Sunday, March 21, 2021

Awesome New Books - Virtual Storytime

March 10th is the "
International Day of Awesomeness", which I decided to use as a segue to introduce some awesome new picture books. (In reality they weren't brand new, both having been published in 2020, but with the pandemic shutdowns and changing jobs I didn't see them until the end of the year, and hadn't had a chance to use them until now.)

As always, I started off with a hello song, and introduction, and a lead-in song before reading the first book, Bunny Overboard by Claudia Rueda. This is the third book in her series of interactive "Bunny" books, and I love using these kind of interactive books in storytime where the narrator of the story directs the reader to do things to help move the story along. 

In this story, bunny is going out for a day of sailing, and the audience is directed to do things like blow to make wind for the sails and rock the book to make waves. It's not only fun, but also introduces some nautical vocabulary, like bow & stern and port & starboard. I do wish the colors in the illustrations were a little more saturated; I don't feel the softened, almost pastel, tones work as well for a group read-aloud.

I followed that with a flannel board counting rhyme using bunnies:

Five Little Bunnies

One little bunny, wondering what to do,
another bunny came along, then there were two.

Two little bunnies, hopping like me,
Another bunny came along, then there were three.

Three little bunnies, jumping around outdoors,
Another bunny joined them and then there were four.

Four little bunnies, so fluffy and alive,
Another bunny joined them, then there were five.

Five little bunnies, ready for some fun,
Hopped away in the warm, spring sun.

I then had the bunnies hop away one by one in order to provide the opportunity for counting down as well, and then did the rhyme one more time.

The second book, The Button Book by Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin, is another great interactive book that presents different colored and shaped buttons that will prompt different actions from the audience, such as beeping, clapping, singing, bouncing, and hugging.

This would be great for a movement storytime, or anytime you have a group with some wiggles to work out, or a sluggish group that needs waking up. I also like the addition of color and shape concepts.
I then ended with closing announcements and reminders of the next week's storytime, other youth programs, and to pick up early literacy kits, followed with a good-bye song.

How It Went 

I did get some views, but no likes or comments from anyone other than staff, so as I always I'm left wondering if anyone is really watching and feeling a bit of a let-down. It is hard to stay enthusiastic and motivated for these virtual programs when there is no interaction and no feedback from viewers. I know this would've been a great storytime if it had been in-person, as these were both really good storytime books. I will likely repeat a lot of the virtual storytimes once we are able to do in-person programming again, because I know they would be so much fun.

Friday, March 12, 2021



A year. Twelve months. Three-hundred and sixty-five days. It sounds like such a long time, but it feels like it was just the other day. 

That's how long it's been since I worked what would turn out to be my last shift at a job I loved. I can't really say it was my last day in normal times, because we had realized the week prior that the pandemic was coming, then found out it was already here with the announcement of the first case in our state at the end of that first week of March. Things rapidly changed over the following week, starting with canceling all in-person programming for the next month, implementing frequent sanitizing of high-touch surfaces, removing some toys from the children's area and frequently cleaning what remained. I spent my last shift removing the last of the toys we had kept out, cleaning them, and putting them away. I knew a closure was imminent, though it had not been announced yet.

I was off the next day when the library announced it was closing for the next three weeks at the governor's request; most of the schools had already announced they were closing for the next 2-3 weeks, and the rest of the schools and most public libraries soon followed suit. Most people really expected that was going to be it, a brief shutdown, the pandemic would blow over quickly and life would get back to normal relatively soon. I knew better. As a former research microbiologist, I knew we would be dealing with this for at least a year, likely two, though nobody wanted to hear it.

But even I couldn't have predicted how bad it was going to be, how ridiculously politicized it would become, how much willful ignorance there would be, how selfish so many people are, how badly some organizations and governments would handle it, or how it would turn my life upside down. Instead of being closed for 3 weeks, the library remained closed for 3 months, during which time I finished my MLIS, but without the graduation I had been looking forward to attending. I expected this, but I did not expect what would happen next. In July, the library announced the beginning of curbside service at most locations, and in the same breath also announced the permanent layoff of all 101 part-time staff, which included me. I never had any warning this was coming, expected gradual layoffs and furloughs, but never this. I was devastated.

I keep thinking about if I had only known my last weeks were going to be my last weeks. I would have crammed in more programs, I would have spent more time talking to patrons, I would have had the chance to say good-bye to the families and coworkers I had built relationships with. I would have applied for the full-time children's librarian position in a neighboring county that I had passed on because of the long commute, knowing that one of our children's librarians was set to retire at the end of March and thinking I had a decent shot at that position. Or I would have applied to the one in an area my husband and I were thinking of retiring to, but I wasn't quite ready to make that leap just yet. If I had only known what was coming...

Instead, I missed those opportunities and later had to jump into a desperate job search in an already difficult job market that the pandemic had now made absolutely abysmal. I had to make very difficult decisions and choices in order to do what was best for my family's long-term financial stability, which resulted in my taking a job out of state, and moving there by myself until we could get everything else in order. I know on many levels I was one of the lucky ones. I got interviews from at least half of the jobs I applied to, and within just two months had gotten a good offer, less than five months after completing my MLIS. But though I've been in my new position for almost 6 months now, I'm having trouble letting go of the past and moving on.

I still grieve for my old job everyday. It was a nearly ideal situation that really allowed me to thrive and grow, and I truly loved being at work. I had great coworkers, a wonderfully diverse community with a strong reading culture that loved and supported their library, a large diverse collection, and lots of programming opportunities. I miss my kiddos, my coworkers, the collection. The library I am at now is very different. Not bad, just very different in almost every way, and I'm having trouble adjusting my expectations. I can't stop comparing it to my old one. I feel so homesick for my old job, even though I know that reality doesn't exist anymore, and even if I were still there, it would nothing like it was before. And I know that even without the pandemic, most likely I would have had to leave to find a full-time professional position anyway. 

Maybe if the end hadn't been so unexpected and traumatic and handled so callously, maybe if I had left on my own terms, maybe if I'd had time to mentally prepare myself and say my good-byes, maybe if I hadn't been forced to make such drastic changes and disrupt my whole life, maybe then it would be easier to let go and move on. 

Maybe I just need more time... 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Early Literacy To Go - March


Early literacy take-home kit for March

This month I looked over a few lists of various holidays and observances in March for a little inspiration in planning my storytimes for this month. Although these kits are designed to stand alone, I also design them to complement my virtual storytimes, so that's where my planning process starts: first I plan my storytime themes, then I decide what crafts/activities I want to provide so I can order materials if needed, then I come up with all the other suggestions, songs/fingerplays, and tips. The themes I decided to use are: World Wildlife Day, International Day of Awesomeness (awesome new books), St. Patrick's Day, Folktales and Fables Week, and National Crayon Day. 

Each kit contained the following:

  • Sheet with all the suggested activities on the front; 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 the ECRR2 five practices
    • Talk - play "Would You Rather" and pick different animals you would like to be and why, discuss what you would do if you found a pot of gold.
    • Play - act our your favorite folk/fairy tales, and give them a new twist
    • Write - scribbling, coloring, and drawing; make a squishy bag
    • Sing - songs based on traditional nursery rhymes and folk tales, songs and fingerplays on back
    • Read - together and independently
  • Book Suggestions:
    • Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle
    • Wild About Us by Karen Beaumont
    • Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner (print & digital)
    • Pete the Cat: The Great Leprechaun Chase by James Dean (print & digital)
    • Mary Englebreit's Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection (print & digital)
    • Folk and Fairy Tale Easy Readers- 15 Stories by Scholastic
    • Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall (print, Vox, & digital)
    • The Day the Crayon's Quit and The Day the Crayon's Came Back by Drew Daywalt
    • Baby Bear Counts One by Ashley Wolff
    • Animal ABC by Marcus Pfister
  • Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays (linked to previous posts with full lyrics):
    • "March Comes In Like a Lion"
    • "The Animals In The Jungle"
    • "Five Little Shamrocks"
    • "Five Little Crayons"
  • Included Craft - Rainbow & Pot of Gold (pincer grasp, color identification, counting)
    • paper with leprechaun and pot
    • round stickers in gold, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, & violet

  • Included STEAM Activity - Jack and the Beanstalk 
    • Jack and the Beanstalk story booklet to color & read (from
    • lima bean seeds
    • paper towels
    • clear plastic cup

  • Additional Craft - Crayon Shaving Suncatcher
    • crayons
    • waxed paper squares

  • Coloring sheets
    • African wildlife
    • Wildlife native to our state
    • St. Patrick's Day
  • Counting Activity
    • leprechaun pot cards numbered 0 to 10
    • 1/2" round gold stickers

  • Die cut letter "A" (for "animal")
  • Die cut 4-leaf clover
So as it turned out I really struggled with these this month, both in planning and preparing. First, as I am often guilty of doing, I way over-planned and just tried to include way too much and some things took much longer to prep than I realized. Second, I am starting to run out of ideas; I really wish I had someone else to work on these with, or at least bounce ideas off of, but we are a small library with a very small staff and I am the only one with early literacy experience and expertise. Third, it is sometimes difficult to come up with the book suggestions because our system frequently only has one copy of a given title and I'd rather pick something readily available, and there is an over-reliance on digital formats, even though children and youth do not use them. Ideally, I try to choose titles that are available in both print and digital, but that is getting harder to find. Then finally, I lost a lot of work time to snow delays and closures for plumbing problems and staff day.

I also realized I have gradually skewed a little bit to activities that are more appropriate for kids at the older end of age range, and not enough for the lower end. So I am going to have to scale back and simplify, and re-focus on activities more appropriate for the 2-3 year olds. The kits have proven to be very popular, and after 5 months people are aware of them and are now requesting them by name. Initially, 35 kits would last almost until the end of the month, but last month they were all gone by the middle. I made 40 for this month, and if I can rein it in and keep them a little more simple I can probably do more. But hopefully by fall we will be back to in-person storytimes.