The Literacy Star

by Kelly

What’s not to love about Dolly? As a musician, Dolly Parton is the most honored female country singer-songwriter of all time, with 44 Top 10 country albums and 26 number one singles. Being a successful musician has brought the songstress years of success, but, music is not the only thing that Dolly Parton gives to the world.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book gifting program started by the musician in 1995, mails high-quality books to children ages birth to five to anyone who registers, no matter their income. To date, Dolly’s Imagination Library has put over 150 million books into the hands of emerging readers.

Dolly’s Imagination Library was inspired by her father’s inability to read and write, prompting this country queen to create this legacy in his honor, striving to foster a love for reading in young ones around the world. You can visit the website to register your young reader online, or check with us (or your local library) for a mail-in form. According to the website, once you register your child, it may take six to nine weeks before the books arrive. Once your first order arrives, you will receive your books regularly each month.

The Ionia County Intermediate School District has been encouraging local families to participate in this free book-gifting program. For several years now, the Ionia County ISD sponsors an annual quilt show and sale to help support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library of Ionia County. Last year alone, 2780 children from the county received free books.

The quilts sold are handcrafted by local artisans and based on a literary theme. This year, the theme Down on the Farm produced 51 quilts that are up for sale. The library has on display quilt number 49 (made by Laura Heffron) that can be previewed for those interested. With colorful barns and adorable barnyard animals, each quilt offers a unique perspective of the shared theme by the artists who designed them.

The quilt show and sale for 2021 will be held on Saturday, May 22 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Ionia County Intermediate School District building located at 2191 Harwood Road, Ionia. Quilts can be viewed online at and the proceeds from all sales are guaranteed to give the gift of reading.

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New Growth

by Kelly

Gardening is for everyone. Even for those of us born without a green thumb. Last year, when Covid-19 shut the country down, the Alvah N. Belding Library seed library distributed seeds to hundreds of individuals. At that time, I decided to try my hand at gardening. Although I had very little knowledge of starting plants from seed, I decided that quarantine was the perfect time to try something new, so I gave it a go.

To my surprise, the seeds I planted soon began to sprout. I put them in a nice, sunny window, tended to their need for water, and watched them become little stalks of life. I chose to plant seeds for vegetable, fruit, herb, and flowers that I knew I would enjoy, which included tomatoes, watermelon, basil, and daisies.

Around Memorial Day weekend, it was time to get my small plants into a bigger growing space. Living in the city, and in a rental unit, I didn’t have access to dig into the ground, so I improvised with plastic totes and other plant pots to get the job done.

The flowers that I planted bloomed throughout the summer, the herbs I grew were cut for several summer night bbq’s, and the fruit and vegetables I planted gave me a couple of delicious meals. The satisfaction that I felt, knowing how I had started them from seed, was a great feeling.

The moral of the story is that if I can do it, anyone can. The Alvah N. Belding Library’s Seed Library is open for service. We offer FREE seeds for anyone with a valid library card to check out. NEW this year are seed kits, which offer 3-4 different types of seeds that, when harvested, can be combined to make a complete dish. The best time for starting seeds indoors in Michigan is late March to early April.

Give it a try! The seeds can be ordered online through this link to be picked up at the library. For more information about plants and gardening, check out the library catalog for a list of titles, or check out our Pinterest page for gardening book suggestions.

Acknowledging History

by Kelly

February is Black History Month. This observance originated with American historian Carter G. Woodson, who launched Negro History Week in February of 1926, and has been celebrated annually as a month-long tribute since 1976 when President Gerald Ford called upon the public to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.

Here at the library, we encourage our readers to learn more about the contributions African Americans have made in all areas of the United States’ growth, and to read books (historical and modern) written by African American authors.

Knowledge and understanding about African Americans and their experience can be found through these newly-released non-fiction titles: Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African Americans, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi, Time To Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement by Julian Bond, and this young reader title, Timelines From Black History, Leaders, Legends, Legacies by DK and Marielle Harper.

African American author Ralph Ellison addresses many social and intellectual issues facing Black Americans in the early twentieth century in his 1952 novel Invisible Man, while Octavia Butler’s still widely-popular 1979 novel Kindred explores the themes of race, power, and gender, incorporating writing that is modeled on slave narratives.

Angie Thomas gives young adult to adult readers several must-read titles that explore powerful and hard-hitting messages aimed to give readers a better understanding of the very real issues that African Americans face in her books The Hate U Give, Concrete Rose, and On the Come Up. Tiffany D. Jackson tackles several tough topics with care and thoughtfulness in her novel Grown, while Justina Ireland creates an alternate-history explosion with her titles Dread Nation and Deathless Divide, taking readers to 1800s America.

Early readers can gain exposure to stories about the lives of African Americans through colorfully illustrated picture books like Jump at the Sun by Alicia D. Williams, Emmanuel’s Dream by Jason Reynolds, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, and If a Bus Could Talk by Faith Ringgold, all inspiring true stories of real people based on real-life events.

All of these titles and more are available at the library or through our eReader apps and can be read this February, Black History Month, and all year round.

Love Yourshelf

by Kelly

As the isolation of quarantine continues into 2021, many of us find ourselves reaching inward for love, care, and inspiration. I personally find my virtual bookshelf filling up with titles that provide me with an extra boost of strength and motivation. With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, we generally think of love stories written about couples, but this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to provide you with a list of titles for the number one love in your life – yourself.

The phrase self-care gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? It likely has a different meaning for everyone, but you can get started by examining two key factors: GOALS and GRATITUDE. These suggested books offer insight, and can provide a burst of daily inspiration, direct your thoughts toward a new perspective, and help you open up and unlock your untapped potential.

Let’s talk about goals. The first suggested title is Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. This book will offer advice to achieving your goals and overcoming self-doubt. Hollis is the author of the bestseller Girl, Wash Your Face, so read this one, too, while you are at it!

Next on the list is Stop Self-Sabotage by Dr. Judy Ho, PHD. This book will keep you goal-focused by encouraging willpower and motivation. 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do by Amy Morin will help you channel your confidence and purpose, and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks pushes us to see our own potential and to believe in it, in order to achieve our goals.

Gratitude incorporated into our daily routine can help bring peace to our busy and hectic lives. Wake Up Grateful by David Steindl-Rast and Gratitude Daily by Nataly Kogan will help us to experience more joy and less stress through gratitude. 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik inspires readers to a year-long challenge of practicing gratitude daily.  These books each offer lessons to help us incorporate positive daily habits into our routine.

There is no better time than now to put yourself at the top of your love list. These titles and more can be found on our library shelves or can be downloaded digitally through our eResource apps.

21 in 2021

by Kelly

Welcome to 2021. We want to help you have a new year as the same you, but better! What better way to improve yourself than to challenge your mind? And, boy! Do we have a challenge for you!

We invite you to join our newest reading challenge on the Beanstack app called “21 Classics in 2021”.  Yes, classics. Challenging, sure, but rewarding nonetheless.

The classics chosen for this challenge were selected to broaden your reading history, introduce you to alternative works from authors you already know, and to highlight many titles that were the pioneers of their genre, award recipients, and just overall excellent pieces of literature.

In order to complete this challenge, you must venture your way through ALL 21 titles on our list. If you’ve read one on the list already, read it again! OR, find a different format (Book on CD, DVD, Graphic Novel, etc) for an alternate, but equally awesome version of the story. We don’t mind.

21 classics in 12 months, equals about 2 books per month, so manage your time wisely. Are you up for the challenge? The titles for this challenge are as follows:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, The Odyssey by Homer, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Robinson Crusoe by Robert Louis Stevenson, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Trail by Franz Kafka, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

Find the challenge on our Beanstack tracker reading app, found through your app store. Register with your library card number and email to begin. We hope to see you there.

The Die Hard Debate

by Kelly

Every December when the holiday season rolls around, an ages-old debate is revived and rumbles around our family discussions and social media channels. Memes argue for and against it, people take their stand, but the question remains, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

We at the library will step aside the debate for a minute to pose what we find to be an even more important question. Have you read Nothing Lasts Forever, the 1979 American action thriller written by Roderick Thorp that inspired the movie Die Hard?

Wait, what? There’s a book? Admittedly, it was about three hours ago when I learned that Bruce Willis’s action-packed, high-octane blockbuster 1988 film is based on a book. Who knew? And, according to reviews, Die Hard very closely follows the plot of the book, so fans of the film won’t be disappointed as they read.

The story begins the same, set in a high rise building during an office party on Christmas Eve where the action begins. Willis’s character, John McClane, is 25 years younger than his novel counter-part who is named Joe Leland in Thorp’s story, but many of the scenes, drama, and thrills are paralleled from book to film. Author Thorp got his inspiration for the story’s iconic high-rise setting from his own view from home, nestled high on a hilly overlook.  

Originally published over 40 years ago, this book was re-released in 2013 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the film, and was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as “a ferocious, bloody, raging book so single-mindedly brilliant in concept and execution it should be read at a single sitting”.

But, is the fact that this story takes place on Christmas Eve enough to qualify it as a Christmas movie? Should we take into consideration that this film was released in theaters as a summer blockbuster on July 15, 1988? What did a recent poll of Americans voting about this debate decide? We won’t spoil it for you, rather, leave it for you to decide.  

Whichever side of the Christmas Movie debate you are on, we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy of this thriller! Look for it soon to be added to our library collection, as well as A Die Hard Christmas: An Illustrated Holiday Classic by Doogie Horner.

Reading and Writing

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Like peanut butter and jelly, birds of a feather, and peas in a pod, you can’t have one without the other. Without authors, there wouldn’t be books, and that’s why we here at the Alvah N. Belding Library encourage everyone to get out the pens and paper and get to work!

Writing is for all ages, and, is a task, talent, or hobby that you can carry with you through life.

If the thought of writing intimidates you, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Between grammar rules, spelling, and punctuation, there’s a lot to take in. Here are some no-fear tips for getting started in writing.

  • Start small. Write a paragraph or two about something you love or love to do. Writing a small piece about something you are passionate about is a great way to get started.
  • Journal it. Start a daily journal and write about the ins and outs of everyday life, your dream vacation, or where you see yourself in ten years.  Practicing your writing daily is a great way to form a lasting habit.
  • Dear diary. Brush up on writing dialogue by talking in a diary. Pretend you are writing a conversation to yourself or a family member or friend. Make it as real or fictional as you choose to trick anyone who might snoop!
  • Write first, then edit. Just go with the flow when you are writing and try not to think about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. That can come later during your editing process.
  • Have fun. Writing should be fun, not a chore. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process, put down your pencil and try again another time.

Want to try your hand at writing for a chance to win a prize? Youth in grades 3-12 can join our Fall Free-Write writing contest. Fiction entries may be written about any topic of your choice, and Non-fiction stories should be in the form of a personal narrative. Entries should be kept under 5,000 words. We will choose one winner from each division (Elementary, Middle, High School). Entries can be emailed to and must be received by November 30, 2020.

Get Graphic

by Kelly

Graphic novels make great television. At least that’s what you would assume after one glance at my streaming history. For the most part of 2020, I have watched a lot of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime graphic-novel based movies and shows. Why? Because the stories, characters, and settings explode on the big screen as well as they jump off the pages of books in which they originate.

Here is a list of four graphic novel-turned television titles in the order in which I watched them. Want to know which one reigns as my favorite? Keep reading.

  1. The Witcher, by Andrzej Sapkowski. This television series, aptly named for the title character is based around a solo monster hunter-for-hire and his life. Geralt of Rivia travels around the countryside putting down all sorts of mutated beasts and monsters. Geralt is a complex but kind and fair character who battles the demons of his own past, struggling to find his place in the complicated human/magic/fantasy world around him.
  2. Extraction, based on Ciudad written by Anthony and Joe Russo. This graphic novel and Netflix series tells the story of Australian mercenary Tyler Rake who is on a mission to save a kidnapping victim. His tactical expertise and quick wits keep him going on his blood-infused fight for justice, which ultimately takes his life…or does it?
  3. The Old Guard, by Greg Rucka. This story follows a group of immortal warriors who have been secretly protecting humanity for ages, a task that gets increasingly difficult as time goes on and technology advances. The story begins as this small group of undead learns that there is a new immortal in their midst. The team takes action find her and teach her of their ways, without getting caught in the process.
  4. Wynonna Earp, by Beau Smith. This modern-western supernatural series is based around the title character and her sister, Waverly, descendants of the legendary Wyatt Earp, who (along with a secret government agent) fight to protect the people from demons knows as Revenants, without revealing anything to the public.

WOW! What a lineup. Each one of these fantastic graphic novel series struck a chord with me in their own way and deserve to be seen (or read) at least once. But which one is my favorite?

Extraction had WAY too much in-your-face violence for me to stomach, but I still am curious as to what happens next. The Witcher is a GREAT series: graphic novels, video game (where the story actually originated), and the show have great characters, setting, and plot, but isn’t at the top of my list. Wynonna Earp is delightful. The characters are likeable, the story is fun, not-so-gory, and the tie-in to the Wild West and its people are right up my alley…but, The Old Guard wins this battle for me. In spite of the violence, everything about this story comes together for me. The main characters have a protective and familial bond with each other, their fight to stay secretive in a high-tech world is challenging, and a surprising rivalry is formed as they exile a member of their own team and one long-lost partner returns. I can’t wait to see and read more from this series.

Do you have a favorite Graphic Novel? Check out our digital collection of graphic novels, or request them from our curbside service. We have a great collection of titles for youth, teen, and adult readers. Check out our Pinterest Board for some great suggestions!

Reading Rewards

by Kelly

I recently saw a social media post about a parent who paid their child one dollar for each chapter book they read in a year. The child read 180 books, and was flush with cash, thinking the reward was in the payment. But, as the parent and many of us already know, the reward is in the reading itself.

Yes, reading is a reward. Whether we are consciously aware or ignorantly blissful as we turn the pages, reading provides each of us with something of value on the inside. Reading can serve as a validation for our beliefs, an outlet for our daily stresses, or as an inspiration for the direction of our lives. We can identify with characters who provide us with wisdom and guidance for our future endeavors. We can gain information and inspiration from our exposure to books that pushes us further in our relationships and careers, whether we realize it, or not.

Reading to our children (or anyone) is a rewarding task that develops our bonds with them and strengthens their minds, as well as our own. Seeing our children read independently is just as rewarding, if not more so. Passing along a book to a friend, family member or colleague, and sharing the story with each other is a great way for us to connect, to feel heard, and to be validated and appreciated.

Reading is a great way for us to spark a new interest or idea, and learn, and grow. Books are full of new vocabulary, history lessons, inter-personal relationship skills, and emotion. The more emotion that a book is able to evoke in us, the better the lesson, and the bigger the reward. Disliking a book, and disagreeing with an author’s viewpoint is just as important as enjoying what we read. Having our thoughts and beliefs challenged is a great way to discover ourselves and can have a lasting impact on our life.

What are the rewards of reading to you? What drives the choices you make about the books you read? Escape, growth, knowledge, camaraderie? Whatever reading is to you, and whatever the reward, we at the library appreciate the effort you put into your love for reading. We are here to serve your interests and would love to hear your recommendations for books we may not have heard of. Connect with us to let us know how we can help. Your reading is our reward.

Reading Independence

by Kelly

July brings about thoughts of freedom, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate your own reading independence! It’s the time of year to celebrate the freedom we have to choose books we want to read and when to read them, based on our likes, interests, and whatever else motivates us to dive into a great book.

Not all readers are alike. Some people read quickly. Some take their time. Some people don’t read much, and some people read everything under the sun. And do you know what? We at the library don’t care! We aren’t here to pass judgement, criticize, or shame your reading style. We simply love that you read, and we are here to put your next great read in your hands.

To help us do that, you need to know what types of books appeal to you. You are the founder of your reading independence. Maybe you like realistic fiction, a not-so-gruesome mystery, or far-imagined tales of outer space? Perhaps you like learning about real events from a specific time in history, or want to understand more about real people and places and things. Or, you might desire to learn a new craft or hobby, or art form. No matter what your reading style, choice, or taste is, we can help find the perfect book for you.

Each of us library staffers have our own set of individual reading likes (check out our Pinterest boards and Goodreads shelves), from history to mystery and true life stories to true crime, we run the gamut on reading niches. On our website, you can find our new “Ask A Librarian” link where you can ask us anything, including suggestions on what to read next.

Here is a list of things to consider when deciding your personal reading style. These are called the “Four Doors to Reading”, created by well-known librarian, Nancy Pearl. Choose which of these doorways matter most to you on your reading adventure.

  1. Story— Plot. Action. The sequence of events (real or fictional) that the character(s) go through to reach the end.
  2. Character— People. Protagonists. Villains. Heroes. The cast of characters who embark on the story (real or fictional).
  3. Setting— Worldbuilding. This is what makes you feel like you’re in another place or time.
  4. Language— Words. Grammar. Style. These books make you want to savor every word.

Many factors can make up your reading choices. It’s up to you to choose the direction in which you wish to read and we will put a book in your path. Visit our website at to submit your “Ask a Librarian” request.