Fun for kids

CJ and Chafik Waddy’s book, U Nooo Tito, Boy Hero, Says No to Strangers, is a story about a su­per­hero who saves a young girl from be­ing kid­napped. KAIT PRIVIT­ERA / FOR THE TIMES


It was late in a dreary af­ter­noon on Feb. 15, and the Frank­ford branch of the Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia was hop­ping. Kids were up­stairs in the big chil­dren’s sec­tion do­ing their home­work, and down­stairs, par­ents and tod­dlers were gath­er­ing to meet loc­al au­thor CJ Waddy.

Waddy’s ap­pear­ance, per­haps, made the branch, at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Over­ing­ton Street, a bit busier than it usu­ally is, but the kids up­stairs come four days a week to par­ti­cip­ate in a home­work-help pro­gram, said chil­dren’s lib­rar­i­an John El­li­ott-Van­Divi­er.

That pro­gram is just one of many branch lib­rary events de­signed for kids. Every branch, in fact, has a lot to of­fer chil­dren, or par­ents who want their kids to read.

Each branch in the North­east has a chil­dren’s lib­rar­i­an, said Free Lib­rary spokes­wo­man Alix Gerz. The branches have big col­lec­tions of books, DVDs, CDs and oth­er ma­ter­i­als all aimed at chil­dren. Chil­dren’s pro­grams can be any­thing from story times for tod­dlers to school­work help to read­ing clubs, com­puter classes and pho­to­graphy in­struc­tion.

Al­though the Cent­ral Lib­rary on Vine Street has many au­thor events yearly, vis­its by writers to branch lib­rar­ies are rare. Still, Waddy, a former day-care teach­er in Frank­ford, drew a packed house Feb. 15 when he was there, in cos­tume, to read from U Noo Tito, Boy Hero, Says No to Strangers, which he wrote and his young son, Chafik, il­lus­trated.

Ann Horn­bach of the Tor­res­dale branch on Holme Av­en­ue said she handles pre-school story times for kids ages 2 to 5, but “some­times, we do pay per­formers to do pro­grams.”

“An­im­al pro­grams are al­ways a big hit,” said Lisa Car­penter of the Ta­cony branch on Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue. “We do a wide vari­ety of pro­gram­ming for ages three and up.”

Some North­east branches have “Friends of the Lib­rary” groups that provide fund­ing for chil­dren’s pro­grams.

There’s a per­son­al touch, too, that par­ents likely will find ap­peal­ing.

Lib­rar­i­ans in­ter­viewed for this story said some par­ents ask for help in get­ting their kids to read. Spot­ting a re­luct­ance to read seems to be par­tic­u­larly true for par­ents of boys who are 8 to 12 years old, said Car­penter.

“I ac­tu­ally in­ter­view a child to see what in­terests him, to try to find something to spark his in­terest,” Car­penter said.

If a child likes sports, Car­penter knows the titles a kid might en­joy. Horn­bach sug­ges­ted look­ing for au­thor Matt Chris­toph­er, who has writ­ten more than 100 ac­tion-packed sports books for chil­dren.

El­li­ott-Van­Divi­er said some par­ents try to speak for their kids when he asks ques­tions about their in­terests, but they don’t al­ways know what their kids like. It’s im­port­ant, he said, to hear from the kids them­selves.

Car­penter said some par­ents are tim­id about ask­ing for help.

“People for­get that there are places you can go for per­son­al, one-on-one ser­vice,” she said. “They don’t know the lib­rary provides that ser­vice.”

The chil­dren’s lib­rar­i­ans know what’s on their shelves, what’s pop­u­lar, what the trends are and what’s com­ing in. Plenty comes in, too. New ma­ter­i­al ar­rives weekly and monthly, lib­rar­i­ans said.

It’s an easy guess what’s pop­u­lar with kids. It’s any­thing in the Di­ary of a Wimpy Kid series. The series’ books nev­er stay on the shelves long.

“Par­ents come in and ask for that,” Car­penter said.

“Those books make even adults laugh,” Horn­bach ad­ded.

The Harry Pot­ter series con­tin­ues to fas­cin­ate kids. Book series in gen­er­al, Car­penter said, are big with young read­ers.

“Chil­dren who come in look­ing for a fa­vor­ite series are thrilled if there is a new book in that series,” Car­penter said.

For little kids, pop-up books are hits, es­pe­cially books with pop-up di­no­saurs.

Dav­id Payne, Ta­cony’s branch man­ager, re­com­men­ded 39 Clues series. The books chron­icle Amy and Dan Cahill’s search for 39 clues, which will make the find­er “the most power­ful and in­flu­en­tial per­son(s) on the plan­et.”

Some books get over­looked by kids and par­ents. A real gem is the 1938 book Mr. Pop­per’s Pen­guins, said El­li­ott-Van­Divi­er. The book about a fam­ily whose house gets crowded by an ever-ex­pand­ing group of pen­guins re­cently was made in­to a movie with Jim Car­rey, so, des­pite its age, it prob­ably will be re­cog­nized.

Any­thing tied to TV shows or movies is is known by kids and par­ents, lib­rar­i­ans said.

Not all lib­rary pro­grams are for little chil­dren. Payne is proud of two Ta­cony pro­grams that in­volved older kids.

The branch hos­ted a six-week ceram­ics course. The kids worked in clay at the branch and their ef­forts were fired at a pro­fes­sion­al stu­dio. In an­oth­er pro­gram, sixth- to ninth-graders were giv­en dis­pos­able cam­er­as so they could go around Ta­cony and take pho­tos of their neigh­bor­hoods.

“They saw their com­munity with a fresh eye,” Payne said. “It gave them an ap­pre­ci­ation of their com­munity and the fun of pho­to­graphy.”

Next month, Horn­bach said, the Tor­res­dale branch will look at Ir­ish her­it­age.

“We’re go­ing to have Ir­ish dan­cers,” she said. “And the kids are go­ing to make Ir­ish pota­toes … I might live to re­gret that. ••



Read all about it…


The Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia has 10 branches and a re­gion­al fa­cil­ity in the North­east. This month, the North­east Times is ex­amin­ing the en­ter­tain­ment value that can be found at the lib­rar­ies.

The bulk of the ma­ter­i­al and pro­grams avail­able — free of charge — is prob­ably largely un­known to most Phil­adelphi­ans. Only about 31 per­cent even have lib­rary cards.

Earli­er this month the Times fea­tured stor­ies on the DVDs, mu­sic CDs and au­dio books that can be bor­rowed by lib­rary pat­rons. Today’s story is about chil­dren’s ma­ter­i­als and pro­grams. Next week, the series’ fi­nal in­stall­ment will be about pro­grams for adults. ••








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