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. This includes the words and motions to a few songs, fingerplays, and/or action rhymes, a list of suggested books, coloring/activity sheets, and materials for 2-3 crafts/activities, along with some early literacy tips sprinkled in and info about library services. Starting this month, I'm also highlighting a "letter of the month" and including a die-cut of that letter.
I loosely themed December's kit around winter and December holidays without focusing too much on any specific holiday. While a few of the suggested books were specifically Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa related, the rest of the titles and all of the songs and activities were about winter or more generic activities like baking cookies. The kit contained:
- Sheet with all the suggested activities on the front; songs/fingerplays/action rhymes and instructions for included craft/activities on the back, along with announcement that virtual storytimes will be starting in December on the branch Facebook page and YouTube channel.
- Book Suggestions:
- Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na (digital only)
- Bedtime for Bear by Brett Helquist
- The Gingerbread Man by Catherine McCafferty (bilingual, digital only)
- Cookiesaurus Rex & Cookiesaurus Christmas
by Amy Fellner Dominy & Nate Evans
- Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar by George Shannon
- My Family Celebrates Hanukkah by Lisa Bullard (print & digital)
- Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney (print & digital)
- Pete the Cat's 12 Groovy Days of Christmas by Kim Dean (print & digital)
- Bear Is Awake: An Alphabet Story by Hannah Harrison
- Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays (linked to previous posts with full lyrics):
- Included Craft - Stick Puppets
- 4 stick puppet blanks (more about these below)
- Assorted colors of scrap construction paper
- Assorted colors of yarn
- Included Activity - Gingerbread Man Lacing
- gingerbread man cut out of craft foam with holes punched around perimeter
- 2-24" lengths of white yarn "icing", with one end wrapped in tape (one is extra)
- Googly eyes
- red & white sequins
- Coloring sheets
- bear hibernating
- Hanukkah menorah, dreidel, and gelt
- Christmas tree
- Kwanzaa kinara
- 4-pack crayons
- Scissor skills practice sheets
- Die cut letter "W" for winter
- Die cut tree to decorate or do with as they please
I try to suggest books that are a mixture of classics and newer titles, and select books that we have in print or both print and digital, and only include titles available in just digital when really necessary, such as in the case of Il Sung Na's Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit which was the only title in our system at all that did a good job of showing hibernation, migration, and adaptation, and the bilingual gingerbread man story, since our population is 50% Hispanic/Latinx. I like to have some digital options for those who have access, but prioritize print since many do not. I am also including a counting book and an alphabet book each month.
I find crafts and activities to include to be a bit of a challenge. Of course there are lots of simple crafts, but I am trying to be more thoughtful and intentional about choosing crafts and activities that really relate to early literacy. While there are plenty that involve fine-motor skills and thus relate to writing, I'm finding it a little harder to find crafts that support other areas of development and literacy. That's why I am particularly pleased with this month's stick puppet "two-for-one" activity; it's both a craft that uses fine motor skills to make, then they become props for storytelling, which nurtures creativity, expressive language, and narrative skills.
I originally was hoping to find the appropriate dies to cut pieces out of heavy craft foam to let them build their puppet on plain craft sticks, but we didn't have them. When searching online for any kind of reasonably priced DIY stick puppet kits, I came across these craft sticks that are cut to people shapes, ready to be decorated any number of ways to create your own unique characters. They can be painted, colored with markers or crayons; clothing, hair, and accessories can be cut out of paper or craft foam and glued on; and googly eyes, yarn and other bits and pieces can be used as well; so it can be as simple or elaborate a craft activity as is appropriate for the child's abilities and preference. I bought a set of 100 for $15, containing 50 larger and 50 smaller sticks, and put 4 into each kit. They are a little bit smaller than I'd like, but inexpensive and convenient. You can also find sets of only the larger size.
I knew I wanted to do something with gingerbread men for the other craft/activity, and decided it would make a perfect lacing activity, with white yarn for the "icing" trim on the cookie. I decided to use craft foam so it would be more durable, but didn't anticipate what a pain it would be punching the holes. So I will stick to cardboard or heavy cardstock next time! I also included googly eyes and sequins for buttons to complete their gingerbread man. Originally I was going to give them 2 or 3, with red and green yarn as well, but I had to scrap that idea after I realized how long it would take to punch all the holes.
I'm still working on getting the word out and trying to get parents interested. I did manage to give out 35 kits in November, but that was mostly from giving them to parents of young children that came into the library, rather than people asking for them. Now that we've had to close once again and only do curbside service, it will be harder since we don't see them. I have asked staff to be sure and include it in any pick-up that has picture books, and our customer service rep has been at the library a long time and knows the patrons well, and is giving them to those she knows has young children. But I'd love for parents to actually start asking for them.
This month, in addition to listing on the calendar and promoting on Facebook, I'm going to do a live "unboxing" video, to explain the purpose, show what is in the kit, and explain how they support literacy to see if that peaks interest a little more. I am also going to start virtual storytimes and cross-promote. The kit will loosely go with the storytimes I plan each month, so while it is designed to stand alone, it also complements and extends the virtual storytime.