Friday, September 15, 2017

Preschool Storytime - Sometimes You Need a Cheat Day

While I usually (but not always) plan my storytimes around themes, this week I just wasn't feeling it. I was in the mood to do something totally new; first I looked into a couple of new themed ideas that didn't pan out, and then I looked through all the books on our new shelf, and still was uninspired. So I cheated! I pulled up Jbary's list of "2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books" and looked for titles I had not used (or even seen before) that sounded good.

But, hey, isn't that why we blog, so others can benefit from our knowledge and experience? Though I still feel a bit like I'm cheating and should come up with an original storytime every time, I know in my head that isn't realistic. It's okay to use other people's ideas as inspiration, or even copy a whole storytime plan in a pinch (as long as you give credit). We are only human and shouldn't feel like we have to re-invent the wheel every single time, or constantly go bigger and better.

We started off with our welcome song, and they all had to share something with me today, then we moved on to our story song. The first book I chose was Still A Gorilla! by Kim Norman and Chad Geran, about a young gorilla who lives at the zoo, and thinks he might like to be a different animal, so he tries to become different animals by imitating their behavior and appearance. But, no matter what he does, he finds he is "still a gorilla". 

This is great for the younger ones as it is short and simple, and the kids can try to act like other animals along with Willy, and join in saying "still a gorilla" over and over. The pictures are big and bright, without too much detail.

After we finished the story, we talked about how you can't really change into another animal, but you can pretend to be something else, and several said which animal they would like to be, which segued perfectly into singing a song that would allow us to pretend to be different animals, starting with a gorilla, then doing the other animals that Willy pretended to be and a couple of additional ones.

The Animals At The Zoo
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")

The gorilla at the zoo goes (beat on chest),
(beat on chest), (beat on chest).
The gorilla at the zoo goes (beat on chest), 
All day long.

The lion at the zoo goes roar, roar, roar.....

The walrus at the zoo goes (hold finger up to mouth like tusk & bob head)....

The goats at the zoo go butt their heads....

The alligators at the zoo go chomp, chomp, chomp...

The kangaroo at the zoo goes hop, hop, hop....

The bear at the zoo goes growl, growl, growl...

The penguins at the zoo go waddle, waddle, waddle....

I ended with a penguin to lead into our next story, Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, which stars a grumpy penguin. Penguin was in a very bad mood, though he didn't know why, and nothing seems to help until he gets home and finally gets in a nice cool bath, has hot chocolate, reads his favorite book, and gets into bed with his favorite pajamas and teddy. This book has short and simple text with simple illustrations, and kids can act out some of Penguin's actions. 

This book gives a nice opportunity to talk about how sometimes we might just be in a bad mood for no reason, and that we might just need a little quiet time to ourselves with our favorite things to help us calm down and relax, or maybe a nap since being tired can make you grumpy, too. Since we were talking about feelings, it was only natural to follow this story with "If You're Happy & You Know It":

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it, then your smile will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

If you're grumpy and you know it, give a frown.....face....

If you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet....face....

If you're sad and you know it, say "boo hoo"....frown....

If you're happy and you know it, give a smile....face....

After ending back at "happy", it was time to end with our closing song and stickers.

How It Went
This storytime went really well and had just the right amount of interactive and movement elements to keep the kids really engaged, without getting them too wound up (which can be a difficult balance to achieve!). The kids really enjoyed both books and the songs.

There were lots of giggles and comments of "he's so silly" or "that's silly" during Still A Gorilla, which they found thoroughly entertaining and enjoyed pretending along with Willy and saying "still a gorilla" over and over. They also giggled at the title of Grumpy Pants, and of course more giggles at the mention of taking off his grumpy underpants and being naked, though I reminded them that penguins don't really wear clothes anyway! They also appreciated me acting out the stomping, kicking off of boots, and angrily pulling off socks and flinging them over my shoulder. And of course, any songs or rhymes that allow them to act out animal sounds and movements are always a hit.

So I had a great storytime that I didn't have to stress about planning, and discovered two great storytime books I haven't used before. Thanks, Jbrary! We are so lucky to have such an amazing array of resources at our fingertips! I can't imagine how much harder youth programming was to plan before the internet! (While I must admit to being old enough to know pre-internet days, that was long before my second career in libraries began.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Doldrums - Feeling Discouraged & Frustrated

I don't usually get too personal in my blog, but I'm sure there are many others who can relate to how I've been feeling lately. I don't know if it's just the let-down after the crazy hectic pace of summer reading ends, a perfect storm of frustration and disappointment, or just that I'm overdue for a vacation, but I've been in a funk all week that I'm having trouble shaking.

First, I absolutely hate the class I'm taking now. It's a subject I'm not interested in and the professor is well-known for not being very good as well as being MIA for long periods of time and not grading assignments. There have been multiple complaints from students to the chair for at least the last 3 terms, to no avail. He's tenured, so they just shrug their shoulders and say there's nothing they can do. I'm trying to make the best of it, but these assignments are ridiculous! Not hard, but hours and hours (and hours) of mind-numbingly tedious, repetitive worksheets that are just pointless busywork, and I HATE busy work; it makes me very grumpy!

Then there are a lot of changes going on at work, with little communication or transparency, so that leaves everyone feeling a bit anxious and on edge. My job hasn't been directly affected yet, but I know it's just a matter of time. I try to ignore it and just focus on doing my job and doing it well, but sometimes it gets to me. I am thankful my job is not stressful and is a lot of fun most of the time, but it is a lot of the same thing, as I spend 85% of my time doing storytimes, about 25 over a 2-week period with the same theme. So I go through cycles of feeling a bit bored and restless, but I always get past it. My boss has been great about letting me try new things and have opportunities for professional development, so I really can't complain, but sometimes I just wish I could exchange jobs with someone for a month or so to just do something different for a while.

But I think the one thing I'm having the most trouble with is being in this in-between-place. I work in a library, I'm almost halfway-thru library school, my job entails some of the duties of a librarian, requires some of the skills of a librarian, and I think like a librarian. But I am not a librarian. I'm in this nebulous space of a largely invisible, part-time paraprofessional (and the position is not even officially recognized as such, but is graded the same as a clerk). Other MLS students have said they share similar feelings; it's hard being an almost-but-not-quite librarian and feeling like you're stuck and excluded from the club.

I am very cognizant that I am not a librarian, but it's a pain to try to tell non-library people what it is that I am! My title is a very generic, non-descript "library assistant", which can be anything from a clerk to a paraprofessional depending on the library, and means nothing to a layperson. I can say I'm an early literacy outreach specialist, which is a much more accurate description, but still meaningless to the average Joe. My husband tells people I "read to kids", but it's so much more than that! My in-laws ask me if I'm still "doing your library thing" as though it's just a hobby or volunteering. It would be so much easier to just say I'm a librarian; people at least have a concept of what that is, even if it itsn't always accurate.

But I don't, because I'm not. And I'm feeling discouraged at my chances of ever being one, with the over-saturated job market and the trends I see in hiring, combined with being geographically restricted, at least for now. But I keep plugging along, building my skills, and learning as much as I can, and hoping for the best!

The good news is I do have a vacation coming up soon, and hopefully the break will be just what I need to recharge! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

People Say We Monkey Around - Preschool Storytime

With this being only the second visit of the new school year and this year's class being a little on the young side and still settling in, I knew I wanted to keep this storytime a little shorter and be sure to pick books and activities that would be highly engaging. 

I didn't really have anything in mind, but after a child at one of the other daycares excitedly described the book he received from our summer reading program, Count The Monkeys, I've been wanting to do it again because it's so much fun. Then yesterday one of our face-outs on the shelf that I've used before and has a monkey as the main character happened to catch my eye. I thought of how most kids already know and enjoy "Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree" and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed", and decided that was the way to go.

We started off with our welcome song, and then I introduced the topic by showing them the monkey fingerpuppets I had based on Eileen Christelow's Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed. I asked the kids what the monkeys were wearing, and it took some coaxing to get them to say pajamas. Then I asked what they thought the monkeys were doing, and most of them said "jumping on the bed!" and one boy even added "if you jump on the bed, you'll fall and bump your head!". So then we did the rhyme with me using the finger puppets and the kids just holding up their fingers.

Monkey storytime, Five little monkeys

"Five Little Monkeys"

Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his(her) head.
Mama(Daddy) called the doctor, and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

[Repeat, counting down to zero, alternating "his" & "her", and "Mama" & "Daddy"]

Monkey storytime
After that we sang our story song and read our first book, Kiki's Blankie by Janie Bynum. This is a short, simple story that I like for several reasons. First, most children can relate to having a blankie or other favorite possession that they are attached to. Second, I like that it promotes using your imagination as Kiki uses her blankie as a tent, pirate's head scarf, cowgirl's bandana, superhero's cape, and more as she engages in pretend play. Also, it has a little bit of mild drama involving a crocodile, which ties into our next activity, and shows Kiki being brave even without her blankie and engaging in creative problem-solving.

Next, we did another favorite of most kids, "Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree". I interchange alligator and crocodile in this rhyme, depending on the stories I've selected for that day. I used my velcro set of monkeys and crocodile with a storytelling glove pictured below, but I've decided that I prefer just using my hands and fingers, so I can really give a loud clap on the "Snapped that monkey right out of the tree" part.

Monkey Storytime, Jungle Storytime, Five Little Monkeys

"Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree"

Five little monkeys, swinging in a tree.
Teasing Mr. Crocodile, "You can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be,
And SNAPPED that monkey right out of the tree!

[Repeat, counting down to none.]

Monkey Storytime, Jungle StorytimeI saved our most lively book for last, Count The Monkeys by Mac Barnett. This book is fun, silly, involves counting, and is highly interactive. It starts by directing the audience to turn the page to start counting the monkeys. But, when you turn the page, instead of monkeys we find a big king cobra! The book directs us to quietly and slowly turn the page, where we discover two mongooses (mongeese? mongooses? Let's take a vote!) have scared the snake away. We keep turning the page hoping to find monkeys, but instead find many other scary or silly things. Sadly, we get to the last page without ever having seen a single monkey. But, wait! What's that on the endpapers!?

Then we finished up with our closing song and passing out stickers.

How It Went

This turned out to be a great storytime. The kids liked Kiki's Blankie, but they LOVED Count The Monkeys! This book is so much fun! If it's not in your storytime collection, I highly recommend you add it, which reminds me that I really need to buy a copy for my own personal collection. The kids loved being suprised by the snake, and looked forward to seeing what would come next, acted out the instructions, and loved the shear silliness of it. The ones who caught a glimpse of the monkeys on the endpaper as I closed the book, disappointed we never got to count any monkeys, were SO excited to tell me they were there.

As expected, many knew the two rhymes, and they all enjoyed them, giggling as each monkey finger puppet was tossed into the floor, bumping his/her head, and snapping the crocodile's jaws to catch the monkey in the tree. While I hear many teachers, librarians, and other early literacy providers say they get sick of all the "five little...." and "ten little...." fingerplays and songs, I don't mind them. The kids really seem to enjoy them, and while they may already know how to count from 1 to 10, I really like using them to work their fine motor skills (especially if you also count down, and have them use the non-dominant hand the second time).

Not to make it all about me, but I really needed this storytime today. I woke up in a particularly gloomy mood thanks to not sleeping well, stress at home (hence the not sleeping well), and the miserable rainy weather thanks to hurricane Harvey. I had the hardest time getting up and moving, but I knew if I pushed through that storytime would lift my spirits, and it did. The kids listened well and had so much fun, and are just so darn cute; it's impossible to stay gloomy in storytime 😀.

And I know I'm showing my age, but since I caught myself typing "monkees" instead of "monkeys" almost every time, I have to include this blast from the past:

Davy Jones was such a cutie; hard to believe he's gone.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Start of a New School Year - Easing Anxiety, Encouraging Engagement

Currently, all my storytimes are outreach storytimes done at preschools and daycares, either with the Storytime Bus as part of our Storytime-To-Go program, or what I refer to my "regular" storytime where I go in the classroom that is not part of the STG program. Just as summertime brings new challenges with the changes in routine, less structure, staff changes, distractions, etc., the beginning of the new school year has its own challenges.

This is when kids move to different classes, start daycare/preschool for the first time, or return to daycare/preschool after being home all summer. So we are often dealing with separation anxiety, some tears, and all the little bumps and hiccups with scheduling that are bound to happen. Also, we are starting with a new crop of 3 year olds that don't know the routine and may have not ever had storytime before.

So, I usually keep things short and sweet, and while I generally like to use storytime to introduce new books and authors, for the first storytime of the school year I generally use books I expect them to be very familiar with, for a couple of reasons. For one, having something familiar provides a little bit of comfort, and hopefully helps ease their apprehension (particularly when getting on the Storytime Bus for the first time), and already knowing the words and story encourages participation and keeps them engaged. I also do songs they will already know, or activities I know will be particularly fun and engaging.

So, for the last two weeks I picked a simple, straightforward theme of "Colors", knowing that most of them already know at least some colors, and they typically love identifying them and talking about their favorites.

The Books
Color themed storytime, books about colors
(Click on image to view larger version)

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean. By now, most kids are familiar with Pete the Cat, and I know from when we had the song on our listening station in the library that kids LOVE singing his song. This book packs a lot into a short, simple story: colorful illustrations, making predictions, identifying colors, singing the song and saying repeated lines, and teaches as lesson about not letting every little thing upset you.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle. This is an old favorite for generations that many kids know by heart and love reciting with you. I've seen many nervous little faces light up when I pull this out and they see something familiar. It has great rhyme and rhythm, and of course Carle's wonderful illustrations, and the kids can see themselves in the diverse children's faces at the end.

Snappy Little Colors by Dugald Steer is a bright, and color ful pop-up book with different animals, my favorite being the shark. You can never go wrong with a pop-up book!

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austen (and I just realized I have the British book cover in my collage, whoops!) are both fun books that introduce the idea of primary and secondary colors (though not using those terms). Each book shows how to make new colors by combining the primary colors. I usually save these for the older kids because the brand new 3's generally don't quite grasp the concept yet, and Mouse Paint in particular is a bit longish. All the kids giggle at the end of Monsters Love Colors, when the last little monster wants to be "super mega tropical rainbow with raspberry swirl on top!".

I did occasionally use a couple of other books, but these were by far the ones I used the most, particularly Pete and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which I used for my brand new class of 3-year olds at my "regular" storytime.

Songs & Activities

Little Mouse Flannel, Mouse House, Colors Storytime
Little Mouse, Little Mouse

This flannel board activity is probably my absolute favorite because we have so much fun with it. I inherited this set, and have since added two more colored houses, as well as a cookie and an apple. I usually hide the mouse in the very last house, behind the apple, and build suspense as we look behind each house, saying "Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the  (color)  house?" I really ham it up, and by the end they know he has to be in the last house. But then I remove the house and reveal the apple, and play dumb when they say they see the mouse. They get so excited when the see his little ears and feet peaking out!

Colors Storytime, Colors flannel board activity, little mouse, mouse house

I also used the song "If You're Wearing  (Color)  Today", first telling them to stand up, then once they were all standing, I'd call different colors and ask them to sit down until everyone was seated again. I saved this for the older kids because the young ones seem to have too much trouble following the directions and understanding what's going on.

For my brand new class of 3-year olds, I stuck with a few songs I knew they would know, like the "ABC's" (kids always want to sing that), "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", and "Itsy Bitsy Spider", which encouraged participation and made them feel like they knew what was going on. I also introduced our welcome song, story song, and closing song.

How It Went

Overall, the first round of storytimes for the new school year went very well. There were a few hiccups with scheduling and and the youngest kids that don't know the routine yet are always a little harder to keep engaged, which is why I just plan on shorter sessions at first, so we end on a positive note. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no tears this year, though some new kids were a little nervous about getting on the Storytime Bus. It seems like they are always either afraid that we are going to take them somewhere, or disappointed that we don't. But I am happy to report that one of the kids that was very apprehensive his first time last year, is now one of my most enthusiastic fans!

It was a little sad for me, as it was the first round without the kids who had left to start kindergarten, and I would find myself missing their familiar little faces, particularly the ones who were always very ethusiastic participants. But, I have lots of new faces to get to know, and they will be seasoned veterans in no time.

And for your entertainment, a baby being thoroughly entertained by a very enthusiastic reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review of "Creepy Pair of Underwear!"

Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Creepy Pair of Underwear!  
Aaron Reynolds (author) & Peter Brown (illustrator)
Released August 15, 2017
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
48 pages, ages 4 - 8 

Jasper Rabbit returns, but he is not a little bunny anymore! His mother takes him shopping for new underwear, and Jasper insists he is old enough to choose his own underwear now that he is a big rabbit. No more tidy whities for him! He chooses some cool looking underwear with a scary face on them, despite his mother's misgivings. 

That night, he decides to wear his new underwear to bed, and of course he doesn't need a nightlight or the door cracked, because he is a big rabbit now. But, when the lights go out, he makes an unexpected, and unpleasant, discovery. His new underwear glows in the dark - a horrible, ghoulish, green glow!

Spooky picture books that don't mention Halloween
(Click on any image to see it larger)

The creepy glow keeps Jasper from sleeping, no matter how hard he tries, so finally he takes them off and stuffs them down in the very bottom of his clothes hamper. Finally, he can sleep!

Scary picture books that are not about Halloween

But, the next morning when he wakes up, Jasper is suprised and frightened to discover......he is WEARING the underwear! What? How?? Now things really are creepy!

Scary, funny picture books

Then he tries throwing them in the garbage can outside, but when he comes home from school they're back in his drawer! He tries shipping them to China, but they come back.....with souvenirs! 😱😠😧

Funny, scary pictures books

No matter what he tries, they keep coming back! Will Jasper be haunted by the creepy underwear for the rest of his life?

My Thoughts 
The creative team that brough us Creepy Carrots has done it again! I predict this will be a huge hit, and I can't wait to use it! I LOVE this, and it had me laughing out loud more than once as I read it, especially when the underwear not only returned from China, but also brought souvenirs! While anything that mentions underwear is guaranteed to get laughs from the kids, this story has it all: clever humor, suspense, an age-appropriate level of creepiness, and Peter Brown's wonderful illustrations really set the mood. Another Caldecott nod, perhaps?

I particularly appreciated it because it reminded me of a somewhat similar incident that happened with my daughter when she was younger. Her grandmother had given her a black t-shirt covered with glow-in-the-dark stars that made up the face of Albert Einstein, like the one pictured here. She loved the shirt, and one night decided to wear it to bed. When she woke up in the middle of the night and saw the glow, it freaked her out for a minute, until she woke up enough to remember what it was. 😂

I think this book would appeal to all kids from the ages of 3 or 4 to maybe 8 or 9, and some adults as well. I think this could be another good selection, along with it's predecessor, for a somewhat creepy-scary story to read around Halloween without actually being about Halloween if that's something you need or prefer to avoid. Of course it would be fun any time of the year! But if you have adults who don't appreciate underwear humor, it might not go over as well with them, so know your audience.

One other thing worth mentioning is the homage to Creepy Carrots; as Jasper goes far from home to try get rid of the creepy underpants, he passes by the fenced-off carrot patch:

Creepy Carrots

And now for your entertainment, the author performing in a Kid Lit vs YA Lit lip synch battle at the Texas Library Association conference: