New resource from Richmond Public Library keeps young readers engaged

Richmond Public Library is now offering access to Beanstack, an online treasure-trove of book (and app) recommendations tailor-made for your child’s interests and literacy needs.

During my weekly perusal of the Richmond Public Library (RPL) website–I’m a nerd, I do that–I happened upon a pleasant, colorful icon proclaiming “Beanstack.”

Confession: I clicked on the icon right away because I assumed they meant “Beanstalk.” As I said, I’m a nerd. Consequently, I will take any opportunity to be outraged at a typo1. I needed to investigate.

My scoffing soon turned to sputtering–the good kind!–once I clicked through.

Beanstack, turns out, is exactly what I never knew I desperately wanted in my quest to raise a skilled and stoked reader.

Let me back up a bit…

Despite my seven-year-old’s competency in decoding the written word, most of the time he could not care less about it2. His teacher, my husband, and I are always on the lookout for books that will hold his interest and help keep the melodrama3 at a minimum when it comes time to tackle his daily required reading.

Sure, it’s a minor parenting challenge in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still maddening. I’m hopeful that Beanstack will be a game-changer for us–and for all parents and caregivers in need of some guidance when it comes to their children’s reading skills and habits.

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Beanstack is an online service provided by public libraries and is designed to help families discover books and literacy apps based on a child’s age, reading level, and interests. According to Beanstack’s FAQ

“Beanstack only includes children’s books and apps that have been selected by your local librarians. These books and apps have been cataloged using over 3,000 tags, like ‘Daring to be Different’ or ‘Not So Pink Girls,’ that require a human being’s expert consideration.”

Beanstack users create customizable profiles for their children ages 0 to 13 (older kids in that range can create their own), zeroing in on preferred genres, types of characters, languages, and more. From there they’ll get one recommendation per week of a book matched with each child’s profile. Families can track each child’s progress with individualized reading logs that can also be shared with teachers, friends, and family members.

All books recommended to you will be those available for free in your local library’s collection. Once a recommendation is sent your way just click on the book’s title and you’ll zip on over to your library system’s online catalog. From there you can find out which branch that little sucker is hiding in, put it on hold for pick-up, or get yourself on a waiting list if someone else has already snatched it up.

As of now, RPL is the only library system in the Richmond-area offering Beanstack. RPL introduced Beanstack to its patrons on January 16th of this year.

“We hope Beanstack will provide a portal for parents to identify books from the library’s collections that will appeal to their children and foster a love of reading,” says Beth Morris, RPL’s Children’s Services Coordinator. “Beanstack offers book suggestions that are tailored to each child’s interests and reading level. Beanstack also offers the option to subscribe to weekly learning tips that parents can use to deepen their children’s engagement with the books they read.”

Beanstack carries with it a $4,400 price tag, according to Morris, but it has been made available to RPL’s clientele thanks to a grant from the Richmond Public Library Foundation. RPL staff first learned about the resource from a former colleague who knew Beanstack’s creator, Felix Lloyd. After seeing a demonstration, Morris and her co-workers thought it would be a good fit for their work in serving Richmond’s youngest readers.

“We see Beanstack supporting our focus on early literacy and ensuring that Richmond children enter school ready to learn,” explains Morris.

Morris expects Beanstack to also help established readers stay on track.

“We also anticipate using it for our summer reading program that keeps kids reading during the summer and prevents the ‘summer slide,’ she explains, referring to the loss of skills many children experience during summer break4. “Kids will be able to find great books to read and complete challenges that award badges and prizes for meeting reading goals.”

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For more information on this amazing gift the Richmond Public Library is giving its patrons, visit

Remember: That’s “Beanstack“, not “Beanstalk.” Enjoy, fellow bookworms!

  1. I am fully aware of the fact that, having said that, this article will be full of typos when I turn it into my editor. Don’t screw it up, Suze! 
  2. My seven-year-old self kind of wants to kick him in the shins. 
  3. Ain’t no flopper like a first grade flopper ’cause a first grade flopper don’t stop. Ever. 
  4. According to the National Summer Learning Association,” Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement.” Their middle-class peers tend to make slight gains. 
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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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