Friday, April 27, 2018

Good-Bye, Storytime Bus

It was with mixed feelings that I said "Good-Bye" to the Storytime Bus, my mobile storytime room for the last 3 years, earlier this month.

The Storytime-To-Go program was started just over 5 years ago as the culmination of a dream by our now-retired Youth Services Manager, in conjunction with Outreach Services. An RV that had been previously used by a business as a mobile classroom was donated and renovated to be a mobile storytime room. It had cabinets to store scarves, bells, shaker eggs, and many other manipulatives, an easel with flannel/white board, and a rotating selection of themed storytime kits that contained a variety of books, songs, activities, and felt sets. This is what it looked like in the beginning:

It was dubbed the "Storytime Bus" and would go to various daycares and preschools in the area to bring the storytime experience to kids who might not otherwise get the experience of a library storytime. I joined the program about 2 years in, after it become apparent it would not be sustainable as a strictly volunteer-driven program. Kids would come on the bus in groups of 12 and have storytime. Some were hesitant at first, afraid we were going to take them somewhere, others were disappointed that we didn't, but they all quickly fell in love with the storytime bus, and our driver, Mr. Barry, who gave them stickers at the end.

Unfortunately, the first exterior design for the Storytime Bus made it look too similar to the city transit buses, which not only had the same color scheme, but also had the library logo on many of them as part of a huge re-branding campaign. So people were constantly mistaking us for a city bus and trying to flag us down or board if we were stopped. So we requested a new design that would (1) use a completely different color scheme, (2) be much more whimsical and child-like, and (3) not look anything like a city bus! And our graphics designer did a fabulous job (the other side has a castle, and is pictured further down):

storytime bus, storytime-to-go, mobile storytime room, storytime RV, bookmobile

No more being mistaken for a city bus, plus it got a lot of attention as we would drive around town. But, being 13 years old by this point, we started having more and more problems with things breaking down, in addition to the expense of the normal upkeep and secure storage facility where it was parked. And since there was now only one place in the city that would work on it, and parts were getting harder to find, that meant any time it went down, we would be without it for anywhere from one to three weeks! So, when our driver, "Mr. Barry" finally decided it was time to retire this spring, the decision was made to also retire the now 15-year old bus, which I think was the right decision. Here is the bus and her driver after our very last run:

But, though it's a bit sad to see the bus and her driver both retire, the program itself WILL continue! It will just mean I will be going into the classrooms to do storytime, rather than the kids coming to me on the bus. It won't be quite as cool or exciting to the kids, and it means I will be driving all around and lugging material in and out, but the upside is that the teachers will no longer have to worry about the group size (safety & space limitations), which was a hardship for some of them. Now I can go in and just do a whole class together, possibly even combining smaller classes, which will be more efficient and make room in the schedule to add more centers to the roster.

It has been a more difficult transition than I expected, with several places not understanding the program was continuing (even though it was emphasized time and time again, in person and in writing), and being surprised and unprepared when I showed up in their classrooms as scheduled, but hopeful it will all smooth out soon enough!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Preschool Storytime - Cats

This has been a rough month, with so many assignments do with school, significant changes at work (I'll probably post about this at some point, but not now), taxes due, and family stuff, so I've had no time to read and little time for writing, so the posts are a bit thin this month.

A couple of weeks ago I finished up a two-week storytime rotation with the theme of "Cats" on the Storytime Bus. We started each session with our story song and Letter-of-the-Day (Cc), then read 2-3 books and did 1-2 other songs/activities with each group. These storytimes are not planned out; but done "on the fly" as we constantly have to adjust to the time we have (groups are often late), children's ages, personalities, and mood on any given day.

The Books 

(click on image to see larger)

Mama Cat Has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming, short & simple, good for younger kids
Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett, what does Matilda's cat like to do??
Kitty's Cuddles by Jane Cabrera, short & simple, bold, simple illustrations, for younger
What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas, not my favorite of hers, but still OK
Come Out and Play, Little Mouse by Robert Kraus, José Aruego, & Ariane Dewey, days of the week
Cats by Matthew Van Fleet & Brian Stanton, all different kinds of cats
Widget by Lyn Rossiter Mcfarland & Jim McFarland, dog acts like cat to be accepted 
Mean Murgatroyd and the Ten Cats by Nathan Zimelman & Tony Auth, bully learns lesson
There Are No Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz, silly
Time To Sleep by Kandi Radzinski, little cat tries to find a good place to sleep

And I had already returned this book as it was from the circulating collection rather than our office storytime collection, but you could not possible do a "Cat" storytime without the currently VERY popular Pete the Cat! 
While I think the original books with Eric Litwin are superior, I did opt to use a later one with James Dean and his wife instead, because I like the dance at the end:
Pete the Cat and the Cool Cat Boogie by Kim and James Dean.

We did not have a good assortment of songs and other activities for this one, so we stuck to the same two for everyone.

If You're A Cat And You Know It...

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

If your a cat and you know it,
and you really want to show it.

If you're a cat and you know it,
say, "Meow!"

.... lick your paws (warn them to just pretend).......drink your milk....... sharpen your claws....
....(give a purr)......... swish your tail........give a hiss....

Soft Kitty

Soft kitty, warm kitty,
Little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty,
purr, purr, purr.

And here's my favorite version of it from The Big Bang Theory, as Penny forces Sheldon to sing it with her as a round:

How It Went
This kit was put together before I took over the position, and I hadn't used it before now because I felt it was too specific of a topic. But this year I decided to force myself to try the last few kits at least once before I decided what to do with them.

I gotta say, this was not my favorite, even though I love cats. I thought the books were okay, but rather ho-hum and not extremely engaging. I liked Widget the best, but it's really more about the dog than the cats, and some of the others were cute, but slightly dull. The kids seemed okay with them though. Of course Pete was the most popular, with Fat Cat being next. 

This kit definitely needs more development, with more engaging stories and activities.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Another Suspenseful Storytime!

Since we had so much fun with the last one, I decided to do another Suspenseful Storytime using a couple of books I had wanted to use, but were checked out before, and one that someone had suggested to me. As I've said before, these are my very favorite kind of storytime books to read; I really love building up the suspense, being very dramatic and spooky, then surprising them with an unexpected, and happier, ending.

We started with our welcome song and story song, then got right to the first book, Wolf's Coming by Joe Kulka, one of my favorites. I had wanted to read it last time, but discovered our copy had gone missing and couldn't get another copy soon enough. 

In this story we see all the animals running away and hiding after Wolf's howl announces his approach. Eventually, he reaches the house, and everyone must be still and quiet so he doesn't know they are there. Wolf opens the door, peers inside, and everyone jumps out and yells "Surprise!" It was Wolf's birthday! This book is so much fun, and the dark, eerie illustrations help set the mood, though there is a clue on each page that there is more to the story.

From there I led into a cute little fingerplay about little wolf cubs that I got from the Allentown Public Library and modified slightly:

"This Little Wolf"

This little wolf liked to howl. (howl)

This little wolf preferred to growl. (growl)

This little wolf was panting to play. (pant)

This little wolf chased bunnies all day. (make bunny ears)

This little wolf needed a scratch. (scratch)

How many little wolves is that? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!  (count)

After that it was onto an even scarier topic with Ed Vere's Bedtime for Monsters. Though I've used a couple of his books before, I had not seen this one until a reader suggested to me, and it is very fun and cute, and perfect for this theme. We see a land of monsters, and one monster in particular seems to be licking his lips and thinking of ....YOU! Oh, no! Is he thinking of eating you?

Here he comes. Is he thinking of how good you'll taste, perhaps with ketchup or on hot buttered toast? He's coming up the stairs, and it's worse than we thought. The monster doesn't want to eat you; he wants to give you a big, slobbery monster goodnight kiss! Ewwwwwww......

Of course we had to follow that with something that would allow the kids to act like the little monsters they are, so we sang "If You're A Monster and You Know It" based on Ed Emberley's book of the same name:

If you're a monster and you know it, snort & growl.
If you're a monster and you know it, snort & growl.
If you're a monster and you know it, then your growl will surely show it.
If you're a monster and you know it, snort & growl.

Smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, wiggle your warts, give a roar, do them all.

Then our last book is a relatively new on that I have been wanting to use, Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho. Bear finds a poor frozen chicken while out walking in the snow, and brings him in the house to warm up. 

Chicken awakens to see Bear preparing to cook something (and Bear's mouthful of sharp teeth)! Chicken soon fears he is on the menu and jumps down and tries to run away, only to be caught by the much faster Bear. But, as it turns out, Chicken had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Another very cute story with cute illustrations.

Then we ended with our closing song and stickers.

How It Went
It was Spring Break, so I had a smaller group than usual, and a few stragglers were still eating breakfast. One cute little boy didn't want to miss anything and told me "Miss Jennifer, you can't read any stories until I'm finished with my breakfast." At the end, the same little boy asked for more stories, and when I told him we had already read all three books I brought, he asked me if I would bring some more tomorrow. It's so nice to know that they really do enjoy and appreciate storytime.

The liked all the books, but I think Wolf's Coming was the one that had them on the edge of their seats. They loved the twist, and one boy insisted we sing "Happy Birthday" to Wolf, so we did. Monsters had more cutesy rather than dark illustrations, so it was more fun than dramatic, and by the third book they were kinda on to things, so had a feeling that Bear really wasn't planning to cook Chicken. The loved doing the "If You're A Monster And You Know It" song and acting like little monsters.