Friday, October 20, 2017

A Long Day of Conference-ing

Today I attended my first official library-related conference; a small, local youth literature conference hosted by the LIS program at the local university. Though I've worked in library world almost five years, this was the first time there was something local that didn't conflict with my storytime schedule and had a low enough cost that I felt like I would not be out of line requesting it through work, and that I could do on my own time & dime if it was denied. Part-time staff aren't really encouraged to seek professional development in my system, so I've always felt funny about asking, and have only done things on my own up to this point.

But, I figured it was not an unreasonable request and worth a shot, and it was approved! While I would love to go to one of the bigger conferences, I was still looking forward to the chance to attend and hopefully learn something new, not to mention getting to hang out with my "people" and meet some authors. They had a couple of big names coming, Avi and Michael Hall, as well as one I was unfamiliar with, Ashley Hope Perez. I particularly wanted to get Avi to sign a copy of his book Iron Thunder for my nephew, the civil war obsessed reluctant reader. I had given him a copy of this book a year or two ago, and he actually read it and liked it.

So, did it live up to my expectations?

I'd say it did. I didn't expect anything earth-shattering and knew individual presentations would be hit-and-miss: some would be good, some would kinda suck, and most would just be okay. Just like every book can't appeal to every reader, every presentation isn't going to suit the interest or experience level of every attendee. I attended a great presentation by the teen librarian from a neighboring system in which she reviewed 40 YA books in 45 minutes, and was very entertaining while doing so. While this doesn't directly relate to my current position, it does help me be more familiar with YA literature, which is probably my weakest area, as I just don't have time to read everything. I do work the service desk 1 day a week and I'm taking a YA Lit class in the spring, so that info may very well come in handy at some point.

There was a presentation on passive programming I liked as well. Though the library I work at has done several of the things they presented, this is a relatively new thing for us and I still enjoyed seeing what others have done. There was also a presentation on LBGTQ+ manga that helped give me a little bit better understanding of manga in general, and that genre in particular. One presentation that was titled as having to do with reluctant readers turned out not to be at all what I expected, but I did learn about a line of seriously cool "Photicular" books that have optical effects that make the photos appear animated (see the video below). Only one presentation was one I would call a total dud.

Now to the authors! The one that I was unfamiliar with turned out to be the most personable and give the best presentation. Ashley Hope Perez described how the high school students she taught greatly inspired and shaped her writing career, starting with one student challenging her to stop talking about writing and start doing it, and another reluctant student telling her that her manuscript was the first book he ever read because he wanted to. She also told the very interesting backstory of the true tragic historical event that inspired her most recent story, Out of Darkness, and by coincidence was related to my husband's career as a natural gas pipline engineer. 

Michael Hall's presentation was interesting because he showed us many early renditions of his work, unpublished stories, and some of his other graphic design work (logos). He explained his thought processes, why he drew things the way he did, and how they evolved from early concepts to the final product. I was surprised to learn we had something in common, as he had first had a career in science as well, which we chatted about afterward while I got him to sign a copy of his Little i. I was hoping to get a copy of a picture he had showed in his presentation of a double helix made up of cat figures resembling DNA, but alas, he said it was unavailble 😢 

Avi was not quite as personable as the other two, and I did not get to see his presentation, but he did graciously sign my copy of Iron Thunder.

All in all, it was a good day, and I think worthwhile. While I wish I could attend YALSA which is happening just an hour away next month, since I don't work with teens I really can't justify the expense, and only a very select few full-time professional staff get to attend the big out-of-state conferences, so PLA is out next year as I can't afford it on my own. But, the ALSC conference will be held only about an hour and a half away next fall, so I really hope I can go to that, and the next PLA in 2020 will be only 3-1/2 hours away, so no plane tickets required, so I should be able to afford that on my own.

What conferences have you found the most worthwhile to attend?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hitting A Wall

So, my recent vacation unfortunately wasn't quite the cure for my funk that I had hoped. I just can't quite shake this feeling of being stuck, in more ways that one. Not only am I just feeling restless in general, what I'm most frustrated with is I seem to be having a creative dry spell and fresh ideas for storytime just aren't as forthcoming as they used to be. While the kids don't care if I recycle themes, even using the same books and activities, because they often aren't the same kids who heard it before, it bothers me. It makes me feel like I'm coasting, which is okay once in a while, but I expect more of myself.

I know some of it is inevitable, as no one can continuously produce 100% brand new content all the time, and I have a lot more going on right now and less planning time than I used to have. Plus as I realized today when I did a Fall-themed storytime, which happened to be the theme of my very first storytime ever, that I have been doing storytime for 3 years now, and the last two of them have been at the rate of 12-15 storytimes a week! So I guess it's not suprising I've hit a bit of a creative wall and I should cut myself a little slack as I try to take a step back, clear my head, and hope inspiration will soon return. I am looking forward to our winter break from storytime in December, that will not only give me a break, but let me devote some needed attention to our storytime collection, and hopefully look at STEAM programs for the summer.

One thing I'm a little excited about is I will be going to a youth literature conference next week that I'm hoping will help renew my creative juices and enthusiasm. It's just a small, local conference, but I've never gotten to go to any kind of library conference before, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to hear ideas from and talk to people from other library systems and meet some authors. One thing I have to be sure to do is get Avi to sign a copy of Iron Thunder for my nephew! My nephew is a serious reluctant reader, but he is also obsessed with the Civil War, so I got him a paperback copy a couple of years ago, and he actually read and liked it! I asked him if he liked it enough to want a signed copy, and he said yes, so now I have a hardback with library binding to get signed for him. 

I really would like to go to more conferences, and get the chance to interact with other library/literacy professionals. I think that kind of exchange of ideas and intellectual stimulation is what I'm missing, as working in outreach does tend to be isolating and limits the opportunities for interacting with colleagues, as opposed to when you work in the library building. This one will be a good start, and there's another small, local one in the spring I hope to go to, particularly since Aaron Reynolds of Creepy Carrots  and Creepy Pair of Underwear will be there, and I hear he is quite entertaining! Just look:

Friday, October 6, 2017

Gone To The Dogs - Preschool Storytime

Last week our theme on the Storytime Bus was "Dogs", which is a pretty specific theme to do over and over, but luckily there are quite a few good dog books, and with the popularity of the Paw Patrol television show, dogs are hot with the preschool set. I started off each session with an introduction, letter of the day ("Dd"), and our story song, then read 2-3 books and did 1-2 additional activites.

The Books

I'm going to highlight the books I really liked and used the most, and just list the others:

dog storytime
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas was one of my favorite books for this theme. Cow and Pig and Duck and Mouse are playing kickball, but Cow kicks the ball so hard that it goes over their heads and into the doghouse. Yikes! Who will go and get it? One by one they each go into the doghouse, BUT they don't come out! 

I like to make this one very melodramatic (unless I know I have more sensitive kids in the bunch), and it tickles me to death to see their shocked faces mirror Mouse's when Dog says he is having Duck for dinner! I do love dark humor, but you can always tone it done for the more sensitive ones.

dog storytimeThe Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza was another fun one, partly because the audience gets to howl like wolves, which is *almost* as fun as roaring like a lion. Little Moka and his owner Michelle are best friends and life is great, until one day they read a book about wolves, and Moka starts to think his life as a house pet is pathetic in comparison. So he decides to run away and live in the wild like a wolf. But he finds out life in the wild is not so great.

The kids are always shocked when Moka runs away, and relieved when he and Michelle are reunited. They don't all get the twist in the ending, but those that do find it quite funny.

dog storytime, counting story, color storytime
Dog's Colorful Day is a great book that does double duty; not only does it work on colors as the title indicates, it also works on counting from 1 to 10, and has a cute story to go along with the counting.

Dog is a white dog, with just one black spot on his left ear. But one day when dog goes out, he gets into all kinds of messes, which stain his white coat, and he returns home with not one, but ten spots of all different colors! At the end when it goes over all the colors of the spots one last time, I like to test the kids and see if they can remember what caused each spot.

dog storytimeBark, George! by Jules Feiffer just so happens to be the book I read at my interview for my current position, unknowingly choosing one of my manager's favorites, as luck would have it. It is a great book for a fairly good age range. The simple, bold illustrations, simple text, and opportunities to make animal sounds make it a great book for the younger kids, and the humor and surprise ending make it work for the older kids. Not everyone gets the ending, but even if they don't, they still enjoy the book

dog storytime
Widget by Lyn & Jim McFarland is the story of a poor little stray dog in search of a home. He spies a cozy looking house, but when he enters, he finds it is occupied by a very sweet old lady and six cats, who are not big fans of dogs. Widget cleverly starts acting like a cat, and eventually he wins the girls over and he is allowed to stay.

One day, there is an accident, and they all learn that while cats are nice, sometimes it is very good to have a dog around.

Some others I used occasionally were:

  • A Dog's Life by Caroline Sherman
  • Dogs by Emily Gravette
  • What Puppies Do Best by Laura Numeroff
  • A Dog Needs A Bone! by Audrey Wood
  • Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
  • Spot's First Walk by Eric Hill

The Activities

The one I used most was the traditional song "B-I-N-G-O", with a slight twist. After the first verse, we would omit a letter and instead of clapping in its place, we would bark. I had the letters B, I, N, G, & O to put on the magnet board, as well as pictures of dogs to put up in their places.


There was a farmer who had a dog, 
and "BINGO" was his name-oh.
B - I - N - G - O
B - I - N - G - O
B - I - N - G - O
and "BINGO" was his name-oh!

[on each subsequent verse, remove one letter and replace with dog and bark instead]

We also did variations on "If You're Happy And You Know It":

If You're A Dog & You Know It

If you're a dog and know it, give a bark....

If you're a dog and know it, wag your tail....

If you're a dog and you know it, sit up and beg....

If you're a dog and you know it, dig a hole....

If you're a dog and you know it, sit please!

And this fingerplay:

Digging in the Dirt

Ten little doggies went out one day
(hold up ten fingers)
To dig in the dirt and play, play, play. 
(Pretend to dig with both hands)
Five were spotted dogs, and five were not.
(Hold up one hand at a time)
And at dinner time, they ate a lot!
(pretend to eat) 

How It Went

I was afraid the theme might be way too specific to work for multiple storytimes on multiples days, but it actually worked really well. I especially had fun with The Doghouse, though I almost lost it a couple of times at the kids' perfectly shocked reactions to Dog having Duck for dinner (no one was upset), though they didn't always completely get the ending and how it was a play on words, they did understand that no one got eaten!

Friday, September 29, 2017

ABC's & 123's - Preschool Storytime

I decided to do basic concepts today, and since I find it a little monotonous sometimes to do all alphabet books, or all counting books, I combined them and did one book and activity for each. We started with our welcome song, then a brief introduction, followed by our story song.

ABC's & 123's, alphabet storytimeFor our ABC's I wanted an alphabet book that had a little bit of a story, not just the typical "A is for Apple, B is for Ball" format because they always seem to get bored halfway through, no matter what the theme is. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is an obvious choice, but I know they have that book and the tree that goes with it because I gave it to them last year, so I wanted something they hadn't seen before. 

After reviewing several suggestions from peers, I chose The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra and Melissa Sweet. In this story the big letters are trying to get the little letters to bed, but they aren't cooperating. While both upper- and lowercase aren't shown on every page, they are all shown on the endpapers, and kids can always relate to trying to stall at bedtime. 

After that of course we had to sing the traditional "Alphabet Song".

ABC's & 123's storytime, counting storytime
There are lots of good counting books, and I used a number of them last week for my Storytime-To-Go programs, so I wanted something different this week and chose Bear Counts by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. There is just something about the good-natured Bear and his friends that I like, and I love, love, love Jane Chapman's illustrations (did you know she also illustrates in a very different style under the pseudonym "Jack Tickle"?). 

This book only goes to five, so is better for the younger kids, but I like how it shows several groups of things for each number, the word for the number, and the numerals.

I had first planned to do a "Ten Little (somethings)" song, but when I saw this rhyme from Miss Meg's Storytime, I decided to give it a try, with slight modification:

    One, Two, How Do You Do?

      1, 2, how do you do?
     1, 2, 3, clap with me.
     1, 2, 3, 4, jump on the floor
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, look bright and alive.
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, give your ice cream lots of licks.
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, look up to heaven.
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, turn around and wait.
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, we are feeling fine.
     1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, let's do it again!

Afterward, we practiced counting back down from 10 to 1, and blasted off like rockets! Then it was time for our closing song, followed by stickers.

How It Went 
I had a slightly larger group today, with 17 kids and according to the teachers this year's class is a handful, with lots of problems listening and following directions, which I could see a little bit of in storytime. These books would be great for some groups, but were too "quiet" for this group, that is clearly going to require books that are much more interactive to keep them focused and engaged. That's okay, every group is different and it takes 2 or 3 sessions to feel them out and figure out what works best for that particular group. And then it is likely to change 😉 They still seemed to enjoy it, even if they weren't quite as engaged as I'd like, and that is what's most important at this young age, to have as many positive associations with books and reading as possible.

Friday, September 22, 2017

1, 2, 3 Read With Me - Preschool Numbers Storytime

I skipped this theme on the Storytime Bus last year because the first time I did it, I found it rather monotonous during the course of about 25 storytimes over two weeks. But since then I've added some books that were more fun and had a bit of a story, rather than just straightforward counting books. As always, we started with a brief introduction by asking who could count to 10, 20, or 100, sometimes doing a brief counting of how many of us their were and kids vs. grownups, or boys vs girls, followed by our letter-of-the-day (Nn) and our story song.

The Books 

Counting stories, numbers storytime
(Please excuse the poor quality, PicMonkey pulled a bait & switch, and now you cannot save anything unless you pay for a membership, which they don't tell you until AFTER you've spent time creating something, so I had to take a screenshot instead.)

  • Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh, the hungry snake learns a lesson in greed, and the mice learn a lesson on keeping watch.
  • Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin & James Dean, counts down from 4 to 0, and shows equations, also good for colors
  • Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 by Bill Martin, Jr., Michael Sampson, & Lois Ehlert, counts to 20, then skip counts by tens to 100.
  • Little Quack by Lauren Thompson & Derek Anderson, will Little Quack and his 4 siblings get over their fear and join Mama in the water?
  • 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle. Count the animals on the zoo train & imitate their sounds, spot the mouse on each page.
  • Chooky-Doodle-Doo by Jan Whiten & Sinead Hanley, how many chicks does it take to pull this worm? Counting, cooperation, and a surprise ending.
  • 10 Little Ninjas by Miranda Paul & Nate Wragg, children pretend to be everything from ninjas to alligators as the parents try to get them ready for bed.
  • Doggone Dogs! by Karen Beaumont & David Catrew, ten mischievous dogs lead their owner on a wild chase.
  • One Blue Fish by Charles Reasoner, bold simple graphics & lift-a-flaps to work on counting, number recognition, and colors.
  • Counting by David A. Carter, simple pop-up butterflies to count.
  • Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton, Russell can't sleep and tries counting things to help him get to sleep.
  • Ten Dirty Pigs/Ten Clean Pigs by Carol Roth & Pamela Paparone, two books in one!

The Activities

I used a few miscellanous Five- and Ten Little somethings songs and rhymes, but the one I used the most, because it had more movement and the kids really like it, is this "Ten Little Bubbles" song I made up:

Ten Little Bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles;
Four little, five little, six little bubbles;
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles;
Ten little bubbles to POP! (clap hands)

Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop those bubbles;
Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop those bubbles;
Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop those bubbles;
All the little bubbles go POP! (Clap)

Ten little, nine little, eight little bubbles;
Seven little, six little, five little bubbles;
Four little, three little, two little bubbles;
And one little bubble goes POP! (clap)

We just have pretend bubbles due to the small space we're in, but real bubbles during the middle verse would be so much more fun! I do have them use their fingers for counting, and counting down is much more difficult, so I go slower on the last verse, but it is very good practice for fine motor skills since they aren't used to doing it that way and don't have the same muscle memory, so it requires more concentration. 

When I do "Five Little" somethings, I have them repeat it, using their other hand the second time, so the non-dominant hand gets a workout, too. All the 5 & 10 little rhymes may seem monotonous, but they are really good for their fine motor skills when done this way.

We also did various counting and grouping activities, using ourselves as props, and a measuring activity I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of. We are in the middle of horse country, and in case you aren't aware, horse height is measured in terms of how many "hands" high. So I put a vertical column of cut-out handprints on the wall for measuring height. I would have the kids make predictions about who was the shortest in the class, the tallest in the class, how many hands tall they would be, etc., and then we would have them stand by the column of hands and measure in terms of hands and fingers, instead of feet and inches.

At the end, we gave everyone handprint stickers, to represent our counting fingers, and our measuring in hands activity.

How It Went

This theme worked much better than last year with the addition of a few books that had a bit of a story, or unusual things to count, and it did not seem too monotonous this time. I would say as expected, Pete the Cat was the biggest hit, but all the others worked really well, except for maybe Russell the Sheep; the kids just didn't really seem very engaged with that one. My personal favorites were Little Quack; 1, 2, 3, to the Zoo; and Mouse Count. I did have one unexpected response with Mouse Count; usually the kids are really relieved and happy the mice got away and did not get eaten by the snake, but there was one little girl who really felt sorry for the poor hungry snake not having any dinner!