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Family Literacy All Year Round

January 17, 2017 | Sheilah | Comments (2)

If you have been following the library on Twitter this month, you'll have seen some tips about bring literacy into your everyday activities.

Sometimes it is as simple as singing silly songs together in the car. Or while you wait in line someplace like a grocery store, play "Would you rather":

Would your child rather sleep in or stay up late?
Would you rather have breakfast in bed or get your child's room cleaned up?

The possibilities are endless! When you are reading together, make it even more enjoyable by challenging each reader to use a funny voice. Or stop before turning the page and guess what the next sentence will be.

These take no extra supplies and can be done almost anywhere. Other family activities are almost as easy.

Take book spine writing for instance. Toronto Public Library has been doing it for years and you can do it too.

Make it short and sweet,

All year long reading together_edited-1

or silly,

When I went to the library

or even sillier!



Remember, just because we highlight family literacy once a year doesn't mean it stops at the end of January. Make it part of your family's life year-round.

And in the meantime, take advantage of the many activities we are offering this month.                

Friends of an Imaginary Nature

January 6, 2017 | Jennifer | Comments (2)

Books honour imaginary friends and acknowledge a child’s desire for social dramatic play. Having an imaginary friend as a child has even been linked to increased creativity and better social skills later in life –- definitely something to celebrate. Although some plots depict the imaginary friend in search of a lonely child to perk up, children with imaginary friends are not necessarily lonelier.  They may be using the pretend friend to make sense of their world.  What better thing than books to help normalize this experience?



Children enjoy talking about their imaginary friends, but developmental psychologists caution parents about getting so involved to the point of taking over a child’s narrative. Just like a forgotten Kunffle Bunny, an imaginary friend can get left behind in the shuffle, which you’ll notice in “We Forgot Brock!” It can be useful to play along in these scenarios, even to the point of leaving space in the car for the imaginary friend to sit.

Soren Lorensen is Lola’s invisible friend, made invisible only after drinking a special potion. The author, Lauren Child, develops the character of Soren Lorensen just as much as the other supporting characters in the series, which helps many kids relate. 


Sometimes the imaginary friend(s) arrives in times of strife to provide guidance and support.   


In other titles, the imaginary friend is a spirit animal, or maybe even…a squash! Ok fine, Sophie’s squash is hardly imaginary, but she names it Bernice and protects her veggie companion from getting cooked. Unless the book's characters are in a fantasy land where a squash speaks and a moose can be a pet, then you can use such books to talk about pretend friends with your child.


     Image result for this moose belongs to me 

These dreamlike classics could be used to explore the landscape of imaginary friends as well.


Imaginary friends provide the "what if?" factor required for a lot of our favourite stories. If you can think of other stories, please share below.

Five Fun Things to Do During Family Literacy Month

January 3, 2017 | Diane | Comments (0)

Family literacy tpl logoWhat's so great about parents and kids reading, writing and learning together? Families who have fun reading and learning together develop important skills, grow closer together and value lifelong learning. While you don't need to wait for a special holiday to celebrate, Family Literacy Day is January 27th, so come join us at Toronto Public Library, where we're celebrating all month long!

Here are five fun things you and your kids can do together to help kick off the festivities:

1. Read a book

Even if your kids can already read well on their own, it's important for them to continue to hear books read aloud. Are you looking for some new titles to try out together? Check out our great booklist for some ideas, or visit your local branch to browse the shelves or get recommendations from our friendly staff.

2. Come to a library program

There are plenty of free programs for your family to enjoy at our branches throughout the month. You'll find our Family Literacy Month listings here.

3. Play Family Literacy Bingo

Another fun part of Family Literacy Month at the library is our Family Literacy Bingo contest. Download a Family Literacy Bingo card now, or pick one up at your local library branch. Complete all of the literacy tasks outlined on the card, then submit it to your library branch for a chance to win one of four Family Fun Packs, which includes two books and two board games. For an extra chance to win, enter our #FamilyLiteracyBingo contest on social media. More details can be found here

Family literacy bingo card

4. Speaking of games... 

Play one! There are many terrific board, card, word and number games out there, but one that is popular in my family is Sight Word Slap. You might also want to check out a book on games to find a new favourite. 

5. Try a science experiment

Science experiments are not only fun, but are great tools for encouraging families to work together, talk and share their ideas. One that's easy, delightfully messy and entertaining is Oobleck. Made with cornstarch and water, your kids will love the solid to liquid transformation and can experiment by adding colour and dissolving objects (like leftover candy canes from last month) in the goopy stuff. Encourage your kids to measure out the ingredients, predict what they think will happen when everything is mixed together, and use their senses as they play with their creation.

Sight word slap
"Sight Word Slap" with cards bought at the dollar store

Do you have other suggestions that you think families might enjoy? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Happy Family Literacy Day!


New Year's Celebrations for Families at the Library

December 24, 2016 | Nalini | Comments (0)

Do you have party plans yet? We've been planning parties all across the city just for you and your family. We'll be indoors counting down to noon, who wants to be outside with kids at midnight, anyway?



Celebrate the beginning of 2017 with us at select library locations across the city. Join us for a countdown, dance party, storytime, and/or crafts perfect for the family! 

Wherever you are, there will be a library in your area of the city ready to party with you! We'll have confetti and tunes at these library locations:

West Toronto:

South Toronto:

East Toronto:

North Toronto:

Make sure you check the listings to find out what each location has planned. Each party will be different, so choose wisely!

If you can't join us for a party, check out one of these titles instead:



Happy New Year!



Singing in the Holidays

December 24, 2016 | Katherine McG | Comments (0)

Musical notesSing we joyous, all together...

Celebrating with song is a tradition in many holidays.  Based on the 2016 calendar, some people will be celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah at the same time this year and so it seemed like a perfect time for everyone to burst in to joyous song.

Here are few suggestions of books that you can read sing in celebration...

Book Cover: Walking in a Winter Wonderland  Book Cover: Over The River & Through the Woods  Book Cover: This Little Piggy Went Singing

Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Richard B. Smith and Felix Bernard (Ages: 0-5)

Over the River & Through the Woods: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman (Ages: 3-8)

This Little Piggy Went Singing by Margaret Wild (Ages: 2-5)


Book Cover: Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!  Book Cover: Honeyky Hanukah  Book Cover: Hanukkah Haiku
Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! Illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov (Ages: 0-6)

Honeyky Hanukah by Woody Guthrie (Ages: 3-6)

Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert (Ages: 3-8)


Book Cover: 12 Days of Christmas by Jane Cabrera  Book Cover: 12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora  Book Cover: A Porcupine in a Pine Tree
12 Days of Christmas by Jane Cabrera (Ages: 2-5)

12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora (Ages: 3-8)

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas by Helaine Becker (Ages: 3-8)

So sing, celebrate, and enjoy the holiday season!

...Fa La La La La, La-La La La Musical notes


Making Community K’Nex-ions

December 20, 2016 | Katherine McG | Comments (0)

Life is full of ups and downs and undoubtedly it is the connections that we make within our communities that help us to enjoy its awesome ride.

K'Nex Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster at Bridlewood Branch

A wonderful example of this recently took shape at the Bridlewood Branch thanks to the generosity and hard work of many different customers from all over our community who came together to create a K'Nex "Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster".

On both November 18 and December 2, 2016, children woke up early not to go to school (both the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board schools were closed those days) but to go to their local library to participate in this special K'Nex Maker Program.  Approximately 20 people each Friday, including the children and some of their adult caregivers, worked together to build two different versions of this amazing coaster.

People working together to put together the K'Nex Roller Coaster.

And this project was put into motion not only by people working together, but also because another member of our community generously donated the materials! Angela Wong, Senior Library Assistant at Bridlewood Branch, explains:

"After running After-School Club, [Bridlewood] always displays kids' projects in the library. A patron came to us and showed her interest in donating her Screaming Serpent Roller Coaster to Bridlewood Branch. She said she purchased it for her son years ago but her son is grown up now. They both believed that 'the library can make better use of the roller coaster.'"

Bridlewood's K'Nex Clubs are certainly continuing to make quite an impression.

K'Nex Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster configured in a different way.

And the roller coaster itself continues to attract a lot of attention with people of all ages stopping to take a look and to add their voice to the growing chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs" as they watch the cars zoom around the track. Wong goes on to say:

"...the patron who donated the roller coaster came to library with her 24-year-old son. They are very happy that the library makes good use of it. She even showed the staff how to use the sound button when roller coaster was running."

Sometimes all it takes is one little roller coaster to bring a community together.

Yes, life is full of ups and downs...thankfully we can all enjoy the ride together.

Close-up of the K'Nex Roller Coaster - the cars and people.

Flying With Kids? It's An Entirely Different Kind of Flying, Altogether

December 15, 2016 | RayL | Comments (0)


In charge: Jane Doe tries her hand at the controls of a 747 and her look indicates she's up to the task for takeoff. Patty Gower, courtesy of Toronto Star Archives, 1992.

Surely You Can’t Be Serious!

Your in-laws have invited the family to a holiday dinner. (Un)fortunately, your in-laws live in another city. Your child (let’s just call him Shirley) has just turned four and you are dreading the two-hour flight. You are worried that Shirley will spend those two hours kicking and screaming. How do you keep Shirley occupied and yourself sane during this ordeal?

An Airplane? What Is It?

Before you go, visit your library to find children’s books about flying and your destination. Perhaps this is Shirley’s first visit to Chicago to see his grandparents. Together research fun activities that Shirley can look forward to while in Chicago and let him participate in the decision-making process. Download OverDrive picture books and Hoopla movies and music to your tablet so you aren’t using up precious luggage space. Have games and other apps downloaded to your tablet to help Shirley occupy his time. Pack small gifts, a colouring book and Shirley’s favourite snacks for when he gets fidgety.

Looks Like I Picked the… Right Time to Go!

On the day of the flight, plan a full day of activities before the flight. Hopefully Shirley will be exhausted after a busy day and will be ready to sleep once on board. When selecting a seat for Shirley, try to to find one that provides extra leg room, the passengers sitting in front will thank you. Spend some time explaining to Shirley the importance of behaving while on board and how to be considerate of others.

Well, I’ll Give Him Another 20 Minutes, But That’s It!

During the flight, you may discover that Shirley wants to stay up the entire flight. Tell him that he’ll have more fun at the destination than on the plane. If Shirley does not want to nap, try and divide time between activities. Get out of the seat and walk the aisles. Be courteous of those who are sleeping and make a game of walking the aisles quietly.

Never Has a Second... Piece of Chocolate... at Home

After the flight, reward him for his good behaviour on the flight. Reinforcing positive behaviour will help with the return flight.

How About Some More… Books?

From packing to disembarking, here are some books that will surely prepare Shirley for his first flight.

Lisa's Airplane Trip  Maisy Goes By Plane  Katie Takes a Plane  Flight 1-2-3

What strategies do you have for enjoying a flight with children?


Design a Bookmark Contest Forms Available Now!

December 12, 2016 | Sheilah | Comments (4)


Every year, Toronto Public Library runs a Bookmark Contest for children up through age 13.  Contest forms can be found at every branch and the contest runs from Dec. 10th, 2016 until Saturday Jan. 21, 2017.

One winner is chosen at each branch and bookmobile from each of the three age groups:

  • up to six years
  • seven to nine years
  • ten to 13 years

The three winners at the branch level receive a special book as a prize. The branch winners are then sent for central judging and from those wonderful pieces of art, 16 winners are chosen to have their designs made into bookmarks.

The contest has been running for decades and some of the winners have gone on to become professional artists.  This includes Tamsin Plant who won back in 1977 and came back to speak to winners years later.

Kim Loria_bookmarkAbbiegail Carvalho_bookmark Bohan

The Bookmark Contest is one of the highlights of the year for children's staff who love to see the originality and artistic ability evident in all the entries.

Take a look at past winners and be sure to encourage the children in your life to enter.


Searching for Information in a Post-Truth World

December 8, 2016 | RayL | Comments (2)

Kids_using computers_WS2007_mg_5375


Your child has been asked to research a topic for class. Knowing that the Internet is rife with misinformation and half-truths, you are concerned that he will use information from unreliable websites. How do you teach your child to find accurate information?

Let’s Just Make… Information You Find on the Internet... the Backup

We’re fortunate to live in an age where information is available quickly. A simple query in a search engine can yield tens of thousands of results. How do you teach your child to dig through the clutter and potential computer viruses/scams to find information that is: (1) accurate (2) from a reputable source (3) free of bias. A Stanford University study found that 82% of middle-schoolers could not distinguish an ad labelled 'sponsored content' and a real news story. These so-called “virtually costless words” found on the Internet come at considerable cost. Whether the cost is to someone who has their personal information stolen from an infected website, or the cost to a students’ grade because their work is filled with inaccurate conclusions drawn from misinformation, or the business cost of making a decision based on incorrect information, it is all preventable.

I’ve Made a Huge Mistake… By Believing Everything on the Internet

A recent CNN article described the spread of misinformation on the Internet. The Internet is an unregulated environment where anyone can post anything. Wild unsubstantiated claims and nasty comments are just some of the things to be wary of. Websites such as aim to fact check rumours found on the Internet. How do you teach your child that what they see shared in their social media feeds may be of dubious quality and how to avoid echo chambers? Start by teaching your child to avoid information from those who claim they graduated from the "University of Google". Ask your child to do some research and they will discover there isn’t a “University of Google”

And That’s Why… You Should Always Use an Online Database (and Verify!)

It’s never too early to teach your child how to find proper sources. Most online databases retrieve reliable information from trusted sources. Show your child how easy it is to find information using a library database and teach your child to critically evaluate the results. The University of California - Berkeley has a quick guide to help you evaluate a resource. Yale University (PDF) has also created a document that sums up the benefits of using a library database. Don’t forget that Research Ate My Brain is an excellent resource to guide your child through the research process. Here is a small selection of databases that your child can access for free with a Toronto Public Library Card:

Britannica Online

Canada in Context

Canadian Points of View

What strategies do you use to avoid misinformation?

Picture Book Holiday Gift Giving Guide

December 1, 2016 | Jennifer | Comments (4)

Photo Credit:  LornaWatt on a CC License

Whatever you celebrate, that spirit of giving might be working its magic on you. If you have kids on your "nice list," then some of these books might make the perfect present. Borrow them from the library first, before you commit to that inscription inside the front cover.  

For the silly kid

Silly kids worship authors like Mo Willems, Jon Klassen or Bob Shea.  They probably own all of the classics by Robert Munsch, with crumpled pages from overuse. These kids won't balk at a bit of sophisticated humour.


Ooko by Esmé Shapiro (Ages 3-7)

This little fox is looking for a friend and finds a bunch of Debbies on his way. It's a hilarious story that kids would like and parents would appreciate reading, making it two gifts in one. I laughed out loud.


Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol (Ages 4-7)

Check out this modern folktale with a zany twist. The Babushka's facial expressions tell a thousand words. There's no doubt that this book will make a memorable gift, especially from grandparents.


Tidy by Emily Gravett (Ages 3-7)

Emily Gravett's books often feature such attention to detail that they look like a gift in its wrapping paper already.  "Tidy," with its adorable peephole cover, shows the efforts of an overzealous badger to make the forest neat and clean.  

For the sensitive types

Sensitive kids love a story that warrants an emotional response. Titles by Kevin Henkes or Peter H. Reynolds often do the trick.  "Tell me a story" those sensitive types might say, as they curl up in your lap.


The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (Ages 4-7)

Here is a touching plot that you can read over and over again. A bear goes off to see the world, but never forgets his true home.  


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas (Ages 4-8)

This title is a fan favourite among gift-giving children's librarians. A young child will appreciate the surprise ending, while it will stir the imagination of older readers as well.


The Night Gardener by Terry Fan (Ages 4-8)

If you suspect that the child you are buying for does not yet own a copy of the "The Night Gardener" by Terry Fan, it is a whimsical bedtime story filled with mystery and wonder. Readers have made comparisons to Lane Smith's "Grandpa Green" or even Edward Scissorhands!

Something a little different

Finding those titles that set themselves apart from the pack can be a bit of a quest.  Here are a few wildcards to try.  


King Baby by Kate Beaton (Baby Gift, or Ages 4-8)

Kate Beaton's second picture book could be a great title to celebrate baby's first Christmas. Surely the new bundle of joy will lord over this year's family gathering with cuteness.

They All Saw a Cat_FC

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (Ages 3-6)

Wenzel's first book that he wrote as well as illustrated is about perception or the many different ways there are to look at the same thing. In this case, a cat. It's a fun lap book for a child's collection.  

Skunk on a String

Skunk on a String by Thao Lam (Ages 4-7)

Maybe wordless picture books are your thing. Might I suggest "Skunk on a String"? The collage artwork in this story about a stripey drifter might inspire some similar artwork.

Remember that you can place your Indigo orders through the Toronto Public Library catalogue and a portion of the sale will be donated to the Toronto Public Library Foundation. Just click the purple "Buy Now" button above the book's summary. Find out more about our affiliate program here.

Join in the discussion of great reads for children and tweens and tips for how to build the love of reading for your family.