Friday, August 29, 2014

Library Card Sign Up Month: 5 Great Reasons for Getting a Library Card

Whether we like it or not, September is coming. This means colder temperatures, shorter days, and Library Card Sign Up Month. The idea behind Library Card Sign Up Month is to encourage everyone to get this important school supply. As a librarian I see the benefits of library cards everyday.  Library card holders clearly have a lot of fun checking out books, movies and other library materials.

Here are some of the less obvious benefits of having a library card:

1. Access to ebooks, music and other downloadables: The libraries of today aren't just about traditional paper books. They most often offer access to ebooks and audiobooks. Many libraries even offer downloadable free and legal music through services such as Freegal.

2. Databases for research: Libraries subscribe to databases for all different purposes. Some are geared towards children, others towards adults and/or teens. These databases provide library card holders access to the full text of articles from books, magazines, newspapers, etc. They are easy to search and a lot more reliable than stuff found freely available on the internet.

3. Passes to museums, parks and area attractions: Libraries participate in programs such as the Michigan Activity Pass program, which allows you to check out passes that are good for admission and/or discounts at local attractions. In my neck of the woods we also have the MI Big Green Gym program, which allows check out of passes to local parks.

4. Fun and useful programming for all ages: Some libraries require a card to attend all the great programs going on at the library. Typical programs include storytimes, book groups, and computer classes. There is usually something worth attending for every age and/or life stage. Not having a library card can mean missing out.

5.  The sheer power of knowing all that is available to you. Library cards give you access to knowledge, which is the greatest power of all.

Any advantages I've missed? Feel free to share in the comments :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Birthday Book Club

In honor of my blog turning six month's old yesterday, I figured I would share a passive program related to birthdays.

We have a "Birthday Book Club" at my library. The way it works is that kids under five can receive a free book during the month of their birthday. All they have to do is say the three magic words.

This was a program that was already implemented when I started at my library almost four years ago. It was originally funded by a grant from "Great Parents, Great Start". The grant covered the cost of purchasing a variety of paperback picture books and board books.

When I originally started here it was viewed as a short term program. I have been able to continue it in part through an early literacy grant from Target. The money from this grant was used to purchase even more paperback picture books and board books from Scholastic Literacy Partnerships.

I also add any donations that are in condition, as well as leftovers from each year's summer reading book giveaways. So far I haven't had to search for any additional funding, and it doesn't appear I will have to any time soon.

To advertise this program we have signage in the children's department. It also helps that kids get so excited about their birthdays that they end of telling me as soon as possible.

This program has been easy to maintain and inexpensive. Of course, the kids in any community benefit from getting as many of "their own" books as possible. I also like that the "books as presents" model does a lot to get the idea across that books are special and fun.

I definitely wish that I could extend this program to the older kids too. The focus of the Target grant has prevented this happening so far. I am definitely on the lookout for a grant that would allow me to extend this program.

Do you do a birthday book club at your library? How is it set up?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School Backpack Raffle

It's that time of year. As much as kids of all ages may try to run from it, they must go back to school.

At my library this also means it is time for one of my favorite passive programs: our annual Back to School Backpack Raffle.

Here's the way it works: Kids can submit an entry each time they visit the library. Our entry form includes name, grade, library card number and phone number. Name and phone number are necessary for obvious reasons, and grade is needed to choose winners from each grade level. Library card number is necessary so that we can make sure the backpacks go to kids from our service area. Forms are submitted into a container at our circulation desk.

We draw eight winners: 2 from lower elementary, 2 from upper elementary, 2 from middle school, and 2 from high school. Each winner receives a backpack and school supplies.

The school supplies are all purchased during the big school supply sales that start about mid-July. Backpacks tend to be purchased on clearance at the very end of the school shopping season. We are usually able to get them for less than $10 a piece. Last year, I think the best deal I got was at a local store going out of business. I was able to get backpacks there for about $3 a piece. We try to stock up on the backpacks in the fall and save them for the next summer.

To make life easier we presort the backpacks and supplies by grade level and gender. For instance, we have a girl's backpack and supplies for K-2nd and a boy's backpack and supplies for K-2nd. The elementary backpacks are displayed in my children's area, while the middle school and high school are in a display case near our circulation desk.

The drawing is always done the week before Labor Day so the winners have time to pick up their backpacks.

What I like about this program is that it encourages library use while providing a valuable service to the kids in our community. It is also very easy and inexpensive.

How do you celebrate back to school at your library?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fizz Boom Read!: Summer Reading Finale Party

Like many libraries, we end our children's summer reading program with a party. Everybody does this a little differently, and I figured it might be worthwhile to some if I shared how it works here.

Here's how it goes:
  • The official spiel is that only kids that complete their reading logs get to attend the party. This is done to create an incentive to finish and hype up the party. In reality, I am pretty flexible. I will let a whole family in with one invite. If kids show up that haven't finished, all they need to do is sign a little "contract" saying they will read as much as possible.
  • Registration is required, but again very flexible. If you show up the day of and have not registered, that is not a problem at all. Registration is mainly a tool so I have a rough idea how many kids to expect.
  • The party usually consists of about 6 different stations relating to the summer theme. These stations are supervised by volunteers from our Friends, as well as teen volunteers. The kids can go through these stations are their own pace.

Our stations this year:

Making bouncy balls: We used a recipe I found to make bouncy balls. It involves mixing glue, a borax solution and cornstarch. I wouldn't say all of them turned out great, but the kids had fun. It was one of the messiest stations and kept as close to the sink as possible. I also made sure to provide baggies so the kids could take them home.

Lego table: I set out our collection of Legos for the kids to build with. Always a hit, and a fun, non-messy activity.

Making oobleck: The classic creation of a "non-Newtonian fluid" with cornstarch and water. It acts like both a solid and a liquid. Even though it was close to the sink, we still ended up with a trail of cornstarch on the carpet. Thank goodness for vaccuums!

Bubble station: This was actually the most time intensive station to plan. I had the last minute idea to fill a kiddie pool with homemade bubble solution, but wasn't sure how I was going to pull it off. There were so many possible recipes online and several mentioned letting bubbles sit for at least overnight, which wasn't an option. I ended up following this recipe and creating about a gallon of solution the day before. It seemed to work well enough to make giant bubbles with the wand I had (even without sitting overnight) so I figured it would suit the purpose.

1 gallon of water
1 cup Dawn Dishsoap
4 tablespoons of glycerin (bought near the cake decorating supplies at Michaels)

The day of the party I followed roughly the same ratios to fill a small kiddie pool I got on clearance at Toys R Us. It only took about 3 gallons, and worked out really well. The kids made bubbles with hula hoops and various bubble wands found at the dollar store. I also had a few giant bubble wands bought on clearance at Michaels. The kids had a great time at this station. One volunteer even commented that it was the hit of the party!

Crafts: I had several crafts for the kids to do. The first was decorating "science journals" made out of construction paper and computer paper. I also had food coloring, dish soap and water out so they could "paint" with bubbles. The final craft was making rotocopters. The only snag in this station is that apparently the bubble painting came out pretty light. I'll definitely have to rethink how to do it in the future.

Snacks: A must have for any party. I couldn't think of any science themed snacks, so I bought cookies, chips and juice for the kids to enjoy.

All in all, I think our party went very well. We had about 70 people there, which is a pretty big crowd for us. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read!: Catapult Science

Next on my list of SRP programs to catch readers up on is the Catapult Science program I did for Grades 3-6. I originally got the idea for this program from Lisa Mulvenna of Lisa's Libraryland. I knew it would be a fun and easy program to do for this summer's theme and definitely wanted to give it a try.

For the first half of the program I followed Lisa's plan, with a few minor changes. I set out popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, rubber bands, and Lisa's handout and talked to the kids about what a catapult is and how they were used. They especially loved the gross tidbit that sometimes catapults were used to launch diseased corpses.

After that, I guided the kids in building their catapults. Most of them did pretty well, although a few did need some extra help. Here's what the finished product looked like:

After building the catapults the kids got the chance to fire them. Here's where the few minor changes come in. I provided printed out targets for the kids to tape on the wall with scotch tape. After reading that Lisa's director wasn't a fan of masking tape on the wall I didn't want to risk it with mine!

I also provided paper and markers for the kids to design their own targets. I figured this could add a little artistic element into this STEAM program. The kids came up with some great stuff!

Sorry Beliebers!

Some even created mock castle walls after hearing how catapults used to be used in warfare.

The second half of this program I changed course and had the kids make a different kind of projectile device: a marshmallow shooter. I've had the kids make these before at a Marshmallow Madness program I did. They are super simple. They consist of a cup with the bottom cut out, which is covered with the tied end of a balloon. You place the marshmallow in the cup, pull the balloon back and launch it.

I wanted to include the Marshmallow shooters so that the kids would have the chance to try more than one device and compare. I was glad I did because they made some great comparisons. One boy said that in both devices the farther you pull back the farther you can launch something. Others compared how the marshmallows launched to how the pompoms launched.

This was a fun program and a great way to end our school age programming for the summer. Thanks so much for sharing Lisa!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Science Storytimes Week #5: Fizz, Boom, Pop!

Between the end of our summer reading program and major computer issues at my library, I've gotten behind on my blogging. First on my list to catch you all up on is my last science based storytime. So far we have learned about movement, water, growth, and construction. The title of our last session was "Fizz, Boom, Pop" and the subject was bubbles and balloons. I figured this would be a good theme because I know how fascinated kids are with both these things. Just like this cat is.

Another reason I chose this theme is I had two great books I wanted to read to the kids. One is "Perfectly Percy" by Paul Schmid. It is hands down one of the most adorable pictures books I have ever read. Percy is a porcupine who loves balloons. Balloons clearly don't love Percy, so he has an an obvious problem to solve.

The second book I choose was a new one, "Big Bad Bubble" by Adam Rubin. The premise is that a group of monsters is terrified of  bubbles. The preschoolers really seemed to enjoy this story, and participated well in all the interactive aspects.

I followed these stories with songs and parachute time. As usual, an exact plan of songs and rhymes is available on my storytime blog.

Our stations included:

Painting with balloons: I filled balloons with rice and had the kids paint with them. This was meant to combine fine motor skill development with a fun sensory experience. It was definitely a hit with both the preschoolers and the toddlers.

Sink and float balloons: At this station I had water balloons and air balloons for the kids to place in water. It was surprisingly even more messy than the paint was. Another surprise was that a few of the kids didn't seem very interested in this one. Maybe this was because of all the other bubbles and balloons around?

Exploring Bubbles: I had a few different types of bubble wands out for the kids to blow bubbles with. These were all purchased on sale and reused at the bubble station of our Summer Reading Finale Party.

Balloon Toss: I set out some balloons for the kids to throw back and forth. I explained to parents that doing some imparted knowledge about gravity and forces. The kids had a great time doing this, even the little one who decided popping the balloons was much more fun. I didn't get any good pictures at this station, mainly because the kids were moving around so much.

I was definitely happy with how this and my other science storytimes went. I got a lot of positive feedback from parents, and attendance did rise somewhat compared to last summer.

I would love to use this format more in the fall and would appreciate any suggestions from those who have done anything similar!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read!: Candy Science

This week's program for grades 3-6 was Candy Science. I can't lie; planning this program made me feel a little bit like Willy Wonka.

My goal for this program was to increase the kids' understanding of science concepts through experiments involving candy. The kids were understandably excited about this.

Here's what we did:

Removing M's from M&Ms: I found this idea here. It is super simple but very impressive. The kids put a handful of M&Ms in a bowl of water and waited for the M's to float up as the coating dissolved. I made sure they did this experiment first because when I tried it at home it took awhile for them to float up on their own (maybe a half hour?). I was grateful it happened a little more quickly for the kids.

Sink or float candy: We tested different fun sized candy bars to see if they sank or floated. I found this idea on Reading Confetti. We used Kit Kats, Milky Ways, Snickers and Three Musketeers. Spoiler Alert: The Kit Kats and Three Musketeers floated, while the Snickers and Milky Way sank. The kids definitely seemed to understand that the candy's fillings were what made the difference. We even had a short discussion about density. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this one.

Dissolving Gobstoppers: Another experiment to learn about dissolving. If you place Gobstoppers in water evenly spaced they will disolve and the colors will remain distinct. Next time I do this program I would love to try testing the same experiment with other liquids, as Steve Spangler suggests.

Gumdrop Engineering: I gave the kids a set number of gumdrops and toothpicks and told them to build as tall of a tower as they could in ten minutes. First we did it individually, then I had them repeat the challenge in teams. This was an activity I've done before with marshmallows, and it always seems to be a hit. We discussed their scientific thinking afterwards. For instance, we talked about which shapes seem to be the most stable.

One of the individual creations.

One of the creations from our team challenge.
How it went:
Overall, I think the kids had a good time. They seemed impressed by the M&M and Gobstopper experiments and did a great job making the gum drop towers. I'm sure they would love to do something like this again.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Try to hand out the candy on an "as needed" basis as much as possible. This will help keep the kids eating too much. I did send the kids home with a few fun sized bars each, and let them snack on the gobstoppers and M&Ms throughout the program.
  • For the M&M experiment, the more candy you put in to dissolve, the grosser the result will be. It will also make it just a little harder to see the M's as they rise. I did remind the kids of this and suggested they put around 5 pieces in for best results. I combined that with the statement: "Why waste perfectly good candy we could be eating?"
  • Styrofoam bowls are just a little too slippery for the Gobstopper experiment. The gobstoppers kept slipping to the center of the bowl, instead of sitting along the edges as they did when I tried it at home.
  • Candy chromotography would be a great addition to this program. The only reason I didn't do it this time is that we did it earlier this summer at a science themed crafts program.
This post is part of Thrive Thursday, a blog hop in which librarians share school age program ideas. This month's roundup is hosted by Amy at The Show Me Librarian. Head over and check it out for more great ideas!