Engaging Methuen Readers

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Immigration Stories

Immigration StoriesWhether you or your family came to the United States a year ago or a century ago, this is a country of immigrants, so it’s no wonder that stories about the immigrant experience resonate so strongly with readers. Even if our knowledge of our family’s immigration story is hazy and passed down through many generations, literature that illustrates the challenges, triumphs, and emotions of resettling in a new homeland compels us to view life through a lens very different from our own.

From the story of an escape from a shantytown in Zimbabwe depicted in NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names to the harsh landscape that faces a young Norwegian immigrant in Peter Geye’s The Lighthouse Road, these stories shed light on the immigrant experience. Many people come to this country without knowing much if any English, and one of their first priorities upon coming to the country is to learn the language.

In our own community, there are newcomers who need help learning English and adjusting to their new country and culture. There is a long waiting list at many of the programs in the area, and Literacy Volunteers of Methuen is no exception; we are nearing 70 prospective students waiting for a tutor.

Through Literacy Volunteers, tutors are paired with a student and they work with this student for two hours a week, to give them dedicated attention and specialized teaching suited to the student’s unique needs. If you would like to help someone, please consider attending an orientation for the Literacy Volunteers of Methuen fall training. There are three orientations to choose from:

Saturday September 23, 10-11 a.m.
Wednesday September 27, 7-8 p.m.
Thursday September 28, 10-11 a.m.

After that, the six-week training program will begin on October 11 at 6:30 p.m. If you have any questions about the program or training, please contact Kathleen Kenny at 978-686-4080, ext. 32 or

Other fiction titles you may enjoy include: These stories portray the experiences of immigrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, China, and many countries in between.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Song of the Water Saints by Nelly Rosario

The Lightning Keeper by Starling Lawrence

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

A Free Life by Ha Jin

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Towelhead by Alicia Erian

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez


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Literacy Volunteers of Methuen: find out how you can help!

¡Hablemos! cropped

For ten years, the Methuen affiliate of Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts has been providing free, confidential, student-centered, one-on-one tutoring for people who are working to learn the English language. Twice a year, volunteers are trained to provide either tutoring assistance to area residents who need help learning English, or improving the English skills that they have. Through a six-week training program, tutors are prepared to work with students at many levels of language proficiency, using a variety of techniques and resources.

Tutor and student pairs typically spend about two hours per week together, usually at the library. The goals that students are working on range from gaining a basic grasp of the language to preparing for the citizenship test or college entrance exams. It’s not uncommon for tutors and students to work together for many years and develop lasting friendships.

Currently, the students that Literacy Volunteers of Methuen tutors are working with come from 18 different countries. While each student has goals and plans unique to him or her, they all have one thing in common: to learn the language of their new country.

Right now, there are close to 60 students on the waiting list, and many have already been waiting for a tutor for over a year. If you are interested in learning more about how you can volunteer to help as an ESOL tutor, please join us for an orientation session. If, after learning more about the program, you decide that tutoring isn’t for you at this time, you are not obligated to continue with the training.

Orientations will be held on:

Wednesday, April 12 from 7-8 p.m.
Thursday, April 13 from 10-11 a.m.
Saturday, April 15 from 10-11 a.m.

Tutoring will begin on Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m., and continue for six weeks concluding on May 24.

If you have any questions about the program prior to the orientations, please call me (Kathleen Kenny) at 978-686-4080, extension 32, or email at

I hope to see you soon!

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Helping you help yourself: self-help books at the library

self-help-graphicTypically, we think of the New Year as a time for reflection and self-improvement, but if there’s something bothering you, there is no time  like the present to begin working to improve it!

Often, patrons will approach the reference desk asking for the “self-help section.” Due to the number of topics that fall under the umbrella of what one might consider “self-help,” books of this type are shelved in many different locations.

Some common authors and titles that patrons are looking for include books like

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki

I’ve recently written a brief guide to getting started on self-help. For each of the different topics that you may be looking to learn more about, I’ve listed the call numbers where you can find books to suit your interest, as well as some suggested titles. Whether you’re looking to improve your financial, physical, spiritual, or marital health, we’ve got books for you! Please ask at the reference desk, or find the brochures on the shelves near the large tables on the second floor.

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Back to school: New Year’s Resolutions for parents

I’m about to head into my sixth school year as a parent, and I’m experiencing that familiar sense of optimism and hope that accompanies this time of year. The belief that this year will be different, this will be the year that no permission slip goes missing, there is no morning scramble for missing shoes, and the year that a healthy, home-cooked meal is enjoyed and happily anticipated by all.

I’ll get over it; by October (…okay, mid-November–this is, after all, the season of optimism!) I will have abandoned my pleas to get my kids on board with my organization schemes, I’ll resort to the crowd-pleasing standby of chicken nuggets at least once a week, and I’ll be trying to convince at least one child that mis-matched socks are quirky and fun, rather than a tell-tale sign of an overdue laundry day.

While my optimism lasts, I have started thinking about the sticking points that make the school year trying, for both parents and kids. The incredible popularity of this teacher’s note about not assigning homework that went viral last week is a testament to the stress and drama that play out nightly in homes across the country. My kids aren’t even old enough to have long-term projects and work that can be procrastinated on, and we’ve already had a taste of the angst that accompanies nightly assignments. Then there are the endless newsletters, both hard copy and emailed, which bring about the to-do lists, save-the-dates, and calls for volunteers. Every afternoon’s back-pack emptying (if it gets
done at all…) leaves my kitchen table littered with stacks of paper. Especially once the days grow shorter and the calendar gets more packed with activities, keeping up with it all starts to feel a little overwhelming.

end of the year

This all entered my home on one day at the end of the last school year.

By this point in my career as a parent of school-age children, I’ve learned that the best way (or at least, an adequate way) to get on top of clutter and chaos is to plan for it, and corral it as soon as it comes in the door. Here are a few titles that we have here, that may help with getting a handle on your schedule and your stuff:

organization graphicSecrets of an Organized Mom
CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!
Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier

How Did I Get So Busy? The 28-Day Plan to free Your Time, Reclaim Your Schedule, and Reconnect with What Matters Most
Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff
Conquer the Clutter: Reclaim Your Space, Reclaim Your Life

On top of the scheduling and the homework and the daunting task of keeping an all-white karate gi acceptably clean for twice-a-week practice, there is the need to keep these kids fed. No, I didn’t neglect to feed them while they were out of school. But with summer comes a more laid-back approach. Doritos with lunch? Sure, it’s summer! Hot dogs for dinner? It’s so nice out, of course we should be grilling!

cookbook graphicThe predictability and routine of the school year calls for a more sober approach to meal times, and a return to the cookbooks and Pinterest boards for ideas for how to bring a nightly meal to the table that will please all, come together quickly, and within a budget. Frequent use of a Crock-Pot and a good plan for meal prep on the weekends goes a long way. Here are a few cookbooks that you can find on our shelves that are geared toward school-year lunch and dinner challenges:

Beating the Lunch Box Blues
Faster! I’m Starving
Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook: 250 New Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes
Week In a Day: Five Dishes, One Day
Yum-o! The Family Cookbook
Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make Mealtime Easy

Happy Back-to-School!

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Christmas in August!

christmas in augustAs a quilter and crocheter, I love the idea of making handmade gifts and cards for friends and family, especially for the holidays. Unfortunately, like most people I have limited free time, so my ideas and my reality often don’t quite mesh. Last year’s crocheted mermaid blankets for my nieces, intended for Christmas presents, finally made it into the girls’ hands around St. Patrick’s Day. A quilt for a cousin’s new baby–whose arrival I had ample time to prepare for–arrived just in time for the little one to celebrate her five month birthday.

For years, I have sworn that I won’t begin any intended Christmas present any time later than Labor Day. And every year, around Columbus Day or so, I find a great gift idea that I decide I can just whip up in the next two months. And every year, I come up empty on Christmas morning, but I make up for it with what end up being really elaborate Valentine’s Day presents.

This year, I’d like to think I’m going to do things differently. And to that end, I’ve already started to collect ideas for all the great Halloween crafts I’d like to do with my kids, the new recipes I might try for Thanksgiving, and the gifts I’ll give no later than New Year’s Day. If you would like to get a jump on costumes, cards, recipe-collecting, and gift-making, here are a few titles that I’ve found at the library–come check out our display for more great holiday ideas!

halloweenHalloween Costumes

dazzlingDazzling Disguises and Clever Costumes


100 Fresh and Fun Handmade Cards: Step-by-Step Instructions for 50 New Designs and 50 Amazing Alternatives


Sweet Treats for the Holidays: Edible Creations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and More

gifts of food

Gifts of Food


Simply Homemade Food Gifts


Handmade Gifts

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Making sense of Super Tuesday

Illustration by R. A. Di Ieso / Vocativ

Illustration by R. A. Di Ieso / Vocativ

We’ve watched the debates, town hall meetings, and the stump speeches. If you’re a particular brand of political enthusiast, you’ve made trips to New Hampshire before their primary to see the candidates in person. Cars, front yards, and social media have been plastered with declarations of support for favorite candidates. And now Massachusetts residents finally get to have their say where it really matters: at the ballot box.


Why “Super Tuesday”?
On Tuesday, March 1, Massachusetts will be one of 12 states and one U.S. territory taking part in the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. Ten states will hold primaries for both political parties; Alaska will hold a Republican caucus; and American Samoa will hold a Democrat caucus.

Early states like Iowa and New Hampshire are important because they offer early insight into where voters’ interests are, and can begin to winnow out less popular candidates in crowded fields. On Super Tuesday, we begin to get a real indication of who each party’s nominee will be.

What is the SEC Primary?
One term you may have been hearing quite a bit in the lead-up to Super Tuesday is “SEC primary.” This refers to Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee, all of which have teams that compete in the Southeastern Conference, which gave rise to the name.

Who are delegates?
Not only do the primaries offer yet more fodder for pundits and water cooler chat, but they determine the number of delegates that candidates will have in their favor at the national nominating conventions for each party later this year. Republicans have 2472 delegates this year, and Democrats have 4764.

Typically, delegates are people who are involved in politics in their states, as volunteers or local party chairs. Superdelegates are not committed to vote for a specific candidate, and are typically elected officials. Their votes can be pledged regardless of primary or caucus counts.

Each state has different rules for how their delegates will be awarded. Some states award a proportion of delegates, based on primary or caucus votes. For example, if a state has 100 delegates and a candidate wins 60 percent of the vote, that candidate will have 60 delegates voting for them at the convention. Some states are winner-take-all, meaning that whichever candidate comes in first gets all the delegates.

For more information about the process, including where to go in your town to vote and how to register (if you are not currently a registered voter, you won’t be able to participate in Tuesday’s primary, but you have until October to register for the national election in November), visit the official website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. And as you consider your choices and prepare to cast your ballet, don’t forget that Nevins has lots of information on candidates and issues!

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Primary season is here!

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”With candidates having announced their intention to run for their parties’ nominations as early as March and April of last year, it may seem that the 2016 election should have already come and gone. Despite the months of campaigning, the town hall meetings, and the televised debates, election season hasn’t quite kicked into gear yet–but it’s about to.  The Iowa caucuses will be held on February 1, and the New Hampshire primary will take place on February 9. The results from these two states will shape the election from there, as many candidates end their campaigns if they don’t do well there.

In Massachusetts, our primaries will be held on Tuesday, March 1. If you’re still undecided on which candidate you plan to cast a vote for, or if there are some issues you’d like to learn more about, the Nevins Library has plenty of resources to help you make up your mind!

The library offers two databases that can help you get up to speed on the issues that matter to you: Global Issues in Context and Issues and Controversies. Both of these can be accessed here, and will require a library card when accessed from home. These frequently-updated resources provide up-to-the-minute information on issues ranging from healthcare policy to whether or not daily fantasy sports contests constitute gambling. Each of these provides a number of ways to navigate to find the information that you’re looking for.

In addition to these, the New Books section on the main floor has a number of recently-released titles that can offer some insight into some of the most important issues to consider as we prepare to cast our primary votes.

Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA by Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey

America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill

Homefront 911: How Families of Veterans are Wounded by Our Wars by Stacy Bannerman

Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone by Scott Shane

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers

If you’d like to read up on the candidates themselves, we’ve got that, too!