Summer Reading EXTRAVAGANZA!

As May turns to June and another school year comes to a close, public libraries are preparing for the busiest season of the year. The annual Summer Reading program fills Pittsburgh libraries with readers tracking books to win prizes and participating in extra-special library activities. As we prepare to launch another awesome summer of reading, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh kicks off the fun by hosting a giant outdoor festival at CLP- Main in Oakland.

This year’s 15th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza will take place on Sunday, June 7th from 12-5 PM. Kids, teens and adults can enjoy this super outdoor festival with music, crafts, games and… books!


Here’s a sample of some of the great things you can do at this year’s Extravaganza:

  • Sign up for Summer Reading and get your materials that day
  • Enjoy live performances, interactive storytimes and puppet shows
  • Rock out with The Labs and play fun CLP Readers Games
  • Learn about the exciting things you can do all over town this summer with Pittsburgh City of Learning
  • Browse the annual book sale
  • Try your hand at science experiments
  • Personalize a Smiley Cookie with Eat ‘n Park
  • Support your Library by purchasing food from the featured food trucks
  • Try your hand at gardening, cooking, robots, learning a new language and so much more!

Extravaganza is held rain or shine and no registration is required. Don’t miss one of Pittsburgh’s best family festivals of the year. Join us on Sunday, June 7th and help us kick off an awesome summer of learning.

-Maggie, CLP- Carrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stories Alive: Annual Spring Puppet Show – “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”

It’s May!  Time once again for the Annual Puppet Show at the Children’s Department at CLP-Main.

This year we present “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,”a story about three hungry goats who are hoping to eat the tender green grasses that grow in the meadow on the other side of the bridge. But the bridge is guarded by a mean, hungry Troll with stinky fish breath. He will not let them pass! The three clever goats are not about to let the Troll stop them, so they find a way to trick the Troll and cross the bridge.

The cast of the Annual Puppet Show at CLP - Main. Lars

The cast of the Annual Puppet Show at CLP – Main: the brave brothers, Lars, Leif and Colby Gruff, and the Troll.

All throughout the month of April, Children’s Librarians in the Children’s Department at CLP-Main had lots of fun practicing lines and getting ready to share this exciting story with our visitors. At our first performance, children and their grownups cheered as Lars, Leif, and Colby Gruff were able to fool the Troll and make their way over the bridge and into the meadow.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Performances run throughout the month of May – you can find the schedule here. In addition, there will be five performances during our Summer Reading Extravaganza on June 7th.  If you are coming to Extravaganza and would like to see the show, please try to attend one of the early performances, as the later shows are usually full and we don’t want you to miss it.

Hope to see you at Main, either for a scheduled performance in May or at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Summer Reading Extravaganza on June 7th!

By Nonie, CLP-Main, Children’s Department

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day)

El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) is a celebration of childhood and literature, and it’s no wonder that the two go hand-in-hand given the importance of early literacy development in young children.

Children’s Day began in 1925 during the “World Conference for the Well-being of Children” in Geneva, Switzerland.  After the conference, Mexico and many other Latin American countries began celebrating El día de los niños, or Children’s Day, every year on April 30th.

In 1996, children’s author Pat Mora helped to bring El día de los niños to the United States.  Mora wanted to celebrate the well-being of children everywhere, while highlighting the importance of multiculturalism and bilingualism, thus El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) was born!

Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora

With support from organizations such as REFORMA, as well as enthusiastic librarians and teachers, the first El día de los niños/El día de los libros celebrations were held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso and Austin, Texas on April 30, 1997.  By 2004, El día de los niños/El día de los libros was embraced by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and became Día! Diversity in Action.

Día is a national initiative committed to connecting children and their families to books and programs featuring a diversity of people, languages, and cultures.  The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) offers a variety of information and resources to promote Día in libraries, classrooms, and homes across the country.  For free bilingual booklists and activities you can visit their website.

In an ever growing and changing world, libraries continue to play a vital role in advocating literacy and multicultural awareness.  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers books in a wide array of languages, as well as programs and other resources for children and adults to learn new languages.

This summer several Carnegie Library locations will begin a pilot program featuring bilingual storytimes in a variety of languages.  During storytime, children, parents, and caregivers will celebrate our city’s diverse culture while exploring books, songs, and action rhymes in English and one other language.  Stay tuned for more information about this exciting new program!

by Jessica, CLP – Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chapter Books – Not just for reading alone

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

When my colleagues and I visit classrooms for the BLAST program, we usually only have about 45 minutes with each group. That’s probably why we always stuck to reading picture books, even with the older 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Which is completely fine! There are a ton of amazing picture books written for the upper elementary audience.

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley

A few years ago one of our teachers suggested that we try throwing a chapter book into the mix. It was a great idea but we had some concerns; how would the kids react if we only read part of the story? Would they finish reading on their own? We decided the best way to find out was by giving it a try.

Here’s what we learned: Reading chapter books together is awesome!

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Whether you are a librarian/educator or a parent, don’t be afraid to pull chapter books away from solitary reading and make them a more social experience.

“When I was growing up, I oddly enough looked forward to long car rides with my family while en route to our summer vacation spots.  This was thanks to my mother, an avid lover of books, who picked chapter books to read aloud to us on the drive.  She would always pick a book that would entertain and interest all 6 of us in some way, which lead to some pretty cool family discussions.  While an audio book is always nice for a reader on the road, our version allowed for us to have family time and connect to each other while enjoying a good read.”        –Dani, BLAST School Outreach Specialist

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes

With classes or larger groups of kids, you can treat the read aloud as a “teaser” for the book. During BLAST programs, we typically only read 15-30 pages, sometimes starting at the beginning of the book and other times choosing an exciting part further into the story. We pause along the way, asking questions and encouraging open dialog. We always try to end on an especially dramatic part. I’ve been know to add a “duh DUH DUUUUHHHH” before closing the book, to which most classes respond with “Awwwwwwwww.” It’s a sure sign that the kids are hooked and likely to continue reading to find out what happens next.

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

I’ve included the books that BLAST has used so far. They have all been a huge hit with kids from across the city. I Survived The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley, and Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka are great series (or soon-to-be series) books, allowing kids to continue the story beyond the first book. The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes is a quicker read, but still filled with excitement and friendship. And Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is so goofy and action-packed our kids have been eating it up!

by Bonny – CLP, BLAST

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

(Nearly) Wordless Picture Books

Though I have an undying love for wordless picture books (check out some of my favorites: Journey by Aaron Becker The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee and Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle), some of my other favorite picture books are of the nearly wordless variety.

Nearly wordless (and wordless) picture books are wonderful for many reasons. These books encourage a dialogue between caregiver and child as they work together to use the the sparse text, punctuation, and illustrations as clues to understand the story. This decoding helps children to develop narrative skills and to think and write creatively. In short, all important things for developing strong literacy skills.

Here are a few of my favorite nearly wordless picture books:

Ah Ha!

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

Jeff Mack is the master of comedic picture books that utilize one word or phrase paired with vibrant illustrations to tell an entire story. In Good News, Bad News two friends with differing perspectives, attempt to go on an enjoyable afternoon picnic. Frog settles in for a relaxing day at the pond in Ah Ha! but is surprised by the company of some other animals. The entire story is told through bright illustrations and different combinations of the letters in the title, “Ah Ha!”


Moo! by David LaRochelle

By far my favorite in this format (and the book you are going to get for your birthday if you are a child younger than 5 in my family) is Moo! by David LaRochelle. In this super silly story about a cow out on a joyride, readers are charmed and entertained by the simple text; all variations of “Moo.” Punctuation, a variety of font sizes and the bold pictures make for an adventurous ride.


Banana! by Ed Vere

Two friends in Banana! by Ed Vere address the challenging prospect of sharing a highly desirable banana. Vere only uses two words throughout this book, but paired with his expressive illustrations and emotive color use, readers weave together a story of sharing and friendship (and the universal theme of wanting your own banana).

Ask a librarian what their favorite nearly wordless picture book is!

-Caitie, CLP- Allegheny

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best Books for Babies

Babies love books. Cuddling up with a caregiver, looking at pictures and listening to the rhythm of words, whether they understand them or not, can be comforting, exciting or just plain fun.


And librarians love lists. That’s one reason why we’ve been involved for the last sixteen years in creating annual lists of Best Books for Babies.

Titles selected have to meet certain criteria of course, but as Irene, on the Eleventh Stack blog wisely noted, the impact of choosing books extends beyond the listening child. Parents and other adults need to be prepared to read and re-read books over and over (which is actually really good for young listeners).

Not every book will suit every reader and listener, but the titles on this year’s list offer plenty of opportunities to wiggle, giggle and make some noise.

Baby's Got the Blues by Carol Diggory Shields

Baby’s Got the Blues by Carol Diggory Shields

For babies who have big brothers or sisters, try Carol Diggory Shield’s Baby’s Got the Blues for a new perspective on the lives and woes of tiny tots.

If poetry appeals, don’t miss Lin Oliver’s Little Poems for Tiny Ears.

Little Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver

To really fascinate your audience, though, you’ll want to share Maya Ajmera’s Global Baby Boys.

Global Baby Boys by Maya Ajmera

There are few things babies enjoy more than looking at photos of other babies and this uplifting board book offers portraits of smiling baby boys from around the world.

Prefer something a bit more rowdy? Check out the numerous titles on the list that involve making animal sounds. And don’t forget to check out past titles too.

By Lisa, Coordinator of Children’s Collections

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Book, Every Young Child presents Greg Pizzoli!

As April comes to a close, the Library is wrapping up a month of storytimes and special events featuring this year’s Pennsylvania One Book, Every Young Child selection.  To celebrate this year’s selection, Number One Sam, author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli made a special appearance at CLP – Hazelwood.

Reading to a large group of eager preschoolers and their grown-ups can be tricky, but Pizzoli delivered an engaging storytime packed full of silly sound effects and colorful, life-sized illustrations.

Pizzoli began by reading Number One Sam, followed by his Theodor Seuss Geisel award-winning book, The Watermelon Seed.  Pizzoli also shared two brand new picture books, Templeton Gets His Wish (May 2015) and Dragon Was Terrible written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (upcoming in 2016).

OBEYC selection, Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

After stories, Pizzoli gave an illustration demonstration with insightful advice about drawing a race car just like Sam’s:  “The trick to drawing a race car is to start with a slipper!”

Children and their grown-ups then had a chance to explore several stations set-up around the Library, including a race car craft featuring the characters from Number One Sam, an i-Pad exploration station, and a free-play zone equipped with cars and a giant racetrack!  Each child also received a copy of Number One Sam to take home with them.

Here are three things you may or may not know about author/illustrator Greg Pizzoli.  His favorite food is pizza (though he eats a lot of salad and oatmeal during book tours). His favorite color is blue. And if he could be any animal in the world, he would choose a house cat.  Why?  So he can live the easy life like his two cats, Sophia and Ralph (not to be confused with Rotten Ralph, of course).


Greg Pizzoli signs copies of his book at CLP – Hazelwood

Thanks to CLP – Hazelwood for hosting the event, and to Greg Pizzoli for sharing his time and talent!  To learn more about Greg Pizzoli, check out his website and blog.

By Jessica, CLP – Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What does the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” have to do with Earth Day?

Earth Day was Wednesday, but every day is a great day to learn more about the Earth and nature. Playing and singing together are perfect ways to indirectly teach your child about the natural world.

If you don’t know any songs, YouTube is an excellent resource. Here are the Jbrary girls teaching you how to sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Children learn best from the adults in their lives, so don’t be afraid to sing off key.

The Jbrary girls have all sorts of songs, and they are great, so I will forgive them for starting the song out as the Eensy Weensy Spider. They pretty much have a YouTube video for every song and rhyme you might like to learn or teach.

Let’s take a look at “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” What do children learn? You don’t need a lesson plan about spiders and the seasons for a child to enjoy this simple song, but hearing those words “spider” and “sun” and “rain” helps to build your child’s early nature vocabulary. They learn that spiders can climb up a water spout. They learn about rain, which we are getting a lot of (this is April, after all). And they learn about the sun, which warms things and dries things out so the spider can go back to climbing up the water spout.

The hand motions make it an easy song to learn for the very young who aren’t speaking yet. But even though they aren’t speaking, they are taking in every word you say or sing. So talk and sing with your little ones as often as you can.

When you go out for walks, encourage your little one to touch grass and branches, gently, of course. Visit the Library to find a guide for local trees or flowers if you don’t know their names. Even knowing the name of one kind of tree builds your child’s verbal vocabulary and nature knowledge.

canyouseeme.phpTed Lewin has a great book for early readers, Can you see me? , that helps children and parents think about looking for animals, who are often hiding in plain sight, just camouflaged. Can you and your child find them in the pictures?

yard.phpAnother great book for you to share with your child is How Things Work in the Yard. Lisa Campbell Ernst explores things you might see in your yard (or in a park) such as butterflies, squirrels, or rocks. Her paper cut illustrations are interspersed with interesting facts, such as this one about ants: “Ants communicate with each other by tapping their antennae together.”

If your child is older, you can collect flowers or leaves and make a collection. Leaves are easier, since they often fall onto the sidewalk and don’t require being pressed into big fat books. To keep leaves for a long time, you can iron them between two pieces of wax paper. Here are some instructions.

In Pittsburgh, we are very lucky to have so many parks where you can take nature walks. Depending on where you live, you can take nature walks in South Park, North Park, Frick Park, Mellon Park, Highland Park, to name a few.

Looking for more books? Ask a librarian! We love to help people find books!

by Suzi, CLP — Downtown & Business

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Family PlayShop

Having fun at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Allegheny

Having fun at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Allegheny.

Families with young children have been coming to the Library to play all spring!

Many of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations are designated Family Place libraries. Libraries that are part of the Family Place Network recognize that literacy and learning begin at birth. By serving as a community resource center, connecting parents to helpful information and community agencies, and providing high quality programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, the Library has become a family-centered environment.  Family Place libraries offer designated areas and toys within their Children’s space for very young children. The cornerstone of being part of the Family Place Network is the Parent-Child Workshop, called Family PlayShop at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


Youth Services Librarian, Amy, playing with a child at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Lawrenceville.

The emphasis of Family PlayShop is on interaction and play between adults and their children. Caregivers follow their children through a dedicated space filled with developmentally appropriate toys and activities. Community resource professionals from a multitude of organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of young children are on hand to answer questions. We also highlight resources and materials from the Library’s Parent -Teacher collection, which features books that are of particular interest to parents or educators and include topics like potty-training, child development, literacy activities, parenting, and health.

Caregivers and children playing at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-East Liberty

Caregivers and children playing at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-East Liberty.

During Family PlayShop programs this spring, community resource professionals from WIC, the University of Pittsburgh, Ready Freddy, Safe Start, Head Start, early intervention agencies, Allegheny County Health Department, as well as nutritionists, speech pathologists, and music teachers attended Family PlayShop sessions. Families asked questions and gathered materials related to the agency or child development topic.

Having fun at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Allegheny.

Having fun at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Allegheny.

All dressed up at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Woods Run!

All dressed up at a Family PlayShop program at CLP-Woods Run!

During this five-week series, children played with dress-up clothes, puzzles, transportation vehicles, puppets, musical instruments, art activities, books, blocks, infant toys and gross motor toys.

Look for a Family PlayShop series near you coming this summer or fall!

By Caitie, CLP-Allegheny

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Perfect Picture Books for National Poetry Month

Each April, we celebrate National Poetry Month— the perfect time to explore the fun and benefits of poetry with children. Kids are naturally inclined to embrace the bouncy rhythms and repetitive sounds found in poems of all kinds, which speaks to the timeless appeal of nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.” By playing with the smallest sounds in words, poetry helps little learners develop phonological awareness, one of the six foundational skills needed for early reading. Poems also pique literary interest in older kids with fun vocabulary, silly humor, and vivid imagery.

The Library offers dozens of picture books that pair the lively language of poetry with engaging illustrations. Stop in to any location to sample the smorgasbord of rhymes and verse, and check out one of these excellent titles to share the magic of poetry with kids.

Little Poems for Tiny EarsLittle Poems for Tiny Ears by Lin Oliver

This collection of bite-size poems for babies (and their grown-ups) is accompanied by illustrations from the great Tomie dePaola. Playful pieces like “In My Stroller” and “My Daddy’s Beard” explore the wonders of babyhood with simple language to learn and recite throughout the day. My favorite is “The Kitchen Drawer,” which celebrates a familiar past time of crawlers:

Watch me scoot across the floor./ I’m heading for the kitchen drawer/ To knock the pots and pans around/ And throw the dish towels on the ground.”

Goodnight SongsGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

This treasure trove of poems was recently unearthed from the estate of Margaret Wise Brown, author of beloved stories like Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. Brown’s cozy, lilting lullabies are paired up with gorgeous artwork by a roster of world class illustrators to create a patchwork of whimsical worlds. The book even includes an audio CD so you can hear the lovely language with musical accompaniment.

Poem Runs by Douglas Florian

As baseball fever takes hold, Poem Runs is the perfect picture book to share with sports lovers. With paintings in grassy greens and dusty yellows, Douglas Florian’s poems explore the game, player by player, with rhymes like “Catcher:”

“I can catch curve balls/ I can catch heat./ I can catch sliders/ With gloves or with feet./ I block with my belly./ I nab with my knees./ Throw me jars of jelly./ I’ll grab them with ease.”

Firefly JulyFirefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

With selections from masters like William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson, Firefly July celebrates spring, summer, autumn, and winter through poetic morsels and bright artwork by Melissa Sweet. The familiar imagery will appeal to all children, making this an excellent and accessible introduction to the classics.

Happy reading!

-Maggie, Youth Services Librarian, CLP- Carrick

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment