Sunday, June 25, 2017

Trying Something Out - Changes Coming

When I first started this blog, it was focused solely on early literacy, storytime, and picture books. Then I decided I wanted to write posts about other topics, such as middle-grade and YA literature, STEAM programming, and more general topics like customer service, collection development, profession development, etc., so I started a separate blog called Jen's Library Tales. Unfortunately, that blog never really got any traction, and I'm finding it very hard to find time to keep up with two blogs.

I've been on the fence about what to do for the last year. Keep both blogs and continue limping along with the second one and hope it eventually gains readership, drop the second blog and just blog about early literacy and storytime, or somehow try to integrate the two? I hate to completely drop the second blog, because I really want to share my STEAM programs, and a few other things. I've gone back and forth, and I'm really wishing I had had a better vision of what I would eventually want to do at the beginning because now I have a very focused domain name, but now want to include more, but don't want to start all over with a new name, either.

I am going to experiment with keeping the name, but expanding the description and including some of the things I had been putting on the other blog, primarily STEAM programming and occasional commentary about various library-related topics and experiences, and switching to using Goodreads for most book reviews.

So, you may notice a bit more diversity in content, and some slight changes in menus and organization. I won't delete the old blog, but will probably stop posting new content, and if I think this integration is going to work, I will eventually copy some of the existing content back to this blog. 

So, does this sound like a good plan? Please comment! Will an expanded scope be confusing, distracting, or inspiring?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Unusual Things, or, A Hastily Planned Storytime Without an [Intentional] Theme

So the last two weeks have been really crazy with planning and conducting extra summer STEAM programs for the school-aged kids. I hate to admit it, but I had no chance to plan my storytime for today, and found myself at home on Thursday night with no plan, and no books pulled, so the theme was going to have to be "Whatever Books Miss Jennifer Happens to Own and Feels Like Doing"!

So I looked through my rather small collection of picture books, and pulled out an old favorite, Elizabite: Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant, and a more recent discovery, Hieronymus Betts and His Unusual Pets. My daughter loved Froggy, so we have several Froggy books, and I selected Froggy Learns To Swim since it was summer and some of the kids were likely taking lessons or had at least been to the pool. As I looked at them, I realized I had unintentionally created a loose theme of "Unusual Things", with a very unusual plant, unusual pets, and a frog who can't swim (that's unusual, right?).

We started with our welcome song and brief introduction, then sang our story song to help us get focused and ready for our first book, Elizabite: Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant. I have always loved this lesser known story by H. A. Rey, creator of Curious George, partly because I've always been fascinated by carnivorous plants. 

But it's also a cute, funny story told in a pleasant rhyming text that has a great rhythm for reading aloud, and it has some great vocabulary words, like: carnivorous, botanist, frankfurter, and laboratory.

I also showed them a picture of a real carnivorous plant, the Venus FlyTrap, then we talked about the ordinary flowers we see growing around the daycare, and did a cute little action rhyme about planting a rose:
Plant A Seed

Dig a little hole, plant a little seed.

Pour a little water, pull a little weed.

Chase a little bug. Look, there he goes!

Give a little sunshine, grow a little rose.

I told them to smell the rose, and one little girl said it would make you sneeze if you were allergic. I said that was true, but these are pretend roses, so they won't make you sneeze. And of course when we repeated it, about half the group sneezed after smelling their pretend rose, and thought they were soooo funny! 

Next we moved from unusual plants to unusual animals with Hieronymus Betts and his Unusual Pets by M. P. Robertson. I came across this book a couple of years ago, and I love it! Hieronymus Betts has some very ususual pets, like a slugapotamus, a sabre-toothed rhino-toad, a porcupython, and a whatchamacalit! 

But, guess what is even slimier, louder, greedier, scarier, fiercer, stinkier, and stranger than all of those?? Very funny with some fun nonsense words, imaginative illustrations, and an unexpected twist at the end.

Next, we talked about what kinds of pets (and little brothers) we all had, and since most of the kids had dogs, we followed up with singing a round of "B-I-N-G-O"; after the first verse substituting a clap for a letter, and repeating until we were clapping all five letters, and finishing by singing a final verse saying and clapping each letter.


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!

Our final book was Froggy Learns To Swim by Jonathan London & Frank Remkiewicz. What could be more unusual that a frog who doesn't know how to swim and is afraid of the water?? This is a great summer-time read, as many of the kids are going to the pool or beach, and some are taking swimming lessions, so they can relate. It is also very interactive, as they can join in saying "Bubble, bubble; Toot, toot" and "Chicken, airplane, soldier" as well as doing the arm motions. And of course everyone will get a big laugh when Froggy looses his swimsuit!

We finished with our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went 
I'll be honest, I did feel a little guilty for putting so little thought into this week's storytime. But you know what? It ended up coming together amazingly well, and not only were the kids clueless about how quickly I threw it together, they really enjoyed it and listened very attentively to the stories! This is one skill for which I have my current position to thank. I also do a mobile storytime, with as many as 6 back-to-back storytimes a day, with ages ranging from 3 to 5. I have a bin full of books to use, and have to do everything on the fly, adjusting to each class, with no real planning. This job has really helped me to learn not to obsess and over-plan things, and how to go with the flow, making last minute changes when needed, which is a wonderful skill to have!

The kids really liked everything we did! They listened very well and were really engaged in everything. They were fascinated by the idea of carnivorous plants, and predictably laughed when Elizabite bit the maid's butt. The loved all of Hieronymus Betts' fantastic pets, and enjoyed sharing what pets they had. They sung along with "BINGO" and planted seeds with the rhyme, and really got into joining Froggy saying "Bubble, bubble; Toot, toot" and "Chicken, airplane, soldier" as well as doing the motions. And of course they thought it was hilarious when Froggy lost his swimsuit.

So it turned out to be a great storytime, after all.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Flannel Friday Round-up for 6-16-17

Here's the Round-Up for June 16th, such as it is. As of 10:00 PM EDT, there is still only one lonely submission. If anyone else has anything to add, go ahead and put your link in the comments on Saturday, and I'll add it!
Kate of "Felt Board Magic" has our lone submission for this week with a "Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat" party hat hide-and-seek game, presumably inspired by the ever-popular "Little Mouse" game. This could be used to discuss colors and patterns, and would fit with a variety of themes, such as cats, birthdays, parties, hats, colors, etc. There is also a link to purchase the pattern if you need one. 

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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

We Love Dinosaurs!

I think almost everyone is fascinated by dinosaurs as a kid, and some of us never outgrow it. I had a serious interest in paleontology, but realized it wasn't the most practical career choice. But I still love dinosaurs, and do at least one round of dinosaur stories every year.

We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic, and quickly moved to our story song before they could get too worked up since they were all sitting so nicely when I got there.

For our first book I choose one that is kind of silly and always attention getting, Ten Little Dinosaurs by Pattie Schnetzler and Jim Harris. I love this book! It is fun to read, and has wonderful illustrations, and counts down from 10 to 0 with rhyming quatrains, but best of all, it is big spherical wiggly eyes that really bring the dinosaurs to life. Each page has die cut holes for the eyes to fit through, so each dinosaur has them. The kids love this! It is a bit of a pain when it comes to shelving or stacking this book, but so worth it! There are other versions without the wiggle eyes that would be more practical for shelving in a circulating collection, but for an office or personal collection, I would definitely want the eyes!

I followed that with the "Ten Big Dinosaurs" counting song to count up to 10, then back down, for extra counting and fine motor practice.

Ten BIG Dinosaurs

One big, two big, three big dinosaurs,
Four big, five big, six big dinosaurs,
Seven big, eight big, nine big dinosaurs,
Ten big dinosaurs!

They all lived a long, long time ago,
They all lived a long, long, time ago,
The all lived a long, long time ago.
Now there are no more.

Ten big, nine big, eight big dinosaurs,
Seven big, six big, five big dinosaurs,
Four big, three big, two big dinosaurs, 
One big dinosaur!

Next up was another fun book kids always love, Snappy Little Dinosaurs by Dugald Steer. If you don't already know, the Snappy Little... books are a great series of pop-up books on many different subjects. I think they are currently out of print, but you could try buying used copies, just look for sellers that have high ratings and clearly describe the condition of the pop-ups. 

This book has big, bright pop-ups, along with the scientific names for each dinosaur and a rhyming text. Sometimes I read the text, sometimes I just show the pictures, have them repeat the name, and talk about the type of dinosaur (which is what I did this time).

We followed that with a song, and then an action rhyme, that let us act like dinosaurs:

The Dinosaur Goes...
(to the tune of "Wheels On The Bus")

Tyrannosaurus rex goes roar, roar, roar;
Roar, roar, roar; roar, roar, raor
Tyrannsaurus rex goes roar, roar, roar;
All day long.

The pteranodon's wings go flap, flap, flap....

The velociraptor goes run, run, run....

The brontosaurus' feet go stomp, stomp, stomp....

The mosasaurus' tail goes splash, splash, splash....

The triceratops goes munch, munch, munch....


Long Ago

Dinosaurs lived long ago.
Some walked, 
Some swam, 
And some flew, you know.

Some were big,
Some were small.
Some were gigantic,
V-e-r-y tall!

Our last story was Dinosaurs After Dark by Jonathan Emmett and Curtis Jobling. Little Bobby is in bed when he hears a noise outside. When he looks outside, he sees a dinosaur walking by! Bobby rushes out and follows him downtown, where there are dinosaurs everywhere. First they want to eat him, but then decide to let him play for a while first.

 A cute story with bright, simple illustrations with black outlines, and a twist at the end. The kids may not get the twist at the end, or may not agree on what it means, but either way it is still a cute story that they will enjoy.

I finished up by re-iterating that dinosaurs are now extinct, and all we have left is their fossilized bones. I explained that "fossilized" meant the bones had been changed to stone, and went on to tell them that bones weren't the only fossils that dinosaurs left behind; there are also fossilized eggs, and fossilized dinosaur......POOP! I told them it even had a special name, "coprolite", and reminded them since it was fossilized that meant it had turned to stone, so it wasn't messy or stinky anymore.

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went

Today was an awesome storytime! Probably one of the best in a while. When I got there the kids were all seated and waiting for me, very calm and quiet, and they did a much better job listening today than the last couple of times. Of course with a theme of Dinosaurs, they did get a little loud out times, but were never out of control.

The LOVED the Ten Little Dinosaurs with the big googly eyes and all the sillyness, and cracking up laughing hysterically everytime I turned the page. The also laughed at how each dinosaur was called a silly name, like "bonehead" for Pachycephalosaurus and "nut brain" for Stegasaurus, and I paused to explain how those names were based on characteristics of each dinosaur. 

Snappy Little Dinosaurs was a big hit, too, with the pretending to be scared as each one popped out at them. They didn't really see the twist in the ending of Dinosaurs After Dark, but enjoyed the story anyway. And they had a lot of fun acting like dinosaurs with the songs and rhymes.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Storytime Themes That Just Don't Work

Have you ever done a storytime theme that ended up just not working? What about those of you who are in Outreach like me, and do multiple storytimes on the same theme every week or month? [I do a two-week rotation of about 30 storytimes on the same theme with our Storytime-To-Go program.]

There are many themes that I think are a little dull or just don't have the greatest book selection available that can work okay for one or two storytimes, but if you do them for multiple storytimes, they can make you want to pull your hair out from the boredom and tedium! 

I have found that basic concepts are generally the worst! "Colors" is one exception, as there are a number of books you can use that are really good storytime books, as well as songs, rhymes, and activites. But some of the others, like "Shapes", Numbers", etc., are much harder to find good books that really focus on that theme that aren't all the same or have a good story. It takes a good bit more digging to find actual story books that you can use to pull out some of these concepts from. 

I prefer to work in these concepts a little bit here and there throughout my storytimes rather than having a whole storytime of just counting, for example. But, before I took my position, several kits had already been developed with these basic concept themes. I gave the "Numbers" one a try, and hated it after a couple of days of reading nothing but counting books! Another one was "Opposites", which had a number of books, which were perfectly fine books individually, but collectively they are all so similar, and only one had any kind of a story. The rest were all like "Big elephant.....small mouse, short dog....tall giraffe". I knew it would be torture to read those over and over for around 30 storytimes in 2 weeks, so I avoided it.

But this month, I had to do it because someone specifically requested it, and even though I ended up only having to do half as many storytimes due to the holiday and cancellations by two of our biggest daycares, it was *torture*! And it wasn't just me. One of my volunteers commented on how tedious and repetitive it was and the lack of any real stories. The kids were not as engaged as usual (and I promise I really did give it my best effort), and some of them also complained about the lack of stories.

I gave it my best shot, but I hope I never, ever have to use that theme for an outreach rotation again! I have suggested we disband that kit and instead work those books into other themes so we are incorporating the concept still, but in several small doses rather that one single [boring] storytime.

So, anyone have any other ideas for how to handle these concept themes to make it less tedious for multiple storytimes? Know any good books that might have something to do with counting, shapes, opposites, or other concepts that really do have a story and are engaging??

Friday, May 26, 2017

Going To The Library

I had originally planned this storytime for National Library Week, but the daycare was closed for Good Friday, so I saved it to kick off Summer Reading and promote going to the library.

We started with our welcome song, then talked a little about libraries before singing our story song. I decided to start off with Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw as a more realistic introduction to going to the library. (Lola Loves Stories is also good for promoting reading.)

The story is simple and straightforward, and talks about returning books, checking out more books, storytime, and how children don't get "shushed" in the children's department. (I changed some of the words slightly to fit the way my library does things.) When it mentions Lola singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" we paused to sing it as well. The illustrations are sweet and colorful.

We followed that with a short little rhyme about "Five Little Books" being checked out of the library from What Happens In Storytime, but I made my felt books a little differently. First we counted the books, then identified the colors, then did the rhyme. Instead of specific names, I inserted things like "a little girl", "a little boy", "Mommy", "Daddy", and "a teacher", because I didn't want anyone left out, but I didn't really feel like repeating it 3 or 4 times to use all their names, either.

Five Little Books

Five little books at the library,
Five little books as great as can be.
Along came _______ with their library card,
and checked one out to read.

Four little books at the library.....[repeat until you get to zero]

Our second books stars one of my favorite characters, Froggy Goes to the Library by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz. Froggy enjoys going to the library as well, but in his excitment he almost forgets to get dressed and eat breakfast. Then, once they are at the library, Froggy lets his imagination get the best of him! But then he settles down for storytime, and gets everyone, including the librarian, to join him in a silly song and dance.

The kids seemed to like Froggy's silly song, so I asked them if they wanted to stand up and do it themselves, and they did. So, we all stood up and sang and danced:

Wiggle, wiggle; Waggle waggle
Giggle, giggle; Gaggle gaggle

I was thinking I'd probably just read two books today because they've been more restless lately and Froggy was a little longer. But, it was a smaller group than usual and they were doing really well and really wanted another story, so I went ahead and read The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariaa OHora. 

In this story, Oskar and Theodore go to the library with their dad, after stopping by the dougnut shop for breakfast. They are reading quiety, when a many-headed monster suddenly appears, with a taste for books. Can Oskar and Theodore convince the monster that books are not for eating? And neither are Oskar and Theodore!

After that, I talked more about the summer reading program, showing them the classrom log and explaining that all they have to do is check the boxes every time they read 20 minutes or visit the library, then at the end of the summer when they've checked 30 boxes I will bring each of them a book to keep, plus extra books for the classroom. Then I showed them the calendars I brought for each one of them to take home that describes all the cool events going on all summer.

Then, we sang our closing song and passed out stickers.

How It Went
It was nice having a slightly smaller group; they always do a better job listening when there aren't quite so many of them. They seemed to enjoy all the stories, particularly The Not So Quiet Library. I'm always happy to see how horrified they are when characters mistreat books in our stories. They had to sing Twinkle, Twinkle as soon as it was mentioned in the Lola book, and loved doing Froggy's song and dance. As soon as I held up the Lola book, two little girls said, "She looks like me!" Even though the "Five Little Books" rhyme was so simple, they really liked it and wanted to do it again. They were particularly eager for more stories today.

They were very excited when I told them they would each get a book to keep at the end of the summer reading program; I saw many little faces light up and mouth's in the shape of an "O", and one boy said he wanted one about dinosaurs. I told him I couldn't promise that, but we would see.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Summer Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frogs, Toads, Aliens, and Dinosaurs!

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

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

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

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

There Once Was An Alligator

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

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

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

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

SPLASH went the water!
(throw arms out)

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

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

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

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

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

Five Green & Speckled Frogs

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

Eating some most delicious bugs. Yum! Yum!

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

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

[Continue counting down to none.]

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Garden Storytime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My First Author Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Most Egg-cellent Storytime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Five Little Eggs"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We finished up with our closing song and stickers.

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

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

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

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