Sunday, November 27, 2016

And Here We Go Again....

Holiday storytimes

Every year about this time it starts. I'm not talking about shopping, baking, eating, or family bickering, but the endless debates, lectures, and arguments in online library groups about the holidays and whether or not they should be recognized in any way in the library building or programming.

Some people feel very strongly that in the effort to be inclusive, there should be no trace of holidays in the library. No holiday decorating, no holiday displays, and above all, no holiday programming. I personally don't share this extreme view, but if someone else feels that is what is best for their community, I have no problem with it.

What I do have a big problem with is how some of the people who hold this view believe that their way is the one and only right way of doing things, and will lecture, criticize, and belittle other librarians who do have holiday decor and/or programs, without knowing anything at all about the communities they serve. It is shocking and very disconcerting that a group that is supposedly all about inclusion, equality, tolerance, and kindness seems to have no problem bullying others within its ranks who have different views. If you are only "tolerant" of those who agree with you, then you aren't inclusive or tolerant at all!

My personal view is sanitizing all libraries in the name of inclusiveness is at best misguided and unrealistic, and at worst, a form of censorship and promoting a personal agenda. It is unrealistic to expect all programs to appeal to and include everyone; it is an impossible goal. That's why we offer a wide variety of programs. Second, the only time I hear this unattainable standard applied is in relation to holiday programs. Just like every book will not appeal to every patron, it is unreasonable to expect every program to appeal to everyone. 

I think each library has to decide what is right for their community. I don't know your community, and you don't know mine. I agree we need to be inclusive overall, but I don't think that means one cannot have ANY holiday programs, nor do I think anyone HAS to have holiday programs. I think a good compromise is to keep regular programs, like weekly storytimes, neutral, but having a separate holiday program is okay if you have patrons that want it. Above all, I think we all need to realize that there is not one right way of doing things because every community is different, and we need to leave it to the people and librarians in each community to decide what is right for them.

This reminds me so much of all the tiresome "mommy wars".... Some people have such a need to be "right" they cannot recognize that others' viewpoints are just as valid as their own; every family/community is different and what works for one may not be good for another. So how about we start showing more respect for different opinions, have rational discussions and recognize that there is in fact some gray area here, and that we may have to just agree to disagree in the end?

[And yes, as you can see from my blog I do holiday storytimes, because the daycares I go to request them. If I were doing regular storytimes in the library, I would keep with a neutral theme and have a separate holiday program.]

Friday, November 18, 2016

Oh, My Gosh! It's Thanksgiving!

I decided not to write up my 2-weeks of Thanksgiving storytimes with the Storytime-To-Go program, since it was mostly the same as last year. I did try out a few other books, and used the ones that worked the best of those today in my regular storytime.

I walked in with my turkey puppet, and they were all intrigued. I told them we would talk about it after our welcome song. After the song, I first tried to see if anyone knew the puppet was a turkey, and after getting guesses of chicken, rooster, and eagle, someone finally said turkey. That led into talking about Thanksgiving, being thankful, and Thanksgiving dinner. 

I used talking about different foods we have at Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to introduce them to squash, which would relate to one of our books. Most children don't know what squash is, so I brought three different varieties (butternut, zucchini, and golden acorn) with varying shapes and colors to show how squash can have all kinds of funny shapes and can be orange like pumpkins.

(The butternut squash actually grew in my backyard, courtesy of my neighbor's 
vine that wandered through the fence. 

We sang our story song, incorporating a couple of turkey
gobbling and wing flapping verses for fun, then read our first book, Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Merkes and Doris Barrette. 

This is a short, sweet story about all kinds of things that kids might be thankful for and can relate to, like playgrounds and playdates, puppies and kittens, and family. After I read each page, I asked them to raise their hands if they were thankful for that, too, and we talked a little more about various things we were thankful for afterward. The whimsical watercolor illustrations are bright and detailed.

Next, I used my turkeys from the "Five Nervous Turkeys" flannel set to do a "Five Silly Turkeys" rhyme, based on the book of the same name by Salina Yoon. I wasn't able to get a copy of the book, but I was able to find a video of it on YouTube to get the words. Due to copyright, I can't include them here, but it has turkeys twirling away, being stung by a bee, falling asleep, and getting sunburned, then regrouping for a Thanksgiving feast.

Our second book was The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz, an absolutely adorable retelling of The Ugly Duckling that works well for both Halloween and Thanksgiving themes. Our protagonist is an oddly shaped pumpkin that nobody wants and everyone is being mean to. He feels ugly and lonely and starts to cry. 

But, upon taking shelter in a nearby garden, he discovers, "O my gosh! I'm a squash!" and finds were he fits in. The kids don't always get the ending, but they understand that he's happy, no longer sad and alone. This story provides a good opportunity to talk about appreciating everyone's differences and being kind.

After that it was time for a little fun and movement with "If You're a Turkey":

If You're a Turkey

If you're a turkey and you know it, flap your wings!
If you're a turkey and you know it, flap your wings!
If you're a turkey and you know it, and you really want to show it,
If you're a turkey and you know it, flap your wings!

Additional Verses:  wobble your head, shake your tail, say "Gobble, gobble," do them all...

I saved the best for last with Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr and Laura Rader. This one is similar to Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano, but is much shorter, so it is great for the younger kids! Plus it has the repeated "Run, turkey, run!" that the kids can say with you. 

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and Turkey sees the large roasting pan in the kitchen, and knows what the farmer intends to put in it, so he must "Run, turkey, run!" He tries to disguise himself as a pig, a duck, and a horse, to no avail, before finally escaping to the forest. Is Turkey safe at last? Yes!......Or is he??

Afterwards, we ended with our closing song, and passed out stickers.

How It Went  
When I got there, I was greeted with lots of hugs and the teacher warned that the kids were pretty wound up, which I could see for myself. It took a little longer than usual to get them settled on the rug, but after that they were okay for the most part. After we got going I noticed one little girl was sitting nicely, but with a mad, sulky look on her face. I decided to just ignore it and hoped she perked up eventually. Then when we sang the verse in our story song that goes "If you're ready for a story, nod your head," she would shake her head "No" each time, being quietly passive-aggressive. I'm not sure what her issue was, maybe just in a bad mood or maybe I interrupted something she was invested in, but I figured it was best just to ignore it as long as she was not being disruptive.

Previous groups have enjoyed Thanks For Thanksgiving, but this class seemed a little bored with it. They were very empathetic with the poor Ugly Pumpkin, though, to the point I was afraid one little girl was going to tear up. Introducing them to squash earlier seemed to help them follow the ending a little better than previous groups have; kids that age aren't very familiar with squash. One boy had a hard time accepting that the golden acorn squash was not a pumpkin though. They all loved Run, Turkey, Run! Both the "Five Silly Turkeys" flannel board and "If You're a Turkey" song & dance went over well and were enjoyed by all.

And I got more hugs as I left :)  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Flannel Friday - Five Nervous Turkeys

This is my first "Flannel Friday" post in quite a while! I just haven't had the time or inspiration lately, but I did manage to finish this one finally.

I was inspired to create this set by a post I saw on the slc book boy blog. I've seen this rhyme done before, but with all five turkeys disguising themselves as ducks. I loved how he changed it and had each one put on a different animal costume, and made up corresponding verses of the song. I modified it a bit and replaced his lion with a horse as I preferred to have all farm animals, and added another verse at the end as it seemed to need some closure.

Five Nervous Turkeys
(to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean")

Five turkeys were getting quite nervous,
Thanksgiving soon would be back.
So one turkey put on a DUCK suit,
And now he says, "Gobble, quack, quack!"

Four turkeys were getting quite nervous,
Thanksgiving was coming, not going.
So one turkey put on a PIG suit,
And now he says, "Gobble, oink, oink!"

Three turkeys were getting quite nervous,
Thanksgiving was in just a week.
So one turkey put on a MOUSE suit,
And now he says, "Gobble, squeak, squeak!"

Two turkeys were getting quite nervous,
So one of them knew just what to do.
That turkey put on a COW suit,
And now he says, "Gobble, moo, moo!"

One turkey was getting quite nervous,
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day!
So he put on a HORSE suit,
And now he says, "Gobble, neigh, neigh!"

The farmer was getting quite nervous,
Today is Thanksgiving Day!
But he can find no turkeys,
Only hears "Quack, oink, squeak, moo, and neigh!"

I thought this would be a great activity to follow reading either Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano & Lee Harper, or Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr & Laura Rader. Both books feature a desperate turkey trying to avoid becoming Thanksgiving dinner by pretending to be other animals. Turkey Trouble is longer and good for older kids, while Run, Turkey, Run! is shorter with more simple text and better for younger kids. It also has the repeating "Run, turkey, run!" that you can have the kids say. Both of these are usually big hits with the kids.

I will warn you, this set was pretty time-consuming to make; I started it last year and ran out of time, so saved it for this year. If I were to have to make it again, I'd be very tempted to just use laminated clip-art! To make a pattern for the turkeys, I just copied book boy's picture and enlarged it, then outlined in marker for patterns. For the animal costumes, I just free-handed it since they didn't have to be too realistic.

I took one shortcut and did not bother with trying to line up the heads and eyes and cut out eyeholes in the "costumes" as I thought that would be very tedious and frustrating, and I didn't want to have to worry about each costume only working with one specific turkey. So I just put more eyes on the costumes.

To see more Flannel Friday posts from other bloggers, go to this week's Flannel Friday Round-Up hosted by Anne at So Tomorrow. Visit the Flannel Friday Pinterest Board for past Round-Up's and tons of inspiration. For more information about Flannel Friday and how to participate, visit the Flannel Friday site.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Do You Change The Words?

I was browsing an online group for youth services recently, and saw that someone had posed a question along the lines of "Do you ever shorten a story, or change the words?" This was in the context of wanting to read a story that had beautiful illustrations, but the text was believed to be too long and the vocabulary too sophisticated for the audience. 

I have to say, I was rather surprised at how many people responded that they did often change the stories that they read. I have very mixed feelings about changing an author's words, but it does depend on exactly what kind of change you mean. 

People sometimes see a word that they think is too sophisticated or too old-fashioned for their audience, and are tempted to substitute a more simple, familiar word. Please don't! This is the type of change I'm vehemently opposed to. Exposing kids to a rich vocabulary is one of the reasons we read out loud to them, and a very important part of developing early literacy skills! The more words and sounds that kids have been exposed to before they start learning to read, the easier it will be for them to sound out words as they are learning to read. 

Picture books are full of words we don't typically use in everyday conversation, and this rich vocabulary of rare words is one of the things that makes reading picture books together so special, and such an important part of early literacy and language development. Explain, don't substitute! When you read an unfamiliar word, just pause and explain what it means, then go on with the story.

Another reason I've heard people give for substituting words in a story is that they don't approve of certain words. For example, some are uncomfortable with the word "ain't" because it is colloquial slang and considered poor grammar, and they feel like they should be modeling proper grammar all of the time. Others don't approve of "unkind" words like "dumb", "stupid", or "hate", and still others disapprove of slang words like "heck", equating them with swear words (I confess, I don't quite follow the logic there), or the word "butt" (even though it's simply a shortened form of "buttock", the anatomically correct name for that body part). 

Substituting words simply because *you* don't approve of them smacks of censorship to me, and it seems like one is trying to impose their own values on the audience. It also feels a bit disrespectful to the author to decide we can tell his/her story better. Or maybe some presenters don't object, but fear the adults in the audience will. Personally, I feel like these could be used as a teachable moment instead. Talk about the words, and why *some* people might find them objectionable, or why it wasn't nice for the character to use them. Ask the kids what they might say instead.

Now, that being said, I do think exceptions are warranted. For example, if I can tell I'm loosing the audience, but would rather not just quit in the middle of the book because some are paying attention, I do sometimes shorten the story by paraphrasing, skipping sentences, or skipping pages in order to get through it. Or if I have a story that you know your audience will love, but it is just a bit too long, I do sometimes skip pages. I plan ahead and paper clip the pages together where I want to skip, being sure the story still flows well. 

I have maybe once or twice come across a book that had a really cute idea for a story, and seemed okay at first glance, but when I actually read it aloud to kids I realize it just does not flow well at all. On these rare occasions I have found myself doing some heavy editing and paraphrasing to make the story read better, but I have mixed feelings about it. Most of the time I just don't ever use them again.

So, how do you feel about substituting words or shortening and paraphrasing? 

Would any authors care to share how they feel about their words being changed?

Friday, November 4, 2016


I decided to continue the scary fun for the whole month of October on the Storytime Bus by following "Halloween" with "Monsters". There are so many cute monster books out there! I saw 25 groups over 2 weeks, reading 2-3 books and doing 1-2 activities each. I started each sessions with an introduction which included a discussion of monsters not being real and the letter-of-the-day ("Mm"), followed by our story song.

The Books

(Click image to enlarge)

Love Monster and the Scary Something by Rachel Bright; bold, colorful illustrations
My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck & Mark Buehner; cute
The Little Shop of Monsters by R. L. Stine & Marc Brown, little darker, interactive
Don't Play With Your Food by Bob Shea; little bunnies outsmart the monster
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley; very interactive, little text
Even Monsters... by A. J. Smith; interactive, funny, mentions underwear
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems; funny, friendship, pastel illustrations
Monster, Be Good! by Natalie Marshall; short & simple, interactive
Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley & Anne Miranda; monsters have feelings
The Baby That Roared by Simon Puttock & Nadia Shireen, a mysterious, peculiar baby 

The Activities

We had a number of fun activities with this them:; songs, rhymes, sorting, and puppets! One of my favorites is a "Make Your Own Monster Puppet" set by Melissa & Doug (available from many vendors, but Amazon has the best price). It comes with  the puppet base, and something like 30 different parts (arms, eyes, horns, tails, noses, teeth, ears, etc) that velcro on. I give each child a part (or two if a really small group) and let them come up and put it on, wherever they want to (you may have to gently deflect grown-ups from trying to tell them the "right" place to put it). I love that everyone gets to participate and each groups monster creation is totally unique! Here are some of the ones we made:

"Make Your Own Monster Puppet" (click image to enlarge)

We also have a storytelling puppet for Go Away Big Green Monster. I use it either instead of the book, or to let the kids help re-tell the story following the book. Because the puppet is slightly different from the book (the face has to be the first thing to appear and the last to disappear), I don't try to get the kids to tell the story in any particular order. Due to the small number of pieces, how I do it it varies with the group size. For really small groups, each child gets  piece to put on, then I take them off. For most groups, half the class puts the pieces on, and the other half gets to take them off. For large groups, we may do it twice so everyone has a turn, or I put the pieces on and off and let the group direct the story.

Go Away, Big Green Monster 

The kids also had fun pretending to be monsters as we sang "If You're A Monster And You Know It" based on Ed Emberley's book of the same name:

If you're a monster and you know it, snort and growl!
If you're a monster and you know it, snort and growl!
If you're a monster and you know it,
And you really want to show it,
If you're a monster and you know it, snort and growl!

(Smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, 
wiggle your warts, give a roar, do them all.)

And finally, we had this set of 12 laminated monsters with magnets on the back that we used for a variety of sorting activities. Sorting activities are great because they can be used to work on a variety of skills: observing various characteristics about their monsters such as color, number of eyes, arms, tails, spots, etc.; reasoning skills by deciding how they are alike or different and how to groups them, and language skills be describing their monster to the group and explaining how to groups them.  

We also sometimes did the following rhyme using 5 of the monsters:

"Five Hairy Monsters"

Five hairy monsters, howling out a roar,
One ran away, and then there were four.

Four hair monsters hiding in a tree,
One fell out and then there were three.

Three hairy monsters eating spider stew,
One got full, and then there were two.

Two hairy monsters having lots of fun,
One ran off, and then there was one.

One hair monster, afraid to be the hero,
He ran off, and then there were zero.

How It Went 

This theme was a lot of fun! Once again, Even Monsters... seemed to be the favorite of every group. It is funny, a little bit gross, and interactive with having the kids roar, snarl, grumble, growl, and howl like monsters. I always make sure they realize the monster is flossing his teeth with a snake instead of floss, and one kid pointed out the hole in the monster's tooth, saying "He has a cavity!". You can tell who's been stressing oral hygiene at home! All the other books worked well, too.

The kids all loved making their own monster puppets and then interacting with him. There are so many parts they come with it, I wish it came with two puppets! Some classes really had fun with "If You're A Monster And You Know It", but there were a few who were surprisingly lackluster about it.