Friday, May 19, 2017

Summer Reading

So I'm guessing many of you are either (1) in full-blown panic mode trying to get everything ready for summer reading, (2) trying to squeeze in some time off to recharge before summer reading, (3) or simply enjoying the last week or two of calm before the storm. Today is the last day of school for our public schools, so it will start getting busier here next week, then hit full force in June!

Back in my days as a page in the children's department, summer reading meant a HUGE increase in my workload, and was exhausting, and often frustrating, with all the summer camp groups that would come in and destroy the department while their counselors sat in a corner chatting amongst themselves and playing on their phones. In my current position as a paraprofessional in the Outreach department, summer reading doesn't affect me as much as others. At my level I'm not involved in any of the decision-making or major responsibilities of getting everything planned and ready, and since I'm only in the library at a service desk one afternoon a week, I don't have to deal with the increased chaos every day. I generally just keep doing the same thing, going out to daycares and doing storytime.

I do see some changes, though. At some of the daycares, enrollment goes up during the summer; at others it goes down. At ALL of the daycares the kids are much harder to engage and keep focused, much more chatty and wiggly, in the summer! I will drop off summer reading materials, and help deliver their prize books at the end. The one big change for me this summer is that I will also be doing several school-aged STEAM programs. Last year I did one; this year I think we have 7 scheduled so far! It will be hectic, but I love having a chance to do something different! I am able to repeat programs since they are all different groups, but I do need to come up with two new program ideas for one place.

I do sympathize will my peers for whom summer is much more chaotic, demanding, and stressfull. Some libraries make summer reading such a circus, with major events almost everyday, I don't see how anyone does it. Sometimes I wonder if that's all really necessary, and does it really accomplish anything other than increasing our numbers? I can't help but question sometimes if the original intent of summer reading has been lost. 

Summer reading was originally supposed to address the "summer slide", but now it seems like it's more of a numbers game, increasing circ stats and program attendance, rather than increasing literacy. Some studies have suggested that incentivized reading at best does not really translate to increased reading later on, and at worst may actually discourage voluntary reading. My library offerred some really cool prizes last year, and "participation" definitely increased, if you define participation as turning in a reading log. But was there really any more reading going on? I don't really think so, just more cheating.

What's the right answer? I don't really know. When libraries are fighting for funding and proving they are still relevant, statistics are the only hard evidence we have, so it's not practical to say they don't matter, but I would like to see some of the obsession and pressure to increase stats, and be "bigger and better" each year relaxed and the focus put back on learning and literacy. In particular, I would love to see more research about incentivized reading and the effectiveness of different summer reading programs, and more research-based summer reading program design.

But, it is what it is for now, and I do enjoy seeing more people at the library, in particular the now school-aged kids who used to come to storytime, and I love the chance to do some other types of programming! It will be busy, but a good busy! Happy Summer, everyone!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frogs, Toads, Aliens, and Dinosaurs!

I usually try to pick a different theme for my "regular" storytime on Friday, so I can expand my repertoire and experiment, but this week I was just too distracted to think of anything, so I stuck with the same "Frog" theme I have been doing on the Storytime Bus, though I did pick new books and spent a little more time on non-fiction.

As usual, we started with our welcome song, but then I did a longer introduction than usual, expanding it into a bit of a lesson about frogs using the wonderful non-fiction book All About Frogs by Jim Arnosky. I really like this book a lot, as it covers many things about frogs, including how they differ from toads, pictures of many different North American frogs, including tree frogs, showing how they vary in size, coloring, and markings. 

It also shows a few of the brightly colored poison dart frogs, which I supplemented with a number of photograghs of poison dart frogs I had copied and printed onto a single piece of paper as I find them truly amazing (there are also a couple of books just on poison dart frogs, one by Julie Murray, and another by Carmen Bredeson). This book also shows some of the things that frogs eat, as well as what eats them! Though I generally prefer photographs for non-fiction, the illustrations in this book are very realistic. I didn't read the text to them, but showed some of the pictures and talked about them. 

Since the last thing we talked about was what eats frogs, which included an alligator, we then did this really fun rhyme I learned from one of our volunteers that the kids seem to like a lot:

There Once Was An Alligator

There once was an alligator, sitting on a log.
(one hand & arm is the gator, on top of the other arm for the log)

Down in the water, he saw a little frog.
(look down)

DOWN dove the alligator!
(say this suddenly & loudly, while quickly "diving" down; 
it startles the kids, and they love it!)

Around spun the log!
(roll arms like log spinning)

SPLASH went the water!
(throw arms out)

And away swam the frog!
(make breaststroke motion with arms)

The kids are always startled when I suddenly cry "DOWN!" and dive down, then they giggle and really get into it. They like doing the motions, and I urge them to swim quickly to get away from the alligator, and often repeat 2-3 times as we keep running into more alligators. Depending on what book this follows, I may substitute "crocodile" for "alligator" and/or say "wide-mouthed frog" or "yummy frog" instead of "little frog".

Then we sang several verses of our story song to get settled for our stories, including stomp feet, clap hands, be seated, nod head, and say "shh". Our first story was Green Wilma: Frog In Space by Tedd Arnold. In this funny story Wilma is chasing a fly and is mistaken by aliens for their child who was playing in the pond. 

The aliens take Wilma into their ship and fly away. At first they think the earth's pond water had turned their dear Blooger green, but then they determine she is in fact not their son but an alien. They quickly return to earth to correct their mistake, much to Blooger's relief.

We followed this by singing everyone's favorite, "Five Green & Speckled Frogs", using my homeade finger-puppet glove, while they used their hands and fingers (for other ways to do this song, see "Five Green & Speckled Frogs, Five Ways"). 

Five Green & Speckled Frogs

Five green and speckled frogs, sat on a speckled log.

Eating some most delicious bugs. Yum! Yum!

One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool.

Now there are four green speckled frogs. Glub, Glub.

[Continue counting down to none.]

I preceded our last story, Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus, with a quick lesson on the life cycle of a frog so they would understand what a tadpole was, using the same non-fiction book by Arnosky above. The title and cover of Tadpole Rex confused them, and some kept trying to correct me and tell me it was Tyranosaurus rex, so I made sure to pause an explain what was going on with the Tyranosaurus making the puddle, but the story was about the teeny little tadpole in the puddle, who was also named Rex. 

The story shows Rex develop from a tadpole into a frog, and his interactions with a few dinosaurs before deciding to stay safely hidden in his puddle, with just his eyes showing. A couple remained a little confused about the mixing of frogs and dinosaurs, so I think I will either save this book for slightly older kids and give it a bit more of a lead-in with a discussion about how there were frogs living at the time of dinosaurs in the future.

After that, we had a quick "pop quiz" about frogs to summarize what we learned, and then did our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
This class has been a bit unusual compared to the previous two years. In the past, the kids were more talkative, restless, and inattentive at the beginning of the year, but have matured into good listeners by the end of the year. This class started out as exceptionally good listeners in the beginning, but now are getting more talkative and harder to control at the end of the year! But they are always so glad to see me, and almost knocked me over with a mob hug when I first walked in.

They did seem to enjoy the subject and the stories, but I don't think many fully appreciated either story since they weren't listening as well as usual. The loved doing the action rhyme with the alligator, though, and most liked doing the "Five Green & Speckled Frogs" song. When we talked about what frogs eat, they always say "Ewww" at the thought of eating bugs, and I tease them, saying that's what they were having for lunch or snack. And what do you know, after I finished, the teacher pulled out some celery, pimento cheese, and raisins for them to make "Ants On Log" for snack, so they did eat "bugs" after all!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Garden Storytime

I just finished my 2-week rotation on the Storytime Bus with a "Garden" theme. We talked about both flower gardens and vegetable gardens, and what we would like to plant if we had a garden. We also talked about how seeds need soil, water, and sunlight to grow, the main parts of the plant and what they do (roots, stem, leaves, flower), and what types of bugs and animals might be helpful or harmful to the garden. I particularly emphasized how important bees are for pollination, and that without pollination we would get no vegetables to eat, or seeds to plant more flowers.

I used mostly the same books and the same songs and rhymes as I did last time, so I'll just link to my previous "Garden" post and highlight the three new books I used this time here.

Maisy Grows a Garden is not actually a "new" book, but we did not have it in our collection previously, so it is new for me. I love these Maisy pull-tab books! They are short and simple enough for the younger kids, but all the pull-tabs and pop-ups keep the older ones engaged, too.

This books shows all the steps of gardening: digging the ground, planting the seed, watering, sunlight, sprouting, weeding, growing, and maturing. I like that it shows both vegetables (carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans), and flowers.

My Sunflower by Mar Ferrero and Martin Taylor is a new pop-up book that is also great for the younger ones because it is short and simple, but the older ones like the pop-ups, too. The first page amazes them because when the book is closed, you see a sunflower seedling in the die-cut circle, with the seed still visible and roots and shoot just started to develop. 

But then when you open the cover, it "magically" changes to a sunflower blossom in full bloom! We see the seed in the ground, then after it gets water and sunshine, the seed cracks open and the roots and shoot start to grow. The seedling grows taller and taller, then a bud appears, and finally blooms into a huge pop-up flower.

I love Christie Matheson's Tap the Magic Tree, so I was excited when her new book, Plant the Tiny Seed, came in a couple of months ago. In this book, we follow the growth cycle of zinnia flowers, from seed to sprout to blossom and back to seed again.

Just like her other books, the reader/audience is prompted to do various motions, such as making it rain, clapping to bring the sun, and pretending to snip the spent flower so more buds will bloom. I will say this book doesn't quite have the same magic as her first, but it's still nice to use.

The kids all enjoyed this theme and talking about their gardens at home, or what they would want to grow in their gardens. One thing I noticed that was very consistent across all groups is that they were *really* distracted by any bugs or worms shown in the illustrations! I made a point to explain how some were good, such as how earthworms keep the soil loose, allow water and air to reach the roots, and fertilize the soil; how ladybugs eat the aphids, and how important bees are for fertilization. Of course we also read my two favorite garden-related books, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and Carrot Soup, along with several others.

For more books and songs & rhymes, see my previous "Garden" post and my previous "Five Little Flowers" Flannel Friday post!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My First Author Meeting

So I've had a few authors comment on my blog, Facebook posts, or "Like" my page, but yesterday I had the chance to meet an author for the first time in real life, John Archambault, co-author of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

My manager had worked out a great partnership with the local Child Care Council to bring John in for an event at the library followed by speaking at the Council's training summit for early childhood workers, and the events were jointly promoted by both organizations. The event at the library was advertised as a family night, and promoted through social media, flyers, and television, with many crafts and activities, storytelling by John, and book signing. It was a huge success with over 700 people in attendance! 

The next day was the training summit, which was where I came in. My manager and I were asked to present one of the training sessions (which is why I missed the event Friday night, because I'm only part-time and had to watch my hours) after John's keynote speech. Our presentation was on early literacy, focusing mostly on the five practices (read, write, talk, sing, play) and how to use them everyday, as well as in an organized storytime. We actually had to present it twice, during the morning session and again after lunch.

We had done a similar presentation back in October for another group of child care workers, that had not gone as well as we would have liked, for reasons mostly beyond our control at the time. This time we made significant changes, including all new slides, had significantly more time to prepare, a more interested audience, and I was pretty pleased with how it went.

 After the last presentation was over, I got the chance to meet John. He was very gracious, offering to pose for a picture, and autographed the door sign from our presentation (my awesome manager had already gotten me a signed book the night before). I heard lots of comments from attendees about how much they enjoyed his speech as well.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Most Egg-cellent Storytime

I was trying to decide what to do for my Friday storytime, as I didn't want to necessarily do the same theme that we had finished with the Storytime-To-Go program ("Birds"), and a co-worker had mentioned doing an "Egg" themed storytime. I thought that would be a good theme since it was just after Easter and I knew I had some books from the "Bird" kit to fall back on if I needed to, but I decided to try to find different books that would help show that other animals besides birds lay eggs.

We started with our welcome song, and talked about eggs a little bit, but then they got side-tracked by talking about Easter eggs. I tried to get them to think about what other animals besides chickens and other birds lay eggs, but they just couldn't grasp the question and kept talking about either Easter eggs or chickens, so I just moved on to our story song.

For our first story I read The Cow That Laid An Egg by Andy Cutbill and Russell Ayto, which is a cute story about a cow named Marjorie who is sad because she doesn't have any special talent. Her friends the chickens concoct a plan to make Marjorie feel special. The next morning when everyone wakes up, Marjorie discovers a black-and-white egg in her bed! 

This is a funny story that doesn't end quite the way the audience expects, with whimsical, cartoonish illustrations.

Of course we cannot talk about chickens and eggs without singing Laurie Berkner's "I Know A Chicken", and we have to have shaky eggs!

Everyone loves the song, and it elicits a lot of audience participation.

I followed that up with a non-fiction book, An Egg Is Quiet by Diana Aston and Sylvia Long, to show all different kinds of eggs and various characteristics. Most were from birds, but it also shows a dogfish shark egg, various insect eggs, frog eggs, iguana, fish, and turtle eggs. I really like how it showed the range of sizes, shapes, colors, markings, and that it made a point of explaining bird eggs have hard shells, while reptile eggs have softer, learthery coverings, and amphibian eggs are "gooey". 

This is a really nice book; my only complaint is that I wish it showed a few less bird eggs and a few more "other animals" eggs, and had them grouped by animal type on the 2-page spreads so they would be easier to differentiate.

I followed this up with a really cute flannel board activity inspired by one I saw at "Jen In The Library", that she had originally found in a book called Preschool Favorites by Diane Briggs. I made a few changes due to time constraints and personal preference. First, I knew I didn't have time to make 10 since I was doing it somewhat last minute, so I reduced it to 5. Second, I didn't have the pattern book mentioned, nor time to make patterns, so I had to do the very "quick-and-dirty" freehand method. 

I'm not much of an artist, so they are a bit crude and some are too small, but not terrible considering how quickly I made them while working the service desk (I plan on remaking them later, and adding more). I also chose animals based on what I wanted to use, and re-wrote the rhyme. I then decided rather than simply removing the egg to reveal the animal behind, I would cut the eggs in half and remove the tops, to really make it look like they were hatching. And then I decided they would look so much cuter in a nest than just stuck on the board, so I very quickly freehanded a nest, cutting out a slit to tuck the eggs into.

"Five Little Eggs"

Here are five little eggs, and what do I see?
They're about to crack open!
What's inside? I'll wait and see.

The first egg cracks open, and what do I see?
A fuzzy, yellow duckling looking at me!

The second egg cracks open, and what do I see?
A fluffy, white owl looking at me!

The third egg cracks open, and what do I see?
A scaly, brown snake looking at me!

The fourth egg cracks open, and what do I see?
A fierce, little dinosaur looking at me.

The fifth egg cracks open, and what do I see?
A little, green turtle looking at me!

Five little hatchlings, as cute as can be.
Five little hatchlings, living happily!

And that brought us to our final book, The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, which is a story about a poor Duck, who wishes he had an egg like all the other birds. Then, he finds one a most unusual egg. It is huge, and covered with green spots, and Duck thinks it's the most beautiful egg in the world; the other birds disagree. One by one the other birds' eggs hatch, revealing their babies. Will Duck's egg ever hatch?

This is a cute story with a surprise ending, and I really like the way the pages are cut to reveal each hatchline one-by-one. But while the illustrations are cute, I hate that they are so small and so pale! It makes this book difficult to use as a group read-aloud, unless you have a very small group, as the pictures are very hard to see and no one ever recognizes the parrot as a parrot without the proper vibrant coloring.

We finished up with our closing song and stickers.

How It Went
Today was a little more difficult than usual as the kids were very restless and talkative, and had a very hard time settling down. We had to stop and start our "story song" over twice because most were not paying attention or participating, and one little boy who has decided to be the class clown kept singing nonsense words and doing incorrect actions despite after being asked to stop and do it right twice by the teachers. So I had to stop the song and firmly tell him that I wanted him to stop what he was doing and sing the song right, that it wasn't funny; it was just rude. We started over and after that he did a great job. I still had to periodically stop and redirect their attention throughout the storytime.

This class is usually not like that, and are typcially mostly good listeners. I think it must've been a combination of Spring fever and that it had been a month since I'd been there last because they were closed for Good Friday. They really liked The Cow That Laid An Egg, though I think it confused one little boy who now thinks cows do lay eggs! And of course they loved doing "I Know A Chicken". Some of them had a hard time accepting that other animals besides birds lay eggs, especially when I showed them the dogfish shark egg case. They just could not believe that was an egg. I think they were amazed at the variety of sizes, colors, and shapes of eggs, since most are just familiar with white chicken eggs.

Even though my little flannel hatchlings were very crude, they guessed them all correctly, though sometimes it took them a minute and maybe a hint. The snake was the one they had the most trouble with, but I think they enjoyed it and thought it was cute.

I'm not sure if they all really got the point that birds are not the only ones that lay eggs, but they still had some good stories and activities. I had intended on bringing some photographs of other animals and their eggs, but sadly, when I went to print them out this morning my printer was out of ink.