Friday, February 26, 2021

Snowflake Science & Frosty Experiments - STEAM Program

This month, I decided on a wintery theme, adapting a couple of activities from a previous program and adding some new ones to give it a snowflake science focus. Most supplies were provided in a take-home kit they could pick up from the library, which also had basic instructions and QR links to the Facebook page and YouTube channel where the video presentation could be found that would have a lot more information and where they could see me demonstrate the activities. 

Materials Provided In the Kit:

  • Snowflake Science Take & Make Kit, Snowflake Science program
    metal can
  • salt (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
  • cotton swabs (30-50)
  • school glue (in a little paint pot cut from a strip of 6)
  • blue card stock - 2 sheets
  • white crayon
  • white paper - 2 sheets
  • watercolor palette
  • cotton string
  • instruction booklet
Additional Materials Needed from Home:
  • bowl
  • water
  • ice cubes
  • crushed ice (optional)
  • spoon
Snowflake Science

I shared my screen to show them an absolutely phenomenal site about snowflakes, This site belongs to Kenneth Libbrecht, a physicist and department chair at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dr. Libbrecht's specialty is the molecular dynamics of crystal formation and growth, particularly ice crystals. So essentially, he is a snowflake scientist. I have followed his site for several years, and it contains a wealth of information, and he continues to add to it and update it. There are dozens of absolutely beautiful photographs of snowflakes, videos of snow crystals forming and growing into snowflakes, and lots of information on the science of snowflakes. In addition to this site, he has published many lovely books on the subject, and I'd bet you have at least one in your library.

I didn't want to go into too much detail and turn it into a high school science lecture, so I introduced the site, showed them a few of the photographs and talked about the different types, talked a little about how the type and size of snow crystal that forms is affected by the temperature and humidity, and watched a few of the videos of snowflakes growing. I encouraged them to explore the site on their own later because it is just so amazing, but what I wanted them to observe and what I wanted to emphasize was that snowflakes always have 6 points (unless of course they were damaged while growing), not four, not eight, but SIX. This is because of the molecular structure of water, which leads to a hexagonal lattice structure when it crystalizes. 

[One of my pet peeves is seeing representations of snowflakes that have four or eight points, which is simply not possible. The physics and chemistry of water and ice crystal formation means that fully-formed, complex snow crystals, otherwise known as snowflakes, will always have SIX points. Some may think this isn't an important detail, or argue that 4- or 8-pointed snowflakes are easier to draw, or that it's okay to take "artistic license", but I feel that as information professionals, it is our duty to present scientifically accurate information, ESPECIALLY if we are presenting that art project as a STEM activity.]

I also wanted to show them snowflakes had symmetry, radial symmetry to be more specific, and showed that how no matter which direction you cut a snowflake in half through the middle, each side was more or less the same as another. I also discussed the saying that "no two snowflakes are exactly alike", and that while it is statistically possible and that snowflakes formed under the same conditions (in the same snow shower, for example) are likely to be somewhat or even very similar, to my knowledge no one has been able to credibly demonstrate fully-formed complex snow crystals (what we commonly know as snowflakes) that were exactly alike.

Activity #1 - Frost Formation

Growing frost experiment

This one takes at least 30 minutes, so I started it first. (In retrospect, I should have just started a second one well in advance to be sure I would have good frost formation to show them, and I could have gone straight to the snowflake activities, then done this one at the end).

1. Fill the can about 2/3 full with ice. Crushed ice does work better, but cubed ice will work.

2. Add about 4 spoonfuls of salt (be sure to save a little for a later activity) and stir.

3. Top of with more ice and one more spoonful of salt, and just a couple of spoonful of cold water.

4. Let sit for 30-60 minutes, checking every 10-15 minutes or so to observe the water vapor condensing out of the air onto the surface of the can as frost. If you have a thermometer, check the temperature at the beginning, then at 10-15 minute intervals.

The salt causes the ice to melt by pulling energy from the surrounding ice/water, which ultimately causes the temperature to drop below freezing. So instead of the water vapor condensing on the surface as water droplets, it condenses as frost. This is the same principal by which homemade ice cream is made using ice and rock salt to freeze the custard.

Activity #2 - Snowflake Art
Snowflake Craft/STEAM activity

1. Keeping in mind the principles of snowflake science, use the cotton swabs and glue to make your own designer snowflakes on the blue cardstock.

2. Use the swabs whole or break into pieces. Use the photos on for inspiration or be creative, just be sure not to break the laws of physics ( 6 points and radial symmetry)!

Activity #3 - Snowflake Resist Art 

Snowflake resist art STEAM activity
1. Draw snowflakes on white paper with a white crayon (or candle). It might be easier to draw a template in black marker on another piece of paper first, then trace over it. Again, be sure to follow the laws of physics with six points and radial symmetry.

2. Wet the water colors and load some on a brush and sweep over the paper, and watch your snowflakes "magically" appear.

Of course, it's really science, not magic. The crayon is made of wax, which is hydrophobic and repels water, so the watercolor paint does not stick to it, but the paper is hydrophilic and absorbs the watercolor, resulting in white snowflakes on a colored background.

Activity #4 - "Ice Fishing

1. Fill a small- medium bowl about 1/2-2/3 full with cold water.

2. Float a few ice cubes in it.

[At this point I challenge them to try to catch an ice cube with a piece of string. Most will try some variation of lassoing it, which almost never works (except when I'm trying to demonstrate that it doesn't on live video, LOL). I give them a minute to start to get frustrated, then show how easily I can catch one without even tying a loop or anything, then show the trick.]

3. Wet a piece of cotton string (NOT synthetic; it must be able to absorb water) and lay it along the top of an ice cube.

4. Sprinkle it with a tiny pinch of salt, and wait about 5-10 seconds.

5. Now gently lift the string and you should have caught your ice cube "fish" (the photos are from the previous in-person program where I had made fish-shaped ice cubes to use).

6. Now see how many ice cubes you can catch on the same piece of string at the same time!

This works on the same principal as the the frost-growing activity, the salt initially melts the ice a little, but that causes the temperature to drop and it re-freezes around the string. Encourage them to experiment with the amount of salt used and the waiting time and note the results.

I meant to close with suggesting books in our collection related to snow, snowflakes, or other easy experiments to do at home, but I was running short on time to get everything ready and trying to get the video recorded, and completely forgot.

How It Went

This time I had 6 people register in advance that were specifically interested in the program (which is 6 more than registered for the first one), and gave out an additional 17 kits at the desk. This time I thankfully had no technical issues, and I was pretty happy with the video (other than getting a tickle in my throat and coughing in the middle). The video ended up being almost 30 minutes long, which is about 10 minutes longer than I'd like, but as it was I kind of rushed through the activities. I only had 3 people watching it live, but within just 3 days it had 40 views, 2 comments, and 7 likes/reactions on Facebook. Even if people didn't get a kit, they would likely have the materials to do at least some of the activities at home, and all materials are easily found at local stores.

I was happy with how it went, and really pleased to actually get some live viewers and several reactions and one comment, which was very complimentary, from patrons. I am hoping that interest will continue to grow as patrons learn about the program. I would love to do additional STEM programs for toddlers/preschoolers and tweens/teens, but right now the programmer and I have about all we can handle, since assembling kits is so time consuming. Once we begin in-person programming and stop virtual programs, then we might be able to fit some in, at least on an occasional basis if not as a regular, ongoing program.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Black History Month/Basic Concepts - Virtual Storytime

I've been doing storytimes for over six years, but this was the first time I attempted a Black History Month storytime. I've never really thought it was really a topic that lent itself well to a 20-minute storytime for preschoolers and/or toddlers, and to be honest, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of trying. 

But this year I really felt compelled to find a way to observe it somehow. I thought about it quite a lot, and looked at a number of books, and again concluded that it really wasn't a topic that lent itself well to storytime, partly because of the breadth, complexity, and seriousness of the topic, and also because there really were no books that would work as they were all written for an older audience and quite text heavy.

So I decided rather than trying to do a literal interpretation, I would make it more of an homage by featuring books with Black authors and/or illustrators and songs/rhymes that I could somehow tie to Black inventors and scientists. But even then I had difficulty finding picture books that would make good storytime books. In general, it doesn't seem there are many African American picture book authors, though there are several illustrators. I eventually settled on two that I thought were suited for storytime, and also had a secondary theme of "basic concepts" to help connect them, since one focuses on colors, and the other on shapes.

I started with the usual "Hello" song, and introduced the topic, saying we were going to be honoring Black History Month by featuring award-winning books written and/or illustrated by Black writers and artists, and songs/rhymes inspired by Black scientists and inventors. I told them our first book was about a train, and I knew a silly song about a train we could sing first to warm up:

Peanut Butter

A peanut sat on a railroad track,
his heart was all a-flutter.
Around the bend came number 10,
Toot! Toot! SQUISH
Peanut butter!

I used this to create an opportunity to talk a little bit about George Washington Carver, the first African American to earn a Bachelor's degree (in agriculture), and though he didn't invent peanut butter, he did do a lot of research to find the best ways to grow peanuts and other ways to use peanuts (and sweet potatoes and soybeans as well) to help promote the agricultural economy in the south.

Black History Storytime
Then I read Freight Train by Donald Crews, a classic toddler storytime book which uses sparse text to describe all the different cars on a freight train and its journey along the track. Each car is a different color of the rainbow: red caboose, orange tanker, yellow hopper car, green cattle car, blue gondola car, and purple box car, all pulled by the black steam locomotive.

I transitioned from the colors of the train cars to the colors of a traffic light, with this song:

Twinkle, Twinkle Traffic Light

Twinkle, twinkle traffic light,
On the corner shining bright.
Red means "Stop",
Green means "Go".
Yellow means "Drive very slow."
Twinkle, twinkle traffic light.
On the corner shining bright.

Then I talked about Garrett Morgan and how he first came up with the idea of a warning signal to let drivers know the light was about to turn red, and showed a picture of him, and the traffic signal he patented. I also mentioned that he invented the precursor to the gas mask, and with these two inventions alone he saved many lives. I returned to the picture of a modern traffic light and pointed out the round shape of the individual lights, and the rectangular shape of the whole signal to segue into the second book.

City Shapes, illustrated by Bryan Collier ( and written by Diana Murray) is a lovely book that takes a sometimes rather dull subject and turns it into a work of art. Concept books can sometimes be so dry and boring, but Diana Murray's rhythmic, flowing text makes it a fun read as we follow a pigeon through the city, spotting all kinds of shapes along the way, and Bryan Collier's award-winning artwork makes it a visual joy.

One of the pages towards the end of the book shows stars in the night sky, and I went back to it as a way to transition to talking about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Christine Darden and all the other African American women who worked as mathematicians and engineers in the early days of the space program (I meant to mention astronauts Guion Bluford and Mae Jemison as well, but somehow forgot), which of course led to singing a song about going to the moon that would include a final concept, counting down from 10-1.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We're going to the moon.

Zoom, zoom, zoom, 
We're going to the moon.

If you want to take a trip,
Climb aboard my rocket ship.

Zoom, zoom, zoom,
We're going to the moon.

In 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-

I closed by encouraging the audience to come by to check out our many other books about Black history, and showed a few I had selected, representing multiple facets of Black history. So often when it comes to Black History Month people focus only on slavery and civil rights, showing only the darker history and struggle, instead of also celebrating the culture, accomplishments, and joy. I pulled a few books off of our display to show:
  • The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson 
  • Follow Your Dreams, Little One, by Vashti Harrison
  • Hidden Figures, written by Margot Lee Shetterly & illustrated by Laura Freeman
  • Black Is a Rainbow Color, written by Angela Joy & Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
  • Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

How It Went

Overall, I was fairly pleased with my approach and what I ended up doing, though some of my transitions felt just a little rough as I didn't have as much time to prepare as I'd like, and was unable to do even a quick run-through in my head before presenting it, which I really prefer to do, especially when doing something I haven't done before. But the last two months have been unbelievably chaotic as our manager left, we are understaffed, two people were out with Covid, then I lost a lot of time due to multiple snow delays, a closure due to plumbing issues, staff day, and a holiday closure. I am really hoping now we have our new manager and winter is about over that things will settle down and I won't feel like I'm perpetually behind!

I did get a decent number of views, and I think I honored the topic while still maintaining an age-appropriate and engaging storytime, and giving parents a jumping-off point for further reading and discussion at home.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Pandemic STEM Programming

One of my goals in my new position was to get some STEM programming going as there was very little being done in this system and none at my library. So once I had early literacy covered with both take-home kits and virtual storytimes, I turned my attention to STEM.

Since we serve a lower-income community where many lack internet access at home and are facing even greater economic hardships due to the pandemic, I did not want to assume they had internet access or materials at home. I decided on a hybrid program, combining a video presentation with a take-home kit that would include as many of the materials as possible with basic instructions for the activities, as well as how to access the video presentation of the program on Facebook & YouTube with URL's and QR codes. That way, if they didn't have internet access they could still do the activities.

I targeted elementary aged kids for a few reasons. First, there really was not much being offered for that age range, especially the upper end; preschool was covered with both storytime and take-home early literacy kits, my co-workers have craft and book club programs for teens and adults, and the central teen librarian sends out additional craft kits for teens each month. Central youth services does send out some really basic craft kits for kids, but they really only appeal to the younger kids and exclude all the kids who aren't interested in crafts. Second, the more basic science activities that are appropriate for this age are also more budget-friendly and more easily adapted for take-home kits and virtual programs. And third, this was the same age I did STEM programming for in my previous job, so I had 2 years worth of tried and proven programs I could adapt.

Take & Make DIY Kaleidoscope STEM kit and virtual program

For my first one, I fell back on a tried and true program I've done many times for many different groups in many different settings and it has always been very successful. My "Mirror, Mirror" program is about mirrors and reflection, and the kids make their own simple, but very effective, kaleidoscope out of easily accessible materials. I knew this would be perfect for a take-home kit, and easy to do with basic written instructions. However, if they had access, they would get more in-depth instruction and be able to watch me make one, as well as see a really cool demonstration of a mirascope, on video.

Materials Included In Kit (not all are pictured):

  • cardboard tube
  • 2 pieces of construction paper cut to fit tube (they only need 1, but I wanted to give some choice in color)
  • glue stick
  • tape (wound around a 1" piece of plastic straw)
  • flexible straw, cut to fit tube, with about 1" past the flexible part extending past the end
  • mirrored scrapbook cardstock, cut about 100mm X 112mm and scored into thirds (so there are 3 sections roughly 100mm X 37mm)
  • 2 cardstock circles, 4" in diameter with holes punch in center
  • 4 markers (wanted to be sure they had enough to get decent results in case they didn't have markers at home, but couldn't afford to give out whole sets; crayons don't work well)
1. Fold mirror board along the scored lines so that the mirrored surface faces inward, forming a triangular prism. Tape together, then insert into cardboard tube.

2. Cover cardboard tube with construction paper. [I find it is easiest to first line secure one end with tape, making sure it is aligned, then use the glue stick to apply glue to the underside of the paper, then roll up tightly, and secure the end with a piece of tape along the seam.

3. The kaleidoscope can be decorated as desired at this point, with markers or stickers.

4. Place the section of straw along the seam, with the flexible part extending past the end, and tape in place.

5. Now draw designs on the cardstock circles using markers. It can be random or not, and doesn't necessarily have to be done in detail or carefully, but typically yields good results as long as at least 2-3 colors are used.


6. Place one of the circles on the straw and bend the end to hold in place. Then look through your kaleidoscope while simultaneously turning the paper circle and see the amazing patterns it creates!

Prior to going through the construction of the kaleidoscope, I talked a little about mirrors and reflection, and how this can be used to create some cool effects, and in fact, this was how many special effects for movies were achieved back before more sophisticated technology like CGI was available.

I showed them one really cool effect, using a mirascope. This is a very simple device that creates a really realistic holographic image using two parabolic mirrors, with one inverted on top of the other, and an opening in the center of the top one. When assembled it looks like a flying saucer, and when a very small item is place inside, the curved mirrors produce a multitude of reflections from all sides, which results in a 3-d image of the item being projected through the opening so that it appears to be sitting on a mirror on top of the device. It is super cool, and they are less than $10 from a certain giant online retailer.

I used to have another cool demo for this program, an infinity mirror, but a wire became disconnected inside the switch and I haven't had a chance to repair or replace it.

How It Went

I was a little worried, because I made 30 kits, and did not have anyone register in advance for the program. I decided to just put them out at the desk and offer them to kids in the target age range, or parents with kids in that range. I only gave a few out prior to video program, but did give out the rest afterward. 

I don't know how many watched the video, I think probably not very many, and I did have major problems with audio at the beginning, and had to start over after 8 minutes of trying to figure out and fix the problem, all while live-streaming! But, I did later get some very nice compliments from parents, and I noticed that I had 5 people register for the following month as soon as it was posted, which is encouraging. 

It just takes a while for people to realize when we've started something new, and I didn't get very good publicity this time, plus I don't think many really understand registering in advance or how to do it. It isn't necessary really, but I do like it as a way to gauge how many people are really specifically interested in the program and plan to do it, versus the ones that just happen to be in the building and we offer it to them, and to see if interest grows over time.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mystery Storytime


As I've mentioned before, we have gotten in several new picture books lately that I knew would be really great for storytime, and I decided I wanted to use them sooner rather than later. I came across a particular book that I knew would be really fun to do, and since it was a longer book, I made it the sole focus of today's storytime, which was delivered virtually.

After the "Hello" song, I explained that today we were going to be detectives and solve a mystery. After defining what a mystery was, I discussed how detectives solved mysteries and some of the tools they might use, including their eyes and observation skills, a magnifying glass to look at small clues like fingerprints, a notebook to record clues, observations, information, and witness statements; and a camera to photograph clues. Then I lead in to reading the book with our "story song".

The Case of the Missing Cake by Eoin McLaughlin and Marc Boutavant is probably the most fun alphabet book I've ever come across, and the only one likely to hold an audience's attention from A to Z. I absolutely love this book! Though it started out as a typical alphabet book, A is for Apple, B is for Bear, C is for cake; it turned into a crime story after the cake on page 5 mysteriously disappeared!

But Bear is on the case, taking us through the entire alphabet as he investigates the crime and apprehends a suspect. But, has the suspect been falsely accused? Who really stole the cake? The observant reader will have noticed the clues throughout the story, leading to the not-so-surprising plot twist.

Though this is a longer story and a bit more text-heavy than what I typically read in storytime, it is so filled with drama and the opportunity to use different voices and read with a lot of expression, I feel that I would hold the attention of all but the youngest kids. It would be perfect for ages 5-8. I encouraged the audience to keep an eye out for clues, and to let me know when they spotted one and if they thought they had solved the mystery.

Since this was an alphabet book, I followed with singing the ABC song. I pointed out that the tune we typically use for the ABCs is the same tune as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", which typically blows peoples' minds. I then told them that the ABCs can actually be sung to the tunes of several different traditional children's songs, such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "This Old Man", "London Bridges", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes", and that it's good to vary the tune because they each break up and emphasize different letters in different ways. 

For example, the traditional tune tends to go thru the letters "L-M-N-O-P" quickly, and squishes them all together so that children don't really hear or realize the distinct letters, but the other tunes break them up more so they are sung and heard distinctly. By using less traditional tunes, children have to focus and think a little more about what they are singing, rather that relying on muscle memory. So then I sang the ABC's again, but to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb".

Finally, I closed with announcements and reminders, then a good-bye song.

How It Went

If this had been an in-person storytime or an outreach visit, I am certain it would have been phenomenal. This book was so much fun to read, and would be great to pair with a mystery-solving activity that would have the kids searching the children's area or classroom for clues.

As it was virtual, it of course just wasn't the same. While I still had fun with the book, it would have been even better with audience participation and feedback. As always, I asked grown-ups at the beginning to let me know who was watching so I could say hello to them, but no one did. I prompted them at the beginning and throughout the story to tell me if they spotted a clue or thought they had solved the case, but the only comment was from a colleague.

I really don't think any kids are watching these virtual storytimes, despite the number of views Facebook says I'm getting; I think it's mostly adults watching a few seconds before moving on to something else. I've spoken to parents in the library who tell me their kids just can't get engaged or pay attention to a screen, which I completely understand. I think it'd be a little different if I'd been here before the pandemic and had already built relationships and rapport with the kids; as it is they really don't know me at all. I will definitely be repeating some of these books once we are able to have in-person storytimes again, someday.....

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Early Literacy To Go - February


February early literacy to go kit

I had somewhat of a difficult time putting this month's kit together. Part of it was just a lack of uninterrupted time to concentrate on planning, but the ideas just weren't flowing, either. I also had to do a little back-tracking because I had initially planned out my storytimes for the month mainly featuring new picture books rather than themes because we've gotten so many great ones in lately, but then realized I had not done anything in any way for Black History Month, so I had to re-think everything. And since I like to make the early literacy to go kits complement the virtual storytimes, I had to get the storytimes planned before I could plan the kit.

As I looked through many picture books about various aspects of Black history, significant achievements by African-Americans, and Black joy, I came to the conclusion that it really wasn't possible to put together an age/developmentally-appropriate storytime that was really about Black history, as it was just such a big topic to tackle in just a few minutes, and all the picture books I looked at were just too long, and too text heavy. There were some really great storytime books featuring Black children, but were written by white authors, which I don't think is necessarily bad in general, but for Black History Month I definitely wanted own voices. 

In the end I decided to make it more "inspired by" or an "homage to" than "about", by making a point to include books on the suggested list with Black authors and/or illustrators (but even then, it was difficult to find any in our collection that were appropriate for a toddler/preschool storytime, most were more for older kids) and some of the activities in the kit featuring or inspired by the achievements of Black men and women, which is also how I will structure one of this month's virtual storytimes. The other theme I focused on for the month was love/Valentine's Day. This month's kit included:

  • Sheet with all the suggested activities on the front (click on the image to see larger); songs/fingerplays/action rhymes and instructions for included craft/activities on the back, along with a reminder about the weekly virtual storytime on the branch Facebook page and YouTube channel.
  • Activities - easy, everyday activities categorized by ECRR2 five practices
    • Talk - storytelling, tell one thing you love about each other & yourselves, repeat babbling back to infants
    • Play - "Red Light-Green Light", not a box
    • Write - tracing in salt tray, popping bubble wrap, write or draw what you love about the library
    • Sing - check out children's music CD's from library, play improvised instruments, songs and fingerplays on back
    • Read - together and independently
  • Book Suggestions:
    • My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
    • The Kindness Quilt by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
    • While We Can’t Hug by Eoin McLaughlin & Polly Dunbar
    • Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
    • The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer & Ekua Holmes (print & digital)
    • One Love by Bob & Cedella Marley (print & digital)
    • Love/Amor by Julie Murray, (digital in English or Spanish)
    • Eek! A Noisy Journey from A to Z by Julie Larios & Julie Paschkis
    • Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood (print & digital)
  • Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays (linked to previous posts with full lyrics):
    • "H-E-A-R-T" 
    • "I Have a Little Heart"
    • "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom"
  • Included STEM Craft - Heart Collage Animals (geometry, spatial relationships)
    • assorted size & color heart-shaped foam stickers
    • larger die-cut heart
    • assorted googly-eyes
    • sheet of cardstock (could make as a picture, or fold into a card)
  • Included Scissor-Skills Craft - Valentine Pal
    • red construction paper with large heart printed on it to cut out
    • white paper to cut into strips & accordion fold
    • 1/2 sheet with assorted small hearts to cut out
    • googly eyes
    • glue stick
  • Included Black History/STEM Activity - Traffic Light
    • information about African American inventor Garrett Morgan and his 3-position traffic signal
    • printed traffic light
    • red, yellow, and green paper for tearing
    • glue stick
  • Coloring sheets
    • bear w/heart-shaped balloons
    • vase of roses
    • George Washington Carver
    • Katherine Johnson
  • Die cut letters "H-E-A-R-T" to go with rhyme above

February crafts for preschoolers

I'm not quite as happy with this kit as the previous ones; it feels a bit forced or something. Or maybe it's just almost there, but not quite. Or maybe it's just been a difficult, frustrating, stressful month and nothing feels quite right? 

But, I am happy to see that now that I've been doing these for four months, awareness and interest does seem to be growing, with more and more patrons specifically asking for them. I think the little "unboxing" promotional videos I've been doing have helped, as I get more views on them than for my virtual storytimes, and even got a comment from someone who was NOT a staff member this month (!), saying their child really liked all the activities I have been putting together for them. I'm still not sure if caregivers are actually doing the activities with the children, and I'm not see many of the suggested books being checked out, but baby steps. At least the resources are there for them.

I am the only one in our district doing anything like this that I know of, so it may take a while to catch on and for caregivers to realize it's different from the simple craft kits they are used to getting (and are still available, because they have their place, too!). The digital divide is great in our area, so I am a bit surprised there hasn't been more of an emphasis on early literacy support (and other alternative programming in general) for those without access to the internet and computers, but the apparent disconnect there is a topic for another post...

Thursday, February 4, 2021

New Books - Virtual Storytime

We have gotten in so many great picture books lately that I couldn't wait to use, I decided to forego using a theme for a couple of weeks this month in order to share some of them right away. 

I started with a quick hello song, intro, and lead-in song, then right to the first book, Leslie Patricelli's Mad, Mad, Mad. I LOVE Patricelli's board books and wish they came in oversized storytime versions; one good thing about virtual storytimes is that you don't have to worry about books being too small like you would for an in-person storytime.

Storytime, feelings, self-soothing, socio-emotional learning
This book is not only great fun to read aloud because it allows you to be very expressive, it is a great age-appropriate choice for socio-emotional learning. Patricelli perfectly captures the frustrated, tired, and/or overstimulated toddler, their difficulty in understanding why they are upset or what they really want/need, and the resulting tantrum with just a few simple pictures and short phrases. It is very relatable, not just for toddlers, but for older kids and adults as well. Patricelli goes on to show how the child finds a way to calm themselves and "make the mad go away", with several other self-soothing activities suggested at the end.

I shared a couple of things I do to calm myself when I'm upset, and invited the audience to share theirs in the comments (though none did, unfortunately).

Since we were talking about feelings, it only made sense to follow that with singing a version of "If You're Happy and You Know It" that helps us give a name to feelings and associated expressions.

If You're Happy and You Know It

If you're happy and you know it, give a smile!
If you're happy and you know it, give a smile!
If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.
If you're happy and you know it, give a smile!

If you're sad and you know it, say "boo-hoo"....

If you're mad and you know it, make a face....

If you're tired and you know it, close your eyes....

Loud and quiet storytime
Our next book was a fun read as well, expressive and with interactive prompts. In I Don't Want to be Quiet by Laura Ellen Anderson our main character enjoys being loud, and doesn't understand why her mom and teacher have a problem with her behavior. But one day at the library, she is embarrassed when she realizes her outburst has disturbed everyone else in the library, who all shush her in unison. She decides to try distracting herself with a book as a last resort, and discovers a world of imagination inside. As a result, she gains a new appreciation for all the new things she can hear and learn when she takes time to be quiet and listen.

I like this book not only because it's fun and helps kids understand that there are times they can be loud, but there are also times to be quiet, but also how it shows that libraries are a source of books that can take you on all kinds of adventures in your imagination.

I pointed out that this story was about knowing when to be quiet and when it's okay to be loud, and that "loud" and "quiet" are opposites, and tried to explain the term, and said I knew a rhyme I bet they had done before that also used opposites.

Two Little Blackbirds

Two little blackbirds, sitting on a hill.
One named Jack, and the other named Jill.
Fly away Jack; fly away Jill.
Come back Jack; come back Jill.

...sitting on a named Quiet, and the other named Loud....

...sitting on a named Fast, and the other named Slow....

...flying in the named Low, and the other named High....

...sitting on a named Near, and the other named Far....

Then we ended with announcements, reminders, and a good-bye song.

How It Went

Again, who knows. I thought I did as well as I can without a live audience to work with. I don't think I will ever be completely comfortable in front of the camera, and it just isn't the same. As always, I ask for viewers to comment at the beginning to tell me who's watching so I can say hello, and give other prompts throughout the storytime, but still nothing. I get a few views, and maybe one or two likes from patrons, but most feedback is from other library staff. It is really discouraging and difficult to be motivated or enthusiastic without knowing whether any kids are actually watching or getting anything from it.