Friday, February 26, 2016

Baby 365

Earlier this year, I made a pledge to read to my baby daughter every day. I was feeling like, "the cobbler's children have no shoes." I had every best intention of reading to her, and LOTS of books to choose from, but with a jam-packed schedule, it was hard to make the time.

I'm about 3 months in... how is it going? It's going really well! I am glad that I'm making the effort. Sometimes we end up skipping a day, but usually there's another day where I really have her attention and we read 2 books so that makes up for it.

I think having a professional relationship with books, I felt a certain pressure to heavily curate my books at home and only offer my daughter the very, very best. Choosing to read every day, weirdly, took the pressure right off. I end up reading whatever we've got to hand. Ratty board book at the local coffee shop? Check. Books at the pediatrician's office? Check. Books from the dollar store? Yes. Library books? Yes, and yes. Pretty much a smattering of everything. I'll say my daughter's taste has really evolved in the past month or so. Board books, with sturdy cardboard pages, are an absolute must. She used to respond to high-contrast, black and white picture books. Lately, she enjoys books with a lot more color and simple words, especially animal sounds. Last night I read her a touch and feel book with fluffy pages that she loved.

Here's a sampling of what we read our first month into this project:

Friday, February 19, 2016

Eliza's Freedom Road review

Eliza's Freedom Road
by Jerdine Nolan
Simon & Schuster
January 2011

First line, "Dear Reader, I am Eliza. Not the girl, but the grown woman Eliza. It has been many years since I was called Eliza. I call myself Elizabeth now."

12 year-old Eliza lives as a slave in the 1850's in Alexandria, Virginia. As a house slave, she enjoys a comparative number of advantages but still must endure many injustices. She is friends with the house cook, and therefore eats well. Her half-blind mistress has taught her how to read (an unusual advantage for a slave) so that Eliza can read her letters and newspapers. Eliza even has a small diary that she is able to keep. Her mother has sewn her a beautiful quilt, with each quilt square representing a traditional folktale. But Eliza's mother has recently been sent away, and there is talk that Eliza may be sold next. She decides to make a break for it, and the bulk of the story, in diary format, is about her year-long journey northward to Canada by night. Alternating between stories of Eliza's escape and traditionally-inspired folktales, this book reminded me just a little bit of The Wanderer by Sharon Creech.

Eliza is an oddly formal little girl - her tone is a bit stilted, and she never uses contractions, but that may be a reflection of the proper speech of the 1850's. As a "house slave" with a bit of education, she doesn't employ colloquial slave speech. The book culminates in a meeting with the legendary leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman. True to history, Tubman is a gruff, no-nonsense figure.

An impressive amount of backmatter helps young readers put everything in perspective. There is an author's note, as well as some information about the background of the folktales within the tale. There's also a bibliography of other resources and a list of websites, which I always think will date a book quickly, but certainly have plenty of use at the moment.

The book wraps up very quickly, with a few amazing coincidences that leave our heroine safely reunited with her mother, who has also escaped by the story's end. I'll recommend this to anyone who has exhausted the Dear America series or for those readers who might appreciate the formal prose that takes you to another century.

Compare to:
The Wanderer - Sharon Creech
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly - Joyce Hansen
A Picture of Freedom - Patricia C. McKissack

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

I hate signs. I hate signs in the library.

There, I've said it.

Well, that's not exactly true. I do like decent wayfinding. When I see a shiny new library, with large, easy to read signs and good traffic flow patterns, that is nice. Several years ago, I did a sign renovation project at my library, replacing ragged, ratty, wordy signs with simple and inviting messages. That was so satisfying! I can't stand most handmade signs, tacked up by frustrated staff who are tired of constantly dealing with a problem. No one reads them. Can I tell you how many times I've had a patron ask me a question while standing directly in front of the sign that contains the info they are asking about? It happens a lot.

Here is a whole collection of signs of the sort that I mean: Pinterest library signs.

Does your library have signs like these?
"Please do not reshelve library materials."
"No food or drink."
"This area is a quiet zone."
"Please keep an eye on your materials, thefts are not uncommon."
"Do not bathe, shave or sleep in the bathroom."

Whenever possible, I try to avoid having these kinds of signs as they all come across negative, with a passive-aggressive quality. Putting signs up like these doesn't solve a problem, it just creates visual clutter. Oh! And bonus points for signs printed in red. With underlining. And italics. Or all caps. And exclamation points. And bars sinister. Those kind of signs are the worst!

Instead of a sign that says, "Please do not reshelve library materials," how about a sign that says, "Please, leave books here."

"No food or drink" is a tricky one. If you don't have the staff to (kindly) enforce this, then I don't see the point in putting up a sign that everyone ignores. It only reinforces how toothless that policy is. Ha!

"This area is a quiet zone." Here is another sign that really doesn't need to be around. Much better to have enough staff routinely perambulate through the library and to (gently) remind patrons if they get too rowdy.

"Please keep an eye on your materials, thefts are not uncommon." This is one of the few signs that I don't mind so much. I have seen some clever signs to this effect - and there are some studies that show a picture of an eye, or an authority figure is sometimes enough to deter theft all on its own! Don't overdo it though.

"Do not bathe, shave or sleep in the bathroom." Oh man. Here is another example of the kind of sign that I feel does no good. It makes the library feel sleazy and trashy to any casual user. And the kind of patron (probably homeless) who is in such desperate straits as to try to take a bath in a public library restroom sink isn't going to be deterred by a sign. You don't need a sign to make a policy stick, either. One shouldn't need to post signs for every possible infraction. Sure, when you have to approach a patron who is breaking this rule, it's awkward, and yes, that individual may grasp for a bit of dignity by sputtering at you, "Well! I don't see a SIGN, prohibiting bathing!" That doesn't matter. You do not need a sign. Putting up a sign is not the answer.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Read in January

Last month I read the following:

1. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry - Jon Ronson

picture credit:  Reading Together by Daniel F. Gerhart


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