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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Owls - Family Storytime


Owl storytime

During the summer one of our programs for elementary aged kids was a virtual visit with the director of the local raptor rescue and rehab center and their resident barn owl, with take-home owl pellet dissection kits, so I decided to make that week's storytime owl-themed as well.

As usual I started with a hello song, followed by that month's warm-up song (Wheels On The Bus). Then I introduced the topic with the following rhyme, pausing after each line to let them guess what it was about:
"The Owl"

There's something in the tree,
With big, wide eyes,
And a pointed nose,
Two pointed ears,
And claws for toes.

[pause and see if they have a guess yet]

When he sits up in the tree and looks at you,
He flaps his wings, and he says "Whooo? Whooo?" 

owl storytime
I followed with the non-fiction book Owls Josh Gregory to show some pictures of different types of owls and share some interesting facts.

Then I segued to our lead-in song and first book by saying, "Now that we've learned some information about owls, how about some stories about owls?"

owl storytime
Following the lead-in song (If You're Ready for a Story), I read Toni Yuly's Night Owl. This is a great book for younger audiences because it is relatively short with very little text on each page, and bold, simple illustrations.

In this story, a young owl is at the nest alone, waiting for his mother to return. He hears various noises made by other animals/things, and each time wonders if that is his mother, giving the audience the opportunity to predict whether it is his mother, and if not, what made the sound.

Then we got to move around a little and pretend to be owls with the following action song:

"Just Like An Owl"
(to the tune of "London Bridges")

Open your eyes up big and wide, big and wide, big and wide.
Open your eyes up big and wide, just like an owl.

Flap your wings and fly around, fly around, fly around.
Flap your wings and fly around, just like an owl.

Land on the ground and hop along, hop along, hop along.
Land on the ground and hop along, just like an owl.

Fly up in the tree and sit on a branch, sit on a branch, sit on a branch.
Fly up in the tree and sit on a branch, just like an owl.

Turn your head and say "Who, who", say "Who, who", say "who, who".
Turn your head and say "Who, who", just like an owl.

owl storytime
We then worked on color recognition with Tim Hopgood's Wow! Said the Owl. In this story we have a curious little owl who wonders what the world is like during the daytime when he is usually asleep. So he decides to stay awake to see, and finds a world bursting in all the colors of the rainbow. 

This is also fairly short and sweet, with bright illustrations, and provides not only the opportunity to identify colors, but also to discuss the word "nocturnal".

After that I passed out the take-home craft kits and we sang a good-bye song.

Take-Home Craft

owl storytime, owl craft

I'm typically not a big fan of storytime crafts, but I did think this one was really cute. I like the dimension that being multi-media and using the cupcake liners gives it, and personalizing it by tracing around the child's hand and forearm for the tree branch.

I gave them each one sheet of black paper, one sheet of brown, small scraps of yellow and orange, 4 large colored cupcake liners, 3 small white cupcake liners, and two large googly-eyes.

How It Went 

Kids seem to like owls and enjoy pretending to be them, as this theme has always gone over really well. I was very disappointed that this library system did not have a single copy of Waddell's Owl Babies! That is such a great, fun read aloud, and I had my heart set on using it, and couldn't believe we didn't have it. 

Apparently, several years ago there was a very misguided purge of all older books from the collection by someone who didn't understand the value and continued relevance of some of the classics and award-winners, and in particular had no knowledge or understanding of children's literature. I am certainly not one to hang onto books that don't circulate or aren't in good condition, but there are some classics that are timeless and I would expect most libraries to have. It's really unfortunate, because numerous books that were great for storytime were lost, as well as other classics and award-winners that are still relevant and will circulate.

It's become apparent to me over the years that many librarians, even MLIS-degreed librarians, do not have a good understanding of the principles and practices of collection maintenance and development, and either never get rid of anything, or purge based on a single criterion or report, without laying eyes on the book, considering all factors, and using some professional judgement. It amazes and frustrates me that there are many MLIS (or equivalent) programs that do not require collection development courses, and I'm very glad that I took one and had an excellent instructor. I will soon be putting that knowledge into practice in a new position where I will be responsible for not only the maintenance of the children's collection, but the selection of all youth materials (which is a little intimidating!).

Saturday, November 6, 2021

ABC's & 123's - Family Storytime


ABC's and 123's storytime, alphabet and counting storytime

I did this storytime back in August, but just now got around to writing it up. I haven't been writing up every storytime anymore because (1) I just don't have the time, and (2) at this point in my career I have done so many that it's becoming repetitive. So now I just write them up if it was a theme I haven't already covered multiple times, or I used new books I want to highlight. 

I started out with a brief "Hello" song, introductions and expectations, and then did our warm-up song, which for this month was "The Wheels On The Bus". Then I settled them down for the first book with my lead-in song, "If You're Ready for a Story".

alphabet storytime, ABC's and 123's storytime,
For the "ABC's" portion of our storytime I chose the classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert because it has great rhyme and rhythm for reading aloud, bright illustrations, and manages to cover all 26 letters while still being short and engaging enough to hold the kids' attention. I have found that traditional alphabet books just don't work well for storytime; no matter how cute or exciting the theme is, the kids get bored before you can get past the middle.

I normally like to use the coconut tree and letters props to have the kids help retell the story after reading it, but unfortunately this library didn't have one.

Next, we sang our ABC's, first to the traditional tune (which is the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"), but then I added the more challenging twist of singing it to different tunes in order to (1) emphasize different letters so that L-M-N-O-P don't always get squished together, and (2) to engage their brains differently so they are more mindful of what they are doing and saying, rather than relying on muscle memory. We tried the tunes of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "This Old Man", and "London Bridges". I encouraged them to try this at home, and see if they can find other tunes that work, such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes".

ABC's and 123's storytime, counting book, dinosaur counting book
Then it was time to move on to our 1,2,3's with a cute new counting book, One-osaurus, Two-osaurus by Kim Norman and Pierre Collet-Derby. This is a great storytime time book! It has a great cadence for reading aloud, absolutely adorable illustrations, lots of counting practice, dinosaurs, and roaring. 

Ten little dinosaurs are playing hide-and-seek, with the text patterned after the classic "One potato, two potato..." chant. After all the dinosaurs are found, they go off to play another game, "Dinosaurus Says" (hmm, could there be a sequel?).

I followed that with a bubble counting song. I sang the first verse, modeling counting on my fingers, then as we did the rest of the song I would pause and blow bubbles for them to pop after each line. They were having so much fun, we went through the whole song twice. Popping bubbles is not only fun, but great for developing tracking, eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, and crossing midline.

Ten Little Bubbles

One little, two little, three little bubbles;
Four little, five little, six little bubbles;
Seven little, eight little, nine little bubbles;
Ten little bubbles go POP!

Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles;
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles;
Pop, pop, pop go all the bubbles;
All the little bubbles go POP!

Ten little, nine little, eight little bubbles;
Seven little, six little, five little bubbles;
Four little, three little, two little bubbles;
One little bubble goes POP!

After that I passed out the take-home activity (we are having storytime outside), and we sang a good-bye song.

Take-Home Activities  

alphabet craft, coconut tree craft, chicka chicka boom boom craft
The craft was making their own coconut tree. I gave them a sheet of blue construction paper and a tree trunk, several leaves, and three coconuts already cut out to glue on. 

Then I found a cute alphabet printable online, and encouraged them to use the letters however they wished, and gave two sets in case they wanted to do their name as I had and needed multiples of some letters. 

I also included some kind of dinosaur counting activity sheet, but at this point I've forgotten exactly what it was and where I found it.

I really don't like doing cookie-cutter paper crafts and activity sheets, I'd prefer more open-ended activities, but due to time-constraints and having to do take-home kits this is what works best for now and people do seem to like them.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Slithery, Slippery Snakes - Family Storytime

I was not the one who actually presented this storytime, but I did plan it and left it for my boss to use when she covered my storytime while I was on vacation. The whole snake thing has been a running joke for a couple of months now, and it was a theme I had not done before, so I figured why not, plus I found a couple of cute songs/rhymes to go with it.

The whole thing started because we have a mouse problem, which led to someone saying we needed a library cat. But some staff and patrons are allergic to cats, so I suggested a library snake instead, knowing my manager absolutely hates snakes. We exchanged emails back and forth one day, ending with her pulling the boss card, and me reminding her she was going to be gone for 10 days for her honeymoon, during which time I would be in charge. Then, I quickly threw up a snake display, which ironically proved to be the most successful display I've done in the last year! See, the public wants a library snake!

In the end she pawned it off on an unsuspecting staff member from another location who is currently in library school and only too happy for the experience, so I guess the joke was on me 🤷.

I pulled several books for her to choose from, intending for the presenter to pick 2-3 that they liked, but since that information was not passed along to the inexperienced person who ended up doing the storytime, she read ALL of them. And I don't know what order she did them, or what songs and rhymes were done when, so I'm just going to list all the books, and then all the songs.

Snake storytime

Hide and Snake
by Keith Baker is a search and find story. The snake is exploring around the house, and the reader/audience has to try and find it on each spread. Text is fairly sparse, and it provides good practice in recognizing patterns.

Snake storytime

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a classic. The snake is hungry and begins collecting mice in a glass jar for his dinner, counting them as he goes. But, the clever mice outsmart him and the snake learns a lesson about being greedy. As the mice escape, they "uncount" themselves.

Snake storytime

The Greedy Python
by Richard Buckley & Eric Carle is another story featuring a greedy snake. This python eats everything he comes across, until his stomach can't hold them. I normally don't use early readers for storytime because they are so small, but I really liked it and the illustrations were simple and bold, and the font very large.

Snake storytime

I Saw Anaconda
by Jane Clarke & Emma Dodd is a super fun book with a rhyming story that builds, in the vein of "I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly". Plus, it has bright, engaging illustrations and flaps to lift. Read it or sing it.

I made the program sheets for the caregivers that included our regular hello song, this month's warm-up song (Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes), the lead-in song and good-bye song, plus the following theme-specific songs/rhymes:

Oh, I Wish I Was a Silly Slippery Snake
(to the tune of "If You're Happy & You Know It")

Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake - Hiss, Hiss!
Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake - Hiss, Hiss!
I'd slither across the floor, then I'd slip under the door,
Oh, I wish I was a silly, slippery snake - Hiss, Hiss!

Snake storytime, snake rhyme

Six Silly Snakes

One silly snake, alone and blue,
Called for a friend: "Hiss!", and then there were two.

Two silly snakes, fast as can be,
Called for a friend: "Hiss! Hiss!", and then there were three.

Three silly snakes, slithering by the door,
Called for a friend: "Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!", and then there were four.

Four silly snakes, happy and alive,
Called for a friend: "Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!", and then there were five.

Five silly snakes, doing silly tricks,
Called for a friend: "Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!", and then there were six.

Six silly snakes, tired of all the fun,
Said time for a nap: "Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss! Hiss!"
And then there were none!

I found clip-art for snakes that were on the cute side, cut them out and laminated to use on my magnet board to accompany the rhyme while the kids would count on their fingers.


I found a free printable spiral snake online (forgot where) that the kids could color, cut out, and hang. I also gave them two googly eyes to glue on if they wanted. 

snake craft, snake storytime

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Pizza & Guacamole - Family Storytime

Pizza storytime

Maybe you don't think those two things go together (but it does seem like people are putting avocados on/in everything these days), but think of it as both being party/snack foods featured in September.

I had originally planned this as two separate themes, first planning a pizza storytime two years ago, but then I postponed it when I found out a coworker already had one planned. I have also been wanting to use the book Holy Squawkamole! in storytime every since I first read it, and planned it for last September after finding out September 16th is Guacamole Day. But, then the pandemic hit and I was unemployed last September, so I waited another year. This time around I ended up being on vacation the week of the 16th, so I decided to just combine the two topics on the following week.

As always, I started by introducing myself and briefly going over expectations (basically, it's okay if they are wiggly and roam as long as they are not bothering anyone else or obstructing anyone's view of the book), then we sang our "Hello" song, followed by this month's warm-up song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes":

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes; knees and toes.
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes; knees and toes.
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees, and toes, knees and toes.

And to make it a little trickier so they have to think about what they're doing and work their brain and muscles differently rather than relying on muscle memory, we did it in reverse:

Toes, knees, shoulders, and head; shoulders and head.
Toes, knees, shoulders, and head; shoulders and head.
Nose and mouth and ears and eyes,
Toes, knees, shoulders, and head; shoulders and head.

And since it is Hispanic Heritage month and I like to add a little Spanish here and there when I can anyway (our community is 50% Hispanic), we did it in Spanish next:

Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies; rodillas y pies.
Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies; rodillas y pies.
Ojos, orejas, boca y nariz,
Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies; rodillas y pies.

They all agreed it was more difficult to do in reverse and in Spanish since that's not what they're used to, but everyone did a good job and giggled when they messed up. I told them next time we might have to try it in Spanish AND reversed, LOL.

Not only is this song fun to do and gets them moving, it's familiar to most so more engaging, it reinforces vocabulary for naming body parts, both in English and Spanish.

Guacamole Day storytime
Next we gradually settled down with our "Story Song", starting with stomping our feet and ending with taking a seat, so we were ready to start our first book, Holy Squawkamole! The Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole by Susan Wood and Laura Gonzalez. This is a fun re-telling of the traditional folktale, with a Latin American twist. Instead of bread, the Little Red Hen is making guacamole, and needs to gather and prep avocados, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. The animals that she meets and asks for help are common to Central/South America: coati, armadillo, iguana, and snake. 

This book has a great rhyme and rhythm when read aloud, and the audience will have fun saying "Holy Squawkamole!" over and over, and the illustrations are quite charming. I like the exposure to Spanish words and animals they may not be familiar with. Another great thing about this book is that in the end papers there is information on the cultural background of guacamole and several variations influenced by cuisines from other cultures, a basic recipe, and a glossary.

Then we segued to pizza by sharing our favorite toppings and voting on whether pineapple was a legitimate pizza topping (most of the adults agreed it was, kids weren't too sure), and pretending to make our own pizza with this variation of "Pat-a-Cake":

Pizza Man

Pat-a-pie, pat-a-pie, pizza man (clap hands)
Make me a pizza as fast as you can (shake finger)
Roll it  (roll)..... Toss it  (pretend to toss in air).....
Sprinkle it with cheese (pretend to sprinkle)
Put it the oven (pushing motion)
And bake it for my friends and me! (gesture to friends, point to self)

I would recommend pointing out the substitution of "pie" for "cake" and briefly explain that pizza is sometimes referred to as a "pizza pie", since kids may not be aware of that expression.

Pizza storytime
Next I read the classic Pizza at Sally's by Monica Wellington. I like that this book not only shows the steps in making a pizza, but at least alludes to the fact the ingredients all have to come from somewhere, and you can elaborate on that as you read it, or afterward. These days so many people are completely disconnected from the sources of their food, and need to be reminded/educated to the fact that it doesn't just magically appear at the supermarket. 

I also like that this book subtly promotes community gardens and supporting local businesses. I had the kids act out each step of pizza-making along with Sally, and again discuss toppings. I showed the recipe for pizza at the end of the book, mentioning that kneading and playing with any kind of dough, whether it's pizza dough or play dough, is great for developing the muscles and coordination of little hands and fingers so that they can hold books and pencils for reading and writing later.

Next we did a pizza-themed variation of "BINGO" to work on letter knowledge, using clip art of pizza slices with each letter in the word "pizza" printed on a slice:

Pizza storytime


There is a treat that's good to eat, and "pizza" is its name-oh!
P - I - Z - Z - A
P - I - Z - Z - A
P - I - Z - Z - A
And "pizza" is its name-oh!

(spoken) "Oh yum, I'm gonna eat one!"
(remove one and repeat, clapping in the place of the missing letter)

Since I had just the right number of kids (not counting infant siblings), in this case I said each child's name as I removed each piece: " Then Johnny was hungry, so he ate one".

Pizza storytime
Our final book was another fun one, featuring an a-typical pizzeria making some rather unusual pizzas. Mary Morgan's Dragon Pizzeria features a pizzeria in Fairytale Land owned by dragons BeBop, who likes to bake, and Spike, who likes to go FAST, making him the perfect delivery person. As they take each order, the audience can guess who it's for based on the toppings, such as a pizza with magic beans for the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk, and a pizza with frogs, snails, and lizard tales for the Wicked Witch. 

This is a really fun read aloud with several different rhymes and rhythms, as BeBop chants a different rhyme as he makes each pizza, and the customers respond in rhyme when their pizza is delivered. A little long for younger kids, but it's easy to skip one of two of the orders to shorten. The illustrations are just a tad busy for a group read aloud, but they are well-done.

We closed with a good-bye song and I passed out a take-home craft.

I am doing take-home crafts since we are having storytime outside, and between not having tables (other than a round wire-mesh picnic table) and it often being windy, crafts outside just don't work out very well.

Pizza craft

This week's craft was assembling a "shapes" pizza. I gave them a sheet of light brown with an outline of a pizza on it to cut out themselves so they would get a little scissor practice to develop those fine-motor skills, then the following shapes/colors: large red triangles for tomato sauce, lots of small rectangles in yellow & white for shredded cheese, reddish-brown circles for pepperoni/meatballs, red semi-circles for tomato slices, and small green squares for chopped peppers. This would allow for practice identifying shapes and colors, and use the pincer grasp in picking up and placing the various toppings.

How It Went
It went well for the most part, ran just a little bit long, and the kids seemed to get just a little bored with Pizza at Sally's, and I don't think any but the one slightly older child got the fairy tale references in Dragon Pizzeria, but the adults did and enjoyed it. 

Since school started and I split from doing one family storytime to doing a toddler storytime in addition to a family storytime, my attendance levels have been low at both, and now I'm kind of wishing I had just left it at one family storytime a week, especially since numbers will likely drop again when it gets colder and we have to move inside. It's impossible to build any momentum with the constantly changing Covid situation, and that's really frustrating and discouraging. The community has made it clear they are not interested in virtual programming, so I'm going to focus on keeping in-person if at all possible. At least the lower attendance does allow for easy social distancing without being too far away to see and hear, so there's that.

I know our community does love the various kits, but I don't feel they foster any real engagement or have as strong a connection to literacy and learning, and don't seem to result in any increased use of the library or circulation. I also hate the waste with all the packaging needed, and wonder how many actually do the activities, or if many just end up sitting around and eventually getting thrown away.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Play In the Sand Day - Family Storytime

When I haven't come across any books to inspire me - which has been happening a lot this last year as there seems to be a dearth of new picture books suitable for storytime - I start looking over the lists of various holidays and observances to get ideas for themes I haven't done before. I found that National Play in the Sand Day fell right on our storytime day, and decided to give that a go as playing in sand is such a great activity for little ones, and here are a few articles explaining why:

We started with our usual "Hello" song, then a warm-up song. I choose a different warm-up song each month, and for August it was singing the ABC's, but with a twist. Instead of using the usual tune ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"), each week we sang them to a different familiar children's tune, and this week it was "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". We started by singing one verse of the original song to get the tune in our heads, then singing the ABC's to it. This can be surprisingly difficult, so we repeated it, and I encouraged them to practice at home.

Singing the alphabet to different tunes allows different letters to be emphasized and heard distinctly, so "L,M,N,O,P" don't always get squished together, and it forces one to think about what they are singing rather than going on automatic and relying on muscle memory. Mel's Desk has a great resource for this, mapping out the alphabet to 5 different tunes.

Playing in the sand storytime
After a lead-in song, we were ready for our first book, Sea, Sand, and Me by Patricia Hubbell and Lisa Campbell Ernst. Though not specifically about playing in the sand, this gentle story shows a young girl and her family spending a day at the beach, where she makes a new friend, and enjoys playing in the sand and the waves. This was a good choice for the younger ones in the audience as it was short and simple, and though the illustrations are not bright and bold, they are colorful and uncluttered.

We followed this with a song I saw at Storytime Secrets about going to the beach that allows the kids to fill in the blank and name things they might see there:

We’re Going to the Beach
(to the tune of “Farmer In the Dell”)

We're going to the beach,
We're going to the beach.
I think we'll see some ______ there!
We're going to the beach.

Playing in the sand storytime, sandcastle storytime
Our second book showcases a spectacular sandcastle, and also features making new friends, in this case between two monsters who are very different and don't speak the same language.

 In Victoria Turnbull's Kings of the Castle we discover that monsters like playing at the beach, too, waiting until nighttime when all the people are gone. This night, George meets a creature who comes out of the sea, but first thinks they can't be friends because they don't speak the same language. But, he discovers they can communicate with drawings and gestures, and by the time the night is over they have worked together to build an amazing sandcastle, which is shown across a huge fold-out spread. The illustrations are a bit dark due to the nighttime setting, which initially give it an unintended spooky feeling.

We ended with a rhyme counting down from 5 to 1 with sandcastles that I first saw on Storytime Katie's blog, accompanied by clipart sandcastles on my magnet board (that I forgot to take a picture of and will add later):

Five Pretty Sandcastles

Five pretty sandcastles standing on the shore,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were four.

Four pretty sandcastles standing by the sea,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were three.

Three pretty sandcastles standing by the ocean blue,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there were two.

Two pretty sandcastles standing in the sun,
The tide came in (whoosh!) and then there was one.

One pretty sandcastle just out of reach,
The tide came in (whoosh!) but it stayed on the beach! 

We closed with announcements, a good-bye song, and I handed out the take-home crafts.

While I really would have preferred to end with actual sand play with a sand table or sandbox, but we did not have either, nor any regular or kinetic sand on hand (though that is about to change, more on that later!), so I had to settle for a craft. I decided on giving them a sandcastle coloring sheet that they could first color in any details, then squeeze glue along the outlines, and sprinkle sand on the glue, let dry thoroughly, then dump off the excess.

Sandcastle craft, sandcastle storytime

Squeezing the glue is great for hand strength, and they would still get the tactile benefit of playing in the sand. Since I didn't have any sand on hand, and did not really want to buy a 50lb bag just for this craft, but I did have plenty of salt. So I colored the salt a pale beige by grating brown and gray sidewalk chalk against a wire mess strainer and mixing it in the salt to make it more of a sandy color, and mixed in just a few coffee grounds to give some realistic darker specks.

How It Went
It went well, they enjoyed both stories and were really impressed by the huge, detailed sandcastle in Kings of the Castle. I really wish I could have had one book that showed playing in a sandbox with trucks and cars, or measuring cups, rather than both being set at the beach, as most of these kids have never been to the beach, and don't find it as relatable. 

But, just to show how kids that may not *appear* to be paying attention are absorbing a lot more than we may realize, I need to share one thing that happened. I have one semi-regular toddler who is very active, and can't sit still more than a few minutes. He typically starts getting squirmy, then has to stand up, and gradually starts wandering more and more.

Today, he was running all around, seemingly completely oblivious to what we were doing. I expect this from toddlers, and it doesn't bother me at all, but I do occasionally try to re-focus them by calling them by name to ask a question, or point something out. As we were doing the sandcastle counting rhyme, this little boy was running around, and came zipping by behind everyone else just as we were down to the last one. I called out to him, "Hey, Ollie, how many are left?" He paused half a second, look over and happily called out "One!" as he held up one finger, then continued merrily on his way. I was so glad his caretaker and the other adults got to see this!

I REALLY wish I could have had actual sand play as the after storytime activity, but it just wasn't possible. Hopefully they have access to a sandbox at home or at a local park. However, I am working on a project to provide more opportunities for sensory exploration in the future, including a sand/water table.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Silly Chicken Stories - Family Storytime

Chicken Storytime


The YS department at the main library had a bunch of these egg-hatching craft kits leftover, so I decided to take some off their hands and do a chicken-themed storytime. I've ready many chicken books as part of farm or bird themes, but I've never done a whole storytime about chickens before, so it would be a new theme. I started with introductions, going over expectations, then waving and singing "Hello" to each other. That was followed with a warm-up song. 

I use the same warm-up song for a month, then change it, and this month's warm-up song was the Alphabet Song, BUT with a twist. Instead of singing it to the usual tune (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star), each week we would sing it to the tune of a different children's song, and this week was the tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes". The alphabet can be sung to several different tunes, and this allows different letters to be emphasized and heard distinctly, so "L,M,N,O,P" don't always get squished together, and it forces one to think about what they are singing rather than going on automatic and relying on muscle memory. Mel's Desk has a great resource for this, mapping out the alphabet to 5 different tunes.

Chicken Storytime
After the warm-up, I used a non-fiction picture book with lovely illustrations, A Chicken Followed Me Home by Robin Page, to introduce the topic and some factual information about chickens before moving on to our silly stories. We talked about where chickens come from, saw pictures of a few different breads, rooster vs. hen, and the sounds that rooster, chickens, and baby chicks each make.

Chicken Storytime
Following our lead-in song, "If You're Ready for a Story", I read one of my personal favorites, Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher and Mark Fearing.

In this cute story a chicken sneaks into the library for storytime, and enjoys it. She then apparently tells a few of her friends, as there are more chickens (and more children) the next week, and even more the following week, resulting in chaos. How can one librarian manage all of these chickens and children? We decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea to have chickens in the library.

We followed that with a rousing round of Laurie Berkner's "I Know a Chicken", with egg shakers, of course, followed by pretending to be chickens with "If You're a Chicken and You Know It":

If You're a Chicken and You Know It"

If you're a chicken and you know it, flap your wings.
If you're a chicken and you know it, flap your wings.
If you're a chicken and you know it, and you really want to show it,
If you're a chicken and you know it, flap your wings.

Scratch in the dirt.....Peck your food....Say "bawk, bawk"....Sit on your nest....

Chicken storytime
I love the way this ends with them sitting back down, ready for the next story. I chose a favorite of a former manager, Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Barnhan-Quallen and Ward Jenkins. 

This is truly a fun read aloud, with rhyming text and a repeating line. Mama Hen is trying to get her little chicks to bed, but the second she closes the door, those naughty chicks run wild! Mama finally catches them, but her reaction may not be what you expect. Great fun, with a twist.

We finished with a song that let us explore various chicken-related sounds, which is great for phonological knowledge.

The Chickens In the Coop

The chickens in the coop go Bock, Bock, Bock.
Bock, Bock, Bock; Bock, Bock, Bock.
The chickens in the coop go Bock, Bock, Bock, all day long.

Roosters go Cock-a-doodle-doo....
Eggs go Crack...
Chicks go Peep....

We san our "Goodbye" song and I passed out the take-home craft kits that consisted of a plastic egg, a large yellow pom-pom, and other accessories to make a little chick hatching out of an egg.

How It Went

We had a lot of fun with this one! As always, Laurie Berker's "I Know a Chicken" was a big hit, but they enjoyed all the songs and books. 

Toddler Storytime - August


toddler storytime

After having done only one family storytime a week since the pandemic hit, virtually through May and in-person outdoors through the summer, I decided to go back to the pre-pandemic schedule of toddler storytime on Wednesday and family storytime on Friday. This is for two reasons: (1) I have been having a fair number of toddlers (and a few infants) attending fairly regularly, and felt they needed their own storytime that was more developmentally appropriate for them, and (2) once school starts in August the older kids can only come on Fridays because for whatever reason the public schools here are only in session Mon-Thur. 

I have done hundreds of preschool storytimes and dozens of family storytimes, and while I've subbed for toddler storytimes and had a few outreach visits to baby and toddler classes, this is the first time I've had my own regular toddler storytime. The toddler storytimes I've subbed for followed slightly different formats, but both involved shorter, simpler books, more movement, more songs/rhymes/fingerplays, and playtime with developmentally appropriate toys rather than a craft. I decided to start out with the format my previous co-worker used for her "Movers & Shakers" toddler storytime, which uses the same songs and rhymes each week for a month along with 1-2 short books. I like this format because I know how important repetition is for learning with young children, plus it really encourages participation and engagement, and as a bonus I don't have to spend time searching for new rhymes and songs every week.

I decided not to worry about themes. If I can find toddler-appropriate books that fit the theme of the family storytime that week, then fine, but if not, I'll just pull something else for the toddlers. Another thing I am taking from my former co-worker's storytime is ending with bubbles. Not only are bubbles great fun, but it's also a great developmental activity as it involves tracking, gross motor movement to chase and pop the bubbles, crossing the midline to reach for a bubble, and bilateral coordination in popping the bubbles with a clap. Plus we sing a counting song along with them. I am still giving them a simple take home craft, but I am really hoping to gradually move away from that and incorporate play time and more open-ended activities instead of crafts every week, as soon as I can get some sensory toys and manipulatives. Not only is this more developmentally appropriate, it saves time in prepping all the cookie-cutter crafts.

The songs/rhymes I selected for the first month were:
The books I read and the take-home craft for each week were:

  • Toddler storytime
    Week 1 -
    Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin, Jr. & Michael Sampson, I Spy Under the Sea by Edward Gibbs, cupcake liner fish craft.

    I wanted to incorporate movement as much as possible, so we moved our heads, hands, feet, and hips along with the spunky little monkey, and then we practiced counting with I Spy.

  • Chicken storytime, toddler storytime
    Week 2 - Charlie Chick Learns to Fly by Nick Denchfield & Ant Parker, Wee Little Chick by Lauren Thompson & John Butler, hatching chick craft.

    The Charlie Chick series of simple pop-up books are *perfect* for toddlers! I had never seen them before, and was excited to find them in our collection. The kids got to show their feet, flap their wings, and peep along with Charlie, then identified farm animals and showed me little, big, and tall with the Wee Little Chick, along with pecking for food. (The other books shown were used for Family Storytime later in the week). I also added Laurie Berkner's "I Know a Chicken" with egg shakers. So fun!

I should have had one more song or rhyme with lots of actions, and something else instead of Mary Had a Little Lamb, which they didn't really know and seemed a little boring without actions to go with it. However, "Roly-Poly" proved to be a big hit, especially with one of my regulars, and of course they loved counting and popping the bubbles.

I will continue to tweak the format of this storytime, though I know I want to keep a lot of repetition and movement, maybe incorporating a song cube if I can find time to make one. A few parents have asked about a "Music & Movement" program, which I don't have the availability to do as a weekly program due to staffing constraints, but I will probably incorporate as a special monthly program, probably in place of the regular toddler storytime that week. But first I have to get a new boom box that works that can both play CDs as well as connect to my phone and can run on batteries.

What kind of format do you use for your toddler storytimes? I'd love to hear about it! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

One Step Forward, and Two Steps Back...

Yikes! It's been 6 weeks since my last post, and I'm starting to see why most blogs fizzle out after about 3-5 years....It takes time and creative energy to keep a blog going, and as I move forward in my career and and all the changes life has thrown at me lately, it's hard to find enough of either. 

When I first started this blog six years ago I was only working part-time, which left me plenty of time and energy for blogging, reading, and everything else, and as someone just entering the field I was full of enthusiasm and ideas. Now I'm full-time and too exhausted and screen-fatigued when I get home to do any reading or writing in the evenings, and seem to have hit a bit of a creative wall with programming. I've done so many storytimes in my career that while I still love doing it, I'm not as excited about writing them up and find myself repeating things I've done before more often. Frankly, I'm very underwhelmed by the picture books being published in the last year or so. I've seen nothing new that inspires me lately; the recent publications are often so text heavy and dull, IMHO, or just not suitable for storytime.

And to be perfectly honest, the last year and half have been extremely difficult for me on every level, and I'm sure that's true of everyone. I miss normal. I miss working in a thriving library. I miss my regulars. I miss doing regular programming. Most of all, I miss stability. At the beginning of the summer I was so excited because I could finally start having in-person programming again outdoors, and I really thought we were going to be back to normal, in-person programming again this fall. I started planning things, arranged to start outreach visits with nearby preschool, and then I began hearing that nasty word "Delta", and soon everything changed again.

Now we have had to step back and return to masks being required to be in the library, and programs are encouraged to be outside or reduced number to allow for social distancing inside. I agree with this under the circumstances, but as we are in a very anti-mask population, this means a lot more stress on staff and between that and school starting, a lot fewer families and kids coming in. I'm going to have to continue to have storytimes outside as long as possible, but once it gets too cold I don't know what I'll do. I've discussed it with my storytime crowd, and they told me what I already knew; they are absolutely not interested in virtual programming. Just after our monthly program guide was printed, we found we had to cancel or change a lot of things, which makes it confusing and frustrating for patrons.

All the back-and-forth and constant change is not only stressful for staff, but frustrating for patrons and causes less use of the library and lower program attendance. I'm afraid in the coming months we'll be taking another step back and reducing the number of computers available (for social distancing) and having to reimpose time limits, which is just as contentious to enforce as mask-wearing. I keep finding myself wishing for things to be like they were before and craving stability, for things to stay the same for more than a couple months, but I've come to realize libraries are likely forever changed by this, and it will likely take years to regain any sense of stability and community again. 

So what is your fall programming looking like at this point? Charging ahead with in-person programming? Returning to virtual and kits? Somewhere in between? Something else? 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Summer 2021 - Uncertainty & Difficult Transitions

Summer reading

How is the summer going for you? I am sure there's a wide range in summer programming, with some libraries sticking to virtual programming and take-home kits, some libraries charging full steam ahead and returning to normal pre-pandemic summer programming, and many falling somewhere in between.

As I said in my previous post, our summer has been a somewhat awkward, confusing combination of virtual programming, take-home kits, and in-person programs combined with a last-minute replacement of our already planned summer reading program with a new, completely different one that involves paying kids $100 to check out 10 books, funded by the city & county governments with federal pandemic recovery funds and planned by the marketing department and admin rather than by youth services staff, which made things even more confusing and chaotic. I've already written about my thoughts on summer reading programs and what I think they should and shouldn't be, so I'm only mentioning it here in terms of how it affected my summer programming.

In light of time and staffing constraints compounded by this new SRP and multiple staff vacations and knowing we had already spent well over half of our modest programming budget by May, I decided to pull back from programming for the summer and save my time, effort, and budget for fall, when I expected we would be back to "normal" in-person programs. I planned to rely on the centralized weekly virtual programming and craft and science kits from the main library and my weekly outdoor family storytime, and just supplement these with some very low-key, *cheap*, easy outdoor family activities I billed as "Family Fun" days, scheduled around the twice weekly public school meal deliveries at our location. I planned these to be simple, drop-in, self-directed activities that would not require a staff member to be present the whole time, and had minimal set-up and clean up.

  • Week 1 & 2 - Sidewalk Chalk - I bought a bulk case of sidewalk chalk, and divided it up into ziplock bags with 5 sticks per bag and handed them out and encouraged families to decorate our sidewalks. [I had originally thought I would do storytelling the second week, thinking families would hang around and picnic outside (we have a nice shady lawn with picnic tables) after getting their lunch, but it turned out they were handing out multiple frozen meals this year rather than a single lunch, so people went straight home to put them away, requiring me to move up the time to before the meal delivery and focus only on drop-in activities.]

    Sidewalk chalk art

  • Week 3 - Bubble Party - I had a bubble machine going and set up several trays of solution on the picnic tables with an assortment of wands. I wanted to have music, too, but apparently we do not have a working CD player.

    Bubble Party

  • Week 4 - Ice Painting - I added food coloring and wooden sticks to the water in ice cube trays and froze them to make "ice paints" that would be technically safe to eat since I knew they would inevitably end up in toddler mouths. I put them in zip-lock bags sorted by color, and set them in a cooler half-filled with ice. I put the cooler and a basket of watercolor paper out on a table with a sign explaining the activity and to help themselves. I also strung a line with clothespins for people to hang their paintings to dry."

  • Week 5 - "Giant" Games - This one didn't turn out quite like I expected, as I was borrowing these from the main library without ever seeing them. My old library system had truly giant versions of games that were meant to be played outdoors, and that's what I expected, but what I got were mostly larger-than-normal-but-not-giant games that were intended for indoors, and not the selection I expected. What I ended up with was: large Jenga, checkers, chess, tic-tac-toe, and Trouble. I also put out a couple of packs of sidewalk chalk for those too young to play the games.

    Family Game Day, yard games

  • Week 6 - Challenge Course - Inspired by similar courses other library folks have shared, I drew a course along our sidewalk with chalk that had about a dozen different sections instructing various activities to encourage outdoor play and movement, but of course ending at our front door with the final instruction to "check out a book". Here is a video showing the whole course:

    My course wasn't as pretty as others I've because I don't really have any artistic ability, and drawing with chalk is the most time-consuming (but cheapest and most temporary) method so did not have time for details and background color, but I was pretty pleased with it. It was A LOT of work! It took me almost 2 hours, even with a some help from a teen volunteer, and by the end I was such a sweaty, chalky mess I had to go home and shower and change at lunch. If you have the budget for it, and your powers-that-be are okay with it, I would strongly suggest using marking paint. This is used for marking utilities and can be sprayed upside down and will wash off eventually or with pressure spraying.

  • Week 7 - Water Play - I made sponge "water bombs" (more environmentally friendly than water balloons) for the older kids (cut sponges into 4 strips, 9 strips per water bomb rubberbanded together), and will set up a water table for the younger kids, sensory bin with water beads, "painting" with water on the sidewalk for everyone, and spray bottles to try to make rainbows.

    Water bombs

  • Week 8 - Slushie Science - This probably will require more of my involvement, but I thought it would be worth it. I will provide juice, ice, salt, and zip-lock bags for making "slushies in a bag". Fewer ingredients than ice-cream, more inclusive for those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, and no worrying about anything spoiling in the heat.

    Slushie in a bag

  • Week 9 - The Best of - I will probably do one last program the first week of August, with multiple activities, selecting those that were both easy and popular, and maybe give away books if we still have some of the summer giveaways left. Definitely sidewalk chalk and bubbles, and probably one or two of the large games (Jenga, Checkers).

This has been a difficult, disappointing, and frustrating summer in many ways, but being able to have some in-person programs again has been such a relief. In-person storytime in particular has brought back a little bit of the joy I used to have in my pre-pandemic job. It is definitely the highlight of my week, and I finally feel like I have something to look forward to again. I've really enjoyed starting to build relationships with my youngest patrons and their grown-ups. It's so rewarding to see families coming back each week and to see little faces light up when they see me.

Turnout for the "Family Fun" programs has been disappointing, though. I've gotten 2-3 families each time, mabye 4 or 5 for a couple, but that's it. I had hoped to benefit by timing it around the meal deliveries by the public school system, but for various reasons and changes in how they did things, the library did not get any real benefit from that partnership. 

I really, really hoping that the summer of 2022 will truly be back to a normal summer again, with our usual summer reading program, lots of families coming to the library all summer long, programs with paid performers, special in-house programs, more emphasis on reading, and a lot more fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Cats - Family Storytime

cat storytime, kitty storytime, kitten storytime

To be honest, I totally chose this theme in order to show off my kitten felt set that I made last year during the pandemic shutdown when I had plenty of time on my hands. But, they are freakin' adorable, if I do say so myself. 

We started with a hello song, then sang this month's warm-up song, "The Wheels On the Bus":

The Wheels On The Bus

The wheels on the bus go round and round,
Round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
All through the town.

Wipers go swish...horn goes beep...doors open & shut...
people go up and down...driver says "go on back"
babies say waaa...mommies & daddies say "I love you"...

After that I brought out our "special guest" to introduce the topic: a cat puppet that had a unique purring sound effect. We talked a little about different kinds of cats, wild versus domestic, big verses little, and the wild cats found in our state (mountain lions and bobcats). Then I explained how a cat "wagging" or swishing its tail means exactly the opposite of when a dog wags its tail. I then explained that cats make a special sound in their throats when they are happy called purring, and let them all hear the purring sound the puppet made. 

Being a big fan of "The Big Bang Theory" and "Young Sheldon", I of course couldn't possible talk about cats without doing Sheldon's favorite soothing song, "Soft Kitty":

Soft Kitty

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

cat storytime
Now we were ready for our first story. Following our lead-in "story song" I read the modern classic, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean and Eric Litwin. This is such a great storytime book for many reasons. It has a now-familiar character, text is short and simple, it includes the basic concept of colors, has a lot of repetition, a great blues-y rhythm, and includes a song. On top of all that, it has a great message about not letting the little things that go wrong ruin your day. 

I really like the original four books, but I have to confess the later books written by Dean's wife after he split from Litwin (Dean is a folk artist who made up the character and Litwin is a folk musician who wrote the stories and songs) fall flat for me and just don't have the same magic.

After working on colors with Pete, it was time to break out my flannel board and work on counting with my felt kitten set:

cat storytime, cat flannel board

Five Little Kittens

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-pat of kitten 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!"

[Count down as you remove each kitten and it runs home.]

After that, it was time to pretend to be kittens!

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 you're 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 [just pretend!]....drink your milk...
sharpen your claws...
give a purr...swish your tail...give a hiss...

cat storytime
For our final story I chose Don't Wake Up the Tiger! by Britta Teckentrup. This book is great for keeping the younger or more wiggly kids engaged because it is short and sweet, has simple bold illustrations with bright colors, and is very interactive. The animals in the story have a problem; a sleeping tiger is blocking their path, and they have to get over her without waking her up. Luckily, they are carrying a bunch of brightly colored helium balloon which they use to float over the tiger one by one. 

But, each encounters some trouble, and the reader and audience are prompted to take various actions: blowing the balloon to keep it afloat, singing a lullaby to keep the tiger asleep, rubbing the tiger's tummy... All is well until stork's beak pops a balloon and wakes the tiger up! The audience is sure the tiger is about to eat somebody, only to be surprised when the page is turned to reveal a surprise birthday party for her. We sang "Happy Birthday" and counted candles on the birthday cake to see how old Tiger was.

I ended with announcements and showing them the take-home craft, then we sang our closing song.

Take-Home Craft 
cat craft
I found this cute little bobble-head kitty craft on the "Fireflies & Mudpies" blog, which provides a free printable pattern that can be colored and used directly, or cut out and traced around as a pattern.

I printed the pattern on cardstock as paper just wasn't heavy or stiff enough, and wrote my own directions with my own step-by-step photos. I gave each child one printed pattern set, the sheet of directions with a coloring sheet on the back, a sheet of black construction paper, and two googly-eyes. Two of the kids had to bring their bobble-head kitties to storytime the following week to show me, so I guess they were a hit.

How It Went
I had a rather small group, just three families, for a total of 6 kids and 4 adults, and only one of them had intentionally planned on coming to storytime, the other two families just happened to be at the library at the right time. Though logically I know it was likely due to people planning vacations around the 4th of July, I can't help but be concerned when I see a big drop in attendance (after having 27 two weeks before). I wonder if I will ever stop second-guessing myself when attendance wavers? Does everyone else do this? 

But other than the small turnout, it went very well. I had great participation, and the kids really liked the cat puppet. One little girl even asked if she could say good-bye to my kitty. As always Pete and his white shoes were a big hit with the catchy tune and repetition, but they liked the other book as well, and they enjoyed all the other activities. One of the youngest got a little restless and had trouble staying engaged, but I was able to keep re-focusing her by addressing her by name as I pointed out something in the story or asked a question.