When people think of the month of April some will think of April Fools’ Day or, perhaps, the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. However, if you ask a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh children’s librarian what they think of when you mention “April” chances are that the response will be a resounding One Book, Every Young Child!
April is known as the Month of the Young Child and, although as children’s librarians we focus on young children every day, April has special meaning to us. Children’s librarians, in partnership with early childhood educators and museum educators across the state of Pennsylvania, will be on a mission to share one book with every young child that we meet. This year’s book selection is My Cousin Momo by Zachariah O’Hora. I’ll have plenty to say about the book choice momentarily, but first I want to touch upon why we do this.
Now in the thirteenth year, Pennsylvania’s One Book, Every Young Child campaign works to highlight the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers and the significance of reading early and often to children. Research shows that reading aloud to children gives them countless benefits including (but not limited to) larger vocabularies and longer attention spans. Not to mention the benefits of caregiver-child bonding, and the sense of love and comfort that will be associated with reading. By focusing on one specific book throughout the month of April, we as professionals are modeling the importance of reading early and frequently with children, as well as the importance of extending the book experience through song, conversation and other fun activities.
Here at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, we are celebrating all month long with events featuring Zachariah O’Hora and special One Book, Every Young Child storytimes. Check our calendar of events so you can see what is offered in your neighborhood! Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh children’s librarians also work extremely hard to visit early childhood centers in our neighborhoods so that we can read My Cousin Momo with our young friends who might not make it into our libraries.
The logical next question (at least in my mind) is what is so special about this cousin named Momo? Why is everyone working so hard to share his story with small children? In a nutshell, Momo is a flying squirrel who goes to visit his cousins, who happen to be a family of gray squirrels. Everyone is excited to be together until they realize that Momo is a little different; he likes to do things his own way and his cousins don’t quite understand him. More than that, Momo’s cousins are disappointed that Momo is different and *might* be a little unkind to him. Fear not reader, for although there is strife and misunderstanding, by the end of the book everyone is getting along; Momo is sad to leave, and the cousins are counting down the days until they can be together again!
Sharing the story of Momo with a young child can open conversations about more than just squirrels. Children will pick up on the themes of family, individuality and treating others with kindness. Some of my favorite books on these topics can be viewed here. Letting young children guide the conversation and letting them choose other books to read that will extend Momo’s story are simple ways to empower children, and to encourage them to continue reading. Talking about books and role-playing parts of the story are important early literacy skills and are stepping stones for children who are just learning to read. Really, it’s a winning strategy all around. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up a copy of My Cousin Momo today! And once you share this story, learn about activities for home and school in this guide!
Kristen K. is a Children’s Librarian at CLP – Squirrel Hill. She loves running with the wind, drinking coffee and has a fondness for all things Mo Willems.