Friday, November 29, 2013

Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Previews, Part II

I'm in the midst of recapping a Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Preview event I attended in mid-November; I'm sharing one book or series from each of the publishers who presented that I'm looking forward to sharing with readers. See also: Part I.

From Chronicle Books: Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard, April 2014
     I cannot wait to share this picture book in my outreach story times. It combines two of my favorite children's lit people: Aaron Reynolds and his terrific storytelling, and Jeremy Tankard and his bright, energetic illustrations. My guess is that this story about losing your temper will be a huge hit with young readers.

From Macmillan: The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna, June 2014
     My preschoolers love the Pout-Pout Fish, and I have every reason to believe they will clamor for this newest addition to the series. The best part: it's premise of sea creatures going to school makes it a perfect hand-sell for all those kids who only ever check out Finding Nemo.

From Abrams: Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific by Mary Cronk Farrell, March 2014
     Just yesterday I had two different kids ask me for "good books about World War II," and while there are plenty of great titles available now, two aspects of the war still trail a bit behind: the Pacific theater and women overseas. This middle grade nonfiction text looks to do a lot to rectify that deficiency, and I anticipate that its combination of a captivating historical story--nurses who not only see battle but are captured--and archival photographs will entice readers.

From Sourcebooks: When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens, February 2014
     Audrey is the first daughter, and she finds the security restrictive and the entire experience isolating. Until, that is, she discovers the diary of Alice Roosevelt, another first daughter who had a knack for mischief and a good time despite the expectations of her family. This middle grade novel looks to combine great hijinks with a premise of figuring out how to be yourself--even when you happen to live in the White House.

From HarperCollins: Panic by Lauren Oliver, March 2014
     This new standalone novel from YA favorite Lauren Oliver will have a substantial holds list, of that I'm sure. Its author isn't the only point of appeal; the thriller plot with strong storytelling would also do the trick, as would the fact that the rights to the movie have already been optioned by a major studio.


Look for Parts III and IV over the next few weeks!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Previews, Part I

Last week, I was attended a Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Preview event hosted by Baker & Taylor in my library district. This event for Missouri-area librarians included presentations from a whole host of publishers, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting a sneak peek at what readers can look forward to in 2014. Over the next few weeks, I'll recap what I saw at the preview event by sharing one book or series per publisher that I look forward to getting into the hands of the young readers I serve next year.

From Cherry Lake: What's It Like to Live Here? series by Katie Marsico, January 2014
     This six-book series aimed at elementary school readers brings the social studies home, literally: by reading about what it's like to live in a city, a fishing village, a mining town, a small town, a suburb, and a farm, children will gain perspectives on the variety of ways and places people live.

From Sleeping Bear: Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Victor Juhasz, April 2014
     When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the United States in the summer of 1939, it fell to first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to decide how to recognize the event. In true Eleanor style, she decided to forego pomp and circumstance and instead host a picnic. This cheekily illustrated nonfiction picture book for older elementary students looks to combine history and great biographical personality.

From Scholastic Library: American the Beautiful, Third Series, beginning in February 2014
     It's been over five years since Scholastic last updated their series of state books, and they are in as high demand by young customers as ever. The combination of useful maps and illustrations, strong text about many aspects of each state, and the updated material make these titles must-haves for my library. All 52 titles will be released in 2014, with the first batch coming in February.

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won, May 2014
     I love both hats and a bit of whimsy, and this picture book about animals who find a remedy for their bad days looks like it'll be filled with both. It appears this book will make a great story time addition, too.

From Penguin Young Readers: This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl, Lori Earl, and Wayne Earl with an introduction from John Green, January 2014
     Esther Earl was a huge fan of YA author John Green, and her fight with and ultimate death from cancer provided some inspiration for Green's bestselling The Fault in Our Stars. This memoir includes snippets from Earl's own journals and letters as well as stories from her parents. A must for YA collections.

I'll have more previews of 2014 titles next week!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fostering Writing on

Earlier this week, I expanded on strategies for fostering writing in the library in an online article for School Library Journal. For full details on what my library district does to promote writing among kids, teens, and adults, as well as some initiatives I'd like to try in the future, head over to

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Books You Can't Storytime (Because You'll Cry)

I was lurking in a Twitter conversation between Brooke (@berasche) and Kendra (@klmpeace) yesterday. They started out talking about read-alouds for older kids--around 3rd grade--and while that's a terrific topic for a future, more serious post, I was completely drawn in when one of them mentioned this fact of librarianship: she couldn't share such-and-such book because it would make her cry.

The scenario goes something like this. We start off reading great books (and showing kids the pictures, ahem):

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, something about the story blows up the dam and we lose it:

At which point it's all gasping breaths, snotty nose, wiping away tears, and trying to regain composure:

And maybe trying to turn the whole thing into an early literacy moment by talking about feelings.

Yep, that's what we're talking about: books you can't storytime* because you'll end up in tears. I'm about to share mine, and I hope you'll feel free to share yours as well--on your blog, in the comments, on Twitter, etc. What read-aloud stories make you cry, and why?

And, without further ado, the children's book that reduces me to a puddle of tears:

Charlie the Caterpillar by Dom DeLuise -- Charlie is a wee caterpillar who just wants to play with the other animals. Yet they all turn him away in disgust, saying cruelly, "We don't play with ugly caterpillars!" That line--even just thinking of that line when I'm still on the first page!--gets me every time. Every. Stinking. Time. Of course the story ends happily and it's a great tale of being friendly and not judging by appearances. But I only get to share that message if I can stop sobbing long enough to actually read the thing.

*why, yes, I did just use "storytime" as a verb.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Book-Finding Resources

We're coming to that time of year when I would normally share some recommendations of my favorite books from the year, both for the sake of recapping the year in reading and for aiding those holiday gift-buying decisions. Committee work prevents me from doing so this year, however, but do not fret! As an alternative, I will be highlighting two resources you might consider when you want to a) find a book perfect for that niece or nephew; b) have handy lists at your reference desk for readers' advisory inquiries; or c) have a resource against which to check your library's shelves in order to make sure you've got great stuff in decent condition.

The SpotLit Collection, a new feature from Scholastic, offers librarians, teachers, and parents curated "best books" lists for preschoolers through middle schoolers. The lists were created by teachers, librarians, children's literature professors, and other experts, and perusing the lists demonstrates that these folks knew what they were doing when they created the lists. Each grade level list includes fiction and nonfiction, with a wide variety of genres and styles represented. For libraries looking to update or start offering grade-level booklists to customers, SpotLit is a great place to start. The suggestions are heavy on a variety of award-winners, too, as evidenced by this nifty info graphic:

The second go-to resource to consider is ALSC's recently-updated Graphic Novels Reading Lists. There are three different lists available for libraries to print in color or black and white: kindergarten through second grade; third through fifth grade; and sixth through eight grade. These lists feature both stand-alone and series graphic novel titles across a spectrum of appeals, so helping kids find the right graphic novel for them is streamlined. The lists come in the form of pretty snazzy-looking brochures, too.

What are your go-to resources for finding holiday gift books, making recent recommendations to customers, and spot-checking your collections?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Make Your Own Early Literacy Toy: Texture Blanket, from guest blogger Stephanie Smallwood

One of my favorite takeaways from the Missouri Library Association Conference in October was the idea of a sensory blanket, which Stephanie Smallwood--Early Literacy Specialist at Springfield-Greene County Library District--shared in her session focused on outreach. I asked Stephanie to elaborate on her texture blanket, and she graciously agreed to share details in the form of this guest post.


"What should I do with my baby?"

Families are always happy to learn that the best thing they can do with their littlest ones is talk to them. We know that talking to babies not only builds vocabulary and background knowledge, but also that all-important caregiver-child bond that is so important for all aspects of development. But sometimes we just don't know what to say to those little guys! Especially during the first few months, it can be difficult for new parents to know what to say to their child, so it helps to give them a conversation-starter so to speak.  We do that when we tell adults to talk about what they are doing or to describe everything they see, but there are certain things that babies are particularly drawn to. One of these things is textures.

A newborn is very sensitive to touch, and that sense stays strong throughout the baby years. This is good for adults, because there are lots of words to use to describe textures. We can use a variety to describe how they feel (fluffy, scratchy, rough, smooth), and we can compare and contrast familiar textures ("This denim feels just like Daddy's pants," "Grandma has a blanket that has satin edges like this."). So textures give us an opportunity to use a copious amount of words, and since baby's sense of touch is so sensitive, they are particularly open to learning at that moment. You know that wide-eyed look babies get on their faces when they are particularly interested in something? That is the most important time to talk. They are focused, interested, and their minds are especially open.

Stephanie's Texture Blanket

I use lots of homemade early literacy activities in my work with families, and one of the most popular is the texture blanket.  It is a basic fleece blanket with several different pieces of fabric sewn on it. Babies love it, toddlers love it, caregivers love it, and every time I use it with a family I get to show them that wide-eyed "That is so cool!" look on their baby's face. It is an excellent tool for modeling those simple interactions that are so important to a baby's development. Here are some points I make with families and babies of different stages.

Newborns: Choose the softest fabrics on the blanket to use with the littlest ones, they will be very sensitive to anything rough. Lightly touch baby's arm or hand with the soft fabric and talk about how it feels. Remember, newborns will be ready to move on in a relatively short time, so no need to overdo it.

Tummy Time Crowd: This blanket is so fantastic for tummy time, I can't fully express it in a post. You really just have to watch a baby doing it. Babies doing tummy time have something to feel and look at while they lay on their tummies. As they start creeping and scooting, they have a goal to reach for and explore. Talk about the different textures they touch.

Sitters/Crawlers: So much to explore! This is when we really start to see curiosity come through with babies. Sitting on a texture blanket gives them a big area to move around in and so many different things to examine. And yes, they will examine it with their mouth, so make sure your fabrics are secure and that babies are monitored.

Walkers: Even those bigger babies will still appreciate the textures. Take off their shoes and let them feel the fabric with their feet. They are beginning to make stronger connections between current experiences and things they have experienced in other situations, so this is a great stage to compare textures.

My texture blanket gets used pretty regularly in my outreach programming, but it would be ideal for baby storytimes or a baby corner in a children's department. Mine has been used monthly for three and a half years and is still in pretty good shape. It gets machine-washed after each use, and I line dry it. One of the great things about the texture blanket is that it is that it is portable--it is super easy to roll it up and take it to any of the locations where I work with families. It's truly a perfect activity!


Picture provided by Stephanie Smallwood.

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Milk & Cookies Story Morning

November marks my ninth monthly Saturday morning Milk & Cookies Story Morning, and the program looks to have developed quite a following. Month after month, I see a combination of familiar faces who express total excitement at the prospect of story time. I also continue to see plenty of new faces, usually accompanied by caregivers who tell me how grateful they are to have a Saturday library program option for their little ones. When I was in library school, one of my professors advised that any new program should be given at least a 6-month trial before deeming it successful or not; nine months in to Milk & Cookies Story Morning, I feel I can start to say that this program is something much needed and appreciated by the community I aim to serve.

Opening Song: "Open, Shut Them"

Story: Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illustrations by Laura Rankin
     This simple rhyming story invites audience participation, so we all stood up to follow Joe, a bear, as he tiptoed through the forest to share a secret with his friends. Page turns bring a new animal to identify, including a fun sound for the animal's footfalls. These animal sounds just beg to be acted out, and the kiddos are happy to oblige. Discovering Joe's secret at the end of the story doesn't fail to delight, either. Give kids some space to stand up and have their feet make different sounds when you read this one--a perfect opportunity for play.

Song: "Bluegrass Jamboree" by Hap Palmer
     Since we were already standing for the preceding story, we kept standing up to dance along to this song. It includes simple, fun actions as the song lyrics, and the strong beat of the song helps pump up enthusiasm.

Song: "I Can Shake My Shaker Egg" by Mr. Eric and Mr. Michael
     After passing out shaker eggs, I explained to the kiddos that we would try to shake our eggs along to the beat of the song--if the song was slow, we would shake slow; and if the song was fast, we would shake fast. The dramatic increase in tempo of this song set to a classical music staple provides a perfect background for reinforcing rhythm.

Story: There's Something in My Attic by Mercer Mayer
     Before I started this story, we talked about a few things. First, where in a house is an attic? Did anyone in attendance have an attic at their houses? We also talked about how things can happen in stories that cannot happen in real life. When I've got some younger kids in a program in which we're going to read a story that might be interpreted as scary, I always talk about how these stories are made up and that pretend things can only happen inside the pages. By the time we got to the end of the story, kids were twirling their pretend lassos with nary a nightmare fear in sight.

Song: "Five Little Ducks"
    Our song cube landed with the illustration of five ducks facing upward, which meant we would sing "Five Little Ducks." We all practiced showing numbers on our fingers, and we had great fun making big, huge quacking noises to bring the little ducks back home.

Story: The Gingerbread Man by Beatrice Rodriguez
     The simple, sometimes-silly illustrations in this version of The Gingerbread Man are quite delightful lend plenty of opportunity to talking about the pictures. Most of my attendees had not heard this folktale before--a fact that doesn't shock me as much as it used to, that kids aren't familiar with classic tales. By the end of our reading, though, they were reciting the refrain with me like pros. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: these folktales are classics for a reason, and their pacing and building of suspense are often exquisite. That, combined with the fact that kids need a basic knowledge of these tales to understand many, many things in life, is why I always strive to include a folktale when I can.

Rhyme: "Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree"
     Together, we sang and told the story of the five monkeys in the tree and the alligator using Marge's terrific sign language version. Even the younger kids in the group caught along on several of the signs, and the excitement of seeing that alligator's jaws open wide was quite thrilling.

Milk and Cookies Time!
     We enjoyed Teddy Grahams and either 2% milk or 100% apple juice. I've learned to pour just a bit of drink in each cup to start in order to minimize both spills and waste.

Free Play Time
     Our four play stations for the day took advantage of the early literacy play kits currently residing at my branch for November. In addition to our perennial favorite wooden garage-and-cars station, we had foam building blocks; play fruit that can be slices with a play knife, a pencil, or other thin implements; and a variety of magnets (alphabet, dinosaurs, vehicles, animals) with magnetic boards. This variety of play items worked well with the age range of attendees. While younger kids veered toward the blocks and garages, older ones sliced and matched fruit and vegetables or created their own magnetic stories. I was lucky enough to get private readings of a number of these stories, and they were extremely well plotted.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Life-Size Chutes and Ladders

I've seen several blog posts from librarians who have offered life-size Candy Land programs for their preschoolers. As whimsical as these programs looked, I must admit I found the idea of transforming my library's multi-purpose meeting room entirely into Candy Land--then immediately tearing it down before the evening's homeowners association meeting--incredibly daunting. The idea of a life-size game really stuck with me, however, and I put it in my Google doc of back-burner ideas.

The meeting room turned into a
Chutes & Ladders game board
I finally figured out a life-size game that made sense to an unprogramming-inclined librarian like me: Chutes and Ladders! The game is a classic for kids, it's pretty self explanatory, and it doesn't require its own world for real enjoyment. Earlier this week, I offered our Life-Size Chutes and Ladders program to school-age kids in my library. We had a dozen kids participate--a perfect number for a first go at a life-size game. Here's what we did.

Room setup - With help from a page, I moved the tables to the back of our meeting room. With chairs along the walls for spectating caregivers, the bulk of the floorspace was wide open. I grabbed stacks of construction paper in red, yellow, green, and blue, as well as a roll of book tape, some yarn, and a roll of electrical tape. I used book tape on the back of construction paper to make the game board path. Chutes were made of yarn and connected two colored spaces on the board. Ladders were made out of electrical tape, and they also connected two colored spaces on the board. I set up the game board with 50 colored spaces, 4 chutes, and 4 ladders to start. (If you anticipate a bunch of kids or want shorter gameplay, decrease the number of spaces on the board.) I also set out a table with some of our books with kids' games.

How to play - As kids came into the program, I had them make name signs for themselves. Each sign had a number, starting with 1, and I asked the kids to wear their signs around their necks with the assistance of yarn and a hole punch. The numbers were so I could make sure everyone took turns in order. On a child's turn, he or she would spin a game spinner borrowed from Twister; the Twister spinner has each of the four game colors on it, and it told the child what game space to move to. If he landed on red, he moved to the next red space. If she landed on green, she moved to the next green space. Once on their new spaces, the kids looked to see if they found themselves on a chute or a ladder. If they did, they moved accordingly. Finishing the game meant spinning a color no longer left in front of you.

Keeping the game going - With a dozen kids all starting from the same space, the game was a big congested at first. After about three rounds of turns, though, the human game pieces were really starting to spread out. Everyone was a good sport about chutes (even the boy who repeatedly said, and I quote: "This is the worst day ever!"*), and ladders were very exciting. That said, it took about 30 minutes of gameplay before the first child finished the course. That child got to choose a book from a prize cart and then start back at the beginning. I also took this half-way point opportunity to do a few things: 1) tell the kids to stay on their squares, then give everyone a roll of Smarties for a Smarties break; 2) talk about how game designers test their games over and over again to make sure it's not too easy and not too hard; and 3) remove a chute and add a few ladders. We kept playing after the Smarties break, and as other children finished the course, I kept removing chutes and adding ladders. These modifications really excited the kids--where would there be a new ladder?!?--and also served to help move the game forward. By the time our hour for the program was up, every child had successfully finished the course and chosen a prize book to take home.

How it went - The Life-Size Chutes and Ladders game went really well. Kids stayed engaged throughout the process, and they didn't grumble about waiting their turns or sliding down a chute. They were all really excited to be able to make it to the end of the course, which kept them all motivated and engaged. Caregivers were into the whole experience, too, because the game was very low-key. There was no single winner, and thus no competition to sour attitudes or fighting to get loud. One caregiver even pointed out how the whole game was a sort of exercise in patience and delayed gratification, all wrapped up in a gameplay bow. Children were genuinely excited to see what their spins would dictate, and they relished choosing their books at the end.

Never underestimate the appeal of books as prizes.
If you want to do this program... I highly recommend it! I would encourage you to think about a balance between number of participants and length of the program; this program worked well for us with around a dozen kids so everyone stayed engaged over the course of the hour. I'd also encourage you to be very flexible with the chutes and ladders you create--having a free hand with adding and removing them during the game can help move things along nicely. Lastly, never underestimate the power of books as prizes. Use those leftovers from the summer reading game, or galleys, or whatever you've got--going home with a book to keep is golden.

*His mom told me he says that about at least three different things each day. When he finished Chutes & Ladders, he appropriately switched to saying it was the "best day ever!"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How I Came to Be a Librarian

Last week, Anna at Future Librarian Superhero shared her librarian creation story. She asked her readers to consider sharing their stories, too, and that's what I intend to do.

I first wanted to be a librarian after seeing The Mummy. You know that nineties movie with Rachel Weisz as her career headed upwards, Brendan Fraser as his career headed the other way, and that mummy face made of sand? That movie. In case you don't remember the movie as well as you should, Rachel Weisz's character is a librarian. And she can keep her cool and use her brain in the most ridiculous mummy-has-arisen situations, even when her male counterparts just shoot things and/or die. She was the best. Obvious career path.

That was middle school. In high school, I read a few articles* about librarianing. I learned about the Lipstick Librarian, whom I emailed to find out how I could become a librarian. I learned about Nancy Pearl and got her action figure. I bought a library community cookbook. I aided in the school library.

In college, it took me a while to land on a major. Second-guessing my major made me second guess my longtime career choice, but I kept librarianing in mind. Two realizations during the summer before senior year showed me I was meant to go to library school: 1) I spent my summers as a camp counselor keeping a shelf of middle grade books for campers to read during rest hour; and 2) I made several trips to different libraries during my semester in Scotland despite having no scholastic inducement to do so. All signs pointed me back to libraries.

In library school, I tried rare books (pretty interesting); I thought about digitization programs (not quite as interesting to me); but I LOVED doing children's services anything, whether it was in class or in my public library internship. It would appear that all has turned out for the best, as I still love doing anything children's services.

And that's how I came to be a librarian.

*Bitch magazine ran Abigail Leah Plumb's "Smarty Girl: Three Librarians on Film" in 2001; Bust ran Kat Long's "Revenge of the Librarians" in 2004.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When We Get the Wiggles

The number of outreach visits I'm making each season has skyrocketed, which means I'm really refining my bag of storytime tricks. Each month, I put together a new bag of stories, planned songs and rhymes, and maybe a puppet, but all that materials preparation doesn't completely do the trick--especially when a group gets the wiggles and sitting still is just not an option. What do I do when my story time crowds get the wiggles? These are some of the no-materials strategies I've been using in different levels of wiggle crisis:

Low Wiggle Crisis:

A brief song or rhyme interlude will suffice. My go-to is a wiggle-packed variation on the "Finger Family" rhyme.
Wiggle Your Fingers!
Wiggle your fingers up,
Wiggle your fingers down.
Wiggle your fingers all around.
Wiggle them on your shoulders,
Wiggle them on your head.
Wiggle them on your knees,
And tuck them into bed.

I'll add extra variations to that rhyme, too, including having kids wiggle their fingers by different parts of their bodies. My recent favorite variation is to have kids wiggle fingers to one side, then wiggle them on the other, back and forth, so that we have an opportunity to talk about the hula. That odd change of topic at the end of the wiggle rhyme seems to get them back into listening mode.

Another recent favorite for those low wiggle crises is the "Fruit Salad" song I learned at the first Guerrilla Storytime from Anna.

Fruit Salad (tune=Frere Jacques)
Watermelon, watermelon
hold arms over head in an oval
Papaya, papaya
move hands in two groundward bumps
Ba-na-na-na-nana, ba-na-na-na-nana
start with hands over head and move downward
Fruit salad! Fruit salad!
make a bowl with hands

We usually do this song twice: once to learn it, then a second time to get silly with it.

My last recent go-to favorite was taught to me during a Skype session with Cory of Storytime Underground:

The Peanut Song
A peanut sat on a railroad track
mimic holding a peanut
And his heart was all a-flutter
tap your heart
Around the bend came Number 10
move hand like train, then hold up ten fingers
Toot, toot!
mimic pulling a train whistle
Smash, smash!
clap hands
Peanut butter!
raise hands in an "oh, well" gesture

I should note that I learned these hand motions to go with the song when I did it with a particularly great preschool group--they taught me the motions that they do when they sing the song. (Their teacher also explains onomatopoeia when cowboy goes "Eeeeek!" in Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. Stellar!)

Medium Wiggle Crisis:

A sit-down wiggle song or rhyme just won't cut it, so we stand up for an action-packed song or two. I start with "Form the Orange" as demonstrated by the incredibly terrific Rick. I'll give you the words, but make sure you watch the video for all the motions.

Form the Orange
Form the orange. Form, form the orange.
Peel the orange. Peel, peel the orange.
Squeeze the orange. Squeeze, squeeze the orange!
[I ask, "What do you get when you squeeze an orange?"]

Form the potato. Form, form the potato.
Peel the potato. Peel, peel the potato.
Mash the potato. Mash, mash the potato!
["What do you get when you mash a potato?"]

Form the banana. Form, form the banana.
Peel the banana. Peel, peel the banana.
[after I explain what "going bananas" means, we do it again!]

Another medium wiggle crisis option is the ever-popular "We're Going to Kentucky," which many a librarian has recrafted to suit specific story time needs. I go for the original version I learned from Mel:

We're Going to Kentucky
We're going to Kentucky, we're going to the fair,
To see a seƱorita with flowers in her hair.
march during this first couplet

So shake it, shake it, shake it, as fast as you can,
Shake it like a milkshake, and do the best you can.

Shake it to the bottom
twist to the floor
Shake it to the top
twist back up
Turn around, turn around, turn around...

I particularly like Kendra's zoo version, which she uses in zoo-themed programs.

High Wiggle Crisis:

All hope is lost unless kids get to move their bodies and focus their attention on something they really enjoy. My strategy in these instances may seem counterintuitive, as we do not stand up to work out that energy. Instead, we tell stories with our hands.

Little Bunny Foo Foo - I preface this story by telling the kids that they need to be able to do a few things to help. They need to make bunnies; hop those bunnies; make a scoop; bop their knees; shake a finger like someone did something naughty; and make magic fairy fingers. From there, we start singing the "Little Bunny Foo Foo" story, with high emphasis on what this crazy thing called a "goon" might be. Our goons end up with us making the silliest/scariest faces we can.

Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree - Marge shared this mind-bogglingly outstanding sign language version of the familiar rhyme at a Guerrilla Storytime. First she teaches the kids the signs for the important words: monkeys, swinging, tree, teasing, alligator, etc. Then she launches into the rhyme, saying and signing the words simultaneously. The repetition of the rhyme means that, by the time you're at three or two monkeys left, many of the kids have figured out at least a few of the signs. Then, as the grand finale, do the final "One little monkey" verse completely in sign. The tension builds and builds as the kids anticipate a big "CLAP!" as the last monkey gets snatched out of the tree. There is absolute silence in the room for that last verse, and everyone is fascinated.

*Bonus for these stories: teachers and caregivers are familiar with them, even if they haven't shared them with their kids, and so they are interested to see how the librarian does them. When they participate because they're interested in a story, they aren't talking amongst themselves and distracting the kids, which can create wiggle crises in the first place.


What do you do when your story time crowd has the wiggles?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fostering Writing in the Library

Today, November 1, marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo exists as a dedicated time to encourage aspiring writers to sit down and finally write that novel that's been percolating in their minds. NaNoWriMo takes place every November, and it presents the perfect opportunity for libraries to consider how they foster writing among their customers.

At my library, we provide writing activities and spaces for the full age range of our customers.

Children - We have offered a variety of writing activities for preschoolers and school-age kids in our children's spaces and children's programs. We've had a "What We're Reading" wall on which kids can write the names of the books they're currently enjoying. We also have magnetic doodle boards out for simple writing activities. In programs, preschoolers have gotten to create their own books while school-age kids have talked about and written poetry several times.

Teens - At the request of several teens who started sharing their writing with one another while working the summer reading desk, our library now offers a monthly writing club. Each club opens with a brief writing exercise to get the juices flowing and serve as an ice breaker. From there, the hour-long club may include reading aloud from attendees' works, workshopping in small groups, and discussions about writing strategies and tips for working through writer's block. The teens have already formed a pretty tight-knit community of writers surrounding this club, which demonstrates this was a needed activity for the library to support.

Adults (and teens) - On Thursday evenings throughout November, my branch has booked our meeting room for open NaNoWriMo time. We'll set out tables and bottles of water, and any folks interested in pounding out some writing can use the space and enjoy some writerly camaraderie. Staff will check in on the space periodically, but this is mostly a passive programming initiative. Sometimes the only thing holding potential writers back is lack of designated space to write.


How does your library foster writing among your customers? Any plans for NaNoWriMo?

*image from