Sunday, January 28, 2018

My First Solo Presentation

Literacy Presentation, Encouraging Reluctant Readers, Promoting Reading
Over the last 15 months or so my boss and I have done early literacy presentations at various training events for childcare workers. It is a bit out of my comfort zone as an introvert (I am perfectly fine in front of a bunch of kids, but a room full of adults is a different story), but something I've challenged myself to do and each time I get a little more comfortable with it. 

However, yesterday I did my first solo presentation (though my boss was nice enough to come along for moral support), and this time the topic and audience were a little different. Our department had been asked if we had anyone who could present a session at a training event for workers from the public school system's after-school programs. They really didn't have anything specific in mind, so I told them I felt qualified to talk along the lines of encouraging reading, motivating reluctant readers, recommended materials, and some activities they could do that support literacy.

I spent some time just mulling over what I wanted to do, getting ideas and information together, and organizing my thoughts before creating my PowerPoint slides. I was actually looking forward to it because I was going to talk about something that I'm pretty passionate about, which is how important it is to let kids read books that they choose for themselves as much as possible, which includes materials parents and teachers often overlook if not outright discourage and not being so hung up on reading levels, but focusing more on interest levels (for independent & leisure reading at least).

Let kids choose what they read, importance of choice to encouraging readingSo I had my slides prepared, had some books to show as examples, and planned an activity to demonstrate how important choice is. I presented an assortment of 8 books that were a mix of genres and included some popular titles & authors, and asked audience members to choose one that they might like to read. 

Then I would proceed to tell them why their choice wasn't acceptable (too short, too many pictures, too frivolous, not a real book, too easy, etc.) and give them something else, deliberately choosing books that were longer, very dense text, no illustrations, and less relatable (Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Odyssey, Gone With The Wind, a long George Washington bio, a civil rights book with very dense text and no pictures, and a very academic botanical book).

I then explained that these were all things I had heard adults say to kids about their reading
choices and asked them to stop and think about how that would make a kid feel, that not only were they given something to read that they weren't interested in, couldn't relate to, or was too challenging, but that they were told their choices weren't good enough (I also explained that ALL the books used in the demonstration were in fact good books, in the right situation for the right person, but not every book is right for everybody). I went on to talk about how graphic novels are "real" books, audiobooks and magazines both count as reading, make some suggestions for reluctant readers, and talk about several fun activities they can do that support literacy and "sneak" reading in.

It went fairly well, but it was a little strange in that during the first session I only had 1 person
Presentation on Reading Motivation, Reluctant Readers, Reader's choice
show up! But at least she was interested, and impressed with all the services the library offers that she didn't know about, and she took several extra handouts to share with co-workers. Then for the second session there were 20-25 people. I guess they didn't have as many attendees as expected to fill all the rooms, but I'm not sure why they didn't end up more evenly distributed instead of some rooms having just 1-5 and others being full. 

The other weird thing was on the evaluations I got very positive comments from everyone except one person who complained that it was "all about books" ๐Ÿ˜ฒ. Okay, the title of my presentation was "Making Reading Fun: Practical Tips for Promoting Literacy, Motivating Reluctant Readers, and Inspiring Lifelong Reading" and I'm from the library. What did they expect me to talk about?? ๐Ÿ˜†

So here is what I learned:

  • I've got to get better at getting the audience involved & incorporate more interaction
  • I still get slightly nervous and talk too fast
  • I should have focused a little more on activities and less on talking about specific book recommendations since I also gave them a bibliography
  • After it's over, all you can think about is everything you should have done differently
  • You can't please everyone
  • Presenting is exhausting, at least for us introverted types!

Thanks to everyone from the Storytime Underground Facebook group who gave me additional suggestions for literacy-related activities, titles that are more appealing to reluctant readers, and examples of skewed reading levels! I'll link to my slides and the limited bibliography I handed out on Google Drive, in case anyone is curious. 

Constructive feedback is welcome! Especially tips for getting the audience more involved and not lapsing into "lecture mode". I find I tend to rush more in the second session because I'm starting to get tired and bored, but I still got some very positive feedback from several attendees who said they found it very helpful, so I guess I didn't suck! ๐Ÿ˜

Friday, January 19, 2018

Miss Jennifer's Super-Fun Storytime!

I know, that title's quite a build-up, right? But I think it lived up to it. If you recall, I was terribly disappointed at having to cancel my storytime last week due to being sick and losing my voice, because I had pulled some great new(ish) books to use from Jbrary's best of 2016 & 2017 lists and couldn't wait to use them. Well, today I finally got to use a couple of them, despite not being back 100% as this cold seems to have decided to take up residence in my sinuses and refuses to go away completely.

As usual, we started with saying "hello" and singing our welcome song, followed by our
Movement storytime, bunny storytime
story song. For our first story, I chose Everybunny Dance! by Ellie Sandall, and told the kids this was a different kind of story, because it was a stand-up-and-move kind of story, not a sit-on-your-bottom-criss-cross-applesauce kind of book, and that they were going to be the bunnies. 

This is a great book when you want something with movement, and/or just highly engaging. Everybunny dances, claps, pretends to play musical instruments, sings, then runs and hides, and there is a twist at the end. It reminds me a lot of It's A Tiger! by LaRochelle & Tankard and is a great storytime book (for a full-on movement storytime, combine those two books with Eric Carle's From Head to Toe).

So at the end of the story, the bunnies are in a conga line, though it doesn't explain what dance they are actually doing. So I presumed it was the "Bunny Hop" and showed the kids how it went, and then we all danced it together. It case you aren't familiar with it, here's a video:

Since we had snow this week, I decided to follow that with "Dance Like Snowflakes":

Dance like snowflakes, dance like snowflakes,
In the air, in the air.
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Everywhere, everywhere.

Dance like snowflakes, dance like snowflakes,
All around, all around.
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Whirling, twirling snowflakes,
Fall to the ground, fall to the ground.

I had them wiggle their fingers in the air for the dancing snowflakes, then twirl their hands, and then end by sitting back on the floor, ready for the next story.

Interactive storytime books,
Our next story was a little calmer, but still highly interactive and is like a cross between It 's A Tiger! and Christie Matheson's Tap the Magic Tree. In Don't Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup the animals are going somewhere with a bunch of balloons, but a sleeping tiger is in the way. 

They decide to get past her by using the balloons to float over her, one by one. But, each time they need the audience's help by patting the tiger's nose, rubbing her belly, singing her a lullaby, or blowing on the balloon to keep it in the air. All goes well until the stork runs into a balloon with his big, pointy beak!

The artwork is very cute, and I like the added touch of shiny latex paint for the balloons, and the opportunities for added elements. For example, we sang "Rock-A-Bye Baby" for the lullaby, sang "Happy Birthday" at the end, helped Tiger blow out her candles, counted the candles to figure out how old she was, then took turns raising our hands to show if we were 3, 4 or 5 years old.

I had originally picked out a third book, Noisy Night by Mac Barnett & Brian Biggs, but my voice felt like it was about to start giving out, and I was getting a little out-of-breath due to lingering congestion, so I decided to save it for another time. [This book shows the tenants of a high-rise apartment building, starting at the bottom. Each hears a noise, and the audience guesses what made that noise before moving up to the next apartment. Interactive, and a rare portrayal of city life in a picture book.]

So we did our closing song, then passed out stickers, and said "good-bye" until next time.

How It Went

After all my anticipation, I was a little afraid the kids wouldn't respond to the books like I hoped, but they loved them! I was initially a little concerned because after I got there the teacher informed me another group was joining us, and the room is fairly cramped already. I was a little worried about doing that much movement with a group that size (25 kids) in such tight quarters, but I just made sure to remind them before we started that they needed to stay in their spot, and to be sure to be careful not to accidentally hit or bump into each other.

I told them they were the bunnies and would do whatever the bunnies did (staying in their spot), and then when the fox appeared I told them I would be the fox. They really enjoyed doing all the different things and were very good about staying in their spots and not getting too wild. They really liked doing the "Bunny Hop", and it was funny when I first asked them if they knew the "Bunny Hop" they all said "Yes!" and immediately started jumping up and down. I had to explain to them that I knew they knew how to hop like a bunny hop, but that THE "Bunny Hop" was a dance, like the one the bunnies in the book were doing. They caught on pretty quickly, though at the teachers' suggestion we opted not to do a true conga line with everyone holding onto the person in front, but rather just stood in a line. 

The really liked the Tiger book, too, and most of them did get into doing the actions. Surprisingly, no one predicted the stork was going to pop the balloon, until I led them in the direction. At the end, I asked how old the Tiger was, seeing if they would figure out to count the candles on the cake. One little girl finally said "Three!", but when I asked her what made her think 3, she said because she was 3. 

We had a lot of fun, and the kids were surprisingly good! I was expecting them to be wild since it had been over a month since I'd seen them, and I was really worried when they brought the second group in, but they did great! Good listening, great participation and following directions; worth the wait and a great way to start the new year!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Sick Day for Miss Jennifer

I did something today I really hate to do, which is cancel storytime ๐Ÿ˜ฉ. It seems one of my many little friends was all too happy to share their germs with me, and I started coming down with a cold yesterday; I know, occupational hazard. It wasn't too bad, just a scratchy throat, and I was really hoping it wouldn't get any worse so I could get through storytime, but it wasn't meant to be.

This morning when the alarm went off, it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed. I was pretty congested, but I thought I'd feel better once I had taken a shower and had some coffee. But, even after a hot shower and coffee I didn't feel that great, and when I tried to yell at my cat for something, I realized my voice was shot and there was just no way I could do a decent job no matter how much I wanted to power through. I learned my lesson about knowing when it's best to cancel a couple of months ago. So, I was forced to contact the daycare and tell them I'd have to reschedule for next week.

I was really disappointed, too, because I had picked out some really good books I had not used before, and I was really excited about using them for the first time. There's one in particular I just know the kids will love. Oh, well, it's not like they're going anywhere; I'll just have to be patient. The good news is, I'm pretty sure I do not have the flu, since I don't have a fever or feel like I'm dying; just the run-of-the mill scratchy throat, cough, and stuffy nose.

So, with a holiday weekend before me and a severe winter storm approaching, my plan is to just hunker down, rest, stay warm, and get some work done. Classes started this week for my MLIS program, and this time I worked up enough nerve to attempt two classes instead of just one (as I've done the last 4 terms): Reference and Public Libraries. I'm looking forward to the Public Libraries class, but a little worried about Reference as it's said to be a difficult, nit-picky class, so I need to really stay on top of things and hit the ground running!

Be sure to check back next week to see the books I was so excited about using, and if the kids like them as much as I think they will!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dare To Make Any Awards Predictions?

Youth Media Award predictions for 2018, YMA predictions

I've never tried to make any predictions before, but I'm going to give it a shot just for fun on a few of them this year. Given how I am usually completely surprised by and often unfamiliar with, most of the winners and finalists, I don't expect to get many right, if any ๐Ÿ˜‰. I'd love to hear your predictions in the comments!

YMA 2018 predictions
If there's ever a sure thing, one would think The Hate U Give could be it. It's all everyone's been talking about all year, was assigned reading in my multicultural lit class, was voted best YA Fiction book and best by a debut author on Goodreads, and has already been announced as a Morris finalist. 

It seems likely to win the Morris, but I wonder if its popularity with the masses could possibly be a turn-off to the committee and they might want to select one of the other finalists that has not already gotten a lot of attention, like the similarly themed Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Either could also be a Coretta Scott King or CSK-Steptoe finalist and I think THUG could be one of the Printz finalists as well. 

YMA 2018 predictions
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was already a National Book Award finalist this year, and could be a strong candidate for the Pura Belprรฉ Award, though that one seems to favor middle grade and picture books, and the Tomรกs Rivera Book Award. Since the main character develops severe depression, it could possibly be considered for the Schneider award as well.

This book reminded me a lot of 2015 Morris winner, Gabi: A Girl In Pieces, but darker and with the added mystery of what seemingly perfect sister Olga was up to before her death.

YMA 2018 Predictions
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe is one I expect to see on a lot of reading lists over the next year. Originally published in Spain by a Spanish author, I don't know if it's eligible for any awards here, but it is certainly worthy, in my opinion. 

I would love to see it as at least a finalist for the Batchelder Award, though I don't think it fits their criteria for "children's literature". The main character is 14, but I would say the intended audience is older. But then again, we did see a YA graphic novel as a Caldecott honor book not long ago, so who knows how strictly they define "children's". This is a great story, made even better when you realize it is based on real people and events.

YMA 2018 predictions
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon has been mentioned fairly frequently, on various lists and in online discussions. It is a good book that is a very enjoyable read, but being primarily a fairly typical teen romance I wouldn't normally expect it to receive a nod from any awards committees.

However, it wins points for diversity and having a strong female character going into a traditionally male-dominated field and has built up a little buzz, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it as a Printz finalist even though it is not as dark and weird is they tend to be. After all, The Sun Is Also A Star was a finalist last year, even though it is also a hopeful romance.

And now for the Newbery. Below are some of the books I think could be Newbery finalists:

Newbery finalist predictions, 2018 Youth Media Awards

You might notice that Wishtree by Katherine Applegate was not on my list of favorites from 2017. It was okay, but I think the story drags way too much in the beginning, and the writing seems really awkward in the beginning as well, though it smooths out later on. I just don't think this book would find wide appeal among kids, and that many would find the slow, awkward beginning too much of an obstacle to get through. However, this is exactly the kind of children's book that adults want kids to like and think they should read, so I do expect it to get a nod at the very least.

Refugee by Alan Grantz is one I have not actually had a chance to read yet because I was late getting my name on the waiting list, but I have heard so many people gushing about how powerful it was, and given the timeliness of the topic, I would would not be surpised to see it as a finalist. 

Amina's Voice by Hena Kahn appeared on several recommended reading lists, and is really good book that shows the plurality of the Islamic religion, portrays Muslims in a positive and authentic way, but is also very relatable to others, though I'm afraid being published so early in the year could cause it to be overlooked. I read this for the multicultural youth literature class I took last May and really liked it and recommend it.

Beyond the Bright Sea by previous Newbery honoree Lauren Wolk is a beautifully written story that questions our ideas of love and family, with a bit of mystery and adventure thrown in that is just as good as her previous book, without the depressing ending. I just don't know if the committee would honor the same author two years in a row. 

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson is another great graphic novel for middle grades and tweens, and I think even better than her previous Newbery honor book Roller Girl, but I don't know if the committee would select the same author and format quite so soon. It could also be considered for a Caldecott, but I think that's a long shot. 

The War I Finally Won by by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is one I considered, but I had doubts about the committee choosing a sequel. 

I'm sure whatever the committee actually comes up with will be quite different than my picks, and there will be at least a couple of the actual finalists that I will be unfamiliar with and completely surprised by, but I hope I got at least 1 or 2 in there!

YMA 2018 predictionsClayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia is my other pick for the Coretta Scott King. I'm sure there are several other great books in this category, but this is the only one that I read that immediately comes to mind. I am a big fan of Rita Williams-Garcia's Gaither sisters trilogy, and this is just as about as good, though a little short for me personally and I wanted to slap his mother for being so childish and selfish! But this will be particularly great for reluctant readers.

I have seen several others mention Jason Reynolds' Patina for both the CSK and the Newbery; I thought the first book in the series, Ghost, was better, yet it was not a finalist for either award last year, but Jason Reynolds is very hot right now. I also want to give a quick plug for an upcoming book by a debut author that I hope gets enough attention to be considered for the CSK next year,
Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles.

I don't think I'm even going to attempt to make any Caldecott predictions, because I know I won't be even close. It seems the committee and I are just never on the same wavelength. I firmly believe appeal to children should be part of the consideration for all awards, and in my opinion, most Caldecott winners and honorees appeal to adults far more than children. 

I have been very underwhelmed by most of the recent Caldecott winners and honorees, and I'm still bitter that Ida, Always was given the cold shoulder by the committee last year. I think the only book that I liked this year that has a remote chance is Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown. I really think we need an award for picture books that considers the whole book, the illustration and the text, in the context of appeal to children.

I haven't read enough to really to have picks for the other awards and categories. So, what do you think? Am I in the ballpark on any of these?

What are some of your picks? I'd love to discuss!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Time To Reflect & Set New Goals

Well, it's that time again. After all the stress & hubbub of the holidays, it's time for a little relaxation and introspection as we reflect on the previous year, and think about the year to come. 

After looking back at the resolutions I made last year, I didn't do so well with the personal goal of a healthier lifestyle and losing weight. Right after I made that resolution, a continuing family crisis developed that has made this a very stressful year, sending my resolve to eat right and exercise more right out the window! 

But I did much better on a professional level, and I'm pretty happy with all I managed to accomplish; this was a big year in terms of professional development. Here are the major accomplishments & developments of 2017:

  1. I completed 3 more classes towards my MLIS (management, multicultural kid lit, & cataloging), with a 4.0 GPA. I still have a ways to go, but I'm about 1/3 there!

  2. I've also worked on professional development by participating in several webinars and I got to go to my first conference, albeit a small local one. But it's a start!

  3. I had the opportunity to greatly expand my programming repertoire by doing several school-aged STEAM programs this summer, as well as presenting early-literacy training for childcare workers at two different conferences, in addition to all the storytimes I already do.

  4. My collection development goal changed a bit. Rather than developing new kits, I decided that first all the existing kits needed a major evaluation. So during our winter break from doing storytime, I completed a major inventory and weeding project, going through every single one of the existing 41 themed kits to inventory and evaluate the contents, eliminate duplication, and note what was needed.

    This was a big project not only in terms of time, but psychologically as well. Up to this point, I had only added things, not removed anything, out of respect to the person who started the program and developed them. But, after almost 3 years and having used most of them at least twice, I am confident in my judgment of what works and what doesn't, and the need for some updating. So, in order to add new materials, I had to first make some room!

  5. I am still working on Reader's Advisory, but while I'm in school I just don't have much time for reading and putting together bibliographies. I do read and review as much as I can, as well as putting various lists together and looking at lists put together by others. 

Now it's time to look ahead! What are my goals/resolutions for 2018? Basically more of the same:
  1. Continue working towards my MLIS, hopefully completing at least 4 classes.

  2. Continue professional development through webinars, workshops, and conferences. I am hoping for my first big conference, the national ALSC summit, in the Fall since it will be relatively close by. I'd also like to present at a small one, if I can come up with a good idea.

  3. Continue to expand my repertoire by doing school-aged programs in the summer and presenting sessions on various aspects of literacy for different age groups and audiences. Experience with other types of storytime would be nice, too.

  4. Continue to work on collection development by adding new materials to existing kits, and developing (or at least starting development of) 1 or 2 new ones.

  5. Keep working on RA by reading as many books as possible, and paying more attention to reviews and lists published by others.

I think these are all pretty attainable, though time is always the limiting factor! School really eats up the time I used to devote to reading books and reviews, as well as writing my own reviews and bibliographies, plus I don't have as much time for planning at work as I used to!

I'd love to hear how your year went, and/or what your goals for the next one are! Or just feel free to commiserate about the lack of time to do what you'd like ๐Ÿ˜‰.