Friday, December 13, 2013

Reforming the Storytime Mob

Storytime Mob!

 At the end of storytime, I stamp the kids hands/arms. I hold a flannelboard flat on my lap and have the kids place their hand on the flat surface so I don't have to touch them as much (germy!). It's...very popular. I often feel like the cat in the above GIF. I hate it because it's chaotic--the kids knock over my stuff and step on it, they push and shove, and there's no time to acknowledge any of them because I have six other hands in my face. And, worst of all, sometimes the littlest storytimers get knocked over in the mob. So, I decided to try and reform them. Today was my first attempt, and it went surprisingly well! Here's what I did:

1. I bought blue masking tape, and put a line down the middle of the room from where I sit (here's a picture of my normal storytime set up).

Magic Blue Line!
2. Mid-storytime, (NOT at stamp time) I explained to parents that I wanted to begin teaching the concept of lining up since it's so useful for when they start school, and also because I've had little kids get knocked over by the stamp mob. I also said that I knew that this would be a process and it would take a while for all the kids to understand the concept, and that that was ok, we would practice and learn it together.

3. Then I got up, and demonstrated walking to the end of the line and following the line all the way to the front. Kids immediately started following me, so we went around a few times, emphasizing, "You start at the end of the line, and follow it all the way to the front--keep your feet on the blue line! That's how you line up."

4. Then I sat back down, and had the kid right in front of me stop, "Now you're all in a line!" Then I brought out my puppet and let each kid touch/hug the puppet and go sit back down. Kids who ran up to the front were gently told that they needed go to the beginning of the blue line--and most of them did!

5. Finally, at the end of storytime, I cut out our closing song (I'll add it back again eventually) since it's a trigger for the mob to surge forward. Instead, I just said, "Ok, now I need everybody to go to the end of the blue line and follow it all the way to the front" and when the first kid arrived at the front I said, "Great job lining up! Now you get a stamp!" I actually got to see every kids' face and say hello to them!

The adults were super responsive to this activity; many were actively involved with helping their kids wait/follow through. I think the adults liked having a concrete expectation to help them regulate their child's behavior, rather than just sending their kids with the mob.

I think once I have the majority of the kids under a routine, I can make the line go wherever I want or change directions--edges of the room etc, as long as it's always clear where it starts.

I only had about 50 people total in storytime today, so it helped a lot that it was a smaller number of kids than normal. But still, I think this will stick and in a few weeks I'll be able to say goodbye to the storytime stamp mob forever!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kindergarten Visits

Every fall, in preparation for our annual Kindergarten Card Party, we visit all the kindergarten classes in the county. For me personally that means visiting several hundred Kindergartners. At these visits, we send home library card applications, and invite the kids to get their own library card WITH THEIR OWN NAME ON IT (I have a giant foamboard replica of our library cards that I bring, and I put book tape over the signature area so I can use a dry-erase marker to write my name on it right in front of the kids; they find it very impressive)

Every application that gets an invitation to The Kindergarten Card Party, an event of much pomp and circumstance where we call each child's name, hand them their first library card, and present them with a book or two to keep. There are all sorts of other fun things going on as well--scavenger hunt, face painting, and some kind of 'performer.' Last year we had Jarrett Krosoczka, and this year we will have the duo behind "Moo!" David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka.

It's a great program, that I think could be pulled off pretty easily by smaller libraries! But what I *really* wanted to share with this post was what books I'm reading on my visits, and how they're working with Kindergartners. I get a lot of chances to test drive these stories, and started out with about ten options; these were the ones that rose to the top:

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett and Kevin Cornell.
This has been my go-to book this year, and the kids are loving every second of it. I adore reading books like this with lots of interaction. My absolute favorite is getting to the last spread, and dramatically shuffling the pages as I realize that we're at the end. The kids have never failed to implore me to turn "Just one more page." I am skeptical, but lo and behold! There are all the monkeys. 

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack
This is my second most read book for visits. It's so great to read with Kindergartners, because the only words in the book are, "Aahh, Ah ha! and Ha ha" all used to portray different emotions as the story progresses. Kindergartners are finding it hilarious, and feel so empowered as they are able to read it along with me and infer the meaning from the pictures. Lots of great discussions and laughter have come from this one!

Oh No George by Chris Houghton
There is less room for interaction with this one, but the repetitive phrases, exploration of good vs. bad behavior, and open-ended conclusion all make for a satisfying read aloud for Kindergarten age. This is another one where I simply enjoy reading it, and the kids can tell that I'm invested. This is often the first one that I read, before they start getting wiggly.

It's a Tiger by David LaRochelle and Jeremy Tankard
You probably don't need me to tell you about this one. I didn't get my hold in in time to read this one on most of my visits, but it's a great choice, and especially appropriate for my event, since David LaRochelle will be at the K Party. Most of the time it's hard to get Kindergartners excited about an author visit a few months in the future, so it's nice to be able to say, "Wasn't that a great book?! Well the author, the person who wrote it, will be at the Kindergarten Party!"

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth and Jeffrey Ebbeler
This is one I love, but was not the most successful for visits. It is probably best for one-on-one reading with lots of discussion, since the pictures are pretty intricate and the plot is a little abstract, dealing with the line between imagination and reality. That being said, I love it, and I had a few classes that it was a good fit for.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Elephant & Piggie's EXCELLENT Summer Vacation

Since starting my new job, one of the things I'm most proud of is "Elephant & Piggie's EXCELLENT Summer Vacation," a program I managed to get implemented system-wide.

It started with these guys:

Last year I got a second set for Christmas and, as much as I love E&P,  even I don't need two sets.

This was around the time that that article about the library that was lending out an American Girl doll was going around, and I thought, "What if we had Elephant and Piggie for kids to check out?"

I was really invested in this idea for several reasons:
  • The program, while fun, would be tied to books and reading rather than something commercial. E&P don't have a TV show, but they are hugely popular and recognizable BECAUSE OF BOOKS. Hello circ boost.
  • The program encouraged families to interact together outside the library--playing, writing, talking, reading, (and yes, even singing!)--and gave them a concrete framework to accomplish those goals while having a LOT OF FUN.
  • Beyond initial set-up, the program was basically no work--and you know how I love THAT sort of thing. Stealth programs FTW!
E&P were available for checkout for a about a week at a time (not cataloged). A parent had to be there for checkout (since we did have a replacement fee involved). E&P traveled in a blue drawstring backpack, and came with a special scrapbook that explained the program and had lots of prompts for writing, drawing, and sharing pictures.

The results were impressive. E&P went on first plane rides, and visited California and Niagara Falls. They participated in all sorts of real-life summer fun like family reunions, trips to the cabin, plays, picnics and restaurants (think of all those real-life conversations started by E&P). They met a former MN state Senator in the Skyway, and went swimming A LOT. They read bedtime stories, had dance parties, and played dress-up.

Ziplock baggie: #LOLForever

This program completely surpassed my hope for it in terms of at-home learning and PLAY. The level of 'buy-in' from patrons was truly amazing.

Some of my favorite submissions:

"We ate some tasty seaweeed!"
"We read books and snuggled"
"When we got homesick, we visited the Little Free Library"
"Piggie slept in a special place (hand-drawn picture of an exersaucer)."
"Grampa and I read a book to them. It was about them! I read the pink words and Grampa read the grey words"

Monday, November 4, 2013


I noticed that kids at the circ desk were often bored bored bored and literally trying to climb the wall while their parents registered for cards, paid fines, or took care of other adult business. At self-checkout, kids are involved in the process, but here at the desk there was nothing for them to do. So I bought some acrylic mirrors through Amazon, and gave the desk a facelift (...see what I did there? FACElift? I'm hilarious).

I wish I could post pictures of all the kids interacting with the display. They are adorable! I notice pre-readers "reading" the emotions portrayed, and naturally mimicking the expressions--often in every mirror, big and small. And most importantly, it serves as a great distraction for while the adults are busy at the desk. Success!

Edit: I'd be happy to share the files with the faces I created. Email me at gmail: opinionsbyanna

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Charlotte's Web Display

Some days you need to forget about the to-do list and make yourself happy. I lost a lot of sources/starred items with the demise of Google Reader, but I am fairly certain the inspiration for this web came from the blog of the Carle Museum, Making Art with Children.

My original idea only went as far as, "Make a web with the word "READ," in the vein of Charlotte's Web." Because I was crabby and wanted to do something creative.

But it just looked...not quite done yet. I thought a display of animal books would be a good fit, but behind the window seat is a large gap--I needed to find something to put behind the cushion if I wanted to display any books. I went library scavenging, and it was my lucky day--I found an old shelf that I could jam in there.

Then I did a quick scan through my J fiction shelves, whipped up a quick sign, and voila!

Now (hopefully) people won't see the web as a Halloween thing, since I plan to leave it up all through November.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Do You Librarian?

 One of my mother's favorite stories is from when I was two or three, and she called to me from a different room, "Anna, what are you doing?" and I replied, "I just organizing, Mama." Some of my earliest memories are of sorting my crayons and toys. I guess you could say I've always been a fan of order and access.

A life-long library and bookmobile kid, I first became intrigued with working at a library while at the Menasha Public Library in Wisconsin (my home library--my grandparents were huge library supporters and served on the Library Board). I couldn't find the nonfiction title I was searching for in the adult section (I was obsessed with the Time Life books series, "Enchanted World") so I enlisted the help of a librarian, but she couldn't find it either. And that's when she said it, "I guess we'll have to have the library detectives look for it."

I was all, excuse me, did you say LIBRARY DETECTIVES?!

And then I never thought about it again, as you do when you're ten. 

When I started college, I parlayed my love of organization and attention to detail into a position at the college library. I worked in the serials department, and I loved it, but moved on to bigger and better things as college progressed (needing money is so pedestrian).

Eventually, trying to find direction for my life, I decided to go back to libraries. I enrolled in library school and got a position working in a special library. Based of my love of and demonstrated talent for organizing people and procedures, I was headed down a library management track until I rediscovered my first love: children's and YA literature.

And here I am! How did you come to libraries as a profession?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

WLA 2013

October has been a whirlwind of presenting and traveling. It was great, but I'm excited for life to settle back down. This past week, I was in in Green Bay for the Wisconsin Library Association Youth Services Pre-conference and Annual Conference. Those Wisconsin librarians know how to do a conference right!

I had a great time presenting, "Engaging Early Literacy Storytimes: Props, Puppets, Flannels and More" at the pre-conference. The main problem I encountered was that I didn't bring enough handouts! If you missed a handout, or just want a taste of what I did, you can find it here.

I also had the pleasure of co-presenting, "Making Social Media Work for YOU: with Sara from Bryce Don't Play. Our slide deck was more humorous than helpful, being GIF-filled, but we also created a Google Site to help people get started building their own personal learning networks.

I also got to co-host WLA's first Guerrilla Storytime! It was loads of fun. Keep an eye on the Storytime Underground for the low-down on how it went!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wimpy Station

Huzzah! A new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book approacheth.

In honor of the new book coming soon, I wanted to set something Wimpy up at my stealth activity station. Finding things hidden around the library is always popular, and I hadn't done it since Spy Week back in March, so that's what I decided to do.

Quick, but successful!

The finished station has a backdrop with each of the six characters, and word bubbles with instructions for what to do.

"Can you find and name all six characters? They are hidden around the kid's section of the library (don't forget to look in nonfiction!)."

There's a spot to fill in each character's name, and a check box for kids to mark when they find them hidden around the library.

I always try to hide things at different levels

Found one!

Book 8 Poster

I also threw together a quick poster with the name of the new book (after making sure there was a record in the catalog for them to put requests on). 

This station only took about a 30-40 minutes to put together, and if you use the stuff I created it would only take YOU about ten minutes, as the majority of the time was spent noodling around in Word getting all the images right. Email me through opinionsbyanna at gmail and I'll share!

**edit: Now that the station has been up for a week, I recommend that you also put out some kind of box to collect the completed sheets. I am not doing a drawing or giving out prizes, but I've gotten a lot of kids wondering what to do with their sheets once they're done. I have been telling them to keep them, that it's "Just a fun thing to do while you're at the library!" since I really don't want to build an expectation that they get a prize for everything they do at the library, but a collection box or basket would help. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

CLEL Bell Awards-PLAY

It's my pleasure to wrap up the Bell Award blog tour. I think it's a fabulous new award that helps make early literacy skills and practice accessible for everyone!

"The Bell Awards are designed to support parents, caregivers, librarians, and early childhood professionals by celebrating great picture books that model and inspire the early literacy practices of reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing with young children. You can join in and share your expertise with your colleagues by nominating titles and adding to the conversation on the CLEL blog."

To me, the best books that highlight PLAY are ones that I can see inspiring families to imitate at home, and those that cause lots of giggles and imitation in storytime. These are some of the books that I've chosen to highlight the practice of PLAY:

Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb, illustrated by David McPhail
A mother bear and her cub take turns reminiscing about their day backwards--from bedtime to breakfast. I love that this is an activity can be easily translated into home life. “Parents, a simple bedtime activity like the one in this book help your kids get ready to read by building narrative skills, adding to their vocabularies, and creating background knowledge about how daily life works.”

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
This is one of my all-time favorite storytime books. A young girl and her toy monkey pretend to be various animals following the refrain, “Monkey and me. Monkey and me. Monkey and me. We like to be____.” The repetitive nature of the chant builds phonological awareness, and the format of the book lends itself to vocabulary-building chatter about animal names, body parts, and actions.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
This book asks readers to interact directly with the pages rather than passively observing the illustrations. “Tap the magic tree twice,” and the page turn reveals changes ostensibly created by the reader’s actions. Intrinsically playful, stories like this reinforce the idea that books are something to be interacted with, full of the power to surprise and delight. They help create the connection between the real world, and the symbolic world of reading and writing by integrating both worlds in one experience.

Traction Man is Here! by Mini Grey
The text narrates the heroic adventures of action-figure Traction Man, while the illustrations show the reality of the situations--Traction Man’s epic undersea adventure is shown to be a normal night of dishwashing at the kitchen sink. This book introduces some great vocabulary, and serves as a fantastic model for creative, language-filled imaginative play. This title also does a great job showing how through imagination we learn how to let one object represent another--which is a big part of what reading boils down to! Also: totally hilarious.

Banana by Ed Vere
Two monkeys manage to evoke a huge range of emotion as they converse using only the word, “Banana.” Aside from the narrative building that naturally happens in a wordless (or nearly wordless) book, this book invites readers to play along--and it’s easy to encourage families to play the ‘banana game’ at home by having one-word conversations that rely on facial expressions and body language to convey meaning. We know how important comprehension is, and games like this are good practice for inference and interpretation. 

Now it's your turn--what books do you think best exemplify the five practices? Do you have a book you'd like to nominate? The deadline for nominations is November 15th and the winners will be announced February 15, 2014. 

There are lots of ways to get involved:
Don't miss the other great stops on the tour:

Talk -- Great Kid Books  
Sing -- Jbrary 
Read -- LibLaura5

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Program Planning and the Perfectionist Personality

One of the things I have learned about myself and programming is that if I don't write it down, I stress about it. The longer I wait to write it down, the more I stress out. Listing it out makes me feel better about things in many ways--small steps, deadlines, breaking up tasks etc. So I've created a program planning method that is basically a glorified to-do list.

Did I need to hand-craft moldy cheese for my D.o.a.W.K party? No, but the kids were super impressed by its grossness and I enjoyed making it, cackling to myself all the while.

I try really hard to take an "Unprogramming" perspective and not spend more time planning than a program is worth, but it's a learned process for me (someone who would love to be a perfectionist party planner in another life). 

First, I write down all the ideas/possibilities for a program. The first draft is basically a research brainstorm. This part might start very incidentally; I get a program idea and write it down in my Vitalist calendar (or Outlook at my old job). Then I add notes anytime I find or think of something that I want to remember. So it might look like this in the early stages:

Wonder Book club 7/15/13
Smash things--smash out bullying. Create first? Write?
Something with precepts, maybe.
So Tomorrow did book club for this--check post for ideas

This work is incidental--by the time I get to crunch time (about a week before I actually do the program), I've only spent 5-10 minutes on it so far. Full disclosure, at this point I'm also starting to feel like this about the program.

Then, I take a half-hour or so and make myself a program outline.  I write down all the things I *want* to do for the program, and below that I write down all things I need for each activity--purchased, gathered, or created. Then I take a realistic look at what's feasible, what's too much effort, what's just blatantly over-doing it, and decide what my program will actually look like. For me, it's totally crucial to see the whole thing laid out in black and white, so to speak.

On the day of the program, I can just consult my list to gather all my materials and set everything up, and I'm good to go.

I think I've hit a nice balance between my perfectionism/desire to create the BEST.PROGRAM.EVER and keeping myself sane and being a good steward of my own time.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Party:
Spy Program:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Apple BINGO--Inspired by Flannel Friday

I was inspired by posts I saw both at Falling Flannelboards (she includes PDF's, which I didn't notice until now, doh) and Roving Fiddlehead Kidlit to create my own version of Apple BINGO. I made mine with paper, and constructed it to work like a lift the flap book on the magnet side of my easel. It worked great!

This word says, 'apple.' A-P-P-L-E, apple. How many letters are in this word? Let's count them, 1-2-3-4-5. Five letters work together to make one word, 'apple.'  Let's sing a song about apples.

I know a fruit that's good to eat
And apple is its name-o
A-P-P-L-E and apple is its name-o

Uh oh, I'm hungry! Gobble gobble munch (open up the first flap to show the bitten apple instead of the letter).

I know a fruit that's good to eat
And apple is its name-o
*crunch*-P-P-L-E and apple is its name-o

And so on!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Inspired by Flannel Friday--Five Green and Speckled Frogs

I have been wanting to make this storytime prop for YEARS--ever since I first saw it on Mel's Desk in April 2011 (Holy moly time flies!).

I loved Mel's adorable frogs and their little log, but first I had to learn how to sing the song (that explains why it took so long).

Also, I knew that in order to use it in my family storytimes, I would have to make it bigger! Enter the mailing tube! Each frog photo is four inches wide, and it's shown sitting on the top shelf of a book cart, to give you an idea of the scale.

I added numbers for a little extra literacy punch. And yes, the waves do line up, because I'm fancy like that.

Next, I plan to steal another one of Mel's ideas, and hand out pipe-cleaner flies for the kids to wave around while we sing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Elsewhere: Green Bean Blog

Hello! I wrote an article for Sarah's awesome ongoing series, "So You Want to Read Middle Grade." Head over to Green Bean Teen Queen to check it out.

P.S. writing this on my phone in the car while on vacation: please excuse any mistakes :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teen Room Display

Though I don't directly work with teens, I am still the on-site advocate for teens at my branch. Due to the demise of Google Reader, I don't know where this fab idea first came from--but it wasn't mine. Sad face.

Just Give Me a Reason...What books do YOU recommend?

Post-its, a writing prompt pulled from the title of a Top 40 song, markers, and a poster frame lined with colorful paper.

It took a while to get started...

But it began to catch on...

Yep, the teens are my branch are excited about books and reading--no doubt about it! I am thinking I'll change it to ask for favorite quotes next.

What else could I do?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flannel Friday Round Up 7/26/13

It's a blustery October-like day here in Minnesota, (despite being July 26th!) so it's a perfect day to cozy up and enjoy some fantastic ideas from colleagues.

First up we have Mrs. S at Thrive after Three showcasing her *amazing* system for organizing all her flannels, puppets, and props.

From "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" to a variety of stylin' kicks, Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime shares lots of inspiration for a shoe-themed storytime.

Jane at Piper Loves the Library celebrates Shark Week with a fierce shark flannel, and also inspires with the clever idea to give kids a color photocopy of the flannel pieces. Kids can take the sheet home, cut out the pieces, and play storytime at home!

What is Bridget Reading? Lunch! by Denise Fleming. An excellent example of making the most out of those gorgeous flannel pieces we work so hard on--re purposing for multiple stories!

Jane (and Piper!) just couldn't stay away from Flannel Friday, and came back with another post. This time showcasing some older pieces and sharing a technique to make flannel board time interactive in a whole new way.

Brooke at Reading with Red shares a sweet way to introduce a theme into baby storytime, and backs it with with her early literacy mojo.

Lisa in Libraryland (I just love saying that) has some adorable (sturdy) foam sheep, and has really done her research to find dynamic ways to share the familiar tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"

Over at Artistic Literacy, Amber inspires us with some awesome flowers that have multiple uses, from counting, to color identification, to matching and patterning. Awesome!

Andrea at Librarian vs. Storytime has a flannelization of the new-to-me book "I Heard a Little Baa." Andrea wins the, "Most likely to make Anna run out and copy her" award this week! How have I missed this perfect little storytime rhyme?!

This week, I shared a technique for doing a 'letter of the day' in storytime without using puppets. For some reason lots of the people who do a regular "Letter of the day" use puppets (including me). But if you want to read my ideas for a puppet-free letter of the day, check it out here.

Thanks for reading and contributing, you are what makes Flannel Friday wonderful! To learn more about Flannel Friday, check out the Flannel Friday Blog.

Letter of the Day without Puppets

Image by mconnors via MorgueFile

I was brainstorming with @lizpatanders on Twitter about ways to do a "Letter of the Day" in storytime. I normally use a puppet for the letter of the day (Fergus the Letter Monster), but Liz was looking for ideas without using puppets and we came up with this idea:

"Letter" of the day. Decorate a box like a mailbox, or just use a manila envelope addressed to storytime.

"Letter B went on vacation and sent us back some pictures of things that start with 'B'!

Here's an uppercase letter 'B', and a lowercase letter 'b'. When we see the letter B we make the sound, Buh. Let's see what letter B sent us."

Then you could have pictures of things that start with B (and maybe even one that doesn't start with the right letter).

For doing this with a toddler group, eliminate the pictures, and just show the letter B and talk about its shape using words like straight, tall, round--maybe with some directed movement. Throw in some vocabulary stretching B words and you're set!

What other ways do you use to share a letter of the day--with or without puppets?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Storytime Set Up

Speaking of things I've been sitting on for a while, today I'm sharing my Storytime set-up routine. I have already posted about choosing books for storytime, and I have another post coming about how I put everything together. Anne at So Tomorrow provides the kick-in-the-pants I needed to actually share this post, due to her fab post on how SHE sets up her storytime. Lisa also accepted the gauntlet Anne threw down and posted her process.

Once I have my storytime mapped out, I load up all my books and supplies on my Storytime Cart.

Yes, this is a cart that I spray-painted. No, this is not a project that I recommend.

I wheel it into the program room and get set up about a half hour before storytime begins. I do not have a storage area in my program room, so the cart is crucial.

 Top shelf left to right:

  • Books for this week's storytime.
  • My storytime outline.
  • Alphabet Soup Can with the letter of the day.
  • Hand stamp and ink--usually ties in with theme, but might be "I love to read" type stamp.
  • CD of the month--I highlight one CD in our collection by playing it before storytime for a few weeks at a time.
  • CD player that stays on the cart permanently.
Middle shelf left to right:
  •  Magnetic upper and lower case foam letters, which are stuck all over the cart in order.
  • Today's letter of the day--Qq
  • Tape which I use to stick up the prompts for the letter of the day, hang signs, etc. 
  • Not pictured: masking tape I used to create the 'magic tape line' so kids don't sit in my lap.
  • Felt pieces, which I will use on the easel (Five in the Bed).
  • Storytime signs.
  • Fergus the letter monster.
Bottom shelf:

I use masking tape now--MUCH better than yarn

This is how I normally set everything up. I invite families to take the books after storytime, so I usually have quite a few extras. The easel is magnetic on one side, and that's the side we mainly use. I make posters of song lyrics and tape them up on the easel for those who can read. Often if I'm doing a flannel story I use a lap board, but if we're doing a larger flannel activity I just turn the whole easel around after the letter of the day.

This is what people see upon entering the room. I play music 15-20 minutes before storytime starts, which makes the room nice and welcoming as people get settled. Stopping the music once I'm ready to start storytime also creates a noticeable 'break' in the noise of the room--everyone notices when the music stops, so I don't have to work as hard to capture everyone's attention to begin.

I change the message on the white board to whatever is relevant that week. The kids love choosing their circle mats, and it encourages families to sit together on the floor (in the front!). There are about 15-20 chairs lining the wall to the right, and I don't move or set up any additional chairs.

After we sing our closing song, I invite kids to come forward and get a stamp and tell families they are welcome to take the books. Most everyone puts away their circle mat and it only takes me a few minutes to completely clean up.

Who else wants to share their storytime process?

You can read about how I choose books for storytime here

Friday, July 19, 2013

Flannel Friday--10 Little Babies

One little, two little, three little babies...

Four little, five little, six little babies...

Seven little, eight little, nine little babies...

Ten little darling babies! *kisses*

The babies are quite large; each face is four inches round. I used them in baby storytime this week, and all the babies (and adults) LOVED them. We sang the song three times, and the first time I put the babies up on the board as we sang, and then pointed to each face on the repeats.

These are HEAVILY influenced by the artwork of Karen Katz, so all credit for their adorableness goes to her!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Club--Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Today was the first meeting of our four-week 6th and 7th grade summer book club. The first book was Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a book which I love deeply and truly. Still, I fretted about making it awesome--if kids thought week one was lame they wouldn't come back. And with only seven kids signed up, that's a lot of pressure to not wreck the bookclub.

It was awesome.

Unsurprisingly, all the kids declined to be in the shot.

So, you can't see it very well in the photo, but please note the rubber mallet sticking out of the box. This was an important piece of our successful hour.

It was a very shy group. Fortunately one of my life-skills is making shy people feel comfortable (through making a fool of myself, mostly), so no one wanted to leave after the hour was up!

We started by watching the book trailer, and giving general impressions of the book. Since they were not very talkative, I talked a little about precepts and kindness, and they shared which precept from the book they liked best. Then I had them write something kind on a piece of paper I had pre-cut into squares, and then we folded them into paper balloons. We also talked about pets while this was going on. It was a good kind of ice-breaker activity. We also listened to the Bowie song from the book while we were doing this.

Then I showed them the "Choose Kind" pledge and website, and we had a good discussion about the bullying in the book. I asked the question, "What was the worst instance of bullying in the book?" and one of the girls said that for Auggie they were all the same--so insightful! Then I introduced our final activity, which is where the rubber mallet came in. I talked about a personal instance of bullying I experienced as a kid, and we talked about how we have ALL been bullied or at the very least witnesses bullying. So I had them think of a time they'd felt or witnessed bullying, then write one or two words that represented that story on a strip of paper. Next we put the strips into the cardboard tubes and SMASHED them.

It was great!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Design

I'm so excited to have revamped my site with a new design. If you're using email or RSS to read this, please pop over and check out my snazzy new look! My husband does freelance graphic design, and I love the new header he made for me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Overthinking It

I'm so thankful for other bloggers who inspire me to complete and actually share things I've been sitting on forever. Sometimes I get very frustrated with myself for being such a slow processor. I get an idea and I need to think about it and just let it be for a long while before I put it into words. Mostly I am learning to appreciate that about myself, but it's hard sometimes when I see people who are so talented at just getting things done quickly and efficiently.

I recently attended my first ALA, and it was amazing. I was able to have some great conversations with Melissa and Kendra about being a slow-processor, and I also sharpened some of my thinking about my approach to programming through Marge and Amy's session on Unprogramming.

One of the pivotal slides from Marge and Amy's Unprogramming session

I have DEFINITELY struggled with over-planning programs, and I have a few posts I've been sitting on that I feel like I can finish now (yay!). I love when I read a blog post, connect with colleagues, or attend a session that sharpens and focuses the amorphous blob of thoughts I've been sitting on forever. It feels like magic. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Show Me the Awesome--Diversity in Collection Development

Artwork by John LeMasney,

As part of the fantastic "30 Days of Self Promotion" blog tour going on this month (full archive), I'm going to write about something very near and dear to my heart: Diversity in Collection Development.

Why Does it Matter?

I don't care how homogeneous, remote, or just plain 'white' your community is--you should be thinking about diversity in your collections, AND in the books you present during storytime. One of the biggest parts of our mission as librarians is to provide access. Access to technology, to ideas, to education and, more broadly, access to the amazing world we live in. We provide windows into other lives, other ways of living. And we also have a responsibility to show kids how much the same life is--how much we all have in common. It's our responsibility to reflect the diverse world back to our library users.

Diversity in collection development is so much more than just books about Civil Rights, or "What it's like to live in X country." Those books are very very important. But if the only picture books we have that feature people of color are history books, historical fiction, or books about other countries we are doing a huge disservice to the people we serve. We're also contributing to the concept of 'otherness' that so many people of color live with every day. I want everyone to feel that they belong in my library. If we are building diverse collections, we need to seek out fantastic books that feature people of color and that aren't about race We need bedtime books, first day of school books, friendship books, loose tooth books and scared of the dark books that feature people of color. Those are the books that I work very hard to find and feature at my library.

It's not for me to speak about discrimination or prejudice, or to try and tell stories that don't belong to me. But what I can do is listen to those in the know, and support and promote authors of color,  and use my purchasing power to encourage publishers to embrace diversity as well. I want to be a diversity ally, and I am challenging you to be the same.

What do I actually do?

  • Read blogs that focus on diversity. A lot. Challenge my viewpoints as much as possible. Learn. Grow. This is the main thing. I do everything I can to make sure that I'm aware of what's out there, and then make a point to seek out those books.
  • When I'm looking through book catalogs and review publications I am always looking for books that can add diversity through my collection. I challenge myself to stop thinking, "That won't circulate here" or making assumptions about my users. I have an eagle eye watching for books about universal themes that feature people of color.
  • One easy way I keep tabs on my collections is to watch my 'new books' displays--are they reflective of a diverse world? How many of the total number on display are diverse? Who would feel welcome looking at this display? (Example below)
  • Watch my orders, and pay attention to book covers. I try to click through my book orders before I finish them and look at covers to get an overview of the overall diversity of each order.

Some things I read to learn:

American Indians in Children's Literature
CBC Diversity 
I'm Here, I'm Queer, Now What the Hell do I Read?
De Colores: La Raza Experience in Books for Children
Es Divertido Hablar Dos Idiomas!
Reading in Color
PaperTigers Blog
Diversity in YA

Awards and Lists:

Stonewall Award
Pura Belpre Award
Schneider FamilyAward
Coretta Scott King Award
South Asia Book Award
Rainbow Book List 

 What am I missing? I'm always looking for more!

On a random morning I took stock of my picture book display and found 8/14 titles on display were either 1. A true story about a person of color 2. Featured a person of color on the cover regardless of the story or 3. portrayed a folk or fairy tale from a non-European culture. Most of the time I don't take a photo, just count how many books on the display are diverse, then count how many books are on display total. I aim for about 50% and am pleased to report that that is an easy benchmark to hit when you pay attention to diversity!

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