Have you ever wanted to make your own computer game? Well, using the website, www.scrach.mit.edu, you can code your own game!

Scratch is a free coding software designed to teach kids how to code. Anyone can learn to use Scratch. Scratch is great for beginners because it uses drag and drop coding. Drag and drop coding lets users build a sequence of code without needing to type in a specific coding language, such as Java or Python.

In the video below, I'll show you how to add characters, move your characters, collect items, create enemies, and keep score. I'll show you one way to code these situations. However, be sure to experiment! You may find a different way to code your game.



Coding is a skill that takes practice, creativity, and perseverance. If you find yourself frustrated with your coding, take a break and come back to your code. Look at your code step by step and try to think about what each line of code is doing. Try taking apart a block of code and look at what each step does by itself. Look at your list of coding blocks, and see if one of them might help your code. Scratch also lets you see how other users code projects. Try looking at the code in similar games on Scratch.


After you code, take a mindful moment. Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe slowly. Acknowledge your feelings both positive and negative. Breathe deeply as you accept that these are valid. Coding is a new skill! Be patient with yourself.

  Youth Services Librarian Ann 


Bring home a fun new project! You can now register to pick up a Take-and-Make Kit from the Youth Services desk. Here are the instructions for each kit:


Toddlers and Preschoolers: Texture and Leaf Rubbing

Young children create fascinating patterns and designs, while engaged in tactile exploration of natural materials. 


Materials provided for texture and leaf rubbing:

  • (4) rubbing crayons
  • (1) Textured rubbing plate
  • (1) Textured leaf rubbing plate
  • (1) Tote bag
  • (6) sheets of lightweight paper



You will need to collect leaves of different shapes and sizes.




1. Gather Leaves

Grab your tote bag and head out for a nature walk. Collect leaves of various shapes and sizes.  Make sure the leaves are dry.  (Flatter leaves work better, so do newly fallen ones).


Conversation ideas for your walk: Ask your child to talk about what they see. Point out different things like animals (birds, squirrels, etc) and plants (trees, flowers, budding leaves, etc). Ask your child to find something of a specific color.


2. Return Home

Remove your leaves from the bag. If other items were collected, consider having your child sort the different items.

Possible points to discuss:

  • Each leaf is different in size and shape - none of them are exactly the same!
  • Talk about the different textures of the leaves. How does the leaf feel?

3. Position a leaf.

Find a flat area to work. Place a leaf with its bottom side facing up.

4. Place paper over the leaf.

Put a sheet of paper over the leaf.

5. Rub a crayon.

Rub the side of a crayon over the leaf. As you do this, you'll see the colored areas start to take the shape of the leaf.

6. Rub over the entire leaf.

Continue until you've rubbed over the entire leaf.

7. Remove the leaf.

Remove the leaf from under the paper. This completes the basic steps for making a leaf rubbing.

8. Make more texture rubbings with the textured rubbing and leaf rubbing plate provided.

Try using different colors. You and your child can compare and contrast the differences between the textured plates and the actual leaves.


Don’t be afraid to overlap the leaf rubbings to create a stunning picture! Enjoy!



Grades K-2: Leaf Rubbing Resist Art


(Cat not included!)


Things you will need in addition to the what is included in the kit:

  • Leaves!
  • Cup of water




1. Take the items out of the box.


2. Use your bag to go on a leaf hunt! (Make sure you go with a grownup or have permission to go leaf hunting on your own.)


3. Gather leaves that aren’t too crunchy or too soft.


4. Take your leaves back inside.


5. Fill a cup with water.


6. Place leaves under one piece of paper.


7. Rub over the top of the paper with a white crayon. Make sure to use the side of the crayon.


8. Remove the leaves from under the paper.


9. It won’t look like much since it is white crayon on white paper, but this is where the watercolors come in. Use your water to wet your brush and apply the watercolors to the paper.

10. Watch how the leaf rubbings take shape as the areas with the crayon wax resist the watercolors.

11. Let dry and enjoy your masterpiece!



Grades 3-8: DIY Sparkle Bowls

Make a glittery, decorative bowl through a fun and relaxing process.

Mod-Podge takes several hours to dry completely. This project works best if you have two days to complete it. 

Note: Sparkle Bowls are not food-safe! Use your Sparkle Bowl to hold trinkets, coins, jewelry, or other small items - not food or drink.


In addition to the kit, you will need: 

  • Newspaper or scrap paper 
  • Scissors



1. Lay out a sheet of newspaper or scrap paper to protect your tabletop.

2. Pour some glitter into one container of Mod-Podge and stir with the craft stick to combine. You can use a little, or a lot! The more glitter, the more sparkly your bowl will be.

3. Place the silicone mold, curved side up, on the table. 

4. Paint the glitter-glue over the surface of the mold, then cap the glue and rinse out your paintbrush.

5. Let the bowl dry completely - this will probably take a couple hours. The Mod-Podge will dry clear, so you’ll just see the glitter once it’s dry. 

6. Paint a second coat, cap the glue and rinse out your brush again, and let the bowl dry again. 

7. You can do a third or even fourth coat if you'd like a stronger container. 

8. Once the sparkle bowl is completely dry, carefully peel the silicone mold away. Trim the edges with scissors. 

9. Reuse the supplies as many times as you wish!

Watch this video to see how to make Sparkle Bowls:


  Youth Services Assistant Librarian Alyssa 


Youth Services staff are sometimes asked for help finding classics. These books may be desired for any number of reasons. Oftentimes, families are looking for well-written books that have stood the test of time; or caregivers want to share beloved books that they remember reading in their childhood. Or both! And either way, those are great reasons to find a book. 

However, many adults helping their children discover classics may not be aware of the troubling content concerning racial and ethnic differences. Many of the books we naturally think of as great examples of children’s literature - like The Little House in the Big Woods or Peter Pan - present harmful stereotypes or offensive language, especially towards Black and Brown people. 

We will still provide the classics to our community for as long as they are useful, and indeed, those problematic details may present mature readers with a learning opportunity on the troubling portrayal of Black, Indigenous and People of Color throughout the history of literature. However, I’d like to offer some suggestions for families to read alongside or instead of these titles to better broaden children’s knowledge and empathy for all people.


Looking for The Little House books? 

These stories of Laura and her family are still popular for their heartwarming depiction of a family on the American frontier. However, there are stereotypical and damaging depictions of Native Americans and African Americans that appear throughout the book. 


The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich 

Erdrich's books are set during a similar time period, but are about an Indigenous family and offer a more nuanced depiction of Native people.

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

This beautiful story set in a newly developing frontier town introduces readers to a half-White, half-Chinese girl facing racism from her fellow settlers while trying to fulfill her dreams.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

A novel that imagines the life and adventures of the first free-born child in Buxton, Canada, a haven for runaway refugees from the slavery of the American South in 1859.


Looking for A Little Princess or The Secret Garden? 

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic books featuring children in early 20th century Britain are beloved and lively tales of family and friendship, but the author often employs offensive depictions of India as a mystical or uncivilized place.


The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall 

For a modern story of friendship, sisterhood, and light-hearted adventures presented with an old-fashioned sensibility, try these heartwarming stories.


Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar 

Balance Burnett’s stories that romanticize colonization with this moving historical fiction novel bringing the harrowing fight for India’s independence from British rule to life through one child’s eyes.

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver 

For an old-fashioned tale with orphans, magic, adventure, friendship, and all-the-Victorian-feels, you can’t go wrong with this remarkable book published in 2011. 



Looking for The Indian in the Cupboard? 

Many readers are entranced by the idea of a tiny figurine come to life in one boy’s mysterious cupboard where he stores his treasures, but the depiction of the Native American character presents many harmful stereotypes.


The Borrowers by Mary Norton

A classic in its own right, this adventure also imagines the life of tiny people, without prejudicing Indigenous people.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis 

An illuminating coming-of-age story set in 1957 about one girl’s loss and rediscovery of her identity after the U.S. government enacts a law saying that her tribe no longer exists. Really powerful examination of the country’s history of discrimination against its native peoples.


Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate 

For a different book about a boy and his connection with an unbelievable friend - in this case, a giant imaginary cat - try this funny and sometimes heart wrenching book from the one-and-only Katherine Applegate.


Looking for Peter Pan?

The stories of J. M. Barrie offer readers lots of delightful adventures and thoughts on childhood and growing up, but unfortunately the depiction of Native Americans on Never Never Land is harmful and disturbing to modern ears.


Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss 

Need a pirate-filled adventure? This book is brimming with action on the high seas, along with some magical creatures and a tough young heroine.

Granted by John David Anderson

This contemporary-set story imagines the lives of fairies seeking to help us with wishes. The charming personalities and elaborate world of these little human-like creatures makes this book quite enjoyable.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy 

Lose yourself in this charming contemporary fantasy about a girl who must try to rescue her baby brother from crows who have flown off with him into an enchanted forest kingdom outside Portland, Oregon.


Looking for any well-written, timeless children’s books with positive messages?   

Here are some of our favorite “modern classics” - books we know you will love, and that will stand the test of time:  

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Often humorous and ultimately moving, this is the story of one family who, on a trip from their home in Flint, Michigan, to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, become witnesses to a terrible act of violence against Black people during the Civil Rights movement.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue 

A story of a super-contemporary homeschooling family with LGBTQ parents and an enchanting mix of cultures and traditions, told with all the warmth and gentleness of an old-fashioned classic.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Chinese folklore twists through this beautiful and adventure-filled quest one girl takes to find a mythical dragon and save her family’s fortune.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

This Newbery Medal-winning book brings ancient Korea to bright life through the eyes of an orphan who becomes fascinated by the skilled potters in his village and longs to create the artistic ceramics himself.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick 

A fascinating book that combines prose and pages-and-pages of line-drawn artwork to tell a story of mystery and friendship during the early days of film-making in Paris.

Tip: Want personalized reading suggestions? Fill out this form and you’ll receive a customized list direct to your inbox!

Youth Services Librarian Allison 


We now have four e-newsletters to share with you: the best and newest titles for kids! Sign up for any of the following email subscriptions at this link. 

  • Kids: Books for Ages 0-5 
  • Kids: Books for Ages 6-9
  • Kids: Books for Ages 10-13
  • Kids: eBook Picks

We know that many people are reducing their time spent in public spaces, including the Barrington Area Library, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank you for being good neighbors, but we recognize that you may have less browsing time for all the great books you’d like to provide your children. We hope our newsletters will help you find excellent and relevant titles delivered straight to your email inbox, with links so you can place holds from home.


Tip: Want personalized reading suggestions? Fill out this form and you’ll receive a customized list direct to your inbox!

Youth Services Librarian Allison 


Parents have already been juggling work and/ or household responsibilities and now, eLearning?! You are probably feeling overwhelmed. As a working mother of three, I know I am! This change creates new challenges for parents, students, and teachers. So, as parents, what can we do?


Every child is different and you know your child the best, so take what you need and leave the rest!


How to plan for success in a remote learning environment. Here are a few ideas…


Take Care of Yourself (FIRST)

You can’t pour from an empty cup! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself too. If you aren’t taking care of your physical and emotional needs, you will not have the energy and patience you need to take care of your child(ren). Take breaks when you need them. Look to others for support. Barrington Area Library has some wonderful programs for adults. Check out our calendar for one that might interest you.


Ok… now, on with the kids….



Not knowing what your day will look like may cause stress, anxiety, and leave you and your child feeling overwhelmed. Carefully designing a routine will help you and your child stay productive and in control. Routines provide structure and discipline. Each family’s routine will look different based on their family’s needs. Having a set routine to start and end the school day can be very beneficial. Start the day with breakfast, brushing teeth and getting dressed. Don’t forget to include handwashing! Now we’re ready for some eLearning! Choose a routine with your child that marks the end of the school day. My boys and I decide on putting away school materials and then going for a short walk around the house; we pretend like we are walking home from school. Allowing your child to be involved in the routine making process will give them a sense of control and they will be more willing to follow the routine (hopefully!).


Designated a Work Space

Create a space in your home designated for your child’s eLearning. If possible, set up a desk or table specifically for them to use for eLearning. If not, no worries, use the kitchen table and provide them with an easy transition process once the school day is over. You could use a box or a laundry basket for them to put all their school materials in once finished to transition back into your home setting. Ta-dah! You have your dinner table back! 



Making a visual schedule for your child’s school day will allow for more predictability in their day.  This will allow them to feel secure, stay organized, and have a sense of control (not too much control, don’t worry!).

For older children, you could simply designate a few minutes at the end of their eLearning day to discuss the next school day. Sit down with them and write out (or have them write out) a list for what classes and assignments they have for the next day.  For younger children, print or have them make drawings to represent things they will need to do each day, so they can cross them off as they finish.


Encourage Movement

Get your kid moving! Children need to move often during the day.

When your child has a break encourage them to get outside, if possible. If you can’t go outside, no worries… have them do push ups, jumping jacks, spin, jump up and down as high as they can count. Go Noodle is a great resource to keep your child staying active. Having flexible seating options at home is a fantastic idea, especially for the little ones!



Know What is Available

There are so many resources available to students, parents and families. If you familiarize yourself with them before you need them, it may reduce the stress.  Check out Barrington Area Library's Homework help page.



Social Opportunities

We want you to know that we care and we’re here for you. The Barrington Area Library is offering a variety of virtual programs to help keep you and your child connected. Check out Barrington Area Library's Calendar of Events. Please reach out to us at YouthServices@balibrary.org with any suggestions or ideas.





   Youth Services Assistant Librarian Venessa 

We librarians love a book list, especially when it’s chock full of excellent books! Here are some of our favorite titles that made the cut for this school year’s Rebecca Caudill Nominees, the reader’s choice award for Illinois students in grades 4-8.

Alyssa recommends...

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

11-year old Ollie’s class field trip to a farm takes a grim turn when the bus breaks down on the way home. Her teacher tries calling for assistance but there’s no cell service out in the cornfields. He orders them to stay on the bus with the driver while he walks back to the farmhouse for help, which means that Ollie and her classmates are now stuck in the middle of nowhere. Already uneasy and with night falling quickly, Ollie’s digital watch begins to display a warning in flashing letters—RUN—prompting Ollie and two of her friends to flee the bus. They head into the woods as the sky grows dark and eerie, pursued by haunted scarecrows. In order to survive the night, Ollie and her friends must avoid large areas and stick to the small spaces instead. Small Spaces is the perfect autumnal read for those who like stories with extra thrills and chills.

Stefanie recommends...

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Melly is feeling a lot of different emotions as she and her best friend Olivia head to Camp Rockaway for two weeks of music camp. As an introvert, she is already being forced way out of her comfort zone by playing her drums in front of complete strangers (not to mention just being in a camp full of complete strangers), and on top of that, her parents just told her that they are getting a divorce right before she left home. When Melly and Olivia are assigned to different bands, Melly’s life is turned upside down, but maybe, in the best way possible. Full of heart and spirit, this book is all about believing in yourself and persevering, finding love where you least expected to, navigating friendship when your best friend seems to take you for granted, and processing really hard and scary emotions when your world feels like it’s falling apart. And there are a lot of music puns!

Demitra recommends...

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen 

Just wow. Resistance tells the story of Chaya Lindner, a Jewish teen that looks just aryan enough to get past authorities with forged papers as she moves through the ghettos of Poland to smuggle food and weapons in and perhaps smuggle people out. The tension in the story is palpable and you will find yourself reading at a breakneck pace to find out what happens next. Though the book is historical fiction, it incorporates real instances of the bravery, resilience and determination of the Jewish people as they fought to survive a force of people and beliefs that was set on seeing their utter destruction. If you are looking for your next WWII read, this is it.



Allison recommends...

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée 


MaryJo recommends...

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds 

Will witnesses his own brother Shawn’s death right in front of him. Gunned down by someone, and Will thinks he knows who. He also knows the rules of the neighborhood, one of them being, if someone kills someone you love, you have to get revenge. Will grabs Shawn’s gun, and takes the elevator down to follow the rules.  But, on each floor, William is visited by ghosts of his past, and they all share their stories of gun violence. Will begins to contemplate his decision, and the rules of the neighborhood. Should he follow the neighborhood rule and avenge his brother’s death, even if that means there is no future for him? The entire story that takes place all in a 67 second elevator ride, and is a powerful, thought provoking story to tell. Readers will not be able to put this novel in verse down once they start.

Ann recommends...

Nightbooks by J. A. White


Chris recommends...

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Looking for some personalized selections? Fill out this form and you’ll receive a customized list direct to your inbox!

We are excited to offer a brand new collection in Youth Services. Read-alongs are books that have an audio player built right into the book, so readers can listen to the audio recording as they page through the story. 

The recording will play out loud through its built-in speaker, or readers can plug in their own headphones or earbuds to listen.

Picture books, nonfiction, beginning readers, and Spanish-language titles are all available now. Browse our full list to find your next favorite!

Watch this video to see how these books work:

Tip: Want personalized reading suggestions? Fill out this form and you’ll receive a customized list direct to your inbox!

Youth Services Librarian Allison 


Watch "Friends Help Each Other/Daniel Helps O Tell a Story" on Kanopy Kids using your Barrington Area Library card number to log in, and come back to this blog post to enjoy some family activities that will enhance your child’s learning around the episode. 



Here are some questions that will help you unpack some of the topics in the episode with your child.

“Friends Help Each Other”

  • In this episode, Katerina accidentally knocks the tea set on the floor, and she is so sad that she thinks she ruined the party! Sometimes, things don’t always go as planned, but our friends and family can help us when we need it. Can you think of a time when something unexpected happened? How did that make you feel? 
  • When Daniel and Katerina are cleaning up, they turn it into a game. Can you think of a time where you turned a not-so-fun situation into a better one? What happened?


“Daniel Helps O Tell a Story”

  • Daniel is so excited that O will read to him since Daniel doesn’t quite know how to read yet. Has anyone ever done this for you? Talk about one of your favorite read-aloud memories with your loved ones. Ask them what their favorite read-aloud memory is too!


Below are some other activities to try as a family.


    Youth Services Assistant Librarian Stefanie 

Bring home a fun new project! You can now register to pick up a Take-and-Make Kit from the Youth Services desk or through Parking Lot Pickup. Here are the instructions for each kit:


Toddlers and Preschoolers: Spray and Drip Painting



Materials provided for Spray and Drip Painting:
● Watercolor paper (3)
● Spray bottles filled with liquid watercolor paint (3)
● Pipettes (3)
● Empty plastic containers (3)


Spray (Bottle) Painting: help strengthen grip and control while having fun spray painting with a
spray bottle!

● Arrange the watercolor paper in an area that you envision best for this activity- We
highly recommend somewhere outdoors! (Outside on the grass, thumbtacked to a tree,
clipped to an art easel).
● Provide your child with the prefilled squirt bottles and let them go to town!
● You will need to allow this to dry. We recommend leaving it in grass and placing rocks
around the edges to avoid it blowing away.

Drip Painting: Using pipettes is a great way to strengthen fine motor skills and help get little
hands ready for writing.


● To use the pipettes, pour some of the liquid paint (found in the squirt bottles) into the
plastic cups.
● Squeeze pipette, place squeezed pipette in paint cup, release finger grip to suck up paint
● Squeeze pipette over paper to release paint.

Looking to turn this into an educational activity?
- Add letters or numbers for your child to spray or drip on as you call them out. This
activity would be great for letter recognition, letter sounds, hand grip, fine motor
control, and following directions.
*Adding water to the liquid watercolor paint will give you more paint but less vibrant colors.


Grades K-2: Tissue Paper Painting



Things you will need in addition to the items in the kit:

-cup of water




1. Take the items out of the box.

2. Cut the colored tissue paper into smaller shapes. A variety of sizes and shapes will make your artwork more interesting!

3. Arrange your tissue paper shapes onto one of the white watercolor papers.

4. Use your paintbrush to apply water all over the tissue paper. Make sure to get everything nice and wet so the colors bleed through.

5. Wait for the paper to dry.

6. Remove the now dry tissue paper from the watercolor paper and discard.

7. Enjoy your watercolor masterpiece as is or...

8. Use the watercolor art as a background for more art with your black permanent marker!



Grades 3-8: Kindness Rocks 



1. Take your rocks, markers, mandala stencils, and phrases out of the box.



2. Take some inspiration from the phrases sheet and use the markers to write something nice to a loved one…




3. …use the mandala stencils to make a calming design…



4. …or just draw something silly and sweet to give to a pal.



5. There’s only one rule for making kindness rocks: do it with kindness!

6. Once you’ve made a kindness rock, give it to someone you care about.


  Youth Services Assistant Librarian Alyssa 


We live in an unusual, sometimes frightening time, and it’s only natural that your little one may be a little stressed out. Now that school is back in session, that stress may have doubled -- but don’t worry! Here are 5 fun, anxiety-busting activities the whole family will enjoy.



1. Calm Down Jars
Using warm water, glitter, glue, and a jar, kids can create a simple sensory object that can aid in stress reduction. Children can focus on the dancing glitter, practice deep breathing, or simply distract themselves by shaking the jar. Calm down jars offer a simple introduction to mindful practice -- consciously focusing on a present moment or object without worrying about the looming, larger concerns in your life.


2. Worry boxes

Worry boxes are exactly what they sound like -- kids can make little boxes, write down their worries, and put those worries away in the box. This symbolic exercise affords children a sense of control over their anxieties, allowing them to create boundaries for intrusive thoughts and stressors and putting them out of sight for a while… and maybe out of mind, too.


3. Slime therapy

Slime isn’t just fun to play with -- it can be therapeutic, too. Manipulating slime can be an enjoyable source of sensory stimulation for little ones.

Playing with slime can also give children a sense of control over their environment. COVID totally transformed the way children interact with their peers and environment -- it changed what behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable, where they can go, who they can be around, etc. -- and retaining a semblance of control can help ease a troubled mind.

Plus, slime is just fun.


4. Blowing bubbles

Blowing bubbles can help children practice deep breathing, which regulates anxiety. Bubbles can’t be formed by sharp, violent exhalations; they can only form when the blower is gentle and deliberate. This simple deep breathing exercise can help children regain a sense of control over their own physiological response to anxiety or stress.

Kids -- and adults -- can also visualize their anxieties flowing into the bubble. When the bubble pops and disappears, so does the image of whatever’s bothering the blower.


5. Coloring

Children can use coloring as a gateway to mindful practice: when you color, you give in to “the moment” and shut out big, intrusive thoughts as you devote yourself to this simple activity. Extraneous thoughts are pushed to the side, allowing children to “meditate” while coloring.


Looking for more fun activities? We’ve got you covered:


Why these activities can help:


   Youth Services Librarian Chris 


There are lots of articles about all the many things you ought to be doing to raise a smart, successful, independent, empathetic, basically perfect human being. This is not one of those articles! I’m happy to tell you that raising a reader is not an intimidating challenge, and you are already doing it better than you think. In fact, I bet you’re crushing it! Here are the five activities that prepare a child to learn to read in the first five years of their life.


1. Read

Research shows that reading even to babies is beneficial for their brain development. But reading to babies, and especially to walking toddlers, can be very difficult. Some children take to books like cats to cream; while others… not so much! It doesn’t mean you should be worried, or that you should force a child to read when they would rather toddle around or play with a ball. Here are some other ways to share “reading”:

  • Keep board books available along with toys as a part of play time. 
  • Let your child flip through the pages, even if it’s too fast for you to read the words. They are learning how a book “works,” which is important, too! 
  • Point and identify ANY words or images, even outside of books. You are teaching your child that pictures mean something, which is the basic building block of reading.
  • Pick up a book - one from your shelf, or even one of your child’s - and quietly read in front of your young child, even for a few minutes. Demonstrate that it’s a valuable part of your life. 
  • Come to one of our story times! We will share fun and new-to-you books, as well as songs and rhymes that you can do at home.
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash


2. Talk

The more sounds and words your child hears, the better equipped she is to start pulling from that bank of phonemes when she starts learning how reading works. You’re also giving your little one the chance to practice the oh-so-important back-and-forth rhythms of conversation, even if they are just babbling with you, like in the video below. Sometimes it can be exhausting to think of things to talk about with your baby or toddler - try narrating whatever you’re doing. For instance, driving, cooking, cleaning, playing.


3. Play

Play is physical, mental, emotional, and social. It’s practice for all of life, including reading. Playing with small objects develops fine motor skills needed for holding books, turning pages, and writing letters. Playing with anything enhances critical thinking - think about cause & effect (block towers knocked down!), object permanence (peek-a-boo!), and problem solving (puzzles!) - all of which will become more abstract as reading comprehension and narrative skills develop. Playing in an imaginative way increases a child’s understanding of emotions (playing “bad guy” and seeing the consequences on someone else) and narrative structures (First, this happens, then….). There’s SO MUCH benefit to play, and thankfully kids need no encouragement from us to do it. But adult facilitation can add much to play, even just the bonding that naturally happens through enjoyable shared experiences.

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash


4. Sing

Any kind of music can be beneficial to a baby’s development, but singing is in particular a valuable pre-literacy activity because it slows down our speech. Pairing a note with a sound and a beat gives little brains more time to process phonemes. (Sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in your head, and you’ll notice how each syllable gets its own separate note.) Babies don’t care if you’re tone-deaf, so sing with abandon. (Though if you just can’t stand the sound of your voice, try saying the lyrics on beat.) Songs often have the added benefit of rhyming, which gives little brains more opportunities to hear and connect similar sounds.


5. Write

Don’t panic: your 2-year-old should not be writing their name yet! Writing as a pre-literacy activity just means preparing your child for the eventual fine-motor skills that will be required to grasp a pencil and create recognizable letters on a page. It really means strengthening little finger muscles! Here’s what “writing” might look like:

  • Grasping or sorting small objects
  • Fingerplay rhymes & games 
  • Baby sign language
  • Playing with or using crayons, markers, glue sticks, chalk, etc.
  • Tracing lines or letters

Photo by Tina Floersch on Unsplash


In all likelihood, you recognize at least a few of these activities in your daily life with a very young child. Pat yourself on the back - you are doing it! You are raising a reader!

Youth Services Librarian Allison 



Earlier this year, we shared some books and resources to help your families unpack racism and the injustices that have deep roots in our society. These conversations are crucial in creating a more loving and compassionate world, and equally important are stories that amplify Black joy. It is not enough to share the pain and suffering that Black folks experience--we also need books that depict the beauty of Blackness. Not only do Black children need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read, but it's also necessary for all children, especially white children, to learn about the varied experiences and identities around them.

This idea can be explained by the term “mirrors and windows,” which was coined by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Education at Ohio State University. Bishop describes this perfectly in her essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors:”

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful message about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part. Our classrooms need to be places where all the children from all the cultures that make up the salad bowl of American society can find their mirrors.


Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need the books as windows onto reality, not just on imaginary worlds. They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just one group, as well as their connections to all other humans."


I hope that the following books provide some mirrors and/or windows for all of the beautiful children in your life.



Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon ...

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

An inspiring, poetic ode to many different shades of brown, full of gorgeous imagery evocative of autumn.

 Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, Ekua Holmes |, Hardcover ...

Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

A child is disheartened when it sinks in that Black is not a color associated with a rainbow, but they go on to find that Black is not just a color that describes everyday things such as a crayon, a feather, or a wheel on a bike. Black is so much more: it is rhythm and blues, it is a culture and history, it is community, and it is power and beauty. A must-read, this captivating book can be used as a primer to open up conversations about a myriad of movements and historical figures.

Your Name Is a Song — The Innovation Press

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

On the first day of school, a young girl’s name keeps getting stuck in her teacher’s mouth, and none of her classmates can pronounce it either. Feeling dismayed, her mother tries to cheer her up by teaching her that her name is a song, and that anyone’s name can be sung with a beautiful melody. She is strengthened by this knowledge, and works up the courage to share her song with her class. This book will have you singing your name and the names of your loved ones all day long!

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James ...

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

The newest picture book from the team who brought us the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. This radiant love letter affirms that Black boys are full of possibilities and that they are indeed “every good thing.”

 My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Mackenzie has not had the best relationship with her hair growing up. Her classmates have also been pretty cruel and often tease her about it. One day, she finds refuge at her neighbor, Miss Tillie’s house. Miss Tillie teaches her that her hair is like a garden--if she nourishes it with love and care, and weeds out all the negative thoughts and insults, it will grow into something beautiful and bountiful. And be sure to check out Cabrera's newest book, Me & Mama, coming to the library soon!

 Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe

No matter what kind of cool cut you rock, a high-top, curls, or lively locs (to name a few), this book will remind you that you were born to be awesome!

Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, A. G. Ford |, Hardcover ...

Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by A. G. Ford

Journey through a day in the life of a sweet brown baby in this cozy, heartwarming book. A perfect bedtime story for all kinds of babies.

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, Bryan Collier ...

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Useni Eugene Perkins's classic poem has been brought to life by the incomparable Bryan Collier to create an uplifting love letter to every Black child.

Layla's Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Ashleigh Corrin ...

Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin

Layla shares all of the things that make her happy, including dancing in the garden with a ladybug on her finger, feeding her chickens, and reading poetry with her mom. Layla will help you to see the bright side of life, and encourage you to think of all the things, little and big, that give you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, Daniel Minter ...

Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

A gorgeously illustrated story about a family who travels south for a family reunion at their grandmother’s house, each of them preparing a unique and personal tribute to their family history.

M Is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose ...

M is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child by Tiffany Rose

An alphabet book full of affirming messages celebrating Blackness.

I Believe I Can by Grace Byers, Keturah A. Bobo |, Hardcover ...

I Believe I Can by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

An empowering book full of beautiful affirmations around self-worth, making mistakes and trying again, and always believing in oneself.

Black Girl Magic: A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne, Jess X. Snow ...

Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Mahogany L. Browne’s famous poem that pushes back on stereotypical notions of Black girlhood, is now accompanied by striking illustrations and infused with magic on every page. Most appropriate for older elementary and teen readers.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina, Javaka ...

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina

Dedicated to “Black and Brown children/whose every breath is affirmation,” this is a beautiful anthology of poems with accompanying illustrations representing the many varied experiences and ways of being a Black boy in this world.

Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present ...

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins

Vibrant and illuminating, this book celebrates Black heroes, from Bessie Coleman, Harriet Tubman, and Madame C.J. Walker, to modern icons like Esperanza Spalding, Solange, and Ava Duvernay.





    Youth Services Assistant Librarian Stefanie