Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do it Yourself Fun

by Ellen Griffin Shade, Avondale Regional Branch Library

Do you enjoy arts and crafts? We do too! At the Avondale Library, we started offering a jewelry-making workshop for adults once a month last summer, and now we offer arts and crafts programming weekly, with a different program every Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.

All programs are free but space is limited, so register online through the BPL events calendar, call 226-4000, or drop by the circulation desk to reserve your spot. We also offer drop-in adult coloring stations that are available anytime, and we have a great selection of craft books to check out.

Upcoming Programs
Wednesday, August 2, 2:00 p.m. Club Create - Come together to create something new! We'll tackle a new craft project each month, with instruction and materials provided. Our project this month is making fruit slice coasters.

Wednesday, August 9, 2:00 p.m. Color Club - Explore coloring for adults. This month we're coloring reusable tote bags.

Wednesday, August 16, 2:00 p.m.  Books & Beads - Join us for our monthly jewelry-making adventure. Materials, tools, and instructions are provided, and each participant will complete a jewelry project to take home. Adults of all skill levels are welcome. This month we'll be learning to make beaded leather wrap bracelets.

Wednesday, August 23, 2:00 p.m. Fiber Arts on Fifth Avenue - Knitters, crocheters, and other "fiber artists" of all skill levels can bring their supplies to this informal group to share tips and ideas! The library will have a limited supply of needles and yarn available on a first come, first served basis.

Wednesday, August 30, 2:00 p.m. Wildcard Wednesday: Adventures in Art - Join us for a fun art project, with instruction and materials provided, and complete your own masterpiece to take home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Birmingham Public Library Celebrating 20 Years of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published June 26, 1997, in the UK; it was
published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on September 1, 1998, in the US

The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is paying tribute the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter with a film festival, birthday celebration, and showing of some of the most popular movies based on author J.K. Rowling’s teen wizard.

The Central Library will host its annual Harry Potter Film Festival on Saturday, July 29, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Harry Potter films will air back-to-back in the Youth Department Story Castle, 2nd Floor. Refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the entire family. Come dressed in your favorite Harry Potter costumes.

The Smithfield Branch Library will host a Harry Potter Birthday Party on Monday, July 31, at 10:00 a.m. Celebrate the birthday of one of the most beloved literary characters of all time. Smithfield Library will have a Hogwarts-worthy feast and spellbinding games. Beware of Dementors!

From Tuesday, August 1, through Friday, August 4, Smithfield Library will host a Harry Potter Watch-a-Thon featuring a different Harry Potter movie all four days at 10:00 a.m. Refreshments will be served. The party and movies are free and open to all ages.

Read more about the 20th anniversary Potter celebration taking place worldwide at the link below:

Southern History Book of the Month: Exploring Wild Alabama: A Guide to the State’s Publicly Accessible Natural Areas

Exploring Wild Alabama: A Guide to the State’s Publicly Accessible Natural Areas
Kenneth M. Wills and L.J. Davenport

It’s the middle of summer and a great time for vacations. But maybe you don’t have an extended trip planned, or don’t care for long trips away from home anyway. Maybe you prefer shorter excursions to augment your “staycation.” If so, Exploring Wild Alabama is an excellent resource for discovering the state’s natural wonders. This guide shows the geographic regions of Alabama and provides GPS coordinates and helpful symbols for the activities such as camping, fishing, hiking, and canoeing that are available to the public at each location.

When I was paging through Exploring Wild Alabama, the description of Sipsey Wilderness resonated with me because the first time I ever walked through it, I was fresh from a recent reading of J.R.R. Tolkien:
The canyons of the Sipsey Wilderness truly contain an “enchanted forest.” Each canyon, with its steep sandstone cliffs, shows a waterfall at its head during the wetter times of the year; such a cool microclimate allows the eastern hemlock to thrive far south of its expected range. Standing in one of those canyons makes you feel as if you were looking at a set for a Lord of the Rings movie or the stage for a Wagnerian opera.
I can definitely remember similar thoughts as I walked through those trails, climbed over rocks, and admired waterfalls. I had a similar experience while I was reading the Coastal Zone section because there is a beautiful color photograph of a pitcher plant—a carnivorous plant I’d read about but never seen—and I still remember seeing them for the first time on family vacations to the Gulf Coast.

So whether you are in need of a vacation, a day trip with the family, a brief weekend getaway, or just something you haven’t seen before, consult Exploring Wild Alabama. And don’t be in too much of a hurry, because there are plenty of destinations here for a lifetime of sightseeing. As the authors themselves suggest:  ". . . slow down in order to best enjoy Alabama’s natural wonders! Pick one location at a time and get to know it well."

Which Alabama destinations are on your list this summer?

For further information:
Exploring Wild Alabama on Facebook
Kenneth M. Wills and L.J. Davenport on Absolutely Alabama
Alabama Road Trips
Natural Wonders of Alabama—Only in Your State

Central Library to Host Ballard House Project Community Conversations July 27

What: Ballard House Project Community-Wide Collective Memory Program
Where: Central Library’s Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
When: Thursday, July 27, 2017, 10:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m.
Details: The Ballard House Project will be recording community conversations about Birmingham’s historic past. One-hour session topics will include community building, business, law, civil rights, women’s organizations, food/gardening, health, social & service clubs, fellowship, and faith. For more information, call 205-731-2000 or go to

Did you participate in Birmingham’s civil rights marches of the 1960s as a foot soldier? Have interesting stories to tell about a family business, church, or important dates in the city’s history?

Then make plans to come to the Central Library in downtown Birmingham between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, 2017. The Ballard House Project, Inc. is partnering with the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) as it seeks people willing to share personal stories about Birmingham's historic past.

Last month (between June 19-24), Ballard House Project hosted sign-ups for residents willing to participate at the Central, Avondale, Springville Road, North Birmingham, and Five Points West Libraries. If you missed those meetings and want to participate, call 205-731-2000 or go to for more information.

The Ballard House

The Ballard House, 1420 7th Ave. North in the Birmingham civil rights district downtown, is a
cultural and educational space dedicated to celebrating people, places, and events from Birmingham's past and inspiring citizens of today. The Ballard House was built in 1940 by Dr. Edward Ballard, a prominent Birmingham doctor in the 1920s. Hamilton's husband, Herschell Hamilton, is the son of the late Dr. Herschell Hamilton Sr., who, upon moving to Birmingham in 1958, became the first board-certified African American surgeon in the city.

Dr. Hamilton became known as the "dog-bite doctor" for providing free medical care including surgery for several foot soldiers and activists injured during the 1960s civil rights movement. He was the personal physician for Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and also treated Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Hamilton's office was located inside the Ballard House, and he spent much of his 43 years of medical practice there. Hamilton's family established the Herschell Lee Hamilton Endowed Medical Scholarship in his honor during the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in Birmingham.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Exercise to Build a Better You

by Selina Johnson, Wylam Branch Library 

We had a wonderful exercise session at Wylam Library on this past Wednesday. Workout Wednesday with Ms. Myra was not the typical high impact aerobics thrashing and pounding of your joints; instead, low impact chair exercises were introduced. Ms. Myra made the session appealing with calming music, simple instructions, and practical information about exercising and health. Working out has not been a priority for me as of late and I had never thought much about this type of exercise.

How much of a workout can you get from sitting in a chair, right? Well, after participating in this chair exercise session I came to respect it as a significant way to gain health benefits. I noticed an increase in my heart rate at about 10 minutes into the session. Also, many of the exercises worked the core muscles. Who doesn’t think that they need to trim down their midsection? Ms. Myra suggested adding barbells if you want to intensify the workout. So, if you are tied to a desk for an extended amount of time at work, you can get an effective workout from a chair.

Ms. Myra teaches participants at the Wylam Branch Library chair yoga to keep them active
and healthy

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do in order to build a better you for your health, but developing the discipline to maintain an exercise routine is never easy. The American Heart Association recommends that you get 30 minutes of physical activity each day which can be broken down into three 10 minute increments. Think about it. Taking the time to do 10 minutes of chair exercise, 10 minutes of climbing a set of stairs, and 10 minutes of walking at a brisk pace some time during the day can make a difference in heart health and well-being. It can be challenging to get exercise into your daily schedule but the key is to find things that are a good fit for you and match your abilities.

Participating in the chair exercise class has motivated me to implement some type of exercise into my day. Starting with small chunks of exercise will hopefully bring about the confidence needed to develop a regular workout routine. I can’t say that I always enjoy working out while in the moment, but after a workout I am focused, de-stressed, and energized. Here is to making your health a priority and to building a better you.

There’s Never Enough Time

by Maya Jones, West End Branch Library

I found myself thinking “I’m running out of time!” during a particularly hectic day at work. I know it’s a common problem whether you are working at work or home. Last week, I also found myself talking to a church member who happens to be a senior and she said, “When I was growing up we managed to work a job, do house work, and be active in church.” I started to wonder how they did it. I came to a conclusion that they must have had better time management and organizational skills. So, this week, I decided to focus on resources dealing with time management and organizing.

15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires by ,13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs by Kevin Kruse
Getting It Together: How to Organize Your Space, Your Stuff, Your Time—and Your Life by Erin Falligant (Juvenile) American Girls Series
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo; translated from Japanese by Cathy Hirano
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondo
Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life by Dr. Jason Selk + Tom Bartow, with Matthew Rudy
Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist's Guide to Getting—and Staying—Organized by Amanda Sullivan
Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day by Cassandra Aarssen

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Joyce Meyer
The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkeurst
Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte
What the Most Successful People Do before Breakfast: And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home by Laura Vanderkam

Evernote is able to keep and organize notes, speeches, photos, ideas, etc. What I like about the free basic account is that you can send your material directly to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and e-mail.

Remember the Milk is a neat website that will keep your “to do” list for work and personal tasks. Tasks can be sent to Gmail, e-mail, Google Calendar, Evernote, Alexa, Siri, Twitter, and Feeds. Reminders can be sent by e-mail, text, IM, Twitter, and mobile apps for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry 10. This is a free app.

Toggl has a free version of its software and helps you keep track of your time. The paid version helps you track billable hours.

Hopefully these resources will help you keep track of your time and help you stay organized. Then you can say, “I’ve got all the time in the world.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Resumes Made Easy at the Library

by David Ryan, Computer Commons

Getting a job is filled with so many frustrating steps. You need a resume, you have to fill out the application, and then there’s an interview. With all this work it almost seems like unpaid labor. The Birmingham Public Library can help lighten the load.

The resume may be the most confusing and difficult part of your job search because it generates so many questions. Do I include that high school lifeguard position on my resume? Do I use the functional, entry level, or chronological resume style? We can help you with these and many other questions. It doesn’t matter if you’re applying for a summer job at Dairy Queen, or a full-time position at Wachovia Bank, the place to begin building your resume is at your neighborhood library, or our website.

All the Birmingham Public Libraries have public PCs loaded with Microsoft Word. You may not know this, but Word has resume templates. If you’ve never used a template, be prepared for awesome. You are presented with a resume completed from top to bottom. All you have to do is write your name, career goals, work history, etc., on top of what’s on the screen. When you’re finished you have a resume ready to print out. How does one find this magical tool?

If you’re using one of the libraries’ public PCs, choose Word, click on File, then New. Notice all your document choices. You’ve got Food and Nutrition, Newsletters, Flyers and (sound of drum roll) Resumes and Cover Letters! Notice how some of the resumes are career specific. You can choose between a teacher’s resume, computer programmer’s, sales manager’s, and others. You’re even given multiple styles to choose from: functional, traditional, chronological, entry level. Just click on the resume that suits your needs, and then click on the download icon to the right. Once the resume is on the screen you simply replace the original information by typing in your information. Of course you can delete or add any fields to these templates. You can even pick the font style and letter size. This is a great, free, way to view different resume styles, and choose what you feel is best for the job you’re hoping to land.

All the Birmingham Public Libraries’ have several databases that will help with your resumes. Go to our website Notice the black horizontal line near the top of the page. Click on databases. Now you’ll be presented with a list of databases available at home, or in your local Birmingham Public Library location. Notice on the left side there’s a brownish rectangle entitled subject list. Scroll down to Resumes and CVs.

First on our database list is Career Cruising. This is actually a database designed to help you choose careers. I could spend an entire blog just talking about the functions available on this site, but let’s just focus on resumes for the moment.

Start by clicking on the find jobs tab. Next click on build my resume. This site does require a registration, but that consist only of you name, e-mail, login, and password. This is a totally different animal from Microsoft Word. This database offers a resume builder. You are asked questions, such as your career objectives, educational history, etc. By the time you’ve finished answering all their questions you have a completed resume! And this database also allows you to pick the font, style, and print.

Ferguson’s Career Guidance Center is a similar database. It has great information on every career under the sun. Ferguson’s even taps into the Bureau of Labor to give you industry hiring predictions. On the front page choose launch your career, below that choose resumes, cover letters and interviewing. On the next screen choose view and download resumes. You’ll find five resumes and CVs arranged by styles. Choose a style; within that style you’ll find five examples. Click download word doc. You’ll find yourself magically transported into Word. Click on enable editing and you’re ready to type over the existing resume to create your own sparkling resume with your name and information. Explore this database. I think you’ll find Ferguson’s is your one stop shop for career questions.

The next BPL database that offers a resume module is Learning Express Library. Go to the search box and type in resume. Now choose great resumes. At this point you will be asked to register. Like the other database they just need your name, email account, and a password. You’ll notice at the top of the page 2 a tab labeled tutorials. Click on great resumes. This tutorial presents you with something like a book or classroom presentation. At the end you are presented with several examples. If you open a Word session you can toggle back and forth between the examples and your own resume.

So, the next time you need a new resume, or need to update your old one, come the library, or visit us online. If you need information on which careers will be hot, come to the library. If you need to find information on how to ace that interview… well, you know what to do.

Jonah, the World’s First Superhero with Down Syndrome

by Lorraine Walker, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

At the end of March, Sesame Street introduced the world to Julia, the first autistic Muppet. Julia’s puppeteer is also mom to a son with autism. She said that it would have been wonderful for her son to have someone in the comic book world to identify with.

The same might be said for Lion Forge Comics’ newest creation, Superb. The comic launches in July and will feature the first superhero with Down syndrome. The National Down Syndrome Society (DNSS) was a full partner in bringing Jonah, the main hero, to life along with Lion Forge, whose slogan is ironically “Comics for Everyone.”

Everyone faces different challenges in life, but these shouldn’t preclude anyone from wanting to be a superhero. Lion Forge president Geoff Gerber said in a statement earlier in the month that Superb is the story of two young people faced with challenges who try to understand one another and what it means to be heroes.

The series is written by David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard. They used NDSS to help create characters with life experiences that they personally didn’t have. Superb also features art from Ray-Anthony Height, Le Beau L. Underwood, and Veronica Gandini. I realize that the library does not stock comic books, but the topic is so important that we have no problem promoting reading in the fashion.

The cover image is wonderfully vibrant and makes great use of the comic book style to introduce these new characters. It will be interesting to follow the series and see what they come up with.

Registration Open for Free Computer Classes in August at Central Library

The Regional Library Computer Center's (RLCC) August 2017 class schedule is now available and registration is open to the public for the free courses. These classes along with their descriptions can be found on the BPL events calendar, and you may register online through the calendar or by calling the RLCC at 205-226-3680.

Please note that registration does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in the class. You will receive an e-mail confirming your registration for classes. You may also call to confirm your registration.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gone Girl Read-Alikes

When a novel is as successful as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, particularly when the success results in a film adaptation, publishers take note and continue to provide readers with titles they feel are similar, hoping for the same success.  Although Gone Girl was published in 2012 and adapted to film in 2014, publishers are still releasing books marketed as “the next Gone Girl.”  If you fell in love with the book and/or the film, you should consider checking out the following titles.  Descriptions are from the publisher.

Final Girls
Final Girls  by Riley Sager (7/2017)
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie-scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to--a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.  That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors  by B.A. Paris (8/2016)
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He's a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. You're hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You'd like to get to know Grace better.  But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable. Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn't work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows. Some might wonder what's really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10  by Ruth Ware (7/2016)
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo's stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for--and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo's desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong...

All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls  by Megan Miranda (6/2016)
It's been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne's case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.
The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne's boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic's younger neighbor and the group's alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic's return, Annaleise goes missing.
Told backwards--Day 15 to Day 1--from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor's disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night.

Neighborhood Meet and Greet August 3 at Central Library

Please join us at this "meet and greet" on Thursday, August 3, 6:30-8:00 p.m., at the Central Library to learn more about the exciting programs and technology services available at the Birmingham Public Library.

There will be food and music too! RSVP to confirm your attendance no later than July 31 by contacting Tiffanie Jeter at 205-226-3747 or

Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: In Search of Lost Time: Sodom and Gomorrah

by David Blake, Fiction Department Head, Central Library

In Search of Lost Time: Sodom and Gomorrah
Marcel Proust

Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust were near contemporaries. Wilde was about a half generation older than Proust, but the precocious young Proust entered high society and the literary salons as a teen. Their social worlds overlapped and they had friends in common. Both Wilde and Proust made their first literary marks as exponents of John Ruskin. And, by the time Proust began writing In Search of Lost Time, Proust had seen Wilde, at the peak of his dizzying successes in British society, denounced, imprisoned, ruined, exiled and dead—a martyr to vehement homophobia. No wonder when Andre Gide challenged Proust on the circuitous way Proust was depicting homosexuality in his semi-autobiographical masterpiece, Proust replied, “One can write anything as long one does not write I.”

Proust associates Sodom with male homosexuality and Gomorrah with lesbian affairs. Baron Charlus, a wealthy, socially eminent aristocrat courts Morel, a beautiful, ambitious young musician, much as his heterosexual peers court pretty young actresses, with gifts and promises of future fame. Over time, as the Baron ages, his pursuit becomes grotesque. This affair is mirrored in the young Narrator’s/Marcel’s obsessive pursuit of the even younger Albertine, one of the gang of young girls we met in In Search of Lost Time: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. The Narrator suspects that the object of his love is conducting secret lesbian trysts even as he tries to be more and more in control of her life and emotions.

Proust was subject to debilitating asthma, but suffered less in the fresh air of the coast. The action of Sodom and Gomorrah takes place on the coast of Normandy, mirroring a happy interlude in Proust’s life when he was young, exploring the coast of Brittany with the beautiful musician Reynaldo Hahn. In Sodom and Gomorrah the Narrator and Albertine explore the coast of Normandy sitting in the back of a motorcar he has hired, a novelty at the time. They attend the literary salons of Parisians summering in manor houses along the Normandy coast, the wealthy bourgeois and the aristocrats blending but understanding one another not at all.

It is said that the character of Albertine is based on Proust’s close relationship with his driver. Even as the reader unwinds Proust’s brilliant, lengthy sentences, one re-interprets the male-female relationship of the Narrator/Marcel with Albertine as male-male, Albertine/Albert, as it were, yet another layer of complexity.

One thing is quite clear, though. Proust regarded the life of the aging gay man with dread. As with the heterosexual demi-monde Proust depicts in many ways, the old and wealthy pursue the young and beautiful to their own ruin.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Free Resume Writing Workshop on July 14 at Central Library

A Central Library patron gets an individual jobs assessment from workshops presenter
Tina Thornton, a professional counselor and founder of Gem Kreations

What: Vocational Readiness workshop series
When: Every Friday in July, August, and September 2017
Time: 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: The series consists of four workshops: (1) Vocational Introduction Readiness Workshop, (2) Resume Builder, (3) New Age Online Application Process, and (4) Interview Boot camp

Is your resume outdated and failing to make you stand out from other candidates? Whether a new graduate or a worker looking for a new job, make plans to take advantage of free Vocational Readiness workshops taking place every Friday at the Central Library through September. The next workshop is Friday, July 14. Click here for a complete list of dates and workshop descriptions.

Besides the improving your resume workshop, other classes focus on a free individual assessment of professional goals/skills to find best job fit, preparing for the job interview, and how to navigate the online job application process. The information is timely for both young graduates job hunting for the first time and adults re-entering the job market or contemplating a career change.

Local Authors Expo and Book Fair Scheduled for August 19 at Central Library

The annual Local Authors Expo held at the Central Library will showcase Alabama authors, including many from the Birmingham area. This year's free event will be held on Saturday, August 19, 2017, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Authors will be on hand to discuss their work, sell and autograph books, and talk about their writing process. Two featured authors, Chandra Sparks Splond (10:30 a.m.) and Nia Mya Reese (1:00 p.m.), will discuss their writing and the publishing process. To learn more about these authors and the expo, visit the Local Authors Expo page.

This event is free and open to the public. Drop by and visit your favorite author, learn more about local authors, and get tips for publishing your work.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Google Insights and Analytics Seminar Scheduled for July 20 at Central Library

What: Using Google to Grow Your Business seminar series
When: Thursday July 20, 2017 – "Google Insights and Analytics"
Thursday August 17, 2017 – "Getting Started with Social Media and Email Marketing"
Time: 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: Free but registration is required

The Central Library will host a series of seminars for small business owners titled Using Google to Grow Your Business. Each seminar will cover a different topic related to Google applications that can be used by small business owners to improve their online performance. The remaining seminars in the series are "Google Insights and Analytics" and "Getting Started with Social Media and Email Marketing." All sessions will be held from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. in the Central Library's Regional Library Computer Center, located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Building. The seminar series is sponsored by the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development and Zeekee, a local digital marketing agency. The program presenters will be Zeekee’s marketing and IT specialists.

The seminars are free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, please contact Andy Mayo in the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development by phone at 205-254-2774 or by email at

Zeekee started in 2003 as a small business and has since grown into a full-fledged internet marketing agency with services that include website development, graphic design, internet marketing and website support. They have developed and supported over 2,000 websites and countless campaigns for their clients in all industries from local startups to international Fortune 500 companies. Zeekee has offices in Birmingham and Fairhope, AL.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Watercolor with Asian Flair: Caroline Wang Art Exhibit, July 7-August 28, 2017

Birmingham Botanical Gardens by Caroline Wang

What: Watercolor with Asian Flair: Caroline Wang Art Exhibit
When: July 7-August 28 during library hours
Where: Central Library, Fourth Floor Gallery
Details: Opening reception held July 8, 2:00-5:00 p.m., Fourth Floor Gallery. Free and open to the public.

"Caroline Wang is a watercolor artist and a retired NASA engineer and researcher. She grew up in Taiwan, and grew up again (culturally) in the United States. She has passion for art as well as science. Having a love for both disciplines, she studied art at the University of Minnesota and received a Master's degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin."(artist's website)

Watercolor with Asian Flair assembles original watercolors of landscapes that Wang has encountered during her travels in the United States, the Far East, and Europe. Her watercolor paintings employ Asian brush strokes while retaining a Western visual perspective.

Wang has won numerous awards at state and regional art contests. Another collection of Caroline’s work, Wild Lives in Color, is currently on exhibit at the Decatur Carnegie Visual Art Center from June 27 to August 5.

A fashion designer as well, Wang uses her watercolor designs for VIDA scarves. She was one of the featured designers at the Alabama Fashion Alliance Fashion Show. Her other passions include violin, tennis, and public speaking. She has given many speeches to organizations and schools as a member of Toastmasters International. Through her artwork and speeches, Wang conveys one message: follow your passion and explore all the possibilities.

Thunder Gate by Caroline Wang

Book Review: Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka

by Richard Grooms, Librarian, Fiction Department, Central Library

Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka
John Gimlette

It’s a pleasure to read a travel writer who’s firing on all thrusters. Travel is one of my favorite genres. I’ve read close to 200 titles. After a while, you get jaded, lower your expectations. Along comes Gimlette to restore your faith, let you see why you fell in love with the category in the first place. He’s at the top of his field. Part of his strength is his preparation. He spent three months in Sri Lanka but spent two years preparing for it. So by the time he got there he seems like an old hand. But he still retains a newcomer’s sense of awe and adventure.

Sri Lanka is an island nation just below the southern tip of India. About the size of Ireland, it’s been inhabited for over 18,000 years. 2,000 years ago a mysterious people built magnificent structures there, one so large and sophisticated it rivalled some of the great pyramids of Egypt. This was the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba, one of many dagobas (no, not Yoda’s planet, but probably the inspiration for it) found throughout the jungles of Sri Lanka. They are bell-shaped and house sacred Buddhist relics. To Gimlette, they rise out of the jungle “fresh from outer space.” Like the dagobas, the country is full of the unexpected, such as the moment when the author, exploring another jungle ruin, finds himself under “enormous eaves with several thousand fruit bats, who give a collective squeal of disgust.” Or when he’s poking around the caves of the ancient royal heir Kasyapa. Kasyapa swore a vow of chastity and asceticism, but nevertheless commissioned artists to fill the caves with portraits of half-naked celestial nymphs.

That’s the jungle. But Sri Lanka also has Colombo, the capitol and biggest city. It’s a city that defies anticipation. What you’d expect to find in the center, such as forts and government buildings, are on the rim. And what you’d imagine would be on the rim-a giant lake-is in the center. Elephants are driven around in trucks. Men chop logs in the middle of the street. “Anti-aircraft guns wear little quilted jackets.” A gypsy’s monkey wears the clothes of an Englishman. It’s a city, says Gimlette, that Carroll’s Alice would’ve loved.

As magical as Sri Lanka can be, it is still recovering from the civil war, the longest in Asian history, which lasted from 1983-2009. It seems like everywhere Gimlette looks there are bullet holes. The author well explains the causes of the war-the hatred between the two biggest groups, the Tamils and the Sinhalese-but I still can only half understand how that much hatred ever took root and expressed itself in what was one of the most stupefyingly vicious wars in human history. To be fair, most Sri Lankans can’t much grasp it either. The accounts of the war in the book are thoroughly shocking, to say the absolute least. As if it wasn’t enough, Sri Lanka was hit by tsunami waves in 2004. It was a day of extremes. “The planet itself vibrated by a centimetre.” Witnesses reported seeing the ocean empty as a desert, empty because all the water had been bulked up into a giant wave. By the end of it, about 55,000 had died. Sri Lanka is still reeling from that, too.

But Sri Lanka isn’t just a collection of tragedies. By and large, it does still really seem to live up to now-deceased resident Arthur C. Clarke’s statement that it contains more than anyplace on earth the most attractive ruins, beaches and landscapes. And the most charming people. Tell me, where else in the world do so many people live in treehouses? Gimlette visits a rural area where most everyone goes to the trees every night. Why? To avoid the elephants, of course. That’s when they like to trample through their pathways, and some villages, like the one the author visits, lie right in a pathway. As an added precaution, a local sings “elephant-scaring songs” to keep the pachyderms away. The songs inspire other tree-dwellers to join the singing, and soon “the whole paddy was singing along.” You could see little fires up in the trees where tree-dwellers were living. The songs seem to work, too.

Elephant Complex is full of marvelous events like this. You need them to offset the accounts of the civil war. The elephant pathways that crisscross the interior of the country are little understood and are believed to be ancient. Elephants will not use them for years, and then mysteriously start down them again. To Gimlette they are a metaphor for the complex folkways of Sri Lankans that can never be fully known, not even to Sri Lankans. And yet, despite the war, the mistrust and the plethora of social ills, to Gimlette, Sri Lanka is today “an educated, democratic and essentially humane society.” I could go on highlighting the contradictions unearthed in this book, the marvels and the arresting beauty. But I wouldn’t want to tell too much for fear that you might read this review and feel you can skip the book. You really wouldn’t want to fail to read it. I’ve only given a glimpse of this stunning country. I now want to go there some day. That’s one for Gimlette. Until then, this will make an excellent substitute. That’s another.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Bards & Brews: Spotlight on Poet Michael Harriot

Michael Harriot performing during Bards & Brews at the Central Library 

Michael Harriot is a poet, a full-time feature writer at The Root, a prolific podcaster, and a YouTube personality.  He regularly performs at Bards & Brews as well as other spoken word poetry events around town - and around the country.

How long have you been performing spoken word poetry?

I first performed spoken word on May 18, 1994, in a clothing store in Auburn, Alabama called Behind the Glass. I had always written poetry but had never performed it until I had the bright idea to host a poetry night during my fraternity's (Omega Psi Phi) week of activities.

I haven't performed continuously since then, because I've moved a million places, lived outside the country and strayed away from performing (never writing) at times.

Since moving to Birmingham in 2008 I have performed regularly.

Who are some of the poets or writers that have had the most impact on you?

My mother was probably my first inspiration. She was a writer, and she homeschooled my sisters and me, so she formed the base of who I read as a youngster. I go through phases with "favorite" writers. I was a Mark Twain fan until I went to college. I became entranced with Chester Himes and the entire Harlem Renaissance in college. Then Amiri Baraka. The Beat Poets. The Glass Family series by J.D. Salinger.

For the past few years I'd have to say my favorite is Paul Beatty -- whose style of both prose and poetry echo my own, but I admittedly cherry-pick things from everyone I read.

Which of your poem's has had an unexpected reaction by an audience?

Unlike a lot of performance artists, I don't ask for the audience to like or sympathize with me, which is freeing in its own particular way. I acknowledge that I have a tendency to provoke, so much of my work doesn't attempt to explain or rationalize. It seeks to lay anger, fear or any other emotion on the table and unapologetically say "here it is. Make of it what you will."

I perform a piece called "Of Jesus and Amnesia, or: Why Black People Tend To Forget" that addresses black people's historical ability to forgive the atrocities committed against them, and why the world should be grateful for that "superpower." It usually evokes a strong response from both sides. I performed it in a poetry slam once and a judge gave me a 0.0. writing "commie" underneath it. I travel around the country often and I have yet to meet another poet who has received a zero for a poem.

Do you have a request of the readers of this interview? 

Anyone reading this should attend a poetry event if they have never attended one, and if they have, they should take it upon themselves to bring someone with them who has never attended a poetry event.

Do you have anything you would like to promote?

I have a digital magazine called NegusWhoRead, I am a full-time feature writer for The Root, host  of "The Black One" podcast as well as a Game of Thrones review web series called "Dem Thrones." I also designed and sell the 'Black AF' t-shirt (among others) and it can be purchased at Need That Tee.

Steps to Starting Your Business Seminar Scheduled for July 10 at Central Library

What: "Steps to Starting Your Business" seminar
When: Monday, July 10, 2017
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Arrington Auditorium, 4th floor
Details: Registration required

The Birmingham Public Library, in conjunction with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the City of Birmingham’s Office of Economic Development, will again be hosting the monthly seminar Steps to Starting Your Business, from June to November 2017. The seminar is scheduled to be held on the following Mondays from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in the Arrington Auditorium, which is located on the 4th floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library: September 11, October 2, and November 6. No seminar will be held during the month of August.

Each seminar will cover the same topics, but those who are interested are welcome to attend more than one day. Topics covered will include crafting a vision statement, identifying sources of funding, determining the legal structure of your business, devising a business plan, and investigating sources of business and economic information. Please register for the seminars by contacting Andy Mayo in the Economic Development Office at or 205-254-2774.

Seminar presenters will be veteran mentors from the local chapter of SCORE. SCORE is a national nonprofit association consisting of volunteers with business skills and experience who want to share their knowledge with prospective entrepreneurs and small business owners. For over 50 years, SCORE mentors have helped millions of Americans start and grow their own businesses.

For further information about the seminars or about resources available at the Birmingham Public Library relating to small business development, please contact Jim Murray in the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department at or by phoning 205-226-3691.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Art is Life

by Alisha Johsnon, Manager, Ensley Branch Library

Ensley Library art wall

The staff at the Ensley Branch Library is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bring more life and creativity through our doors, and in an attempt to do just that, we toyed with the question of what can we do today to playfully explore the artist in us all? And after assessing the needs in our building as well as in the community, we decided that an art wall would be a great idea. We enjoyed the ability to be authentic and the freedom to be as creative as we wanted in an effort to create something great!

We strive to interact with our patrons with the intentions of bringing out the artist in them. We want them to use their imaginations and create something great, especially if it is a better “YOU.” Our library would love nothing more than for our patrons to come through our doors, feel welcomed, and let their minds be free; free to create, free to imagine, and free to love. We have been able to bring out beautiful things in a space where nothing existed before!

Check out these interesting library resources:
Art by Karen Salmansohn
Art by Robert Cumming
Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, and Discipline by Mark Rosenthal

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Improve Your Job Hunting Prospects at the Central Library’s Vocational Readiness Workshops Series

by Jim Murray, Department Head, Business, Science and Technology Department

What: Vocational Readiness workshop series
When: Every Friday in July, August, and September 2017
Time: 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Central Library, Linn-Henley Research Library, Regional Library Computer Center, 4th floor
Details: The series consists of four workshops:  (1) Vocational Introduction Readiness Workshop, (2) Resume Builder, (3) New Age Online Application Process, and (4) Interview Bootcamp

Choosing a career is not any easy undertaking. Likewise, once you’ve chosen a career, finding a job can be a pretty difficult task as well. When you consider that throughout your lifetime you spend more hours at your job than you do anywhere else, you really need to put the time and effort into making good decisions in regards to career selection and job searching. This is not only true for young people who are entering the job market for the first time, but also for adults who are either reentering the job market after an absence, looking for a new job, or are contemplating a career change. If you fall into any of these categories, then you should plan to attend the Birmingham Public Library’s Vocational Readiness workshops.

A series of four Vocational Readiness workshops will be held at the Central Library on every Friday in July, August, and September. Each of the workshops will cover a different part of the job searching process, but participants are encouraged to attend all four because each builds on the content presented in the previous one. Here are the descriptions of the individual workshops and the days that they will be offered:

Vocational Introduction Readiness Workshop provides an individual assessment of personal and professional goals, aspirations, and skills to help determine your best job fit. 1st Friday of each month (July 7, August 4, September 1)

Resume Builder is designed to assist individuals with creating an effective resume that will function as a powerful tool in achieving gainful employment. 2nd Friday of each month (July 14, August 11, September 8)

New Age Online Application Process offers tips and suggestions to guide all job seekers in successfully completing online employment applications. 3rd Friday of each month (July 21, August 18, September 15)

Interview Bootcamp teaches techniques to help you emphasize your skills, overcome objections, and build rapport with your job interviewer. 4th Friday of each month (July 28, August 25, September 22)

The workshops presenter is Tina Thornton. Tina is a professional counselor and founder of Gem Kreations, a nonprofit organization committed to assisting those who have experienced adverse circumstances realize their full personal and professional potential.

For more information about the workshops, please contact Jim Murray of the Central Library’s Business, Science and Technology Department by email at or by calling 205-226-3691.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Review: The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

by Lorraine Walker, Librarian, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple
Jeff Guinn

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” is a phrase that usually means don’t believe everything that you’re told. However, in the case of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, its meaning is literal.

On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones instructed all members living in the Jonestown, Guyana, compound to commit an act of "revolutionary suicide" by drinking poisoned punch. In all, 918 people died that day, nearly a third were children.

The Jonestown Massacre was the most deadly single non-natural disaster in U.S. history until the September 11 attack.

The Jonestown Massacre also remains the only time in history in which a U.S. congressman (Leo Ryan) was killed in the line of duty.

Author Jeff Guinn, author of the bestseller Mansion, has delivered the ultimate resource of the subject. It reads like the best fiction thriller you have ever known. You will not want to stop until you finish. Reserve your copy today.

For the record, it was cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Southern History Book of the Month: Gone with the Wind: David O. Selznick’s Production of Margaret Mitchell’s Story of the Old South

by Mary Anne Ellis, Librarian, Southern History Department, Central Library

Gone with the Wind: David O. Selznick’s Production of Margaret Mitchell’s Story of the Old South

On June 30, 1936, Gone with the Wind was published and the life of the author, an Atlanta reporter named Margaret Mitchell, would never be the same again. Her epic novel became a bestseller and won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But what was uppermost in the minds of many of the fans was . . . who will be cast in the movie? The search for Scarlett that culminated in the casting of Vivien Leigh is a well-known piece of cinematic legend. After many delays the film finally premiered in Atlanta in December of 1939, accompanied by a lush and colorful program filled with information about the film and the stars, including personal takes from the actors that give fascinating insights into the process of bringing the novel to the big screen. For many members of the reading public, Clark Gable simply was Rhett Butler and no one else would do, but Gable confesses that he was none too eager to play the role:
My reaction to playing Rhett Butler is both frank and simple. “The condemned man ate a hearty meal.” Now don’t get me wrong. As an actor, I loved it. As a character, he was terrific. As material for the screen, he was that “once in a lifetime” opportunity. But as Clark Gable, who likes to pick his spots and found himself trapped by a series of circumstances over which he had no control, I was scared stiff. 

Vivien Leigh also has some interesting commentary on what it was like to be caught up in the phenomenon of “Scarlett fever”:
There were dozens of girls testing, and I did not seriously consider that I might actually play the part. Yet once it was decided upon I discovered that there was no joking about playing Scarlett. From then on, I was swept along as though by a powerful wave—it was Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett, night and day, month after month.

The artwork and design of the program clearly reflect the era. On the cover, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler stands out as a broad-shouldered figure in black, but the women who swirl about him in colorful gowns are very much in the 1930s style of artwork that could come from an ad for cosmetics or high-end perfume. And speaking of those colorful gowns, we learn in the "Facts About the Production" pages that “more than 5500 separate items of wardrobe were required to be designed by Walter Plunkett, for which he had to draw more than 400 sketches”—a task made even more complicated by the progress of women’s styles from the hoopskirts of the Civil War years to the bustled gowns of the Reconstruction era.

A final sign of the times appears on the back cover, in which we learn that the program is sold in theatres showing the film and may be purchased at 25 cents a copy. A quarter would certainly buy more then than it would now! This gorgeous program is indeed a relic of a different era, when a night out at the movies was a genuine occasion—and this occasion made film history.

Fans of both the novel and the film would enjoy this time-capsule item about the transition of Gone with the Wind from page to screen.

For more information:
Gone with the Wind full text online – and
Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Gone with the Wind
Roger Ebert’s review of Gone with the Wind
Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress
Trivia and Fun Facts About Gone with the Wind
Gowns, Illustrations and More—The Making of Gone With the Wind

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Society of Alabama Archivists and Birmingham Public Library Call for Nominations for Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award

by Jim Baggett, Head, Archives and Manuscripts Department

Dr. Marvin Whiting, BPL archivist, 1975-1996
The Awards Committee of the Society of Alabama Archivists calls for nominations for the 2017 Marvin Yeomans Whiting Award. Named for Marvin Whiting, the Birmingham Public Library's first archivist and a pioneer in the professionalization of archives in Alabama, this award recognizes individuals, organizations, or institutions that have made a significant contribution to the preservation and dissemination of local history in Alabama. The award recognizes the preservation of historic documents and oral history but not buildings, historic sites, or artifacts. The Birmingham Public Library co-sponsors the award.

The award was created in 2012 and the past recipients are Ed Bridges, retired director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History; Elizabeth Wells, former head of Special Collections at Samford University; Coll’ette King of the Mobile County Probate Court; Bobby Joe Seals of the Shelby County Museum and Archives; and Tom Turley of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

The deadline for nominations is July 28, 2017, and the award will be presented at the Society of Alabama Archivists Annual Meeting at the University of Alabama on October 13, 2017.

For more information and to access the nomination form, visit the SALA web site at

Questions may be directed to:
Jim Baggett, Head
Department of Archives and Manuscripts
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203
205-226-3631 (voice), 205-226-3633 (fax)

Book Review: Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

by Tressa Fancher, Library Assistant III, Web Services, Central Library

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation
Miles Hyman

Shirley Jackson has been one of my favorite dark fiction writers ever since her classic short story "The Lottery" was assigned reading in 7th grade lit class and that ending caught my young self quite by surprise. And while there's not much new to say about it that hasn't already been said in scholarly articles and English essays it seems, I was psyched when I learned that it was being turned into a graphic novel by Jackson's grandson and couldn't wait to experience it in a new light.

For those who don't know the "most famous short story ever written," "The Lottery" was published in the June 26, 1948, issue of The New Yorker magazine. It depicts a small, rural community that continues on with a traditional, brutal lottery that dates so far back, the origin is a mystery to some of its participants, as is evident when one of the oldest members vaguely remembers that there used to be a saying—"Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon."

Shirley Jackson was shocked at the hate mail she received for the story, and even her own mother chastised her for being one of those doom-and-gloom young people and why couldn't she write an uplifting story to cheer people up?
"The children assembled first, of course."

Miles Hyman's illustrations at times have an old-timey sepia tone that emphasizes the backward nature of a town holding steadfast to a we've-always-done-it-this-way tradition that neighboring towns have discontinued. The tension as the sun rises on June 27 is palpable in the behavior of the anxious and excited townsfolk as the elders dust off the box, the women finish household chores, and the children go searching for the weightiest rocks.

The book includes an interesting biographical preface by Hyman. Although he was only three when Jackson died, she left an impression on him with her big presence and the things she surrounded herself with in her Victorian home in Vermont, such as the stacks of books on the occult and ancient civilizations, and her gramophone and collection of jazz records. I loved reading about the cocktail parties Shirley and her husband threw for famous writers (she was once chased around the house by a drunk Dylan Thomas).

So glad to have this in my graphic novel collection!

Read the full short story "The Lottery" at

Review of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle

If you're not into graphic novels because you associate them with superheroes—and you're not into those either—please rethink this because there are so many wonderful graphic novels you may enjoy that are biographical in nature or that deal with topical social issues. This list contains several such graphic novels that Birmingham Public Library staff have liked enough to post reviews about:

The Baby-Sitters Club
El Deafo
Fahrenheit 451
Fun Home
Mr. Wonderful
Solomon Kane

Anybody else excited about To Kill a Mockingbird being made into a graphic novel?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Reading for the Super Busy Family

by Ellen Griffin Shade, Circulation Manager, Avondale Regional Branch Library

created by Freepik

Summer can be such a busy and exciting time—swimming, camps, vacation, summer reading events at the library. In fact, summer can be so busy that reading can get lost in the shuffle.

Here are some strategies to keep reading a part of your busy family life:

Multi-tasking Mom (and Dad) – Make time for reading for yourself! Parents who read have kids who read. Check out a few paperbacks to read at the beach. And if you don’t have time for the traditional beach read, try multitasking—download an audiobook from Hoopla or Overdrive to your smartphone and listen while you drive, watch the kids, or cook dinner.

Reading routines – Bedtime stories are a perfect example of including reading in your daily routine. Try asking the kids to read you a story for a change. You can also incorporate reading into other routines. Try reading bath-, beach- or water-themed books during bath time. Do you enjoy family movie night? Read a related story together before or after the video. Going on a car trip? Check out some audiobooks you can all enjoy together during the trip.

Act it out – Make reading part of playtime. Try reading and acting out a simple story together. Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy books are great for this. Let the kids assign parts and put on a show.

Think outside the (fiction) box – Try different genres based on your kids’ interests and incorporate reading into their favorite activities. Is your kid a joker? Try joke books. Do you have a budding superhero in the house? Try (age-appropriate) comic books. Do you have an artist on your hands? Try art instruction books and artist’s biographies. Are your kids into dinosaurs? Do they want to build robots? Travel in space? Be the next MasterChef? There are books for every interest.

Backseat buddies – I keep books in the backseat of the car for the kids. This gives them a way to entertain themselves while I chauffer them around. Sometimes my oldest reads me a story while I’m driving.

Campfire stories – Sometimes we camp out, and sometimes we just pretend to camp out in the living room. (The boys like eating marshmallows whether we’re actually roasting them or just sticking them on drinking straws and holding them next to the camp lantern.) This is another great opportunity—no electronic distractions, and reading spooky stories by flashlight is just so much more, well, spooky.

If you can’t beat them, join them – If your kids would rather watch a video, roll with it. Turn on the closed captions so they can read along. Hearing the words spoken while they’re reading helps to reinforce learning. And if they enjoy playing on a mobile device, try interactive e-books and reading apps like TumbleBook. And don’t stop there—find library books about the movies, games, and characters they love to enhance the experience. I’ve found that my son will voluntarily stop playing Minecraft long enough to read a book about Minecraft.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with it. If you and your kids enjoy reading now, you’re well on your way to raising life-long readers.

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