Sunday, October 21, 2018

Family Storytime - Pumpkins!

While I did holiday storytimes in my previous outreach position, the branch I am at now doesn't do holiday themes for regular weekly storytimes, but only as separate programs. At first I was going to do "Monsters" or a generally "Spooky" storytime without any mention of Halloween, but I've done those before and wanted to do something new. I thought a general "Pumpkin" theme would be more appropriate for my crowd that typically skews younger.

pumpkin storytimeWe started with our welcome song and introductions, then I introduced the topic with a really nice non-fiction book, Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie by Jill Esbaum. (I didn't read it word-for-word, but paraphrased and skipped around a little as it is a bit long.)

This National Geographic book tells it all, showing all stages of growth including seed, sprout, vine, flowering, pollination, immature green pumpkin and mature pumpkin. It explains that pumpkins are a type of squash and shows lots of different varieties and colors of both, and various uses. The photographs are clear, bold, and colorful.

Pumpkin storytime
We followed that with our story song and then read a great book for the younger kids in the crowd, Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills. Duck and Goose want to find a nice pumpkin like their friend Thistle has, but are a bit misguided in their search, looking in a hollow log, in an apple tree, and in the pond. Finally Thistle clues them in about the pumpkin patch. 

Short, simple text and easily understood humor, plus a lovely fall color palette in the illustrations. This was the only one I could find that didn't show jack-o'lanterns or mention Halloween.

We followed that with everyone's favorite pumpkin fingerplay, then repeated it using the non-dominant hand:

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins, sitting on a gate.
(hold up 5 fingers)
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late!"
(hold up 1 finger, point to wrist)
The second one said, "There are bats in the air."
(hold up 2 fingers, flap arms)
The third one said, "But we don't care!"
(hold up 3 fingers, shake head)
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
(hold up 4 fingers, run in place)
The fifth one said, "I'm ready to have some fun!"
(hold up 5 fingers)

Then WHOOOOSH went the wind, 
(make wind sounds)
And OUT went the light.
(clap hands together loudly)
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!
(hold up 5 fingers, roll arms)

Pumpkin StorytimeOur second story, The Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin by Mary Serfoza and Valeria Patrone, was a bit of a tongue-twister and also showed someone selecting a pumpkin. Peter Tiger is looking for just the right pumpkin. Not too short, not too tall, not lopsided or bumpy. What is Peter going to do with his perfect pumpkin?

Short, simple text and bold illustrations make this perfect for the younger kids. The audience can guess what he's going to do with his pumpkin, and comment on the various possibilities presented.

We followed that with a song that also talks about various sizes and shapes of pumpkins:

Have You Ever Seen a Pumpkin?
(to the tune of "Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?")

Have you ever seen a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin?
(show pumpkin)

Have you ever seen a pumpkin that grows on a vine?
(show pumpkin, twirl finger like vine)

Short ones and tall ones and big ones and small ones.
(hold hand down low, up higher, hold arms in big circle, hands in small circle)

Have you ever seen a pumpkin that grows on a vine?
(show pumpkin, twirl finger like vine)

Five Little Pumpkins, pumpkin storytime

I added a second verse using the printable pumpkin faces above that I got from Sunflower Storytime, and cut out, laminated, and glued on craft sticks. First we went through the faces and identified what emotion they showed, and upon singing the second verse, we substituted feelings for sizes in the 3rd line, with me holding up the corresponding face.

Pumpkin storytime
Our third and final story was Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli, which is the story of a little pumpkin seed who really wants to scare everyone, but he's so little and cute, no one is afraid. The wind tells him to be patient and wait, and someday he will be able to scare. 

Kids can relate to being too small/young to do what they want, and being impatient to grow up. They will have fun saying "Boo!" along with the story, and Tim Zeltner's folkart illustrations are absolutely wonderful. Who knew a pumpkin seed could be so adorable?

We finished things up with a closing song, and I put out materials and instructions for making a 3D pumpkin out of paper strips for those who wanted to do a craft.

Pumpkin craft, pumpkin storytime

This required very little prep, just cutting strips of orange paper and squares of brown and green paper with the paper cutter. You could punch holes in the middle and ends of each strip and use brad fasteners, but we didn't have any so I used used glue sticks. For this one, the strips were each 12"x1" and the final pumpkin was about the size of a softball. For a larger one, use longer strips and more strips. The stems and leaves were cut free-hand, and after it was completely dry, most of the base can be cut away, leaving a small circle at the bottom for a little weight and stability.

*If you have the fasteners instead of glue, this makes an excellent no-mess drop-in DIY craft for passive programming or as part of a larger fall/Halloween program.

How It Went

I haven't quite hit my stride with this storytime. This is only my second time, and doing it only once a month without a consistent audience makes it more difficult. I never know how many or what ages to expect, and I don't feel quite as connected with the audience as I did with some of my outreach storytimes where I really got to know the kids. I still feel just a little awkward as it's so different from my previous outreach storytimes in a classroom with 4 year-olds, but it's just a matter of time. I remember initially feeling disconnected when I first started my previous job, too.

I started out with a fairly good number, but lost a few early on, while presenting the non-fiction book in the introduction. While this always worked well in the past, I can see it won't work here and I'll need to do more songs and simple books, and go much easier on the non-fiction. As good as the book was, it just didn't engage the younger ones. I also think I'm running into some cultural differences in expectations with my diverse audience. 

But the ones who stuck it out seemed to really enjoy it, and most of the parents did participate, though I had to encourage the audience to move a little closer and sit in front of me. I think the Duck & Goose book was probably their favorite; they loved laughing at all the silly places they looked for a pumpkin, especially the apple tree! They all knew you got apples from an apple tree and went to the pumpkin patch for pumpkins. We also talked about all the foods you can make with pumpkin, like pie, bread, muffins, and soup; though when I mentioned pumpkin ravioli I heard someone say "yuck".😆

The ones who chose to do the craft really seemed to like it; I just left the supplies out and let whoever wanted to make one do so until everything was used up.

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