Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Pajama Storytime

I just started my new job in December, and I felt bad I didn't really get there quite early enough to really plan any special holiday programs or take-home kits, so somewhat at the last minute I decided to at least do a special evening pajama Christmas storytime.

I was a bit ambivalent, because I do have mixed feelings about doing in-person programming indoors right now, but I decided to go ahead because I had a nice big area to spread out. I figured I would keep it very simple and low-key, just a few songs and stories and a treat bag to take home, no Santa to draw large crowds. I know holiday programming is a hot-button issue in our field, but I think it depends on the community. There are libraries I've worked at where Christmas programming was not appropriate and I didn't do it, but for this particular community it makes sense. 

I posted it on the library's Facebook page (yes, I have the power!) and put out signs in the library. I saw that two of the elementary schools and the chamber of commerce shared it as well. I had no idea how many to expect, and went back and forth from being afraid I would have a big crowd and being afraid no one would come. I prepared goody bags for 30 kids, but realistically only expected maybe 10-15 at most.

Normally I start of with a typical "Hello" song, but for this one I used the chorus of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as our hello song:

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
and a Happy New Year!

Then, just to be silly we sang it as Yoda would:

A Merry Christmas we wish you,
A Merry Christmas we wish you,
A Merry Christmas we wish you,
and a New Year Happy!

Then for a little movement we did Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with motions:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say, 
"Rudolph, with you nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer love him, as they shouted out with glee,
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!"

[I've always thought this was just a fun song and I use it because almost all kids know and love it, but this year it really hit me what a wrong message it sends, that it's only ok to be different when that difference somehow becomes useful to others.]

Then finally we did "Jingle Bells" because I know how much kids love playing with the bells! 

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh.
Over the fields we go, laughing all the way. (Ha, ha ha)
Bells on bobtails ring, making spirits bright.
Oh, what fun to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight! Oh...

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh-hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!

Christmas storytime
For our first book I chose There's an Elf in Your Book by Tom Fletcher. I love this series for how fun, funny, and interactive they are. In this installment, one of Santa's elves is giving us a naughty or nice test to see which list to put us on. Most of the items are easy, BUT elves are tricky so you have to pay attention and be sure you don't get tricked into doing something naughty!

At the end there's a certificate that you could make copies of to hand out and leave for Santa to see you are indeed on the nice list, but I never think about it until it's too late.

Christmas storytime
Next I tried to start calming things down with a quieter book about bedtime, Christmas Eve Good Night by Dough Cushman. It is Christmas Eve at the North Pole, and all the young inhabitants are getting ready for bed, and being tucked in by their mamas and papas. In rhyming couplets the narrator asks how each one would tell their grown-ups "goodnight".

This one is great for some more quiet, gentle interaction as the audience either guesses or reads the sounds or words each one would use, including snowmen, elves, polar bears, reindeer, and more. This book is easy to shorten if needed by skipping spreads, and I did skip two since our last book was going to be longer.

I tried to find a slower, more "lullaby-ish" Christmas song, but everything I came across that fit the tempo and mood was overtly religious; I couldn't find anything more secular. So I settled for an updated version of "Up on the Housetop" that avoids gender stereotyping the gifts that Santa brings that I found on YouTube from Super Simple:

Up On the Housetop

Up on the housetop reindeer pause, 
out jumps good old Santa Claus!
Down through the chimney with lots of toys, 
all for the little ones Christmas joys.

(Chorus):       Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn't go?                      
Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn't go?
Up on the housetop, click, click, click.
Down through the chimney with the good St. Nick!

First come the stockings in a row, 
filled with goodies top to toe.
Then to the tree old Santa springs, 
to place the presents that he brings.


Everything delivered from his sack,
Santa has a cookie snack.
Back to his reindeer and the sleigh,
into the night they fly away!


I like this updated version much better, especially as a girl who never really liked dolls herself, and the mother of both a girl who would much rather have trucks and cars or building sets, and a boy who loved his baby Anthony doll.

Finally, we ended with the traditional The Night Before Christmas poem by Clement Moore, using the version illustrated by Jan Brett. It's a bit long, but it has such a nice rhythm that most kids can stay engaged, plus many are already familiar with it. Reading this on Christmas Eve was always a tradition in my house when my kids were little, and along with watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story", it just wouldn't be the same without it.

Christmas storytime
We also posted a video on the library's Facebook page of a staff member dressed as Santa Claus reading a different version of this poem illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson, one with more contemporary illustrations showing a very modern, hi-tech sleigh and very large text that showed nicely on camera for those who couldn't come to storytime (or weren't comfortable doing so), or those who wanted to hear again with a different voice, style, and pictures to keep it interesting.

We ended with another round of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as a good-by song, and I handed out goody bags that contained:
  • Magic Reindeer Food (oats, red & green sugar crystals and a pinch of edible glitter)
  • packet of hot chocolate mix
  • candy cane
  • Christmas-themed self-inking stamp
  • two winter/Christmas bookmarks, one was one they could color

How It Went
Despite being equally afraid I would have either a big crowd or nobody show up, I was relieved to see families start trickling in about 10-15 minutes before we were to begin. I ended up with four families, with 6 adults and 7 kids, for a total of 13 people. While maybe 2-3 more families would have made an ideal size crowd, I was just happy that it wasn't too crowded, but there were enough people to be worth having done it. Also, it was mostly school-aged kids who don't get to come to the regular storytimes anymore, so that made me even more glad I did it. Those that came seemed to really enjoy it and it gave me a chance to meet more of the community, including one of the elementary school librarians.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

New Year, New Job!

I have big news! I've started a new position, and this time I think it could be "the one". 
If you've followed my blog for while you may remember that just after finishing my MLIS in the spring of 2020, I and 100 other part-time staff members were let go from the library system I had worked in for 7 years. After being unexpectedly thrown into an absolutely abysmal job market I ended up relocating across the country in order to find a full-time professional position.

My husband and son stayed behind, waiting to see how I liked things there before we decided whether I was going to come back home when something opened up or we were going to relocate there permanently. As it turned out, though I loved the state I relocated to, I did not like the particular town and the position and library system in general proved not to be a good fit for several reasons. However, I did gain valuable experience as well as insight into what things were really important to me and what I really wanted in my next position, which was to be back in youth services exclusively and preferably not in a large system.

As I approached the one-year mark, I started seriously looking for something else closer to home. This time I could afford to be more choosy, as the market had changed and now I was not only currently employed, but had the advantage of a year of professional experience in a position that included management and some significant accomplishments. I really hoped to get away from large systems and their out-of-touch upper management, layers of bureaucracy, inefficiency, poor communication, and lack of transparency. Much to my delight, a YS manager position unexpectedly opened up back home at a library only 20 minutes from my house, with a surprisingly decent salary!

So just barely over a year later, I made another cross-country move back home and began a new position as the "Youth & Family Services Manager" for a medium-sized (about 22,000 sq ft), single library in a somewhat rural area that serves a small town of 10,000, and overall county population of about 23,000. Though I'm still in the honeymoon period, so far it's been an exciting and refreshing change, and very different from my last job as the sole librarian and assistant branch manager for a tiny (less than 10,000 sq ft) branch in part of a larger system serving an urban population of 120,000, and additional rural population of another 10-20,000, and a relief to be back in an exclusively youth services position.

The first difference I noticed immediately is of course having much more space, so I no longer feel claustrophobic and have room for a decent collection, seating, and play spaces, plus my own program room. Oh, and I also have a whole office of my own, not just a tiny desk shoved into a high traffic area next to the bathroom! But the the other big difference was how much more welcomed I felt by the staff here, and there is an actual onboarding process to support me as I transition into the role, as it does have more responsibility in addition to a whole set of new software and new policies and procedures to learn, and a new community to get to know. No just being dropped into a role with no training, direction, guidance, or support and left to sink or swim. I feel like I'm actually being set up for success this time around.

It has been a bit surreal at first, having people ask how *I* want things done and doing it, being told I can do summer reading however *I* want (and we will definitely NOT be paying kids to just check out books and inflate our circ stats), the director having consultants brought in to meet with me to see what physical changes I might want to make to the youth areas as far as decor, shelving, furniture, lighting, etc., being able to weed and select and develop the collection my way. I even have access to post on the library's Facebook page! I *finally* am no longer just a disposable, anonymous cog in a large, impersonal system; no longer being restricted by and subjected to the whims of centralized control of everything, and can finally do things the way I think they should be done. I have been positively giddy with excitement!

Yes, it will be a lot more responsibility, but also a lot more freedom. Is everything perfect? No. The collection has been severely neglected and allowed to become pretty stagnant and very lacking in diversity. The space, though there is plenty, is not very well-utilized or welcoming. There are some cataloging/shelving practices I don't care for. Teens have been demonized and their needs not adequately provided for. Families aren't coming in as much as I'd like. But, I have the authority to change the things that I don't think work, so I see them as opportunities to make a good library even better, not problems or sources of constant frustration.

And speaking of change, I was amazed to find that the staff here is not only open to change, most of them are eager for it! I was afraid I'd get pushback if I wanted to make any changes, instead I found out they had been hoping I would want to make the changes I've very cautiously hinted at. I was told they had been looking for someone who would be a little more progressive and bring in new ideas and "help get the library into the 21st century". I've really been impressed with the other senior staff so far, they are all not only smart, knowledgeable, and capable, but also flexible, supportive, and encouraging. Plus fun to be around.

I'm trying not to get too excited too soon, but this really feels like a great fit and I'm cautiously optimistic I've found a role I can really grow into and stay in long-term. It will probably have a bit of a learning curve and take me a couple of years to really get the department, collection, and myself where I want, but I am feeling very confident. The challenges I see right now that need addressing are:

  • a very neglected collection that needs weeding, refreshing, updating, more diversity, and a lot of new material

  • physical space that is not well-utilized and needs to made more welcoming with better lighting (this is a high priority!), more efficient shelving, more seating, colorful décor, and opening up space for a play area

  • designing and planning this year's SRP ASAP!

  • figuring out a way to make the large after school crowd of teens and tweens feel welcome, while also managing their behavior so as not to be disruptive to the entire library, prevent families from using the children's area, or cause safety issues

  • increasing program attendance/participation, increasing library visits, and increasing circulation

  • helping part-time ys staff to understand the full spectrum of their duties and my expectations, and giving them the training, support, guidance, direction and mentorship they need to do so and apparently have not received.

  • working with the rest of the management team to foster a sense of teamwork and co-operation, transparency and communication within the department and among all departments and staff 

As I said, I have been excited by everything I've seen so far, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what a difference I can make over the next year.

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!