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
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