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Stories Alive: Annual Spring Puppet Show

“Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in!”

“No, no, no, not by the hair on our chinny chin chins!”

Each year librarians at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main Children’s Department perform a puppet show three times per week throughout the month of May.  Past productions have included The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Anansi the Spider, The Little Red Hen, and many other stories.  This year we have a new show – The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, and judging by the giggles and enthusiastic cheering we hear from audiences it sounds like we have a hit on our hands!

The story follows our three heroes, Hamlet, Andy, and Sue (pronounced “Sooo-eeeee”) as they go off into the world to seek their fortunes.  Old Mother Pig sends them off with a stern warning about not opening their doors to anyone, as she doesn’t want her little ones to become dinner for a hungry wolf.  Meanwhile, Boris the Wolf hears about the three little pigs leaving home and tries his best to catch a tasty piggy snack.

Will Boris manage to trick the pigs into opening their doors?  Will he huff and puff and manage to blow down the houses they have built?  Come to CLP Main – Children’s on Tuesdays at 10:15 am or Fridays 10:15 and 11:00 am during the month of May to find out!

In addition to the May performance schedule, the puppet show will be performed five times during Extravaganza – the Carnegie Library’s kick off to Summer Reading, held this year on Sunday, June 5th from 12-5 pm.

-by Nonie, CLP – Main

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Remake Learning Days

RemakeLearningDays_logoThe Library is celebrating innovation and creativity through STEM programs during Remake Learning Days. Libraries and organizations throughout the Pittsburgh region are joining together to provide hands-on, innovative and exciting technology, as well as Maker and STEM programming for kids and their families. This week-long event from May 9-15 will celebrate the breadth and diversity of Pittsburgh’s commitment to innovative and engaging learning.

Pittsburgh has long been identified as one of the pioneers of innovative learning. With over 200 organizations, including Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, making up the Remake Learning Network, Pittsburgh and surrounding areas have been nationally recognized as being on the forefront in providing new ways for youth to learn, experiment and create. For more information about Southwest Pennsylvania’s commitment to finding new ways to engage and teach children and teens, check out the article about Remake Learning Days in Pittsburgh Today.

During Remake Learning Days, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be hosting STEM programs at nearly all Library locations throughout the city. Library programs include Maker, tech and iPad programs, science, bees and robotics.

For all Remake Learning events and activities, including activities hosted by the Library, visit the schedule on the Remake Learning Days site.

-by Caitie, CLP – Allegheny


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Best Books for Babies 2016

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 a number of child development experts and advocates for early literacy have gotten together annually for the last 17 years to identify the Best Books for Babies published in the previous year.

Titles selected have to meet certain criteria of course, but the real test of a best book is whether the baby’s grown-ups are willing to read and re-read it 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 enjoy rhymes, interact with flaps and textures or look forward to fun everyday experiences.

For babies who have big brothers or sisters, try Doreen Cronin’s Smick!

Simple words, rhyming phrases and goofy energy make it a fun read for the whole family.

Art loving parents will be pleased to see Big Bear, Little Chair by Lizi Boyd on the list.

Sophisticated black and white artwork with red accents accompanies a three part catalog of quirky combinations of animals, objects and settings.

To really fascinate your audience, though, you’ll want to share Maya Ajmera’s Global Baby Bedtimes – because babies just love looking at photos of other babies.

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


-by Lisa D., Coordinator of Children’s Collections

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Robots Rule at Codefest Jr.

Codefest Jr. brought enthusiastic crowds to the Children’s Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main on April 9.  From 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, children and their caregivers engaged in a variety of coding-related stations throughout the space.  Staff and volunteers helped children and adults explore the activities at the stations, and guided the public to their coding destinations.

“Where are the robots?” and “What apps do you have?” were among the many questions asked by the public as they entered the department.  Many others hurried directly to storytime, coding, or the maker-space.  Children were focused on their coding mission of building a Cubelet robot or directing a Finch through a maze.  Adults were engaging staff about specific coding apps and how they could continue this learning process at home.

Codefest Jr. encouraged children and their adults to explore, learn about, and experience coding in a relaxed and fun environment filled with age-appropriate hands-on activities and demonstrations. It was the K-12 component of Steel City Codefest, a week-long software app development competition in Pittsburgh.  The goal was to promote digital literacy, STEM competencies, problem solving, and critical thinking.kite day

A Robot Storytime in the picture book area featured a light-up display panel with characters and props from Kite Day by Will Hillenbrand.  Tweens from CLP’s Homeschool Explorations collaborated with a Teen Labs mentor to design and construct this unique enhancement to this year’s One Book, Every Young Child selection that raises awareness of the importance of early childhood literacy.

The Coding Station featured iPad with coding apps including Daisy the Dinosaur, Scratch Jr., and Robot Lab.  Laptops were available with coding activities on Code.org, a nonprofit organization that promotes the importance of computer science in education and the involvement of women and underrepresented students of color.  One of the laptops was connected to a projector to share the coding activities as well as to create a focal point for the coding station.

app station 1app station 2

The Building Station provided a creative space to make fantastic structures from Legos.  Cubelets were very popular with children and adults.  These robot blocks attach and transform into a wide variety of robots that enhance and build STEM skills.

The Maker Station had a multitude of repurposed materials and art supplies to help kids imagine and create robots.  By the end of Codefest there was a community of colorful and eccentric robots leaving with their children.


The Robot Station took over the entire nonfiction room with two Finch Robots, several BeeBots and a ProBot.  Finch is a small versatile robot that gives students an interactive and hands-on introduction to programming.  Staff assisted children as they guided the Finch robot through a floor maze.  BeeBots gave younger children the opportunity to give the small yellow and black bug robots simple commands using the directional buttons.  The Probot provided a slightly more challenging interaction than the BeeBots with more programming options.

Codefest Jr. was a creative and unique opportunity for children and adults to learn about and do coding in a library environment.  It highlighted a representative sample of STEM programming for children that is happening at all Carnegie Library locations throughout the year.

-by Debbie P., CLP – Main

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Bilingual Storytimes Bring Communities Together

Children’s Specialists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) developed a pilot program of bilingual storytimes in a way that grew volunteer partnerships and served speakers of world languages. In Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016, the next round of bilingual storytimes will be offered across the city!


Partnership with volunteer presenters has allowed for a true skill share – volunteers gain storytime presentation skills, and children’s specialists find ways to learn and incorporate two languages into programs. Everyone at a bilingual storytime is able to encourage early literacy skills while gaining or reinforcing vocabulary in multiple languages.

Here’s the breakdown of current offerings across the city:


I conducted interviews with my colleagues at CLP – Squirrel Hill to learn more, while also getting the opportunity to observe Spanish & English bilingual storytimes. Megan Fogt, Library Services Manager for Children & Teen Services, and Rachel Nard, Children’s Librarian, were able to reflect on the prep and delivery at CLP – Squirrel Hill.

Nard reflected on the most recent Spanish/English storytime at CLP – Squirrel Hill. “…we had one family in particular whose first language is Spanish, and the other families in attendance spoke some Spanish or none at all. The little girl in attendance who spoke Spanish as her first language was delighted to help teach vocabulary words in Spanish and sing songs in a leadership/teaching role.  She was clearly involved in the storytime on a very personal, meaningful level.”

Some of the titles that families have connected with at bilingual storytimes include:

La Oruga Muy Hambrienta by Eric Carle, which offers the perfect opportunity to learn food vocabulary in Spanish. This is a story that many children and their families are familiar with, so there’s also a personal connection which makes listening to a story in a new language that much more meaningful for the storytime participant. We also often pair the Spanish and English texts with certain motions and expressions in an effort to draw parallels between the two languages and increase understanding of the text.


Piggies/Cerditos by Audrey Wood, which is a wonderful book for a highly interactive reading experience.


The Chinese language version of From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, which is especially useful when looking for an interactive story that involves lots of movement and positive repetition. Also a great story for learning basic vocabulary in a brand new language.

Fogt reflected on how these programs serve diverse populations, and also build community. “Pittsburgh is home to people from many different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. Bilingual storytimes provide an opportunity to build relationships with all members of our communities by functioning as an access point for other library resources and services. The programs also welcome native English-speaking families interested in expanding their exposure to world cultures and languages and will seek to build a greater sense of community by facilitating understanding and communication among neighbors.”

-by Angela, CLP – Squirrel Hill

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One Book, Every Young Child

During the month of April, libraries, schools, Head Start programs, museums, and other organizations throughout Pennsylvania are celebrating and participating in the One Book, Every Young Child program. 2016 marks the eleventh year for the program which began in 2006. One Book, Every Young Child is a reading initiative that highlights the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers ages 3 to 6. The collaborating agencies involved with the initiative work together to develop a program that is accessible to all areas and populations of the state. Each year, a different children’s picture book is chosen to be highlighted. This year, the program features Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story by Will Hillenbrand.


Published in 2012 by Holiday House, Kite Day: A Bear and Mole Story is a story about two friends, Mole and Bear, who decide to make a kite and find themselves on a windy-day adventure. Mr. Hillenbrand and his wife, Jane, had their book What a Treasure! featured during the program in 2010. Other books that have been featured include The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom, Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli, and Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres.


The One Book, Every Young Child program goes beyond just giving parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians a book to read to preschoolers. The program’s design is based on studies showing that simply reading a book is not enough. For children to receive the biggest benefit out of a shared reading experience, adults must find ways to engage children in activities like talking about a book’s cover and illustrations, discussing the action in the book and favorite parts, pretend play related to the book, and more.

Through the One Book program, adults with preschoolers in their lives will learn how they can support the development of literacy in preschool children. Because it is important for children to be prepared for school, One Book, Every Young Child will provide opportunities for adults to read aloud and share books, stories and related activities with preschoolers. These activities have been shown to be crucial to early learning.

All Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations will be highlighting Kite Day at storytime programs during the month of April. These programs will feature stories, rhymes, songs, activities, crafts, book giveaways and more, all relating to Kite Day. Will Hillenbrand will be making a special visit to CLP-Beechview on April 20 at 5:00 pm where you can get an in person look at how this author and illustrator brings his ideas to life. So visit a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh near you for your very own windy-day adventure!

-by Erin S., CLP – Brookline

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Keep It Colorful

This gallery contains 3 photos.

The snow may be turning everything white outside, but that doesn’t mean your reading material can’t be colorful. Take a look at these whimsical picture books featuring crayons. Maybe they’ll inspire your child to create some new art. Or you might … Continue reading

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Wintery Reads

Book CoverShort days, frozen fingers in the morning, the smell of snow in the air…Pittsburgh’s first big snow (and the school holidays) are imminent.  So pick up one of these wintery reads at the library, or download it to your favorite device, stock up on hot cocoa and marshmallows, and get ready to hunker down.

In Green Glass House by Kate Milford, Milo’s family runs The Green Glass House, a smugglers’ inn in a smugglers’ town.  Milo’s plans for a quiet, winter holiday are ruined by the arrival, one after the other, of strange guests to the inn.  In no time at all they are snowed-in, and it is apparent that there is a thief (or two) in their midst.  Milo and the cook’s daughter set out to discover what has brought everyone to the inn, and what mysteries the Green Glass House is protecting.

Book CoverAnyone who has enjoyed Brian Selznick’s kind of magic and mystery will like Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy.  In the strangest of museums (a pavilion of wolves, a room containing only teaspoons, a gallery of brains in juice…) in a foreign city where it always snows, Ophelia finds herself trying to find a key to free a strange boy imprisoned by the Snow Queen.  Foxlee’s story is suspenseful, and the ambiance of her frozen city and bizarre museum will keep you turning pages.

Book CoverWhether you love the quiet and magic of wintertime woods, or need a reminder of the sound of birdsong and rivers and summer in the forest, this is a great time to revisit My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.  This classic story about a boy who runs away from home to test himself in the Catskill Mountains is such a clever combination of nature, science, cooking, and engineering fact with fiction that the whole family will enjoy this adventure story.

Readers of historical fiction can curl up with Bo at Ballard Creek, by Kirkpatrick Hill, the surprising adventures of a girl growing up in early 20th-century Alaska; or, if spies and anything espionage is more of your thing, Marie McSwigan’s Snow Treasure, about Norwegian children during WWII who use their sleds to smuggle gold right under the Nazis’ noses.

Book CoverJust in case you thought 30 degrees was feeling cold, Theodore Taylor’s, Ice Drift,  the story of two Inuit brothers trying to survive on an ice floe in the Arctic Circle, will make you feel like you’re enjoying a heat wave–even on the iciest of Pittsburgh days.

Should you run out of winter reading–or you need to make a  marshmallow run–stop by one of CLP’s locations to enjoy a craft, Lego-building, or other winter activity.  Check the Kid’s Event Page for locations and times.  Happy Winter!

-by Anne Lee, CLP – Main

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In the Kitchen with Kids

This is a time of year when practically everyone is thinking about food. Whether we’re preparing for holiday feasts and parties or donating items to those in need, we’re thinking about entrees and side dishes, beverages and desserts.  Whenever possible, I’ve involved kids in my cooking endeavors, whether it was my own daughter and her friends or children at the Library. We’ve shaken up homemade butter, fried green eggs and ham, decorated gingerbread houses, and simmered stone soup.   We’ve concocted all sorts of things with fresh fruits and veggies: berry smoothies, spicy salsa, herbed cream cheese and even a tasty pasta sauce. In every activity, the children learned a bit about nutrition, practiced math skills by measuring ingredients, observed chemical reactions, and produced something good to eat. Cooking together teaches about food, creates memories, and provides hands-on learning activities for children of all ages.

Experts tell us that cooking with kids is a perfect way to develop language skills. By taking a cue from TV cooking show hosts and describing every step of the process, we help preschoolers develop vocabulary skills in a fun, engaging way. Older kids can also take the role of chef, narrating their own culinary activities and discovering new talents in the kitchen while increasing fluency with language. Why not whet their appetites with some great reading before rolling up the sleeves to cook, bake, slice and dice?

Fabulous Food Fiction

bookcover1Some of my favorite food-oriented stories for little ones are cleverly    written picture books, incorporating a tantalizing variety of vocabulary words into the mix.   Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett is a whimsical retelling of the gingerbread boy folktale. Kids will delight in Brett’s intricate illustrations as well as the humor of the story.  They may also be begging to make and decorate some cute cookies after reading this delightful tale.

Bread and Jam for Frances, an all-time favorite in my family, tackles the problem of a young badger who refuses to eat anything but bread and jam until her mother comes up with a smart solution. Frances’ expanded culinary tastes just might help other picky eaters increase their food choices. An amusing tale that will stand up to repeated readings for adults and children alike.

Bunny Cakes not only demonstrates basic steps of making a birthday cake, it reveals the power of persistence. Max’s efforts to obtain Marshmallow Squirters to decorate his grandma’s birthday cake will charm adults and children alike. Fans of Max and Ruby will eat this one up!

Peeny Butter Fudge is the rhyming tale of a grandma who stirs up memories with her grandchildren by making the family fudge recipe, ignoring the list of healthy foods their mother wants the kids to eat. This is a sweet, humorous story that will have you searching for your family heirloom recipes and digging out the pots and pans.

Children who read independently might be tempted to try books that offer not only absorbing stories but inspire their own efforts in the kitchen.  A few that deserve a place on the reading menu include:

bookcover2Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley tells the inspiring story of Edna Lewis, the daughter of an emancipated slave who grew up to become a famous chef, and includes several appealing recipes for a budding culinary artist.

Pie by Sarah Weeks is a quirky story in which 10-year old Alice’s aunt leaves her award-winning pie recipe to a cat. The girl, the cat and, in fact, the entire town go pie-crazy trying to find that recipe and win the Blueberry Medal. Enticing recipes for a beginning pastry chef are sprinkled throughout this tasty novel.

Redwall by Brian Jacques is a fantasy peppered with scrumptious feasts served up for mice who battle against injustice in the medieval forest. These brave warriors always celebrate their homecomings to Redwall Abbey with a mug of October Ale and an astonishing array of dishes sweet and savory! Your school age child will be fascinated by the story and will most likely want to try a few of the foods, and fortunately, there is a companion cookbook to help with that.

Starting from Scratch…or not

Inspiring resources for mixing up deliciously simple fare are abundant in print, on video and even digital formats. Overdrive for Kids offers a great selection of e-cookbooks for kids, and Hoopla features instructional cooking videos, all available with your library card and a few quick clicks.

National Geographic Kids’ Cook Book: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure  provides delicious recipes for every month, including dishes from many cultures as well as plans for entertaining. Easy instructions and tantalizing food photos will have inspire young chefs to try new flavors and food combinations.

bookcover3Chop Chop: the Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food with your Family explains the basics like oatmeal, hard-cooked eggs and pan-roasted green beans, but also brings multicultural flavors to the kitchen with recipes for Matzo Balls, Mexican-style Hot Cocoa and Hummus.

No-bake Gingerbread Houses for Kids. This how-to book is sure to be a source of inspiration for building beautiful edible houses at home. Mermaid palaces, tiki huts and other fantastic structures made from graham crackers and candy are sure to intrigue any child who has ever been interested in cookie and cake decorating, or even building and construction.

Food Fun at the Library

Consider taking part in the gingerbread house programs at several of our locations if you like to share the experience with lots of friends. And for a little food fun outside of the kitchen, bring the kids to a Library for a giant-sized game of Candyland!

Whatever your plans are for the next few weeks, I hope they’ll include cooking up a little food fun with the children in your life!

-by Jeanne, CLP – Knoxville

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