Friday, December 19, 2014

Booktalks with 2nd graders: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

After previous visits where I booktalked to kindergartners and 1st graders, this month I got to visit the second grade classes at my local schools. These booktalks have become one of my favorite services to provide. I love making connections with my local schools, and of course discussing books with kids of all ages.

Here are the books I promoted at this visit:

Frog's Lucky Day by Eve Bunting: "Frog and Friends" is one of my favorite longer beginning reader series, so I had to include it. This is also one I included in my visit to the first graders last month.

Cronus and the Threads of Dread by Joan Holub: I really like the "Heroes in Training" series because it taps into the popularity of Greek Mythology. In addition to the "Percy Jackson" factor, the prologue I read to the kids included the word "underwear". Instant crowd pleaser for this age group!

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo: It is always great to be able to include a series starting book, especially among other books that fall later in their series. This book is about a friend of Mercy Watson's named Leroy and his horse Maybelline. It is the first in the "Tales of Deckawoo Drive" series.

Amelia Bedelia Shapes Up by Herman Parish: I wanted to include an early chapter book with a familiar character and this one fit the bill perfectly.

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieska: A picture book seemed to be in need to fill out the range of reading levels among early elementary kids. This one is a little sophisticated for the younger kids, but seemed to work very well with this age group. I explained the concept of the book and read a few pages, which the kids seemed to find absolutely hilarious. 

Tips and Tricks: 
  • Reading levels vary widely, especially among this age group. This means a particular book can work well with multiple grade levels. That's why  I've reused some titles with more than one grade.
  • Humor is always important. See my above reference to "underwear".
  • Books with familiar characters make great candidates for school booktalks because the kids already have background knowledge about these characters and their stories.
  • This is a great age to start polling kids about the kind of books they would like to see at the library. They can provide great suggestions and help give you a feel for any gaps in your collection. 

In the new year I am visiting the third graders. If you have any book suggestions for that age I would love to hear them!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kidding Around: Elephant and Piggie Party

A new book in the "Elephant and Piggie" series was recently released. In my Mo Willems worshiping brain this meant one thing: We needed to have an Elephant and Piggie Party!

Registration issues and scheduling conflicts meant I couldn't hold this party quite as early as I would have liked, so I was especially anxious to celebrate with the kids. It was very appropriate that the title of the new "Elephant and Piggie" book is "Waiting is Not Easy".

When the day finally arrived, I think this program went really well. I had 12 K-2nd grade kids attend, which is our standard registration limit for my monthly programs for that age group. Everyone seemed to have a great time.

Here's what we did:

I started out by reading "Waiting is Not Easy". The basis of the book is that Piggie has a surprise for Gerald the Elephant. Gerald must wait for the surprise, which is revealed at the very end of the book. As I read the story I prompted the kids to guess what the surprise was. Because the surprise is so awesome I will make you go get the book to find out what it is. No spoilers here!

Our next activity was an Elephant Race. I modified the ideas from this party game site. I broke the kids into two teams and we did a relay race. Each team was given a beach ball and had to use their arms as "trunks" to push it across the room.

Next we did Elephant and Piggie Picture Bingo. I used a picture bingo generator to create picture bingo cards using clip art related to Elephant and Piggie book. For instance, in one book Elephant and Piggie make a reader say "BANANA", so I used a picture of a banana.

Like most of my programs this one finished up with a craft and a snack. Our craft was Elephant and Piggie paper bag puppets. I used patterns found on The Dilley Dally for Elephant and Piggies faces. For some reason the Elephant Template wasn't showing up, so I had to copy and paste to create my own copy.

Here's an example of the end result:

For snack we had cupcakes with pink and blue frosting, fruit snacks and blue Hawaiian Punch (aka Elephant Juice).

While finishing their snacks, the kids could peruse the other Elephant and Piggie books.

Feel free to use my ideas for your own Elephant and Piggie Party. For even more book character party ideas check out this wonderful Book Character Parties Roundup by Jbrary. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Booktalks with 1st Graders: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

Last  month I gave a series of booktalks to kindergarten classes in my local schools. This month it is the 1st graders' turn. My goal for these school visits is to promote the library and reading at all grade levels.

Here are the books I promoted at my school visits:

Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems: In the latest additon to Mo Willem's "Elephant and Piggie" series, Piggie has a surprise for Elephant. The catch is that Elephant must wait for it. I included this one for two reasons. 1. Mo Willems is awesome. 2. I wanted to use the opportunity to promote my newly rescheduled "Elephant and Piggie" party at the library.

Frog's Lucky Day by Eve Bunting: I love the "Frog and Friends" series by Eve Bunting and wanted to include a longer beginning reader in my visit with this age group. I would definitely say this book is on the upper spectrum of what first graders are usually reading. Frog and his friends must search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and also must prevent a fisherman from fishing at Frog's pond.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page by Cynthia Rylant: Mr Putter and his cat Tabby visit storytime at the library. This is also a beginning reader with multiple short chapters. The library connection was a big plus for this one.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox: I wanted to include a nonfiction title, and thought this one would interest the kids. It is a true story of a 1,500 pound elephant seal who liked to sunbath on the road in New Zealand. The kids seemed to love speculating what happened when Elizabeth was returned to the ocean.

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham:
As a picture book suggestion I included this story of a girl who finds a door to the zoo in her bedroom.

Tap by Play by Salina Yoon: Readers must assist a creature named Blip in his quest to win the game before the time is up. A very interactive and entertaining picture book. It appeared to be the favorite of many of the kids.

Tips and Tricks:
  • 15 minutes definitely remains the magical time period. 5-6 seems to be the magical number of books that can easily fit into this time frame.
  • For series books, make sure to give a quick summary of what the series is about before introducing an individual titles. The kids in the classes I went to ranged widely in which beginning reader series they had read.
  • Fun and interactivity remains key with this age group. Very glad I included "Tap to Play" because it fits both these criteria extremely well.

Next month I will be booktalking to the second graders. Any great books you can recommend?

Friday, November 14, 2014

ATLAS: Brushbots

At this month's ATLAS (At The Library After School) we made Brushbots. In case you aren't familiar with them, Brushbots are robots made out of a toothbrush head. They are created by attaching a motor and battery to the toothbrush head and connecting the two to create a circuit. 

A Brushbot looks like this:

And moves kind of like this:

I got this idea from Anne Clark's blog Sotomorrow. Like Anne, I purchased a kit from The Party Pack came with all required materials to create 12 Brushbots. This worked perfectly with my typical registration of 12 3rd-6th graders for my ATLAS (At The Library After School) programs. I did factor the possibility of getting a few duds into my registration, but thankfully we didn't receive any.

We started out the program by putting together our Brushbots, all except for the final step of tying the wires. At this point I also passed out a handout I found on how a Brushbot works. This took about 10-15 minutes. After that I set out Legos for the kids to build individual Brushbot courses. I also set out toilet paper tubes and scissors in case tunnels or ramps were in order. 

Once the Lego building seemed to have progressed a bit I showed the kids how to wind the wires to start their Brushbot. This is where they needed the most help. The battery wires are relatively fragile, and some were too long. Because of this, even though I had prestripped all the battery wires I ended up cutting and restripping many wires during the program. Despite this, we did eventually get all the Brushbots to work!

To close out the hour long program I had the kids do one final race with all the Brushbots. We used rows of books as bumpers (working with what is readily available!). This seemed to be a highlight of the program.

Here are some tips and tricks:
  • With this size group, get a volunteer to help if possible. Although it didn't get too crazy, things would have gone a little more smoothly if I had remembered Anne's advice of trying for a 5 kids to 1 adult ratio!
  • Make sure you trim the battery wires short enough beforehand. I had left a little length because I wanted to leave room for wire breakage, but this meant the battery and motor wires didn't meet closely enough.
  • The "stickers" the kit includes to decorate the Brushbots apparently needed to be cut out. I didn't have the chance to do this during the program, so we skipped the decorating step. Definitely something to keep in mind if you purchase the same kit.

Overall I was glad with how this program turned out. If you have also done Brushbots at your library I would love to hear about your experience. I'm also always open to any other creative STEM program suggestions!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flannel Friday: Five Little Turkeys

For this Thanksgiving themed Flannel Friday I am getting nostalgic, with the first set of "five little" anything I made to go with a storytime rhyme. These five little turkeys were drawn free hand, cut out of construction paper and laminated. I can't believe it has already been four years since I've made them!

Here is the rhyme I have that goes along with them. I don't remember the original source I got it from, but I did find it again on 

Five Little Turkeys
5 little turkeys standing by door,
One waddled off, and then there were 4.
4 little turkeys under a tree,
One waddled off , and then there were 3.
3 little turkeys with nothing to do,
One waddled off, and then there were 2.
2 little turkeys in the noonday sun,
One waddled off, and then there was 1.
One little turkey better run away,
For soon will come Thanksgiving Day.

Our Flannel Friday Thanksgiving Extravaganza is being hosted by Mollie from What Happens in Storytime. Head on over there to check out the roundup and see what great ideas have been shared this week! To participate in upcoming roundups, or get more great storytime ideas head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Science Storytime: Color Science

We are currently on a two week break from our regular morning storytimes, so I am taking the opportunity to throw in something a little different for this age group. My science storytimes were a big hit this summer, so I decided to bring this idea back as an evening program.

In case you aren't familiar with it, the basic idea of a science storytime is that the typical storytime elements are followed by science based centers for the preschoolers to explore. These centers are a hands on way for kids to explore the theme covered in storytime. They are both educational and a lot of fun.

This summer we covered movement, water, growth, construction, balloons and bubbles, so I figured a good topic for this evening storytime would be colors. I was definitely inspired by Amy Koester's post about her Color Science storytime on the ALSC blog and by Wonderworks Color Experiments post.

For the books, songs and activities done in the storytime portion of this program, head on over to Storytime with Ms. Kelly.

Here are the centers I used for this theme:

Color mixing: A simple process of mixing a two primary colors in a baggie.  I've done this before with my K-2nd grade group, and thought it would be a fun activity to include. It teaches about the process of combining colors and is a fun sensory experience.

Dinosaur color matching: I found some dinosaur color matching printables for the kids to practice matching. I figured kids love dinosaurs, and this would be a fun easy center to create. As the preschoolers match the dinosaurs, they learn the scientific skills of observation and sorting.

Pom Pom sorting: The object of this station was the sort the colored pom poms into the cups labeled with each color. It was a modified version of Abby the Librarian's Color Pom Pom Drop.

Color a Color Wheel: I made a color wheel template in Microsoft Word and had the kids use bingo daubers and crayons to color it. The idea behind this was to give them a little bit of an understanding about how the colors are related. Use of tools like bingo daubers is also a great for development of motor skills.

Watercolor painting: This added the "A for Art" to this STEAM program. It also helps kids understand the properties of water and color. Paintbrushes are also great for encouraging the development of writing skills, as this post by the wonderful Melissa Depper details.

Tips, Tricks and Reflection:

  • Doing this program in the evening did great things for our program attendance. The storytime room was packed! There were new kids able to come and regular attendees that came with parents I had never met. We do not typically do registration for preschool programs, but I definitely would consider changing this next time I offer a program like this. As much as I hate to set those kind of limits our storytime room is just not that large.
  • It seems to work well to keep the stations apart from the space where the storytime portion is presented. It prevents the kids from being distracted by all the fun stuff and allows them to pay attention to the book and songs.
  • Coffee filter art would be another great center to add. All you do is have the kids draw on coffee filters with markers and spray the filters with water to spread the color. The main reason I didn't do this is I had already included it in my water storytime over the summer.

We resume regular storytimes next week, and I am definitely glad I changed things up a bit during the break. As usual, I would love to hear any suggestions or ideas you may have!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Booktalks with Kindergartners: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

Inspired by this post by Abby Johnson at Abby the Librarian I recently started a series of booktalks at local schools. My goal is to visit each of the two schools closest to my library once a month. Each month I will visit a different grade. The plan is to have each visit done in about an hour (15 minutes per class). I figured I'd start things off the kindergarten classes, because they are so cute.

It was pretty easy to prepare for these booktalks. I started by raiding our new picture book shelves and picking some of my favorite books. I did a different grouping of six books for each school, mainly because I wanted to allow the first class the chance to rush on over to the library after school and check them out. With older classes the prep of reading the books might become a bit too much to do this, but it worked well with picture books.

Here are the books I chose: 
  • Draw by Raul Colon: Mainly chosen because I wanted to show the kids an example of a wordless book.
  • My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems: I have an Elephant and Piggie Party coming up, so I definitely wanted to bring along a book in the series as a tie in. Plus Mo Willems is one of my absolute favorites.
  • Dog Days of School by Kelly DiPucchio: I figured a school related theme would work well with kids in their first few months of elementary school.
  • My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown: Another book chosen because of the school tie in.
  • Creature Features by Robin Page: I wanted to make sure to include some nonfiction, and love the illustrations of this one.
  • Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton: It features a destructive dinosaur, so I knew it was going to be a kid pleaser.
  • Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border: Cute book about Peanut Butter searching for a best friend (SPOILER ALERT: It's Jelly!). The kids all thought his best friend would be cupcake, so the title turned out to be a little misleading.
  • Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham: I love metafiction, and this is a great example.
  • Froodle by Antoinette Portis: A celebration of a unique bird who doesn't go along with the flock. It deals with animal sounds, so there is also lots of room for kids' participation.
  • Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems: Another Elephant and Piggie Book included primarily for the purpose of plugging an upcoming program.
  • The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak: This is the ULTIMATE read aloud for this age group. The kids expected a boring book and got me saying words like "Boo Boo Butt!"  Read the beginning of this one at both schools and the kids thought it was hilarious!
Tips and Tricks:
  • This may seem obvious, but make sure to provide handouts listing the books you told the kids about! This is especially important with little ones who might not remember the titles to tell moms and dads.
  • Remind the kids that the books you are sharing are not ones they can take home from school that day. Definitely an area of possible confusion with this age group!
  • Keep it short and simple. Abby is absolutely right that "15 minutes" is a magic phrase.
  • Provide a brief review of library resources, because there will also be some kids who aren't familiar with all we lend. I was actually surprised how many kids at both schools seemed wowed at the mention that we lend movies, CDs, puppets, etc. 

I am so glad I started this series of book talks. I had a lot of fun with the kindergartners, and I think they did too. I've already gotten feedback from one parents that their daughter "dragged them to the library to checkout the whole list of books." I am counting that as a success!

First grade booktalks are coming up in a few weeks. Definitely open to any book suggestions or advice. As usual you can reach me here in the comments, by email at marrak at libcoop dot net, or on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets).

Monday, October 20, 2014

American Girl Club: Meet Caroline

This month our American Girl Club learned about Caroline, an American Girl from 1812. As usual we started out discussing Caroline and her stories. The big focus of Caroline's stories is, of course, the War of 1812. I had to do a lot of explaining about this for several reasons: 1) The group of 3rd-6th graders that attended skewed a little younger this time. 2) Caroline is still a relatively new American Girl character. She was introduced in 2012. 3) The War of 1812 doesn't appear to get a lot of attention in schools. The kids were familiar with the American Revolution so I tried to build on that.

Here is our table with Caroline books and handouts.

After our discussion we took a quiz to determine which character in Caroline's stories we are most like. I made this quiz two years ago when Caroline first came out, based on a quiz on the American Girl website. The overall consensus was that most of us were like Caroline, which of course made all the attendees happy!

Because Caroline loves to sail, next we played a nautical version of Simon Says called Ship's Captain. I found it among the playground games listed on Games Kids Play. I highlighted the commands I thought would be easiest for the kids to learn and had each "captain" take turns picking from them. The obvious favorite was "SHARK!".

Next we made ships based on a template found on the American Girl website. This template has unfortunately been removed from their website. After coloring the ships we raced them by blowing on them. This also turned into a teachable history moment: "You know back then ships didn't have engines and could only move by wind power."

As usual we ended the program with snacks. I chose gingerbread cookies and cider because Caroline eats both in the books. Baby carrots were also included as a healthy addition to snacktime, because Caroline and her uncle's family rely on the vegetables grown in their garden.

Here are some pictures of the kids' boats and dolls. The dolls are a totally optional thing, but the kids seem to love bringing them:

The next girl our American Girl Club is focusing on will by Julie, from 1974. Be prepared for some groovy fun!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Flannel Friday: Five Little Pumpkins

My contribution to this week's Flannel Friday is a five little pumpkin's flannelboard. It can be used with any of the many versions of "Five Little Pumpkins" that are out there. The version I use is one I found on one of my favorite sites, Step by Step Childcare.

Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins at my door,
A neighbor took one and then there were four.

Four little pumpkins under a tree,
Along came a farmer and then there were three.

Three little pumpkins that looked so new,
I gave one away and then there were two.

Two little pumpkins out in the sun,
Mom made a pie and then there was one.

Of all the pumpkins there was just one.
So I made a Jack-O-Lantern and that was fun!

To make my flannelboard I used a template to trace the pumpkin shapes out of felt. The stems are cut out of beige felt and glued on with Tacky Glue.

For the final pumpkin (which is made into a Jack-O-Lantern)  I made a Jack-O-Lantern face out of black felt. I drew it free hand.

The Flannel Friday Roundup this week is hosted by Lisa from Thrive After Three. Head on over there to see what great ideas have been shared this week! To participate in upcoming roundups, or get more great storytime ideas head over to the Flannel Friday Blog or Pinterest page. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter.

Friday, October 10, 2014

ATLAS: Halloween Minute to Win It Games

Minute to Win It is a big hit with the tweens at my library. It is also a fun and inexpensive program, which means it is a big hit with me as well. I've done it in a regular format, and in versions tweaked to suit a theme. For instance I've adapted it into Chocolate Olympics and Marshmallow Madness programs. This is the first time I've done a seasonal Minute to Win It. The total cost this time was under $10.

To plan this program, I found this link on Pinterest, and used it as a starting point. I also got some great ideas here. These two links gave me most of the games I needed to fill an hour long program with 10 kids.

I structured the program by setting up a station for each game. Two kids could play a game at one time. We went through the stations as a group, but they would also work as self directed centers.

Here are the six games we played: 

Silly Spider: 

Source: Adaptation of spider/straw game here. 

Description:  Kids had to pick up spiders rings by sucking through a straw.  

Supplies: A straw per child and about 50 spider rings. 

Cost: Free (The straws were leftover from a previous program and the rings were from our stash of Halloween decorations/giveaways.)

Seperation Anxiety:

Source: Direct from the same site.

Description: The object of the game was to separate a bowl of M&Ms by color.

Supplies: Two bags of M&Ms, only one was used to play the game. The second was for a treat at the end. I also used two sets of six cups and one bowl, both of which I already had.

Cost: $5.00 for the M&Ms.

Candy Catastrophe:

Source: I came up with this one myself.

Description: The kids had to use chopsticks to pick up the candy corn and put it in a bowl. I stressed that they could be "creative" about how they went about this.

Supplies: A pair of chopsticks per child, two bowls and one bag of candy corn.

Cost: $2.00 for the candy corn. I already had the chopsticks from a previous program.

Cup Tower of Terror:

Source: A combination idea inspired by the cups used here, and the tower building done here.

Description: The goal is to stack as many cups as tall as possible without them falling over.

Supplies: One pack of 50 plastic cups.

Cost: $2.99

Dice It Up:

Source: Buzzle

Description: You must balance a die on a Popsicle stick held in your mouth. Then you must proceed to stack as many die on top of that die as possible.

Supplies: One Popsicle stick per child, as many die as possible.

Cost: Free. I used popsicle sticks leftover from this summer's catapult program, and took the die from various board games the library owns.

Dizzy Mummy:

Source: Taken directly from here.

Description: The idea is to wrap your partner in as much toilet paper as possible. To extend the fun I gave them five minutes each for this one.

Supplies: About a roll of toilet paper per pair of kids.

Cost: Free. I took toilet paper from the library's supply closet.

The kids had a great time at this program. The hit of the day was obviously the mummy wrapping. Definitely planning on using this one again.

If you have any questions or program ideas to share I would love to hear them. You can comment hear, email me at marrak at libcoop dot net, or talk with me on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets). Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Favorite Crafts for Toddlers and Preschoolers

At my library, we do crafts at toddler and preschool storytimes.

I know not every librarian does crafts at storytimes, but there are several reasons I choose to do so. First of all, coloring, gluing and other craft activities are a great way to develop a child's fine motor skills. Crafts also provide a great time for parent and child interaction. Tied in with the encouragement of interaction, creation of of a craft project also provides a tangible object to promote discussion of storytime at home.

Here are my favorite crafts to use with this age group. They are all relatively mess free, and simple to prepare. I hope you find them useful with any and all young children.

1. Collage: Collage can be done with toddlers and preschoolers in a variety of ways. It is a great form of open ended art that can be adapted for all ages. One of my favorite forms of collage to use in storytime is the magazine cut out collage. I cut out pictures related to that week's theme and let the kids create collages out of them. Stickers also make a great collage medium.

2. Torn Paper Art: All this requires is a stash of torn construction paper. Simple have the kids glue it to decorate whatever you wish. I do this a lot with animals.The only preparation is tearing the paper and printing out an outline of that week's animal.

3. Bingo Dauber Art: Bingo Daubers, or Do a Dot daubers are a great way to create a variety of open ended art projects. You can find some great printouts to use with these daubers as well.

4. Paper Plate Projects: Paper plates are one of my favorite craft supplies. They can been used in so many different ways. For instance, I've cut them in half and had the kids glue tissue paper on to make jellyfish. I've also had kids glue yarn hair and sticker eyes on paper plates to make people. This is one of my favorite crafts at an  "All About Me" storytime. Head here for more great paper plate craft ideas.

5. Yarn Art: Yarn works great to add an element of texture to any craft project. When I use it I typically cut little pieces for the kids to glue on. Depending on the project, it can be anything from "hair" to "grass".

These are just some of the common types of crafts I do with toddlers and preschoolers. I would love to learn your favorites as well!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Kidding Around: Pumpkin Painting!

It's October already, which in my library can only mean one thing: Pumpkin Painting!

We do pumpkin painting once a year as part of my monthly program for Grades K-2, Kidding Around. It is a fun program that takes relatively little preparation, so if you aren't already doing it at your library I highly recommend trying it.

Here are some tips and tricks:
1. Check out local vegetable stands to get deals on pumpkins. They are less expensive than stores and more likely to give you a discount for a good cause.
2. Give kids a pattern to plan out their pumpkin design before hand. Here is the one I used. It is a great way to encourage kids to think ahead.
3. Old adult sized t shirts make great paint smocks for kids. The donated stash we have at my library gets a great deal of use, and is definitely brought out at pumpkin painting time.
4. If possible, let kids keep their pumpkin at the library while it dries. I usually ask parents to come and pick up the next day. While pumpkins are waiting for pickup they make great decoration for the library.
5. I have kids draw a number to choose which order they pick their pumpkin. This seems to be a pretty fair way to determine who gets which one.
5. Sizewise, I usually limit this program to about 12 kids. This works for us, especially because I am the only librarian running the program. With more adult assistance you could definitely do it with a bigger group.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few of the pictures I took at this program:

Our next Kidding Around will be an Elephant and Piggie Party! We will be celebrating the release of the latest book "Waiting Is Not Easy!" Any ideas you have for this or any other program are greatly appreciated.

Monday, September 22, 2014

American Girl Club: Meet Kaya

In case you've forgotten, at my library we have a monthly American Girl Club program for Grades 3-6. We pick a different girl each month, and spend time learning about her time period with discussion, games, crafts and snacks. The first girl we are learning about this school year is Kaya, a Nez Perce girl from 1764. As usual, our special guest was the library's Kaya doll.

I kept this program pretty simple because I knew attendance would be relatively low this month as people get into the routine of the new school year. The only money I spent was the $10 I spent on snacks.

We started out talking about Kaya and her stories. This was relatively brief because none of the attendees had read the books.

After that I wanted to make sure to get the kids moving, so we did a variety of animal themed races. These included racing as crabs, bears and frogs. I thought this was a good connection because respect for animals is an important part of Kaya's culture. I found the inspiration for these races here.

I saw on several sites that Nez Perce had a game where they would throw pinecones through a hoop. I adapted this and made a target on the ground for the kids to throw pinecones at. The pinecones were a donation from one of our clerks.

Our next game was found in American Girl's Kaya Event Kit (which is sadly no longer available on the American Girl website). It is called "Fur or Feathers". Each person pulls the name of an animal and the others must guess their animal using yes or no questions. I added a charades component to make things a little easier. Major bonus points to the girl who acted out "porcupine"!

We ended the program with a craft and snack. The craft I used was the Rosette craft in the Event Kit. For snacks we had sunflower seeds, gummy fruit snacks, goldfish and flavored water. The seeds and water were both things Kaya would have ate. The fruit snacks and goldfish were eaiser, more kid friendly versions of the same thing.

So glad to be back to doing this program! I look forward to updating you on American Girl Club throughout the year. Next month we will be learning about Caroline, an American Girl from 1812.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Tips for Evaluating Storytime

In order to keep improving at anything you need to periodically ask yourself an important question:

In order to best serve patron's librarians must consider both the why and how of what we are doing in all programming. Storytime is no different. In order to get better at providing storytimes, you must evaluate whether things are working, or whether you need to make changes.

For the past four years I've been working as a librarian I have done this kind of evaluation informally. For instance, I'd observe behavior during storytime. Did the kids seem engaged? Were they smiling? I want the kids to enjoy storytime, so if they aren't I clearly need to make improvements.

I also would view attendance as a performance measure. Is it increasing? How big of a crowd of regular attendees is there? I want to make sure I reach as large a group as possible. I also want to know that people see the value enough to keep returning.

Based on these measures I have made changes and developed a storytime routine that seems to work well for me and my community. For instance, when baby storytime struggled I tweaked the time and format until it gained a following.

After seeing how Jbrary did a formal storytime evaluation I was inspired to go beyond these measures. A new school year and series of storytimes seemed like the perfect time to try surveying parents and getting some formal feedback.

Using questions from Jbrary's form, and other forms distributed through the ALSC listserv, I came up with two different evaluation forms. One form was passed out at storytime and asks specific questions about the program. The other was shorter, simpler and geared towards those that have children but do not attend storytime. This second survey was posted on our website and distributed through our Facebook page.

Here are a few things I've learned through this process:

1. An important first step to evaluating storytime is determining what your goals for storytime are. As the wonderful Mel Depper of Mel's Desk points out, your goals will determine the evaluation questions you ask. One of my major goals is to try to fit in more evening/weekend storytimes, so I made sure to include a question on both surveys that asks about convenient times for this.

2. When surveying families distribute surveys widely to reach those who are not able to attend storytimes. Otherwise you are getting a skewed sample. I definitely need to find more channels to distribute my survey because so far over half the respondents to my second survey have attended my storytimes.

3. When asking certain questions, make sure you provide relevant information. For instance, I should have included our hours in my questions about convenient storytime times. Some of the responses I've received back mention times outside our operating hours.

4. Allow plenty of time to receive responses back. Parents are busy and it will probably take a few reminders to get them to fill out a survey. You may not get many responses. This is where the informal evaluation can come in handy to fill in the blanks.

5. Many times evaluating will lead to further questions and more evaluating. For instance, responses to my storytime scheduling question have lead me to to wonder if I need to reschedule my morning storytime as well. I will bring this up to current families and base my decision on what I find out.

How do you evaluate storytime? I would love to hear any opinions or ideas you have on this topic!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flannel Friday Roundup 9/12/14

I am hosting Flannel Friday this week. It is my first time doing this, so I am particularly excited about it.

Here are the great ideas shared this week:

Animal Fun
Over at Shelf Indulged we have Miss Cassie had a Little Lamb. Cassie's colored lambs encourage color recognition as well as imagination. I think Mary and her lamb would be jealous!

Carrie from The Lion is a Bookworm shared a variety of felt animals she made to use with Old MacDonald and other storytime rhymes. So glad to have Carrie as a new Flannel Friday participant!

Bridget from What is Bridget Reading adapted "Who is Tapping at my Window" by AJ Deming. The wide variety of animals she used means lots of opportunity to practice animal sounds!

My contribution this week was a flannel board to go along with Ashley Wolff's Baby Bear Sees Blue.

Inspired by Authors We Love
A pattern for a puppet version of Richard Scarry's Huckle was shared over at A Library Less Ordinary. Great way of introducing kids to a classic character!

Lois Ehlert fans will definitely want to check out the matching game that Jennifer from Storytime Extras made. Kids can use a variety of shapes to create characters from Ehlert's books. What a wonderful way to develop their shape knowledge and encourage interaction with these stories!

Cate from Storytiming shared her adaptation of Early Bird by Toni Yuly. This adaptation is simple, engaging and makes use of objects most of us already have around the library. Thanks for sharing Cate!

At Notes from the Story Room Linda has an autumn leaf cut and tell that would work very well in a fall themed storytime.

Lisa at Thrive After Three shared the fall version of her felt board table. I love how versatile this table can be! I am also very impressed that she includes so many types of leaves and fruit. Lisa's felt board table also inspired The Library Lady to make a felt board table of her own. I'm sure the kids will have a terrific time playing with the vehicles The Library Lady made to accompany it.

Thank you all for your wonderful contributions this week!

If you would like to learn more about Flannel Friday, or get other storytime ideas, you can visit the Flannel Friday website, Pinterest page, or Facebook group. You can also follow #flannelstorytime on Twitter.

Katie from Storytime Katie is hosting the next roundup, so stayed tuned for more fun next week!