Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Best Free eBook Sources for Kids

Kids growing up in today's increasing tech dependent world will be lucky enough to know books in many formats. Unfortunately for libraries and parents, kids eBooks are not free. The Library of Michigan provides Michiganders some great resources (for instance Scholastic BookFlix and World Book's Early World of Learning's Welcome to Reading page). Some libraries are also able to offer their patrons additional sources for kids to read books digitally. Because this is not the case everywhere or all the time, I wanted to compile other additional free sources for digital kids' books.

Here are some of my favorites:
  • Unite for Literacy: The vision of this site is "picture book abundance". The original digital books on this site can be narrated in many languages. The books are mostly simple nonfiction with leveled text.
  • International Children's Digital Library: A project originally started by IMLS and the National Science Foundation. It is geared towards ages 3-13 and includes 4642 books in 61 languages. I like that you can search for books by country, and will definitely be keeping this site in mind as a source for books in non-English languages.
  • We Give Books: eBooks read on this site help provide book donations for needy children. To read books you must create a free account.
  • Free Kids Books: Kids can read books online at this site or download them as a pdf. I really like that you can limit your search by age.
  • Between the Lions: Animated books are broken down into categories, such as "Folktales and Fables". The text in each story highlights the words being read, which is important for developing word recognition skills and concepts of print.
  • Eduplace Leveled Books: A small selection of leveled online books. For each book it lists the reading level and skills covered. It also provides a few support resources for teachers.
What other great online resources do you know of for kids eBooks?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

5 Reasons for Storytime Breaks

I am currently almost a week into a two week break from storytime (and other children's programming), which has made me consider some of the reasons why Children's Librarians build breaks into their storytime schedules. I've come up with five, but would love to hear any other suggestions you may have. As wonderful and important as storytime is, here is why breaks in the schedule are necessary. These are just some of the answers to the question:

  1. Weeks without storytime allow staff time to work on other projects: As the only Children's Librarian at my library, I think this is a big one. During storytime breaks I have time to plan programming for other age groups. I can go through areas of my collection to see what is out of date, or write a proposal for a grant I've been meaning to write.
  2. Breaks in the schedule provide time to plan additional storytimes: Right now I am planning my summer storytimes.The storytime break is allowing me to stay on top of plans for future storytimes.
  3. Storytime breaks give families that attend storytimes an opportunity to participate in other activities. There are so many activities out there for kids that some are bound to conflict with storytime. Breaks give families a chance to do something different during that time frame.
  4. Provides an opportunity to offer non-storytime programming. During storytime breaks you can offer other programs for preschoolers. I've used these breaks to have outside presenters come in or do other special programming.
  5. Storytime breaks accommodate for weeks of predictable low storytime attendance. Most librarians build storytime breaks around weeks where there would be very few children attending storytime anyways. For instance, the last few weeks in August where everyone is fitting in that one last vacation before summer ends.
I'd love to hear any great ideas you may have for storytime scheduling or the importance of including programming breaks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Going "Green" at the Library: Earth Day Crafts and Activities

In honor of Earth Day, I figured I would share some of my favorite "green" crafts and activities to do with kids. I thought they could be of use for next year's programming, or used any time throughout the year. Some of the ideas could be combined them for a specific Earth Day related program, and I've also included them in other thematic library events.

  • Planting Seeds: Any biodegradable material works great to have kids plant seeds in to take home. Some great ideas include egg shells, paper towel rolls and citrus halves. I've also had kids do it with ice cream cones. I've since realized from some new information I've read online that that might not be the best material.
  • Birdfeeders: The tricky part about making these is many call for peanut butter to hold the birdseed, which I choose not to use in my programs due to allergies. I've used vegetable shortening instead, and it has seemed to work well. I've spread it around the edges of a paper plate, which was then hung horizontally and face up. The shortening could also be used to make a traditional pinecone feeder.
  • Plastic Bag Flowers: Instructions can be found here. This is a great way to use up plastic grocery bags. It would work great as a Valentine's Day or Mother's Day craft for tweens.
  • Toilet tube race car tracks: A great activity I've used with K-2nd kids is using paper towel tubes, tape and various other craft materials to make race car tracks. Very fun and requires very little preparation.
  • Decorating boxes for recycling: Decorating and labeling boxes to sort trash for recycling definitely falls into the "killing two birds with one stone" activity because it is using recycled materials to promote recycling. Gotta love that!
  • Minute to Win It Style Games: A variety of Minute to Win It style games re-purpose various materials. For instance "Breakfast Scramble" reuses an old cereal box and Candelier uses empty pop cans.
  • Nature collages: Creating collages out of natural materials can work with kids of all ages. I've done fallen leaf collages with preschoolers and seed collages with school age kids. Using this kind of material for art is great way to help kids gain knowledge and appreciation of nature. 
I hope everybody has a great Earth Day! Feel free to share any additional suggestions you may have for "green" activities and crafts.

Friday, April 18, 2014

American Girl Club: Meet Addy

At my American Girl Club program we learn about a different American Girl each month. We talk about the character's books and play games and activities related to that time period. This month we focused on Addy Walker, an American Girl character from 1864.

All set up to learn about Addy.

Addy was born a slave, which provided a lot discussion among the kids at the beginning of the program. We talked about her escape to freedom and a little about the Underground Railroad. At least a few of the kids had already read Addy's stories, so they were able to help me fill in other details specific to Addy's stories.

The first game we played was called Ribbon's End. It is featured in the "American Girls Party Book", a wonderful resource that I believe is currently out of print. The basic idea of this game is that the kids form a human ribbon (conga-line style) and the odd person out must catch the end of the ribbon. This was harder than it seemed, as our ribbon kept breaking. I think most of the kids enjoyed it anyhow.

After that I taught them a clapping game I found on the American Girl website (unfortunately this resource and event kit are no longer available on the American Girl website). This was a simple activity so I didn't spend too much time on it.

Our final game was called "Annie Over". The basic idea of the game is that you throw the ball to the other team and if they catch it, the teams switch sides. During switching sides it becomes somewhat like dodgeball, trying to get somebody from the other team out. I think this game was most girl's favorite part of this program.

Finally, we ended with a craft and snack. As a craft, we designed our own money (just like the Confederacy did during the Civil War). For snacks we had jellybeans, cornbread muffins and ice cream shop cookies. Jellybeans tied into the theme because they rose to popularity during the Civil War. The ice cream shop cookies fit because Addy faces discrimination at an ice cream shop.

Our yummy Addy themed snacks. 

At the end of the program each girl got a bookmark and an Addy themed wordsearch to take home. The bookmarks came from a leftover supply of American Girl products ordered before I started here.

Next month's American Girls will be Cecile and Marie Grace (girls from 1853 New Orleans). If you have any great New Orleans or Mardi Gras themed activities for kids I would love to hear them :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Favorite passive programs

Passive programs can be a busy Children's Librarian's best friend. Because participation (after set up) doesn't require much intervention it can be a great way to expand what you are able to offer. This kind of programming is great on the patron's side as well, because they are able to participate regardless of when they are able to make it into the library.

I've seen several great posts with ideas for passive and DIY programs recently. Angie at Fat Girl Reading, shared a really cool character hunt and Poet Tree. Marge at Kids Library Program Mojo shared some great DIY programming ideas.

These great posts have inspired me to share some of my favorite forms of passive programming.

Find the Hidden Object in the Library: We've have done this basic idea in several forms. Last summer we hid a gnome statue in honor of our "Dig Into Reading" theme. Finding the gnome entered the child into a weekly drawing for a gnome hat we bought from Oriental Trading. We've also used this idea without the drawing component. Every winter we hide a snow globe in the library. Each kid that finds it wins a candy cane.

Bookmark Contests: When we have done these contests the prize for the winners was simple to have their design passed out in the library. To create these myself I scanned each winning design and printed it on cardstock.

Birthday Book Club: Up until age 5 each child that comes into our library during the month of their birthday gets a free picture book. These books were purchased with a grant I received from Target, and supplemented with book donations.

Raffles: We do a yearly raffle of school supplies every fall. We purchase backpacks and school supplies whenever we see great deals. To enter this raffle kids fill out a slip of paper each time they visit the library. The more visits the more possible entries.

Vote for your favorite: I've done this for favorite book character around election time, but it could be used in so many other ways. For instance kids could vote on Newberry or Caldecott contenders. I like the idea of incorporating a display into the voting. For instance one December kids that told me their favorite book got their names placed on a stocking on our bulletin board.

Library calendar: This one hasn't happened here yet because of budget, but our Friends did have the idea of having kids draw pictures for a calendar that the Friends could sell to benefit the library. This is definitely an idea I am keeping in mind for future use.

If you have any other great ideas for passive programs feel free to let me know. Also, if you have written a blog post on this topic I'd be happy to add a link to it. I know I have seen many great posts lately and would love to include them!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flannel Friday: Five Little Butterflies

In case you aren't familiar with it, Flannel Friday is a weekly series where participating librarian bloggers post descriptions of flannel boards and other storytime props. It is a fun way to share ideas and I will be trying my best to participate as much as possible.

My contribution to this week's Flannel Friday is a set of butterflies I made to go with a rhyme I got from Perry Public Library. It appears to originally be from the Barney CD "Run, Jump, Skip and Sing". I made these butterflies out of felt using a pattern I found here. I used the pattern for the wings and cut the bodies and spots out free form. I made the spots all different colors so each butterfly would be unique. The cut out pieces were glued together with craft glue and googly eyes were added.

The rhyme goes like this:

Five little butterflies
Five little butterflies resting at the door.
One flew away and then there were four.
Four Little butterflies sitting in a tree,
One flew away and then there were three.
Three little butterflies looking at you,
One flew away and then there were two.
Two little butterflies sitting in the sun,
One flew away and then there were none.

As a number rhyme it could be adapted in a variety of ways. You could change it to fit just about any flying creature pretty easily. If you change "flew" to a different verb that would also increase the ways it could be used.

This week's Flannel Friday Roundup is hosted by Anna at Future Librarian Superhero. To participate in upcoming roundups, or get more information head over to the Flannel Friday Blog

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ATLAS: Egg Dyeing Party for Tweens

I got the idea for this program when I saw that another library was going to do egg decorating with their teens. I have learned to follow the general rule that what works with teens will be popular with tweens too, therefore dyeing eggs was put on the agenda for this month's At The Library After School.

Because I didn't think egg dyeing would take up the whole hour I had allotted for programming, I decided to include some games as well. I found several games on about.com that I thought the tweens would enjoy.

We started with egg bowling. I had some chocolate bunnies on hand, so our goal was simply to roll a plastic egg closest to the chocolate bunny. The winner of each round got to keep the bunny. This worked out to be a great opening activity, because the kids that walked in late could join the game the next round.

After egg bowling, we played "Steal the Egg".  The basic premise of the game is that the kids were divided into numbered pairs. When their number is called, both must try to get the egg placed on the floor in the center of the room. The kids had a good time playing this game, and I liked that it fulfilled my goal of including active games in my programs.

Finally, we moved on to egg dyeing. I had bought an egg dye kit for each group of 4 kids and prepared the dye before hand. I made sure to have paper towel available. Our larger programming room has no sink, so this was a must. I also had coloring pages and a wordsearch available for them to do while they waited for eggs to soak. To take eggs home I provided empty egg cartons donated by our staff.

Here are a few pictures of the finished product:

Overall I think this program went well. It actually ended up being less messy than I thought it would be! I am definitely planning on doing it again next year.

At next month's ATLAS we will be playing a variety of playground games in honor of National Backyard Game Week. I look forward to letting you all know how it goes :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

March Reading Program Recap

March is Reading Month, as any teacher or librarian will be happy to let you know. This year I decided to celebrate it at my library with a little reading incentive program, similar to our Summer Reading Program but greatly simplified.

The idea was in part inspired by the great "What to track for Summer Reading" debate that has probably existed among children's librarians since the invention of the Summer Reading Program. In the summer I've always tracked books for the younger kids and minutes spent reading for the older kids. I wanted to try something different. I liked the idea of tracking days, because it helps promote to kids that reading should be a daily activity.

I made up a reading log that basically consisted of a calendar with some clipart added to each day. Kids were told to read 24 out of the 31 days in March. If they completed this task they would receive a free book. The books would come from a stash I've accumulated via a grant, summer reading leftovers and donations from the Friends of the Library.

A picture of the "March Into Reading 2014" log

The basic preparation was fairly easy. I made the log and promoted the program through our usual communication channels. The hardest decision I had to make was the exact dates the program would run. Because I am the only Children's Librarian at my library I wanted to make sure it started and ended on a day I would be working the morning shift.

This was the first time I did this kind of program so I really have very little basis of comparison, but for the most part I was happy the way things turned out. I passed out the logs to around 50 children in the library, and brought many more to preschool visits I did early in March. I've had around 20 people claim their free books. Considering that we are a pretty small library and our Summer Reading Program completion usually runs from 40-60 kids I consider it pretty good turn out.

Some things I have learned through running this program:
  1. You can't plan for everything. The dates the program started also happened to be the same week we got our new Information Desk and Children's Tech Center installed as part of our recent renovations. This meant a lot was going on in our Children's Area besides the start of this program.
  2. It is better to not give firm dates beyond a start and an end. I included date ranges assuming kids wouldn't be backdating their reading but ended up changing my mind for the sake of making things more convenient for parents.
  3. Posting the log on your website is a great way to increase the program's reach. I received several logs printed from home, as well as a few printed from the websites of local schools. I typically shy away from this for SRP because I need the number of participants for our stats, but for this type of smaller scale program posting online worked well.
All in all, I think this program went well. It will definitely be in my plans for next year. Let me know if you have any additional ideas for doing reading incentive programs during the school year!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kidding Around: Bunny Hop

For our monthly K-2nd grade program this April, I decided to hold a Bunny Hop. I had heard of the theme being done at another library awhile back and knew I could come up with bunny themed activities the kids would enjoy. I ended up basically "bunnifying" several of my favorite children's games.

We had 11 kids within the age group show up, plus a few slightly younger siblings to join in the fun. I started out with bunny ears for all participants. I found a pattern and assembled them as much as possible before the program began. I had the kids write their names on their bunny ears (writing practice plus a name tag stand in!). I had my own bunny headband I got at the dollar store a few years ago.

As usual we started by talking about our theme for a few minutes. One boy had a pet bunny and was happy to share details about it to the group.

Our first game was "Bunny Tag". It was basically regular tag, but done while hopping. It was a great way to burn the kid's energy out before proceeding to the rest of the program.

Next we played Pin the Tail on the Bunny. I used a template found here. This game is always a big hit with the kids. It is definitely a standby game that can fit almost any theme.

Our final game was "Bunny, Bunny, Hop", which was basically a modified version of "Duck, Duck, Goose". Yes, the kids had to hop around the circle. And yes, with their bunny ears it was very cute.

As usual, I ended with our craft. This month's was decorating a bunny picture with marshmallows. It was somewhat hit or miss with the kids, mostly because half of them would just rather eat the marshmallows. 

For our snack, the kids enjoyed "bunny tails" (powdered doughnut holes), carrots, and orange Hawaiian Punch. Each child also got a bunny shaped marshmallow Peep.

I think this program went pretty well. The kids seemed to have fun and almost all my books on rabbits got checked out. It was an easy to plan program I would definitely do again.

Next month's "Kidding Around" will be a Spiderman Party. I look forward to updating about how it goes!