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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Reader Spotlight: Kathryn Schwarz

Kathryn Schwarz reads with son Ben  
at the Great Falls library.
Kathryn Schwarz is a customer at the Great Falls Library branch. An avid reader, former Peace Corps volunteer and writer, Kate is a stay-at-home mom to three children, daughter Lorelei (7) and sons Ben (5) and Kiefer (almost 3). She is currently working on several children’s book manuscripts and blogs about children’s books in her spare time at Kate’s Bookery.

What made you start blogging about children's picture books?

When my daughter was about a year old, and I was pregnant with my second child, I read that parents should have a constant dialogue with their kids. I had a hard time talking constantly to my sweet, quiet Lorelei, so I turned to books. We read all the time, and she became as crazy about picture books as I already was (my parents have given me a picture book for Christmas for as long as I can remember). I wanted to track what we read together while simultaneously offering a guide to other parents as to what books are great, what books are just good and what books are odd and not worth checking out. 

Kate's Bookery became a type of journal where I'd review a book but also talk about my kids' reaction to the book, how we incorporated it into a field trip or my deeper thoughts on the message of the book.

Who are your favorite picture book authors? Your kids’ favorites?

This could be a very, very long answer!  I'll try and be succinct…

My favorite picture book authors: Amy Krouse Rosenthal Chopsticks, Little Oink, Yes Day!, It's Not Fair!) impressively delivers children's books with warmth and wit. Judy Sierra Wild About Books, Born To Read, Tell the Truth B.B. Wolf writes clever rhymes that totally inspire me to give poems a try. I think Holly Hobbie's Toot and Puddle books are magical both in their stories and fantastic water color illustrations. Andrea Beaty's recent books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rose Revere, Engineer blow me away. But if I had to choose only one author, I'd have to go with Dr. Seuss. Nobody can match his ability to combine silly and meaningful in such a wonderful way!

My boys read a lot of Byron Barton books while toddlers, and they've both fallen in love with Building Our House by Jonathan Bean, which is a must-own for any child. Right now, my son Kiefer (3) loves Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day? and A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis. My son Ben is crazy about sports, so he gets all the Sports Illustrated books for kids and any DK sports book. He really loves Aaron Meshon's Take Me Out to the Yakyu and Nick Plays Baseball by Rachel Isadora.

Lorelai, Box Car Children Mysteries fan
Lorelei is definitely the frontrunner in reading in our family! When she was in preschool she was a big fan of Karma Wilson; Whopper Cake was a favorite. Right now she is working her way through the Box Car Children mysteries, and we're reading Harriet the Spy together at bedtime. She's an enthusiastic reader and will happily read just about anything. I often feel jealous of the time she gets to just sit and read! I ask her: "How about you make dinner while I read this time?" She just laughs…but I'm a little serious!

As a frequent library user, what do you wish every resident knew about Fairfax County Public Library?

Three things:

1.  I wish parents let their kids pick out books for themselves! I'm always sad when a parent tells their child, "Sit right there. You know I always choose good books for you!" rather than giving them the freedom to roam and select.  Parents should definitely put some books in the bag, but kids should select about half of the books that go into the bag, I think.

2. On the other hand, I also wish parents knew how they can order books ahead of time and have them ready and waiting at the hold shelf. This is so helpful, especially during the loud, illogical, gotta-have-it-my-way toddler stage. I go online and select books myself or with my older children leisurely, without the threat of a public tantrum looming over me. We are just now staying at the library for more than 20 minutes! But I still go online after bedtime and take my time finding books online about, for example, baseball, and then order them to be picked up at my local library (Great Falls).

3.  I hope that parents know how many activities are available through the library!  Music shows, magic shows, Lego clubs, book clubs, chess clubs, author readings, art classes…  We are really lucky to have so many free options available to us!

Ben picking a book for himself
Which branches do you visit most often?

Ninety-five percent of the time we go to the Great Falls library. It is just down the road from us, so it is the most convenient branch for us. But I do love the McLean library--the renovations done are so beautiful!--and Kiefer and I sometimes pop in there while the big kids are in school. It's a nice change of pace, and because their set up is different than our library, we often see books that we don't see at ours.

How does FCPL make a difference in your life?

Our local library provides so much to my life right now! The biggest piece of that pie goes to simply checking out books. I see the mind-opening, experience-broadening capabilities of books when my kids pore through books they and I choose when we get home from the library. We've saved hundreds of dollars by going to the library instead of buying books (at which the kids can't even peruse through books anymore because the bookstores in our areas are now closed).

My oldest son, Ben, is the shyest of my trio. He doesn't leave my side very often and needs a lot of reassurance and lots of hugs. But because the library is so familiar and comfortable to him, he will make his own list of books he wants to get and boldly asks the librarians to help him find some. His confidence has grown, because they take him seriously in a kind and gracious and sweet way.

Kiefer at Great Falls Library's Read to the Dog program
We take advantage of many of the programs our library offers. We've read to the dog (in fact, it was while Ben read to a dog that I realized how competent a reader he is becoming), built lots of Lego creations, participated in book clubs, put collections on display, watched magic shows and danced to performances for kids.   

I even go to the library without my kids!  As a pre-published children's book author, I participate in the Great Falls Writer's Group, which meets at the library. We get together twice a month to either share our work with each other or listen to local published authors or illustrators or freelancers or anyone of interest that keeps our creative spark lit.

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