even though the book is simple it is done in a way that was thought about carefully.  The cover and end papers look and feel just like a cardboard box.

My Dadima Wears Saris written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi
Two young girls learn from their grandmother about the beauty and art of wearing a Sari.  The illustrations are beautiful watercolors that fill every inch of space on the page.  At one point of the book the full color illustrations become sepia to show that the grandmother is remembering the past.

Ellsworth’s Extraordinary Electric Ears and Other Amazing Alphabet Anecdotes by Valerie Fisher
Fisher brings the alphabet to life with whimsical photographs of toys.  One of my favorite pictures in the book is of the letter F.  “Fancy Feathered Fashions were favored by Floyd’s Farm Friends.”  Toy pigs in tutus wearing feathered hats hang out with frogs, foxes, and other fun animals.  For some reason one of the frogs has a microphone.  The creativity and bright colors pop off the page while encouraging children to pour over the pictures so they can find all of the elements that start with a certain letter.




The Library as Place

Monopoly at the Library

Monopoly at the Library

I haven’t written a blog for a few months.  I would open up an empty document and stare blankly at the screen for a few minutes.  Summer Reading consumed my time, energy, and brain capacity.  I held 54 programs at the Aiken Library in June and July.  There were storytimes, family nights, afternoon specials, young adult programs and Paws to Read with our wonderful therapy dog group.  The total attendance for all of these programs was 2,154.  This makes me wonder, “Is the e-book really replacing the need for libraries?”

I don’t have my head buried in the sand.  I know that formats are changing.  If the book market never changed then publishers would be carving  symbols out of stone tablets and only the wealthy would be able to read.   I get that.  But I do believe there are things that won’t change: 

1. People need free access to books, Internet, word processing, programming, and air conditioning.   The library can provide all of those things.

2. Librarians select quality books, websites, magazines, and other media for their patrons.

3. Librarians inspire children, teens, and adults to read through storytimes, book clubs, reader’s advisory, and other programming.   Videos and e-books cannot perform story time.  Current research shows that video is not the most effective way for children to learn in the first year of life.   Which would you rather see, children staring blankly at a screen or a librarian linking hands with children for Ring- Around-the-Rosie?

4. People need someone to talk to.  Sometimes people come to the library  because they need human contact.  They get that when they ask a question, check out a book, bump into a neighbor, or come to a program.

5. Librarians are proponents of intellectual freedom.  

Morris Museum Visits Nancy Carson Library

A Library Visit with the Morris Museum of Art

I’ll leave you with an anecdote from the Nancy Carson Library in North Augusta.  Renee Burton held a teen program without any technology in June. During the program Renee showed the teens how to make candy sushi and paint calligraphy.  Usually a handful of teens show up for programs at the library. This time 30 teenagers showed up and she had to shoo them out the door at the end of the program.

Summer Reading

The countdown has started. School is going to be over soon. Children will have the time to watch TV until their eyes blur, play video games until carpal tunnel syndrome sets in, consume large amounts of sugar, and sleep in late. They will be running up and down the street yelling, speeding around on their bikes, turning cartwheels in sprinklers, and jumping on trampolines.

Then the other shoe drops and week two of summer kicks in. Boredom descends like a wet blanket. It is 100 degrees outside,TV is boring, the video game controller broke, and there has been a ban on all foods containing sugar and red dye in an attempt to restore parental sanity.

Head over to your local ABBE Library for FREE programming to combat the week two doldrums of summer. There is an exciting line-up of entertainment brought to you weekly at each of the 14 libraries in the ABBE system. Join us for puppet shows, plays, magic, shows, live animals, story times, and more. Check out the ABBE Summer Reading Website for details.

Kid with Binoculars

Looking for a good time? The Library is THE PLACE to go this summer!

In addition to the entertainment children and teens can sign up for summer reading. Research has shown that students who do not read over the summer can lose up to a grade level of reading skills. Participating in the summer reading program can motivate students to pick up a book or listen to an audio book. 

I would like to take a moment to thank the Sponsors of Summer Reading that allow us to provide our patrons with quality programming :

  • 88.3 WAFJ Radio
  • Aiken Electric Cooperative
  • Aiken Express Car Wash
  • Aiken Newcomers’ Club
  • Aiken Standard
  • Aiken Woman’s Club
  • American Association of University Women
  • Bamberg County Friends of the Library
  • Bamberg Family Practice
  • Barnwell Parks & Recreation
  • Bobby’s BBQ
  • Brooker’s of Denmark
  • Bruster’s
  • Captain D’s
  • Carolina First Bank
  • Cedar Creek Ladies Club
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Communigraphics
  • Delavan Spray Technologies
  • Edgefield Dental Clinic-Dr. Randy Bryan
  • Ely’s Graphic Design
  • EnergySolutions/ChemNuclear Systems
  • Enterprise Bank of SC
  • Escape Day Spa & Salon Foundation
  • Friends of the Aiken Public Library
  • Friends of the Edgefield County Library
  • Friends of the Jackson Branch Library
  • Friends of the Libraries of Barnwell County
  • Friends of the Nancy Carson Library
  • Gary Jeffords, DMD
  • Hardee’s
  • Home Federal Savings & Loan Association
  • Howell Printing
  • Johnston Self Storage
  • Kimberly-Clark Corporation
  • Ladyfingers Bakery & Catering
  • Matt Nieman Insurance Agency
  • McDonald’s
  • Meybohm Realtors
  • Ness & Jett, LLC
  • Parkside Women’s Centre
  • Pendarvis Chevrolet
  • Pepperidge Farm
  • Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing Company
  • Pizza Hut
  • RCS Corporation
  • Reel Insurance Agency
  • Rocky L. Napier, D.M.D.
  • Ron E. Bryant, DDS
  • Savannah River Nuclear Solutions
  • Savannah River Remediation
  • Security Federal Bank
  • Silver Bluff Animal Hospital
  • South Carolina Aquarium
  • Spec’s Vision Center
  • Target of Aiken
  • Tom Young-Allstate Insurance
  • Town of Trenton
  • Trantech Radiator Products
  • Vaughn Electronics/RadioShack
  • Wal-Mart of Aiken
  • White Columns Farm
  • Wilson, Luginbill & Kirkland Law Firm
  • Women of Woodside
  • Yonce Ford
  • Zeigler Chevrolet

Early Literacy

One morning after Story Time I was sitting on the floor putting my books back into my bag when a one year old toddled over to me. She picked up a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. She opened the book and cooed over the pictures. I started looking at the book with her and to my amazement she pointed at the letter J and pronounced it. Then she pointed at some other letters and said those. I was ecstatic because she was demonstrating the early literacy skill of letter knowledge.

Children under the age of 5 have fascinating brains. They are constantly making neural connections that will affect lifelong learning. It is crucial during the first five years of brain development that children develop the six early literacy skills. These skills are developed though parents and caregivers reading, talking, singing, and playing with young children.

It is easy to incorporate the six early literacy skills during these activities. These are a few ways you may do it:

  1. Letter Knowledge (See Letters)

    Talk about the shapes of things with them.
    Point out and name letters in books or on signs, labels, etc.
    Draw letters with them.
  2. Narrative Skills (Tell Stories)

    Share finger plays and nursery rhymes with them.
    Toddlers and Preschoolers
    Ask them to tell you about the book. Encourage them to tell you about things they have done that have a regular sequence.
  3. Print Awareness (Use Books)

    Read books with them.
    Toddlers and Preschoolers
    Read books with them. Point out and read words everywhere you see them.
  4. Print Motivation (Love Books)
    Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers

    Make reading a special time, keep books accessible, and show them that you enjoy reading
    Toddlers and Preschoolers
    Talk to them about how you use reading and writing in everyday life.
  5. Vocabulary (New Words)
    Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers

    Start naming all the objects in a child’s world and read a variety of books, fiction and non-fiction.

  6. Phonological Awareness (Play With Sounds)

    Read poems and stories with rhymes or different sounds.
    Toddlers and Preschoolers
    Make up silly words by changing the first sound in a word.

Don’t Forget to Water

I am a delusional gardener.  Every time spring rolls around there are visions of tulips, dahlias, peonies, and hyacinths dancing in my head.  Every year is going to be different.  This will be the year I will remember to water, prune, and whatever else it is that you do to plants.

I have to talk myself through years of plant murder every time I walk through a garden center or see plants for sale. Remember…

  • The aloe burned to a crisp because it was left in direct sunlight during 100 degree weather (who knew desert plants need shade!)
  • The time all of the plants I bought had a fungus that spread like wildfire (technically not my fault)
  • The three philodendrons I kept alive for five years until I forgot to bring them in last winter ( I don’t want to talk about it)
  • The ferns
  • The pansies

The list goes on.  I won’t bore you.

This year will be different (yeah right!).  I won’t go on a mad plant buying spree. Instead I will find other ways to unleash my inner gardener.  For instance in story time we read Planting A Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.  This is a wonderful book for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  With bold colors and simple text,  Ehlert takes children through the process of creating a beautiful garden from start to finish.  What better way to ensure that your children will have green thumbs than to start teaching them about plant care now? 

All joking aside, the following books are a marvelous way to celebrate spring and nature with the young children in your life.

  • April Foolishness by Teresa Bateman
  • Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
  • Grow It, Cook It by Deborah Lock
  • In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
  • Kids’ Container Gardening: Year Round Projects for Inside and Out by Cindy Krezel
  • Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson
  • Peek-a-bloom!by Marie Torres Cimarusti
  • Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na
  • Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
  • When Ruby Tried to Grow Candy by Valerie Fisher

“Quality Time” on the Road

The memory is still pretty clear.  It was 4 hours into an 11 hour road trip and I was bored.  Bored, boRED, bored, borED, BORED.  In order to empathize with my parents, have a small child sit behind you and instruct them to sing the previous sentence while they kick your seat. 

Gone was the excitement of going to visit the relatives, the novelty of the activity kit my mom put together, my father’s tolerance for the smell of watermelon gum, and the sanity of everyone in the car.  You know what would have saved the day?  An audiobook.

Audiobooks are great.  Everyone in the car can listen to the same book unlike a dvd that requires the driver to miss out on all the fun.  Plus, audiobooks are great literacy tools.  There are several great things that happen when children, young and old, listen to audiobooks:

  • Listeners are introduced to new vocabulary and concepts.
  • Listeners are exposed to the correct way to say words.
  • Struggling readers can follow along with a print copy while matching written words to sounds.   

Ever notice that conversation gets pretty dull after 6 hours of being crammed in the car together?  Instead of staring blankly at each other over your dinner stop, you could discuss the book you have been listening to.  Aha!  Another great literacy moment just snuck in:

  •  Book discussions improve reading comprehension.

So the next time you start to roll out of the driveway start up an audio book. Here are a few titles the whole family can enjoy:

  •  The Secret Garden by Frances Burnette
  • The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Don’t forget, you can either check out audio books at the library or you can download them from our Digital Branch Library.

Slow Sloths and Files, Oh My!

Day by Day SC Family LIteracy CalendarIt is amazing how much a child can learn by the time they are five years old. Sharing nursery rhymes, songs, and books is critical to early literacy and sustained academic success.   The South Carolina State Library has created a fabulous new online resource for parents and caregivers.   The South Carolina DayByDaySC Family Literacy Calendar is full of literacy tips, songs, fingerplays, activities, book suggestions, and resources.

Each month of the calendar is a different theme.   If you are looking for ways to share Health and Safety with a child then click on January.   Want to reinforce the alphabet?   Go to September.

This morning I snuck ahead to May 22nd and found this song about sloths. Just think about how much fun you and your child can have while singing this song!

Slow Sloth’s Slow Song
I……. am …………. a………….sloth…………

Another wonderful feature of the calendar is Tumblebooks, an online library of high quality children’s animated e-books and audio books for preschoolers to grades five.  The SC State Library purchased a subscription to Tumblebooks for everyone living in South Carolina so it is free when you access it through   There are corresponding games and quizzes that enhance reading comprehension, language learning, grammar, and spelling.

So far my favorite game is “Boy Soup Verb Whack.”   A sentence from the book shows up at the bottom of the screen.   Three flies with words on their backs buzz around the screen and the player has to swat the fly with the verb on its back before it gets away.

I recommend that when you have a moment that you explore Day by Day SC.   Now if you will excuse me,   I am going to click on April 1st and learn the “ABC Your Name Song” and then read “Yelly Kelly” to me.

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