Friday, October 20, 2017

A Long Day of Conference-ing

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

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

So, did it live up to my expectations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What conferences have you found the most worthwhile to attend?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hitting A Wall

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Gone To The Dogs - Preschool Storytime

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

The Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some others I used occasionally were:

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

The Activities

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


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

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

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

If You're A Dog & You Know It

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

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

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

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

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

And this fingerplay:

Digging in the Dirt

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

How It Went

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

ABC's & 123's - Preschool Storytime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    One, Two, How Do You Do?

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

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

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

The Books 

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

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

The Activities

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

Ten Little Bubbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How It Went

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Preschool Storytime - Sometimes You Need a Cheat Day

While I usually (but not always) plan my storytimes around themes, this week I just wasn't feeling it. I was in the mood to do something totally new; first I looked into a couple of new themed ideas that didn't pan out, and then I looked through all the books on our new shelf, and still was uninspired. So I cheated! I pulled up Jbary's list of "2016 Favourite Storytime Picture Books" and looked for titles I had not used (or even seen before) that sounded good.

But, hey, isn't that why we blog, so others can benefit from our knowledge and experience? Though I still feel a bit like I'm cheating and should come up with an original storytime every time, I know in my head that isn't realistic. It's okay to use other people's ideas as inspiration, or even copy a whole storytime plan in a pinch (as long as you give credit). We are only human and shouldn't feel like we have to re-invent the wheel every single time, or constantly go bigger and better.

We started off with our welcome song, and they all had to share something with me today, then we moved on to our story song. The first book I chose was Still A Gorilla! by Kim Norman and Chad Geran, about a young gorilla who lives at the zoo, and thinks he might like to be a different animal, so he tries to become different animals by imitating their behavior and appearance. But, no matter what he does, he finds he is "still a gorilla". 

This is great for the younger ones as it is short and simple, and the kids can try to act like other animals along with Willy, and join in saying "still a gorilla" over and over. The pictures are big and bright, without too much detail.

After we finished the story, we talked about how you can't really change into another animal, but you can pretend to be something else, and several said which animal they would like to be, which segued perfectly into singing a song that would allow us to pretend to be different animals, starting with a gorilla, then doing the other animals that Willy pretended to be and a couple of additional ones.

The Animals At The Zoo
(to the tune of "The Wheels On The Bus")

The gorilla at the zoo goes (beat on chest),
(beat on chest), (beat on chest).
The gorilla at the zoo goes (beat on chest), 
All day long.

The lion at the zoo goes roar, roar, roar.....

The walrus at the zoo goes (hold finger up to mouth like tusk & bob head)....

The goats at the zoo go butt their heads....

The alligators at the zoo go chomp, chomp, chomp...

The kangaroo at the zoo goes hop, hop, hop....

The bear at the zoo goes growl, growl, growl...

The penguins at the zoo go waddle, waddle, waddle....

I ended with a penguin to lead into our next story, Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, which stars a grumpy penguin. Penguin was in a very bad mood, though he didn't know why, and nothing seems to help until he gets home and finally gets in a nice cool bath, has hot chocolate, reads his favorite book, and gets into bed with his favorite pajamas and teddy. This book has short and simple text with simple illustrations, and kids can act out some of Penguin's actions. 

This book gives a nice opportunity to talk about how sometimes we might just be in a bad mood for no reason, and that we might just need a little quiet time to ourselves with our favorite things to help us calm down and relax, or maybe a nap since being tired can make you grumpy, too. Since we were talking about feelings, it was only natural to follow this story with "If You're Happy & You Know It":

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
If you're happy and you know it, then your smile will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

If you're grumpy and you know it, give a frown.....face....

If you're angry and you know it, stomp your feet....face....

If you're sad and you know it, say "boo hoo"....frown....

If you're happy and you know it, give a smile....face....

After ending back at "happy", it was time to end with our closing song and stickers.

How It Went
This storytime went really well and had just the right amount of interactive and movement elements to keep the kids really engaged, without getting them too wound up (which can be a difficult balance to achieve!). The kids really enjoyed both books and the songs.

There were lots of giggles and comments of "he's so silly" or "that's silly" during Still A Gorilla, which they found thoroughly entertaining and enjoyed pretending along with Willy and saying "still a gorilla" over and over. They also giggled at the title of Grumpy Pants, and of course more giggles at the mention of taking off his grumpy underpants and being naked, though I reminded them that penguins don't really wear clothes anyway! They also appreciated me acting out the stomping, kicking off of boots, and angrily pulling off socks and flinging them over my shoulder. And of course, any songs or rhymes that allow them to act out animal sounds and movements are always a hit.

So I had a great storytime that I didn't have to stress about planning, and discovered two great storytime books I haven't used before. Thanks, Jbrary! We are so lucky to have such an amazing array of resources at our fingertips! I can't imagine how much harder youth programming was to plan before the internet! (While I must admit to being old enough to know pre-internet days, that was long before my second career in libraries began.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Doldrums - Feeling Discouraged & Frustrated

I don't usually get too personal in my blog, but I'm sure there are many others who can relate to how I've been feeling lately. I don't know if it's just the let-down after the crazy hectic pace of summer reading ends, a perfect storm of frustration and disappointment, or just that I'm overdue for a vacation, but I've been in a funk all week that I'm having trouble shaking.

First, I absolutely hate the class I'm taking now. It's a subject I'm not interested in and the professor is well-known for not being very good as well as being MIA for long periods of time and not grading assignments. There have been multiple complaints from students to the chair for at least the last 3 terms, to no avail. He's tenured, so they just shrug their shoulders and say there's nothing they can do. I'm trying to make the best of it, but these assignments are ridiculous! Not hard, but hours and hours (and hours) of mind-numbingly tedious, repetitive worksheets that are just pointless busywork, and I HATE busy work; it makes me very grumpy!

Then there are a lot of changes going on at work, with little communication or transparency, so that leaves everyone feeling a bit anxious and on edge. My job hasn't been directly affected yet, but I know it's just a matter of time. I try to ignore it and just focus on doing my job and doing it well, but sometimes it gets to me. I am thankful my job is not stressful and is a lot of fun most of the time, but it is a lot of the same thing, as I spend 85% of my time doing storytimes, about 25 over a 2-week period with the same theme. So I go through cycles of feeling a bit bored and restless, but I always get past it. My boss has been great about letting me try new things and have opportunities for professional development, so I really can't complain, but sometimes I just wish I could exchange jobs with someone for a month or so to just do something different for a while.

But I think the one thing I'm having the most trouble with is being in this in-between-place. I work in a library, I'm almost halfway-thru library school, my job entails some of the duties of a librarian, requires some of the skills of a librarian, and I think like a librarian. But I am not a librarian. I'm in this nebulous space of a largely invisible, part-time paraprofessional (and the position is not even officially recognized as such, but is graded the same as a clerk). Other MLS students have said they share similar feelings; it's hard being an almost-but-not-quite librarian and feeling like you're stuck and excluded from the club.

I am very cognizant that I am not a librarian, but it's a pain to try to tell non-library people what it is that I am! My title is a very generic, non-descript "library assistant", which can be anything from a clerk to a paraprofessional depending on the library, and means nothing to a layperson. I can say I'm an early literacy outreach specialist, which is a much more accurate description, but still meaningless to the average Joe. My husband tells people I "read to kids", but it's so much more than that! My in-laws ask me if I'm still "doing your library thing" as though it's just a hobby or volunteering. It would be so much easier to just say I'm a librarian; people at least have a concept of what that is, even if it itsn't always accurate.

But I don't, because I'm not. And I'm feeling discouraged at my chances of ever being one, with the over-saturated job market and the trends I see in hiring, combined with being geographically restricted, at least for now. But I keep plugging along, building my skills, and learning as much as I can, and hoping for the best!

The good news is I do have a vacation coming up soon, and hopefully the break will be just what I need to recharge! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

People Say We Monkey Around - Preschool Storytime

With this being only the second visit of the new school year and this year's class being a little on the young side and still settling in, I knew I wanted to keep this storytime a little shorter and be sure to pick books and activities that would be highly engaging. 

I didn't really have anything in mind, but after a child at one of the other daycares excitedly described the book he received from our summer reading program, Count The Monkeys, I've been wanting to do it again because it's so much fun. Then yesterday one of our face-outs on the shelf that I've used before and has a monkey as the main character happened to catch my eye. I thought of how most kids already know and enjoy "Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree" and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed", and decided that was the way to go.

We started off with our welcome song, and then I introduced the topic by showing them the monkey fingerpuppets I had based on Eileen Christelow's Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed. I asked the kids what the monkeys were wearing, and it took some coaxing to get them to say pajamas. Then I asked what they thought the monkeys were doing, and most of them said "jumping on the bed!" and one boy even added "if you jump on the bed, you'll fall and bump your head!". So then we did the rhyme with me using the finger puppets and the kids just holding up their fingers.

Monkey storytime, Five little monkeys

"Five Little Monkeys"

Five little monkeys, jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his(her) head.
Mama(Daddy) called the doctor, and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys jumping on the bed!"

[Repeat, counting down to zero, alternating "his" & "her", and "Mama" & "Daddy"]

Monkey storytime
After that we sang our story song and read our first book, Kiki's Blankie by Janie Bynum. This is a short, simple story that I like for several reasons. First, most children can relate to having a blankie or other favorite possession that they are attached to. Second, I like that it promotes using your imagination as Kiki uses her blankie as a tent, pirate's head scarf, cowgirl's bandana, superhero's cape, and more as she engages in pretend play. Also, it has a little bit of mild drama involving a crocodile, which ties into our next activity, and shows Kiki being brave even without her blankie and engaging in creative problem-solving.

Next, we did another favorite of most kids, "Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree". I interchange alligator and crocodile in this rhyme, depending on the stories I've selected for that day. I used my velcro set of monkeys and crocodile with a storytelling glove pictured below, but I've decided that I prefer just using my hands and fingers, so I can really give a loud clap on the "Snapped that monkey right out of the tree" part.

Monkey Storytime, Jungle Storytime, Five Little Monkeys

"Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree"

Five little monkeys, swinging in a tree.
Teasing Mr. Crocodile, "You can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be,
And SNAPPED that monkey right out of the tree!

[Repeat, counting down to none.]

Monkey Storytime, Jungle StorytimeI saved our most lively book for last, Count The Monkeys by Mac Barnett. This book is fun, silly, involves counting, and is highly interactive. It starts by directing the audience to turn the page to start counting the monkeys. But, when you turn the page, instead of monkeys we find a big king cobra! The book directs us to quietly and slowly turn the page, where we discover two mongooses (mongeese? mongooses? Let's take a vote!) have scared the snake away. We keep turning the page hoping to find monkeys, but instead find many other scary or silly things. Sadly, we get to the last page without ever having seen a single monkey. But, wait! What's that on the endpapers!?

Then we finished up with our closing song and passing out stickers.

How It Went

This turned out to be a great storytime. The kids liked Kiki's Blankie, but they LOVED Count The Monkeys! This book is so much fun! If it's not in your storytime collection, I highly recommend you add it, which reminds me that I really need to buy a copy for my own personal collection. The kids loved being suprised by the snake, and looked forward to seeing what would come next, acted out the instructions, and loved the shear silliness of it. The ones who caught a glimpse of the monkeys on the endpaper as I closed the book, disappointed we never got to count any monkeys, were SO excited to tell me they were there.

As expected, many knew the two rhymes, and they all enjoyed them, giggling as each monkey finger puppet was tossed into the floor, bumping his/her head, and snapping the crocodile's jaws to catch the monkey in the tree. While I hear many teachers, librarians, and other early literacy providers say they get sick of all the "five little...." and "ten little...." fingerplays and songs, I don't mind them. The kids really seem to enjoy them, and while they may already know how to count from 1 to 10, I really like using them to work their fine motor skills (especially if you also count down, and have them use the non-dominant hand the second time).

Not to make it all about me, but I really needed this storytime today. I woke up in a particularly gloomy mood thanks to not sleeping well, stress at home (hence the not sleeping well), and the miserable rainy weather thanks to hurricane Harvey. I had the hardest time getting up and moving, but I knew if I pushed through that storytime would lift my spirits, and it did. The kids listened well and had so much fun, and are just so darn cute; it's impossible to stay gloomy in storytime 😀.

And I know I'm showing my age, but since I caught myself typing "monkees" instead of "monkeys" almost every time, I have to include this blast from the past:

Davy Jones was such a cutie; hard to believe he's gone.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Start of a New School Year - Easing Anxiety, Encouraging Engagement

Currently, all my storytimes are outreach storytimes done at preschools and daycares, either with the Storytime Bus as part of our Storytime-To-Go program, or what I refer to my "regular" storytime where I go in the classroom that is not part of the STG program. Just as summertime brings new challenges with the changes in routine, less structure, staff changes, distractions, etc., the beginning of the new school year has its own challenges.

This is when kids move to different classes, start daycare/preschool for the first time, or return to daycare/preschool after being home all summer. So we are often dealing with separation anxiety, some tears, and all the little bumps and hiccups with scheduling that are bound to happen. Also, we are starting with a new crop of 3 year olds that don't know the routine and may have not ever had storytime before.

So, I usually keep things short and sweet, and while I generally like to use storytime to introduce new books and authors, for the first storytime of the school year I generally use books I expect them to be very familiar with, for a couple of reasons. For one, having something familiar provides a little bit of comfort, and hopefully helps ease their apprehension (particularly when getting on the Storytime Bus for the first time), and already knowing the words and story encourages participation and keeps them engaged. I also do songs they will already know, or activities I know will be particularly fun and engaging.

So, for the last two weeks I picked a simple, straightforward theme of "Colors", knowing that most of them already know at least some colors, and they typically love identifying them and talking about their favorites.

The Books
Color themed storytime, books about colors
(Click on image to view larger version)

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean. By now, most kids are familiar with Pete the Cat, and I know from when we had the song on our listening station in the library that kids LOVE singing his song. This book packs a lot into a short, simple story: colorful illustrations, making predictions, identifying colors, singing the song and saying repeated lines, and teaches as lesson about not letting every little thing upset you.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle. This is an old favorite for generations that many kids know by heart and love reciting with you. I've seen many nervous little faces light up when I pull this out and they see something familiar. It has great rhyme and rhythm, and of course Carle's wonderful illustrations, and the kids can see themselves in the diverse children's faces at the end.

Snappy Little Colors by Dugald Steer is a bright, and color ful pop-up book with different animals, my favorite being the shark. You can never go wrong with a pop-up book!

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, and Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austen (and I just realized I have the British book cover in my collage, whoops!) are both fun books that introduce the idea of primary and secondary colors (though not using those terms). Each book shows how to make new colors by combining the primary colors. I usually save these for the older kids because the brand new 3's generally don't quite grasp the concept yet, and Mouse Paint in particular is a bit longish. All the kids giggle at the end of Monsters Love Colors, when the last little monster wants to be "super mega tropical rainbow with raspberry swirl on top!".

I did occasionally use a couple of other books, but these were by far the ones I used the most, particularly Pete and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which I used for my brand new class of 3-year olds at my "regular" storytime.

Songs & Activities

Little Mouse Flannel, Mouse House, Colors Storytime
Little Mouse, Little Mouse

This flannel board activity is probably my absolute favorite because we have so much fun with it. I inherited this set, and have since added two more colored houses, as well as a cookie and an apple. I usually hide the mouse in the very last house, behind the apple, and build suspense as we look behind each house, saying "Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the  (color)  house?" I really ham it up, and by the end they know he has to be in the last house. But then I remove the house and reveal the apple, and play dumb when they say they see the mouse. They get so excited when the see his little ears and feet peaking out!

Colors Storytime, Colors flannel board activity, little mouse, mouse house

I also used the song "If You're Wearing  (Color)  Today", first telling them to stand up, then once they were all standing, I'd call different colors and ask them to sit down until everyone was seated again. I saved this for the older kids because the young ones seem to have too much trouble following the directions and understanding what's going on.

For my brand new class of 3-year olds, I stuck with a few songs I knew they would know, like the "ABC's" (kids always want to sing that), "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", and "Itsy Bitsy Spider", which encouraged participation and made them feel like they knew what was going on. I also introduced our welcome song, story song, and closing song.

How It Went

Overall, the first round of storytimes for the new school year went very well. There were a few hiccups with scheduling and and the youngest kids that don't know the routine yet are always a little harder to keep engaged, which is why I just plan on shorter sessions at first, so we end on a positive note. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no tears this year, though some new kids were a little nervous about getting on the Storytime Bus. It seems like they are always either afraid that we are going to take them somewhere, or disappointed that we don't. But I am happy to report that one of the kids that was very apprehensive his first time last year, is now one of my most enthusiastic fans!

It was a little sad for me, as it was the first round without the kids who had left to start kindergarten, and I would find myself missing their familiar little faces, particularly the ones who were always very ethusiastic participants. But, I have lots of new faces to get to know, and they will be seasoned veterans in no time.

And for your entertainment, a baby being thoroughly entertained by a very enthusiastic reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear: