Tag Archives: children’s librarian

Special Event: My Little Pony Party

I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled these past few months of my life.  I bought a house, moved into the house, got married on top of working AND then decided I should do an Angry Birds program, Star Wars Reads Day, and My Little Pony Party on top of all the other things.  So, needless to say, I didn’t do as much for these events as I wanted to but the attendees didn’t know that and they had a blast so yay for that!

Today was the My Little Pony Party.  I scheduled it for a day our schools had an early dismissal because of a teacher in-service so it wasn’t connected to a holiday or anything, the kids just got out early and needed someplace to go.  I made sure to REMIND parents of this anytime they mentioned the program’s 2pm start time.

I advertised the program for ages 5 and up and made sure to mention that it was for both bronies and pegasisters so everyone felt welcome.

It worked!  We had a great turn out, around 50 kids, and the age range was a lot of early elementary.  They all loved it!

Crafts included:

Make yourself as a pony (blank pony coloring sheet with crayons)
Make a pony bookmark (corner bookmarks + one of these ponies glued on top)
Make a “cupcake” (accu-cut cupcakes with some tissue paper for “extra frosting”)
Make a unicorn horn (found here)

(I have a Pinterest board full of brainstorming, if you’re curious)

And, of course, a Scavenger Hunt because I love sending the kids into the library and they seem to love it too.  I gave them a gem at the end because they were searching for Spike.

Here are a few photos of the cuteness.  BRACE YOURSELF:

Sugarcube Corner cupcake making was a bigger hit than I expected! Lots of fancy cupcakes, wish they had all been real! Would love to team up with a local bakery next time, maybe we could have a cake decorating class for kids.
Unicorn horns were a HUGE hit, though I miscalculated how much ribbon it would take to tie them to 50 little heads.
The entire back half of the meeting room was COVERED in glitter but it was worth it. The kids loved decorating their horns with glitter and shiny paper. I only wish I had more sturdy paper, basic cardstock barely cut it, especially if they slopped a lot of glue on it.
This guy had a blast! He was probably the oldest kid there but he had so much fun creating his very own pony (complete with game controller cutie mark and xbox headset) and a horn to match.
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stop stressing yourself out — themes are overrated

You know, when I first started doing preschool storytimes, I worked like crazy to pull together books that were all themed and a craft that tied into that theme, songs that worked with the theme, and a few rhymes or puppet that fit into the theme.

But you know what I’ve realized? The kids don’t really care.

They are just so thrilled to hear stories and sing songs together. Never once has a child critiqued my storytime choices and told me that a book didn’t fit into the theme.

Storytime “themes” should be approached the same way that an episode of Sesame Street works – you can have a letter or number of the day, but honestly everyone just wants to hear the main theme song, the counting song, and they like to hear a few new stories.

I think some of us, especially librarians who are not Children’s Librarians or who studied early literacy, but have become storytime gurus through happenstance, become obsessed with themes and it makes these weekly programs eat up far too much time and brain power, considering how much other stuff we have to do around the branch. Personally, I do at least one children’s program every week. I also work the desk at least 2 hours a day, though usually 3 hours if staffing is weird. I want to host more programs for teens. I want to weed my collection. I want to create displays!

So instead of sweating over storytime themes, I now just pick out some of my favorite books from the storytime shelf, pick one that I like enough to make it the craft (since most authors have websites now with easy craft ideas) and have a selection of songs I pick from so that the kids can learn the songs with me.

It has made my life far less stressful. I did the Babies program for 2 months and I only switched up a few things the entire time, mostly just going back and forth between the same three sets of rhymes or fingerplays. The babies and parents loved learning the rhymes with me. I’m now doing the Toddler program and going about it the same way, except with a few more books in the mix. But I am going to use the same rhymes and songs and watch as the kids learn them with me.

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.

Toddler Time – Construction, Cars, and Colors

Today’s Toddler Time was a bit last minute as I agreed to help out to spare a co-worker who was coming down with something and had barely survived the Babies program the day before. But I had a few books I had been wanting to test run so even though the book had a hamster in it, the children were the real guinea pigs (see what I did there?)

I went with a vehicle theme which also turned out to naturally have a color theme built into it! For fun, I threw together a quick flannel board because nothing is easier (and kills time) than talking about a flannel board.

We identified the color of each garage as I placed them on the board, then we matched the cars to their appropriately colored garages (I made a joke about double parking because why not?) and then we counted how many cars we had. Then we sang them a song that I found on the same site I found the inspiration for the flannel board:

Sung to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Cars are sleeping in their homes
Tired from the busy day
To the shops, and to the school
To the park, and to the pool
Cars are sleeping in their homes
Tired from a busy day

I also managed to dig deep into my memory and access the Car Car Song, which I used to sing with my brother when he was little. We learned it from the Kidsongs VHS but apparently that is a tweaked version of a Woody Guthrie song (my mom knew it as a Peter, Paul and Mary song). ANYWAY, it was a fun action song to get up and sing and help keep the wiggles at bay.

Here is the basic outline for the rest of the program:

Opening Song: Clap Along With Me/Open Shut Them

Construction by Sally Sutton (text recognition – point at LOUD words)

Stanley the Builder by William Bee (identify colors)

SONG: Take You Riding in my Car Car (have kid stand up and do actions)

My Car by Byron Barton (vocabulary word of the day – pedestrian)

FLANNEL: Cars and their garages (identify colors, matching, counting)

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (have kids say “NO!” to Pigeon)

Freight Train (big book) by Donald Crews (train noise – chugga chugga woo woo)

FINALE: If You’re Happy and You Know It!

Take Away: Car coloring sheet with song lyrics on the back

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]

RANT TIME! Lexiles – just stop

Seriously, who ever you are out there telling kids that they need to read on “their lexile level”, just stop. That is NOT how you teach people to read. It does not help improve their reading. All it does is make them unable to pick up the books they want to read and struggle with titles that they are uninterested in.

When I’m helping a reluctant reader find a book and I hear the word “lexile” I want to scream. If you want your child to enjoy reading, match them up with a book that is interesting to them and fits into their life.

Let’s be honest, you’re just telling your kid they are deficient in some way. It’s like the parent that tells the child “that’s too hard for you”. Now they have an *approved* way to make their child feel bad about not reading on a certain made-up level. Instead of saying “you’re too dumb/slow/below the grade level” now parents can say “it has to be on a lexile of” blah blah blah.

Guess what, the Lexile is generated by a computer, and we all know how great *those* work. It scans the text, calculates the vocabulary, and makes up a number. Meaning the writing in a classic novel by Ernest Hemingway is on par or lower than Hunger Games. Yeah, THOSE are the same reading experience. (Go ahead, search some of your favorites and see how ridiculous this thing is. Think about what kind of reader you would have been with this restriction placed on you.)

(oh and surprise surprise these are the geniuses behind the new Common Core that everyone is so excited about)

Please please please – do not enforce lexiles! If you need it for your behind-the-scenes paperwork, that is fine, but don’t mention it to a parent or child. They will obsess over it and there will be no gray area. I just had a young girl ask about the lexile level of a book and – guess what – the publisher did not get it submitted for a lexile rating so it doesn’t have one. So she is not allowed read it. And when it comes to reading and school, kids can really only fit in what “counts”.

Do yourself and your child a favor: Find a librarian that loves to read and knows how to do reader’s advisory for kids, tweens, and teens, they can find a book that will connect with your child, not just fill in another standardized test way, but on a level that will make them get why people get excited about reading. We are out here, Reader’s Advisory is one of our favorite parts of the job.

Okay…my rant is over. For now…

But if you want more READER!WRITER!RAGE check out these posts:
How the Lexile system harms students

Guess My Lexile (this one has lots of great links at the bottom too)