For the month of September, Leap Little Frog will hop around a library theme. For this inaugural piece, children’s librarian Sam Sednek reflects on the physical space of the library and the inner life that stories can ignite. There’s also a special bonus audio feature from our meeting!
It was chilly enough for me to bring my sweater to the Medford Public Library last week, when I sat down with children librarian Sam Sednek. The last time we’d me was at an outdoor community street fair. We were both wearing summer dresses–hers was splattered with paint, because she was deeply involved in mural making with a bunch of kids at the library booth.
We sat in the kid activity room at the library with some of the cheery artwork from that recent summer event decorating the walls. And a stack of Fall reading sat on the table.
Talking about reading with Sam is like painting about dancing… or something like that. I’m grateful that in addition to getting some backstory and great book recommendations, I also managed to record a few of her thoughts on the power of stories.
“Sharing stories is a great way to connect people. Interesting things that we learn about others.. what we believe in, what’s good and bad, how to succeed and how to fail. All of that is a story. Sharing stories with your kid through reading or through personal stories is a powerful way to make your kid more empathetic, expressive, more creative, more everything.”Click here to listen to Sam’s Audio Short on Storytelling
The library was a nice, easy place for a chat. There are places to sit, books to read. Sam is amused that some patrons have called libraries a thing of the past. “Yeah, I’d like those people to see the library after school. Or during the lap sit story time for babies. Or during Lego club. Our library is a community thing. And it’s evolved with the community.”
Evolved it has, and since Sam became Medford’s children librarian three years ago, they’ve had a 1000+ addition to their circulation each year! As kids come in for programs that Sam and the other librarians dream up, parents sit in the children’s area, choosing books to check out. Sam knows the stacks and can help pair readers with books of all types.
But Sam didn’t grow up as a bookworm. It wasn’t until she served in the Peace Corps in the South African country of Lesotho that she developed her passion for the library. Tasked with building a community library for villagers, she saw how amazing it was to bring people together and to give them access to materials.
It’s not surprising that the kid collection at Medford features different country and state books. “There are a lot of books where characters travel around the world. And there is a chapter book series where a woman cooks different meals from around the world, and kids travel there to eat the meals.” The author, Giada De Laurentiis, has grownup cookbooks. But her Recipe for Adventure Series, takes kids from Naples to Hong Kong to New Orleans.
A few other recommendations from Sam:
The Bear Ate My Sandwich
Written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
For 3-8 year olds
This is great, especially if you have a dog who likes to eat sandwiches!
Drum Dream Girl
Written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
For Grades 1-4
A true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban drummer. Everybody told her girls don’t do drumming, but she persevered. It’s a great one to read aloud and has great rhythm.
Written by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
For Grades 1-4, great for 2nd graders
Here’s another great story about a musician who started playing the trombone when he was 4 years old, which is tricky for a kid’s shorter arms.
The Book with No Pictures
Written by B.J. Novak
For Grades K-2
You know, the rule with reading books is that you have to read every word on every page. So if the page says “my best friend is a hippo named boo boo butt,” then, well, you have to say that. It’s a great read, because it makes your parents say silly things with silly voices, even though it has no pictures.
Local author Josh Funk wrote a book about a piece of French toast and a pancake who race through the refrigerator (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast). He’s got a new book, Pirasaurs!, about pirate dinosaurs and another called Dear Dragon about a boy who has a penpal who is a dragon. Each letter writer doesn’t realize he’s writing to someone of a different species. Each book has a different and very amusing illustrator.
A Chicken Followed Me Home
Written and illustrated by Robin Page
For 4-7 year olds
If you’re considering doing some urban farming, this is essential and has great informational text and cute illustrations.
Written by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
For 4-7 year olds
This is the story of Winnie, the actual bear who inspired the character Winnie the Pooh. Winnie came from a Canadian soldier, working as a veterinarian doctor for on the the Great Wars. Another amazing non-fiction read.
“Above all, books are most enjoyable when you like what you’re reading about.” Sam stresses that content isn’t as important as just reading, and being excited about reading. Comics, magazines, anything our kids want to read is the best way in to reading. “It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they are reading.
“Also, if your kid sees that reading is an active part of your life, and if you read to your kids, that’s what gets kids to read.”