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“Miss Becky” Loved Storytime as a Child, Now Leads Storytime for New Generation

As a child growing up in St. Joseph, Mo., Becky Carleton went regularly with her mother to library Storytimes, where she learned the fundamentals of language, reading and early childhood literacy. She still has incredible memories of the librarian who led those Storytime sessions.

“She was so wonderful. We called her Auntie Bea. She was one of my favorite people in the world,” Carleton recalls.

Now, Carleton leads Johnson County Library Storytimes as “Miss Becky” – instilling a love for reading and learning in a whole new generation of children.

It was a long and winding path to get to this point. Carleton’s family moved to Johnson County when she was in 7th grade. She didn’t enjoy formal schooling and worked as a nanny and at other jobs. But she had always seen libraries as sanctuaries of knowledge, satisfying her curiosity as a self-taught learner. She got a job in 1993 in the Periodicals Department at Antioch Library, launching what has become a wonderful career.

“It made me feel I was doing something good for the community and myself,” Carleton says. “My co-workers loved language and learning. They were my people.”

She eventually became an Interlibrary Loan clerk at Central Resource Library while earning her associate’s degree from JCCC. She also met her husband, Will Carleton, when both worked at Central. The couple married in 2004. Their daughter Kat was born in July 2006.

Carleton accompanied Kat to Johnson County Library Storytimes for nearly five years – “It was our weekly thing, just like with my mom and me” – until Kat went off to kindergarten. After that, Carleton still craved the Storytime experience.

At Central, Carleton had become an adult information specialist in 2005. She crossed paths with Youth Services Librarians Angel Tucker and Laura Hunt, who urged her to pursue her Storytime dream.

So in March 2015 she got a job as a youth information specialist at Oak Park Library, learning from Angelica Reiff, Bradley Debrick and other early childhood literacy masters. In leading her own Storytime programs, “Miss Becky” also brings the perspective of someone who participated as a child and as a parent. She knows what works to enchant and enlighten.

Storytimes had to be re-imagined during the pandemic. The youth services staff pivoted to online programming for the past two years via Facebook Live. One upside is providing access to many families who, pre-pandemic, couldn’t attend Storytimes in person.

Recently, a family approached Carleton at the Lenexa Recreation Center. They were among her regulars, but she had never actually met them. “They had only ever seen my online Storytime,” she explained. “They were so grateful.” The mom and dad shared how their one-year-old and six-year-old kids loved the sessions, and that was wonderful feedback.

Carleton currently leads Storytime OnDemand, which families can watch anytime. The short videos feature songs, rhymes and finger plays that demonstrate the 6 By 6 Ready to Read skills. Carleton will also lead Storytime on June 4 to kick off the Summer Reading program.

Working with the Library’s youngest patrons is endlessly gratifying. “I love helping them learn to read,” Carleton said. “Once you learn how to read you can do anything, and I’m a testament to that.”

She also enjoys sharing reader advisory recommendations with adult patrons and gets great satisfaction working with teenagers.

Even though she’s been with Johnson County Library for more than 29 years, she still learns something new every day. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere of growth,” she said,  "being able to learn about anything, without judgment.”

Walk and Read with your Family this Summer

Walk and Read creates a family reading experience in the great outdoors! Families who participate will read two stories posted around the path, one going each direction. When you finish one story, you can turn around to the other side of the sign and begin the next story, which will lead you back around the path. Walk and Read is a program encouraging physical activity, literacy and family time, while allowing for social distancing. The paths are stroller- and wheelchair-friendly, allowing for family members of all ages to join in the fun.

Check our calendar for a Walk and Read near you!

Have you been Mesmerized?

Just in case you missed our latest podcast episode, here is your chance again!

On the Did you hear? podcast, we explore MESMERIZING MEMES AND MORE (supply your own echo effect) We give you some history, the behind-the-scenes philosophy, strategy and everything else when it comes to creating social media content for FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

Mesmerizing? You know it!

This Week at the Library

Library OnDemand Available anytime you like.

Your doorway into live and archived programs. Arts & Culture, Career & Finance, Community Matters, Writers and more!

Silencing Your Inner Critic Tuesday, May 17, 11 a.m. – noon

This workshop focuses on using positive self-talk and affirmations to help create a positive self-image. We also dig into how self-care is not selfish.

Goal Setting and Time Management Wednesday, May 18, 10 a.m. – noon

This workshop will give you the skills and knowledge to identify how you currently use your time, identity your personal time management strengths and weaknesses, learn the dimensions of self-management of time and identify new habits you can implement to improve your personal time management.

Exploring Entrepreneurship Thursday, May 19, 11 a.m. – noon

Join us for an overview of what entrepreneurship is all about. We will discuss entrepreneurship characteristics, and how to plan for opening your business.

Walk and Read at Wilder Bluffs ParkMay 21 – May 30, All day  

Johnson County Library, Shawnee Parks and Rec, and De Soto Parents as Teachers, invite you to visit the Walk and Read program at Wilder Bluffs Park, located in Shawnee KS. Two stories, Boats Float! and After Squidnight, will be posted for kids of all ages to enjoy while exploring the great outdoors.

And much more happening this week »

Exploring I Bonds as Protection Against Inflation

Are you watching prices at the grocery store and the gas station go up making the balance of the savings account you worked hard to build worth less every month? 

Consider using I bonds to help your savings keep up.  The interest rate provided by I bonds is a combination of a fixed rate plus a rate based on inflation that is updated every 6 months. The interest rate for I bonds issued from May 2022 through October 2022 is 9.62%. I bonds must be held for at least 12 months, so you may want to buy a little at a time instead of putting all your savings into I bonds at once.  TreasuryDirect.gov allows each individual to setup recurring purchases of I bonds through regular withdrawals from a bank account or through payroll deductions.  Purchases can be as small as $25, with a $10,000 limit per individual each year.   

More information about I bonds is on TreasuryDirect.gov’s Series I Savings Bonds page and information about how to automate bond purchases is on their How Do I Purchase Savings Bonds page. 

To learn about more resources for career & financial empowerment, subscribe to Johnson County Library’s Career & Finance Newsletter.

elementia Magazine Showcases Youth Artistry, Optimism

This year’s issue of Johnson County Library’s teen literary magazine, elementia, will be released today, featuring amazing writing and art work on the evocative theme of “the unknown.”

The editors had assumed that theme might elicit entries about outer space, aliens, and other mysteries. But, as Monticello youth information specialist Emma Fernhout says, they were surprised.

“The teens who submitted weren’t as much interested in the unknown of the faraway world as much as dealing with the unknown in their own lives,” said Fernhout, one of three youth services specialists who facilitated the project with the teen editors.

The Library received poetry and prose about relationships, changing friendships, family dynamics, even explorations about math.

This year’s issue, XIX, once again highlights teen creativity and originality. Gaby Kill, a 19-year-old KU freshman who was in her third and final year as an elementia editor, said they received poems that were  uniquely introspective and intimate.

“That’s the beauty of elementia,” she said. “Not even the editors who curate it know what it’s going to turn out like.”

Submissions were more hopeful than expected, even though they were written during a time of pandemic and fear.

“It’s people finding all the good in the bad,” Kill said. “We were all really surprised at how uplifting it was.”

The elementia publication process was a labor of love. This year, the magazine had 16 teen editors from Johnson County and the metro area. That included 14 poetry/prose editors and five designers, with some teens doing both. Meetings were held virtually over Zoom.

Riley Strait, 15, an Olathe North High sophomore, worked on both editorial and design tasks.

“I ended up loving the experience,” he said, adding that it was a very deliberative curating project. “It’s a lot more considering what’s best for the magazine rather than what I like. It’s a good experience working in a professional environment like that.”

He learned a lot about different writing styles, was captivated by fantastic artwork, and appreciated the collaborative, respectful editing process.

Kill is majoring in computer science but writing is a passion for her. elementia helped her forge enduring connections with incredible young writers and editors.

The editorial facilitators were Fernhout and Tiffany Rinne, a youth information specialist at the Blue Valley branch. Cassandra Gillig, Leawood Pioneer branch information specialist, facilitated the visual arts side.

The group met once a month starting in September 2021, drumming up submissions and planning for next year. Beginning in January and through February, the editors culled through 922 submissions from teens aged 13-19. It’s a big commitment, with editors spending 50 hours reading submissions and reviewing art. They had 16 hours of meetings, including most Saturdays in February.

They ultimately accepted 54 pieces of poetry or prose and 61 art pieces, 12 percent of entries, so it was very selective. Fernhout appreciated the articulate debates over submissions, as editors advocated for different works.

“Teens want to change each other’s minds,” she said. “We love that. It ensures every submitter gets a fair and fighting chance to be in the magazine.”

The accepted pieces, she said, were outstanding. “I always feel very hopeful about the future of literature from these kids,” she said. “They are so experimental and they are so committed to their own voice.”

The design editors do the layout using Adobe InDesign. The magazine’s virtual release party will be May 13 and the magazine will then be available online and with copies in Library branches.

Working on elementia brought out the best in those involved.

“It’s been very motivating and fulfilling to see young people pushing through so much of the burnout and stress of the last year to really be enthusiastic about creating something so beautiful,” Fernhout said. “They are so smart. They know what they like.” 

Cities and Towns of Johnson County

Happy Throwback Thursday! Celebrate by time traveling through local history at jocohistory.org and be sure to follow our hashtag on Twitter! 

A really neat feature of JoCoHistory is the Cities and Towns of Johnson County section. The team has organized content like pictures of houses, schools, people and more by city and town names. While there, be sure to explore the Lost Communities of Johnson County, Kansas. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

A good friend of the Library—who chooses to remain anonymous—shared a Library success story. He had worked in public service all his life. Paying his student loans off proved challenging due to a few "real world" and "real life" financial challenges. Not to mention, public service jobs while rewarding in many ways aren't always rewarding financially.

He had heard about Public Service Loan Forgiveness. He tried. He went through what was quite a time-consuming process only to be told he had the "wrong kind of loan" and wasn't eligible for loan forgiveness. So, he gave up and carried on.

But, that's not the end of his story! No. Big changes have taken place and many corrections have been made to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness process. He found this Johnson County Library video and it changed his life!