Learning through playing at Mentor Library

Kevin builds with Duplo blocks during a Kids @ Work session at Mentor Library.

Kevin builds with Duplo blocks during a Kids @ Work session at Mentor Library.

Once a month, we break out the Lego blocks and invite everyone to play. We call it Kids @ Work.

The theme for this month’s Kids @ Work session was Dinosaurs. Kids could use Mentor Library’s Lego and Duplo blocks to build their own terrible lizards. Of course, children’s imaginations are not beholden to any theme.

So Lynn and Landon used Lego blocks to make hybrid plane-cars, Brooke and Addy built dream homes, and Tyler seemed interested in collecting all the green blocks.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a free-for-all, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Lynn and Landon pick their Lego blocks from the pile.

Lynn and Landon pick their Lego blocks from the pile.

There are plenty of studies that talk about the benefits of playing with Lego blocks. It’s supposed to improve everything from your mathematical reasoning to problem solving to social development.

It also happens to be a lot of fun.

Our next Kids @ Work session is from 2 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at our Main Branch. (We schedule it for the first Saturday of the month.) And you’re welcome to join us!

There aren’t a lot of rules for Kids @ Work.

Parents can help build with their kids, if they'd like.

Parents can help build with their kids, if they’d like.

There’s no need to register beforehand and children can build whatever they want with our Lego and Duplo blocks. (However, we do ask that kids younger than 8 have an adult with them; and, as with any library program, we ask that you be kind to the other patrons.)

But, in general, it’s just kids playing with Lego. So if your kid likes building, feel free to bring him or her to Kids @ Work. They will fit right in.

Tyler picks the blocks he needs from the pile. (And, yes, he's wearing a Superman shirt and cape. No, that's not pertinent, but it IS awesome..)

Tyler picks the blocks he needs from the pile. (And, yes, he’s wearing a Superman shirt and cape. No, that’s not pertinent, but it IS awesome.)

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Author James Renner offers tour of Ohio’s weird and wonderful at Mentor Library

9781598510638Have you ever heard of the Melon Heads, the hydrocephalic test experiments that supposedly still lurk in Kirtland woods? Or the Loveland Frog, the 4-foot-tall amphibian that’s haunted the banks of the Miami River since the time of the Twightwee Indians?

Author and journalist James Renner spent years collecting stories about the weird and wonderful denizens of this state for his book, It Came from Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild and Unexplained.

Renner will share stories from his book at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 at Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch. His talk is free and everyone is welcome.

In anticipation of his talk, Renner was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book, his interest in the unusual, and things that go bump in the night.

Q: What about the abnormal and macabre interests you?

A: There are a handful of moments in every person’s life that cannot be explained. I am fascinated by these stories and how they alter the course of someone’s life. How do we explain the unexplainable when we tell the story to someone, later? What is the little pearl of truth hiding inside?

Q: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. Where does It Came from Ohio fall in that dichotomy?

A: It Came from Ohio is 100% nonfiction, in that these are stories collected from people across Ohio who firmly believe they have encountered frogmen and Bigfoot and UFOs. I research each case from the point of view of a journalist but it’s up to the reader to ultimately decide whether Mothman really exists or whether it could just be a giant, angry owl.

Q: When did you start compiling the stories from It Came from Ohio?

A: I wrote crime stories for about 10 years and really wanted to do something a little more fun. I noticed that the people I interviewed about crime always had some other story they wanted to tell, now that someone was listening. And usually that story was about the strangest thing that had ever happened to them. I started jotting those stories down in my notepad. Eventually I had enough to put this little book together.

Q: Do you have a favorite story in It Came from Ohio?

A: Definitely the story about the Loveland Frog. Back in the 70′s, a couple cops outside Cincinnati saw a half-man/half-frog creature on the banks of the Miami River. When I researched the local history, I found a story passed down from the Twightwee Indians who once lived in the area, about a monster called the Shawnahook. 400 years ago, the Indians also saw a frogman in the river. That gives me goosebumps. What in the world was it?

Q: I suspect people have been sharing their own unusual tales with you since you published It Came from Ohio. Is there a possibility of a sequel?

A: I love a good scary story and am compelled to go looking for monsters if you tell me where to go.

Come to the Mentor Library on Oct. 13 to hear more stories about the unusual creatures that reside in Renner’s Ohio. People can register for his talk on Mentor Library’s website or by calling 440-255-8811 ext. 216.

Renner will also have copies of It Came from Ohio available for sale on Oct. 13 at Mentor Library, and he will sign them after his program.

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Banned Books Week & Why It Matters

Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.

Banned Books Week celebrates books that some have tried to bowdlerize, censor and ban.

From Sept. 21 to 27, libraries and schools across the country will recognize Banned Books Week.

It’s a chance for us to remind you about all the society-changing books that have been banned or challenged. And there’s a good chance that list includes your personal favorite.

Imagine your bookshelf without To Kill a Mockingbird, Color Purple, Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.

And you might say: But that was a long time ago. We don’t still do stuff like that today?

Yes, we do.

Legislators in South Carolina planned to cut some funding to state colleges after the College of Charleston picked Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as assigned reading. Bechdel is an award-winning cartoonist. You can probably guess what upset legislators based upon the name of Bechdel’s comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For.

(You may also know her as the creator of the Bechdel Test, which challenges movies on a single parameter. Does a movie have at least two women, and do they talk about something other than a man in at least one scene? It’s astonishing how many films fail to cross that low threshold.)

Cartoons and graphic novels seem especially prone to challenges, because they are still perceived as low art.

For example, Bone—a fantasy series written and drawn by Ohio native Jeff Smith—was the tenth most challenged book in U.S. libraries last year.

The offending characters

The offending characters

Banned Book Weeks isn’t just about championing books that other people might have concerns about. After all, everyone’s entitled to their own taste in literature.

Banned Books Week is about having the freedom to read

There’s a reason we chose “Bradbury” as the password in our Banned Books video last year.

Ray Bradbury said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

So it doesn’t matter if no books are ever banned or challenged again. That is, it doesn’t matter if nobody reads them anyhow.

So commemorate Banned Books Week in the best possible way: Read.

Read a book that’s been banned or challenged. Read whatever you like.

But read. And decide for yourself what belongs on your bookshelf.

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7 Questions You Should Ask When Picking a College

A pretty campus isn't enough.

A pretty campus isn’t enough.

It’s College Prep week at Mentor Public Library. On Tuesday, Patricia Saddle of the  College Planning Center presented an overview on all aspects of the college-application process.

The last time Saddle spoke at MPL, we highlighted some of the worst reasons to pick a college.

This time, we’re sharing some of the questions you should ask when selecting your school.

1. What academic majors are offered?

This isn’t just a matter of, “Do they have the major I want?” After all, 50 to 70 percent of college students change their majors at least once. Know what the college offers and if it coincides with your career interests.

2. What organizations and clubs are available?

Yes, you’re going to college to learn, but you’re also going to participate. If you love theater—even if you don’t intend to major in drama—take into account if the college has a drama club. The same goes for karate clubs, intramural broomball leagues, jazz bands and whatever else it may be that you love.

3. What is the school known for?

Take into account a school’s reputation. It’s likely earned.

What are you looking for in a college or university? Somewhere with a strong alumni network? A vibrant arts scene? A school that’s as well known for its social life as its academics?

Research your colleges of interest and make sure they sync with your expectations.

4. Does the college offer what you need for your learning style?

Do you prefer individual attention or more independence from your teacher? Pay attention to average class sizes. It’s always helpful to get a current student’s impressions, as well.

5. What percentage of students come back for their sophomore year?

A school’s retention rate can be very telling. A high percentage of transfers and dropouts may indicate that a college does a subpar job of integrating new students.

6. How many students live on campus?

This question—much like our second and third questions—give you a sense of a school’s culture. Do most students go home or stay during the weekend? Do they live in dorms or independent housing? There is no right or wrong answer, but it’s a good sign when your preference coincides with your school’s statistics.

7. What does the university look like?

No, we don’t mean, “Is the campus pretty?” Frankly, any campus can look beautiful on the right day.

We mean is the campus tiny or sprawling? Is it urban, suburban or rural? It doesn’t matter too much if your campus is photogenic. It does matter if it’s in the middle of a city or if you need a car to get around it.

Our college prep series continues tonight. A representative from Lake/Geauga Education Assistance Foundation (LEAF) will talk about financing your college education. They will discuss loans, grants and scholarships, explain the differences between the three and tell students the best way to get them.

While the program is free and open to everyone, we that people register for it beforehand. They can do so by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 214 or by visiting Mentor Library’s event calendar.

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Be your own hero at Mentor Library’s Comics Club

Abby draws Hula, a superhero she created.

Abby draws her own superhero during Mentor Library’s Comics Club.

A bisected page, two large eyes, the beginnings of a mouth—Abby is drawing a superhero she created during the most recent meeting of Mentor Library’s Comics Club.

“Her name is Hula,” she explains. “She uses her hula hoop to trap bad guys.”

The scene is decidedly relaxed during the latter half of the meeting. Some children draw—characters they’ve created, their Minecraft avatars—while others read graphic novels or issues of Tiny Titans and Adventure Time.

While most people associate comics with superheroes, the Comics Club is eclectic by design. One month they’re designing their own sidekicks. The next they’re reading independent web comics.

Our Comics Club is for any 8- through 12-year-old who likes to read, talk about or draw sequential art. We love everything from Amelia Rules to Batman to Bone.)

Our Comic Club meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at our Main Branch.

At a typical meeting, the kids talk about a special theme. Then we introduce the kids to graphic novels and comics that can be found in the library’s collection.

We close out each meeting with free time for the kids to draw or read.

“Their favorite part of the night is drawing time,” Schulz said. “We use templates that resemble comic strips and comic-book pages, so the kids can do short 3-panel or longer stories. Some have created their own characters that they revisit every month while others draw something new every time.”

The next Comics Club meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Mentor Public Library’s Main Branch. The theme for next month will be costumes.

To register a child for the Comics Club, call the library at (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.

Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.

Nicholas checks out an issue of Adventure Time during our Comics Club.

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