Friday, March 3, 2017

Preschool and Elementary School Online Learning for Children

Last week while visiting my grandchildren I spent time walking backwards, chasing downhill and up, reading stories and, yes, watching shows on the Nickelodeon TV channel. I was surprised to see 'ABC Mouse' advertised during a show about humanoid monster trucks that my three year old grandson loves. "Wait!" I felt like saying, "don't buy that stuff, parents, get it free from your local library."

Whether you are reading this from your cozy spot in Berkeley Heights, NJ or have stumbled upon this blog post by Googling and are somewhere else in the world, here is what librarians want you to know:

Your library has so many resources available for free and librarians hate for you to spend money on something we can teach you how to use without getting out your charge card. 

Libraries have done a pretty good job letting people know that we have books. Most people realize that libraries also have DVD's and books on CD. Many people realize libraries have downloadable e-books for free. Students may know that we have databases that can be used for researching term papers. But libraries also offer streaming and downloadable resources for children. So if your child or grandchild really, really NEEDS to be entertained so you can cook that Mac 'n' Cheese in peace, you can turn on a fun and educational library resource and know that the child will not be bombarded by commercials or unsuitable content while you boil up that orange goop or even tackle something more challenging.
Several online educational resources for children including ‘ABC Mouse’ are offered free from the Berkeley Heights Public Library.

Go to our Database links at to find ‘ABC Mouse.’ Sign up for a free account and start learning!  Preschool to elementary age children will learn pre-reading and reading skills through fun online games. Other children’s online resources include:

‘BookFlix’: Animated children’s books and read-alongs. 

‘Hoopla Kids’: Movies, TV programs, music and e-books that can be viewed on your computer, tablet or mobile device. Use the Hoopla Kids Mode by toggling to ‘Kids’ in your Hoopla app settings. Hoopla offers content for adults and children. Parents can toggle from adult mode to children’s mode in the app. Each BHPL card holder can view, stream or download up to eight free Hoopla items per month. One item may contain a TV series or musical album but that only counts as one item. Lending periods vary by title and format.

‘TumbleBooks’: animated storybooks that also work on iPads. Children will be entertained and learn while using ‘Tumblebooks’ and the other library resources for children. There are no fees and no advertisements! If you watch Nickelodeon TV and see ‘ABC Mouse’ and other resources advertised, don’t buy them before checking out the free access that your local library provides. 

 I wrote about these online resources in our monthly email newsletter, The Buzz, which can be found on the library website here. You can read the Buzz online or you can have a link to it emailed to you monthly. Come in to talk to the children's librarian or reference librarians about these fun online learning activities and other library resources which are free, free, free, did I mention that? It's hard to compete with talking monster trucks, but libraries are trying.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Books for Book Clubs

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has two book groups. The Evening Book Group's book selections over the years can be found on our website here. The Morning Book Group's lists are here. Librarians are often asked for book recommendations for local book groups. Here is a list of five books that each book group especially enjoyed in the last few years. Please ask our reference librarians if you would like more recommendations for your reading group.

Evening Book Group
 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
 The Round House by Louise Erdrich
 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
 We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Morning Book Group
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
 A Man Called Ove by F. Backman
 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
 The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
 In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Other sources to consult for picking a book for a book group:
Reading Group Guides
GoodRead's Book Group Suggestions
Amazon Book Club Picks

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Simultaneous Reading is against My Reading Rules

If you have ever read one of my earlier posts, you know I have strictly enforced Reading Rules.  At the moment, however, I am reverting to bad habits.  Not reading more than one book at a time or becoming distracted halfway through a book are Rules I have been ignoring. Here is my current reading list:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman:  (Hoopla e-audio) To say that Ove is set in his ways is an understatement. The man is set in cement at the beginning of the story.  Listening to Ove has made me miss a very dear, very curmudgeonly patron who died several years ago.  I can almost hear John’s voice instead of the excellent narrator.

Home Sweet Home by April Smith:  (OverDrive eBook)  This book is set in South Dakota during the days when Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for communists and communist sympathizers turned neighbors against neighbors and made everyone seem somehow suspicious.  It is loosely based on actual events and a well-known libel trial.  The details of life in South Dakota, surviving natural disasters on a cattle ranch, made the story even more interesting.  The earlier story from the 50s and 60s ties into events in the mid-1980s.

Washington’s Farewell: the Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations by John Avlon:   (OverDrive eBook)  Washington’s Farewell, when he announced that he was done serving as President and wanted to retire, as opposed to his first farewell from military service, was referred to and frequently quoted during the recent election.  It seemed time to refresh my memory and revisit Washington’s words, thoughtfully provided in an appendix.  The political scene was as frantic and frenetic then as it is now.  It was interesting to see the Founding Fathers jostling and evolving as the founding words had to be put into action and process.  I had forgotten that the Farewell was published in a newspaper and not presented as a speech.

Swimming Lessons by Mary Alice Monroe: (OverDrive eBook)  As a cat is easily distracted by shiny toys, I was distracted by a book by one of my favorite beach authors.  I enjoyed wrapping up in a blanket while visiting some familiar places in South Carolina, seeing some old friends, and catching up on the continuing struggles of loggerhead turtles.  I needed warm breezes from the ocean to relax after Ove’s frostiness, snow storms and floods in the heartland, and political firestorms when New York was still the capital city.

I may have already told this embarrassing story, but years ago I put down the book I was reading to make a cup of tea.  When I started reading again I was about twenty pages along before I realized I was reading the wrong book.  Somehow I hadn’t realized the characters had changed and I was in the middle of the Bataan Death March.  This is why I need to focus on one book at a time and not to try to juggle reading, listening, mixing fiction and non-fiction, and time traveling.  Reading Rules exist for a reason.

- S. Bakos 

To find ebooks to borrow, go to our All Things E page for Hoopla, eLibraryNJ and more downloadable resources.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Database of the Month: Grangers Poetry

Monthly Featured E-Resource: Grangers Poetry
Happy February! Are you looking for the perfect love poem? Try Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry, the online resource for thousands of full-text poems including biographical information about the poet. The database is searchable by poet, title, keyword and theme. Searching the word ‘valentine’ in the text, we found,

from Hamlet, IV,v (Ophelia sings)

‘Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day,   
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.’ 

Go to our Database links at to find our full-text poetry database and dozens of other online resources for research, homework and entertainment.
This post is an excerpt from this month's library newsletter, The Buzz, which can be found on our website  You can subscribe to the newsletter as a monthly email by emailing reference at bhplnj dot org. Put 'Sign up for the Buzz' in the subject line. We don't sell our email list and we won't email you more than once a month with the Buzz, well, maybe twice with corrections or additions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ask Alice

Holidays over, now we can read!
Now that all the relatives are gone and the holidays are over, people ask themselves,
'What should I read in the new year?'
Who better to ask than your local library staff?
And so I asked Alice who works in the Circulation Department of the library, challenging her to list a few good books with a one sentence annotation. Alice recommends the following books that she has read in the last couple of months:
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, "fascinating magic realism on a familiar topic."
Moonglow by Michael Chabon, "a 'fake' memoir of Chabon's grandfather - clever and funny as well as moving."
Napoleon's Last Island by Thomas Keneally, "good historical fiction on a less-known topic."
Out of Bounds by Val McDermid, "well written detective story that keeps you turning pages."
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden,
"Absolutely delightful fantasy based on Russian fairy tales."
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi,  " The African-American experience from two very different view points."

Thanks, Alice!