Saturday, May 22, 2021

Cryptography - Hybrid STEM Program

STEM programs for kids, cryptography for kids

For May's STEM program I decided to repeat a program I'd previously done in-person ("Spy School") with some tweaking to adapt it to a take-home kit plus video format, focusing only on the hidden and coded messages part and re-branding it as a Cryptography program. I chose this program because I knew it would be a little easier and less time-consuming to prep and a fairly short and quick video to record since I was going to be gone a week for vacation, and preparing for the summer was going to be hectic.

This program was intended for ages 6-12, and as the other STEM programs I've done lately was a hybrid program, with a take-home kit of supplies coupled with a video presentation. 

Materials Provided In Kit

  • instructional brochure with general info, how to access the video, brief instructions for the activities, thought questions, where to find more info, and book suggestions.
  • white crayon
  • baking soda
  • grape juice
  • dixie cups
  • cotton swabs
  • DIY decoder
  • brad fastener
  • invisible ink pen
  • substitution code practice sheets
  • Pigpen Cipher practice sheet
  • Greek square practice sheet
  • final challenge worksheet

Additional Materials Needed

  • watercolor paints or washable marker (provided in supplemental, one-time family craft supply kit if needed)
  • paper
  • water
  • paintbrushes
  • milk
  • hot iron (must have adult assistance)
  • ironing board

Activity #1 - Hidden Messages
  1. Wax Resist - write a message with a white crayon, then color over it with watercolor paint or a water-soluble marker to reveal the message due to the hydrophobic properties of wax.

    hidden messages, cryptography, STEM programs for kids, hidden message with was resistance

  2. Baking Soda - mix a tablespoon of baking soda with 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water to make a saturated slurry. Use a cotton swab to write a message with this solution. Let dry, then reveal the hidden message by painting over with grape juice, which is acidic. The pigment in grape juice in pH sensitive and changes color in the presence of the baking soda.

    Hidden messages for kids, cryptography for kids, STEM activities for kids, hidden message with baking soda

  3. Milk - Write a message with a swab dipped in milk and let dry. Have an adult iron it with a very hot, dry iron to reveal the message using heat. This scorches the sugars and protein in the milk, turning the message tan-brown so it is visible. [The clichéd movie trick of using lemon juice and heating over a light bulb or simply by breathing on it does NOT work!]

    Hidden messages for kids, cryptography for kids, STEM activities for kids, hidden message with milk

  4. Invisible UV Reflective Ink - I splurged a little and bought these cool "spy pens" that have a UV-reflective ink that is completely invisible in normal light. The pens come with a tiny UV light to reveal the message.

Activity #2 - Secret Codes 

For each code I gave them a sheet that explained how the code works and gave a one or two word example. Then they were asked to encode a few different words as practice, and decode a short message.
  1. Simple Substitution - This can be done several ways, but I gave them the simplest way as an example, numbering the letters of the alphabet starting with A as 1. Then you substitute the corresponding numbers for the letters, then vice versa to decode. I also showed how a number substitution would allow messaged to be hidden as math homework.

  2. DIY Decoder - I borrowed this simple DIY decoder wheel activity from "All for the Boys". I furnished it printed on cardstock, and they would simply have to cut out the three circles and assemble them centered on top of each other, and fasten with the included brad. This provides a quick and easy way to do multiple alphabet substitution codes.

  3. Greek Square Code - This is a more complicated number substitution code that assigns a 2-digit number to each letter of the alphabet using a 5x5 chart ("I" and "J" share a spot). The letters are then indicated by a pair of number coordinates, the number of the row first, then the number of the column. So the letter "A" is indicated by the number 11 (1st row, 1st column), and the letter "Z" is indicated by the number 55 (5th row, 5th column).

  4. Pigpen Cipher - This is my favorite, but a little tricky at first, and reportedly dates back to the Crusades. The letters are placed into a series of grids, with and without dots, and it is the lines of the grid around each letter that is used to substitute for the letter. The resulting coded messages make me think of alien hieroglyphics.

Activity #3 - Ultimate Challenge 

For the challenge, I gave them a coded message that when decoded would tell them how to reveal the hidden message, which would also have to be decoded.

These were all done using codes and techniques covered, so they had everything needed to complete the challenge. I wrote the first message with an alphabet substitution code using the DIY decoder wheel, and gave them the hint that "A=D". When decoded, the first message says "ultraviolet light". This lets them know to use the UV light on their spy pens to reveal the hidden message I had written in UV reflective invisible ink using one of the pens. The hidden message was encoded using the Pigpen Cipher, and when decoded says "summer reading starts June first".

Hidden messages for kids, cryptography for kids, STEM activities for kids
(From left, under normal lighting, normal lighting plus UV light, and UV light only)

I closed by encouraging the audience to further explore the subjects of cryptography and espionage, and showed of few book suggestions, including an excellent book on the subject of codes and cyphers that I used in preparing for this program originally, 
Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janecszko (2004), as well as a book about Sioux code-talkers from WWII, a non-fiction book about the tools and techniques of espionage, the biography of a spy, and a fiction series (there was a more complete list in the included instructional brochure, as well).

How It Went

This worked really well for take & make kit, and was really inexpensive except for the spy pens. I wish I'd had the time and creative energy to make the messages they decoded a little more fun and somehow build on each other, but I was really pressed for time.

I was tempted to make one of the messages say "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine", but I figured few people would get the reference to poor Ralphie's disappointing coded message from the Little Orphan Annie radio show in the classic film A Christmas Story.

This will likely be the last take-home kit I do, at least for a while. The youth services department at the main library is doing centralized programming for the summer that will include a weekly animal program that is more "science-y" (as well as weekly storytime craft kits), so I am taking a break from planning take-home kits and focusing on outdoor, in-person programming for the summer, with the hope we will be able to return to normal indoor programming in the fall. 

I may still occasionally do a take-home kit, or package any leftover supplies from in-person programs as take-home kits, but they won't be as elaborate as what I've done during the pandemic. 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Frogs - Virtual Storytime

Today is National Frog Jumping Day! And it has a literary connection, being named in honor of all the frog-jumping contests spawned by Mark Twain's short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (originally published as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog")I've always found frogs to be a fun storytime theme, so decided this was a good reason to do it again.

I was joined by my frog puppet friend Freddy as I greeted viewers, sang a hello song, and introduced the topic. Then I brought out a non-fiction book, explaining that non-fiction books were full of information and interesting facts rather than stories, and were a great way to learn new words and more about the world, and that the more words they know and the more they know about the world, the easier it will be to learn to read later.

I used the book to briefly explain how frogs undergo metamorphosis, and showed the photos illustrating how the frog goes from egg, to a water-breathing tadpole with gills, to a tadpole sprouting back legs, then front legs, and finally to an air-breathing adult with 4 legs, no tail, and lungs. I also explained that frogs were amphibians, which means they live in water for part of their life cycle, and on land for part of their life cycle (but generally stay near water).

frog storytime
After a lead-in song I read an older-but-new-to-me frog counting book, One Frog Sang by Shirley Parenteau and Cynthia Jabar. I really liked this because it shows how there are many different kinds of frogs of different sizes, colors, and patterns, and that they make very different sounds and don't all say "ribbit". 

The various sounds are of course fun for the kids to say, and we know making animal sounds is great for phonologic awareness. The various frog sounds are also emphasized with a larger font which contributes to print awareness and letter knowledge.

I followed that with the classic and fun "Five Green & Speckled Frogs" using my magnetic board and set cut from craft foam (for more ideas for this song, see my "Five Green & Speckled Frogs, Five Ways" post).

Five Green and Speckled Frogs

Five Green & Speckled Frogs

Five green and speckled frogs,
Sitting on a speckled log,
Eating the most delicious bugs - YUM, YUM!

One jumped into the pool - SPLASH!
Where it was nice and cool.
Now there are four green speckled frogs - RIBBIT, RIBBIT!

(continue counting down until there are no green speckled frogs)

I didn't have room on my small board for the pool, so I showed it to the camera and then put it on top of the table below.

frog storytime
For the second book I choose one I've used before. The Frog With the Big Mouth by Teresa Bateman and Will Terry is a re-telling of an old folktale, with this version being set in South America. 

Though it doesn't have cool pop-up's like Faulkner and Lambert's more well-known version, I really like the alternative setting that introduces children to several animals they may not have heard of before, like the toucan, coati, and capybara. It is also fun to read aloud as the little frog brags about eating an enormous fly over and over, trying to find someone who will be impressed.

frog storytime craft
I closed with reminding them of this month's early literacy kit, which contains the words to "Five Green & Speckled Frogs", five die-cut frogs with dot stickers to speckle them with, and the bouncy frog craft pictured, among other things. 

I also reminded them of the following 3-week break from storytime, after which we would return to in-person storytimes outside on the lawn. Then Freddy and I sang a goodbye song and waved good-bye.

How It Went 

This was a really fun storytime, at least for me, though it ran way too long for a virtual storytime. But, it would be great for an in-person preschool or kindergarten storytime. I am hoping this will be my last virtual storytime, as I am transitioning to in-person outdoor storytimes for the summer, and hopefully to regular in-person programming in the fall.

I have to confess, I do not enjoy virtual programming at all. Between the technical challenges and limitations and the lack of interaction, I find it very unsatisfying and sometimes I wonder if it's just a waste of time. But at the very least it has kept me in practice somewhat. I so look forward to seeing some kiddos and families in person!

Cinco de Mayo - Virtual Storytime

My storytime happened to fall on May 5th, plus May is Latino Book Month, and since half our population is of Mexican American heritage I decided to do a Cinco do Mayo theme. First I did a little research to be sure I understood what the holiday was for and how it is celebrated, and since frustratingly none of our several books about Cinco de Mayo appeared to be written by Mexican or Mexican American authors I had to come up with a slightly different way to interpret the theme as I only wanted to use books by Latino authors.

Instead of reading stories about Cinco de Mayo, I talked a little about the holiday. First I explained it was Spanish for May 5th (literally 5th of May), and that though many mistakenly believe it is a celebration of Mexican Independence, it is actually a celebration of a battle that took place about 40 years after Mexico won its independence from Spain. In 1862 the French invaded Mexico and were marching to Mexico City when they were defeated in battle near the small town of Puebla (we happen to be in a town called Pueblo, so I liked that connection, too).

I then explained that in Mexico, this day is celebrated as a remembrance of that battle and victory, but that in the U. S. is has come to have a broader meaning and often observed as a celebration of Mexican heritage, with traditional Mexican foods, dances, music and other cultural traditions. I mentioned that in that vein, today's stories would be by Mexican American authors and celebrate Mexican culture, including some activities that one might do in celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Latino books, Mexican American picture book authors, cinco de mayo storytime
After our lead-in song, I read What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla and Magala Morales (winner of the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award). I led into this by explaining that paletas were Mexican ice pops made with fresh ingredients, in all kinds of creative flavors and combinations, and that enjoying paletas would be something you might enjoy during a Cinco de Mayo celebration. 

This book has a simple, charming text that portrays neighbors in the barrio enjoying ice pops from the paleta cart. The child narrating the story shows several imaginative things one can do while enjoying a fresh, delicious paleta. I must admit, I don't particularly care for the illustrations.

Following the story, I mentioned that making fresh homemade paletas might be something you would enjoy doing as a family at home, and if so, we happened to have a cookbook with all kinds of recipes in traditional and unexpected flavors, Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson. One slight caveat, it is an adult cookbook, so a few of the recipes do contain alcohol.

I segued to next activity by saying we were going to do a counting song in Spanish, and first went over the numbers 1 through 10 in English and in Spanish, and since making new friends was one of the things our story said one could do with a paleta, we would count friends, which was amigos in Spanish, and that "I have" was tengo in Spanish.

Tengo Diez Amigos

Uno, dos, tres amigos;

Cuatro, cinco, seis amigos;

Siete, ocho, nueve amigos;

Tengo diez amigos!

Normally I would do a second verse counting down from 10 to 1, but the idea of counting down and losing friends one-by-one just didn't seem like a good idea.

Latino Books Month storytime
I couldn't really find a suitable book about other celebratory aspects such a food, dance, or music, but the second book was about something uniquely Mexican, the dramatic performance wrestling knows as the lucha libre

In Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza and Alyssa Bermudez, the main character loves playing superhero, but becomes upset when the boys say that girls can't be superheros. Her abuela comes to the rescue with a story about the luchadores of lucha libre and a shiny, silvery cape and mask. 

I closed with announcements about the upcoming 3-week break from storytime to prepare for summer, the early literacy take-home kits with a piñata craft, and a good-bye song.

How It Went 

As always with these virtual programs, I got some views, but no engagement or interaction in the comments, so don't think any families are really watching. I don't really blame them; there is so much content on the internet that has much better production quality and I just don't think kids can really engage this way. Lucía the Luchadora is a fun read-aloud as it has lots of action and you can be fairly dramatic; I did not enjoy What Can You Do with a Paleta as much, but it's okay. 

Thankfully, I *think* I am almost done with virtual storytime! I have one more, then I'm taking a 3-week break to get caught up from being on vacation and prepare for summer, then I'm going to try in-person, outdoor storytimes for the summer. We have a nice little greenspace with plenty of shade once the trees finish leafing out (spring comes late here). Then, I'm really, really hoping that in the fall we can go back to regular, in-person programming in the building.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Early Literacy To Go - May


Since I decided to take a short break from storytimes the latter half of this month, May's early literacy kit didn't include as many different themes. My first storytime happened to fall on May 5, and the second on National Frog Jumping Day, so my themes were Cinco de Mayo, frogs, and Latino Books Month overall (though I could not find frog books with Latino authors, unfortunately).

This month's kit contained the following:

  • Newsletter 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 - about the meaning of Cinco de Mayo and the different ways it's celebrated, talk about your own heritage, traditions, and celebrations.
    • Play - build with blocks or small boxes, engaging in conversation while doing so.
    • Write - playing with dough, planting seeds, scribbling, coloring, and drawing. 
    • Sing - songs with animal sounds, counting songs, along with recorded music, included songs
    • Read - together and independently
  • Book Suggestions:
    • Dreamers by Yuyi Morales (print & digital)
    • What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla
    • My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintano (print & digital, English & Spanish)
    • Lucia Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza 
    • Salsa: A Bilingual Cooking Poem by Jorge Arguleta (print & digital)
    • Cinco de Mayo by James Garcia 
    • How Do Tadpoles Become Frogs by Darice Bailer (Vox talking book)
    • The Frog Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta (digital)
    • One Is a Pinata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong & John Parra (digital)
  • Songs/Rhymes/Fingerplays:
    • "Five Green & Speckled Frogs" (counting down song)
    • "The Alligator & the Frog" (action rhyme with large body movement)
    • "Ten Little Frogs/Diez Ranitas" (counting song in English & Spanish)
  • Included Craft - Paper Bag Piňata 
    • small brown paper bag
    • 2 small rolls of crepe paper
    • 2 packs fruit snacks
    • string
  • Included Craft - Bouncy Frog
    • frog cut out of green cardstock
    • lily pad cut out of green cardstock
    • 2 1/2" wide strips of cardstock
    • small dot stickers, assorted colors
    • googly eyes
    • small strip of red paper
  • Included Activity - Five Green & Speckled Frogs
    • 5 die-cut frogs
    • assorted color dot stickers to speckle them with
    • lyrics of song
  • Activity sheets
    • Frog coloring page
    • Life cycle of a frog
    • Scissor skills sheet
    • Find the two exactly alike frog coloring sheet
  • Die-cut Letter "F"

This will likely be my last monthly early literacy take-home kit, for a few reasons. First, they are extremely time-consuming to plan and execute. I put a lot of thought into them and try to be as intentional as possible in selecting the various crafts and activities. However, I have the very strong sense that caregivers are not using them as intended, and are just handing the kids the crafts to do and ignoring the rest. Second, this next month or two is going to be a hot mess because our entire summer program was just scrapped and being replaced with a completely different program that has a multitude of logistical challenges which still haven't been worked out yet, so I'm sure I will have to focus all my time and energy on that for the next month at least. And third, I am cautiously planning transitioning to in-person programs and outreach.

This coming week will be my last virtual storytime, followed by a 3-week break to prepare for the summer. Then, starting June 9th I am going to move to in-person, outdoor storytime. That won't be without challenges, though we have a nice green space, we are on a busy road so it's fairly noisy. But no one is interested in virtual programming anymore, and I feel like we are at a point with the pandemic that it's about as good as it's going to get for the foreseeable future. With the demands of the summer program, I just cannot possibly make time for the elaborate monthly Early Literacy kits, and with moving away from virtual storytimes and starting in-person programs, I feel that there is no longer the same level of need as I will be giving early literacy information and tips in-person, as well as providing a take-home craft or activity each week.

Then I'm really hoping once summer is over, we will continue to make the transition back to "normal" in-person programming and I can really begin doing community outreach, which is desperately needed here. I think the take-home kits definitely met a community need for the last 7 months for those who couldn't access the virtual storytime or kids who simply couldn't engage in that format, but with current staffing levels and transitioning to in-person programs once again, I don't think they are sustainable, at least not in their current form. I may consider a simply monthly newsletter instead.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

My First Grant-Funded Project


I'm excited to share a little grant project I've been working on that I'm rather proud of. It's nothing on a grand scale, not terribly innovative or particularly amazing, but I hope it will make a small difference for the kids in the community we serve.

The grant is just a small grant from our Friends organization, but I'm proud of it for a couple of reasons, (1) it's the first ever grant of any kind I've applied for as a librarian, and (2) I literally had only 4 hours to come up with an idea and put an application together due to a breakdown in communication meaning I didn't get the initial call for proposals sent out the month before.

Thankfully, I already had the beginnings of an idea in the back of my mind, since there was no time for brainstorming. While virtual programming has only had marginal success with our community, take-and-make kits have proven to be hugely popular. We give out at least a couple hundred or more each month; some are branch-specific, developed by me or the programming assistant; some are system-wide and developed by the central youth services staff at the main library. I found that the centralized kits often required that the recipient have access to basic arts and crafts supplies at home, such as scissors, glue, tape, crayons/marker, etc.; an assumption I wasn't comfortable making.

The community we serve has suffered from economic hardship for quite some time, which has been made significantly worse by the pandemic. Many families are living at or below the poverty level, unemployment is high, transportation is often a challenge, and food insecurity is a problem for some. On top of this, many families are avoiding crowded public places as much as possible due to the pandemic. Knowing all of this, I was not comfortable assuming everyone had kid-safe scissors, glue, and other arts and craft supplies at home, or the ability to get them. But, it was not practical to supply these things in every kit, every time they were needed, and becoming increasingly challenging to plan around it.

So my idea was to create a one-time essential supply kit to give out to those who needed it, that would contain things that were needed to do arts and crafts, but impractical to include in each individual kit. I quickly got the general info on the grant program and discussed my idea with a couple of co-workers and a library school friend who all thought it was a good idea and would meet a definite need. So, I quickly drew up a list of essential supplies, researched prices, and came up with a proposed budget, asking for $500 that I calculated would make about 50-70 kits. 

I also did some quick research to find articles that linked arts and crafts to literacy, other areas of development, and STEM, as well as some population statistics showing the diversity of our community, and the high number of children living in poverty in the immediate vicinity of our branch to help support my proposal. I ended up getting the application submitted with at least half an hour to spare! I was a little frustrated to find out the next day that I could have actually submitted two proposals, but there really wouldn't have been time anyway. My co-worker also managed to get a proposal submitted, and I was thrilled to find out a month later that both of our grants were funded at $500 each.

After making adjustments for price changes, unit quantities, the addition of a pencil box to put the supplies in, and kicking in an additional $25 from our programming budget,I was able to purchase enough to make 60 kits containing the following:

grant funding for arts and crafts
The purchasing was slightly complicated because of the unit quantities and trying to get just the right amount for the best price, and I was really nervous waiting to see if everything would actually fit in the boxes I ordered! To my great relief, everything fit perfectly, though I did have to take the markers out of their boxes. I made inserts with the library logo that would show on top, and a short note to caregivers on the inside. The note just mentioned the purpose of the kit, the FOL sponsorship, and how arts and crafts help all areas of development. I ended with a reminder that it's all about the process, not the final product. 

If you're wondering why I didn't buy generic brands to bring costs down even more, I really wanted the kids to have quality products, and in my experience when it comes to crayons, markers, and glue it is worth paying a little more for the name brands as the difference in quality is noticeable. Plus, I remember as a kid how much kids do pay attention to brands, and it can feel very "othering" to only have generic brand stuff; I still remember being teased for my Sears catalog jeans.

I assembled the kits earlier this week with the help of a volunteer, and now they are ready to give out! I'm really pleased with how they turned out, though I wish I could have done them way back earlier in the pandemic when the take-home craft kits were first becomming a thing, but I wasn't in a position to at the time. I really hope I can get them to those who need them, and not just those who like free stuff, but as long as they are used by kids I feel like it's a win! 

We will be sending out at least 2-3 different kits every week during the summer, so I'm sure these supplies will come in handy, and it gives us a little more freedom and range in designing and executing take-home kits if we don't have to worry about whether they have things like glue, scissors, and markers at home. I expect we will start phasing the take-home kits out in the fall and begin to return to in-person programs, but they've been so popular I'm sure we will still do some occasionally, and hopefully having arts and craft supplies at home will spark creativity.

Now to start thinking on ideas for proposals for the next round of grants.....What would *you* do if you had an extra $500 in your budget for kids' programming?

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Superheroes - Virtual Storytime

April 28th in National Superhero Day, and though I've never really been a fan of the whole superhero genre, I know a lot of people are so thought it would be good for a storytime theme. However, I did find it surprisingly challenging to find superhero books suitable for storytime that I liked. I was still trying to decide on books up until that morning, when luckily two holds came in just in time.

I started off with our hello song, then introduced the topic. I asked the audience if they had a favorite superhero and if they could have any superpower they wanted, what would it be? I encouraged them to give their responses in the comments, but as usual, did not get any. Next, I said we were going to get ready by pretending to be superheroes with a quick rhyme (borrowed from Lindsey and Dana at Jbrary), acting out the motions:

Superhero, Superhero

Superhero, superhero, turn around.
Superhero, superhero, touch the ground.

Superhero, superhero, put on your suit.
Superhero, superhero, put on your boots.

Superhero, superhero, jump up high.
Superhero, superhero fly, fly, fly!

sueprhero storytime
I followed that with my lead-in song and the first book, Family Is a Superpower by Michael Dahl and Omar Lozano. I was so glad when this book came in at the last minute, because it was perfect for storytime. The text is short and simple, it has diverse characters, and has a great message about family. I also liked that it had some of the recognizable comic superheroes, but wasn't only about them. 

The presence of the superheroes also gives the subtle message that friends can be like family, too. I made it a little less subtle by pointing it out and saying the sometimes friends are like family, and family can be anyone who cares about each other.

I followed this with a another rhyme I borrowed from Jbrary that I made even more fun by adding a visual element, using laminated clip-art with my magnetic white board. I modified it slightly by choosing kid versions of superheroes and adding the word "little" to the rhyme to make them more relatable to young children, and changed the work "fly" to fight, and the last line from flying up, up, and away to chasing the villain away, since not all the heroes shown have flying as a superpower.

superhero storytime

Five Little Superheroes

Five little superheroes ready to fight.
Here comes the villain; Stop that guy!
This superhero can save the day.
Off he/she goes, and takes the villain away!

I also had five different villains (some from the comics, some generic, chosen somewhat at random due to my lack of knowledge of superhero lore and lack of time to research it). I started with all five heroes on the board, then as I said the second line of the rhyme, I would put one of the villains on the board, and end with one of the heroes taking the villain away. 

Superhero storytime
For the second book, I decided to try something a little different, that I've never done before. The other book that came in at the last minute was Yasmin the Superhero by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly. I love, love, love the Yasmin books for many reasons, and really wanted to promote them and use this opportunity to provide some exposure to a culture that is not often represented in children's books. 

However, they are early readers/transitional chapter books, so longer and text-heavy compared to a picture book, plus my storytimes have been running too long for a virtual format anyway. So, I decided to just read the first chapter as an introduction, kind of a teaser, and encourage people to check out the book to learn the rest of the story. In that first chapter, we see Yasmin has an extended family, calls her grandparents "Nani" and "Nana", and learn what a dupatta is when her Nani lends it to Yasmin to use as a cape. If you don't have these books in your collection, I strongly recommend you add them!

I ended with encouraging families to visit the library to check out more books, and briefly showed a few of the other superhero books from my display, and closed with a good-bye song.

How It Went

I wish there were more superhero books that were suitable for storytime, I felt like I didn't have a lot of great choices. But I was happy with the ones I used, and thought the two rhymes were fun, and would have gone over well if I'd had a live audience. But once again, though Facebook showed I had gotten views, there were no comments or reactions from patrons. It's getting harder and harder to be motivated to put much effort into these virtual storytimes without getting any feedback at all.

I am doing two storytimes in May, then taking a break the last half of the month to get caught up from taking vacation in the middle, and to get ready for our summer program. I am still debating on what to do for the summer. We have lots of centralized, system-wide programs going out, including a weekly virtual storytime, so I feel like my weekly virtual storytime is redundant. I have been toying with trying outdoor in-person storytimes instead, or maybe just using that time to do some type of outreach.

I need to make up my mind by the end of the week, but I find it so hard to plan with the Covid situation constantly changing in my area. Just when we think things are getting better and we can think about in-person programming, the numbers spike again. Also, our usual summer reading program was scrapped at the ninth hour and replaced by a completely different program that still doesn't have all the details worked out and will likely generate more chaos and a greater workload than the previous one, so I feel I need to save my time for that. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Dinosaurs - Virtual Storytime

velociraptor appreciation day
I continued the "Velociraptor Appreciation Day" (April 18th) theme into my storytime for the following week, since I had come across a new book I really wanted to use, and an older one I hadn't seen before that I really like. Plus, let's be honest, I love dinosaurs as much as the kids do.

After a hello song, I introduced the theme using a non-fiction book, Velociraptor by Wil Mara, to tell a few facts about velociraptors and show relative size and what scientists think they looked like. These "Rookie" readers are perfect non-fiction books for storytime and younger kids.

paleontology book for preschool, dinosaur storytime
I led into the next book by explaining that no one knows for sure what dinosaurs looked like since they are extinct, but that scientists can theorize what they were like by studying their fossilized remains. Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner is the perfect book to introduce paleontology to young kids. 

It's actually two books in one; across the top of the pages is a sparse rhyming simple text written in a large colorful font that is just right for toddlers and young preschoolers, but at the bottom is more detailed information that would be good for older kids, or when reading one-on-one. It's like a picture book and a non-fiction book in one, with bright, colorful illustrations depicting both skeletons and the dinosaurs they came from.

Next I did one of my favorite storytime songs/flannels, "Five Little Dinosaurs", though it wasn't nearly as fun without a live audience there to interact with.

dinosaur storytime, dinosaur flannel

"Five Little Dinosaurs"
(to the tune of "Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play")

One little dinosaur went out to play,
Out in a giant swamp (or the giant ferns) one day.
He (she) had such enormous fun,
He (she) called for another dinosaur to come.
"Oh, diiiiinosaur!"

[continue to the fifth dinosaur]

Five little dinosaurs went out to play,
Out in a giant swamp one day.
They had such enormous fun,
They played all day, til the day was done.

(Spoken) And then the mommy and daddy dinosaurs called,
"Oh, little diiiinosaurs! Time to come home!"

[Remove dinosaurs one by one]

When I do this one, I tell the audience to help call the next dinosaur, and pat their thighs with their hand to sound like the dinosaur running to play. I followed this with the lead-in song I usually use at the beginning, but didn't today since the first book was more of an informational book that a story, and I had transitioned to it by talking about how we know about dinosaurs instead.

dinosaur storytime
The next book was a relatively new book that is super silly, and combines two of my favorite things, kittens and dinosaurs! In Michael Slack's Kitties On Dinosaurs, the adventurous kittens have climbed and explored everything possible on Kittie Island and are bored. So, they sail off to Dinosaur Island in their amphibious litter-mobile to climb the dinosaurs, despite the narrator's strong warnings. 

Their first plan doesn't work, so they go to 'Plan B', then 'Plan C', and finally 'Plan D' (no one ever has a 'Plan D"!). Will the kittens survive, or become dino snacks as the narrator fears? Very fun and expressive, a great read-aloud.

I ended by encouraging families to come to the library and check out more informational or story books on dinosaurs from our display and showed a few examples, then closed with a goodbye song.

How It Went 

Got some views on Facebook, but again, no engagement with comments or reactions. For once, I was glad not many watch it as I had a major slip of the tongue when reading Kitties On Dinosaurs. The line was supposed to be "tough cookies, kitties", but "kitties" is not what came out of my mouth! 😖😳 I quickly corrected myself, but I still said it. Whoops!

What's your most memorable slip of the tongue?