Sunday, December 6, 2020

Early Literacy To Go - December

As I explained in my last post, since the digital divide is very evident in the community where I now work and many lack computers and/or internet access at home, I decided to first focus my early literacy programming on a monthly grab & go kit with suggested activities categorized under the ECRR2 five early literacy practices.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Early Literacy To Go! - November

While this is of course a very difficult and challenging time for everyone, as children's librarians we face the formidable task of finding a way to provide early literacy programming - a concept which is rooted in personal interaction, forming relationships with kids and adults, modeling behaviors, providing a place for kids and caregivers to socialize - without physically being in the same space together. It's very counter-intuitive, but unfortunately necessary to protect our own health, as well as that of our patrons and the community. And in addition to being a professional and logistical challenge, it is an emotional and personal one as well, since most of us thrive on the interactions with our patrons and without that we've lost much of the joy we normally find in our job.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

New Picture Book Mini-Reviews


Great picture books

Now that I am done with library school, finished with job hunting, and have a general idea of what I what direction I want to go in with programming for now, I am working on trying to catch up on the new books that have come out this year that I've missed. Yesterday I looked through all the newer picture books my branch had gotten in the last 6 months that were on the shelf (though some may have been published earlier), and there were a few that really stood out:

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Change Is Not Easy - New Job, New Place, New Reality


The tree in Marty Kelley's Fall Is Not Easy was right; change is HARD! 

Like that tree, I've had to make a lot of big changes this fall, and it has not been easy. It has been, in a word, overwhelming! I've been at my new job for two weeks, and it has been a huge adjustment on many levels.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

A New Beginning! Plus Job-Hunting Tips for New MLS Grads

I am very happy to say that beginning October 19th I will be employed once again, and as a full-time professional librarian! So hopefully I will have more meaningful content for the blog, and more time and energy to put into it, once I get settled.

It wasn't easy, and required a lot of compromise, sacrifice, and unconventional life choices, but it is a HUGE relief.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Adventures In Storytime Has Gone Virtual!

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit I was suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed and faced with the dilemma of how to stay connected to the field, not get stale, come up with new content for the blog, and show potential employers I can adapt to virtual programming. While in library school I found I liked putting together presentations, so I recycled slides from previous in-person training sessions I'd done on literacy topics and recorded voice-over to them to turn them into webinars, but there hasn't been any interest (I think everyone's webinar-ed out by now) so I haven't pursued making any others yet, though I do plan to do some shorter tutorials..

Now that it is apparent to almost everyone that it will be quite some time before we are back to in-person programming, and virtual programming and other alternatives are here to stay, I needed to figure out a way to get experience and demonstrate that I could do virtual programs. But, there was one catch. While publishers have extended permissions to teachers and librarians, since I am not currently attached to a school or library, they don't really apply to me. One might argue "fair use", but I'd rather play it safe. So after thinking it over for a while I decided instead of doing storytimes, I would do short videos with a few songs, rhymes, and/or fingerplays around a given theme, and then give some book suggestions at the end.

I've set up a YouTube channel, and I will also be posting them on the Facebook page. I'm trying to make them serve a dual purpose, to be suitable for kids to watch and sing and play along with, as well as to be a resource for parents, educators, and other youth librarians. I'm also going to do occasional crafts, STEM, and booktalk/trailer videos as well. I'm trying to keep them around 10-15 minutes or less, but a couple have creeped up closer to 20. So far I've only uploaded a few videos, plus a video I made last year from my library butterfly project, but my goal is to add one every week for a while. I don't know if anybody will watch them, but at least it will be good practice for me.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, I'd greatly appreciate it! I'm still not 100% comfortable in front of the camera, but getting better. It's just so much harder without a live audience in front of you, plus the only place in my house with decent lighting is very cramped.

I've added a menu with links under the "Videos" tab above, but you can also subscribe to the YouTube channel and follow the Facebook page.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Shark Week! - Flannel Friday

Five Little Fishies Teasing Mr. Shark, shark fingerplays

So today's Flannel Friday post isn't exactly a flannel board set, but it is based on the one below I made previously, and did make use of felt.

I previously made this flannel board set to do a couple of different "Five Little Fishies" rhymes, including one where they were teasing Mr. Shark. But then last summer a co-worker showed me how she did it using our shark puppet and finger-puppet fish, and I thought that was a much more fun way of doing it! So this year I bought myself a shark puppet and make some little fish finger-puppets from felt.

I couldn't find a Folkmanis puppet like the library has that I could get as soon as I wanted, and ended up buying a different one that I don't like it quite as much because I think the color and shape are more suggestive of a dolphin, but it does clearly have shark teeth and works well.

To make the little fishy finger-puppets I just found a piece of clip-art to use as a pattern and sized it to what I thought was the appropriate size. Then I cut out two pieces from each of five different colors, added a little detail with colored sharpies and googly-eyes, then glued them together, leaving a finger-sized opening at the bottom. Mine turned out to be just a little on the small side, so I would advise making them just a bit bigger so that the pocket for your finger is a little deeper. Mine work, but I have to be careful or they will fall off my fingers easily.

Here is the rhyme I use them with:

Five Little Fishies & Mr. Shark

Five little fishies, swimming in the sea.
Teasing Mr. Shark, "You can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Shark, as quiet as can be,
And SNAPPED that fishy right out of the sea!
(grab one fish with shark puppet)

Four little fishies..... (continue counting down to zero)

No little fishies, swimming in the sea.
Just Mr. Shark, as full as can be!

And if you'd like to see it in action, it's the second activity in my Shark Week-themed video below:

For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.

Friday, July 31, 2020

In The Dog House - Flannel Friday

Little dog flannel game, In the dog house flannel game

Most of us know what a big hit the "Little Mouse" flannel game is, and if you're not familiar with it, you should be! I really like to ham it up and the kids absolutely love it and never get tired of it. But, we don't want to overuse it, and if you do themed storytimes it really only fits with themes like colors, hide-and-seek, or stories with mice. Over the last few years I have seen people come up with a lot of great variations on this game, and this is mine.

I wanted an activity to pair with Jan Thomas' book The Doghouse, and this immediately came to mind. This was a relatively quick and easy flannel, since I didn't do a lot of layered pieces, and just added a few quick details with colored sharpies. You can make houses in whatever colors you want, and use however many will fit on your flannel board. I chose to make all the primary and secondary colors, as well as pink and brown. I would not recommend white, as it is often see-thru.

Little dog little dog, in the doghouse

So I hide the dog behind one of the houses, and one by one we look, saying the following rhyme before we check each house:

Little dog, little dog; come out and play!
What color house are you in today?

Are you in the _(color)_ house?

There are a couple of different ways to play it. Sometimes I might just hide the dog randomly behind one of the houses, and let the kids take turns picking which color to check. Other times, I hide him in the very last house, but with another object in front of him. I also make a few other things to hide behind the remaining houses.

We check the houses in order, and I will really ham it up, taking a peak first, building suspense. So we find some of the dogs belongings, and a couple of friends, but not the dog. So when we get to the last house, the kids are sure he has to be there. But I carefully peel the house off, leaving the dog hidden behind the cat, with just his ears, paws, and/or tail peeking out. I will pretend like I don't see him, and have no idea where he could be. Eventually someone will spot him and tell me he's there, but I play dumb and continue to ham it up a bit before finally revealing our little pup.

Do you have a favorite variation on the "Little Mouse" game? I'd love to hear about it, and I'm sure others would as well, so tell us about in the comments and share a link!

For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Some Insights for Interviewees & Interviewers

Tips for library interviews and hiring managers

So, I have officially started job-hunting after getting my MLIS and losing my paraprofessional job in a mass pandemic-related layoff, which includes experiencing virtual interviews for the first time. In thinking about all the interview experiences I've had past and present, and looking over various questions I've actually gotten or found online, I have a few tips for interviewees, but I have even more insights for interviewers to make the process both less painful for the candidate and more productive and informative for them.

For interviewees, prepare and practice! It is so hard to remember all the things you planned to say when the nerves kick in during the real thing, so practice going over your answers with a friend, in your head, in the mirror, and/or writing them out. You can find tons of great lists of questions online if you look. I spent as much time as I could, but it still wasn't enough. Though I gave decent answers, afterward I realized all the additional things I meant to say and didn't. Also, be sure to spend some time researching the community and the library, and make sure to demonstrate that in the interview.

For me, virtual interviews add whole other layer of anxiety to an already stressful event, with the added technology issues. My first virtual interview was a real struggle, as I could not hear one of the interviewers at all, and had some trouble hearing and clearly understanding the other two. I had to keep asking them to repeat, and had to concentrate so hard to make out the questions that it was mentally exhausting, and really affected my whole performance. I did the best I could, but it did mess with my head and threw me off a little. Here are a few tips:
  • Be familiar with Skype, MS Teams, Zoom, and other popular videoconferencing tools, because you never know what they're going to use or if they will switch platforms on you at the last minute. True Story. (If given a choice, I prefer Teams.)
  • Be prepared for technical difficulties, problems hearing and understanding the interviewers, and be ready to pretend like it isn't stressing you the heck out. Consider investing in a discreet wireless headset to aid with audio.
  • Put a poster or dry erase board up behind the camera where you can see it with key words and points you want to be sure to include in your answers.
  • Put books you can talk about where you can see them to prompt your memory.
  • Have some ephemera from your work: things from programs, flyers, bibliographies, and such handy in case you want to show them.
  • Have water handy to sip.
  • Take time to check lighting and background, and maybe do a little staging.
  • Wear something you feel comfortable and confident in.

I have quite a few tips for interviewers, based on both my experiences and hearing about others' experiences. This is not based on any single interview and is not meant as criticism, but just my insights on how to have a more productive interview from the interviewee's point of view:

  • Please don't use Skype for virtual interviews. MS Teams, Zoom, or Facetime are easier and seem more reliable.
  • If there are multiple people on the panel for a virtual interview, and you are all in the same room with one device, trying to social distance and wearing masks, the poor candidate is going to have a very hard time hearing and understanding you, and be mentally exhausted by the effort. You don't need to be physically together; be in your own spaces and each on your own device, where masks won't be needed and you won't be far from the mic.
  • Provide the candidate with the questions in writing before the interview starts to make sure they understand the question correctly, and minimize the time wasted in having to repeat things.
  • If you are doing virtual interviews for external candidates, you should do them even for internal candidates so that it is an even playing field. They are vastly different experiences.
  • Ask all candidates the same set of core questions to be fair and easier to compare, but also ask each a couple based on their resume and unique skills, experiences, or accomplishments so you are getting a complete picture.
  • For a children's position, please let us do the prepared mini-storytime at the beginning! That is our comfort zone, and will help us warm up and relax before the questions start. And please, help us out and try to play along and respond to prompts as a real audience would.
  • Most interviews consist of about 10 questions, which is really not very many to truly assess a candidate. So make sure every questions counts, and is really getting at what's most important. Ask follow up and clarifying questions.
  • Don't ask why we want the position or want to work there. Come on, we all know how desperate the job market is, and the truth is we need a job, and you have an opening! Don't waste a question fishing for compliments about your library. Yes, I know you want to know that we've done some research, and that we really have a passion for whatever type of work that position will be doing and not just applying for anything and everything, but you can get that from all the other questions, looking at transcripts and prior work experience.
  • Don't ask for our favorite book or author. That really has nothing to do with our ability to do the job. You might think it's a softball question, but for those of us who like and love many books and truly do not have a favorite, this question causes anxiety, and it's just a waste of time. Better to ask about genres, or just something we've read lately, but even then there are much better questions to ask.
  • Instead, what you REALLY need to know is whether we can be effective in providing reader's advisory. And that doesn't mean you give a scenario and expect us to pull the perfect recommendation out of the air. What is better and more relevant is to ask us HOW we would go about finding titles to recommend, not WHAT we would recommend. What tools would we use? Do we have a strategy, an effective process for when we don't just know off the tops of our heads. THAT's the important part!
  • Does the position involve programming? Then ask about the programming we've done, what has been successful, what we are proud of. Also, ask about the programs that didn't quite go as expected. How do we handle it when things don't quite work the way we expected. Also, ask about our programming philosophy - what is the purpose of programming? What are our goals for programs? Is it about the process or the product? Is it academic or experiential? How does programming tie into the collection and other library services? Does our philosophy mesh well with the goals of your library?
  • Definitely ask the usual conflict questions, see how we handle difficult situations. But, don't hold it against the candidate if they have been lucky enough no to have actually had really difficult customers or conflicts with coworkers. Some people are just lucky, or maybe have the skills to prevent it from ever getting to that point. Allow for a "what would you do if" scenario question, rather than insisting on a "tell me about a time" question with a real-life example.
  • Ask about creativity, but understand creativity can be constant and subtle, not always big and bold. Asking for examples of innovation or initiating change for an entry level position really isn't quite fair, as most likely the candidate has been working in lower level positions where they do not have the authority to be innovative or initiate any changes. Allow for hypotheticals.
  • If the position involves collection development, then definitely ask something related to that, such as how they would handle a patron complaining about the content of a children's book. Look for a response that mentions the importance of having and following a well-written collection development policy, in addition to listening and being tactful and showing patron how to file a request for reconsideration. Look for an indication of having had a collection development course (you'd be surprised at how many MLIS programs don't require it) and doing collection development projects. Be sure we understand weeding is a very necessary function to maintain a healthy collection.
  • If none of your questions even touch on diversity in any way, realize that suggests to the candidate that diversity is not a priority there, and that's a red flag. Mirrors, windows, own voices, and diverse POVs are so very important, as is reaching underserved populations, making sure everyone feels welcome, and increasing diversity in the field. There really should be at least one question that touches on one of those.
  • Also, look for candidates that have some formal education or training in child development, an understanding of child behavior, and a genuine desire to work with children and families. Ask a behavior management question to see if their expectations are developmentally appropriate, and that they would have an appropriate and tactful response. Child development knowledge is a necessary competency for children's librarians that not all candidates possess equally (And if you're interested, I know a great research paper coming out in April 2022 that shows this 😉.)
  • If you want someone with new ideas, ask how they stay current and keep up with new trends, what they do for professional development (and would like to do), where do they get ideas for programs. What are some programs they would like to do, but haven't had the chance to do. Do they have ideas for virtual or alternative programming to use while in-person programming is not possible.
  • And assuming you are reading this in 2020 or early 2021, as a former microbiologist I can tell you this pandemic isn't going away any time soon; we will be dealing with this for *at least* another year, possibly more. Definitely ask questions about what role we think libraries play during this time, how can we serve the public's information needs without putting staff and the community at further risk? What can we do besides virtual programming? What lasting impact do we think this pandemic will have on libraries and youth services?
  • Ask the candidate what qualities a children's librarian should have. The response should include genuinely liking and being able to relate to children and families, patience, flexibility, initiative, some level of creativity, a willingness to try new things, tolerance for chaos, and a sense of humor. Those things cannot be taught. Also important is a knowledge of child development, early literacy, and behavior. While it's good to have a knowledge of children's literature, that can be learned on the job.
  • I know the recent trend is to just use the resume to decide who gets interviewed, and base the final decision solely on the interview. Personally, I don't think you necessarily get the best candidate this way. You get the person who is best at interviewing. Use all the information you have to inform your decision. Some people who are great librarians just don't interview as well because of anxiety, and some people who perform really well in interviews turn out to be complete duds at actually doing the job.

If you ask these questions, you really should be able to get a good sense of the candidate's qualifications and genuine interest in the job, and if they've done their research on your library as they should, they will also have enough sense to demonstrate that in their answers.

And finally, good luck to everyone who is dealing with the job-hunting/hiring process in the middle of a pandemic, which has made an already difficult job market 10 times worse, and an already stressful process even more challenging!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

And 2020 Just Keeps Getting Worse....

This is a very difficult post to write, and I had hoped to be making a completely different kind of announcement at this point. I certainly never expected to be saying this, but after working seven years in the same library system, working my way up, investing lots of my own time and money into professional development, earning my MLIS, and trying to build a career, I am suddenly unemployed due to Covid-19 layoffs, and I am devastated.

The last four months have been extremely difficult due to the library closure, not being able to have a graduation ceremony, missing my coworkers and patrons, not being able to do the programs I'd planned, and no prospects for a full-time professional position. And while I was concerned about not being able to find a professional position right away now that I have my nice shiny new MLIS, I never thought I would lose my current paraprofessional position. I thought maybe furloughed for a while, but not to be completely let go, just like that. And it wasn't just me, but at least 100 other part-timers were let go as well, all in one fell, unexpected, swoop.

While I do understand the necessity of reducing staff due to still being closed,and all the restrictions that will be in place when we they finally reopen, the way they did it added insult to injury. All throughout this crisis, I've been singing my system's praises to everyone for how well they have handled it, and put staff and community safety first, being one of the first libraries in the state to close, continuing to pay staff, and staying closed longer; holding it up as an example to others. There never was any hint they were considering mass lay-offs. I greatly appreciate that they paid us for that long, but frankly, I would rather have been furloughed and still have a job to come back to eventually than paid for a while, then fired. Yeah, they call it a lay-off, but that's just semantics. Either way, I'm out of a job. 

The way we all learned we were being let go showed a complete lack of compassion and respect. There was no warning, and we never saw it coming. Rather than letting the supervisors or managers who actually work with us and know us tell us individually, it was sent out in a mass generic e-mail that at first appeared to be just a normal update, starting out talking about starting curbside service and opening one branch, then it was basically, "and oh, by the way, all you part-time people are now unemployed", and sent out at the end of the day of course, so no one can respond. That's just cold and cowardly. To further rub salt in the wound, we were also told none of us would be called back, but we would have to reapply down the road and start all over, competing for a position and starting at base pay.  

I am absolutely devastated and incredibly hurt. Hurt by the way it was handled and devastated by the loss of a job I loved and the career I thought I was building. Though I liked every position I've had in the system and worked with so many great people and learned so much in each one, my most recent position was the one I really and truly loved. I worked with great people, I got to do a wide variety of programs, I loved our patrons and the diverse community. I enjoyed being at work and looked forward to going to work every day. I am just in tears thinking about all of the patrons that I had built relationships with that I'm not going to see again, some of the coworkers I'll probably never see again, some that I'll probably lose touch with even though we say we won't, it's just not the same when you aren't working together anymore. I know the pandemic is ultimately to blame for the situation, but the director and board bear the blame for how it was handled.

So if you're a director or board member reading this, your take-away should be to never, ever forget your decisions have major impact on people's lives. Never forget your employees are human beings, and remember to treat them with compassion and grace, especially when difficult decisions have to be made. Even though it would be easier on you to just send out an e-mail; you need to share that emotional burden and do it in a more personal way. Take time to look at all those names of people whose worlds you are about to turn upside down. Think about who they are, what they've done for the library.  And if you can't picture them or answer that question, you need to do some serious soul-searching about what kind of director you want to be. If you don't know the employee, then let the manager or supervisor who does deliver the news, someone who sees a human being, not a disposable cog, and can be truly empathetic and compassionate.

To my former director and board, you've done some really great things with the library and for the community, and you handled the initial crisis extremely well. However, you really handled this very poorly. I hope the library can recover from the loss of so many great, knowledgeable and experienced people; I hope my career can survive this major setback. I can almost guarantee that when you see my name you have no idea who I am or the things I've done for the library and community. Even if you have a vague idea, I'm sure you don't really know me. Here are some things I want you to know about me before you show me the door:

I am one of the most dependable, dedicated part-time workers you had. I loved my job, and I am very passionate about public libraries and youth services. I just finished my MLIS, which is actually my second masters degree. My first was in microbiology, and my first career was in research. I did work for Dr. Tony Fauci in fact. I grew up on a farm after being a navy brat. I also worked for the navy as a civilian researcher. I was an award-winning professional cake decorator. I once coached a state-champion track team. I just had a paper about my MLIS research project accepted for publication in a scholarly journal. Losing my job is going to mean major upheaval for my family. I love animals and nature. I never outgrew my fascination with dinosaurs. I have presented close to 2000 storytimes in the last 5 years. I serve on the board of my local public library, and though we also had to make the difficult decision to lay-off part-time employees, we gave them 30 days notice and every one of them got a personal phone call (and they will be called back at their same pay, in order of seniority). I will be a great children's librarian for some other library. I am a living, breathing, human being with skills, hopes, dreams, responsibilities, and feelings.

To my former supervisors and managers, you guys were all awesome to work for, and I learned so much from each and every one of you, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with you all. My co-workers are all amazing people, and I will miss you all so much. The library is a great library because of all of you! And to my library kiddos and families, I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face, looking at all the little treasures you've given me over the years, thinking of how I will not get to see your smiling faces, receive your pretend cakes and cups of tea, see the look of wonder on your faces when we do cool experiments, hear you laugh when I read a silly story, or help you find just the right book again. And worst of all, I didn't even get to say good-bye.

My treasures, clockwise from the top left: 

  • A card from a boy whose family were regulars saying he missed me because they had come during shifts I wasn't working the last few times.
  • A good-bye card from one of my favorite daycares when I left my outreach position.
  • Scribbled notes from a little boy his mother translated to say "I love the library" and "I love the librarian", which inspired the next one:
  • "Love letters" to the library for library lovers month.
  • A multi-page Thanksgiving card from "8 little turkeys" at one of the daycares I visited.
  • A penny from a little girl at another daycare who insisted she wanted to give me a tip for doing storytime with them.
  • Finally, the most heartbreaking. A bracelet from a little boy at a daycare for Mother's Day. I asked him if he didn't need to give that to his mom, and he said "nah, I have another one". I found out a couple of months later than he had been in foster care and mom wasn't really in the picture (he was later adopted by his foster family). I will treasure that bracelet for ever!!

To all the other library people who have also been left unemployed, the other recent grads facing a near hopeless job market, I see you and I feel your pain.

To the year 2020, enough already! 

And to the corona virus, screw you! Just. Screw. You.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Research Publication

Finally, some good news for a change! I'm super excited to announce my research is going to be published!

You may (or may not) recall that I conducted a survey of child development knowledge among new children's librarians back in February of this year, distributed through this blog as well as the "Storytime Underground" and "Library Think Tank" Facebook groups, and some of you may have even participated in it. This survey was conducted as part of my MLIS Capstone project (basically, a mini-thesis project).

I made good use of the time off work because of the pandemic, expanding on the original research and doing some revisions and edits, and submitted the final manuscript for publication in May. This morning I was very pleased (and a little surprised) to get the notification that my manuscript had been accepted for publication, with no required revisions! I was prepared to have to do revisions, or even submit to 2 or 3 journals before getting accepted, so I am very proud, thrilled, and relieved to get it accepted by my first choice on the first try!

The purpose of this study was to assess the preparedness of new children’s librarians in the area of child development, by investigating the following research questions:
  1. How much knowledge of child development do new children’s librarians have? 
  2. How have new children’s librarians acquired knowledge of child development? 
  3. Do new children’s librarians feel their level of child development knowledge is adequate? 
  4. In what areas of children’s librarianship is having knowledge of child development helpful?

The title is "Child Development Knowledge Among New Children's Librarians in U.S. Public Libraries" and it will be published in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Vol. 62, Issue 2 (April, 2021). 

*UPDATE - Frustratingly, my article got bumped and ended up being published 9 months later than I was originally told it would be, so it actually appears in JELIS Volume 63, Issue 1 (January, 2022).*

It is my hope that this research will contribute to more continuing education opportunities and a redesign of LIS youth services curricula to better reflect the knowledge and skills needed by today's children's librarians with a more significant and intentional inclusion of child development coursework, thus better preparing children's librarians to meet the needs of their patrons.

Once again, thanks to all those who participated!

Related posts:  "And The Survey Says..."     "Child Development Knowledge Survey"

Friday, June 26, 2020

Kittens - Flannel Friday

Five Little Kittens Flannel Board

June is "Adopt a Shelter Cat", so in honor of that I decided to make a set of felt kittens. I have had quite a few cats in my lifetime, and they were all either strays that showed up at my door, adopted from a shelter, or adopted before they ended up at a shelter.

I used a combination of methods to make these kittens. While you could simply cut them out in one piece and use markers (or paint) to add details as I did for my recent dinosaur set, I decided to give them more dimension by cutting out multiple pieces and layering them, then going back and adding some outlines and shading with colored Sharpies. I made my own patterns based on clipart using a combination of tracing and freehand. 

The orange tabby is in honor of Tiger, the best cat I ever had. The tuxedo is an amalgam of Toby, the shelter cat I currently have, and Boots, the shelter cat my daughter just adopted. The gray tabby is the first cat my husband and I had together, and the white and Siamese are just random.

First I made up a rhyme that counts down:

Five Little Kittens

Five little kittens felt pieces

Five little kittens, running out the door.
One went back inside, and then there were four.

Four little kittens, trying to climb a tree.
One chased a squirrel, and then there were three.

Three little kittens, wondering what to do.
One followed a butterfly, and that left two.

Two little kittens, playing in the sun.
One went to find a snack, and that left one.

One little kitten, being alone is no fun.
So he went to find the others, and that left none.

Then I made up a counting up song, similar to the dinosaur one I shared a couple of weeks ago:

Five Little Kittens
(to the tune of "Five Little Ducks")

One little kitten went out to play, out in a sunny garden one day.
She had such enormous fun, she called for another kitten to come.

"Here kitty, kitty!"
[Pat thighs lightly to imitate pitter-patter of kittens running]


Five little kittens went out to play, out in a sunny garden one day.
They had such enormous fun, they played all day 'til the day was done.

And the mama cat called, "Time to come home, little kittens!"

And of course you can add some mittens in primary and secondary colors, pick your three favorite kittens, and use them with the traditional nursery rhyme, which I've modified a bit:

Three Little Kittens

Three little kittens have lost their mittens

Three little kittens have lost their mittens,
And they begin to cry,
"Oh, mother dear, we sadly fear 
Our mittens we have lost!"

"What, lost your mittens? 
You naughty kittens,
Then you shall have no pie!"
(Sadly) Meow, meow, meow.

[Bring out a mitten and have kids name the color and select which kitten. Repeat, with different colored mittens, identifying colors and rejecting mittens that don't match the ones the kittens already have. Once all three kittens have two matching mittens, then say the next verse of the rhyme.]

Three little kittens have lost their mittens flannel board

The three little kittens have found their mittens,
And they begin to cry,
"Oh, mother dear, see here, see here!
Our mittens we have found!"

"What, found your mittens?
You darling kittens,
Then you shall have some pie!"
Purrrr, purrr, purrr....

You could stop here, and discuss what kind of pie kittens would like or how the secondary colors are made by combining two primary colors, or you could continue with the other verses about soiling and washing their mittens.

And a bonus rhyme that is modified from one I found at

Five Little Kitty-Cats

Five little kitty-cats,
See them play,
This one brown,
And this one is gray.

This one has green eyes;
This one has sharp claws.
This one has long whiskers,
And soft white paws.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5  little kitty-cats,
Hurry away to chase the mice and rats.
Squeak! Squeak!

And just for fun, here's a picture of my fat tuxedo cat with his more svelte felt counterpart:

For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Howdy, Pardner! It's Cowboy Flannel Friday!

Cowboy flannel board, cowgirl felt set, cowboy rhyme

This is another re-make of a flannel board set I had first made in my previous outreach position. This one was made as part of a Western-themed storytime kit, which of course I had to leave behind when I changed jobs. I originally saw it and the accompanying rhyme on Library Village, and printed out Sue's picture to use as a pattern the first time I made it, but I decided to do it a little differently this time.

As cute as the first version was, the pieces turned out too small (something I tend to do for some reason), and I didn't want to make another set that looked so much like someone else's. So this time I found some free printable paper dolls online, and used them as a model to draw my own patterns with a combination of tracing and freehand. (You are welcome to use my patterns, though they are a little rough and you may need to do some tailoring to make everything fit right.) For the horse, I used clip-art as a pattern.

I cut the pieces out of stiffened felt (SO much easier to work with!) and outlined and added details with colored sharpies. I made two complete sets in order to have choices in skin tone, hair color & style, clothing, and accessories. I'm not very good with faces, and I think I made a mistake in trying to get too detailed with the eyes; they were just a bit too small for that. I may end up gluing on googly eyes over them.

I found that it is helpful to put all the pieces on the board around the cowboy first, and discuss each one, so the kids know what the choices are and the terminology you are using (for example, long underwear, not pajamas; bandana instead of scarf, and jeans rather than pants). This will make it easier for them to guess the right answer as younger kids don't quite understand rhyming or pick up on using a rhyming scheme for contextual clues yet.

[I've shown the rhyme with the original text, using "cowboy" and "he". You can of course substitute "cowgirl" and "she", alternate between the two, or introduce the gender neutral inclusive term "cowpoke".]

A Cowboy Dresses 

A cowboy dresses himself with care.
He starts with long, red _____ (UNDERWEAR).

Out in the desert, you don't want to get hurt, 
So the cowboy wears a strong plaid _____ (SHIRT).

Deserts and prairies are the cowboy's scenes;
To protect his legs, he wears sturdy blue _____ (JEANS).

The cowboy bent, and ran, and knelt.
To keep his pants up, he wore a leather _____ (BELT).

The coyote howls; the old owl hoots.
On his feet, the cowboy wears leather _____ (BOOTS).

The dust gets stirred up by the Santa Ana's (pause and explain);
So around his neck he wears a soft _____ (BANDANA).

A cowboy is a cowboy, and that is that!
On top of his head, he wears a ten-gallon _____ (HAT).

He's all dressed from head to feet,
And now our cowboy can't be beat!

After we do it once, I stop and take time to talk about rhyming words and discuss the rhyming words in the poem and show how that gives you a clue as to what the word should be. Then we do it a second time, which gives a great opportunity to show a cowgirl and a different skin tone, and discuss that anybody can be a cowboy, and talk about the different terms that can be used: cowboy, cowgirl, cowpoke, cow hand, ranch hand, cattle herder, vaquero (Spanish), gaucho (Spanish, Argentina). 

This is a great activity for a cowboy or western-themed storytime, or talking about getting dressed by yourself.

And as you probably know by now, I like to find multiple uses for my flannel sets, so here is another simple rhyme you could use this set with by adding a pair of chaps and a horse.

"I'm A Little Cowpoke"
(to the tune of "I'm A Little Teapot")
*Source:  Sunflower Storytime

I'm a little cowpoke.     (point to self)
                         Here is my hat.     (pretend to pull hat down)
Here are my boots,     (stomp feet)   
 And here are my chaps.     (slap sides of legs)
When I get up, I work all day.     (yawn & stretch)            
 Get on my horse,     (say "Neigh")
         And ride away!     (pretend to ride)

For more felt & flannel ideas and tips, check out the Flannel Friday Facebook group and Pinterest Boards! To share your flannel, submit via the Flannel Friday Tumblr. For complete information and all the details, visit the main Flannel Friday website.