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Children's Bookshelf - February 2020

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Why Do We Read?
by Margaret Girgis

I think it is really important to consider this question when we are introducing children to books and to reading. Children, as we all know, are the masters of “Why?”; so before any lesson or experience, we should be ready with an answer to this very valid question.


Sometimes we read to learn: directions to create something new or to learn about a place or a person. Sometimes we read “because we have to”: an assignment, or a list of repairs and costs from your mechanic. And sometimes we read for fun: our old (and new) favorites, and no interruptions, please! Reading is a means to an end, but what about the experience itself?


What are we conveying to our children when we tell them to read? Are we focusing on the “work” of reading: the precise recommended number of minutes or pages, the need to master reading to succeed? Or do we present the fun side of reading: the ability to step outside of our day-to-day life and be as serious or as silly as we want — to explore our own world as well as fantastical other universes? Reading IS important. Reading, and reading well, will help a child succeed.   But today, research now shows us the importance “play” is for child development, and how fun can impact learning.


Maybe it’s time for us all to step back and remember that a child who is having fun will want to continue it. Maybe it’s time for us all to remember the fun parts of reading.   Here is a selection of materials that I have found that are fun reads, for adults and kids. All of these are great stories to share with a group or one-on-one with a little one you know.


Grumpy Pants

by Claire Messer

Penguin is grumpy, and nothing seems to help! But after going through his soothing evening routine, he realizes that everyone sometimes feels a little grumpy.   Written for your littlest listeners but appreciated by audiences of many ages, Messer does a great job of summarizing our grumpiest moments. And I must say, she presents a few great suggestions for beating those grumpy-day blues, too!


Fancy Nancy 
by Jane O’Connor

Bonjour! Meet Fancy Nancy, a wonderful young woman with the fanciest of intentions. She dresses up, knows all the big words for things, and can’t wait to learn French. Sadly, though, the rest of her family is a little more down to earth. Join her as she tries to rectify (that’s the fancy word for “fix”) this problem!   Written for every kid who ever wanted to dress up and/or have a dash more elegance in her life, Fancy Nancy will appeal to the rest of us, too.


This is Not My Hat

by Jon Klassen

Little Fish has been naughty. He took something from Big Fish. He knows he was wrong — but will he get away with it?


I Want My Hat Back 
by Jon Klassen


Bear lost his hat somewhere and he is so sad. He asked everyone in the woods and no one has seen it. Or so they say.   Read these books with kids up through about 1st grade. Klassen’s illustrations are part of what sells these stories — everyone will love the expressions of the characters as they realize where their hats might be, and take off after them. And, if you are looking for a gentle lesson about the consequences of taking things, this book might be useful. A word of advice: if you know any small animals that like bear’s hat, perhaps they should ASK first.


How To Be A Lion 
by Ed Vere


What makes a lion a lion? The fierce lions have some ideas, but Leonard and Marianne the Duck have some ideas of their own.   A wonderful book for kids from preK-3rd grade, this story is great for groups. The illustrations are bold and beautiful, and kids will be mesmerized by the fierce lions’ insistent and rigid rules and Leonard’s creative response.   If you are struggling to find picture books that you can enjoy alongside your little ones, here is my best suggestion: If it makes YOU laugh, you’re on the right track. Remember, kids are mimics: if they see you enjoying the story, chances are good they’ll enjoy it too!

Events at the New Haven Free Public Library

Every one of our five branches offers events and activities for all ages! The programs I’m most excited about right now are our STEAM focused events. Designed to introduce and explore science concepts, our STEAM programs are fun for the whole family!  

Stetson Library: Pop- up Family Makerspace, February 11, 4-5 p.m. and February 12, 6-7 p.m. Families welcome.

Wilson Library: Tech Club, February 5, 4 p.m. Snap Circuits, K’nex and more! Ages 5 and up.  

Fair Haven Library: STEAM Club: Art Bots, February 27, 4 p.m. Ages 9 and up.

Mitchell Library:  Builder’s Hour, February 20, 4 p.m. Build with Keva Planks and LEGO® Bricks. Ages 5 and up.

Ives Main Library: STEAM Club: Make a Functional Heart Model!, February 12, 4 p.m. Ages 5 and up.

The New Haven Free Public Library is located at 133 Elm Street. For more information, call 203-946-8130 or visit


Margaret Girgis is the manager of the Young Minds & Family Learning Department at the New Haven Free Public Library.

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