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The Hard Work of Playtime

Playtime can sometimes be seen as a distraction from the educational lessons of numbers and letters. But play is one of the most valuable ways in which children learn about their world, hone in and define their skills, as well as develop new skills in the process.


  • Play promotes the ability for children to learn deliberately.
  • Play gives children a way to express themselves when they don’t have the words to do so otherwise.
  • Play promotes language, critical thinking and organizational skills.


What it looks like: Painting/Drawing

What is really is: Writing skills


Make Your Own Art - Painting coverFor young children, working with crayons and markers is a basic introduction to literacy. They are working on their fine motor skills by learning how to hold onto a writing tool. They are learning brush strokes, which will help with forming letters as they get older. They are learning in an easy and relaxing environment, allowing them to be creative with their designs.


Check out our painting and How to Draw collections for instructions and inspiration on your child’s next project!


What it looks like: Rhymes and Singing

What is really is: Storytelling, narration


My First Nursery Rhymes coverBasic nursery rhymes, fun and silly songs help children develop their narration / storytelling skills. Through nursery rhymes, they learn that stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Singing allows them to develop and learn about concepts outside of their daily experiences.


Attend our storytimes, or check out a book on nursery rhymes or a music cd for fun in the car and at home.


What is looks like: Trips to the park, zoo, etc.

What it really is: An awareness of the larger world


Discover & GoPlay can be done safely in the home, it can also be done outside in parks, grocery stores, the zoo, museums, or even the post office. Every outing has the potential to be a fun and educational venture. By exploring the world around them, children learn about the societal functions of their community as well as their role in the community. They learn about community helpers (police, fireman) local retailers, volunteers, organizations, business, vehicles, buildings, etc. All the details that make up the world around them.


Check out our Discover & Go for free or reduced price tickets to bay Area museums for Bay Area library cardholders.


"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious

learning. Play is really the work of childhood."

- Fred Rogers

Kristi Yamaguchi's Reading Adventures at Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

Kristi Yamaguchi's Reading Adventures at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo

Saturday, May 17, 2014

10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
1300 Senter Road, San Jose


Join us on Saturday May 17th for Kristi Yamaguchi’s second annual Reading Adventures at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo. Joining Kristi to read their favorite childhood books are celebrity authors and athletes like Bob Barner and Dave Keane. While there, experience the zoo’s amazing animal education exhibits and take part in the many literacy-themed stations, including the SJPL table for zoo animal bookmarks! Entertainment will be provided by Disney Jr.’s Choo Choo Soul "with Genevieve!"


All activities are included in the regular park admission rates. For more information, visit:

Parenting Shortcut: What to do With a Child Who Wants to Watch TV Shows?

Recently, I just discovered a fantastic trick to promote reading and discourage viewing on a device: Juvenile Kits, which are audiobooks with an accompanying book.  You can borrow them from the library, and they will keep a child busy for 15 minutes to an hour when you need to do something like prepare a meal, take a shower, or get ready to go to work.  There are a wide range of books from which to choose, from language material to non-fiction titles.  There are picture books, easy readers, or chapter books.  Now,instead of allowing my child to watch something, I tell him: "No, you may not watch something, but you may listen to an audiobook and read along."  I have found that my child is willing to sit and listen for quite awhile, if you choose the right title.  My child loves the title The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith.  He even wants to listen to it a second time.  Some of the audiobooks have great readers, which make the book even more appealing.  In addition, the reader never gets tired.  I, for one, get tired and sometimes fall asleep before reading too long.  This way, my child benefits from a reader who never gets tired and keeps reading chapter after chapter.  It also encourages him to keep reading a longer book, which he won't do by himself.


A great non-fiction kit series is: "Read, Listen, and Wonder."  Many animals are included in this series: wolves, emperor penguins, octopus, pigs, tiger, and turtles.

Gentle Giant Octopus cover Walk with a Wolf Cover

Posted by Jo-Ann Wang on May 2, 2014 | Comments: 0 |

Fun Books for New Dads

For new dads having your first child can be an exciting and exhilarating time, but also one filled with lots of questions. Luckily San Jose Public Library offers a multitude of fun books to help guide you through this stressful time. Here are some books for new dads that will help you out and also help entertain:


The Baby Owner's Manual cover The Baby Owner's Maual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance by Louis Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht

Through step-by-step instructions and helpful schematic diagrams, The Baby Owner's Manual explores hundreds of frequently asked questions: What's the best way to swaddle a baby? How can I make my newborn sleep through the night? When should I bring the baby to a doctor for servicing? Whatever your concerns, you'll find the answers here—courtesy of celebrated pediatrician Dr. Louis Borgenicht and his son, Joe Borgenicht. Together, they provide plenty of useful advice for anyone who wants to learn the basics of childcare. 



Show Dad How coverShow Dad How: the New Dad's Guide to Baby's First Year by Shawn Bean

For dads who are excited to be involved with their new baby, but might not quite know where to start, Show Dad How is an ideal resource. From practical to playful, 156 awesome things every new father needs to know--one step at a time. In a series of nearly wordless, highly informative, often hilariously illustrated, step-by-step activities, dads-to-be learn how to do dozens of useful tasks. 




A Man's Guide to Having a Baby coverA Man's Guide to Having a Baby: Everything a New Dad Needs to Know about Pregnancy and Caring for a Newborn by Dominic Bliss

Practical advice helping new dads prepare for the biggest event of their lives. So your partner's pregnant? If you're like 99% of the male population, two words will immediately have sprung to mind: great and arrrgghhhh! Don't panic, you won't be the first to freak out at the good news, and this handy little guide is here to talk you though everything that's going to happen in the nine months before the baby is born and the first year after the birth. Written with the dad in mind, it's full of great tips to ease your nerves, fill you with confidence, and make it sound like you know what you're doing when you talk to other new parents .

Posted by Olin Laster on Apr 28, 2014 | Comments: 0 |

When Your Pet Dies: Books for Children

When a family pet dies it can be a sad and confusing time for your child. The following books are resources you can use to help your child cope with the loss of their beloved pet.


When a Pet Dies coverWhen a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers is a useful book for explaining the loss of a pet to young children. In his usual warm tone, Fred "Mr." Rogers explains plainly the feelings of loss that accompany the death of a pet and how these feelings are normal to have. Recommended for ages 5-8.



The Tenth Good Thing About Barney coverThe Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst deals with how a family chooses to remember their family pet, a cat named Barney. Recommended for ages 6-9.





Saying Goodbye to Lulu coverSaying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas deals with the story of a young girl and her dog Lulu.  As Lulu becomes older and weaker the young girl must learn to accept the possibility of the dog's death. After Lulu's passing, the girl cherishes their time together and learns that even though Lulu is gone, she continues to live on in her heart. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Choosing the Right Book for Your Child: Infants (0 to 1 year)

It can be scary stepping into the library and seeing shelves upon shelves of books and trying to decide which one is right for your child.


This is a brief guide on selecting age appropriate books for your infant. Note that these are suggestions. All children are different. Children of the same age will handle the same book differently. Don’t give up after the first reading. A child’s brain is constantly in motion; thinking, analyzing and deciphering the text and illustrations they see. Repetition is one of the key ways that children learn. Even if you read the same book every single day to your infant, you are putting them on the path towards literacy and a love of learning.


Choosing books for your infant: 0 to 12 months


What to look for:

  • Books that are simple, with large pictures or designs with bright colors. 
  • Books that are high contrast books (black and white) for newborns.
  • Books that are made of cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures of people or familiar objects that can go in the bath or get washed.
  • Books with photos of babies and pictures of things they see every day - balls, bottles, chairs, dogs.
  • Sturdy, brightly-colored board books to touch and taste.
  • Small books sized for small hands.
  • Sturdy pages that can be propped up or spread out in the crib or on a blanket.
  • Small plastic photo albums of family and friends.
  • Books about saying hello and goodbye.
  • Books with only a few words on the page.
  • Wordless books, improvise your own story.
  • Goodnight books for bedtime.
  • Pop-up and lift-the-flap books.


Quick tips about reading to your infant:

  • Read to your child from day one, but at four months of age, babies become interested in objects and will begin to interact with books.
  • Around 8 or 9 months, your baby will be able to turn the pages of a book by themselves.
  • Point to the words when you are reading to your infant. Pointing to the words lets the infant learn that literacy is a combination of language and text.
  • Put board books out on the play mat during tummy time.
  • It’s OK if your infant tries to eat the book.
  • It’s OK if your child plays/throws with the book.
  • When your child starts pulling your books off the bookshelf, create a shelf for their books. Let them pull and explore their own books.
  • Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs to your infant.
  • Keep books everywhere. In the diaper bag, in the car, in every room of the house.


Some titles & authors to get you started:


Spots, Feathers, and Curly TailsBlack on White coverFreight Train coverGoodnight Moon coverMy Very First Mother Goose coverWhere is Baby's Belly Button coverCounting Kisses cover

Music and Movement: Tuesdays at The San Pedro Square Market

children silhouettes and music notesJoin us and The San Pedro Square Market every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. as we do a special weekly series for parents and their children. Dance, sing and move along to a variety of music and in English and other languages.


Also, interact with fun educational activities that incorporate scarves, bean bags, rhythm sticks and more!

Nursery Rhyme Time

Row, Row, Row, Your Boat cover

For a fun activity you can do at home, take a classic nursery rhyme like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and turn it into your own. All you have to do is alter a few words to the tune of the song.


The original:

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.


Try swapping locations and actions with words to match whatever activity you have planned for the day.

"Ride, ride, ride your bike

quickly down the street,



"drive, drive, drive the car

quickly down the street" 



"eat, eat, eat your lunch

slowly at the table"


For extra lyrics along with a funny story, check out Iza Tripani's book rendition of this classic song.

Early Literacy Foundations Part 6: Letter Knowledge

In this sixth blog post, we will explore Letter Knowledge.

For previous blog posts in this series, please see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

What is letter knowledge?

Letter knowledge includes recognizing the letters of the alphabet and knowing their names.


Why is it important?

The first step toward developing phonological awareness (an awareness of letter sounds), starts with letter knowledge. These skills are necessary for learning how to read.  


How can I help my child develop letter knowledge?

Activities that have your child focus on one letter at a time are great for building letter knowledge.


  • Make letter flashcards together and then use them to talk about each letter of the alphabet.
  • Have a "letter of the day" so you can focus on one letter each day and talk about it in depth. Print out the letter as large as you can and display it in your home. This will give that letter a presence in your home and allow your child to become familiar with its shape.  
  • When looking at alphabet books together, have your child trace over the letter with their finger. Help them follow the lines and talk about the shape of the letters.
  • Pointing out letters in the world around you is a great way to bring attention to individual letters. It's often good to start with the first letter of the child's name, for example: "Look there's an S, on the Stop sign, just like the S in Sam!"




It's never too early to begin working on early literacy skills with your child! Here are some hardpage books that would be great for reading with your baby:


cover for abc bookCover for everyday alphabetCover for baby abc



Books that focus on one letter at a time are great for teaching letter knowledge. Check out these books in the "My Sound Box" series:



 cover for my d sound boxcover for my v sound boxcover for my m sound box


In conjunction with books, DVDs such as Leap Frog Letter Factory are great for learning about letters. Other books like Kindergarten Alphabet Activities and Spectrum Learning Letters are also great for  building and expanding letter knowledge.


 cover for letter factoryCover for Alphabet Activitiescover for spectrum learning letters



To experience the six early literacy skills in action, visit your local branch for a storytime, music and movement class or early learning readiness program. If you'd like help finding more information and resources about developing early literacy skills with your child, drop in to any one of our 23 locations and ask for a librarian!

Early Literacy Foundations Part 5: Print Awareness

In this fifth blog post, we will explore Print Awareness.

For previous blog posts in this series, please see Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four

What is print awareness?

Print awareness means being aware of printed text and understanding that the text has meaning. It also includes knowing how to handle a book.


Why is it important?

Recognizing that those shapes on the page are actually words and not just part of the picture, is an important first step in learning how to read.


How can I help my child develop print awareness?


Book Handling

Before reading together, explain the different parts of a book.

  • front cover
  • back of the book
  • right side up vs. upside down
  • point out the title and author

Eventually your child will be able to answer questions such as:

  • Where's the front cover?
  • Where's the title?
  • Which way does the book go?
  • Can you open the book and turn to the first page?


While reading together it is important to fingertrack (drag your finger underneath the words as you read them). This will start to develop your child's awareness that what you are saying is what is represented by the words on the page.


Everyday Life

Point out print that exists in the real world:

  • Road signs
  • Billboards
  • Price tags
  • Receipts

Create a print rich environment around the home by labeling household objects.

For example, print and tape up signs for:

  • Window
  • Refrigerator
  • Cabinet
  • Chair

Turn everyday activities into opportunities to reinforce print awareness.

  • Before grocery shopping trips, write a list together and explain what you are doing. "We need milk, so I am going to write milk here on our shopping list." You can even spell the word out as you write.
  • When eating out, explain that the words on the menu represent different food choices.
  • Use a recipe to cook something together. Say it aloud as you go through the recipe step by step, and have your child help you collect the ingredients.

All of these activities are great ways to help your child understand that those shapes are letters, which make up words and words have meaning!




The following items in the San Jose Public Library Collection can help reinforce print awareness. Click on the pictures below to view the items in our catalog.


Easy-Peasy Recipes and Kids Cook 1-2-3 are great books to use to cook with your child. They have great pictures and easy recipes that will help you get started in using print when cooking.

 Cover for Easy Peasy Recipescover for kids cook 1 2 3

Reading books like Maisy Bakes A Cake and Bunny Cakes, can be a great way to show your child how someone can follow the directions of a recipe or use a shopping list at the grocery store, without having to do all the work yourself!

 Cover for Maisy bakes a cakecover for bunny cakes

Flight 1-2-3 and Backseat A-B-See are wonderful books that can introduce your child to road signs and other forms of print and symbols in everyday life.

Cover for flight 1 2 3Cover for backseat A B See


Keep an eye out for the next and final blog post of Early Literacy Foundations, Part 6: Letter Knowledge.

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