books · library · slice of life


Imagine my surprise when Ari set his books down at the library’s self-checkout kiosk and we learned his account was suspended because of a fine. And not just a $.50 fine. It was a fine for $7.20!

Soon after Ari got his library card, I noticed he wasn’t as on-top of his borrowed books like Isabelle is. Isabelle or I would notice when a book was here for a while and we’d return it. However, I didn’t realize how tardy he was with his books until he found a book on Somalia in the back seat of the car that I thought had been long returned.

That was a couple of weeks ago. After finding Somalia, Isabelle helped me scour the house for any additional books he had borrowed. The next time we went to the library she dropped whatever she found of his into the book return along with hers returns. I didn’t give it any more thought… until today.

I did the talking once we approached the circulation desk. It seemed Ari had three outstanding books. At 20 cents per day for children’s books (with a maximum fine of $3 per item), Ari had accumulated a $7.20 fine since all of the books were 12 days overdue!

“I’m going to pay the fine for you now, but you’re going to need to pay me back when we get home,” I told him.

I expected Ari to cry since he works hard to earn his allowance each week. Instead he said, “Okay.”

The librarian couldn’t have been nicer about his first fine. She didn’t admonish Ari. She did offer him a printed receipt for the new titles he borrowed. She also gave him an oral reminder of the due date.

Later in the day, I found this waiting on my night table when I got upstairs. I didn’t even have to remind Ari of his debt to me. He just paid it.

Sure enough, Ari repaid me with a five, two ones, and two dimes. I’m sure this stung, but I am quite certain he learned a valuable lesson at the tender age of five-and-a-half.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
library · nonfiction · reading · slice of life

Growing a Reader

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

And we grow, and we grow, and we grow.

The Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is a festival that celebrates trees, is behind us. YET, I got “The Tree Song,” which I learned in Ari’s music class, stuck in my head this morning after I observed Isabelle:

Do you know what she’s doing?

Was she watching “CNN 10?” Nope, she already did that.

Was she playing a game? No.

Was she listening to music? Wrong again.

What was she doing? She was browsing for biographies to read on our county’s library website.

Why? Isabelle knows we’ll be transitioning to narrative nonfiction reading sometime in the next week and SHE wants to get prepared! She knows she’s responsible for picking people who interest her so she was on the prowl — before 8 a.m. — looking for just-right books. Isabelle doesn’t look at levels, which means she sometimes borrows a book that’s way too hard, but she takes it in stride. (NOTE: We do go to the library too. We just haven’t gone in the past week.) During the pandemic, Isabelle has come to enjoy researching books and reserving them with her library card. She uses the Apple Books app to see when new books by her favorite authors are coming out and to discover new books. It’s quite adorable.

Is this a big deal? YES!

Isabelle has Dyslexia, but over the years, she’s come to love reading. Gone are the days when she browses for books from a limited basket. Gone are the days that she yells when the “words are tricking” her — even though they still trick her. Nowadays, she self-selects books and tracks what she reads using Book Buddy. (Once she’s 12, I’m planning to introduce her to The Storygraph.) My daughter is living proof that a balanced literacy approach can work in concert with Orton-Gillingham. (That’s right. I’m in the both camp!)

I’ve grown a reader… with the help of her past teachers, past and present tutors, her speech therapist, and with the guidance of my mentors. It’s a beautiful thing to witness your child taking the initiative to seek out books, which is why I did a double-take this morning. I went back downstairs just so I could snap a photo since I wanted to preserve this moment.

Just like the tree in “The Tree Song,” Isabelle still has more growth ahead of her. I feel fortunate to be observing her growth as a literate human so closely this year. It is remarkable.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.
library · self-care · slice of life

Soapy Hands

Playing at the Library’s Train Table

Earlier today, I took Ari to the library. He said hello to Athena the turtle, played a couple of computer games, and then made a bee-line for the trains. After playing with the trains, we read a couple of train books. Before we left, I insisted on a bathroom trip. While Ari initially fought me (and insisted he needed play with the kitchen RIGHT THEN AND THERE), he eventually accepted that we were going to the bathroom.

I rolled Ari’s sleeves up so he could wash his hands by himself. After I realized he couldn’t get the soap out of the dispenser, I gave him two pumps of soap. Ari scrubbed his hands, rinsed them, and dried them with an excessive amount of paper towels.

We walked back to the chair where our coats were resting. “Time to put on your coat,” I said.

“NO!” He replied. “My hands are soapy.”

“You just washed your hands. How could they be soapy?”

“They. Are. Soapy.” He replied.

Oh-my-gosh, I thought. This is going to be a thing, isn’t it?

“If you rinsed your hands and dried them, then your hands can’t be soapy,” I said reaching for his jacket. As I went to help Ari’s arm into the hole, he moved away and insisted, “My hands are still soapy!”

I decided to prove him wrong. I took hold of his small hands and discovered… they were slick!

“You’re right. They are soapy! I’m not sure how they’re soapy since I watched you rinse your hands, but we can rinse them again.”

I didn’t bother to look at Ari’s face since I was confident it was a mix of smug satisfaction and triumph. Alas, we walked to the bathroom together where I proceeded to help him rinse his hands. Ari still took an excess of paper towels, but at least his hands were soap-free AND dry this time!

library · slice of life

Losing Little Teddy — Again

“Where’s Teddy?” I asked Isabelle as she followed me into the library’s family bathroom.

Her eyes darted down to her arms. Teddy wasn’t there.

“I dunno,” she said.

Oh sh*t! Not again! 

This tiny teddy bear — whose been so loved that its head is hanging on by threads — was lost again.

“Where did you leave her?” I asked Isabelle leading her out of the bathroom back to the stacks.

She shook her head.

For the love of G-d! 

“Do you remember when you last had her? Was it by the toys? Was it when you were sitting with Yonatan over there? Was it at the checkout desk?”

“I don’t,” she paused, “remember.”

“What are you looking for?” asked a mom with a baby strapped to her chest.

“My daughter lost a small, tan teddy bear,” I replied.

She crouched down and helped us search the floor with her baby in the carrier.  How kind is that?

We searched for a minute, but nature was calling.

“Mommy has to go to the bathroom, Isabelle. We’ll come back in a minute.”

As I led her away by the hand, she sniffled and started calling, “Teddy! Teddy! Where are you?”

“She’s not going to answer,” I snapped.

Isabelle’s lip quivered. I softened my demeanor.  “I promise I will help you look for her as soon as I use the bathroom.”

Isabelle was weepy while I took care of things.  “We’ll find her,” I reassured. But I wasn’t so sure. What if some kid had walked off with Teddy and placed her where we hadn’t been?  What if some kid had taken Teddy home.  What if Teddy was gone — and I mean seriously gone — and we had to go home without her.  She’d been lost in the supermarket and at a Bat Mitzvah. We’d already lucked out twice with Teddy being returned. What if we didn’t get her back this time?

Once we were out of the bathroom, we enlisted one of the librarians to help us. I showed her a picture (one of the many) of Isabelle holding Teddy — who is like an appendage — so she’d know what to look for.  Then we split up.  We retraced our steps from the art area to the book stacks to the play space to the benches to the circulation desk.

And that is where, on the way to the circulation desk, we found Teddy. She was nestled into the corner of an orange chair just waiting to be discovered and loved again.

I dropped Isabelle’s hand and raced ahead — as if walking slowly would somehow diminish me finding the bear.

“Isabelle! Look who I found?”

I grabbed Teddy with my hand and pivoted around to Isabelle holding the bear out towards her.

“Little Teddy!” she shrieked.  She rushed over and enveloped the bear in a hug, kissing her all over.  “It’s okay Little Teddy. You’re all right. I’m here now.”

Shortly after their reunion, I laid down the law. “This is the third time Teddy has gotten REALLY lost, Isabelle. You can’t keep taking her inside of places with you.”

“But I love her,” Isabelle said.

“I know you do. But searching for her is taking years off of my life.”

Isabelle looked at me perplexed, but a few passers-by chuckled. They knew what I meant even if my four (and a half!) year-old didn’t. I changed my line of reasoning.

“You don’t want Teddy to get lost again and feel sad, right?”

“No,” Isabelle said.

“Well then, for her sake, you have to leave her at home or keep her in the car when we go places. We don’t want her to keep getting lost.”

“Okay,” Isabelle said. She kissed Little Teddy again.

And while she agreed — for now — with me, I have a feeling this is a conversation we’ll be having again soon.

library · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

Engaging Read Alouds

Story time was packed — and I mean packed — this morning!  We’re talking 40-ish kids under the age of six!  Despite the large number, the children were under control and interested in listening to the stories.

BUT, the librarian who was leading story time seemed unprepared.  First, she didn’t know the tunes to the songs she was leading (that were projected onto a screen).  Second, she didn’t read the author or illustrator’s names after reading the title of each of the three books she read aloud.  Third, she misread many of the words in the stories.  Seeing as the stories were projected on to the screen I, personally, found this to be distracting.  Fourth, and the most egregious to me, she didn’t engage the kids in the story!  At the end of the story she either moved on to a song or said, “That was a nice book.”  No reflective questions or things for the kids to think about.  In addition, she didn’t do a single think aloud when she read the picture books aloud.

I realize a crowded story time is nothing like a read aloud in a school that values balanced literacy. However, I’ve taken Isabelle to other story times at other libraries and bookstores.  I’ve watched other librarians and shopkeepers engage the children with the books.  Today was the first time I left a story time disappointed.

On a positive note, Isabelle sat quietly and listened the entire time. Then, she played nicely with her friends who met up with us at the library.  THAT’s good stuff (and I know it)!


Since when did the library become so much fun?

Isabelle, left, takes turns playing with the school bus in the children’s room.

I used to love going to the library as a kid. My mom let me check out as many books as the library would let me. I just loved having stacks of books in my bedroom. (I still love being surrounded by stacks of books in my home as an adult!)

Yesterday morning, we went to the Fredricksen Library, which a friend has raved about. I had never been there, but thought it would be the perfect way to spend some time during this heat wave we’re having. I had this idea that Isabelle would play at the train table she told me about and then we’d sit together on a sofa and read our way down through a stack of books.

Hahaha! Silly me. The Fredricksen Library‘s children room is awesome. However, it’s awesome because it’s like an indoor toddler play space that just so happens to have books. There is a huge dollhouse to play with, dump trucks to push, a huge pretend kitchen, computers with games, and SO MUCH MORE! Isabelle was so distracted by all of the toys that she only let me read about six pages in a Curious George book (and she likes monkeys!) to her. Wowzers!

I always enjoyed going to the library as a kid. I have a feeling Isabelle will too, but it might be for a different reason.