Children’s Classes Celebrating Black History

The banner says "Black History Month in white against a brown background, with repeating patterns of lines, ovals, circles, and triangles bordering it above and below in a traditional African color palette of red, green, and gold.
Image by Freepik.

By Sylvia H.

For Black History Month, HCLS Miller Branch is collaborating with two local organizations, the African Art Museum of Maryland and Howard County Center of African American Culture, to bring the history and accomplishments of Black Americans to some of our youngest customers.

The museum logo says "African Art Museum of Maryland, Founded 1980," in an oval which surrounds a line drawing of a figurine.

The African Art Museum of Maryland (AAMM) presents their African Experience Tour, an interactive program incorporating hands-on art exploration, videos, and rich discussion. Mrs. Doris Ligon, director and co-founder of the museum, facilitates the event for children ages 8 – 11 on Wednesday, February 15.

AAMM was founded in 1980 as the first museum in Columbia, MD. It is one of only three museums of its kind in the United States devoted exclusively to the art of Africa, as well as the only one founded by an African American. With more than 40 years in operation, the museum has shared stunning pieces created by distinguished artists with the local community and beyond; many of the artists are internationally known. Visit to learn more about the museum.

The image shows three profiles in shades of black, grey, and white, against an open book as a background. The title "Howard County Center of African American Culture, Inc." and a date, "Established 1987," surround the logo in a circle.

Marcus ‘Sankofa’ Nicks, curator of the Howard County Center of African American Culture (HCCAAC), continues his work with us through a new educational program, Sankofa Children’s Academy. Two sessions about Dr. Carter G. Woodson and the creation of Black History Month through interactive discussion and hands-on activities are happening on Saturday, February 18: for ages 3 – 5 with adult and for ages 6 – 8.

Sankofa Children’s Academy, a new educational program, supports the holistic development of children socially, emotionally, intellectually, and culturally. Youth participants can learn in a multitude of ways to enhance confidence, self-esteem, and social skills.

Founded in 1987, HCCAAC works to preserve and share African American history and culture within Howard County. The museum exhibits a unique collection of artifacts, vintage clothing and materials, along with events that tell the story of African Americans within our community. Visit to learn more about the organization and its work.

African Experience Tour

Wednesday, Feb 15 4:30 pm & 7 pm, HCLS Miller Branch, Ages 8 – 11.
Tickets will be available at the children’s desk 15 minutes before class begins.

Sankofa Children’s Academy

Saturday, Feb 18 11 am HCLS Miller Branch, Ages 3 – 5 with adult; 12:30 pm, Ages 6 – 8.
Tickets will be available at the children’s desk 15 minutes before class begins.

Sessions continue at Miller Branch throughout the spring.

Saturday, March 18 11 am & 12:30 pm

Saturday, April 15 11 am & 12:30 pm

Saturday, May 13 11 am & 12:30 pm

We hope you are able to explore both the African Art Museum of Maryland and Howard County Center of African American Culture, as well as learn about other local points of knowledge!

Sylvia is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys crafting, listening to audiobooks, naps, and walks with her dogs in 75 degree-ish weather.

Learn New Computer Skills at HCLS

The photograph shows two open laptops on a table with a pair of hands hovering over the mouse on the computer on the left.

Looking to learn new skills in technology? Upcoming classes at Howard County Library System can help you develop new skills or even refresh and develop previous learning. Join us for a class in e-mail basics this month or mark your calendars for classes and open labs in 2023!

If you’re new to using email, our hour-long Computer Skills – Learn How to Use Email on Tuesday, December 13 at Miller Branch introduces some basic email skills and leads you through practice activities, including creating an email account. Best of all, no computer is required! Although you are more than welcome to bring your own laptop, our PC laptops are available for student use. Register here.

Not sure how to get started creating job application documents? Our Computer Skills – Career Skills class on Wednesday, February 1 at Central Branch introduces basic skills for creating resumes and cover letters and leads you through practice activities, including how to use and edit resume and cover letter templates. No computer is required. Again, you can bring your own laptop or use our PC laptops for the session. Registration for the February class opens on December 31.

Finally, if you’re looking to brush up your skills in a less formal setting, bring your questions to an open lab! Boost your technical knowledge by getting hands-on assistance with topics including:  

  • Basic computer skills  
  • Using the Internet 
  • Setting up an email account 
  • Creating and saving documents 

We will work with you at your skill level and provide information and guidance to develop the skills you are seeking or resolve the problem you are facing. No computer required! Use our PC laptops and headphones, or bring your own laptop and headphones. 

Miller Branch offers two sessions of Computer Skills Open Lab – one on Tuesday, January 17 (registration open now) and one on Tuesday, February 21. Registration for the February date opens January 1, 2023.

What’s On Your Shelf?

The picture is of a tan bookshelf, with "What's On Your Shelf?" printed across the center, and cartoon stacks of colorful books on either side, each topped by a green bookworm with red reading glasses reading a red book. Above and below the title are photographs of book covers and of two librarians, each smiling and holding a novel for the camera. The books shared are Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson, Grayson by Lynne Cox, and Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce.

By Piyali C. and Julie F.

Have you ever wanted to bend the ear of a fellow book lover about your latest author or series discovery? If you have a recent read that you can’t wait to share, please join us on Zoom for What’s On Your Shelf? In this virtual class, we not only talk about a few of our favorite books and hear from you about your favorites, we also discuss fun questions about books in general:

Who is your favorite protagonist of all time?

What do you love most about the genre of your choice?

Which book changed your perspective?

The possibilities are endless and enticing!

Share fiction and/or nonfiction titles that are on your bookshelf and we will share a few titles from our shelves. If you don’t have a book to share, find inspiration in what others recommend and start building your holiday gift-giving or winter reading list.

In our recent in-person branch sessions, readers have also had the opportunity to ask for recommendations or to ask our instructors questions about books, reading, and the library. Previous discussion topics have included book donations, Little Free Libraries, and Goodreads (the world’s largest website for readers and book recommendations).

Please join us on Thursday, December 8 at 2 pm to talk about all things books! Register here to receive a Zoom link.

Piyali is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch, where she co-facilitates both Global Reads and Strictly Historical Fiction and keeps the hope alive that someday she will reach the bottom of her to-read list. Look for Piyali’s newest Miller book discussion group, Light But Not Fluffy, in spring 2023.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, crime fiction, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors. Julie facilitates the Bas Bleu and Spies, Lies, and Alibis book discussion groups at Miller.

Anime & Manga Club ヘようこそ

The title of the club is printed in stylized letters that are cut from photographs of various Asian scenes, including temples, cities, a bamboo forest, a woman in a kimono walking with an umbrella, a cherry blossom tree, and a Hokusai blue wave print.

By Peter N.

Calling all anime- and manga-loving teens! Join other like-minded teens the last Wednesday of every month (subject to change) at HCLS Miller Branch for Anime & Manga Club. 

What will you be doing there? Glad you asked! Come and enjoy a hangout especially for teens where you can enjoy anime-related programming, a craft or two, and discussions of the latest mangas and animes to hit the scene. You also have the opportunity to get recommendations from staff and your peers for what to read or watch next. 

Are you looking for a classic manga like Fruits Basket, Dragon Ball, or The Prince of Tennis? Or are you looking for something newer like Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer Kimetsu no Yaiba, or my personal favorite, One-Punch Man? We’ll talk about them all! Or do you want to know if the Ghibli films are really all they’re cracked up to be? You’ll have to join us to find out!

Also learn how you can access anime and manga using your library card through online resources such as Libby, Cloud Library, and Hoopla. 

The next meeting of Miller’s Anime & Manga Club takes place Wednesday, November 30 at 6 pm. We hope to see you there!


Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch who desperately hoped that the digital world and Digimon were real when he was a kid, and still remembers seeing the first Pokémon movie in theaters and crying with Pikachu when Ash “died.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

The book cover shows a Victorian-era white house with a wide front porch, surrounded by flowers and greenery, with some growing out of the windows. A seagull perches on the cupola at the very top.

By Rebecca R.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken is a story built along side a family history – and an odd one at that. Bertha Truitt, the family’s matriarch loves candlepin bowling and opens a bowling alley in the small town of Salford, MA.

Throughout the book we see Bertha navigate relationships and her bowling alley, which are sometimes indistinguishable from on another. She balances both with a strong and determined hand. She marries Leviticus Sprague and has a daughter, Minna, before she succumbs to drowning in a flood of molasses.

After Bertha dies things start to fall apart. Readers see begin to see the characters for who they really are. Their quirkiness really starts to shine, which, in my mind, makes this story a standout.

We learn that Bertha had a long lost son (or is it her son?). After Leviticus dies (like his wife, under mysterious circumstances), Nahum Truitt comes to Salford to try and run the bowling alley but his heart isn’t in it. Minna is sent away to live with relatives abroad, and she comes in and out of the storyline throughout the book.

More and more odd characters are introduced as the story goes forward, and the Truitt family grows and generations pass. As the story closes we meet Bertha’s great, great, grandchildren and are re-introduced to a character from the beginning of the book who brings the story full circle.

Readers who enjoy authors such as Karen Russell, Lauren Groff, John Irving, or Kristen Arnett should enjoy this book. The characters are well developed, the story is engaging and has visual elements to it that allows readers to easily get to know this family and their small town and follow them through the generations.

Rebecca is the Assistant Branch Manager of the HCLS Glenwood Branch. She enjoys creative art projects and taking long walks with her puppy.

The Hawk’s Way by Sy Montgomery

The book cover depicts a Harris hawk perched on a branch and leaning forward as if about to take flight.

By Julie F.

I’m always thrilled to find a slim work of nonfiction that nonetheless packs a big punch. New Hampshire author and naturalist Sy Montgomery provides just that in her 79-page volume, The Hawk’s Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty, a concise but wondrous celebration of raptors and their impact on her life. Accompanied by the stunning photography of artist Tianne Strombeck (see her wildlife photography galleries here), Montgomery’s story of her journey from hunting skeptic to passionate advocate for birds of prey will thrill any nature lover, or for that matter, any casual nonfiction reader.

It all begins with a visit to master falconer Nancy Cowan and a four-year-old Harris’s hawk named Jazz. Nancy warns Sy about Jazz – her unwillingness to cooperate, her feisty nature, and of course the fact that this easily provoked species can tear skin and pierce to the bones with their fierce talons – and yet, Sy is smitten: “I know I don’t matter to her at all. Yet, to me, she is everything” (16). As we see the progression of Sy’s work with Jazz and Cowan’s other raptors, we learn tidbits about the language, history, and specialized gear of falconry, all of which fascinates and contributes to our understanding of their bond. Yet, as interesting as these facts are, Montgomery confesses that, “From falconry I want only one thing: to get closer to birds of prey. Majestic, graceful, strong, big, brave, and smart: Who would not hunger for such company” (24)?

As Montgomery learns more about bird anatomy and vision, methods of catching a wild hawk to train, and even what it means for a hunting dog to “get birdy,” the reader is pulled along on her intellectual, ethical, and emotional journey. She questions whether she is really cut out to be a falconer; after all, she is told time and again by experts that the hawks will kill her precious domesticated chickens – no holds barred, no quarter given. The book is a compassionate, compelling, but stark look at the lives of these fierce creatures – sometimes bloody and violent, sometimes full of soaring elevation and elation, always and forever wild.

Sy Montgomery is the author of thirty-three books of nonfiction for both children and adults, including The Good Good Pig, How To Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, and The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Described as “equal parts poet and scientist” by The New York Times, she also scripted and narrated the National Geographic documentary based on her book Spell of the Tiger. The Hawk’s Way is also available as an e-audiobook from Libby/OverDrive. I listened to Montgomery’s narration as I read along, and the enthusiasm for her subject conveyed in her voice made this a wonderful listen.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, crime fiction, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Clarksville Youth Care Group Appreciation Project

The photograph depicts several of the kits with school bus themes, including handmade cards with school bus illustrations, and chocolate and trail mix bars.

by Nancy T.

It’s back to school time! Not just for students, but for teachers and bus drivers as well. To celebrate this year’s return, more than 70 local students from the Clarksville Youth Care Group (CYCG) worked hard all summer to create teacher and bus driver appreciation kits. These kits consist of a hand-sewn school-themed pencil pouch and a handmade thank-you card, school supplies (pen, pencil, notepad, bookmark, etc.), snacks, and a bunch of goodies. Funded by a Howard County Innovation Grant, CYCG has made approximately 850 kits. They have delivered the kits to 45 HCPSS schools as well as the HCPSS transportation office. The students received a lot of positive feedback; many teachers wrote thank-you notes to the group and said that receiving the handmade kit full of nice goodies has been an encouraging start to a new school year. It is a wonderful way to let teachers know their work is appreciated. The group still has limited kits to distribute, so interested teachers or staff can request them here.

The photograph depicts a handmade card with a sunflower, a back-to-school-themed kit, and some of the items from the kit, including a pen, pencil, notepaper, a trail mix bar, and origami birds.

CYCG was founded by two River Hill High School students, senior Arthur Wang and sophomore Amanda Wang, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, with many students becoming involved in community service projects organized by CYCG. The group proudly donated 3,660 heavy-duty reusable face shields to hospitals, clinics, dental offices, and first responders in 2020. Last year, the group made Teacher Care Kits and donated them to 64 HCPSS schools. The kit consisted of a handmade school-themed mask, an ear saver to relieve ear stress, a mask lanyard, a thank-you card, and a mask filter. The kits supported teachers physically and mentally, winning a national award for their efforts.

The photograph shows the display case at Miller Branch with a selection of the teacher appreciation kits as well as photographs of the students at work creating them.

You can visit the display of CYCG’s work, showcased at Miller Branch, until September 30. For more information, visit

Nancy T. is an instructor and research specialist and the display coordinator at Miller Branch. When she’s not in the branch, you’ll find her in the swimming pool or out walking in the fresh air.

College Readiness Book Drive

A stack of AP and SAT books with spines showing their subjects.

By Chloe M.

Every high school in Howard County offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in English, science, mathematics, social studies, computer science, world language, art, and research. Students who score well on an AP examination at the end of the course may be granted AP status or college credit upon entering a college or university. Unfortunately, as of 2018, a gap of 35 percent was recorded between the largest Howard County AP test-taking student group, Asian students, and the smallest AP test-taking student group, Black students. Additionally, in January 2021, the Howard County Board of Education released numbers showing that by student group, Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx students and students receiving Free and Reduced-price Meals (FARM) continue to have lower percentages of AP exams with passing scores of a 3 or higher than their peers.

So what can we do to help? As part of the Library’s commitment to advancing racial equity in our community, we invite you to donate new or gently used AP and SAT test prep books. We look to ensure all youth feel confident in their ability to pursue college-level studies successfully – which can lead to higher-paying jobs and reduce financial stress later in life.

The HCLS College Readiness Book Drive takes place at all library branches through August 15. Collection boxes are located inside each building to collect new or gently used college readiness (SAT and AP) practice books. These books will then be redistributed in the fall along with a YOU BELONG resource page to encourage a new narrative for those who have been discouraged from pursuing college-level courses.

While AP courses are offered in the Howard County educational system without cost, the tests cost approximately 96 dollars per exam last year, and test guides were prices at $30 each (depending on the subject). Financial logistics can be a major deterrent for students from low-income backgrounds hoping to access practice materials that lead to higher-scoring exams.

The Howard County Board of Education wrote in their meeting agenda that 11,157 exams were taken by local high school students in 2020. Many of these students purchase books each year to review, and as soon as the school year ends, they throw away or abandon the lightly-used test prep books. I personally have five on my shelf, with two being brand-new and unused. Consider donating AP and SAT books that students in your life no longer need!

I believe that, with your help of timely donations, this initiative can have a long-lasting affect on our community both in reducing waste and supporting students on their journey to post-secondary education.

Chloe McGeehan is a recent River Hill High School graduate. Through the DukeEngage Gateway summer program, she is working to facilitate collaborations that generate behavioral health resources for residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds. She enjoys trail running, spending time with family and friends, painting, and making music.

The Golden Age of Crime and Josephine Tey

The book cover shows an unbuttoned coat with arms extended, floating in dark waves, with a rocky island in the background with a lit candle shining from the summit.

By Julie F.

Think for a moment about Agatha Christie: how many versions and adaptations of Poirot and Marple have you read or seen? How popular do her novels remain to this day? And a question asked of librarians worldwide: If you’ve read and loved all of Christie, and viewed everything produced by Acorn and Britbox, where do you turn for a puzzling new mystery?

Faithful readers of Golden Age crime novels often read, and re-read, their favorite writers out of devotion to this inimitable era and style of crime fiction. Golden Age works were primarily written by British authors but also a few famous practitioners in the United States; these include Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose popularity in her heyday rivaled Agatha Christie’s. Rinehart’s novel The Door popularized the phrase “The butler did it!” even though those words appear nowhere in the book. In Great Britain, one of the best but most underappreciated writers in this style was Scottish author Josephine Tey. A versatile writer of plays, poetry, and short stories as well as mystery novels, Tey is most famous for the work declared “Greatest Crime Novel of All Time” by the British Crime Writers’ Association: The Daughter of Time (also available as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive).

The book cover depicts a painted, framed portrait of a king, presumed to be Richard III of England, against a white background.

Tey’s series character, Inspector Alan Grant, is sidelined in a hospital bed with a broken leg and bored to tears with inactivity. A friend of Grant’s, actress Marta Hallard, suggests that he try his hand at solving a famous historical mystery, since he can’t actively investigate clues or hunt down a killer while confined to the sickroom and limited in his movements. While researching various figures, Grant discovers that Richard III looks kindlier than the way he is portrayed in the historical rogues’ gallery of villains. In fact, Grant wonders if the famous Tudor king was really responsible for all the tragedy and evil attributed to him, including the deaths of his young nephews Edward and Richard? Richard III was serving as regent for Edward V when the two boys were declared illegitimate, then disappeared from history. Now, Inspector Grant is on the case!

The novel becomes a thorough exploration of that important task of historians: to sift the facts from myth and legend, to figure out what version of an event is authoritative, to consider how one viewpoint’s retelling becomes prevalent while another fades into the mists of time. The reader learns about history as a construct while Grant learns more about his infamous subject. It becomes the mission – if not the obsession – of Grant and his eager young assistant, British Museum researcher Brent Carradine, to crack the case.

The book cover depicts the headshot of a woman, lying on her side and staring at the viewer, with her fingers to her mouth. Her eyes are wide with long lashes and carefully manicured brows.

Tey wrote one other mystery with a tinge of history, The Franchise Affair, based on a famous kidnapping case in the eighteenth century even though it is set in the 1940s. This book and six others are part of Tey’s series featuring Inspector Grant, although he appears in it only briefly. I recently read the second book, A Shilling for Candles, and I loved what her fellow Scot, crime writer Val McDermid, had to say about her in a CrimeReads article. McDermid postulates that Tey is actually a bridge between the Golden Age writers and modern crime novelists like Ruth Rendell (my all-time favorite) and Patricia Highsmith, with a more subtle, psychological, sexually ambiguous character study than authors like Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Her work is an uneasy, darker take on individual identity that is decidedly a forerunner to Rendell and Highsmith. A Shilling for Candles (also available in ebook format from Libby/OverDrive) is also a good story for film and theatre buffs (like many of Marsh’s Roderick and Troy Alleyn novels). Tey’s experience as a playwright gives her remarkable insight into the competitive, dramatic lives of actors and actresses on and off the stage and screen.

Read Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant novels if you have a hankering for a “new “author who is just as deserving as Dame Agatha of acclaim and fame. For those interested in whether Richard III really murdered his nephews, Marylander Barbara Mertz, who also wrote fantastic romantic thrillers under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels, explored this historical puzzle further in her novel The Murders of Richard III (available from Libby/Overdrive as an ebook), written under her more famous pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters. And finally, Nicola Upson has a great historical mystery series of her own, featuring none other than Josephine Tey as her amateur sleuth.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, crime fiction, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Get Ready for Baby!

The illustration depicts Mother Goose in a beige shirt and green spotted pants, with a yellow scarf and green shoes, riding on the back of a flying white goose while holding a yellow chick, hatched and sitting in a half-shell. in the crook of her arm.

By Sylvia H.

Preparing for a new baby is one of the most exciting things a growing family experiences! We are pleased to be part of the anticipation with our new Hatchlings: Ready to Hatch program, a FREE interactive early literacy program geared to expectant families complete with songs, fun activities, and freebies.

Shopping for cute baby clothes and picking out an all-terrain stroller may be necessary (and so much fun!), but it’s also important to prepare for baby-to-be’s development. Babies introduced early to books and reading become children who perform better in school. Reciting nursery rhymes and singing songs helps your baby get ready to learn to read. Finally, reading and singing help with baby’s brain and language development. We’ll introduce families to all these concepts in these interactive sessions.

Two sessions remain:

  • Tuesday, June 7 at 6:30 pm with The Family Institute at the Howard County Office of Children and Families (Click on “Family Institute Workshops”)
  • Tuesday, June 21 at 10:30 am at the East Columbia Branch

Are you or someone you know expecting? Register today and join us!

Hatchlings is a pilot with the Maryland State Library based on the Mother Goose on the Loose program.

Sylvia is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys crafting, listening to audiobooks, naps, and walks with her dogs in 75 degree-ish weather.