New ways to tell timeless stories

Whenever I talk about my Uncle Bob, my kids always say, "Is he the one who hated cats?" This is actually not something he is particularly known for. But, one of my dad's favorite stories to tell about his older brother was how Bob hated Lucy, a particularly spoiled and clever cat my grandparents had taken in one summer. When the rest of the family would troop down to the ice cream shop where Bob worked in high school, they'd buy an extra scoop of vanilla to take home for the lazy cat - which made my hard-working uncle fume.

Two generations removed, my kids remember the cat. What I hear is a story about a family willing to spend an extra quarter to do something silly and all still laugh about it years later. The shifting and teasing alliances my dad and his siblings had are some my favorite stories that I heard growing up.

From the moment our kids can talk, one of their first tiny commands is, "Tell me a story." Sometimes it's a memory or it's a made-up story about the dinosaur toys your son has been collecting. And sometimes it's a story from a book, something you know by heart and tell without turning the pages, or one that's new and you discover together.

Before we read, we listen. We snuggle and yawn and wait to be entertained or amused - or sometimes even scared!

In addition to thousands of books you can borrow and read to your kids and grandkids, the Hinsdale Public Library has some fun new devices that kids can use on their own when they want to hear a new tale.

The Toniebox is a cute little square speaker with squishy ears that "reads" stories and songs when specific characters are placed on top. Grab Winnie the Pooh and hear about the Hundred Acre Wood. Want someone else to duet "Let it Go" with your little princess? Let her pick out the Elsa Tonie and give it a whirl.

The Yoto is good for pre-K and older, featuring some short chapter books on the cards that kids can slide into the smiley-faced speaker.

And for kids ready to read along, we've got an ever-growing collection of Wonderbooks, a print book with a ready-to-play audiobook inside. This collection will grow with your reader - from Fancy Nancy to Big Nate and beyond. This kind of paired reading may also be of interest to kids with different learning styles or for whom English is a second language.

As amazing as some of these new tools can be, sometimes there's no substitute for time spent reading from the pages of a book as a family. We can read together or read separately and then retell the stories we've read. Ask us for help picking a title, or sign up for our book match forms and book box programs online. We have thousands of stories waiting to be told.

As schedules shift and anticipation rises over the next few busy weeks, come check out the screen-free ways the library can help your little one unwind. Our staff love to connect books and readers and can't wait to introduce you to stories you'll be retelling for years to come.

- Karen Keefe is the executive director of the Hinsdale Public Library.