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Our Community Focus

At Home? What to Read?

Apr 01, 2020 04:55PM ● By Jennifer Neys


The Focus asked our local MDUSD teacher librarians for some website and book recommendations to keep our K-12 kids reading and learning for the duration of the school closures and shelter in place.


Laurel Burns, teacher librarian at Strandwood and Gregory Gardens Elementary schools, recommends the Steve Spangler science site ( for fun and easy science projects and Storytime From Space (, where astronauts read to you from space. For book titles she recommends: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (4th - 6th); Words on Fire by Jennifer Nielsen (4th - 6th); The Mysterious Benedict Society (series) by Trenton Lee Stewart (3rd - 5th); Narwhal's Otter Friend by Ben Clanton (K - 2nd); and Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman (TK - 2nd).

Deborah Wiley, teacher librarian at Pleasant Hill Elementary: “As far as websites go, I recommend the Contra Costa Library. The libraries are closed, but there is access to their e-books and e-audiobooks and streaming through Kanopy and Video Storytime.” For books, she recommends Interrupting Chicken (K - 2nd) by Ezra Stein, The One and Only Ivan (3rd - 5th) by K.A. Applegate, and The War That Saved My Life (4th - 6th) by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley.


Ruth Shumate, teacher librarian at Valley View Middle and College Park High School: “Contra Costa County Library resources have been very helpful. I want to recommend Flipster digital magazines, especially How it Works, a science and technology magazine for young people. If students do not have a county library card, they can apply for an e-card online that will allow access.” One of her recommended websites is Story Corps ( The mission of this organization is "to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world." There are thousands of moving stories to hear. Another of her favorites is Pixar in a Box (, now with the Khan Academy. Pixar in a Box is a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs. Another is the Newseum website ( for "Today's Front Pages," the daily front pages of newspapers from around the world, including the San Francisco Chronicle


Her book recommendations for middle school are: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Rascal by Sterling North, and Survivor's Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein. For high school she likes: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing; Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand; Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer; and Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of the Hunt for the Nation's Most Elusive Serial Killer by Robert Graysmith. She added, "Appreciate each day and do what you can to make your corner of the world a better place. Looking forward to being back at school and seeing all of you again!"


Valhalla Elementary Teacher Librarian Jennifer Neys said, “April is National Poetry Month. Shel Silverstein ( and Jack Prelutsky ( are very popular with students, and both poets have fun, interactive websites. To keep up with nonfiction reading and current events, I love Dogonews (, and for those with curious minds and lots of questions, I recommend Wonderopolis (


Diana Conner, teacher librarian at Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle said, “Many children’s authors are reading their books aloud on Instagram. Mac Barnett is reading one of his books every day at noon ( Set your alarms, brew a cup of somethin’, stop, and take a listen. Storytime online ( is the work of the Screen Actors’ Guild. Famous actors read stories and talk about why they love reading storytime. Carson Ellis, an illustrator, started the Quarantine Art Club at”


For upper elementary to middle school students, Diana says, “Start reading a series. It will carry you through the shelter in place. Try Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messener; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier; The Ranger Apprentice by John Flannagan; The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall; and Planet Omar: Accident Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian.