Ruth Spiro is the author of the bestselling Baby Loves Science board book series and a STEM-themed picture book, Made by Maxine, named a “Best STEM Book” by the National Science Teaching Association. She writes books that inspire kids to observe the world, ask questions, and dream big! She lives in Deerfield, Illinois.
Your Baby Loves... series covers some pretty sophisticated topics! What inspired the idea to create board books about STEM and political science?
In 2010, The New York Times ran the article “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” about a substantial drop in picture book sales. Some believed this was due to the choice some parents were making to start their very young children on more “advanced” level books like early readers and chapter books. It occurred to me that these parents might be looking
for elevated content — books that were fun to read but also age-appropriate and educational.
I think the reason my Baby Loves Science books have become popular is that they work on several levels. They’re beautiful to look at and appeal to even very young babies who do not yet understand the words. (Thanks to the brilliant illustrators, Irene Chan and Greg Paprocki!) As children grow and develop, they can relate the concept to a real-world observation or experience. Importantly, the books also appeal to parents and caregivers because they feel they’re learning something, too.
Similarly, the Baby Loves Political Science books felt important in the time leading up to the 2020 election. With so much going on in the media, my editor and I discussed the need for books that explain these ideas in simple terms for very young children. This collection includes Democracy, which is about how elections work, as well as Congress, Justice, and The Presidency.
As we head into election season once again, I think these books will be helpful both at home and the library.
Your process must involve quite a bit of research. Where do you begin?
Once I decide on a topic, I’ll read books and articles, watch videos, talk with experts and even take field trips if possible. While working on Baby Loves Quarks, I visited the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia and toured an actual particle accelerator. Throughout the writing process, I seek feedback to help refine the story and its relationship to the science concepts. I call upon expert reviewers, including retired physicist Dr. Fred Bortz, to check both the text and illustrations for accuracy.
While the Baby Loves Science books may appear simple, they’re the result of collaboration between an entire team, because we all believe that our young audience deserves nothing less.
How do you make those topics accessible for little ones?
My editorial priority is always the child. First and foremost, the books we share with our little ones should be age-appropriate, visually appealing, and fun to read. Then, if I can find a way to include even the smallest nugget of science while also producing a giggle or two, I’ve done my job!
I start with a list of things that are familiar to a baby or toddler — activities like watching a bird fly, building a tower with blocks, and dropping crackers from a high chair just to watch them fall.
Then I think about how they relate to what feels like a complex scientific concept. Without this context, the idea of “science” is too abstract for a small child. But when introduced in a story about something familiar, it becomes more accessible. That real-world experience becomes a key, unlocking the door to the science behind it.
There’s actually a growing body of research on this topic, mostly relating to the fact that babies are natural scientists. For example, a study at Johns Hopkins revealed that before their first birthday, babies intuitively understand that if you drop a ball it will fall, rather than hover in the air. This is physics and gravity! So rather than talking about babies learning science principles, I prefer to reframe the conversation as babies discovering science principles.
I imagine adults have plenty to learn from these books, too. What’s something surprising that you have learned while working on the series?
Writing about science for a very young audience has inspired me to look at the field with a fresh perspective. When I was in school, I thought that “science” meant memorizing facts and formulas. Working on this series, I’ve discovered that science is so much more than that because it explains the interconnectedness of our world.
The second thing I learned is that it’s never too early to introduce children to this way of thinking. I received an email from a parent who’d been reading Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering with her daughter. She mentioned that they’d be going on an airplane soon, and her daughter began talking about how an airplane’s wings do not flap because it has engines to lift it into
the air. The little girl may not yet understand the physics of flight, but she does know there’s a difference between a bird’s wings and an airplane’s wings, which is a brilliant beginning.
What do you hope children and families take away from your books?
A child’s job is to explore and experiment, because that’s how they figure out how the world works. I’m not advocating for teaching young children about science; I view it as encouraging exploration and curiosity while introducing some basic science vocabulary along the way.
My hope is that my books will spark an interest and then become jumping-off points for continued learning. Even if the science is new to parents, they can have fun learning right along with their children. If they don’t know the answer to a question, it’s fine to admit that and then say, “Let’s find out together!” By modeling curiosity and a willingness to investigate, they’re encouraging their child’s sense of wonder as well.
I also hope these books help parents and caregivers slow down, appreciate all the little things that children find fascinating, and experience them together. When we view the world from their perspective, every day brings opportunities for discovering something new.
I’m pleased to share that between 2023 and 2024 I’ll have seven new books coming out, including two additions to the core Baby Loves Science board book collection. The topics haven’t been revealed yet, but I promise they’ll be worth the wait. I’m also working on a brand-new picture book series
based on Baby Loves... but for early elementary readers who are ready to learn more about their favorite topics. In the coming months I’ll also be sharing more about three exciting new picture books. These are departures from my other books in that two are rhyming and one is lyrical and quite special, a
“book of my heart.”
Reach Ruth via her website, RuthSpiro.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @ruthspiro.
Information and forms are now available for people considering a run for Vernon Area Public Library Trustee in the April 4, 2023 Consolidated Election.
Prospective candidates can pick up nomination papers at Vernon Area Public Library, 300 Olde Half Day Road, Lincolnshire, during regular library business hours. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Ask at the Adult Desk.
Information and forms are also available on the library website at http://VAPLD.info/candidates.
Public library trustees are nonpartisan community representatives. They determine the library’s policies, set its budget and advocate on its behalf. The library board meets monthly, typically on the third Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Two of the board’s seven seats will be filled at the spring election. Trustees elected in April 2023 will serve six-year terms beginning in May 2023 and ending in April 2029.
To qualify to run, prospective candidates must meet residency and other requirements. They also must petition at least 50 signatures from qualified voters residing in the district. Prospective candidates may begin circulating nominating petitions, which are included in the packets, beginning September 20, 2022.
Completed nomination papers may be filed at the library during weekday administrative business hours beginning Monday, December 12, 2022. The last day to file is Monday, December 19, 2022. Paperwork may be filed by mail or in person, either by the candidate or their representative.
Those wishing to run for this office are strongly advised to obtain legal counsel regarding candidate requirements, the proper method for completing the petition forms, the qualifications of signers and circulators and other information.
This fall, join us in paying tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have influenced and enriched our culture through their contributions to art, music, and literature with a selection of library programming for kids
and adults during National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15.
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President
Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15.
The date of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of
independence for Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate
their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Join the celebration by stopping by the library to select a book for kids or adults that honors Hispanic heritage. Or join in at one of these free library programs:
Also find us at Brushwood Family Fest at nearby Ryerson Woods on Saturday, September 17, from 10am-2pm for a festive celebration of nature, art, and culture. Stop by the library table featuring crafts from three Latin American countries.
The Vernon Area Public Library District is pleased to announce that Anne Rasmussen, MLIS, will serve as its next Library Director beginning September 12, 2022.
Rasmussen joins us from Milwaukee Public Library, where she most recently served as Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Services. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Kent State University (Ohio), along with a second master’s degree from Indiana University and an undergraduate degree from Saint Olaf College in Minnesota.
“We were looking for an innovative thinker who will help the library continue to meet the evolving educational, recreational, and social needs of our community,” said Library Board President Marc Fenton. “Anne demonstrates the passion for librarianship and openness to new ideas that the board was seeking.”
Rasmussen brings a strong track record of leadership, vision, and direction to the role. In her more than 20 years of service in libraries, she has distinguished herself as a mission-focused leader with an eye toward delivering thoughtful library services that advance civic well-being and connection.
“I am thrilled to serve as Vernon Area Public Library District’s next director,” said Rasmussen. “I look forward to learning from and listening to the community in order to best lead this stellar library forward.”
Summer Reading is an American tradition more than 100 years old. Originally intended to help schoolchildren retain academic gains over the summer school holiday, summer reading programs today may serve all ages and include non-reading activities and recreational pursuits.
This year’s "Create Your Own Summer Adventure" program is more flexible than ever. Just pick up a checklist and complete activities you choose at whatever pace you prefer. The program provides a challenge, a small amount of structure, and a good number of ideas of things to do or try — what you do is up to you!
Qualifying activities include reading (of course!), watching a movie, crafts, outside activities, and more. Complete half the activities for a “halfway” prize; complete them all for a finisher prize and raffle entry. Summer Reading runs from June 1 to July 31. Visit the library to begin your adventure!
The Village of Lincolnshire will host an Arbor Day tree planting ceremony with Half Day School students at Vernon Area Public Library on Friday, April 29, at 9 a.m.
Two Illinois-native red oak trees will be planted at the library. The ceremony will include educational opportunities, short speeches from officials, and a Q&A session with the Village of Lincolnshire arborist.
Approximately 20 students from Half Day School's Green Team will attend the ceremony. The Green Team is a passionate group of students whose mission is to inspire and empower the learning community around sustainability. The team identifies and implements solutions to help Half Day School operate in a more environmentally sustainable way.
"It's my pleasure to issue a proclamation recognizing Arbor Day on April 29 in the Village of Lincolnshire. Planting new trees with students is how we educate the next generation on the importance greenery plays in the health of our community and world," stated Lincolnshire mayor Elizabeth Brandt. "All you need to do is look up to see how much pride Lincolnshire has in its urban forest!"
Lincolnshire was recognized in 2022 by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA recipient. This is the Village's 33rd consecutive year being recognized with this distinction. Neighboring Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, and Riverwoods have also earned this designation.
"When this library building was constructed in 1993, planting trees on the library grounds was a priority for the library board," added Cynthia Fuerst, Vernon Area Library executive director. "Their vision and commitment benefitted all who have visited the library for the past 30 years. We are delighted to be partnering with the Village of Lincolnshire to plant new trees on the library campus in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day."
The Vernon Area Board of Library Trustees also recognized the occasion with a proclamation at their April 18, 2022, regular meeting.
The Board of Trustees of the Vernon Area Public Library District (VAPLD) in Lincolnshire, Illinois, seeks an experienced leader with vision and enthusiasm to serve as Executive Director.
The library is located in Lake County, Illinois, about 30 miles north of Chicago. It serves approximately 42,000 people who live in an area known for its top-rated public schools, diverse population, strong business environment, and easy access to the greater Chicago metropolitan area.
This is a wonderful opportunity to lead a library that is supported by an excellent staff, dedicated board of trustees, and engaged community. This opportunity is open due to the upcoming retirement of the current Executive Director.
Apply by April 26 for first consideration. Find details and application information at https://www.JohnKeister.com/VAPLD/
Like many other things, reader behavior has changed radically in the past two years, including a surge in the popularity of audiobooks. We caught up with local voice talent Anne Marie Lewis to give audiobook fans a peek behind the curtain: a look at how a narrator transforms words on a page into an immersive world in your head.
How did you get into audiobook work?
I am a voracious listener of audiobooks and eventually realized that most narrators were actors. Being a performer myself, and a lover of reading and of
audiobooks, I wondered how I might do such a thing. I took an entry-level voiceover class at a local acting school and asked questions about narrating audiobooks. The instructor sent me info for a class through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) taught by a local Chicago actor/director.
When starting a new project, how do you prepare?
First rule of narration: READ THE BOOK! This is the only way to understand the author’s intent and style, suss out character traits and motivations, and find out if accents are required. (There are horror stories of narrators who did not prepare thoroughly, only to learn six hours into recording that the main character is Scottish and lisps!) When possible, I ask the author to provide information about the character’s voice qualities, if this minor character could become a main or recurring character in later installments of a series, their dream casting for the character... I do not impersonate an actor in my read, but knowing who an author might have in mind for a character helps me capture the essence of that character.
If there’s a required accent I’ve never done, I research it, call my dialect coach for one-on-one work, and practice! And there’s always researching names and terms to make sure pronunciations are spot-on.
What might people find surprising about audiobook production?
Making an audiobook is not just sitting in front of a microphone and reading. It takes five to six hours of work for each finished hour of audio, plus the time it takes to prep a script.
After annotating the script with pronunciations, making character notes, directorial notes, tone, and so on, I get in my booth and record. If I am very efficient, I can record one finished hour in 2 – 2 1⁄2 hours.
Once I finish recording the raw audio, it goes to a proofer who checks for misreads, mispronunciations, inconsistencies with voices, and so forth. I get a list of corrections called “pick-ups,” record those, and send them back to the engineer who then inserts them into the proper audio files, edits the book, and masters the files. At this point, the author or rights holder reviews the recording for approval, and the audiobook is sent on for retail. Depending on the length of the audiobook, the whole process could take about six weeks.
Do you have any audio narration heroes or a favorite performance that you return to?
Katherine Kellgren is one of my favorites. I think I have listened to just about everything she recorded. She passed away in 2018 but she inspired me to go into audiobook narration. I am also a huge fan of Davina Porter, who voices the entire Outlander series. That’s a TON of recording hours. I am slowly making my way through Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, which is almost 50 hours long! Also I just binge-listened to the Irish Village Mystery series by Carlene O’Connor and delightfully read by Caroline Lennon. Other favorite narrators are Sean Pratt, Johnny Heller, Therese Plummer, Edoardo Ballerini, Will Patton, and Robin Miles.
I’d also like to mention some terrific locally-based narrators, since you cannot tell where narrators are from when choosing audiobooks: Amy Deuchler, Lindsey Dorcus, Amy Johnson, Stacy Gonzalez, Shaina Summerville and Allyson Voller. There are quite a good number of us Chicago-based narrators!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I enjoy sharing my narration story and journey, and I’m happy to help. If you are interested in learning more about the process or you are an author looking to bring your book to audio life, I invite you to reach out. Even if I am not the right voice for your audiobook, I can point you in the right direction. We narrators are a tight-knit, well-connected group!
Anne Marie Lewis is a Chicago-based audiobook narrator and accomplished stage actor, with more than 30 years’ experience spanning theater to opera. She is a member of SAG-AFTRA. She can be reached via her website at AnneMarieLewis.com.
Mask use became optional for all library visitors after the Illinois mandate expired and the library board approved the policy change at their meeting on Monday, February 28.
To better serve patrons who are immunocompromised or at higher risk — or anyone who prefers an environment where everyone is wearing a mask — early entry for “mask required” access hour is available. The service is similar to special shopping hours offered by many retail stores.
Beginning Monday, March 7, visitors may enter the library one hour before opening to browse the shelves or use the computers or copy center with the comfort of knowing everyone in the space is wearing a mask.
Services during this hour are limited to unaided:
Personal assistance is not available. Contactless options are available during regular operating hours for library services such as account matters and reference assistance.
Access is available daily. No signup is required. Just visit! Find hours at VAPLD.info/calendar or by calling the adult desk at 224-543-1485.
When you enter the library before hours, you agree that everyone over age 2 in your party will wear a properly fitting mask during this special access period. Library staff passing through spaces accessible by the public will also be masked.
The library has prioritized health and safety of patrons and staff throughout the pandemic. Significant safety measures are in place at all times, including ventilation enhancements, a vaccine mandate for library employees, and constant monitoring of the local environment.
Your questions or feedback are welcomed. Contact us.
updated January 2023
OverDrive app users, changes are coming! The legacy OverDrive app is being replaced with Libby, OverDrive’s newer reading app.
For now, if you are already using the OverDrive app, you can continue borrowing and downloading content as before.
Later this year, you will need to move to the Libby app, but it is not required right now. We’ll keep you updated about plans and timing for officially retiring the OverDrive app and provide plenty of notice to ensure a smooth transition.
That said, you may want to move sooner — Libby is a pretty great app! It is easy to use and full of fun features.
Just want to see books for kids? Are you only into audiobooks? With the Libby app, you can set preferences to see only the content you’re interested in.
Libby sends push notifications, so you’ll never miss out on a chance to borrow a book you’ve been waiting for.
The Libby app also offers support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to listen to your audiobooks.
Download and try it today! www.overdrive.com/apps/libby/