Beginning Reader Storytime: The Write Stuff

During this session of beginning reader storytime, we’ve been focusing on writing. We wrote on dry erase boards, created an alphabet book where we wrote words, made letters out of pretzel twists, and this week we wrote in shaving cream, which was, frankly, just a whole lot of fun in addition to being a great outside of the box literacy activity. For the entire 15-20 minutes we played and wrote in the shaving cream, the kids and parents were laughing up a storm. (If you do this, you might want to remind parents to keep their shaving cream at home extra out of reach for a little bit, lest it tempt their kids.) Next week we’re going to be writing in rice, which is another great way for kids who aren’t great with conventional writing materials to practice writing.

Even with all of the typing we do, handwriting is still an important skill in our culture that has many benefits beyond simply communicating. Writing is also one of the five Every Child Ready to Read skills. How do you foster writing in your library?

Storytime Specials

About every other month at my library we present what we call a Storytime Special, which is a 45 minute program for 4-8 year olds that includes stories, a treat and a craft centered around a theme. I like to use these programs to stretch stories in different ways, or to give the kids and their parents a somewhat fancy and free outing, or to simply entertain myself.

Themes have included Frog and Toad Tea Party, Colorlicious (a more gender-neutral Pinkalicious program), Winter Wonderland, Shark Versus Train, Hot Dogs (there are so many encased meat picture books, you guys), and many more. I’m going to write up all the materials for the individual programs, but for now here’s a sampling from them to show you how we do:

Colorlicious Tea Party
Frog and Toad Tea Party

You can see more videos from these programs on my youtube channel as well.

top 11 posts of 2011

When I first started this blog, I had no grand aspirations. I am passionate about the library field, child development, and children’s literature, and I wanted to have a place to express my thoughts, and I hoped that I would garner at least a dedicated, engaged readership. Fairly early on, I experienced the Elizabeth Bird bump, and for that I’ve always been grateful. I appreciate my twitter friends for all their conversation and ideas, and frankly, without them I probably wouldn’t be writing much at all.

Looking at my top posts, I realize that people love it when I write about things that a lot of librarians are probably thinking but are too scared to talk about, and my programs for children. I’m going to make an effort to write more about these topics in 2012, and also write more from the gut and the heart, no matter what the topic (my angsty review of Ingenue being an example of this new goal).

Thank you to all my readers for commenting, emailing my posts to your colleagues, and generally being awesome. Let’s do more of this in 2012.

top posts (excluding static pages):

11. Meow Mix. I think this is solely because of the cat picture, although I think my cat who doesn’t know how to meow storytime through line is pretty awesome.

10. Make it Happen: Teen Space. Pretty much an airing of grievances post that also allowed me to congratulate and laud a fellow librarian. Now complete with a comment I didn’t initially approve because it’s super negative, but hey, whatevs. Different strokes for different folks.

9. New Storytime Favorites. Why is this so popular? I dunno. Probably because I mention cats and I’m a librarian. The cat/librarian diagram is so venn it’s almost just a circle.

8. Tales of the Madman Underground: A Love Letter. This was a very personal post and book review, and I almost didn’t publish it. But this book is amazing and I think that librarians—much like teachers—need to fight for the right to be real, flawed, human people with pasts and problems like any other people. Just because we work with children doesn’t mean we’re all Mary Poppins, and we shouldn’t be punished for being real people. But seriously, read that book.

7. The Ethical Librarian. This one is me totally ranting and raving on my high horse while my horse is standing on a soapbox. You might as well call me the Bughouse Square librarian. I took an information ethics class in library school, one of the few actually challenging courses I took, and it ruined me forever. You’re welcome.

6. #makeitbetter. I just hate bad librarians. Sorry if you’re one of them.

5. You might not being doing it wrong, but you could certainly do it better. Ah, my screed against library schools. I might not get so worked up if I weren’t $50,000 in debt, but that ship’s sailed, huh? Good times. And by good times I mean kill me.

4. Librarian, Weed Thyself! Wherein I apply the CREW and MUSTIE methods to people. I am a monster. A pudgy, cuddly, hyberpolic monster.

3. Beginning Reader Storytime. A warm and fuzzy post about how I revamped my library’s preschool storytime. How…charming.

2. How to Become the Best, Most Versatile Baby & Toddler Programmer Ever. Babies and toddlers are tricky audiences.

And, unsurprisingly, the number one post of 2011 is…

1.  Summer Reading, Pain in my a**. So many people enjoyed my rants about the sacred cow of summer reading, which really pleased me. I love when people reassess long running programs with a fresh eye. Can’t wait to see what people do with their 2012 summer reading programs.

Happy new year, everyone!

Love,

Miss Julie

story hacker

So this week on of the books I was using for my outreach storytimes wasn’t quite working for my groups for some reason. It seemed to be missing a crucial action in the text, which made it not quite pop for the children. It was as though there was a three step action sequence missing step two. So the second time I went out with it, I added the text I thought it needed (“and they pulled, and they pulled, and they pulled, but!”), replete with action, and read the rest of the text verbatim, and the kids seemed much more engaged with the story and seemed to understand it more.

I’m always a little conflicted when I do this. Part of me is a text purist, and I try to not abridge or omit if I can help it, because it seems a little bit like censoring to me. But when I’m performing a storytime–and I am performing in the belt it out, jazz hands, shuffle ball step sense of the word–I sometimes feel that to deliver the material well, a bit of improvisation is in order.

So, storytimers, do you do this? How often? And how do you feel about it?

picture book-a-loo

I’ve had a pile of picture books that I’ve been meaning to talk about, so here we go, in no particular order:

A Wild Father’s Day by Sean Callahan

Inspired by a card that reads “Have a Wild Father’s Day,” the dad and two kids in this book act like various animals–running like cheetahs, swimming like dolphins, and swinging like monkeys. The text and art are both simple and bold. It would have been nice if the family had been more multicultural, but as it stands this book would work well in a family themed toddler storytime–because all the action will keep kids engaged and moving–or in a Father’s Day storytime for any age. Review copy provided by publisher.

Rapunzel illustrated and retold by Sarah Gibb

Now that Rapunzel has been Disneyfied it might be harder to get a beautiful book like this into the hands of princess crazy readers, which is a shame. Still, Gibb’s bright, stylized art* is akin to some of the best of Disney (it reminds me a lot of Sleeping Beauty, actually), so if you try hand-selling it to Disney-fanatics you’re very likely to succeed. The retelling itself is serviceable, and definitely suited towards a more tender audience (while I, jaded adult that I am, am more of a fan of versions with the questionable sex and twin babies). I am pleased to report that the prince’s eyes are still destroyed by thorns and healed with tears, so I’ll graciously accept the absence of the sex in a children’s picture book. Review copy provided by publisher. *You can see some of the art over at SLJ.

E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer

I can see this book being prominently featured in a future session of my Beginning Reader Storytime. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s an E-mergency! The letter E took a tumble and the only way to get her back on her foot is for people to stop using her. But who can take her place? The other letters have to make a decision ASAP. Z is too sleepy and Y asks way too many questions. Thankfully, O rolls in to try and save the day. Now E can rost up and got bottor . . . as long as ovorybody follows the rulos. Chock-full of verbal and visual puns, this zany book is sure to tickle both the brain and the funny bone.

This book would make a great pairing with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and even Dr. Suess’s ABC. A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czeka would be a good title to send home with kids. Review copy from publisher.

Tom’s co-author, Ezra, has an interesting story (also taken from the publisher’s website):

Ezra Fields-Meyer is a high school student and an expert on animated movies and animals. He is the creator of the animated short “Alphabet House,” which inspired this book[.]

Here’s the short, if you’re interested:

 

A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan

Wow. This book is…bizarre. In the best way. You know I like weird (Square Cat, another weird picture book, is one of my more recent favorites and would pair well in a storytime with this book) and Shaskan’s first picture book has weirdness in spades.

It starts off innocently enough, telling us “[a] dog is a dog, whether naughty or nice. Whether it suns on the beach, or glides on the ice. A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. A dog is a dog unless it’s a….CAT!” (You can see the charmingly horrific image of a cat crawling out of a dog suit here at the publisher’s website.)

My new favorite thing to do with picture books is to read them aloud to a trio of eighth graders who tend to hang out at the youth desk after school. These kids are awesome and funny and appreciate Doctor Who, so they’re the perfect test audience for quirky picture books like this. The general consensus: awesome. And messed up. But mostly awesome.

This would be a good book to toss into a costume/imagination storytime, or pair it with other multiple level picture books like Cow,Too and There Are Cats in this Book. Review copy provided by publisher.

Sleepy Storytime

(I wrote this last winter but never finished it, so here it is now, as we are hurtling into fall and winter with its sleep-inducing weather.)

The frigid temperatures inspired me to put together a sleep-themed storytime, since this time of year all I want to do is stay beneath the covers and sleep until spring. (Not to toot my own horn, but I think I did my job too well: one of the teachers with my favorite school group actually fell asleep during this storytime).

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime!

Oh, Bob Shea. Oh, Dinosaur. This book is practically perfect in every way. There’s shouting, making fun of grownups, spaghetti, and the opportunity to yell “DINGDINGDING” at the end of every round. (Now that I think about it, I might try busting out my finger chimes next time I read this out loud. Man I love my finger chimes.) This is a super strong opener, so make sure you’re up to the task of selling the rest of the storytime with equal verve.

“Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”

I sang this with the monkey mitt. You have a monkey mitt, right? What genius created a furred glove and those adorably ugly puff ball pipe cleaner goggly eyed creations to go with them? Man. Why can’t I come up with something like that? Then I could have an informercial. Maybe even a spot on QVC. Anyway. I love that song, and the kids do too, but I’ve always felt the ending was lacking. I always feel like I should add some sort of pithy capper—“And then the monkeys spent the rest of the night in the ER”! or something, but nothing ever seems to fit. This time around I decided we’d kiss the monkeys owies and then sing them a lull-a-bye. I chose “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Then we tucked the monkeys into bed after they fell asleep. I felt much more satisfied with that ending. Try it; you might like it. Or try sending them to the ER. I’ve also worked in some banter about concussions; parents and teachers really enjoy that, and the kids enjoy that the adults are laughing.

If you have toddlers or want to add a music component, play this version of song while the kids jump, dance, or even shake some shakers:

Ten in the Den.

John Butler’s books are so adorable (cuter than a pillow stuffed with bunnies) I just want to barf glitter every time I read one. Ten in the Den isn’t my all time favorite (that’s reserved for Whose Baby am I?), but it is one of my sure-fire storytime winners. I sing the book, which you really should do, too (no shame if you’re pitchy) along with some hand actions for the kids—rolling their hands for “roll over, roll over” and either clapping or patting their legs when the animal stops rolling.

The Squeaky Door.

I’d normally put a book this long at the beginning of a storytime, but it doesn’t feel right at the beginning. You don’t want to follow this book with anything else besides a “see ya later.” At the end, when Grandma fixes the door, I had the kids help me fix the door by making the squeak get softer and softer until it disappeared. At the very end of the book, I was always afraid that the kids would squeak instead of shhhh, but no one ever did.

Some other sure-fire hits that would fit this theme: Where is the Green Sheep?, Monkey and Me, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.

antici….pation.

Did I ever show these pictures to you, dear readers?

Right before the Ugly Truth came out, we put give-away copies into our locked display case, to taunt entice the children to attend our release party. This was my manager’s idea, actually, and it’s one of my favorite displays my library has done.

How do you use displays to interact with your library patrons?

Beginning Reader Storytime

I get bored easily. I think that’s why I work well with toddlers and teenagers– we all have a similar hunger for new experiences and pushing boundaries. I was tired of doing the same old preschool storytime. I mean, I loved it, but like I said, I get bored easily. I want to try new things. I want to explore, experiment, and expand my programming horizons. So I changed my preschool storytime into Beginning Reader Storytime. You can read the full story of how my Beginning Reader Storytime began here. This post is going to detail a bit more how I run this particular program.

As I often love to brag, I started out in the working world as a preschool teaching assistant, and eventually worked as a lead preschool teacher for a while as well. My preschool teaching experience has served me extremely well in my career as a librarian and I put it to good use for my Beginning Reader Storytime (after a couple of sessions I changed the age range to 4 years through 2nd grade, and put three year olds into toddler time. This has been a much better fit for both storytime groups).

Nametags are a staple of every storytime, and always having nametags is actually a great literacy activity–learning to recognize your name is the beginning of your experience with letters.

After children have their name-tags, they come in and sit down and I go through my normal storytime opening routine. This is followed by the Storytime Message. On my dry-erase board easel, I write out a message:

January 1st, 2011

Dear Friends,

Tonight we will be reading the book Snip Snap!

I read the message out loud to them–or one of the older kids does it for me–and then I shuffle through their names to choose children to find the letter of the day. For this storytime, I focused on the letter S.

After we circled all of the Ss in the message, I read the book and then we sang the song “Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree.” I’m really brutal with that song; I have the monkeys on the monkey mitt, and they actually get eaten by a fairly realistic looking alligator puppet. The kids love it, though. But if you take this approach, be cognizant of more sensitive children in your group and tailor your bloodthirst accordingly.

Then we went to do our table activity. To transition from rug to table, I sing “Willoughby Wallabee Woo”, asking the children to listen for the rhymes in their names. This week I had story paper, an Ellison cut letter S, a glue stick, and markers. I told the children to glue their S down where they liked on the top half of the story paper.  Then, they could either create an S creature and tell a story about it, write down some words that began with S, or draw anything they liked and write a story about it. Some parents will balk at this open ended sort of thing, but most will go along with you.

Other table activities have included name writing (for 4’s and 5’s who can’t write their name from memory yet, this means copying their name that is written out on sentence strips), alphabet bingo, and lacing with lacing letters. Sometimes the activity is putting together an alphabet floor puzzle, writing on the dry erase board, or playing with magnet letters on the magnetized side of my easel.

If you clicked on any of these links, you’ll see that Discount School Supply is a great resource for literacy games and materials.

I love this storytime. It’s great to give older kids an opportunity to listen to some great picture books, and it really allows me to show parents that early literacy is NOT Your Baby Can Read or Hooked on Phonics, but rather nurturing a love of literature in children by taking the time to share stories, talk, and write.

If anything needs clarifying or if you want more information, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments, or start a conversation with me on twitter or facebook!

-Miss Julie

if you liked “not just cute”…

…here is another child development/early childhood blog that you might find interesting and useful: Janet Lansbury, Elevating Childcare (and, yes, she is somewhat related to Angela Lansbury).  Here’s her introduction/description:

Raising a child is one the most important and challenging jobs we will ever have. It brings a considerable amount of joy. It can also be confusing, discouraging and haphazard. My goal is to provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights I’ve gained through my parenting classes, my experiences as a mother, and studies with my friend and mentor Magda Gerber. This blog is dedicated to her memory.


not just cute

I recently found an excellent early childhood education blog titled Not Just Cute. The author, Amanda, has some incredible credentials, and her passion and dedication to early learning experiences shines through in her writing.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I encourage children’s librarians to work with and learn from early childhood educators. In my opinion, Library School programs need to offer more child development courses for students hoping to serve children and teens. The more you know about the population you hope to serve, the better your service is going to be.

I have an incredible loathing for cutesy crafts that have little or no value–you know the ones, the foam monstrosities that you can buy from Oriental Trading and other such suppliers. These crafts end up looking “cute”, but mostly they are either too simple or too difficult to put together, especially for preschoolers, and the parents or librarians end up doing most of the work. Yeah, sure, many parents love the end result, but all they’ve really gotten is a cute piece of crap that’s going to maybe spend some time on the fridge and eventually get thrown in the garbage.

Yet how can you plan crafts and programs that are developmentally appropriate and provide real value for children if you have little to no knowledge about child development? You can’t, not really.

If you’re still in library school and you want to be a children’s librarian, try to take some courses in child development. Not only will this make you a better librarian, it will make you stand out in a crowd of other job seekers with the exact same degree that you yourself have.

If you’re already employed, take advantage of excellent blogs like Not Just Cute and try out some of the excellent, developmentally appropriate activities she’s put together for you.

But you don’t have to take my word for it! Check out zero to three to learn more about how important quality, enriching early experiences are for children.