Friday, December 23, 2016

Reflecting On 2016

At the beginning of the year I set several professional goals, phrased as New Year's resolutions, and some specific for storytime. So as the end of 2016 approaches, let's look back and see how I did:

  1. Read more. Well, only if you count textbooks and professional articles, but that's not what I originally had in mind. My intention was to read more for pleasure and for RA, mostly middle-grade and young adult, and I did read quite a bit of that the first half of the year. But then when I started an MLIS program in the fall, I found that I had little free time for reading anything outside of classwork, which was an unfortunate but necessary trade-off.
  2. Work on Reader's Advisory. Again, I did a significant amount of work on this the first half of the year, but it came to a halt once I started my MLIS program in the fall. I was able put together several bibliographies of read-alikes and themes based on what patrons frequently ask, and I've made an effort to read more reviews and "best books" lists.
  3. Take at least one library science class. Yes, and not only did I take a class, I enrolled in an MLIS program. 
  4. Continue to develop and expand my storytime skills.
    1. Use more non-fiction books. I have used more non-fiction, but there is still room for improvement.
    2. Experiment with working in early literacy tips. Okay, I have to admit, I failed on this one. With my storytime being outreach and not having individual caregivers to address, just one teacher, it just feels a little too awkward and direct.
    3. Develop 3-4 new storytime kits. I did get 3 more completely finished, and working on another.
    4. Finish re-vamping the existing kits. I was not able to get as much done here as I would have liked because another day was added to my storytime rotation, which means I lost half of my collection development time.
    5. Find opportunities to work with (or observe) other age groups. I observed a baby storytime, conducted a school-aged STEAM program, and conducted an adult program that was family-friendly. I also got an unexpected opportunity to present a session on early literacy and storytime to a group of childcare providers. I still would like to observe other storytimes as each of our children's librarians have different styles and strengths. I also continued to help the middle school librarian with her book club.

So, there you have it. I'm pretty happy with the progress I made, though a couple of these will continue on into the next year. I definitely did a better job with my professional resolutions than I did on my personal ones! How about you? Did you stick to your resolutions and make progress towards your goals?

Now to give some thought to my New Year's resolutions for 2017....

Friday, December 16, 2016


Today was my last storytime of the year, and yes, I did do a Christmas theme. I know this is a controversial topic, but as I've explained before, I (and many others) don't share the view that all libraries must be completely sanitized of anything remotely related to Christmas in the name of inclusivity ("And Here We Go Again", "To Holiday, Or Not"). Additionally, my storytimes are all outreach rather than for the general public, and the daycares I serve specifically request holiday and seasonal themes; I see no reason not to give it to them.

We started with our usual welcome song, followed by a brief introduction. Normally I would follow that with our story song, which [hopefully] helps them settle down and be ready for our first story, but since I was starting with a very active book first, I saved the song for afterward.

I borrowed our first book, The Santa Shimmy by Christianne Jones
Christmas storytime
and Emma Randall, from a co-worker who had bought it as part of a set for her own children. This is a really fun little book with a lot of movement: shimmy, shake, jump, and spin with Santa. I knew they'd have fun with it and *hoped* (perhaps in vain) that it would help get their wiggles out.

There are 3 others in the series: The Elf Boogie, The Reindeer Dance, and The Snowman Shuffle. Unfortunately, they are only sold to the general public as board books, but are also available as paperback 8x8's from Scholastic book fairs.

I then followed that with our story song, ending with the kids sitting down criss-cross applesauce and saying "shh". I chose a short, simple funny book from Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin that came out last year, Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! This book seems to always work well, since it is short and simple enough for the younger kids, but the humor keeps the older kids engaged, too, and they love the repetition. It's Christmas Eve, and Duck is up to something, but what? He climbs the pole and zip-lines over to the roof of Farmer Brown's house, where he promptly finds himself stuck in the chimney. The other animals go up to help and end up getting stuck as well! Along comes Santa; can he get them out or will he get stuck. too?? 

Next we did a great flannel activity I found a couple of years ago that the kids all love:

Rudolph, Rudolph

Rudolph, Rudolph pattern from Library Quine 
Rudolph, Rudolph, what will you do?
You can't guide Santa's sleigh if your nose is BLUE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, you're such a silly fellow.
Who will know it's you if your nose is YELLOW.

Rudolph, Rudolph, your way cannot be seen,
Through the wintry weather if your nose is GREEN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa gave a wink.
But what will he say if your nose is PINK?

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to fly at night.
But you can't get through the snow if your nose is WHITE.

Rudolph, Rudolph, it's time to go to town.
But you can't help Santa if your nose is BROWN.

Rudolph, Rudolph, Santa has his sack.
But you're not ready if your nose is BLACK.

Rudolph, Rudolph, the children are in bed.
And now you can get on your way because your nose is RED!

  *Poem found at Crafty Chic Mommy

The more I ham it up, the better they seem to like it! Each time I try to convince them that whatever color I have is good enough, and of course they always insist we have to keep trying. Usually they cheer and applaud by the time Rudolph *finally* gets his red nose. Of course we had to follow the activity up by singing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" for which I had brought actual jingle-bells for them to use (if you'd like to use a recorded version, I highly recommend Laurie Berkner's).

Christmas storytime
Then we settled back down for our last book, Stowaway In A Sleigh by C. Roger Mader. This is a sweet little story about a curious cat who can't resist snooping in Santa's sack, and ends up accidentally being taking home with Santa to the North Pole. This is a nice short, calming story, and since it takes place at night I tell the kids they have to be very quiet.

This would be a good bedtime/naptime story. I had hoped it would help the kids settle down a little bit because I try hard to avoid getting them worked up, then leaving the teachers to deal with it.

Christmas storytime, reindeer foodAs we prepared to close, I first told them about the special treat I had brought for them since it was Christmas - bags of magic reindeer food that they could sprinkle on their lawn on Christmas Eve to help the reindeer find their way. 

The "reindeer food" was made by mixing oats, red/green sparkle sugar, and confectionery sprinkles (some use glitter, but we keep everything edible just in case the kids decide to try it themselves). A small amount was placed in a ziplock bag and then inside a small brown paper sack, with a poem that gives instructions attached. I also attached a small candy cane to each (not shown) and reminded the kids that while the candy cane was for them, the food inside was just for reindeer.

[Click on the image at right for a full-sized picture to read the poem.]

I gave the bags of reindeer food to the teacher to send home with them, and we sang our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went 
The kids are always glad to see me, but they were *really* glad to see me today and I was greeted with lots of enthusiastic hugs and cries of "Miss Jennifer's here!" This is the best part of my job, hands down! 

As to be expected this time of year, they were a little harder to keep engaged and extra chatty. But we made it through and I think they really enjoyed it. The loved all the movement with The Santa Shimmy, and I found myself wishing I had borrowed at least one of the other books in the series since it was pretty short and they had lots of energy! Like every other group, they really got into Duck's antics in Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! and predicting everyone else that went up to help would get stuck too, and cracked up at being proved wrong when it came to Santa getting stuck. The ones with cats particularly liked Stowaway In A Sleigh, but I found I had to break my rule about substituting words with that one because they couldn't understand that "Mr. Furry Boots" was how the cat thought of Santa, and were very indignant about it, so to avoid arguments, I just said "Santa" after the first time.

The "Rudolph, Rudolph" flannel activity was a big hit as usual, and they loved having the bells for "Jingle Bells". I did accidentally commit one horrific act while I was there, though. Their class elf was hanging from the ceiling, which I wasn't used to being there and forgot about. When we reached up high to stretch between stories, I accidentally touched him, which is apparently a BIG no-no! There were immediate gasps and comments, and hushed cries of"She touched him!" and "Now he'll lose his magic!" I felt so bad, and didn't really know what to say, not being well-versed on the mythology of the elf-on-the-shelf, so just tried to quickly move to the next thing. Luckily only a few saw it and most were not too concerned and the rest seemed to forget it soon enough. Whew!

Friday, December 9, 2016

What's For Dinner? - Food Storytime

What to do on the Storytime Bus during the transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas? It isn't really winter yet, and we don't typically get much snow until January or February around here, so I usually save those themes until after the holidays. I decided to do "Food" since food does play a big part in the traditions of both holidays, and everyone has to eat, right?

We visited multiple facilities and saw many groups, for roughly 30 minutes each. We started each session with an introduction including the letter-of-the-day (Ff) and our "story song", followed by reading 2-3 books and doing a couple of other songs or activities, depending on time, with several of each to choose from.

The Books 

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague, kids love this series!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a beloved classic, great artwork
Keisha Cane and her Very Sweet Tooth by Ashley Foxx & April Foxx, very cute
What's for Dinner? by Ann Garrett & Gene-Michael Higney; bold, simple illustrations, flaps
Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli, written to teach babies and toddlers what should 
     not go in their mouth, but the older kids love it, too.
Everybody Loves Bacon by Kelly Dipucchio & Eric Wight, silly with lots of puns
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, humorous, short & simple
Worms for Lunch? by Leonid Gore, lift a flap, guess what animals eat
Is That Wise, Pig? by Jan Thomas, funny, counting, bold, simple illustrations

The Activities  

I had this nice set of plush fruits and vegetables that we would hold up and see if the kids could name them. They had no problem with the fruit, but the green onion, garlic, and what could be either a poblano pepper or okra game them trouble. We talked about the ones we liked and didn't like, and how they were good for you. Sometime I used them with the song below, following a reading of Is That Wise, Pig? I would hold an item up and let the kids name them to put in the soup; other times I just let the kids taking turns saying what they would like to add to the soup.

Stir, Stir, Stir the Soup
(to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat)

Stir, stir, stir the soup, 
Stir it all day long.
Add some ______,
Take a taste - SLURRP!
Soup will make us strong!

(repeat for as many verses/ingredients as desired, act out motions)


I also had a song that went with The Watermelon Seed perfectly, that helps to explain why you don't have to worry about a watermelon growing in your belly if you swallow a seed and provides the opportunity for a quick discussion about what seeds need to grow.

A Watermelon Seed
(to the tune of "London Bridges", call and response)

Oh, no! (Oh, no!)
I just swallowed, (I just swallowed)
A watermelon seed (A watermelon seed)
Will I grow a watermelon (Will I grow a watermelon)
Inside me? (Inside me?)

No, no. (No, no)
The seed won't grow (The seed won't grow)
In my tummy. (In my tummy.)
There's no rain or sunshine (There's no rain or sunshine)
Inside me. (Inside me)


The last activity provided an opportunity to discuss picky eaters, and why you should always try a bite of everything before you decide whether you like it or not. 

"Picky Paul"

There was an actual script for this, but I just winged it, telling the story with the felt pieces and acting our the motions.. This flannel set tells the story of Picky Paul, a little boy who didn't think he liked anything. One day his father was getting ready to cook dinner. He set the ingredients out one by one on the counter (let kids identify each), and each time Picky Paul would say, "I don't like ____". Then, Picky Paul's father got out a bowl and added some flour, yeast, water, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. He mixed them up (pretend to stir), then rolled it out (pretend to roll). Next he chops or slices each ingredient and sprinkles them on (imitate chopping/slicing and sprinkling). Then he puts the whole thing into the oven.

As it cooks, a wonderful aroma fills the air. Picky Paul sniffs, and comments on how good it smells. Finally the timer dings, and Picky Paul's father takes it out of the oven. "Pizza!" exclaims Picky Paul, "I LOVE pizza!" So even though Paul thought he didn't like the items individually, he loved them all together on a pizza! Then we discussed each of our favorite pizza toppings.


I used this song when we needed just a little movement, replacing the English "jelly" and "biscuits" with the American "Jello" and "Cookies".

"Jello On The Plate"
(to the tune of "Farmer In The Dell)

Jello on the plate, jello on the plate.
Wibble, wobble; wibble, wobble.
Jello on the plate.

Cookies in the tin, cookies in the tin.
Shake them up, shake them up.
Cookies in the tin.

Candles on the cake, candles on the cake.
Blow them out, blow them out.
Candles on the cake.

How It Went
The kids loved talking about what their favorite (and least favorite) foods were. Even though Yummy, Yucky is written for toddlers, they all loved saying whether each item was "Yummy!" or "Yucky!". Worms for Lunch? was also a hit, and I had fun introducing it by saying it was about what they were having for lunch. A few clever kids did think of saying they would eat worms for lunch; gummy worms, that is! Jan Thomas' new book was a huge hit as expected, and Jane Yolen's dinosaur series is always well received.

Keisha Cane is a great book, and surprisingly self-published; unfortunately there are no more copies being made. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is of course a beloved classic, though there were more than I expected that didn't seem familiar with it. One little boy commented very enthusiastically about how much he liked the colorful collages on the endpapers and preliminary pages. Everybody Loves Bacon didn't fare as well as I would have liked; I think it needs an older audience to understand and appreciate the humor.

The kids were very interested in looking at the plush fruits and veggies, and did a good job of naming most of them. They had a lot of fun with the soup song, and we had some *very* creative ingredients in our soup! One boy complained we were making him hungry with all the talk about food 😄

One thing I would add, and I didn't really realize I had overlooked, is a couple of books/activities about pies and cookies to indirectly tie in with the holidays a little more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rough Week..... (or, Impromptu Holiday Dance Party!)

Preschool Christmas dance party

So, I think I jinxed myself last week by planning a "Germs" storytime 😡. Just a couple of days before that I ended up coming down with what I thought was just a cold, but on Friday I was really hoarse, and by Saturday I had lost my voice completely! When I was not really any better on Sunday, and had 6 back-to-back storytimes scheduled for Monday morning (with another 4 on Tuesday and 6 more on Wednesday), I knew I was in big trouble!

Most of the time I have a volunteer to help me with storytime, but as luck would have it, I had NO ONE sign up for December; everyone was too busy with the holidays I guess. I sent out an e-mail practically begging for someone to find the time to help, with no response, and I knew my boss would have a meeting and the one of the children's librarians was on maternity leave, so they were already spread too thin. I really didn't want to cancel because it was our last rotation before taking a two week break over the holidays, and we had planned a holiday theme and made packets of "reindeer food" to give to all the kids (for my thoughts on the whole holiday controversy please see my previous posts "And Here We Go Again" and "To Holiday Or Not To Holiday").

So, what do you do if you have a scheduled storytime but you have no voice? Turn it into an impromptu "Preschool Dance Party"! I already had Laurie Berkner's Christmas CD, and I quickly downloaded a few more songs to my phone as well after getting the OK from my boss to change the format and sending an e-mail to give the preschool a heads-up. I only needed enough songs til fill about 20 minutes, and I tried to choose ones that (1) the kids would know, and/or (2) had a fast tempo and good beat to dance to. Here's a list of songs that I ended up using:

  • "Jingle Bells" (Laurie Berkner), with jingle bells, of course
  • "Jingle Bell Rock" (Bobbie Helms), also with the bells
  • "Frosty the Snowman" (Laurie Berkner), with shaky eggs
  • "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Laurie Berkner), with hand motions
  • "Rocking' Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee)
  • "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (Frank Sinatra)
  • "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" (Kidsongs)
  • "Let It Go" (Idina Menzel)

I also offered movement scarves and/or ribbons with the songs that didn't have motions or bells. I also hoped that my voice would come back enough to at least be able to read 1 story to each class, but I wasn't very optimistic.

How It Went  
I won't sugar-coat it; the first day was pretty rough. I still had almost no voice, just barely enough to explain why we weren't having a regular storytime, and singing was impossible. I did manage to read 1 short book (Mouse's First Christmas) to three of the classes before my voice gave out completely. In one class the teacher read a couple of books from my selection, and the other two just did music. It went okay, except for whatever reason, the kids at this facility just never seem to get into the music as much, and only a few would dance. I managed to coax a couple of reluctant participants by pulling them up front to dance with me.

The second day was a little better (and mercifully shorter); I still only read 1 book to each class, but my voice was slightly better. These kids really got into the music and dancing, so it was a lot of fun. Then today I managed to make it almost like our usual storytime, and was able to read two books, or do 1 book and 1 flannel activity, to each class, then finished up with 2 or 3 songs. Some of the classes got into dancing, some just wanted to sit and listen/sing along, and one class got SO into it, we decided it was best to sit after the first song 😉.

The kids really liked "Rudolph" and "Frosty the Snowman", which I expected as they were the most familiar, and of course loved doing "Jingle Bells" with actual bells. Some recognized "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" from the movie "Home Alone" and a few knew "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". One word of caution, "Let It Go" (the song from "Frozen") did NOT get a good reception, much to my surprise! I guess the kids are finally as sick of it as everyone else. When it started playing, I immediately heard several choruses of "Awwww", "Not 'Frozen'", and "I hate this song!"; I didn't dare to try it again after that as I had plenty of others.

While not ideal, I think everything went okay, and no one seemed to mind the change in format. We did end on a positive note, though, when one of the classes today gave me a Thanksgiving Day card that they had not been able to give me before Thanksgiving, full of handprint turkeys made by each of the kids, and a little Christmas notepad. Things like that just make my day! 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Don't Share Your Germs!

Now that we are between holidays and already into cold and flu season, I decided this was a good time to talk to the kids about germs, and how to keep from spreading them so that they don't get themselves, their family, friends, or Miss Jennifer sick!

We began storytime with our usual welcome song, and introduced the topic of germs. I was a little surprised that several were already familiar with the word and knew it was what makes us sick. We talked a little about how they are everywhere, but they are so tiny we can't even see them. 

After we sang our story song, we read our first book, Germs Are Not For Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen. This is a great non-fiction picture book that works well for storytime. The text is short and simple, and the illustrations are high-contrast, so it is not as dry and boring as some non-fiction. 

This book explains what germs are, how they are spread, and what to do to prevent spreading them in clear, simple terms, and it also shows children of various ethnicities. It also mentions singing the "ABC's" to time handwashing, so we paused and practiced that. There are many other books in this series that address other issues, like hitting, kicking, biting, hurtful words, and another one that would go well with this theme, Noses Are Not For Picking.

After that we did a fun flannel activity about hand-washing to get rid of germs, based on one from Library Quine using free clipart as a pattern for the hand. Of course, since I have a master's degree in microbiology I had to take it a step further and instead of generic "blob" -looking germs, I made mine somewhat representative of actual germs, though obviously not to scale. And of course they had to have faces and googly-eyes even though real germs don't, because, well, just because! 

[In case your wondering, the germs shown (starting with the left column) are: Streptococcus (strep throat, pneumonia, scarlet fever), Staphylococcus (skin and wound infections), Rhinovirus (common cold), Vibrio (cholera, foodborne illnesses), E. coli (diarrhea), Neisseria (meningitis), Enterovirus (polio; hand, foot & mouth disease), Salmonella (gastroenteritis), Enterococcus (UTI, meningitis), and Influenza virus (flu).]

First we talked about the hands, how one was a grown-up and one was a kid, and how one was palm-up and the other was the back of the hand (and yes, I realize it would have been better to have varied skin tones, but unfortunately we were all out of varied shades of brown. I will make additional hands in different tones as soon as I get more felt!) I told them in generic terms what each germ caused (cold, flu, stomach ache, rash, fever, etc.) and talked about where they hide as I placed them on the hands, then we did the rhyme.

All The Little Germs

All the little germs, dirty and mean (make disgusted face)

Hiding on your palms (point), where they cannot be seen (shake head).

Wash them, Scrub them, (pretend to wash & scrub hands)

Rinse them away. (wipe hand across each other)

Then we'll have clean hands, (hold hands up)

Hip, hip, hooray! (jazz hands)

Other verses:  ...Hiding between your fingers....                     
 ...On the backs of your hands....
...Hiding on your thumbs....
...Hiding under your nails....
...Hiding on your wrists....

As we say the rhyme, I remove the germs that are located in the corresponding place. The kids love pointing out that the hands aren't really clean until all the germs are gone.

Next we read Wash Your Hands! by Tony Ross, which at first glance you might think is a non-fiction book, but it actually does have a story featuring a fun-loving Princess who just wants a piece of cake. But everyone keeps taking it away and telling her to wash her hands (because she's been playing in the mud, with the dogs, using the potty, etc.) first. She doesn't understand why she has to wash her hands again and again, until her maid explains about the germs that live in the "dirties and nasties" that could make her sick. After washing her hands one last time and before she finally eats the cake, she asks the maid if she has washed her hands.

I decided to proceed straight to the last book, Felicity Floo Visits The Zoo by E. S. Redmond, and save our activity for the end. All of the animals in the zoo are sick, but the staff has no idea why. The story then unfolds of a little girl who visits the zoo even though she's sick. She wipes her nose with her hand, then proceeds to touch many animals and surfaces in the zoo, spreading her germs everywhere. This is made obvious to the kids as a series of yucky green handprints all over everything. I again reminded them about using tissues, washing hands, and keeping hands away from faces.

Then we did a fun, and only slightly messy, activity that really helps demonstrate to the kids how easily germs are spread. I put some colored glitter (I only had blue, but a mixture of colors could represent different types of germs) in a paper plate, then pressed my hand into it. I then showed the kids how there were "germs" all over my hand now. Then I shook hands with a few of the kids, and had them shake hands with other kids, and so on, until almost everyone had germs!

(I forgot to take pictures of the kids' hands, so I re-created the chain of transmission later)
I asked the kids to think about what would happen if they picked up food with those hands, or if they touched their faces or eyes. They all realized glitter would get in their foods, then in their stomachs, and in their eyes and faces. I reminded them that is exactly what happens with germs; we just can't see them. Then we all washed our hands really well.

I've also heard of this activity done with chalk or flour, and there is a special spray you can buy that glows under black light. Depending on your setting and time frame, instead of having kids shake hands, you could just let it spread naturally over a longer period of time. Another activity is to put confetti inside a balloon and pop it to simulate how a sneeze or cough spreads germs.

How It Went
Ironically, I came down with a nasty head cold just a couple of days before, so my voice and hearing were not in the greatest shape, which made wrangling 14 three-year olds a little more difficult. I could not speak very loudly, my voice was terribly hoarse and kept cracking, and I could not sing at all. I guess I was a little too late with my message of not sharing your germs with Miss Jennifer!

For the most part the kids seemed to follow along pretty well and could at least verbalize the talking points, even if they aren't very good at putting them into practice all the time. But every little bit helps. They loved the flannel activity and asked to do it again, which I was very pleased with (especially after my mentor teased me for being a big nerd and having to make the germs somewhat biologically accurate). They really loved pointing out at the end of each verse that our hands were NOT clean because there were still germs left! At first some of them were a little hesitant with the glitter activity, but once we got going, they were all clamoring for germs! 😏 

I think it went pretty well, considering how difficult it was for me to talk. If my voice had been normal, I don't think I would have had any trouble keeping them engaged. It was nice to actually use my degree for a change! I really hope to have the opportunity to do some serious science programs with slightly older kids in the future.

Remember, share your toys, not your germs!