The teens (and some adults) in our community may have noticed something spectacular in the Library lately. The Young Adult fiction section in Sandpoint has tripled its shelf space, thanks to Your Library Transformation!

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I want to follow up my previous audiobook post with a more serious look at the format, literacy, and “reading.” The goal is to make one thing very clear: audiobooks are not cheating.

I enjoyed adults reading aloud to me when I was a kid, and have enjoyed audiobooks for years as an adult. Since becoming a teen librarian, I have always allowed teens to count audiobooks as part of my Teen Summer Reading program, and have encouraged teens to try the format. To some, though, listening to a book is somehow “taking the easy way out” and deemed “cheating.”

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My son Paul and I enjoy visiting national parks. Over spring break, we examined tide pools and hiked a number of trails in Redwoods National Park. In John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, we visited important fossil sites and their awesome museum, where we learned loads about the mammal fossil record. We also tried cross-country skiing at Crater Lake National Park, but a raging snowstorm defeated our efforts. Blowing snow really stings your eyes, and who packs ski goggles for cross-country skiing? We left pretty quickly.

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 Have you ever wondered why kids learn the alphabet so well just by singing that annoying little “ABC” song? Turns out there’s a powerful connection between auditory memory and learning. That’s a fortunate thing, especially when you consider how difficult it would be to teach small children to recite 26 letters in order just from straight memorization.

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“Audiobooks have become the fastest-growing format in the [publishing] industry.” This comes from a recent New York Times article by Alexandra Alter, a journalist who covers the book industry. According to the article - which discusses how technology has and hasn’t changed our reading habits - the growing popularity of audiobooks may be one factor in slipping ebook sales. Additionally, Jennifer Moore and Maria Cahill found that audiobooks are more popular with teen readers than with adults, and the teens mostly borrow their audiobooks from the Library.

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Winter can be tough. It's cold, it's dark, and everything is so much more work. It's work to make plans. It's work to get the kids into winter gear. It's work to go to the park. It's just so. much. work. And as things feel like more work, we spend longer times inside. As we spend longer periods inside, our mental health suffers.

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Many of us gift our children with books during the holidays. We choose the next book in a series our child loves or perhaps a popular series that an older child or the child of our friends enjoyed. Sometimes we include a cookbook or a drawing book or a guide to rocks or local birds. However, nonfiction is so much bigger than the drawing books and guides we often choose. Like good fiction, great nonfiction tells a compelling story... stories of struggle, victory, and defeat.

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We read to our children for a plethora of reasons. We read to introduce new concepts and vocabulary, create background knowledge, and explain “why.” We read to entertain, inspire, and excite curiosity. And we read to bond with and reassure our children. When they experience changes at home or encounter challenges in their lives, it is these last reasons – bonding and reassurance, coupled with explanation – that become so important.

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Neil Gaiman once said, "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." Kids love fantasy and fairy tales, and for many kids, those stories mean dragons. But why? Why are dragons and violence so appealing?

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I was working as a Nanny when I first moved to this area. My ward’s name is Adelle. She is creative, intelligent, curious and has a great sense of humor. As she went through the first grade, she struggled with learning how to read, something of which I’m sure many can relate to. We go through learning curves as we develop new skills, so it wasn’t unusual that Adelle had some difficulties. Looking back, I was no exception to this and I could certainly empathize with her frustration. She eventually did learn how to read. Although the routine of school and practice helped, she improved quicker as those supporting her did their best to make it fun and rewarding.

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Every January, the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association, recognizes a slate of the best children's books from the past year. ALSC honors the best nonfiction (the Siebert Award), best translation of a foreign title (the Batchelder Award), best illustrated title (the Caldecott Award), best book about the African American experience (the Coretta Scott King Awards), as well as a host of other "best" books, including the Newbery Award.

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What am I doing this summer? I’m helping middle school students teach NASA scientists. Seriously.

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