Monday, December 30, 2013

The Real End-of-Year Must-Read: "It's Not Just Sexism" on Storytime Underground

I was all set to post on a completely different topic today, but I am postponing that piece so that, hopefully, more people will read an outstanding post by Cory Eckert on Storytime Underground.

We're rapidly approaching prime librarian accolades season, a time when many youth services librarians feel overlooked and undervalued by the profession at large. Regardless of where you weigh in on that particular argument--whether you want wider recognition, whether you don't, whether it's the principle of the matter--Cory's piece is a must-read. THIS is the sort of article that should be in American Libraries Direct, because then all sorts of librarians would read it. But this is the sort of article that never gets linked for all librarianship to read.

So many librarians are doing good work for the communities they serve; that accolade is not reserved solely for youth services librarianship. But when factors like privilege, race, and sex prevent the good work in the children's room from getting equal recognition to all the shiny new trends? That's a serious problem, for our profession as well as those we serve.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Preschool Science: Observation on the ALSC Blog

In case holiday festivities have kept you from checking your RSS feed these past few days, please allow me to direct your attention to my most recent post on the ALSC Blog. In the post, I share full program details for my most recent preschool science program, in which we explored the science skill of observation. Head over to the ALSC Blog to read the whole thing!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Composer is Dead! A Musical Unprogram Adventure

Ever since I first read/listened to Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead, I knew I wanted to one day use it in a program. In my mind, The Composer is Dead is on a level with Peter and the Wolf in terms of using narrative to introduce instruments in the orchestra. Better, even, because MURDER. It just so happens that this book fits well with the Unprogramming model that Marge and I have been chattering so much about as of late. Which is great, because who wants to spend a million years creating a program when you can make something truly engaging and fun in a much shorter amount of time? Here's what we did:

The Book Component: The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket
     I read the story aloud, but I added peripheral elements that made the telling interactive and visual for the kids in the program. When kids entered the program, I passed out instrument cards on popsicle sticks. Each card showed a picture of an instrument featured in the story, its name, and the section to which is belongs (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion). Then, each time a particular instrument or section was mentioned in the story, the children holding those cards would raise them up and shake them feverishly. I also put together a Prezi to accompany my reading; I mirrored the Prezi from my iPad to the HDTV in our program room, providing visual intrigue throughout and visual clues for what instruments were being featured.
     Fun fact about sharing this story with kids: The kids loved the premise that the composer has been murdered, and every section of the orchestra must be questioned to find the culprit. Toward the end, when the grand joke of the whole book is revealed, there's a whole two-page spread on which composers are listed, then immediately proclaimed, "DEAD!" The kids got really into shouting "DEAD!" after I named the composers, and they were particularly amused to see portraits of these composers, too (Thank you, Biography in Context!).

The Activities Component: The Orchestra app by Touch Press
     We had just over a dozen children in this program, a perfect size for exploring this really great app together. This app allows you to find out more about individual instruments in the orchestra, including 360-degree views, interviews with players, orchestra excerpts, and sound samples. We explored one instrument from each section of the orchestra, making note of the different ways things are played (buzzing like brass players was a particular favorite activity). We also tried to figure out the instrument that can play the lowest note, and the instrument that can play the highest. Favorite instrument sound for this group: the tam tam.
     We finished this activity by watching and listening to part of a performance of an orchestral piece. These performances show, in real time: the score, so we talked about reading music; panning clips of different instruments when they were featured in the piece; constant video of the conductor; and a great illustration showing dots for every player in the orchestra, with the dots expanding whenever a particular player plays. That illustration was particularly captivating to several of the kids.

Explore!: Make rubber band instruments
     I brought all sorts of recycled plastic and cardboard containers into the program, as well as tons of rubber bands (which are always in large supply at the library). After demonstrating my own rubber band instrument, and showing how tightening or loosening the tension in the rubber band can change the sound, the children go to work on creating their own instruments.
     We wrapped everything up with a short rubber band orchestra performance, which garnered rather a lot of applause from the attending caregivers. (They may have just been happy that rubber band instruments are quieter than that time we all made homemade kazoos, which are loud.)

Take things home: I put out other Lemony Snicket books, some nonfiction about music and instruments, and a few orchestral CDs. Several parents asked me about The Orchestra app, as a few of the kids stayed after the program to try out a few more instruments on it.

I was incredibly pleased with this unprogram. The kids enjoyed the longer story, they got into instruments and making their own music, and overall we enjoyed an evening of culture at the library on a cold night. Lemony Snicket may say something sarcastic here about the program, but I was pretty proud of it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What to call my Kids Advisory Board?

I've been offering a monthly Kids Advisory Board program for about nine months now. The program is successful in essentials--a variety of kids ages 9-12 attend, we talk about books, we talk about what programs they want to see happen in the library, etc. The only problem is that, despite there being a variety of kids who have attended so far, only 2-3 children ever show up at any given program.

I've tried personal phone calls to past attendees as a reminder of upcoming meetings. I've tried all manner of promotional signs around the branch to recruit new members. None of it has worked, and so I think a rebranding is in order.

Really? You thought that program name would work?
When I brought up this issue at the December Kids Advisory Board program, both the attendees--one female, one male (if that even matters)--were totally on board with the idea of a name change. According to these children, nine- to twelve-year-olds don't always associate with the term "kids" anymore. In their experience, "kids" means young children, 2nd grade and younger. So calling the program the Kids Advisory Board is potentially missing my target audience. They also told me they don't identify with the word "tween," and that if some age signifier absolutely needs to be employed, they prefer "pre-teen." Also, I was informed that "advisory board" sounds like work and not fun.

So, "Kids" is out. "Advisory Board" sis. What to call this group, then?

I've been playing around with different program names that may somehow reflect the fact that this is a social group for older elementary students, and that books and library happenings will be discussed. Here are some of the names I'm considering, culled both from pre-teens' suggestions and my own browsing of library event listings and blogs:
  • The Idea Squad
  • Books and More
  • Library Club
  • Chatterbooks

Dear reader, do you possess insight or advice on this topic? Do you have a similar type of group/program at your library, and what do you call it? Do you have a good suggestion? Or may just an example of when you've rebranded a program to give it a new look? I'd love to hear any and all thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Circulating Ideas podcast explores Storytime

Not too long ago, Steve Thomas--he of Circulating Ideas podcast fame--talked to a whole slate of terrific children's librarians to really understand everything that goes into storytime. In addition to interviewing Julie from Hi Miss Julie, Anne from So Tomorrow, Anna from Future Librarian Superhero, and Dana and Lindsey from Jbrary, Steve talked to Cory, Kendra, and me about Storytime Underground and our storytimes. These interviews resulted in two podcast episodes, the second of which went live yesterday.

So, if you're anticipating some prime audiobook or podcast time in the next few weeks--while baking cookies, cleaning for holiday company, driving somewhere--I encourage you to check out these two storytime episodes of Circulating Ideas. My esteemed colleagues have some really profound and motivational things to say about this work we do.

Episode 34: Storytime - The philosophies and practices of successful storytimes.

Episode 35: Storytime (Part Two) - Paths into children's librarianship and recommendations for storytime books, crafts, and songs.

Bonus: In the second episode (Episode 35), you can absolutely hear my brain freak out as I try to process the ABSURD question "If you could only choose one book to read for storytime, what would it be?" Everyone else rationally shared their favorite storytime books, but of course I overthought the question. I'm sure you're all surprised.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nutcracker Tea Party

Every December, I like to offer a festive seasonal program for our kiddos. Last year we did gingerbread houses, which is a wonderful STEAM program. Gingerbread houses will be back next year--I want to stay away from too many annual programs so we still have plenty of time to try new things. This year, we put on a Nutcracker Tea Party, which was a raging success. Here's what I did:

Program advertisement: Come dressed in your tea party finest to enjoy the story of The Nutcracker and some festive treats. Before we're through, we'll decorate magic wands and dance like sugar plum fairies!

Program supplies:
  • festive treats (I got mine at Trader Joe's, which always has small, fun, inexpensive goodies that you don't see at every grocery store)
  • drink options (I had both hot peppermint tea and cold juice drinks)
  • a copy of the story of the Nutcracker, either for a read-aloud or for oral storytelling
  • music from The Nutcracker ballet by Tchaikovsky, and a way to play it
  • supplies to make magic wands: chopsticks, stars on card stock, crayons, crepe paper, and book tape

Program audience: ages 3-6, or preschool (siblings of children falling in that age range may also attend)

Room setup: On the large side of our room, I created two long banquet-style tables by setting several of our moveable tables end-to-end and covering them with bright-colored tablecloths. Each place setting was set with a napkin and a small plate with pre-portioned treats (I kept ingredient information for interested caregivers), and crayons and scissors were set along the middle of the table for our craft.
     On the smaller side of our room, I set out our story time rugs to delineate our story space. I also set a table against a wall to use as our craft assembly station. Our CD player was on this side of the room.

Program schedule: The entire program was 45 minutes.

  • Welcome: When I opened the doors to our program room, I had each child check in with me before finding a seat. I took that opportunity to welcome and compliment each child on his or her lovely attire and how confident it made them. This was also when I passed out each child's drink. Every child could choose a cold juice or a hot peppermint tea; about 5 of the preschoolers opted for tea, which is more than I would have expected. I also had a stack of flyers for a January "ballet story time" sitting on the welcome table; almost every caregiver picked up a flyer.
  • Tea party snacks and chat: As the young partygoers enjoyed their treats, I moved from table to table to talk with each of my guests. Some were shy and just nodded demurely at my questions, but others were eager to tell me all about their party clothes, or their holiday plans, or the upcoming snowstorm.
  • Story: We headed over to the story time rugs for the read-aloud of The Nutcracker. I used the version by Susan Jeffers, which has great illustrations and is an appropriate length for a preschool group.
  • Craft: I handed each child a card stock star after the story, and everyone moved back to the tables to decorate and cut out their stars. I helmed the craft assembly station at this point, asking each child what color streamer they wanted for their wands. The star and streamer were book taped to the top of a chopstick for an easy, inexpensive craft.
  • Dancing: Our final activity was to dance like sugar plum fairies with our wands! I cued the CD to the Trepak, the energetic, Russian-style dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. The children had lots of fun dancing however they wanted, with some twirling, some jumping, some marching, and some leaping about. To help bring down our somewhat chaotic dancing to finish the program, I invited all of the children to follow me into the library for a Nutcracker parade. Our single-file line went out one program room door, past the circulation desk, through the children's area, and back in the other program room door, at which point I invited everyone to find their grown-ups and thanked them for coming.

Reactions: So many parents thanked me profusely for offering a program like this in the winter. Several said that their children love to get fancy, but they just don't have many opportunities to indulge that. My coworkers said they appreciated the Nutcracker parade, as it allowed them to enjoy seeing the excited preschoolers all dressed up. The reactions to this program were overwhelmingly positive, which is saying something when your final attendance count is 50+ attendees. We'll be doing  a variation on this program again in the next few years, that's for sure.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Previews, Part IV

Today I'm finishing my recap of a Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Preview event I attended in mid-November; I've been 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, Part II, and Part III.

From Hachette: My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown, June 2014
     It is no secret that I adore Peter Brown, and so do my kiddos. I am thrilled to hear that this next book of his will be perfect for early elementary readers. I've got an inkling that it may pair well with Miss Nelson is Missing, too.

From Black Rabbit and Amicus: Beginner Magic series by Stephanie Turnbull, January 2014
     I'm excited at the prospect of updating our easy magic books. With titles including card, coin, scarf and rope, pen and paper, dinner table, and mind and body tricks, I'm pretty sure one of my young readers will try tricks out on me once these titles come in.

From Scholastic: Minecraft: The Official Beginner's Handbook, January 2014
     We may not currently have a designated program for kids who are into Minecraft, but they are certainly into the game. This volume promises to be a useful introduction for those children who are new to the Minecraft world--and to their parents, who are often a bit baffled by the whole thing.

From Tiger Tales: I Can Do It! by Tracey Corderoy, illustrations by Caroline Pedler, March 2014
     What librarian hasn't heard a child loudly exclaim, "I can do it!" in the library? It's a universal experience of childhood: wanting to do things for yourself, but everyone rushes to do them for you first. I expect this title will make a great addition to our "Growing Up" neighborhood in our picture book section, and it will be a welcome title for families experiencing assertions on independence.

From Simon and Schuster: Noggin by John Corey Whaley, April 2014
     I cannot wait for my teens to get their hands on Printz-winner Whaley's newest book. The story follows Travis Coates, a teen with cancer, who chose a drastic treatment option: have his head removed and cryogenically frozen, then reattached to a donor body when the technology exists to do so. Travis thought it would take decades for him to wake up, but when he comes to just five years later, the landscape of life is rough. He's still 16, but his best friend and girlfriend are both 21; his parents have lived five years without him. How will he cope with this new reality of existence? Since Whaley is doing the writing, it's both moving and funny.


That's it for my recap of forthcoming 2014 titles. What are you looking forward to from Winter/Spring 2014 publications?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guerrilla Storytime is Coming to Philadelphia #alamw14

Are you planning to be in Philadelphia this January for the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting? If you are, I hope you'll make plans to attend Guerrilla Storytime!

I've booked the Networking Uncommons, located in the Pennsylvania Convention Center--i.e., the heart of the conference proceedings--for an hour-long Guerrilla Storytime on Sunday, January 26, 2014, from 2-3 p.m. I'll be there with my cup of challenges to get the conversation rolling, but this event is all about the librarians who attend. It's about the storytime skills you want to share, the storytime questions you want to ask, and the storytime truths you want the rest of the profession to know.

Guerrilla Storytime is an opportunity for youth services librarians to gather at conferences to share their expertise with one another. Guerrilla Storytimes take place in a public space, like the Networking Uncommons, so non-youth services librarians can observe as they walk by just how much knowledge and energy goes into providing great storytimes. The original Guerrilla Storytimes took place back in June and July in Chicago at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, and the initiative has been picking up momentum ever since. Check out the Storytime Underground for full details on what Guerrilla Storytime is and what's happened at Guerrilla Storytimes since the summer.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December Milk & Cookies Story Morning

The library gods must be watching out for me, because this past weekend's Milk & Cookies Story Morning could have been a logistic disaster. You see, that Saturday morning program has been consistently popular, filling my meeting room to the max. It just so happens, however, that our new children's dvd shelving couldn't be delivered last week as planned, and so all of our children's dvds are currently on tables in the back half of the meeting room. That meant coming up with an alternate plan for the story time, snack, and play time of my program.

Except then it turned out to be about 15 degrees outside Saturday morning, with a windchill just north of 0. The prospect of venturing to the library on the first frigid morning of the year was apparently unappealing, and my attendance numbers dropped to a minimalistic 13. Happily, that more intimately-sized program was completely doable with the temporary meeting room logistics. We were all in closer quarters than we might usually be, but everyone professed to having a great time.

December Milk & Cookies Story Morning

With this smaller group, I asked the kids if they wanted me to read from a chair or to sit on the carpet with them. They chose carpet, so I grabbed my first book and we got started.

Story: Six Little Chicks by Jez Alborough
     This rhyming book is quite a bit of fun, with a story that builds in anticipation as a mother hen worries about a fox in the chicken coop. There are a selection of animals whose noises you can mimic, there are opportunities for counting, and there are great spots for movement as kids copy the little chicks. The illustrations are bright and big as well, making this book a good choice for groups. I had quite a few kiddos helping me to finish the rhymes throughout the story.

Song: "I Know a Chicken" by Laurie Berkner
     I passed out egg shakers to our group--we had enough for every child to get two eggs--and we got really into the shaking of our eggs according to the song's instructions. One little girl in particular was way into some interpretive chicken-egg dancing, which helped get some of the more shy kids into the groove.

Story: Theo's Mood by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
     This book finds Theo at school on Mood Monday, and his teacher asks what happened over the weekend and how he feels. Theo shares that his mom just had a baby--a new baby sister--but that he doesn't know how he feels. His classmates help give him options of moods--happy, mad, jealous, proud, sad, and afraid--and ultimately Theo figures out how to express all the feelings he has as a new big brother. The pace of this quick story is perfect for inviting kids to uses their faces to express their different emotions; "Show me your afraid face" got some especially great facial reactions. This story explores a range of emotions in a safe, heart-warming way, illustrating that it's okay to feel all sorts of different things. I love that this story really shares vocabulary for the variety of things a preschooler might feel on a daily basis.

Song: "Grey Squirrel"
     Our song cube toss landed on "Grey Squirrel," so I handed out egg shakers once again to serve as acorns to our squirrels. To my great enjoyment, many of the dads in attendance got into this song with their little ones. Shake your bushy tail!

Story: The Little Red Hen by Byron Barton
     I think this version of The Little Red Hen is one of my favorites--the illustrations are just so kid-friendly. Together, we shared this story and acted out what the little red hen was doing, and at the end we talked about why it's important to help other people. Or hens, as it were.

Fingerplay: "Zoom, Zoom, Zoom"
     I found this simple fingerplay/song on Jbrary (don't you just LOVE them?!?), and I knew I needed to add it to my story time movement repertoire. It has easy hand motions throughout, and it includes counting backwards from five as well, helping to solidify those numeracy skills. Plus, what kid doesn't like to do sound effects for "Blast off!!!"?

Song: "We're Going to Kentucky"
     We sang this favorite a few times through, making sure to get a little bit faster and sillier each time.

Chant: "Form the Orange"
     With just two minutes left in story time, I pulled this chant out of my back pocket; a quick scan of the room reminded me that none of the children in attendance had heard me lead the rhyme before! We made some orange juice, mashed some potatoes, and went bananas. As one does in story time.

Milk & Cookies Time!
     On the menu was 2% milk and cinnamon alphabet cookies from Trader Joe's. I love handing out cookies that providing an opportunity for letter and number recognition, too.

Free Play Time
     With our more limited space for play this month, I pulled out just three sets of toys: large building blocks, our wooden cars and garages set, and a new alphabet puzzle. Several of the kids got really into solving the 24-piece puzzle, and we ended up finishing it, taking it apart, and finishing it a second time. I'll definitely be bringing out this puzzle again in future programs; it's great for letter recognition, vocabulary, visual problem solving, and cooperation as we solve the puzzle together.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter/Spring 2014 Publisher Previews, Part III

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 and Part II.

From Random House Children's Books: Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, January 2014
     This final volume in the Lunch Lady graphic novel series looks to pack a punch, with the school's budget eliminating our fearless lunch lady's job just as her previous villains return en masse to attack the school. Can she save the day?

From Abdo: Star Trek series by Mike Johnson, September 2014
     These original graphic novel stories pick up in the Star Trek universe where the recent movie, Into Darkness, left off, making them likely must-reads for young Trekkies. The series includes two separate stories in four volumes total: The Galileo Seven Parts 1 and 2, and Where No Man Has Gone Before Parts 1 and 2.

From Candlewick: President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, March 2014
     I've got a handful of elementary schoolers who are way into presidential trivia, and I cannot wait to share with them this sure-to-be-hilarious picture book about President Taft and his unfortunate bathtub mishap. Is the story apocryphal? Does it matter?

From Disney Hyperion: Dinosaur Vs. School by Bob Shea, June 2014
     This latest installment in the adorable "Dinosaur Vs" series follows Dinosaur as he goes to school for the first time. I'm sure there will be plenty of roaring along with meeting the teacher, making new friends, and other common starting-school occurrences. This is a title I look forward to taking to preschool outreach.

From Charlesbridge: Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen, February 2014
     This picture book for elementary audiences looks to be both gorgeous and informative. Feathers have long been used for a variety of purposes, both aesthetic and otherwise, and this picture book looks perfect for readers eager to explore collections and natural objects.


Look for Part IV, the final preview recap, next week!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On Cheeky Book Displays

We've got a set of shelves in the children's area of my library that serves as a display space. My coworkers take turns populating these shelves with themed displays of their choosing, and the space has seen plenty of different display topics. We've had Picture Book Month, National Poetry Month, seasonal themes, award winners, focus on animals and science, focus on picture book biographies...lots of displays meant to highlight interesting and often lesser-known parts of our collections. These displays usually do pretty well, but occasionally one soars above our expectations.
That's the precise case with my colleague Erin's most recent display: "I don't remember the title, but the cover was red..."

This cheeky display theme works on quite a few levels. For kids, it's visually pleasing to see all these like-colored books in one place. The color also tacitly ties into the current festive mood without connecting explicitly to any one holiday or tradition.

For caregivers who like to check out our displays for new book-sharing ideas, the title elicits quite a few chuckles. What reader hasn't before encountered that exact experience of remembering nothing about a book besides its cover? The humor of this display works because readers are 100% in on the joke.

The display is eye-catching for sure, and it looks like it piques customers' reading interests as well: 20% of the items on the display have checked out in the few days this December display has been up. Let this serve as a reminder to me that a touch of humor can go a long way in recommending books to readers.