Author Archive for Nancy Holland

20+ years for Stories in the Park

by Nancy Holland on August 4th, 2016

Nancy ParkLast week brought to a close a lot of our annual summer reading activities at Iowa City Public Library. One summer program that has been  a favorite for the Children’s Department for many years is Stories in the Park.

Our Wednesday morning Stories in the Park at Willow Creek Park started as a unique kind of outreach program provided by ICPL in cooperation with scheduled playground activities provided by the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Division. I’m not exactly sure what year that was, but I’m certain I have been involved for at least 20 years — maybe more. A few years after starting the Wednesday storytimes, we added a Friday storytime at Mercer Park.

The eight weeks of this summer program go by quickly. The weather isn’t always cooperative. Every year is different. This summer we only had to cancel one Wednesday and one Friday storytime for bad weather. The other seven weeks were well attended with totals of 455 people coming to Willow Creek Park and 330 attending the Mercer Park programs.

It’s rewarding for staff to have a chance to get outside and share Library resources with people who might not come to the Library. A few years ago we started taking some books with us so that people with Library Cards had the opportunity to check out items at the storytime if they wanted.  It is so exciting that we will be able to expand on this service next year when we have our new bookmobile for Stories in the Park.

Veterans Day reading suggestions

by Nancy Holland on November 6th, 2015

As Veterans Day approaches, I’m thinking back on some of the children’s chapter books I’ve  read about World War I. I’m old enough to have a grandfather who actually enlisted to serve in World War I. Fortunately for me and his other descendants, he came down with influenza right away and didn’t recover until the fighting was over.

Jacket.aspxDescribing any war to children is a difficult task. Last year John Boyne published Stay Where You Are & Then Leave. It’s the story of nine-year-old Alfie Summerfield who remembers that it was on his fifth birthday when the fighting started, and the war still shows no sign of coming to an end. Living in London, Alfie is a resourceful young boy who finds a way to make money to help the family. He also finds clues to the fate of his soldier father who he has not heard from in a long time. This book deals with some complicated themes of war, but in a story suited for upper elementary readers. A neighborhood friend is a conscientious objector to the war, and Alfie finally finds his father  in a mental hospital suffering from shell shock. I think the author does a good job of showing the effect of war on a variety of people. Maybe things work out a little too smoothly in the end for adults to easily accept, but it could happen that way.

Animals played an important role in combat in World War I and several children’s books celebrate their service. Soldier Dog by Sam Angus  follows the story of soldier dogthirteen-year-old Stanley who runs away from home to join a weary army in 1917.  He is assigned to the new Messenger Dog Training School and soon forms a bond with a difficult but courageous Great Dane. Dogs continue to serve in the armed forces and young readers can find quite a few other fiction and nonfiction books on this topic.

war horseMy favorite  book about World War I is War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.  This is a powerful story about war told from the point of view of the horse, Joey.  The pointlessness of war is a main theme of this compelling narrative. This book is also great to listen to on audio or a family film that stays true to the book.


by Nancy Holland on August 10th, 2015

For many years I’ve enjoyed sharing picture books with some of the youngest of library patrons, the 2 to 4 year olds. Toddler times work best with short, simple and colorful books. Shortly after it was published in 2001,  I discovered My Car  by Byron Barton and found it to be a perfect book for a transportation themed storytime. The main character,  Sam shows us all about his car and how he drives his car to work. When he gets to work he drives his bus. “Why can’t there be more books like this?”  I said to myself.

I was so happy when My Bus appeared in answer to my prayers in 2014. This book features a busmy bus driver named Joe who picks up cats and dogs and delivers them to the train, plane and boat. More transportation and some basic mathematics combine to make another simple and satisfying story.

my bikeI was even happier this spring to see My Bike. In this book  Tom rides his bike to work through traffic and past animals into the circus where he puts on his clown uniform and rides his unicycle.

I am so happy to have all three of these books from children’s author Byron Barton.





by Nancy Holland on April 23rd, 2015

This is the phrase you are hearing a lot at ICPL recently. The Children’s Room has a new display that emphasizes the  importance of play in early learning, but this is a philosophy the Library has supported for the many (30+) years that I have worked here. I think Hazel Westgate was the first Children’s Librarian to provide toys and activities to engage ICPL’s youngest patrons while parents or caregivers selected books.Nancy blog photo

Since that time the Children’s Room has gone through many transformations and many, many well-used and loved toys. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the new playhouse we recently acquired.

New toys are fun for us all! Opportunity for play in the Children’s Room encourages language development and socialization skills. Our staff often share with each other the cute conversations we overhear throughout the day.

Of course providing play opportunities for children requires a constant effort to keep those items safe, clean and attractive. During our most recent remodeling of the children’s area we were able to acquire two sturdy play tables. One is used for train play and the other for Duplo block construction, and they are in use pretty much every hour the library is open.

Check out these and other opportunities for early learning through play at ICPL.


Puzzles prepare preschoolers for learning

by Nancy Holland on June 23rd, 2014

PuzzlesFrom birth through the preschool years children learn mostly through play. Play is one of the practices that librarians encourage to enhance early literacy skills. For many years, the Children’s Room at ICPL has provided free access to a variety toys designed to enhance learning.

Simple wooden puzzles help children build skills they need to read, write and solve problems. Even before the age of two, children will show an interest in knobbed puzzles that are easy to grasp as they develop eye hand coordination. Manipulating puzzle pieces help develop the fine motor skills that little hands will need to grasp a pencil or crayon.

Puzzles also provide great opportunities for language development as you describe shapes, sizes and colors with your children.

Children do “learn” puzzles and always like the chance to try something new. If you have young children, consider borrowing a puzzle or toy for three weeks from our circulating toy ICPL.