Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’s birthday! Dr. Seuss is one of the most beloved authors of children’s book in the English language. I created a book trough about 2 weeks ago celebrating the event (the trough banner is featured above). I originally filled it with Seuss board books, picture books, easy readers, and Spanish versions, and could not keep the trough stocked often enough!  Even the more obscure titles are circulating. I ended up adding CD kits (each kit contains a book and CD) and audiobooks just to keep the trough from looking empty. I think it’s great that this will bring some attention to the kits and audiobooks. I’m sure that some patrons who would never give these items a second look may be tempted to try them out. Hmmm, this gives me an idea – the next time we feature an author, perhaps we can create flyers or bookmarks to promote the ebook versions. We can also include the qr code to make it easier for those with devices that have qr code readers (see previous post here). Definitely something to thing about.

Book Programs with a Twist

blind date with a book display

Book displays are ways for libraries to highlight certain books in their collections, and they’re usually centered around a theme. For instance, a display can be focused on a holiday or an event or even a color. In March, I plan to gather up books with green covers and set up a display to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Last month, I set up a children’s Chinese New Year display featuring informational and picture books about this holiday. I also included a few props to somewhat capture the flavor and festiveness of Chinese New Year. It’s a great way to increase cultural awareness and increase the circulation of  books that may not normally get much attention. It was a resounding success–the books were all checked out (including the backups) a week before the lunar new year even began.

For Valentine’s Day this year, I took the plunge and set up a book display that I had seen on various library Pinterest boards: Blind Date with a Book. I wrapped several books in craft paper so patrons are for all intents and purposes blindly checking out books–except for a clue or two hinted on the front. Each wrapped book included a slip where patrons can “rate their date.” This is a great (and fun!) way for patrons to try out a book they may not otherwise pick up.


Rate Your Date form adapted from one by Furman University Libraries

Since we didn’t have a barcode label maker, I simply wrote the barcode number on the back of each book. I love programs like this where both the librarian and the patrons take risks. The librarian isn’t sure how patrons will respond to an out-of-the-ordinary book display and the patrons aren’t sure what kinds of books they’re getting. Hopefully, both will be pleasantly surprised!


Tonight, I had the pleasure of doing my first ever storytime at the library! I filled in for the regular storyteller, who is on vacation, and as pajama storytime is typically a small group, it was a good time to get my feet wet. Being a newbie, I did several things to prepare. A few months ago, I had observed several storytimes at the library, but I visited the pajama one last week to familiarize myself with its particular participants and dynamics. I Googled for lists of favorite storytime books by experienced librarians. In addition, I browsed through the stacks and grabbed about eight books that looked promising based on their illustrations and subject matters. Trucks? Fairies? Sounds good to me!

ernest_the_mooseI ended up choosing a couple of books that were mentioned most often in storytime booklists – gotta have at least a couple of surefire successes at my first storytime – and to select the rest, I checked online reviews of the books I had taken from the stacks and read through them myself. One book I very reluctantly let go – the illustrations were gorgeous, but I felt the language was a bit too sophisticated for 4-7 year-olds. I don’t want to underestimate the children, so I’ll review this book with a librarian to see if she agrees. One last thing I did to prepare was to check out a few popular storytime songs on YouTube – it’s been a while! It was interesting to note that while I grew up singing “Eensy weensy spider,” out here in California it’s “Itsy bitsy spider”…

how-do-dinosaurs-say-goodnightSo tonight, I read my five stories and interspersed them with songs and poems. Some of the children piped up with suggestions of their favorites – Humpty Dumpty; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – so we sang/chanted those as well as other popular tunes. One thing I was not prepared for was the tendency of some children to want to come up to touch the book! When I observed past storytimes, I focused mostly on content and storytelling techniques. In future observations, I will pay closer attention to children management and how each storyteller controls the level of interaction with the children.

All in all, it was a fun evening. Time sped by quicker than I expected. I hope the children found it entertaining as well!

The Joy of Books

Just the other day, I helped a child locate a book she couldn’t find on her own. After I handed it to her, she clutched the book to her chest and literally jumped for joy. I love seeing this sort of excitement on a child’s face over a book! The feeling is contagious and makes me love my job even more! It also got me thinking about the importance of passing on a lifelong love of reading to children by parents and those who work with children.

Reading opens up new knowledge and worlds for children to imagine and explore and share. In my case, it also shaped the person I was to become. To this day, my reading habits and preferences are part of what identifies me. What we recommend for children to read can also greatly influence their lives. My cousin Lesley is 13 years younger than me and when she was a child, I gave her lots of books to read, books that reflected my personal taste. Oz, Greek mythology, Andrew Lang’s Colored Fairy books…then Narnia, Middle-Earth, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Sequence…followed by Pern, Shannara, and David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series among many, many others in that vein that I could throw at her. All this had a trickle down effect on her younger brothers, too! Lesley is now a professor, and she remains an avid reader. We share very similar tastes in books and now ask each other for recommendations (okay, so she didn’t care for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m still working on changing that…).

Tapping into a child’s passion for reading is immensely rewarding, but I have also learned to rein in my enthusiasm when needed. My 14-year-old niece doesn’t share the same fervor for books, so I think it important not to push too hard lest she starts finding it a chore. I can only hope as that as she gets older, she grows to enjoy “reading for fun” more!

© 2016 JoAnne Chen