Category Archives: children’s librarian

Program inspiration: Art Workshops for Children

Just got this book at the library and it is filled with wonderful ideas that I really want to do yet know I can’t do because PAINT!

But I’m not going to give up. I think I can find some substitutes for the messy paint and perhaps just go with markers. Our meeting room/programming room is carpeted and getting it cleaned on a normal day is difficult so I can’t imagine what would happen if we got paint on it. I’m pretty sure our custodian would never forgive me.

Has anyone done an Art Workshop for kids at their library? I’m thinking this would require registration as it sounds like the kids will need lots of space to move around for some of these.

Posting this here so I can stumble upon it later and maybe plan a program for next year. 🙂

World Puppetry Day program

I’m a fan of puppets. I grew up watching Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Show.

Oh who am I kidding, I STILL watch Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show!

So when my friend mentioned World Puppetry Day, I jumped at the idea of having a program at the library to talk about the different kids of puppets.

Blatant self promotion #muppets #puppets @aacpl

Our program attendees tend to run on the younger side, so even though we promoted the event for school aged children, we tried to make sure we had enough crafts to work for all ages.

We started off the program with a short talk about the history of puppets and went over from puppet related vocabulary, defining each kind of puppet. We described each puppet and asked the kids if they could guess the name of the puppet based on the description (This puppet uses a rod to control it’s arm, what would you call it? A rod puppet! Correct!). We showed them examples of store bought puppets and then also an example of a simple puppet you could make at home.

After that, I played a few clips of famous puppets and puppeteers. I made a quick YouTube playlist with some favorite clips and asked the kids what kind of puppet was being used (I didn’t play any of the clips in their entirety).

Then it was craft and play time! We brought a few puppets down from our Storytime collection and set them up on a table with a sheet, creating a makeshift stage area. We had print outs of knock knock jokes and the kids used them as scripts as they played with the puppets (at least, initially, then they went off into their own little games).

For puppet crafts, we had three different activities ranging in difficulty. If you can get your hands on the awesome book 10-Minute Puppets by Noel MacNeal, it is a great resource with lots of printables and inspiration for a program like this.

For the older children, we had the parts for the Elephant Rod Puppet already cut out and with holes punched sitting on a table. We used a thick cardstock for this. You will also need some straws, tape, and the gromits for the moveable parts.

On another table, we had butterfly shadow puppets. We made lots of butterflies, cut out from many different colored construction paper. Scissors and hole punches were on the table so the kids could create holes in the butterfly and then some colored plastic sheets that they could use to cover the holes. They taped a straw to the back and created their little works of art!

Puppet program was very fun! More photos soon. #puppets #librarian

The last table had a craft for very little ones, a frog finger puppet that could be colored in. Two hole were cut into the bottom for “legs” created by the child’s fingers.

We set up the branch projector so the kids could test out their shadow puppets. They loved seeing the shadows on the wall (though don’t ask me why I went with Notepad instead of a blank PowerPoint slide…next time!)

While we only had 9 children show up they were VERY enthusiastic. They did all of the crafts, played with the puppets we brought down and talked to us about the puppets afterwards. One little boy wanted to create his own puppet (he wasn’t into the butterflies) and we gave him some plain white paper. He proceeded to draw a character from the Sonic the Hedgehog series and then he poked holes in him and used the colored plastic to create his own unique shadow puppet!

We’re already discussing next year. Of course, after we started to advertise the program we were approached by two different people asking about helping out with it. We are hoping they are still interested next year because we really didn’t have time to incorporate them into the event this time around. But we hope this can be an annual event, maybe even more elaborate each year with crafts and activities for older children and teens.

Shadow puppets! #puppets #librarian

in defense of simple crafts

Sometimes the simplest craft gets the kids talking. I had them draw where they would drive in their cars. #librarian #storytime

Back when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I used to do somewhat complicated crafts.  Lots of cutting out pieces and having the kids glue them a certain way. This was back when I worked at a smaller branch and only did storytime for one month and then had a break with lots of free time to plan.  Now I work at a much busier branch and our system has adopted a year-round Early Literacy Program calendar, which means every single week I am doing some sort of children’s program. Combine that with working on the desk (programming increased, staff did not, we actually lost one person and we are a very sparsely staffed system anyway) and it leaves very little time to create elaborate crafts.

Our preschool storytime groups average at least 30 kids each week.  That is a lot of kids and limits the kind of hands on crafts you can have. You have to keep it simple to make it easy to set up and take down. You have to keep it simple so you can maximize the minimal budget set aside for supplies.

I started taking advantage of our die cut machine.  It is very simple to crank out 40 bears, cars, crowns – whatever. At first, I felt very guilty, like I wasn’t putting enough in to the craft. I would look at other storytime blogs for inspiration and see crafts that involved lots of intricate pieces that had to be cut out by hand or purchased at the craft store and I felt like my glue and color crafts made me look like a lazy librarian.

But that is not true.

I really think the kids enjoy the simple crafts more and that they get more out of them.  It gives them the freedom to use their imaginations.  When I had my more complex crafts, I found that the parents were obsessed with the kids making it “right” instead of the child just having fun. I also found that the more complex the craft, the less time they spent on making it. They would glue the pieces where they had to go and then be done.

My craft today was very simple. We did stories about transportation and I had cars for the kids. They used gluesticks to attach the car to a piece of paper and then colored where the car was going. The kids worked on their projects for a solid 10 minutes, some more elaborate than others. As they colored, I took the time to walk around to each child and ask them about their car, where it was going and the colors they had used on the paper. The children were very eager to talk to me about their cars and would come running up to share their pictures with me an explain everything on the page.  One car was going to school, another had a rainbow on the door, and there was even a car parked outside a bakery (that girl was after my own heart).

So when you are sitting there, trying to figure out what craft to do for your preschool group, don’t obsess over whether the 300 little bits of paper you have to cut out will impress the parents. Think about how this craft will expand the child’s mind. Think about the early literacy skills they can pick up just by coloring in a car and telling you about how they have to drive to school. The more you encourage them to talk and share, the more positive experience they will have, and isn’t that what we want to create? A positive experience with reading, books, and the library.

Early Literacy Toddler Time: D is for Dog

After a two week break from any kind of programming (our branch was an early voting location so our meeting rooms were not available and with the high numbers we get and the layout of our building, it’s not feasible to hold the program on the floor) I was back in zone today.

The first program was a little tricky. For a rainy Thursday morning, we had a nice sized crowd, about 20 kids, though the group definitely ran on the younger side. I started with a book I had never done before and I doubt I will ever do again with that young of a group (Farley Found It!) because the pictures didn’t really work from a distance. I also had several little ones just sort of wandering (well, it started out as one little one…then two…then after that the rest of them figured that must be okay and it devolved into a little bit of chaos).

ANYWAY the second program went much better. First, I switched out the first book and added a Jan Thomas book. And second, there was definitely a home daycare group so our numbers were much larger (42 kids) but the ages were more varied and we had a lot of older toddlers and preschoolers. When you have those older kids in the group, they model behavior for the little ones and so even though it was double the children, it was a much more controlled environment.

Bonus, I used my “Sherlock Dog” puppet that I have owned since I was the age of the children I read to!

I've had my Sherlock Dog puppet since forever and he came to storytime with me today and had a lot of fun. #librarian #storytime #puppets #notAhoarder

TODDLER TIME: D IS FOR DOG

Opening Song: Clap Your Hands/Open Shut Them

Aside: Today we are focusing on print awareness and letter recognition, letting your toddler know that these different symbols on the page have meaning.

Book: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Aside: Pointing out words and letters can help your child make the connection between the words on the page and what you are saying.

Book: The Doghouse by Jan Thomas
[Jan Thomas books are great for print awareness because the text is always nice and big and bold]

Song: BINGO
[I made a simple felt board with the letters. I go over the letters with the children as I put them on the board. Between verses I ask them which letter I am removing and then we identify the remaining letters on the board]

There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
And Bingo was his name-o

Song/Fingerplay: Do your ears hang low?
[Do this about 3 times — once to teach them, once to practice and then the finale]
[found the actions in the book Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes. Even though I knew the song, I think it’s a good idea to point out that the library has books like this to remind new parents they are not expected to still remember all the nursery rhymes from their childhood.]

Do your ears hang low? [put your hands next to your head]
Do they wobble to and fro? [move your head back and forth]
Can you tie them in a knot? [tie on top of your head]
Can you tie them in a bow? [tie a bowtie]
Can you throw them over your shoulder [motion throwing over each shoulder]
like a continental shoulder? [march in place]
Do your ears hang low? [put hands next to your head]

Book/Flannel: Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
[Best flannel board ever! Have the kids identify the color of the new spot and then count the spots after a new one appears]

Goodbye Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It!
[I always use the action rhyme book Clap Your Hands by David Ellwand. One last chance to point at words to reinforce the print recognition. Here is an image of the flannel board I copied.]

Takeaway – Dog’s Colorful Day activity sheet.
[Point out the D is for Dog on the worksheet one more time for print recognition/awareness]

Sam’s guide to Star Wars Reads Day @ Your Library #StarWarsReads

The official Star Wars Reads Day has come and gone for 2014, but hosting a Star Wars event at your library is always a sure-fire way to get tons of new visitors into your building. With unofficial days like May 4 (“May the 4th be with you”), the new Disney 😄 series “Rebels” on the small screen, and a new set of stories headed for the big screen in 2015, Star Wars’ popularity will not be going away any time soon.

The great thing about a Star Wars event is that it is for all ages. You will see entire families and they will travel from all over if you can get the publicity out there in your library’s paper calendar or online social sites.

First things first – go to the 501st Legion’s website and find out if you have a local garrison. Star Wars programs are huge hits when you can have these amazing costumed fans wandering around. They do not charge for their services (though they have never said no to the boxes of donuts and coffee I leave for them in the back room). With this in mind, you obviously want to avoid the end of October (Halloween and New York Comic Con) and July (San Diego Comic Con) and it might be wise to check to see if there are any other major Star Wars events coming up (like Celebration Anaheim, a huge Star Wars convention sure to attract many of these fans away from home).

Thank you to the 501st Legion Old Line Garrison for making #starwarsreads day a huge success!

Once you’ve found a date on your calendar, contact your local garrison and they will start looking for volunteers to help out. Because of how my library system works, I tend to contact them ASAP, sometimes six months in advance. This isn’t necessary but the more time they have to put it up on their forums, the more chance you have of getting a strong turnout.

Another thing worth searching for is a local R2-D2 Builders Club. I know Maryland has a very active group and I’ve had their members stop by with amazing R2-D2s that thrilled everyone in the library. If you can connect with one of these awesome people, I highly recommend it.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

And one more random group to reach out to — collectors! I am a member of the DC Star Wars Collector’s Club and I was able to get one of our members to bring his collection into the library for the day. Club members have also donated items to be used for prizes. Teaming up with groups like these can add that extra special something to your program.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

Next, look at your space and thing about your community. If you have a meeting room and feel like it will be a small turn out, you could have it in there. But each year I have held the event, we have had over 100 people stop by, and our meeting room capacity is 160. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun by citing the Fire Code, so we have always held the event in the Children’s area of the library proper. Yes, it’s loud and crazy but it means that everyone can have a good time and have plenty of space.  And it gives the added bonus of people stumbling upon the event by chance and calling friends to visit. My program usually goes 2-3 hours, so plenty of time for people to show up.

Also keep in mind that people will want to get photographs with any droids or costumers that are there so think of a spot that would work well as a staging area. You can direct the 501st members to that spot and have your patrons form a line.

Now the part that you really need to plan out! Like I mentioned, you are going to have fans of ALL AGES attending your event. We’ve had everything from 30 – 300+ people so keep those crafts SIMPLE but fun.

A sure fire hit (and a book tie-in!) is Origami Yoda and the Fortune Wookiee. Author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda Tom Angleberger uploaded instructions to his blog to help young folders: The Simple 5-Fold Yoda and the pattern for the Fortune Wookiee. (I do recommend doing a few practice ones yourself so you’re ready to help the kids if they get stuck).

Another favorite (and easy) craft is to let the kids color a stormtrooper helmet, cut out the helmet, and then tape it to a stick, creating their own mask.  When I set up for this craft, my instructional poster includes photos of different variations of Star Wars stormtrooper cosplayers, to highlight that they can be more than just white helmets.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

LEGO is always a hit with any age so the blank LEGO Minifigure coloring sheet works well here too. Again, when I make the poster with the instructions for the craft, I have a bunch of images of Star Wars Lego minifigures to help inspire.

Star Wars Reads Day 2013

There are lots of activity and coloring sheets in the Star Wars Reads Day packet. If you do decide to take part in this event, definitely register for the email list so you can find out about publisher giveaways. Posters and stickers can make for great prizes.

This year I did a scavenger hunt/raffle where the children had to follow hints around the library, finding a secret letter at each location to spell out the name of the planet where the Rebel base was located. I used these slips as a raffle for prizes, awarded the following week.  I had the contestants write down their name, age, and phone number so I could be sure to pick out appropriate prizes.

I also created a 10 question Trivia Challenge, also asking entrants for their name, age, and phone number. It had some tricky questions, but I had 5 people who managed to get most of them correct so they got nice prize packs as well – a mix of Star Wars items and library items.

It makes for a very busy, non-stop few hours, but it is a whole lot of fun.  I stay on my feet the entire time, checking on my special guests and checking on my patrons (and usually photocopying more of the crafts as things get low).

#swrd #starwarsreadsday #library

Please feel free to comment if you have any questions about this program. It really is one of my favorite events (even if I pass out afterwards).

Toddler Time #1

We’ve started doing Toddler Time programs at our library as part of our Early Literacy Initiative. We’ve never done programs specifically for this age group and the turn out has been crazy. Toddlers are 18-36 months and when you get 57 of them in a room, things get a little wild. At least I was mentally prepared as we started doing them earlier this month and I knew the numbers would be large.

I figured the best thing to do with a group that size was to keep them focused on me as much as I could using songs and rhymes and other active things.

Early Literacy Tip #1 — Singing, doing rhymes together, and making animal noises slows down your speech so children can hear the smaller parts of words. This is part of phonological awareness and it will help the child later when they are learning to sound out words.

Before the kids came into the room, I made sure I had my puppet ready!

This helped to get their attention on me as he waved to everyone who came in. I’ve decided I really like puppets with arms I can move! Once it felt like we had everyone in the room, I showed the kids that when Wavy claps there is no sound! Then I asked them to clap so I could hear them. Then we sang the “Clap Your Hands” song, which I think was originally on a Wee Sing album but I know it by heart now so I just sing it on my own.

The we did the classic “Open, Shut Them” to get everyone sitting down and facing forward.

After everyone was seated, I did my early literacy tip for the parents. Then to keep it all going, I asked the kids to bring out their SPIDERS. We did Itsy Bitsy Spider and his cousin, Great Big Spider (I just have the kids hold their arms out for this one).

Since they were doing so well seated, I did a really quick book, Peek-A-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti. This is one of my go-to books for younger crowds. I asked the kids if they knew their barnyard animals and also how to play peek-a-boo. This book had both the kids and the parents involved.

I could feel the wiggles starting to come back so then I did “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle but I think the concept of moving like an animal may have been too much for the younger end of this crowd and I could feel myself starting to lose them. I sorta rushed the last half the book to get through it so we could move on.

Since they were up and ready to go, I went to my old stand-by of “Jumping and Counting” by Jim Gill. Hardest part here is counting as slow as the kid on the CD! I do a big arms, Pete-Townsend-playing-guitar style counting to help slow down the counting with the actual kids in the room with me.

Best thing about this song? It ends with Gill saying “and you can jump right back down into your seats” so now that we are sitting again, we can try a book. I read “Waking Dragons” which is really short and colorful and the few kids up front were fine but with a room full of 57 kids, its too hard to do a real book so once that was over, it was time for another activity.

Thank goodness for Microsoft Word! The day before I had found a cute Dragon clipart and used it to create a “Five Little Dragons” flannel board.

I used the rhyme on Nancy Stewart’s website but I changed the ending and had Mother dragon roar “I’m going to eat your snack” because that is the sort of thing my mom would have said to make me come back haha.

Then we did “Going on a Dragon Hunt” which is just “Going on a bear hunt” but with more dragons. 🙂

And for their take-home craft, I printed out black and white versions of the Little Dragons and Mother Dragon and added the text of the rhyme for everyone to take home and make their own 5 Little Dragons story.

And now I need a nap!!!

Getting kids reading with comics

"Adventures of Superhero Girl" by Faith Erin Hicks #summerreading #comics Another book I am very excited to read just arrived on my desk :) Appropriate break #reading? Too soon?

Over the summer we had a reporter come into my library to interview me and my friend Andy about comic books and kids and reading. My theory is that he thought we would be stereotypical librarians and wrinkle our noses at the popular format. And I think we surprised him by our enthusiasm for comics and knowledge of graphic novels:

Getting Kids Reading Through Comics

I think for many librarians and teachers that work with reluctant readers, comic books are a powerful tool. For adults who somehow managed to go their entire childhood without touching a comic book, though, the assumption is that they are all either Archie adventures or men in tights. The truth is that this is a powerful format that now features published books in just as many genres as a “normal” book.

Review: A Big Guy Took My Ball!

A Big Guy Took My Ball!
A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Not my favorite Elephant & Piggie but Mo Willems is like Pixar to me — even his weaker books are still better than most!

Like most of the Elephant & Piggie tales, this story doesn’t end up where you think it will, and I think teaching kids to not always assume and expect things is a good idea. There’s a lot to talk about with a child in these very few pages – you could discuss what to do when you find something unattended, what is a bully, and about confrontation.

Not my favorite of the bunch but still lots of great moments.

Plus, this picture just broke my heart:

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Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nathan Hale (the author, not the spy) does a great job of making history fun for kids. This is a great book to give to young readers who have any interest in the Civil War, American History, or battles in general. Heck, even if you’re worried they are *losing* interest in the above, give it to them so they can find out about this historical adventure.

The premise of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is that Nathan Hale (the revolutionary war spy, not the author) was hit by a magical history book and now has all of American history in his brain. He uses his new skill to stall the hangman’s noose, telling them stories of the “future”. In “Big Bad Ironclad”, Hale tells them about the battles between the Merrimack and the Monitor during the Civil War.

Filled with lots of humor and action, this is a great pick for fans of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and those younger kids who ask for “books about war” but don’t want to read the dry tomes in the adult non-fiction collection.

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Review: Mitchell’s License

Mitchell's License
Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this out because I really love Tony Fucile’s art style. The book was not a disappointment! It’s adorable and sweet and a great story with great illustrations. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t want to go to bed until his dad gives him a “license” to drive (Dad is the car). It has a lot of humor and heart. The large pictures and quick text will make this good for read-alouds too. Don’t be surprised if it’s on one of my storytime lists soon!

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