Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confessions of a Non-Reading Child

Jean Todesca is a children's librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin on May 25.

If you ever told me that I would grow up to be a librarian, I would have looked at you cross-eyed. It is still hard for me to believe the profession that I have chosen and how much I love it.

Tomboy, “rough and tumble” and constant motion are the terms I use to describe my younger self. The thought of sitting down and reading seemed like such a waste of time.

My brothers and sisters loved to read and would easily spend as far as I was concerned a “LAZY” afternoon enjoying a good book. Why sit around when there was so much to do and see? I’d be outside riding my bike or throwing a ball. Maybe I’d read a comic book that my brother left on the bathroom floor, but that was the extent of my pleasure reading.

For school assignments, I would choose the shortest and easiest possible book for reports. I still remember I read almost every book in the series, What is a Pig?; What is a Dog?; What is a Cow?. I think they had only 40 pages tops and I was in the 5th grade! If there was an incentive reading chart in the classroom, as long as I had a few stars on it, I felt I had made the proper effort.

This is the background that I bring to my position of Children’s Librarian. Often parents will say their child won’t read and they’re frustrated. I totally understand: My Mom couldn’t get me to read either. There is a twist to this story. As an adult and young adult, I became an avid reader. It happened slowly over time. First with reading in bits and bytes, I read magazines, newspapers and comic books. In time, short stories in magazines caught my interest.

If I enjoyed a short story, I would look to see if the author had other works and soon I was on to novels. I remember reading The Shining by Stephen King on cloudy days while life guarding on the Cape, and being so engrossed that I hoped the weather wouldn’t clear up. So, parents I know it is hard, but do not fret.

Here is my advice for parents. Any reading is OK whether your child is reading magazines, cereal boxes, comics or small books. Always try to find a hook, something that will draw your child’s attention. Often I recommend a high interest graphic novel or comic which comes in a series for example The Adventures of TinTin because the reader always wants the next one. Once your child sees some value in reading, then he or she can be guided to try more complex works. Also, don’t forget nonfiction section, children love to read about real things.

There are many titles designed for casual reading with pictures and captions that will not overwhelm your reluctant reader. Be a positive role model, read for pleasure in front of your children. Just remember we all find our path to reading in many ways and if one thing doesn’t work try something else. Happy Reading! P.S. I’m currently reading 3 books at once. Not bad for a nonreader!

Read more: Morrill Memorial Library: Confessions of a non-reading child - Norwood, MA - Norwood Bulletin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Clubs are Everywhere!

Shelby Warner is a part-time Reference Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin on May 19.

Be alert! Book clubs are everywhere. In a world where so much information is so easily obtained through electronic devices, it sometimes surprises us to realize that many people still love to read. Many of those readers have found great enjoyment and mental stimulation by joining book clubs.

Oprah Winfrey gave a boost to such clubs when she began promoting books on her show. She invited viewers to read the selected books and talk about them with friends, then watch her show at a later date when the books would be discussed. The effort not only made viewers aware of “serious contemporary novels” but also gave them the confidence and skill to tackle more “formidable titles.”

Book clubs, of course, have been around for a long time. . My husband belongs to the Fugitive Bill Literary Society which has met monthly for 22 years. Members come and go but there is a core group who were charter members. They have amassed an impressive list of books, the first being The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas and the most recent being Something from the Oven by Laura Shapiro. My husband credits the long existence of this club to the fact that they have both men and women in the group. On the other hand, one of my colleagues belongs to a group which has met for 20 years and they are all women.

I am a member of the Blue/Gray Book Club, the brain child of my 17 year-old grandson who thought we should have a family book club. So, several of us said, “Choose a book.” He chose The Stranger by Albert Camus. Since then, we have read books by Faulkner, O’Connor and Hardy among others. Early in our reading, my sister in Georgia learned about the club on Facebook and asked if she could read along with us. We said, “Sure, why not?” Soon, a friend of hers in Florida asked to join, and eventually two of her friends became members. So, the Blue/Gray Book Club was born.. Much of our discussion is held online, but we have met in both the North and the South. It is great fun, especially our last meeting in Port St. Joe, Florida.

Each book club is unique and seems to develop its own personality. My sister-in-law in New York state belongs to a group brought together by a retired teacher. They meet monthly and books are chosen by concensus. Some of their recent selections have been Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. The wine and snacks they once served have become full fledged dinners based on the book. The members come from varied backgrounds and political persuasions which makes for lively discussions. The primary question for them, however, seems to be, “Which is more important, the book or the meal?”

If you are interested in reading and discussing books, you might want to bring together your own group of friends, or participate in an established club. The First Thursday Book Discussion Group which meets at the library is led by reference librarian Margot Sullivan. It meets both morning and evening on the first Thursday of the month from October to May. Margot has many stories to tell regarding this club of 23 years, one of them being about an 80 year old member who has ridden her bike from Milton for 15-20 years in order to participate. They have enjoyed “excellent discussions” on classics like The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy and contemporary novels such as A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Norwood Young Professionals Book Club also meets at the library. Meetings begin with an hour of book trivia games followed by a second hour of book discussion. The last book read was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and the next selection is The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. “This is a developing book group. Drop-ins are welcome!”

The library co-sponsors The Norwood Young Readers Award for 4th and 5th graders established seven years ago by Paula McMullen of the Norwood Schools. Books are chosen by a committee and discussed during meetings at the library. At the end of the year the children vote on their favorite book. They are enthusiastic about being a part of NYRA and, for some, participation has become a family tradition. Both teachers and librarians “feel fortunate to be a part of this annual reading program that extends and expands students’ reading interests and knowledge of different authors.” If you’d like to know more, talk to Kelly Unsworth, Children’s librarian.

As you can see, book clubs can be both fun and mentally stimulating. If this article whets your appetite for starting your own group, you can get help. Two helpful web sites are and The first includes the article “How to Start a Book Club” by Erin Miller. The second has an excerpt from Rachel Jacobsohn’s The Reading Group Handbook: “Ten Tips for Starting and Running a Successful Book Club.” Let us help you get started on this venture with books and resources available in the library and through the Minuteman Library Network. Happy Reading!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Must Reads: Non-Fiction

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Every year in late December boxes and boxes of books arrive on the doorsteps of twelve dedicated (and perhaps masochistic) readers. They are the judges for the annual Massachusetts Center for the Book awards. There are three judges in each of four categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s.

The criteria are simple for a book to be judged in one of those categories. It must be written about a Massachusetts topic and/or be written by a Massachusetts author during the previous year (in this case, 2010.)

It is amazing how many books each year center on a topic that relates to Massachusetts. It is equally amazing how many wonderful authors call Massachusetts home. Many of our colleges and universities boast scholars and professors who find a home base in our state. In addition, the lure of our coastline inspires many authors to nestle into a prolific existence and spend their days and nights writing fine literature and memoirs.

Over eighty non-fiction books were entered into consideration this year. A grueling process began as the books arrived, were read, discussed and compared. By the beginning of April only twelve could remain to make up the list of ‘Must Reads Non-Fiction 2011.’ These twelve books were announced at a reception at the annual Massachusetts Library Association conference in Danvers on April 26.

The books on the list include some impressive books of national acclaim. Perhaps the most highly reviewed is “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migrationby Pulitzer-Prize winner author Isabel Wilkerson. This is a narrative of the Great Migration, the journey of African Americans from the United States south to cities in the North and West in the early half of the twentieth century as told by three individual lives, those of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling and Robert Foster.

Bruce Watson’sFreedom Summer: The Savage Season that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy” tells the story of hundreds of courageous black and white American citizens who struggled for the rights of the black voter in the South. The book creates a new face for the historical events of the summer of 1964.

Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre” by University of Massachusetts professor Heather Cox Richardson also visits historical familiar territory. The 1890 massacre of 300 Lakota Sioux by United States soldiers is a series of events tragically affected by politics, unwise decisions, extreme rhetoric and yellow journalism.

First Family: Abigail and John Adams” by Joseph Ellis is an historical and romantic narrative of a marriage and a family. Abigail Adams is not only the mother who raises John Adam’s children, but also the wife who longs for her husband. She was a woman who truly supported from afar this brilliant man who was devoted to the founding of the American nation.

Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America” by Benjamin Carp examines relevant issues for both the English and the Colonists in the lead-up to the Boston Tea Party and the onset of the Revolutionary War. It is a well-known story told in new detail.

In 2007-2008 local author Sebastian Junger embedded himself with American soldiers in Afghanistan for 15 months. His book “War” is a powerful account of war as a conflict and personal experience.

Several memoirs were included in the final cut of Must Reads 2011. Motherhood sometimes includes grief with the joy, and trials with the pride. Marianne Leone’s Jesse: A Mother’s Story of Grief, Grace and Everyday Bliss describes the “challenges faced in a family raising an honor-roll student trapped by Cerebral Palsy in a quadriplegic body.

Normal Mailer made his home in Provincetown during the last years of his life. Author Dwayne Raymond chronicles that story in a very intimate and loving view and he invites all of us to share in some of those tender moments at the end of the life of this man of great genius and intellect in “Mornings with Mailer".

My personal favorites included two books. “The Great Penguin Rescue: 40,000 Penguins, a Devastating Oil Spill, and the Inspiring Story of the World’s Largest Animal Rescue” was written by Dyan deNapoli who chronicles the amazing story of 75,000 dedicated volunteers. They not only rescued 19,000 oiled penguins but they also saved 20,000 more from sharing a similar fate after a tragic oil spill off the coast of Africa. Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee is a fascinating account of the mental illness that affects “hoarders,” those unfortunate souls who lose their health, their families, their marriages and their lives to an obsession with collecting and storing things, no matter what the cost to quality of life.

The question at the center of “Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age” by William Powers is whether or not technology helps or “destroys civilization.” Included in this account are examinations of the Gutenberg printing press and present-day personal devices such as computers and smart phones.

The most beautiful book included on the list is “Schooner: Building a Wooden Boat on Martha's Vineyard.” In text by Tom Dunlop and photos by Alison Shaw, Schooner “introduces us to a small Massachusetts shipyard which builds boats in the traditional way.

Later this summer after more circumspection and discussion, debate and argument only one of those 12 will be chosen as best of the Massachusetts Center for the Book Non Fiction

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for all library materials please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

M is for Mother's Day

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin this week.
Somehow it seems fitting that my debut article for the Norwood Transcript falls around Mother’s Day. While some folks love the treats and tricks of Halloween or the long stem roses of Valentine’s Day, I’d trade them all for a simple homemade card on Mother’s Day.
Like many of you I feel a special something for all the wonderful mothers out there. My hat goes off to them: working moms, stay-at-home moms, retired moms, adopted moms, foster moms, two- in-the-morning-wake-up-moms. Still I have a special place in my heart for the woman who is often forgotten this time of year—the not-yet mother. It’s during those waiting years that the not-yet mother wonders if her deepest desire will ever be fulfilled.

I’ll never forget the despondency a woman may feel when faced with a future without children. For five years I was that not-yet mother and Mother’s Day was one of the hardest holidays to endure. It became one of those dreaded Sundays when I felt surrounded by beaming parents who couldn’t relate to a childless couple. There was one Mother’s Day that stands out, however.

Fearing the typical church service paying homage to motherhood, while at the same time overwhelmed with guilt for such resentment, I hunkered down in the pew next to my husband. I knew what was coming.

That’s when Reverend Robert Davidson began preaching about Hannah—another not-yet mother. I was shocked. Someone had actually noticed my pain, and that someone had put aside the needs of the majority for the needs of one. It was as if a floodgate had been opened. My situation wasn’t new. There were women centuries ago who’d also endured the same.

It is sometimes in the darkest moments of life that rebirth comes. I had always loved to write, but suddenly I found a new voice. I didn’t have the energy for short stories or novels, but poetry poured from my soul. Writing became healing. While there was much I couldn’t control, I could write. My thoughts. The pen. The paper. Those were under my influence. I was so consumed with writing that before I knew it I had two births…one to a beautiful baby girl, the other to my first collection of poetry: Laughter in My Tent.

Peggy Orenstein can relate. In her memoir, Waiting for Daisy, she poignantly addresses the topic of infertility. Orenstein’s subtitle says it all: “A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, and Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman’s Quest to Become a Mother.” That title alone beckoned me to read this true to life love story. At times humorous and wrenching, Orenstein takes her readers through the courageous account of her journey to motherhood.

And no, after this long wait, none of us becomes perfect mothers. But hopefully, we become appreciative ones. There are things we’ll never forget: first steps, first teeth, first silly giggles at the water swirling down the drain, or bubbles in the sand box. Through a collection of essays Because I Love Her highlights the bond between mothers and daughters. These personal stories reveal life lessons imparted by mothers. One of my favorite essays is by Katherine Center. Entitled “Things to Remember Not to Forget.” These first lines will give you a taste of her humorous voice: “At our house, for our kids, who are two and five, everything is better with a big side order of Naked. Jumping on the bed is good, but Naked Jumping is better. Hiding in the closet is good, but Naked Hiding is better….The only thing, in fact, that’s not better naked is bathing, which is far better done with socks on.”

It’s a happy mother who embraces a sock bath. Eww. I believe pediatrician Meg Meeker, M.D., would approve. In her book The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers, Meeker encourages mothers to reclaim their passion, purpose and sanity. Is that possible? By the end of the book, you’ll be a believer too. As my wise Uncle Norman used to say, a habit is hard to break. If you take away the “H,” you still have “a bit.” Take away the “A,” you still have a “bit.” All the way down to the “it.” But Meeker delves into habits that are worth keeping. From faith to solitude, friendship to finance, Meeker shares practical steps to becoming a fulfilled mother.

And for all of those mothers who are able to find pockets of solitude, how about a light mystery? Mother's Day Murder (a Lucy Stone mystery), by Leslie Meier, might be just the right read to keep in your back pocket. According to Library Journal Review, “Small-town life in Maine should be quiet and safe, but feuding families, high-school bullying, and the murder of a missing 16-year-old girl makes Tinker's Cove residents overprotective of their children and suspicious of one other. Another murder places Lucy Stone, part-time reporter and mother of four, in the thick of things.”

As for me, I’ll be reading The Night Before Mother’s Day, by Natasha Wing, to my two daughters. You’re never too old for picture books, right? In this sweet story, a mother finds all she needs for a perfect holiday right at home: a homemade cake, a homemade spa treatment and lots of love. That is, after all, what I’m wishing for all the moms and future moms out there…a chance to stop, pause and embrace those moments in life worth treasuring. Happy Mother’s Day!