Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read!: Magnifying Glass Early Literacy Center

For a easy science themed early literacy center I decided to do a magnifying glass observation center. The goal of this center is to build children's literacy skills while teaching the science related skill of observation.

Here is the finished product: 

Creating this center was pretty simple. The hardest part was creating the printed materials for it. First I created a sign to promote the center. These materials encourage kids to draw or write what they see under the magnifying glass. I wanted to include both options so that the center could be used by a wide age range.

I borrowed two magnifying glasses and bought one at the dollar store.

For materials to explore I gathered rocks and leaves.

I also brought in some fossils I found on a camping trip a few years ago.

There are also many other cool materials you could include. I especially like the idea of including an ink stamp and paper so kids can examine their fingerprints. I will probably change out materials in this center and/or add new ones throughout the summer.

Feel free to use these ideas and documents however you would like. As always I would love if you shared your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Monday, June 23, 2014

A tour through the children's area

Our library was closed all last week (and today) for a local festival. As I previously mentioned, our staff spent the week cleaning and organizing. This means my children's area is currently the cleanest and most organized it will be all year. I thought this made it a great opportunity to show you all around.

Here is the entrance way. On the glass shelves straight ahead are my new JFIC and Books On CD.

On the other side of the glass shelves is my desk. It is a new addition, put in a few months ago as the last part of our Children's Room renovations. The artwork above is actually done by local kids. It is brought in by an art teacher in our local school district.

Right around the corner is my Storytime Room. It was added when we renovated the Children's Area in 2011. The tree was built by a local man and used to be in the center of the Children's Room. I'm definitely glad we figured out a way to incorporate it when we renovated.

Right outside the Storytime Room is my JFIC, Paperback Rack and Graphic Novels.

So that is what you see when you enter and turn left. If you turn right you see our kids tech center. This was also added just a few months ago (the same time my desk was added). The three computers facing my desk are for internet access only.

The other side of the tech center has our AWE station and some of my early literacy stations.

On the far end of the tech center we have our collection cabinet. We use this to display the collection of kids in the community. At summer reading time we claim it for ourselves and display summer reading prizes.

Just to the side our our magazines and collection cabinet we have our puppet area.

And around the corner from that we have our nonfiction (on the wall) and Juvenile Easy shelves (on the floor).

And if you turn to the right again you can see our biographies.

And on the path out you can see our new picture books and nonfiction.

Hope you enjoyed my little tour. If anyone else has blogged about their library space please feel free to share!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Behind the scenes of the Children's Department

My library is closed all this week for a local festival. Instead of a regular work week, staff come in to clean and get other "behind the scenes" tasks done. I know I've met people who think being a librarian is mainly working the desk, answering questions, etc, so this may come as a surprise.

There is actually a lot more to a Children's Librarian's job than that. A day in the life of a librarian is varied and there is a lot that gets done that the public doesn't see. Here are just a few important "behind the scenes" tasks we do.
  • Collection development: A fancy term for managing all the materials at the library. Materials include books, CDs, magazines and anything else we lend out. To do this we need to buy new materials, remove out of date ones, and make sure that what we have meets our patrons' needs.

  • Program planning: We need to plan events that will get children into the library so they can check out all our great materials. These programs need to be engaging, educational and age appropriate. 

  • Program preparation: All programs are promoted through various means so people know about them. Other preparations depend on the program itself. For instance a craft program requires preparation of craft materials.

  • Decorating: Decorations add fun to the Children's Room and make it a warm and inviting space. This encourages children to feel comfortable at the library. At my library I have 3 bulletin boards I decorate regularly. I also decorate around our circulation desk and put out any seasonal decorations we may have.

  • Book displays: These are done for patron convenience and can be based on almost anything you can think of. Librarians must choose their theme, pick books and refill the display as needed.

  • Professional Development: When we aren't doing all these things we need to work to become better at our jobs. Librarians need to keep on top of trends in the field. They need to get new ideas. One way to do this is through professional reading (professional publications, librarian blogs, etc.). Attending conferences is another great way we learn and improve at what we do.
Fellow librarians do you have any other "behind the scenes" tasks you do regularly? Please share in the comments!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Teaching life lessons through Summer Reading

It's that time of year: Summer Reading Time. Most people (and all librarians) should know by now the importance of reading over the summer for school age children. Research shows it helps them succeed in school by preventing the "summer slide". Today I got to considering how in addition to this, it teaches a few valuable life lessons. Here are just a few I could think of. Feel free to add more in the comments!

Be patient: The kids at my library need to wait a least a few weeks to redeem reading logs for prizes. This is done mainly to promote honesty; there is no advantage to coming back two days later and saying you have completed your reading log. However, I'm sure this waiting period requires a little patience for at least some kids. Yoda values this virtue, therefore so do I.

Don't procrastinate: On the other side of the coin, there are some kids that procrastinate. You know, kids like this:

Some of these kids may learn their lesson when they miss out on the best prizes. We may be out of certain prizes by that point, and the selection of free books (their final prize) is a little more limited.

Practice makes progress: I confess I first heard this quote on an episode of "19 Kids and Counting", but I think it applies pretty well here. Kids that participate in Summer Reading get reading practice, and therefore progress in their reading skills. If Summer Reading participants don't realize this on their own, it is definitely worth pointing out to them.

Keep track of your accomplishments: Finally, kids that participate in Summer Reading programs learn to keep track of their reading achievements. Making goals and keeping track of how you achieve them is a major skill that will come in handy throughout life.

Reading/libraries can be fun. This is the most valuable lesson I think Summer Reading programs teach. As a librarian my hope is that everyone learns this at one time or another.

If you can think of more life lessons that would apply I would love to hear them. Hope everyone is having a great summer so far!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

3rd time's the charm: Baby Storytime Tips and Tricks

Attendance at Baby Storytime has been a struggle for me ever since I started doing storytimes at my library. I've had to scrap and revamp it twice due to lack of attendance within the 3 1/2 years I've been a a Children's Librarian here.  I've had this thought many times:

It has only been in the last 3 months that things have really started to click with this age group. I regularly have over 10 babies and their caregivers come each week, which I consider a major victory after struggling for so long.

  Here are a few things I've learned along the way.
  • Playtime is essential. After storytime I put some baby toys (donated by a family member) on our floor and allow the grown ups time to play with the babies and socialize with each other. Baby's benefit from the playtime, and the adults benefit from being able to talk to people who speak in full sentences.
  • Lapsit is not a term many non librarians understand. One of the main reasons I switched the name of mine to Baby Storytime was that I kept being asked what Lapsit was. 
  • Local groups can be a great resource. One of the main reasons for my recent upsurge in attendance is I changed the time of the storytime. A major reason for the time change was to make storytime fall right before a meeting of our local Mom's Club. The Mom's Club meets in the local Rec Center, just a parking lot away. This is perfect for parents who want to attend both.
  • Repeat songs from week to week. Research shows that babies benefit from repetition. Repeating songs also helps caregivers learn the songs. I have about 20 songs I consider favorites, and alternate between these every week. The Cuckoo Clock Song and Wheels On the Bus are particular favorites, so they get sung each and every week. 
  • Invite older siblings to tag along. The first time I tried baby storytime I heard from many parents that they couldn't come because they had nobody to watch their toddler/preschooler. My solution was to make it clear that they were welcome to come as well. The number of families who have taken me up on this has in no way been overwhelming. Preschoolers can also help model behavior (such as sitting and paying attention) for the older babies.
  • For movement songs and bounces, use a doll to model movements for parents. This has helped a lot to show parents what I expect and how to interact with their babies during storytime.
  • Keep at it! It can be hard to get babies in, but once you do it is so fun and so worth it. The earlier we can make an impact on a child the better. Not only do the babies benefit, but so does future program attendance as babies age into older programing.
For more information on my storytimes (and for storytime plans) see my storytime blog.