Thursday, April 30, 2015

TBT Silly Animals Storytime

Since I only go to the daycare every other week, I decided to go back and post some of the storytimes I did before I started this blog on the off weeks.  The one I'm posting today was from the first storytime after Christmas break.  Since it had been a month since I'd seen them and they had been out of the normal routine, I decided to cut back to two books (and add an extra rhyme) and picked ones I knew would be sure hits:

Book Jacket for: Bark, George
Book Jacket for: Who ate all the cookie dough?

We started with our usual welcome song, introductions, and lead-in song.  Then I found this great action rhyme about making cookies that was a great lead-in to the first book.

          I am making cookie dough.              (hold out arms like a bowl)
          Round and round the beaters go.     
(roll hands)
          Add some flour from a cup.             
(shake a pretend cup)
          Stir and stir the batter up.               
(stirring motion)
          Roll them, cut them nice and neat.  
(rolling pin motion)
          Put them on a cookie sheet.           
(place pretend cookies)
          Bake them, count them 1-2-3.        
(counting motion)
          Serve them to my friends for tea.   
(take a bite!)
          *Source: Sunflower Storytime
Then onto our first book, Who Ate All The Cookie Dough? by Karen Beaumont.  This is a great book in several ways.  First of all, it's not too long for the younger kids.  Second, it's interactive in not one, but two ways:  they get to keep guessing who the culprit is, and it has a repetitive refrain so the kids can say it along with you.  And last, the surprise ending when you lift the flap and reveal the baby joey. The illustrations are cute, but not distracting.

Next, we sang a song to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus" incorporating different animal actions and sounds.  I got the idea from , and modified it to incorporate both some of the exotic animals from the first book, and the farm animals in the book we will read next to tie them together.  I also made simple props of laminated pictures of animals attached to craft sticks to hold up for each verse.

                                   "The Animals Go..."
          The kangaroos at the zoo go jump, jump, jump;
          Jump, jump, jump; jump, jump, jump.
          The kangaroos at the zoo go jump, jump, jump;
          All day long.

          Lions at the zoo go roar…                     Pigs in the pen go oink….
          Monkeys at the zoo go ooh, ooh…         Ducks in the pond go quack...
          Cows on the farm go moo…                 Cat in the barn goes meow...

 After that, on to a quick action rhyme about dogs to lead into the last book:
                            "Some Dogs Bark"
           Some dogs bark.                Some dogs beg.
          Some dogs growl.               Some play catch.
          Some dogs yip.                  Some dogs sit.
          And some dogs howl.          And some dogs scratch.
                       But all dogs wag their tails!
                          *I'm afraid I've lost the source for the first stanza, but I made up the second.
Then we were ready for our last book, Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer.  This is another book that is perfect for this group.  Again, relatively short, simple silly story; a lot of repetition, interactive with guessing and/or making animal sounds, and a funny ending.  We finished off with our regular closing song. 
How It Went
It went it extremely well, and I think my strategy of shortening it slightly was a good one for the first time back after a break.  The kids listened and were very engaged, and seem to love both books, and participated in the songs and rhymes.  They did get a little boisterous with the "Animals Go..." song (maybe not a great idea to start with "kangaroos go jump"), but they thoroughly enjoyed it, and loved pretending to be puppies for the "Some Dogs Bark" rhyme.  I also asked them to be good little doggies and "sit" and "stay" to listen to the last story.  I really had a lot of fun with them, and I think these two books will definitely be on my "go to" list!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I Can't Carry A Tune With A Bucket....

And guess what?  The kids don't care!

I know some of you may be vocally challenged like me, and inwardly cringe at the idea of singing in front of other people.  That was the part of doing storytime that I was the most worried about and uncomfortable with when I started.  Partly because I was emotionally scarred by my son; when he was a baby, he would cry every time I tried to sing to him!  Talk about giving somebody a complex....  Twelve years later he STILL hates it if I sing (in my defense, my daughter never reacted like that).

So, needless to say, I was *very* nervous about singing during my first storytime.  For that reason, I only did a welcome song and a closing song, and used rhymes & fingerplays for the rest.  But, guess what?  The kids didn't run away screaming or cover their ears and cry!  So, over time I became a little less self-conscious and started incorporating more songs, and I encourage everyone else to do the same!  It's good to have a mix of different things, music facilitates language and math development, and kids generally enjoy singing, so don't be shy!

I do have to be very careful about what songs I use.  I usually stick with songs to the tune of well-known children's songs that I know I will not forget the tune halfway through, like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "The Wheels On The Bus," "Ten Little Indians" (I would never sing the very politically incorrect version, but substitute the theme of the day and you have a great little counting song), "Mary Had A Little Lamb," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Are You Sleeping," etc.  These are very simple tunes that most people are familiar with, and are easy to pick out on a keyboard, if you were so inclined.  Also having recorded music & vocals to sing along with can be a great help, and camouflage not-so-great singing.  Be sure to encourage the kids and adults to sing along!

Book Jacket for: The I can't sing book : for grownups who can't carry a tune in a paperbag-- but want to do music with young childrenThere are other ways to incorporate music as well.  You can use bells, egg shakers, or other rhythm instruments, and the ukulele is supposedly easy to learn and used by many children's programmers.  You can have them make their own instruments as well.  I saw this book at work that would be a great resource for those who want to incorporate music, but don't like to sing, called The I Can't Sing Book:  For Grownups Who Can't Carry A Tune In A Paper Bag...But Want To Do Music With Young Children by Jackie Silberg.  This book has some great activities that would be good to occasionally adapt and incorporate into your programs even if you do get over your stage fright.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Preschool Storytime: How Does Your Garden Grow....

Book Jacket for: Elizabite : adventures of a carnivorous plant

Today's storytime was about plants & flowers. 

I planned to start off with our usual welcome song , introduction, and lead-in song (detailed in my basic storytime plan), then on to our first book: Up, Down, and Around by Kathryn Ayres.  I wanted to be sure to cover both vegetable and flower gardens, and this covered the vegetables nicely and the illustrations are really cute.  I also like how they have a healthy lunch at the end made with the fresh vegetables from the garden.
Next, on to an action rhyme, "Dig A Little Hole",  with which they can pretend to do all the steps we read about in the first book:

          Dig a little hole   (pretend to dig) 
          Plant a little seed    (drop seeds)
          Pour a little water    (pour)
          Pull a little weed    (pull up & toss)
          Chase a little bug   (brush bug away)
          Look, there he goes!    (point in sky)
          Give a little sunshine    (make sun)
          Grow a little rose    (pretend to pick & smell flower)  
            *Source:  Storytime Katie, who got it from SurLaLune, (with modification)

Then on to the second book, Elizabite:  Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant by H.A. Rey.  I have to confess this book was the whole reason for today's theme.  I have always loved this lesser known book by the creator of Curious George and always had a fascination with carnivorous plants.  I also enjoy the rhyme & cadence, which seems to help keep their attention. Following the story, I pulled out a non-fiction book to show them pictures of real carnivorous plants.  Yay, science! 

After that, another action rhyme, "Five Little Flowers":

          Five little flowers growing in a row     (hold up five fingers, gesture to row)
          The first one said, "We need rain to grow."     (hold up 1 finger, imitate rain falling)
          The second one said, "Yes, we need water!"     (hold up 2 fingers, nod head)
          The third one said, "Whew, it's getting hotter!"     (hold up 3 fingers, wipe brow)
          The fourth one said, "Look, there are clouds in the sky."     (4 fingers, point to sky)
          The fifth one said, "I wonder why?"     (5 fingers, hold palms out questioningly)

          Then "BOOM" went the thunder     (clap hands together loudly)
          And "ZAP" went the lightening.     (draw zig-zag in air)
          That springtime storm was kind of frightening.     (shiver)
          But were the flowers scared?  No, no, no.     (shake head)
          They knew they needed rain to grow, grow, grow.    (hold hand above ground & raise)
             *Source:, (with modification)

Then onto the last book, a short but colorful pop-up book, How Does Your Garden Grow by Kate Burns.  While short, it has very bright illustrations and shows both flower & vegetable gardens.  After that, we sang our usual closing song and I gave them flower stickers and we said our good-byes.

How It Went

I have to admit I was a little off today due to not being fully recovered from a bad cold, and the kids were pretty squirrely.  I kept wondering why they were having so much trouble settling down, then after I walked out the door I realized I somehow managed to skip our lead-in song after the introduction, "If You Want To Hear A Story...".  Going thru the progressively quieter verses really helps them settle, and I can't believe I forgot, and they didn't remind me.  Overall, though, it went pretty well, just had to stop & redirect their attention more often than usual.  They seemed to like the stories: the cute, detailed illustrations in Up, Down, and Around inspired lots of comments, they thought it was hilarious when Elizabite bit the maid on the butt, and loved the large pop-up sunflower in How Does Your Garden Grow.  When I asked if they knew what "carnivorous" meant, one boy got close, saying it meant something had teeth.  When we talked about pulling weeds in the first rhyme, the same boy told me they just used weed killer because it was easier.

The best part was at the end, when the teacher thanked me for coming and I asked her if the amount of time I have been using was okay, because I didn't want to mess up their schedule.  She replied "Oh, honey, no.  We arrange our schedule around you!  It is such a treat for them when you come and we all enjoy it."  Then one little boy who had overheard piped up and said, "Yeah, and next time we should have a treat for you!"  So, needless to say my heart just melted.  I just love preschoolers....

[Be warned, reading Elizabite... may result in the urge to sing "Little Shop of Horrors"]

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why I Like Working At The Library

If you have taken the time to read "About Me", you know I started out in education, worked in biomedical research, was a stay-at-home mom, and had a cake business before I came to work at the library part-time as a page.  It may seem a strange path and many wonder why I haven't gone back into research or teaching, since that's what my degree is for.

While I LOVE science and loved going to school to get my degrees, I quickly became very disillusioned once I was actually working in the field.  At first it was fun and interesting, learning lots of cool lab techniques, and the idea of being involved in vaccine research and development is really cool and exciting; you think you are going to be making great discoveries and helping people.  The reality is very different.  99.9% of what you do leads absolutely nowhere :(  Either the experiments just don't work and you have no results, or the results are not what expected, or just never lead to anything for one reason or another.  Also the hours are very irregular and make if difficult once you have kids.

I thought I would go back to teaching after my daughter started school, but in a brief period of insanity, I decided to have another child.  And by the time he started school, I was very unhappy with the whole educational system in general, and with our district in particular.  All the emphasis on test scores, the inordinate amount of time spent on taking tests, the micromanaging of teachers, and especially the lack of science education.  I just couldn't bring myself to go back to teaching in these circumstances.  Plus after volunteering in my kids' classrooms, I realized I really like working with the younger kids, and I just wanted to work part-time for now.  So I applied for part-time library and teacher's aide positions, and ended up at the library, and I'm glad I did.

I love working at the library, particularly in youth services, for so many reasons.  First of all, I of course love books and love to read, and now I have ready access to thousands of books, and enjoy discussing them with patrons and co-workers.  I also love the structure, order, and organization.  I like sorting and categorizing, and knowing every book has it's exact space.  And I LOVE that I am not the only one trying to maintain that order (unlike at home!). 

 I *really* like that is not the same thing every day.  Some days are quiet, some days are busy.  Some days I'm doing lots of shelving, other days I may do more customer service or help prep for programs.  I really enjoy helping people, whether it be finding a specific book, making suggestions, giving directions, or helping them with their account. Most people are very appreciative for the littlest things, and it is particularly gratifying to see a kid's face light up when you find the perfect book.  I love being able to interact with adults and kids of all ages, and not always the same people every day.  I particularly enjoy getting to know our regulars, learning their names and what kind of books they like, and I look forward to seeing them on storytime days.  We also have just enough "difficult" or "eccentric" patrons to keep things interesting and have a few stories to tell, but not so many as to be overly stressful (at least most of the time).

They only thing I don't like is how limited my current position is.  I really would like to have more interaction with the patrons, and would love the opportunity to do some storytimes or other programs as a paraprofessional eventually.  [Note: this was written before I got my current position, back when I was still a page.]  I would really like to get an MLS and be a librarian, but between the cost of tuition and the over-saturated job market I just can't see how it would be financially feasible.   But if I can find a way to pay for it without going into debt, that's what I'll do, and in the meantime I will keep trying to learn and develop my skills on my own and hopefully move into an assistant or associate position.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Basic Storytime Plan

By the time I started doing storytime at the daycare, I had worked in youth services at the library for almost two years, and had been able to observe and learn from the talented children's librarians I work with.  I started with the way they do storytimes at work as a general guideline, and adapted it to fit my group of kids.  I already knew that I knew how to read to kids from reading to my own kids, it was just a matter of adapting from reading to one or two kids beside me or on my lap to reading to a group of kids in front of me:  holding the book out, using gestures, etc.  The group I have is the 3-year old class at a local neighborhood center daycare sponsored by two of the local churches.  There are 16 kids registered in the class, but there are typically only about 10 there when I come to do storytime.

First we start with a welcome song to get everyone settled on the rug and focused on me.  I'm sorry I can't give proper credit for the source.  I thought I came up with it, but I have since seen other versions of it.  So, it's either parallel evolution or I may have heard it years ago at a program I took my kids to.  It is sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star":

          "Welcome, welcome everyone; now it's time to have some fun.
           First we'll clap our hands just so; then we'll bend and touch our toes.
           Welcome, welcome everyone; now it's time to have some fun."

Next, I give a very brief welcome and introduction.  I tell them my name, go around the group and say their names, briefly introduce the theme and remind them of the rules:  sit on your bottoms so everyone can see, hands to yourself, eyes up front, listening ears on.
Then I have lead-in song before the first book, based on the song "If You're Happy And You Know It".  This is one I know I came up with on my own, but I know many other people have as well, and there are lots of other variations to fit different themes.

            If you want to hear a story, clap your hands.
           If you want to hear a story, clap your hand.
           If you want to hear a story, a ___  ____ ____ story;
           If you want to hear a story clap your hands.

I try to fill in the blanks with something related to the theme for the day, like "a farm animal story", but if nothing works then I just repeat the previous line.  We repeat with different actions, becoming quieter each time.  For example, tap your toes, nod your head, sit so still, say "Shhh"...  I change it up a little, depending on how quickly they are settling down.   Sometimes I'll add something theme-related, like "Say Ho, Ho, Ho" for Christmas, "Kiss, kiss" for Valentine's day (followed by lots of giggles).

Then we are ready for our first book, followed by an action song or rhyme, then the second book, another action song or rhyme, then the third book.  The action songs/rhymes/fingerplays change each time and fit the theme of the day.  These give them a chance to move a bit between stories so they don't get too bored, exercise gross and/or fine motor skills a little, reinforce the theme, and are just fun.  Since these are new each week, we do them twice.

Now, storytime is over and we end with a closing song I found here (and modified a bit), also to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle....":
          Hands go up and hands go down;
          I can turn myself around.
          I can jump upon two shoes;
          I can clap and so can you.
          I can wave; I'll show you how.
          Storytime is done for now.

Then I thank them for letting me come and say that I will see them again in two weeks.  If I have already decided on a theme for the next one, I might mention it.  I have also started giving them either a sticker or hand stamp at the end.
This is pretty much how I do it every time, but sometimes vary a little bit.  I may add an extra song/rhyme/fingerplay or some other activity here or there and usually throw in a good stretch somewhere in the middle, but this seems to be working well and usually fills the 30 minutes I have.  At the beginning of the school year I start out with a shorter storytime, with just 2 shorter books, for about 20 minutes.  Then as the they get used to the routine and get older I'm able to gradually increase it to 2-3 longer books for a 30 minute storytime. 

I look for books that have some interactive element:  guessing what objects are, what will happen, naming colors, repetitive lines that the kids can say with me...  I also like books that are funny, but the humor can't be too sophisticated for this age.  I know most people do the longest books first, but I have found with this group, it seems to work better in the middle. I pick really simple songs, generally to the tune of traditional children's songs, because I don't have much of a singing voice.  Actually, I couldn't carry a tune with a bucket, but the kids don't seem to mind :)  I incorporate props and visual aids as well, and purchased a small magnetic white board to serve as a travel "flannel" board. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Here Goes Nothing...

Well, since everyone else seems to have a blog these days, I thought I'd try my hand at it.  I don't know if anyone will be interested in anything I have to say, but it will at least be a creative outlet for my interests & experiences working in children's services at the library. 

As the blog title indicates, I am not a librarian, and though I would love to be, it is probably not in the cards.  For more on the backstory, see my "About Me" page.  While I don't get to do programs at work, I have found a wonderful volunteer opportunity at a local daycare, with my manager's support.  So every other week for the last 6 months, I present a storytime to the 3-year old class, complete with books, songs, fingerplays, & rhymes.  And I absolutely love it!!

When I first started going to the daycare last fall, the kids were pretty unruly.  Some could not sit still, some would wander off, some would talk amongst themselves.  Still others would be overly engaged, jumping up in front of the book so others couldn't see, interrupting me to comment on the pictures, etc.  It was a little frustrating at first, and not knowing their names yet made it harder to reign them in.  That first time I kept it very short, only 15-20 minutes, and did two books and a couple of other activities.  Now I have stretched it out to 25-30 minutes as they have learned the routine and matured a little bit.  I have learned their names, too, which makes it so much easier to keep them engaged.

I love hearing them say "Miss Jennifer's here; Miss Jennifer's here!" when they see me at the door, and all the mob hugs!  It is so rewarding to see how they have learned the routine and sing along with the regular songs, and now can handle doing 3 books instead of 2, and longer books than before (they even asked for longer stories last time!).  If only I could get paid for doing this  :sigh:

Next time I will describe my general storytime routine in more detail....