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

#librarymade: Happy National Library Week!

When I was a girl, I loved making things I read about in books. I read all of the Borrowers books by Mary Norton. The Borrowers were tiny people that lived inside the walls of regular size people that they called “human beans.”  Borrowers “borrowed” items from  regular sized people–a pocket watch became a wall clock, fibers from a doormat for a scrubbing brush. I had a bookcase that I used as a doll’s house, and I made beds out of Kleenex boxes, and water cisterns out of plastic containers used for baby wipes. I wish I’d taken photographs, since I can only remember those two things; I had a lot more–almost all of my doll furniture was up-cycled from something or other.



standard book

standard book

Graphic Novel based on The Borrowers

Graphic Novel based on The Borrowers

Some of the ways you can read about the Borrowers: ebook, standard book, or a Graphic Novel! There are also movies of both the books and the graphic novels, but there’s only so much space here…

So, why am I telling you about making things from books? Well, today is the second day of National Library Week, which is sponsored by the American Library Association. This year’s theme is “Unlimited possibilities @ your library®.” There is a contest, and anyone can participate! Did you or your child make something at a library program or something you read about in a book? Take a picture and post it on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtag #librarymade, and you could win a prize! See official rules here. You have until noon on Friday April, 17. The prize is a $100 gift certificate to Maker Shed or Amazon.

But wait, you haven’t made anything yet? Well, you have four days! Here are some library resources that may be able to help you:

makeitmake it! by Jane Bull. This book is full of bright photographs featuring things you can make out of things you might otherwise throw away. The book gives a short primer on recycling, and then is separated into sections by the types of materials: paper, plastic, metal, or fabric. At the beginning of each section, you are asked to imagine a world without paper/plastic/metal/fabric and you get some history on how that material was created. Did you know that plastic was invented in 1862 by a chemist named Alexander Parkes?

kidsmodernKid Made Modern by Todd Oldham. Where to start? This book gives information about color blending, colors, and describes the Modern movement of design. WAIT!! Don’t walk away, this is NOT a boring book. The colorful pages have projects based on different designers, and feature pictures of kids doing all sorts of fun projects. I’m kind of in love with the “World Weaver” on page 180 which involves weaving shredded paint chips and then gluing them to the cover of a spiral bound notebook.

createMFor the very young craft enthusiast, I’d recommend Create with Maisy, which features Lucy Cousin’s fun-loving mouse, Maisy. While an adult will need to read the instructions and help with the crafting, illustrations of Maisy and her friends are mixed in with colorful photographs of the craft projects, with fun notes like “Maisy makes flowers for Ella.” On the opposite page, the photograph of “Tissue Flowers” is embellished with drawings of bees and a ladybug, things an adult could point out to a small child while talking about which craft project to start.

Here are some pictures of some things made at library programs at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


Ice cream cone! #librarymade

In August, we made ice cream cones using paper towel rolls and stickers for the cone and colored tissue paper for the ice cream at CLP — Downtown & Business!

parachutes! #librarymade

The Kids Club at CLP — Carrick made parachutes last week!

Legos! #librarymade

Malayah, a Lego Architect, displays her latest design at CLP — Carrick!

So have fun this National Library Week. Make something, and don’t forget to enter the #librarymade contest!

By Suzi, CLP–Downtown & Business

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Author Will Hillenbrand Visits Pittsburgh

Each spring, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh participates in Pennsylvania’s One Book, Every Young Child initiative, which highlights the importance of early literacy with fun activities inspired by one special book. Check out all the One Book, Every Young Child storytimes and events to join in the fun!

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of this initiative, authors of books selected during previous years will visit a variety of locations across the state of Pennsylvania throughout the month of April.

What a Treasure

What a Treasure by Will Hillenbrand

In 2010, Jane and Will Hillenbrand’s book What a Treasure! was the official selection for One Book, Every Young Child. In the story, we meet Mole, who digs a hole and uncovers treasures for his friends and a very special treasure for himself.

Will Hillenbrand recently visited the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh where he was keynote speaker for a Pennsylvania One Book Professional Development Day.  At this special event, Will addressed an audience of librarians and early childhood educators about his playful illustrations and enjoyable stories.

After his address, Will shared a few books with a group of children at the Museum.  Kids (and even some of the adults!) snored along with Bear as Mole tried to wake him up during Will’s reading of Spring is Here.

Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand

Will’s next stop was at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind.  The School happily welcomed Will, who did an amazing job providing descriptive readings of his books. The children were so engaged by his dynamic presentation.

Will had a great time sharing his work in Pittsburgh.  We hope to see him back soon. Be sure to celebrate this year’s One Book, Every Young Child selection by finding a special event at a library near you!

By Mary Beth – Children’s Services Coordinator

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gardening Thyme at your Library!

Spring is in the air and little bits of green are popping up everywhere!  As we welcome the warmer weather we also look forward to Gardening Thyme at the Library.  Thanks to a grant sponsored by the Mary Jane Berger Memorial Foundation, many of the Carnegie Library locations offer garden spaces and programs for patrons to enjoy.

At the Squirrel Hill branch, the Children’s staff dedicate the month of April to garden-themed programming.  Children in grades K-5 and their families can explore wiggly worms, create a moss terrarium, build a garden fairy house, and much more!

Do you have a green thumb or just like digging in the dirt?  Then consider becoming a garden volunteer!  With your help the Library garden will continue to grow.

Growing a Grass Head Buddy, CLP-Squirrel Hill  April 2015

Growing a Grass Head Buddy at the Squirrel Hill branch, April 2015

Harvesting scallions at the Squirrel Hill branch, August 2014

Harvesting scallions at the Squirrel Hill branch, August 2014

Looking for garden inspiration and information?  Check out these new books!

Garden to Table by Katherine Hengel

How Does My Garden Grow? by Gerda Muller


By Jessica-CLP, Squirrel Hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Take Cover! Extreme Weather!

Close your eyes and imagine…wait, WAIT! If you close your eyes, you can’t read this. Just imagine: you are on a road trip under the big sky of Oklahoma when suddenly that sky turns dark with an eerie greenish tinge. As small bits of hail begin to bounce off the hood of the car, you spot a funnel cloud in the distance. What should you do?!

Disasters by David Burnie

Disasters by David Burnie

Can extreme weather and natural disasters be scary? Yes. But are they fascinating to learn about? Also yes, especially for the 8- to 12-year-old crowd. Luckily, the Library has no shortage of engaging books on the topic, which I discovered while planning our most recent BLAST programs for 3rd-5th grade. I’ve included some of my favorites in this post and you can find the complete list of books we used on our Extreme Weather program page.

Extreme Weather by Thomas M. Kostigen

Extreme Weather by Thomas M. Kostigen

Every place on the planet experiences some form of natural threat, from tornadoes, tsunamis, and  earthquakes, to extreme cold, volcanoes, and lightning. Exploring the science behind these events with kids opens a window to understanding their local environment and connects them to the rest of the world. Plus, there are tons of cool facts like this one:

“Teenager Matt Suter holds the record for the longest distance a person has been blown along by a tornado. He was carried 1,307 feet (398 m) – and he survived!”–taken from Disasters, by David Burnie

Weather by Penelope Arlon

Weather by Penelope Arlon

Reading and discussing these books as a family can provide a wonderful opportunity to talk about your own personal experiences. You know you love to tell those “I remember when…” stories.

With larger groups of kids in a more structured education environment, try out this strategy for exploring informational books:

  • Gather a range of books on the topic
  • Break the kids into smaller groups of 3 or 4
  • Give each group a book or two
  • Their task: try to find the most interesting/best fact in the book!
  • After about 10 minutes (or once they start to get antsy) give each group a chance to share their favorite fact
Scholastic Atlas of Weather

Scholastic Atlas of Weather

This type of informal book exploration capitalizes on kids’ natural curiosity by allowing them to focus on the sections of the books that most interest them. It also shows kids that, with informational books, it is OK to flip through and read sections out of order.

But wait, there’s more! Kids can put their new knowledge to the test using this Extreme Weather True or False Game. Some people call these origami fortune tellers. Others call them cootie catchers. I prefer neither, but you can use those names to search for other fun games like this.

To prep, print the document double-sided then cut along the dotted line. The left-over rectangle is a book mark! This video gives directions for how to fold the game. Be sure to start with the written side face-down on the table.

**Quick note about printing: be sure to select the “Fit”  or “Fit to page” option. This makes sure that none of the words on the far edges of the page get cut off by the printer.**

Now you’re ready to play! Here’s how:

by Bonny – CLP, BLAST

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Book, Every Young Child 2015

2015 Pennsylvania's One book selection, Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

2015 Pennsylvania’s One book selection, Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Now in its tenth year, Pennsylvania’s statewide initiative One Book, Every Young Child raises awareness of the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of One Book, Every Young Child with special storytimes and events during the month of April.

Put on your racing goggles and start your engines, because the 2015 selection is Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli. In this exciting, brightly illustrated picture book, Sam, a competitive race-car driving dog who loves to be #1, learns that some things are more important than winning. From the author/illustrator of one of my favorite picture books, The Watermelon Seed, Greg Pizzoli brings another engaging story for young children to life.

Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

All Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations will host a special storytime to share this book with families. Check the website to find a One Book, Every Young Child program near you!

If you want to get to know Sam a little better, come meet author and illustrator Greg Pizzoli at CLP – Hazelwood for a special celebration of reading that includes activities, stories and crafts on Thursday, April 23rd at 10 am.

By Caitie – CLP, Allegheny

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Steel City Codefest

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Steel City Codefest! Children of all ages (and teens, too) were able to learn basic coding skills and experiment with robots right here in the Children’s Department.

IMG_3325 Building circuits with littleBits

IMG_3328  Programming a sequence of commands on Pro-Bots


IMG_3323  Bee-Bots are all about sequencing, estimation, and problem solving


Check out our Calendar of Events to see what is happening next!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ALA 2015 Newbery, Caldecott and Other Awards

Caldecott and Newbery Medal and Honor,  and other Youth Media Awards for outstanding books of 2014 were announced by ALSC, the children’s division of The American Library Association. Here are some of the awards:

Newbery Medal: “The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander, is a novel-in-poetry about 14-year-old twin basketball phenoms. Jealousy, forgiveness, love and death are explored with delicacy and power.


Honors: Also in poetry, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” by Jacqueline Woodson shares how growing up black in 1960s and 1970s in the North and in the South lead her to writing. It’s magnificent.

“El Deafo,” is a graphic novel biography, written and illustrated by Cece Bell. Cece loses her hearing and adventures forth into grade school with a hearing aid that’s ungainly and difficult to control. When she can even hear teachers in their lounge, she declares it her “superpower.” Funny and touching in equal measure.

Caldecott Medal: “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” written and illustrated by Dan Santat, is the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner. Imaginary characters can exist in the real world only if a child imagines them. But Beeker sets off on his own to find a child.


Honors: There are six, all wonderful in their own colorful or whimsical way:

“Nana in the City,” illustrated by Lauren Castillo. “The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art,” illustrated by Mary GrandPré. “Sam & Dave Dig a Hole,” illustrated by Jon Klassen. “Viva Frida,” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” illustrated by Melissa Sweet. “This One Summer,” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.


Coretta Scott King Awards recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators.  Further, the Awards encourage the artistic expression of the black experience…in biographical, social, and historical treatments.

For Author: “Brown Girl Dreaming” (See description earlier.)

For Illustrator: “Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance like the Firebird” illustrated by Christopher Myers.

Pura Belpré Awards honor  Latino writerss and illustrator for children’s books that best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:



Illustrator: “Viva Frida,” illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Author: “I Lived on Butterfly Hill” by Marjorie Agosín

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for most distinguished beginning reader books went to “You Are (Not) Small” by Anna Kan.

Honors: “Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Pageby Cynthia Rylant; and “Waiting Is Not Easy!” by Mo Willems

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children: “The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus,” written by Jen Bryant.

Schneider Family Book Award goes to outstanding books that depict a disability.

“A Boy and a Jaguar” written by Alan Rabinowitz wins the award for children ages 0 to 10. “Rain Rein” written by Ann M. Martin is the winner for the middle-school (ages 11-13).
For additional honor books and categories, please see:



Tina Zubak, Librarian a.k.a. Glorious Read

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