Sloths, Poison Dart Frogs and Football Physics:

Cultivating Curious Minds at the Library with YouTube...and Books

When Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro was a child, he loved movie monsters so much that he taught himself English to learn more about them.

He didn’t do it for a class. He didn’t do it for his parents. He didn’t do it because it would improve his test scores. He did it because he was curious, and he wanted to read the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and understand what the words said.

The children’s librarians and staff at the Tulsa City-County Library like to take a page out of del Toro’s monster magazine and build on children’s curiosity while encouraging a love for reading.

And sometimes that means we start with a YouTube video.

YouTube? For real?

The 21st century has given us technology that can be a burden and a chore (says anyone forced to answer work email during vacation). But for children, it’s also a great opportunity to stoke curiosity and build a sophisticated level of background knowledge about a wide variety of topics.

Background knowledge is a reading teacher’s best friend. The more a child knows about a topic, the easier it is to read and understand text about that topic.

And one of the best new modern ways to develop background knowledge?

You guessed it: YouTube.

What’s more, your child has probably already discovered it and is just waiting for you to help cultivate their curiosity with even richer sources of knowledge: books!

Learn like a sloth, and other animal adventures

The chain of learning might go something like this.

You’re noodling around on Facebook when you see a friend’s posting of a funny video of a sloth. You show it to your child, who wants to know more about this strange, slow and fascinating creature.

Or you watched an animated movie with a sloth character. Or you jokingly called the slow driver in front of you a sloth. Sloths are everywhere these days!)

Together, you find a series of sloth videos perfect to watch with your child, from Animal Planet and National Geographic, that give more information about sloths but also show what they look like, how they move and what they eat.

And then you say the magic words: “Let’s go see what the library has about sloths!”

Books, glorious books, so many books, at the library! Books upon books about sloths, all ready for your child to check out and pore over, learning more and becoming experts.

But that’s not all! Once in the juvenile nonfiction section where the animal books are (the Dewey Decimal number of 599s to be exact), other books may capture your child’s curiosity.

Poison dart frogs? Hmmm, that looks interesting! Camels, what are their humps for, anyway? And this big book of tigers and lions? Oh, my!

Riddle me this

Another YouTube entry point into library books is the humble riddle and joke. Search for “Clean kid jokes” online (preview the results first, of course) and share with your child.

Then walk them to the 818s section of the children’s nonfiction shelves of your library. You’ll find a plethora of excellent joke books and books with brain-twisting riddles.

Who knows? Just as Guillermo del Toro became one of the most famous monster moviemakers in the world, your kid could become a renowned comedian.

And it all started in the library.

TED-Ed, Kids Learning Tube, and more

Excellent sources of curiosity-building videos can be found on the educational channels of TED-Ed (an offshoot from the popular adult channel of TED Talks) and Kids Learning Tube, both of which offer playlists related to different topics.

From learning the geography of different countries to “the physics of basketball,” these short videos can act as introductions for a variety of mind-blowing (and mind-building) subject areas, causing your child to want to learn more. And more. And more.

And do you know the best answer to their questions? “Let’s go to the library!”

Categories: Books and Literacy