Having an emerging reader means it’s necessary to have access to a ton of books. Although our local library branch doesn’t have air conditioning and is stuffy in the colder months and sweltering in the hotter months, we are there every week. We have our favorite books (Oliver Jeffers, Wanda Gag, the Magic Tree House series) and new discoveries (like Animalium and Maps). But many times, we wander around the stacks at a loss for what new books to try, and since many times I order books online to pick them up, we don’t have the skills of a librarian at our disposal.
The Brooklyn Public Library has launched a new free personalized service called Beanstack that answers the question, “What should my kid read next?”
Instead of just a generic reading list sorted by age range, parents log onto the site and fill out a profile about their child and their interests. Choices like “Not So Pink Girls,” “Daring to Be Different,” and “Diverse Main Characters” add some pizzazz to a generic survey. A book list is then generated specifically for your child, which can then be added directly to your hold list at the library. Since we are such avid readers, I was afraid that we’d either have read all of the choices, or be uninterested in the suggestions. I filled out the survey for my son, letting them know that he is obsessed with fairy tales and kindergarten humor. How successful were Beanstack’s choices? The first three options were The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz (which looks like it was written FOR my child), Just Joking: 300 Hilarious Jokes, Tricky Tongue Twisters, and Ridiculous Riddles by National Geographic Kids, and Puss In Boots by Charles Perault. These are all sure to be hits in our household, and with one click I ordered them to my local library branch. Each week, Beanstacks will send me a weekly email newsletter with another suggestion, based on my son’s profile.
Unfortunately, The Three Ninja Pigs and the joke book never came in at our Brooklyn Heights library branch. I love the library, but one flaw that we’ve discovered is that books on the hold list do fall through the cracks at times and never end up getting delivered. I just re-added Three Ninja Pigs in hopes that we’ll receive it this time. We did, on the other hand, get Puss In Boots, which was a beautiful edition of the story that my son and I both enjoyed reading thoroughly. I learned that my son especially enjoys books about ogres, and my son learned about perspective through Beanstack’s weekly emailed reading tip that comes with every book they recommend. In Puss in Boots’ case, they sent the following suggestion to encourage discussion about the book:
The paintings in this book are beautiful, and make a good use of perspective. Encourage your child to notice and talk about how a scene is set. Is the reader looking down on a scene, or looking up from below?
Additionally, online reading logs help keep track of the books your kids read, and earning badges encourages literacy.
If you’re looking to also update your own adult booklist, the library has you covered with an ongoing program that I had never heard about. Brooklyn Library’s Bookmatch program lets you fill out a form of what books you love, and a well-read librarian will recommend some new favorites just for you. In related news, the library recently received increased funding from the Mayor’s office, allowing extended branch hours and weekends, so it’ll be a cinch to pick up all those new books. Happy reading!