Dear Middle Grade Students,

Are you stuck inside 'cause of COVID? Wanna write but don't know where to start? Just plain bored? Here are 31 journal-writing prompts (a whole month's worth!) to get you started.

By the way, don't worry about word count or anything like that -- express yourself how you want, as much as you want.


 

1. Describe two people you look up to or admire: one real, one fictional. Why do you admire them? How are they different? How are they the same?

 

2. What's something that always makes you laugh, whether you're feeling happy or sad?

 

3. Write about a mistake you made recently. Did you learn anything from it? What did you learn?

 

4. If you could have any fictional creature as a pet, what would it be and why?

 

5. Pick your least favorite character from your favorite book and write from their point of view.

 

6. What was your least favorite thing about quarantine? What was your favorite thing?

 

7. What's a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life? Do you think you'd get tired of it? Why or why not?

 

8. If you could learn another language, what would it be? Why? How would you use it?

 

9. Write a poem about your happiest memory.

 

10. Write a poem about a sad memory.

 

11. Do you have a favorite song? If you do, describe what you love about it, how it makes you feel. If not, why? How does music make you feel?

 

12. If you could talk to your future self, what would you say? Would you want to learn about what happens in your life, or would you want to keep it a surprise?

 

13. If you could talk to your past self, what would you say? Is there anything you'd suggest they do differently?

 

14. If it's nice out, find a safe spot outside. Sit down. Close your eyes. Listen to the world around you. What do you hear? If you can't go outside, find a spot by a window. Sit down. Close your eyes. Listen to the world outside. What do you hear? How does it make you feel?

 

15. Write about something you're proud of, even if you don't think it's a big deal.

 

16. If you have a hobby, write about why you enjoy it and what got you into it in the first place. If you don't have a hobby, write about one that sounds fun.

 

17. What is the best advice someone has ever given you?

 

18. What calms you down when you're upset?

 

19. Is there anything that worries you about the future? How do you think you'll handle it? Is there anything you can do about it now?

 

20. Describe three things you enjoy about today, no matter how small.

 

21. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

 

22. Imagine you have access to a time machine. Would you go to the past or the future? What do you think it would be like?

 

23. Write your autobiography in only six words.

 

24. What is one thing that excites you about the future?

 

25. Close your eyes. Imagine your favorite color. Now describe it as if you were talking to someone who's never seen it before.

 

26. What are 5 things you'd like to accomplish during your lifetime?

 

27. What do you like about the city you live in? What would you change?

 

28. What are 3 things you will never forget? Why?

 

29. Write a letter to someone who will never read it.

 

30. What is something you'd change about school? Why? How do you think students would deal with the change? What about the staff?

 

31. What is your best quality? Why? If you want to be extra ambitious, write this entry in the form of a one-page comic.

 


And there we have it -- a whole month of journal prompts. Don't feel like you need to do them all -- just do as many as you'd like.

 

One last thing: after you're done journaling, think about what you've written. Did you learn anything new about yourself?

 

Looking for recommendations? Fill out our form to get a custom list of reads or a Book Bundle for pickup.


  Youth Services Librarian Chris 

 

In 1968 Fred Rogers asked, "What do you do with the mad that you feel?" While we have not yet arrived at a definitive answer to that question, we've since been given a wealth of resources to help us better understand ourselves, the way we feel, and the way those feelings affect others.

As your little one grows, they are sure to experience new, sometimes confusing or scary feelings -- sadness, frustration, disappointment, etc. -- and they may need a little help understanding what they're going through, or how to communicate what they're feeling to their caregivers.

I've selected five non-fiction titles, each centered around addressing a different emotion. These titles and more are available at the Barrington Area Library.

 

You're Angry: Throw a Fit or Talk It Out? You Choose the Ending...
Written by Connie Colwell Miller

Illustrated by Victoria Assanelli

So... what do you do with the mad that you feel? Connie Miller doesn't answer that question for readers; instead, she lets them explore for themselves.

In this book we follow Kendra, a young girl, who does not want to go to bed. Her father calls out to her, asking her to come inside... but what does Kendra do? Every page notes that Kendra has the option to either angrily lash out or make another decision, and with each decision made we see the outcome -- does Kendra get in trouble? Does she upset her father? Does she communicate her feelings in a constructive manner? That's up to the reader?

This is a fun way to address angry feelings, as it puts the power in your little one's hands, allows them to explore the consequences of throwing a tantrum (without actually experiencing one themselves), and supports emerging problem-solving skills.

 

I Feel... Anxious
By DJ Corchin

"Sometimes I feel anxious because of what people say.
Like when I hear adults argue... and I'm not sure it's OK.
Or when there's a germ in the air
And I can't go and play.
Bad thoughts stick in my head and they won't go away."

There's no way around it: we live in anxious times. Real life may be overwhelming at times, but DJ Corchin urges kids not to give in. Instead, with simple, empathetic poetry, he helps them work through their anxieties, first exploring the different causes then giving tips for management. The text is accompanied by expressive, if somewhat silly, drawings that perfectly capture how it feels to be overcome with anxiety.

The book is supplemented by specific anxiety management exercises with step-by-step instructions.

 

Get Unstuck from Disappointment
Written by Gill Hasson
Illustrated by Sarah Jennings

 What do you when things don't go your way, or someone lets you down?

Gill Hasson offers strategies for overcoming disappointment, whether it's something as simple as having a back-up plan or something that takes a little more work, like trying to look at things with a different point-of-view. But no matter what form your disappointment takes, Gill Hasson makes sure you know that you're not alone, and that you can get past it.

 

Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too)
By Keith Negley

It doesn't matter if you're a superhero, a pirate, a biker, or a ninja -- it's okay to be sad or upset, and it's okay to express it.

While this book is ostensibly for boys, especially those who feel uncomfortable expressing emotions like sorrow, any child can enjoy its universal message. You can be strong, brave, tough, and open with your emotions. And you are not alone in feeling the way you feel.

Unlike the other entries in this post, Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) does not offer solutions or strategies; instead, it encourages kids to express themselves when they feel sad, and to not feel ashamed for doing so.

 

Step Back from Frustration
Written by Gill Hasson
Illustrated by Sarah Jennings

Maybe things aren't going your way. Maybe you want something you can't have -- a new toy, a video game, a cool new book from your local library...

Maybe you feel like you're just going to explode if you don't get what you want.

It's okay to feel frustrated. It's okay to be upset that you're not getting the thing you want. But before you lash out, consider reading this helpful how-to guide on confronting frustration. Gill Hasson returns with this sister volume to Get Unstuck from Disappointment, which takes the same format: first telling the reader what frustration is, then offering examples of things that make us frustrated, before giving us tips on how to manage our frustrations.

 

Let us shop the shelves for you! Fill out a Browsing Bundle request, and a Librarian will bag up a small collection books or movies we think you'll love. 


  Youth Services Librarian Chris  

Bring home a fun new project! Sign up from our Library Calendar and pick up a kit at the Youth Services desk or through our Parking Lot Pickup service between February 14-March 11.

 

Toddler & PreK: Coffee Filter Butterflies

Liquid watercolor and coffee filters transform into beautiful butterflies. Register for the February/March Toddler & PreK Take-and-Make Kit here.

Kit contains: 

  • 5 coffee filters
  • 5 pipe cleaners
  • 3 containers of watercolor paint
  • 1 pipette 

Instructions:

  1. Dress for a mess, and cover your work area—the paint will soak through the coffee filters.
  2. Smooth one of the coffee filters flat.
  3. Use the pipette to drop the watercolor paint onto the filter. You can clean the pipette by squeezing fresh water in and out of the pipette a few times.
  4. Let dry completely. This might take several hours, depending on how much paint you use.
  5. Pinch two sides of the filter together, creating wings.
  6. Fold one pipe cleaner in half. Twist the pipe cleaner around the center of the coffee filter, leaving the ends pointing up for the antennae.
  7. Repeat with the remaining supplies.

Explore more: 

  • Using a pipette is a great exercise for fine motor control! Kids can experiment with squeezing the liquid out hard and gently to get different amounts of paint. 
  • You can dilute the paints with water to get lighter shades. Talk about how colors change when we add water, or they mix and bleed together. You might end up with more than 3 colors on your butterflies! 
  • Try painting with a brush, sponge, or even paper towel. How does that change the way the paint moves and looks? 
  • Making butterflies is a great opportunity to learn about symmetry. You can try to paint just one half of the coffee filter, and fold it over to achieve a mirrored effect. What other animals or objects look the same on both sides?
  • Add tape, magnets, or clothespins to create some cheery decorations with your butterflies.

Show us what you created! Send us pictures at youthservices@balibrary.org

 

 

Grades K-2: Simple Embroidery 

Try out a new skill with this introduction to embroidery techniques. Register for the February/March Grades K-2 Take-and-Make Kit here.

 

 

 

Show us what you created! Send us pictures at youthservices@balibrary.org

 

 

Grades 3-8: Gratitude Jar

Decorate a jar to fill with origami stars – use the stars to write down everything for which you are grateful. Register for the February/March Grades 3-8 Take-and-Make Kit here.

 

 

 

 

Show us what you created! Send us pictures at youthservices@balibrary.org. 

 


  Youth Services Assistant Librarian Alyssa 

 

This Valentine's Day, check out some books that show your little ones how much you love them!

Looking for something fun to do with your young one? Here’s a list of upcoming events at the library.

 


   Youth Services Assistant Librarian Claire 

 

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event where bird enthusiasts around the world come together to watch/listen for and count as many birds as they can. The event lasts for four days, and anyone can participate! According to the Great Backyard Bird Count website, all you have to do to participate is:

  1. Decide where you’d like to watch birds. 
  2. Watch birds for at least 15 minutes, over the four days of the bird count, between February 18 and February 21, 2022.
  3. Count all the birds you see or hear within the time you’ve planned your bird watch. 

For more information on how to participate, check out the Great Backyard Bird Count’s website. 

Here at the Barrington Area Library, we have a plentiful amount of books to help guide you on your birdwatching journey, but here are a few that we think might be especially helpful.

 

We’d love to hear about your experience with the Great Backyard Bird Count! Email us at youthservices@balibrary.org with any photos or tales from your birding adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 


    Youth Services Specialist Stefanie 

Ever wondered what reliving the same day over and over again would be like? In celebration of Groundhog Day, here are some books where the characters are stuck in a time loop!

Tired of reading the same books again and again? Fill out this form to get some new suggestions from our librarians!

 

 


   Youth Services Assistant Librarian Claire 

If you loved The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, try one of these unique animal stories next.

 

Audrey (Cow): An Oral Account of a Most Daring Escape, Based More or Less on a True Story

by Dan Bar-el

“Audrey is a cow with poetry in her blood, who yearns for the greener pastures beyond Bittersweet Farms. But when Roy the horse tells her that she is headed for the slaughter house, Audrey knows that she must leave her home and friends sooner than she ever imagined. With the help of animals and humans alike, Audrey attempts to escape the farm - and certain death. Cleverly written as an oral account, this unique illustrated tale of an animal on the run, uses over 30 narrative voices, including six humans, four cows, three sheep, two sheep dogs, one pig and a very silly rooster.” 

Audrey is sweet, the cast of characters is hilarious, and overall this makes a perfectly delightful read for an animal lover.

 

 

The Simple Art of Flying

by Cory Leonardo

“Born in a dismal room in a pet store, Alastair the African grey parrot dreams of escape to bluer skies. He'd like nothing more than to fly away to a palm tree with his beloved sister, Aggie. But when Aggie is purchased by twelve-year-old Fritz, and Alastair is adopted by elderly dance-enthusiast and pie-baker Albertina Plopky, the future looks ready to crash-land. In-between anxiously plucking his feathers, eating a few books, and finding his own poetic voice, Alastair plots his way to a family reunion. But soon he's forced to choose between the life he's always dreamed of and admitting the truth: that sometimes, the bravest adventure is in letting go.” 

I loved the attitude on this snarky parrot! The story itself is touching and surprising.

 

 

 

Gorilla Dawn 

by Gill Lewis

“Deep in the heart of the Congo, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Imara and Bobo are also prisoners in the rebels' camp. When they learn that the gorilla will be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it's too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape?” 

This chapter book is intense, gripping, and eye-opening. A moving read for young conservationists.

 

Let us shop the shelves for you! Fill out a Browsing Bundle request, and a Librarian will bag up a small collection books or movies we think you'll love. 


Youth Services Librarian Allison 

 

Have you always wanted to make your own video game or website, but you don't know where to start? Don't worry, that's what I'm here for!

Here are five kid-friendly books on coding, featuring step-by-step instructions to get you started.

All of these books (and more!) are available at the Barrington Area Library. 


Kids Can Code! Fun Ways to Learn Computer Programming
Ian Garland

This guide is chock full of fun activities that will help you make your own blog, design a video game, create an animated video, or even make music. Garland introduces readers to different coding languages and programs, such as JavaScript and Scratch, and explains why one style of coding may be more appropriate for a specific task than the other. The author also includes visual examples so you can compare your work to his, and makes sure to break big ideas into smaller, more manageable components so readers don't get overwhelmed. If you want to dip your toes into a few different coding languages before committing to one, be sure to check out Kids Can Code!

 

Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games
Jon Woodcock

Now we move on to a specific coding program, Scratch. Scratch is a kid-friendly coding application in which users can link blocks of code in order to perform a specific action: making a cartoon character jump, walk around, speak, etc. In this book, Jon Woodcock shows you how to make your very own video game using Scratch, from platformers to puzzles. Woodcock starts off by talking about computer games generally -- what are they? how are they fun? -- before moving on to specific game styles, as well as explaining the importance of solid game mechanics. This would be a great introduction to coding for anyone interested in video games, whether as a fan or as a future developer.

 

 

Ruby Wizardry: An Introduction to Programming for Kids
Eric Weinstein

Unlike the first two examples in this article, Eric Weinstein's Ruby Wizardry mostly centers around learning a coding language for the sake of coding, not just for video game design, animation, etc. This comprehensive introduction to the Ruby programming language includes real life applications, step-by-step guides, and personal anecdotes from the author. Please note that unlike Scratch, Ruby must first be downloaded onto your computer -- so kids, make sure you have your parents' permission! -- but Weinstein helpfully walks you through the installation process. This book does not contain as many graphics as the previous two. Recommended for readers grades 5 and up.

 

Mission Python: Code a Space Adventure Game!
Sean McManus

McManus walks readers through the basics of the Python coding language, from installation to application. After readers/coders have grown comfortable with the ins and outs of Python, McManus shows them how to build their own video game from the ground up. Like Ruby Wizardry, this book contains some pretty intensive coding work. Recommended for readers grades 5 and up.

 

Create the Code: How to Write Code for Your Smartphone
Max Wainewright

Our previous titles focused on computer programming, but let's take a look at smartphone programming. In this kid-friendly how-to guide, Max Wainewright shows readers how to program applications for smartphones using Scratch and MIT's App Inventor. Kids will learn how to program using the phone's browser, as well as create apps and even new photo filters! Please note that this book is primarily intended for Android users, but contains modified instructions for iPhone users.

 

 

Looking for more recommendations? Fill out our form to get a custom list of reads or a Book Bundle for pickup.


  Youth Services Librarian Chris 

 

We’ve counted all the votes for our 2021 Mock Caldecott winner. The Barrington Area Library’s favorite picture book of 2021 is…

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor

 

This cute little bird won our hearts with his steadfast commitment to flight (despite a loooooong fall from his nest). The book itself is beautifully designed, with cheerful artwork and a dynamic whole-book flip that makes this read-aloud (and Mel’s eventual success) so surprising and joyful. Watch MaryJo’s booktalk of Mel Fell here.

Thank you to everyone who read our nominees and voted! We will all find out the real Caldecott Medal winner on Monday, January 24. (You can even watch the American Library Association’s award announcements live starting at 8 AM.) 

Our nominees were:

Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, art by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay
Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrations by Floyd Cooper
Wishes by by Mu̕ọ̕n Thị Văn, illustrations by Victo Ngai

Find out more about our Mock Caldecott here.


Youth Services Librarian Allison 

 

 

Does your little one love dinosaurs -- let's be honest, who doesn't? Take a trip to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin! But before you do, be sure to take advantage of the Explore More Illinois program.

 

Explore More Illinois, offered and operated by RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library Systems), makes it easier for cardholders to visit various museums, historical sites, and other educational sites across Illinois (and part of Wisconsin).

 

Paleontologists of all ages are sure to be amazed by the stunning exhibits on display at the Museum, marvel at the story of Little Clint the Tyrannosaurus rex, and be fascinated by the science of fossil preservation and study. Kids can also take part in an Eye Spy activity that covers the entire Museum.

 

If you're eager to take your little ones on a trip through prehistory, I encourage you to check out our Explore More Illinois page. Barrington Area Library cardholders can take advantage of a 20% discount on a gift shop purchase. Excludes books, media, and consignment items.

 

For more information, visit this page. Please be sure to check offer availability prior to reservation. You can also contact us at exploremore@balibrary.org.


  Youth Services Librarian Chris 

 

Here are the final two contenders for our Mock Caldecott community vote. Watch our videos, read the books, and vote for your favorite picture book published in 2021!

Find all of our Mock Caldecott videos on our YouTube playlist.

You can host your own Mock Caldecott with friends, families, or classmates, in-person or online. Start by checking out one of our new kits, complete with five outstanding books of 2021, chosen by your librarian friends, along with guides to help you make your discussion a success. Drop off a ballot, also included in the kits, to participate in the big community vote by January 19. 

Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, art by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay
Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrations by Floyd Cooper
Wishes by by Mu̕ọ̕n Thị Văn, illustrations by Victo Ngai

Find out more about our Mock Caldecott here.


Youth Services Librarian Allison 

 

Lots of great books were checked out to our community in 2021. The top checkouts tended to be titles from the Illinois Readers Choice Awards (Caudills, Bluestems, and Monarchs). We also saw some serious circulation from the always popular Mo Willems and Jeff Kinney. Here are the most frequently checked-out books from the Youth Services department in 2021:

Picture Book:

 

SumoKitty by David Biedrzycki

 

 

Beginning Reader:

 

Happy Pig Day! By Mo Willems

 

Juvenile Chapter Book: it was a tie!

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney 

 

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

 

Teen Fiction:

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

 

Graphic Novel:

 

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

 

Nonfiction:

 

 Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship” by Deborah Heiligman

  

Audiobook:

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

 

e-Book:

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney

 

Want more reading lists delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our e-newsletters to discover the newest and best books for kids.


Youth Services Librarian Allison