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??