Saturday, April 30, 2022

Reading with My Peeps - Diorama Contest

Over the last few years I had noticed a growing trend to make dioramas using Peeps. Love them or hate them, there is no denying the little sugar bombs are adorably cute, especially when portraying your favorite characters. Once I had seen them, I knew I wanted to host a library event some day, and this year I had my chance.

It took me a bit to decide exactly how I was going to structure it. My first thought was as a library program, to get people in the doors, but I didn't think an hour or two would really give people enough time. I also thought of doing it as a take-home kit, but then I didn't really know what that kit would need to contain other than Peeps as it would depend on the scene the person was doing, and let's face it, the Peeps are the cheapest component of the project, and in plentiful supply at several stores in town. In the end, I decided to just announce it and have people make the dioramas on their own and bring them in.

So then I decided on age groups and rules, made a downloadable entry form, and announced the contest a week before Easter, with dioramas to be brought in during the week after Easter, then displayed, judged, and voted on during the following week. This would be sure people had plenty of time to come up with ideas, get Peeps, take advantage of post-holiday half-price Peeps, and have a week or two to complete their dioramas.

The rules were basically it had to be roughly shoebox sized and stand up on it's own, use Peeps to represent the characters, and be based on a book. Teams were allowed, but had to be entered in the age group of the oldest member, and adults should provide minimal assistance for kids' entries. I decided to have guest judges (the mayor and a school librarian) pick winners for each age group (adult, teen, tween, and kids) and the staff division, then have the public vote on an overall "Peeple's Choice" winner.

By Tuesday of the week entries were to be submitted I realized there had not been as much interest on social media as I'd hoped, and it seemed like most of the entry forms I had put out for patrons to take were still there, so I began to get really discouraged, thinking I wasn't going to get any entries besides mine and my teen specialist's. But on Wednesday morning another staff member brought one in, and then one family brought in four. Then several more came in on the last two days, for a total of 17 entries! Below is a slideshow of them all:

Though I would've preferred to have closer to 25 entries, I was pretty happy with 17. We had close to 70 people vote for the Peeple's Choice, so there is definitely some interest there to buile on. I think it's a good start and definitely worth doing again next year, though I'll probably change a few things. Since we had so few entries per each category, the judges preferred to just pick a winner rather than use a score sheet. But, next time I'm going to insist on some kind of scoring system so that it is more objective.

Literary Peeps Dioramas

Our winners were:

  • Adult Division - I Love Lucy
  • Teen Division - Harry Peeper
  • Tween Division - The Great and Powerful Peep of Oz
  • Kids Division - There's a Peep Under My Bed
  • Staff Division - Franken-Peep
  • Peeples Choice - Harry Peeper

My personal favorites were:
  • Adult Division - In the Coop
  • Teen Division - Harry Peeper
  • Tween Division - Middle School Mayhem
  • Kids Division - I was torn. I liked "There's a Peep Under My Bed" the best, but the only other kids' entry was a Wizard of Oz theme by a 4-year old who had clearly done a lot of work, and most of it with minimal help.
  • Staff Division - Follow the Yellow Peeps Road, Five Peeps Apart, and Franken-Peep, all for different reasons.
My overall favorite was the Harry Potter one. It was so well-done, very neat and attractive, but also very detailed. Several quidditch players and the snitch suspended mid-air, the stadium full of spectators, the Peep-ifying of the four was clearly a stand-out.

Can you guess which one was mine? As the organizer I normally wouldn't have entered, and had no intention of trying to win anything, but I was so afraid there wouldn't be many entries, so I made one and put it out early to help generate interest and show an example to inspire others. 

The division winners received a blue ribbon, a "Reading with My Peeps" journal, and a Peep squishie, and the Peeple's Choice winner received a small trophy and a Peeps plushie. Since everyone clearly put some time and effort into their entries, I wanted to give everyone a little something, so I designed some Peeps bookmarks:

Peeps bookmarks

All in all, though I didn't get *quite* as many entries as I'd hoped, it did generate a fair amount of interest and engagement so I consider it a success. Hopefully there will be even more interest if we do it again next year.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spring Break Programming

Spring Break at the library

Initially I wasn't planning on doing anything during Spring Break other than my usual storytime (which I had just resumed the week prior) and self-directed activities because I was told that everyone travels and it's always been dead at the library during spring break, and I *really* needed to work on planning summer reading. But, with high gas prices and all the problems with airline cancellations, I thought more people would be staying home than usual, and with the cold, wet weather expected most of the week they would need something to do.

So I decided to plan some very simple family programs that (1) would not cost a lot, (2) would not involve a lot of preparation, (3) would not involve a lot of staff time during the event, (4) most supplies purchased could be saved and reused, and (5) would work for a fairly large age-range; basically programs that could easily accommodate a crowd, but wouldn't be a waste of time and materials if no one showed up. Since it was also Library Week, I incorporated that theme in some of them. Here is what I came up with:

  • Monday - Family Movie, "Encanto". I chose this because I thought it would be popular, but it didn't draw a very large crowd. I think most have already seen it, it's not as popular as some adults want it to be (nowhere near "Frozen" levels), and with all the streaming services and devices, watching a free movie on the large TV at the library isn't a big deal. 

  • Tuesday - Family Storytime, with a "Library Week" theme and simple book-making craft.

  • Wednesday - Bricks & Blocks, Family building program with regular bricks, preschool bricks, toddler bricks, and wooden blocks. I told them the official challenge was to design and build your own library for Library Week, but they could also let their imaginations go and build whatever they wanted. This activity is good for fine-motor skills, spatial awareness, creativity, and problem solving.

    Bricks and blocks library program

  • Thursday - Family Movie, "The Pagemaster". I didn't know about this movie before now, but it is a fun fantasy/adventure that takes place in a library, based on the children's book of the same name by David Kirschner and starring Macauley Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Ed Begley, Jr., Mel Harris, and the voices of Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nemoy, and Whoopi Goldberg (and it just dawned on me that all 3 are Star Trek alum). Again not a huge crowd, the same as for "Encanto", but they were very engaged.

  • Friday - Play-Dough Playdate. I billed this as a 'have fun with a messy activity away from home and we'll clean up" program. I found a good deal on Amazon for 3oz cans of name-brand dough for about 75 cents each, which was cheap enough to give away because I really didn't want to reuse any dough that kids had handled. I would've made my own dough if I hadn't been pressed for time, and had a better idea of how much I'd need. I also bought an assorted pack of rolling pins, extruders, and cutters, and found more rolling pins and cutters in our cabinets. I initially asked each child to take one color of dough, but then after being sure I had plenty, let them take a second one if they wanted.

    This was inspired by my son, who for a year or two had a Saturday morning routine of playing with play-doh at the kitchen table after breakfast. It was one of the few activities he ever sat still for any length of time. It's also a great fine-motor skill and sensory activity, plus encourages creativity.

    Play-dough at the library, play-dough programs

  • All Week - Library Week Book Display. I had just gotten two pieces of display furniture that were *badly* needed, and I was very excited about. I used one for all the new juvenile fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels, and the other will be used for rotating themed displays. I pulled all the picture books, early readers, boardbooks, chapter books, and kids' non-fiction that featured libraries and/or librarians for a Library Week Display.

How It Went 

Though I was a little disappointed that the attendance for both movies was so low, I was glad that I did have enough people come for each program for it to have been worth doing. I actually had a big turnout for storytime, and a decent turnout for the Bricks & Blocks and Play-Dough programs. Though I'd hoped to get some older elementary kids in with the Bricks & Blocks, I ended up with all little kids who weren't really ready for the regular bricks and most of them really didn't do much building. I'm still glad they came of course; I'd just hoped to also get some kids in the 8-10 year old range as well, and I really hope this isn't a sign of how the summer will be.

I've become aware that there had been little to no programming for elementary-age kids at this library in the past, but I'm not sure if that's because they couldn't get that age to come, or just because my predecessor preferred preschoolers and kindergartners and didn't really program for the older kids or try to attract them. I suspect it's going to take a couple of years to really build up programming and attendance for that age group, and I'm going to have to really try to get some partnerships going with teachers at the schools and do some outreach next year.

I was excited to finally have some dedicated display shelves, and was very pleasantly surprised that at least 10 books checked out from the Library Week display during that week, which is really good for this small community! I've also finally started seeing more interest in the new juvenile books now that we have a dedicated, eye-catching display front and center.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Library Week - Family Storytime


Library Week Storytime

My director wanted to make a big deal out of National Library Week, partly to acknowledge the staff for all the hard work they do, partly to remind people of all the library does for the community, and partly to get more people coming back in. So I planned for a "Library" themed storytime, which is always fun because there are several funny and cute books about libraries for kids.

I started with a short hello song, followed by a warm-up song to get everyone moving and engaged. Then we sang the alphabet song, and I reminded them that the tune we usually use is the same tune as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" but that it can be sung to other tunes as well, which is good exercise for our brains and lets us hear the letters emphasized differently so "LMNOP" aren't always squished together.

Library Week storytime
I lead in to the first book by singing "Are You Ready for a Story?", then we read Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw. I love this simple but sweet story about Lola and her mother spending the morning together and visiting the library. It also brings some much needed diversity exposure to a community that isn't very diverse.

his book does a lovely job of describing the children's area, and as a bonus it takes place on a Tuesday, which is the day of our storytime. Normally I don't like to substitute or change the wording, but in this case I change the borrowing term and checkout process to match how it is at our library. If you're promoting reading in general rather than the library, there is also Lola Loves Stories and Lola Reads to Leo.

After that I did a simple library book rhyme with the flannel board that lets us practice counting to five, subtraction, and identifying colors.

Library Week storytime

Five Little Books

Five little books at the library,
Five little books as great as can be.
Along came _______ with their library card,
and checked one out to read.

Four little books at the library.....[repeat until you get to zero]

If you have a small group, you can use the names of the children to fill in the blank, repeating the rhyme as necessary to get everyone in (or make extra books). Otherwise, fill in the blank with "a teacher", "a little boy/girl", "a big kid", "a mommy", "a daddy", etc.

At this point the younger ones were getting restless, so I got out the shaker eggs so everyone could move around and get some wiggles out. I used this modified, simpler version of a shaker song from Jbrary:

Shake Your Shakers

(to the tune of "London Bridge")

Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake;
Shake, shake, shake; Shake, shake, shake.
Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake.
Shake your shakers!

Other verses: way up high, way down low; to your left; to your right; fast, fast, fast; slow, slow,

Then at the end I told them to give their shakers one more really fast shake, then slow, then stop. They did a really great job of holding them still as I came around with the basket to pick them up, with only one child trying to sneak and keep theirs. There's always at least one, LOL!

Library Week storytime
I finished up with a book that wasn't new, but was new to me. If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! by Elise Parsley is a super fun read aloud that shows all the problems with bringing the circus to the library. And just when you think everything has settled down and the protagonist Magnolia has realized that it's just not a good idea, something happens that REALLY drives the point home with disastrous but hilarious results (hilarious only because it's fiction!).

I had a lot of fun with this book, and I'm so glad someone in one of my online librarian groups suggested it, but it is a bit longish and better suited to 5-8 year olds. Since this was spring break I did have older kids in my group for a change.

By this point I was losing the youngest members of the crowd and it was running a bit longer than I'd intended, so I quickly closed with a goodbye song and moved to the craft before people started leaving.


I was running short on time, so my co-worker looked for craft ideas for me, and came across one where kids made a book. The one she found was a bit more involved than I wanted to do or had time to prep, so I just kept it very simple and open-ended. (Not only do open-ended activities encourage more creativity and problem solving, they mean less prep for me, so it's a win-win!)

On each table I put a stack of plain white printer paper, a stack of assorted colors of construction paper, scissors, crayons, a hole-punch, and pre-cut lengths of yarn with one end wrapped in tape for easier lacing. Simply take a few sheets of paper and fold them in half, select a piece of construction paper for the cover and fold in half, then put the folded white paper inside the folded construction paper and punch two holes. Thread the yarn through the holes and tie in a knot or double-tied bow; trim and knot the ends.

I initially said they could do as many pages as they wanted, then we quickly realized I needed to amend that to as many pages as they could punch the hole through, which was about 3, though will vary depending on the paper. I also told them they could put whatever they wanted in their book, because it was theirs and *they* were the authors and illustrators. I said they could tell a story with words, with pictures, or both; they could dictate a story and have an adult help write it and then draw the pictures, they could practice letters, numbers, or shapes, or they could doodle and scribble. Whatever they wanted.

They really seemed to enjoy it, and I just loved one little boy's imagination and how what appeared to me as simple scribbling back and forth held a very detailed story for him that he was happy to tell me. 

How It Went

I was very pleased to have a much larger crowd than I'd had for the few in-person storytimes I've been able to do here previously, about 25 people total verses 8-12. This was probably due to it being spring break and more parents taking off work and older kids being home from school. It was so nice to have some older kids for a change; that's really the age group I enjoy the most and do the best with for storytime, and don't see much in the library anymore. Hopefully I will be able to get some classroom visits going in the fall!

It ran a little long and the second book was too long for the littles and a few did duck out a little early. I felt a little bad for that, but at the same time I also really enjoyed reading something a bit more sophisticated for a change! But I think overall it was very successful and people were very glad to have in-person programming started again, and people are asking about summer already. I am curious to see how many people I have next week.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Spring - Family Storytime

Spring storytime, spring flowers storytime

This was my first in-person storytime after having to suspend in-person programming yet again as the Omicron wave hit right after I started this position. Patrons have been asking for it for at least a month, but Covid numbers were still too high for me to feel comfortable. During the interim I offered book bundles and did a couple of read-alouds on our Facebook page.

I went with a Spring theme, and of course the weather that day was cold and cloudy and not very Spring-y. I am starting with one all-ages storytime per week, but will divide into toddler and preschool storytimes in the fall (over the summer I will also have separate toddler and preschool programming, but they will will vary and not necessarily be traditional storytimes each week).

I started with introductions and singing "Hello, My Friends, Hello", then moved right to "Hello, Everyone" to warm up with some movement and trying to get everyone engaged, then lead in to our first book with my "Are You Ready for a Story?" song.

Spring storytime

For the first book I read
I See Spring! by Charles Ghigna and Ag Jatkowska. This is a simple little story that describes all the signs of spring with a rhyming text that is pleasant when read aloud. 

I followed that with a song that similarly describes different aspects of spring to the tune of "The Wheels On the Bus":

Springtime Is Here

The rain coming down goes drip, drip, drip;
Drip, drip, drip; Drip, drip, drip.
The rain coming down goes drip, drip, drip.
Springtime is here!

The boots in the mud go splish, splash, splish....

The sun comes out and warms us up....

The kites in the sky go swoosh, swoosh, swoosh....

The frogs in the pond go ribbit, ribbit, ribbit....

The birds in the nest go cheep, cheep, cheep....

Then I read Spring by Emily Dawson. This one is a more straightforward non-fiction with photographs. I pointed out how both books mentioned flowers growing and asked what flowers need to grow. I got the appropriate responses of sun and rain, which I used to segue into the following fingerplay [I like to do this as a flannel board, but the felt set I made had to stay behind with the library where I made it, and I haven't had a chance to make another.]:

Five Spring Flowers

Five spring flowers, all in a row.
The first one said, "We need rain to grow!"
The second one said, "Oh my, we need water!"
The third one said, "Yes, it is getting hotter!"
The fourth one said, "I see clouds in the sky."
The fifth one said, "I wonder why?"

Then BOOM [clap loudly] went the thunder,
And ZAP went the lightning!

That springtime storm was really frightening!
But the flowers weren't scared - No, no, no!
The rain helped them to grow, grow, grow!

I was losing them by that point, so unfortunately had to skip reading Cathryn Falwell's Pond Babies (I should have read that one second) and go to our good-bye song and turn them over to my co-worker for the craft as I had to run to a last-minute urgent meeting.

Post-Storytime Craft

This simple but cute floral bouquet craft is great for spring, but would also be good for Mother's Day. It only requires a sheet of green construction paper, scissors, a stapler, glue and flowers, which could be cut out of construction paper or colored cardstock with a cricut, die-cut press, or by hand, or more realistic looking flowers could be printed on cardstock and cut out. I opted for the printed flowers on cardstock, but keep in mind the flowers will be white on the back side if you use this method. 

  1. Fold the long edges of the green construction paper together, then make cuts from the folded side towards the edges, leaving an inch intact, so that you end up with a row of strips that are actually loops. I would encourage parents to let the kids do as much of this part as they can or will do, with guidance. Cutting with scissors is a good for developing fine-motor skills that will help with holding books, turning pages, and writing later.

  2. Carefully roll up and staple the base (the uncut edges) and set upright, with the loop pointing up and "fluff" it out slightly so that it looks more like a bouquet. This will be the stems/leaves of the bouquet.

  3. Either have the flowers pre-cut or let the adults cut them out (unless there are older kids present who can cut them out themselves) and glue to the tops of some of the green loops; leave some of the loops plain to represent the leaves.

    Spring storytime craft, spring craft for kids, flower craft for kids

  4. Optional: Carefully glue ribbon around the bouquet and tie a bow.

How It Went

I have to admit, things have been so hectic lately and a lot going on, that I did not adequately prepare for this storytime and really think through my book choices and segues a little better. The first two books were just too similar and not engaging enough, and the younger kids were not paying attention at all really. I was not happy with the books available in our collection; I am finding I'm having to add a lot of materials as it is really rather limited. 

I had three toddlers and two preschool or older, and I guess I'm going to have to start planning it as a toddler storytime even if I'm advertising it as a "family" or all-ages storytime, because I completely lose the toddlers otherwise, and I'm getting more toddlers than older kids. I might just have one really fun book for the older kids that I tell them they can stick around for while the younger ones move on to do the craft/activities afterward.

I struggle to find books that are appropriate and engaging for toddlers in general, and even more so now with a smaller collection, and I tend to do better with older kids or with babies; toddlers are not my strength. That being said, I had built up a nice group of regulars for my toddler storytime at my last library that was going well, so I know I can do it. I just kinda feel with all the stops and starts, job changes and starting over of the last 2 years, I've lost a bit of my mojo and it's going to take time to build some momentum and get it back.