Families Read Together at Northport

“We’re listening to sounds of the thirties,” Lisa announced as the group settled into their seats.  With that, the last session of the Together Book Club began.

You may remember back in July when I visited the Brentwood Public Library to sit in on their Together Book Talk for Kids and Parents. Now the Northport-East Northport library is finishing up the six week parent/child book group that is funded by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. Children’s librarian Lisa Herskowitz co-hosted the series with local scholar and storyteller, Heather Forest.

The themes of the weekly discussions were Being American, Courage and Freedom. Pictured here is a soap carving that participant Liam B made. He was inspired by reading The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, one of the six featured titles. That was Liam’s favorite book because it “had good details.” He, like all the other children who participated, got to keep a copy of their favorite book that was used in the six week program.

The title the group discussed this week was The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor, the 1988 Coretta Scott King award winner.

“In stories we often learn from the wise man, but we also learn from the fool,” Heather said. “We don’t see the best of human nature (in this book), but we do see the palette of possibility.”

Under the thoughtful discussion leadership of Lisa and Heather, the group explored topics such as the book’s examination of racism in the 1930’s and the author’s ability to capture a rural, southern accent on paper. Regarding the vernacular, one young participant noted: “It’s not like a New Yorker’s kind of talk.”

The evening ended with a “Turn and Talk” – an exchange of ideas between parent child partners. Lisa asked the ten parent/child pairs (and most of the children were boys) to discuss how the six week experience “changed their feelings about reading, books, and each other.” While I couldn’t hear what was being exhanged in the “Turn and Talk,” I could see that it was heartfelt.

Interested in hosting a Together Book Talk for Kids and Parents at your library? The next application deadline for the grant is May 15, 2012.


Parents and Children Get Together to Talk about Books

The New York Council for the Humanities’ Together—Book Talk for Kids and Parents program provides funding for libraries to create a welcoming forum for families to come together to talk about books. Each of the six 90-minute Together sessions is co-facilitated by a public librarian and a humanities scholar from the local community. The sessions explore key themes in American life such as courage, freedom, and what it means to be American.

According to Erika Halstead, the Program Officer for the New York Council for the Humanities, six libraries in Suffolk County have received a grant to host a Together—Book Talk for Kids and Parents program:

• Brentwood Public Library (fall 2008)

• Floyd Memorial Library (spring 2009)

• South Huntington Public Library (fall 2009, fall 2010)

• Emma S. Clark Memorial Library (spring 2010)

• Rogers Memorial Library (spring 2011)

• Northport-East Northport Public Library (fall 2011)

This summer, Brentwood Public Library is hosting a Family Reading and Discussion Program through a Together extension grant. I stopped by on Wednesday night, July 13th to participate in the discussion. Myrna and her collaborator Yolanda, a teacher at Southeast Elementary School, are pictured here with the featured books The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.

The Together program is a wonderful opportunity for families to spend time together talking about ideas and experiences and it all starts with a book as a catalyst. It is great to hear a parent share their experiences and hear a child say, “Mom, I never knew that happened.” And kids have lots of ideas and experiences to share that they may not have even considered talking about until we bring them in a group and encourage them to share. It’s a great way to bring everyone together to read and talk and hopefully the reading and conversations will continue at home. – Myrna, Children’s Librarian at Brentwood Public Library

Check back with the blog in the fall for the latest from the Northport-East Northport Public Library, who will be partnering on the Together project with Heather Forest, storyteller and speaker at the September 14th SCLS program “The Magic of Words.”

Would you like to offer the Together program at your library? The deadline for spring 2012 applications is December 1, 2011.