Monday, March 30, 2015

Resolve to Rock: Resolution Checkup

This post from the wonderful folks at Storytime Underground has inspired me to take a moment and look back at the professional resolutions I made for the year 2015. At the three month mark, my resolutions have been going pretty well. Without further ado, I share my progress so far.

Goals for 2015:
  • Offer more night and weekend programming. In 2015 I definitely will be trying more to accommodate working families by including more programs that work with their schedule. 
    • So far I've managed to include a few night programs during both of our recent storytime breaks. They have included a Dance Party for toddlers and preschoolers, a fitness presentation for school age kids, and an upcoming Money Smart Week storytime. Weekend programming remains difficult due to my library's staffing schedule.
  • Expand our graphic novel collection. This is a popular format, and I am determined to find a way to overcome limited shelf space and make it more prominent.
    • I have bought a few new graphic novels, but haven't made too much progress on this goal yet. Any inspiration or graphic novel suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated!
  • I am in the process of starting a collection of Newbery winning books and hope to complete this goal in the next few weeks.
    • This goal was completed just in time for the announcement of this year's Newbery winner. So far the biggest blessing this collection has brought has been increased space in our JFIC collection. For more about my Newbery winner's collection see this post.
  • I want to try new preschool/toddler programming this year, such as a parachute play program and a dance party. I am going to try to combine this with my first goal by scheduling these as evening programs during storytime breaks.
    • Dance Party has been accomplished! It was a lot of fun and a great workout for me. Parachute play will probably take place during our fall storytime break.
  • Do more outreach to local preschools. I feel like I am developing a closer relationship with local elementary schools, but need to expand my efforts to younger kids as well.
    • This is a resolution I need to bring to the forefront of my planning. I have not done as much in this area as I had hoped to do. Definitely something I need to work on remedying.
  • Make changes to our summer reading program. I have been debating how I want to go about this, but haven't come to any firm decisions. For sure I want to make changes to how I do reading logs for the youngest participants. A greater variety of non-reading literacy activities will definitely be included.
    • My plans for summer reading include a separate baby reading log. I will also add in some non-reading activities when I create our reading logs (something I'm hoping to have done in the next week or so).
  • Add iPads to our children's area. They are great tools to support literacy and technology skills at the library and would be a wonderful addition to our new children's tech center table.
    • We now have two iPads with early literacy apps. Will definitely update you all further on this in a future blog post!

Thanks for the inspiration Storytime Underground! How is everyone else doing on the resolution front?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Booktalks with Fifth Graders: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

This school year's adventures in booktalking have come to an end for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed these visits, and will definitely miss doing them in April. By the time my scheduled summer reading visits take place in May I will be more than ready to get back into the schools.

In case you've missed any of my previous booktalking posts, here are the links. Each post contains the books I recommended for each grade, as well as tips and tricks about doing booktalks for that grade.

Here are the books I promoted to our fifth graders:

Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein: Kyle Keeley and his friends must solve the clues and find their way out of Mr. Lemoncello's state of the art library. I figured mystery loving kids might particularly enjoy it.

Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor by Jon Scieszka: Kids that love science would definitely love this one. As mentioned in previous posts, this has a great introduction for reading aloud.

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett: The humor appeal of this title can't be overstated. It tells the story of what happens when two "prank kings" meet up. I told the kids that if they liked pranks they would like this one.  

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: This is one of my all time favorite animal stories. It is told from the perspective of Ivan the gorilla, who lives in captivity in a mall exhibit. When a new baby elephant is brought to the exhibit Ivan starts to see his life a little differently.

El Deafo by Cece Bell: El Deafo recently won the Newbery Honor, and for good reason. It is the story of the author's life after losing her hearing at a young age. It is just an all around terrific graphic novel, one that would appeal to so many types of children. I found the most interesting fact to kids is that Cece's phonic ear would allow her to hear her teacher using the bathroom.

Kate the Great (except when she's not) by Suzy Becker: As I did with the fourth graders, I included this one as a read alike for "Wimpy Kid" and "Dork Diaries".

Tips and Tricks:
  • One of my favorite things to do with older kids is promote those "secret" library services that many might not know about. For instance, some were shocked to hear they could place a hold on a book while it is still on order.
  • When discussing library resources get the "We've got books!" message out of the way as soon as possible. I did this by asking each class to tell me all at once the first thing they thought of when they thought of the library. Every class answered "books", and then I could move on to some of our other resources before discussing each individual title.
  • Find one funny or interesting element about each title to point out in your booktalks. This will probably be the thing most of the kids will remember when looking for that book. 

All in all this series of booktalks has been such a great experience. I'm looking forward to it being part of my yearly routine for a long time to come. If you have any other book suggestions or tips feel free to share them!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ATLAS: Marshmallow Peep Science

My tweens love science programs, so when I saw this program Lisa had done, I knew I had to try it. It seemed like common sense that sugar based treats and science would make a winning combination (see my previous "Candy Science" program). I figured Peep Science would be the perfect theme for this month's ATLAS (At The Library After School).

I registered twelve 3rd through 6th graders for this program. We did all experiments simultaneously, but they could also be done as a series of stations.

Here is what we did:

Step 1: Initial Observation

Supplies needed: 
One Peep per person 
Observation sheet

Like Lisa, I started out having the kids make some simple observations about their Peeps. I provided them with an observation sheet that they could use throughout the program. They were told to measure their Peep, draw their Peep, and make any other relevant observations. I explained that once these observations were made the Peeps would be facing harrowing conditions throughout the program. Kind of like the Hunger Games for Peeps!

Step 2: Harrowing conditions

Cold Peep

Supplies needed:

One frozen Peep per person

I asked the kids what would happen if Peeps were kept in the freezer overnight. After they made their predictions I gave them each a frozen Peep to repeat our observation process on.  The Peeps really don't freeze very much, so it was interesting to see how the kids' predictions differed from what really happened. When I told them I had only kept the Peeps in the freezer overnight, several said they wanted to see what would happen if they were kept frozen longer. Hooray for extending the experiment even further!

Sinkable (?) Peep

Supplies needed:
Previous passed out unfrozen Peeps

Our kid scientists were next asked to predict if the Peeps would sink or float. SPOILER ALERT: They floated. This led to a discussion about how we could get them to sink. We talked about density, and tried two different methods to make the Peeps more dense. The first was squishing them, and the second was sticking pennies in them. Using the pennies several kids got their Peeps to sink!

Color Mixing Peeps

Supplies needed:
Peeps in a variety of colors

Next we used Sprite to dissolve the color off two differently colored Peeps. This was another idea I got from Lisa's program. Tip: If you slice the Peeps in half it works just as well and spares additional Peeps from this particular harrowing condition.

Exploding Peep

Supplies needed:


I just had to use this opportunity to show the kids how Peeps expand when heated in the microwave. Since I didn't get any video, here is a representation of exactly what happens:

We also used the microwave to create Peeps playdough. I did a demonstration batch and sent the kids home with the recipe.

Step 3: Eating Peeps

In addition to learning a lot from the experiments, the scientists enjoyed eating their research subjects.

Next month's ATLAS will be Marble Madness! If you have any marble related activity ideas please let me know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kidding Around: Spring Crafts

Spring is finally almost here. The weather here in Michigan has warmed up (for the moment) and flowers don't seem to be far behind.

In honor of this I figured I'd share some of the Spring themed crafts we did at a recent meeting of my K-2nd program: Kidding Around. Hopefully they come in handy as you plan any last minute Spring themed programs. They are all chosen based on being low cost and easy to prepare.

Craft 1: Bird's Nest

Materials needed:

Construction paper
Crayons or pencils
Paper plates

Cost: None (all materials I had on hand)

This craft was based on one found at the site Buggy and Buddy. It involved gluing pieces of yarn to half a paper plate and decorating with construction paper birds. I cut the yarn and plates beforehand but the kids drew and cut out the birds themselves. They only addition I provided was the sticker eyes. I don't know about you but these birds ones remind me of Mo Willem's Pigeon.

Craft 2: Shredded Paper Sheep

Materials needed:
Shredded paper

Black construction paper

Cost: None (all materials I had on hand)

I found this sheep craft at Housing a Forest. The only preparation I had to do for this one was gather the shredded paper from the library shredder. The kids cut out the sheep's head, arms and legs themselves. I let them use our little glue cups as tracing templates for the heads.

Craft 3: Fruit Loop Flowers and Rainbows

Materials needed: 
Fruit Loops
Rainbow printout
Flower stem template

Cost: About $2 for the Fruit Loops

The Fruit Loop Flowers idea was found at Crafty Morning. I made my own template of stems and grass so that the kids didn't have to spend time drawing their own. To provide another craft option I also brought out an old rainbow printout I had used with my storytime kids.

Craft 4: Puffy Paint Peep

Materials needed:
Shaving Cream
Peep printout

Cost: About $2 for the shaving cream

With the Peep's Science program I did for the 3rd-6th graders I think I've had peeps on the brain. This idea for puffy paint peeps also came from Crafty Morning. I thought it would be a fun art/sensory activity to use at this program.

The kids had a great time doing these crafts. It was a fun and low key way to bring in Spring at the library. I'm always looking for craft ideas and would love to hear any you may have!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Booktalks with Fourth Graders: Book Suggestions, Tips and Tricks

The school year has been flying by, and I've been continuing by monthly booktalking visits at my local schools. It has been such a fun way to build a love of reading within my community, as well as inform kids of all the library has to offer.

 In case you've missed it here are links to my previous posts about my booktalks. Each post contains the books I recommended for each grade, as well as tips and tricks about doing booktalks:

Booktalks with fourth graders were in the works during February, but took a little longer to accomplish due to snow day cancellations. They have finally been completed, so I wanted to share my book suggestions and what I have learned.

Here are the books I promoted to the fourth graders: 

Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass: Zombies are a big part of the appeal of this one. It is short and at the lower end of the reading level spectrum for this age group.

Frank Einstein and the Anti Matter Motor by Jon Scieszka: This one is pretty right on reading level wise for most fourth graders. I will probably never get tired of reading the introduction of this one aloud. The kids seem to enjoy it as well!

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett: A prankster named Miles meets the prank king of his new school. It is very funny, which is always a big plus. The kids were especially excited to learn that the pranksters succeed at pranking their principal.

Grace/Grace Stirs it Up by Mary Casanova: The American girl brand still holds a lot of weight with this age group. Including this one also gave me an opportunity to promote our library's Meet Grace event.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein: Kyle and his friends get to stay the night in the game maker Mr. Lemoncello's brand new library. They end up having to solve clues and find their way out. This book is worth including based solely on how awesome the library is.

Kate the Great (except when she's not) by Suzy Becker: This book is a great read alike for the ever popular "Wimpy Kid" and "Dork Diaries" series.

Tips and Tricks:
  • This is a great age to promote any databases your library provides access to. Tweens are starting to write more difficult research reports and can always use more reliable sources.
  • Use the popularity of certain series to your advantage by providing readalikes. It gives kids an easy point of reference and can immediately turn a book they've never heard of into a "must read". This is a big reason I included "Kate the Great".
  • It may seem obvious, but make sure to provide program related handouts that apply to all ages. I make a single handout every month that covers all elementary ages. You never know which kids have younger or older siblings! 
I am currently in the process of visiting fifth grade classes, which will be my last booktalk visits of the school year. Can't wait to update you all!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Flannel Friday Guest Post Palooza: Guest Post by Mari Nowitz

In honor of Flannel Friday's fourth birthday Guest Post Palooza I am hosting this post by Mari Nowitz, a Youth Services Librarian at Tumwater Timberland Library in Tumwater, Washington:

A few years ago, my library system brought in Gena Lebedeva from The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington to present a training session for our youth services staff.  It blew my mind.  She had so much fantastic information about how kids learn!  It was fascinating and also overwhelming.  About halfway through her program, I knew I was experiencing brain overload.  I decided to try and tease out some cool bit of what she was sharing and use it to develop something I could add to my preschool story time programs.  This is what I came up with.  I call it “Word smushing!”  

The snippet of information that I grabbed onto, as I remember it now, was that non-word repetition is a good thing for developing phonological awareness in preschool age kids.  The word that Gina shared was “ver-bug-lee-mush.”  I could totally imagine a room full of preschoolers gleefully repeating “ver-bug-lee-mush.”  It’s so much fun to say!  That made me wonder how to turn non-word repetition into a game.  After a little tweaking, this is how we played with nonsense words each week.

I made a list of one syllable words that would be easy to represent with a picture.  I turned these into laminated flannel pieces that look like this:

Each week, I would pick out three word pieces that I thought went well together.  When it was time for the flannelboard, I’d ask the kiddos if they were ready for a little brain exercise.  Word smushing time!  Some days, I’d give them hints about the words.  For example, if you came home from a walk, and your door was locked, you would use this to unlock it.  A key!  If we were running short on time, I could skip the clues and just show them the pieces.  Kids who were starting to recognize letters and words would have the benefit of seeing the word written out, but kids who weren’t at the same point could know what the word was by looking at the picture.

Once the three words were up on the board, we would say them slowly once or twice.  Bat.  Key. Bee.   Then we would smush them together into one big crazy word on the count of three.  “One, two, three. . . Batkeybee!”  I’d usually say something like, “That is a ridiculous word!  Let’s say it again.  One, two, three. . .Batkeybee!” Then we’d change the order of the pieces to make another silly word.  Perhaps Beebatkey.  Or Keybeebat.

This often elicited giggles and later, excitement as the kids got better and better at smushing the words together.  Once we’d been doing it for a while, some of the older kids could smush them super-quickly, without even taking time to say them slowly first.  My guess is that creating the brain connections that smush these syllables together will come in really handy when trying to sound out new multi syllable words as they learn to read.  As a further literacy boost, I would try and throw in some rich vocabulary as well as some background knowledge work when getting them to guess the words as I put them up on the board.

I’m taking a turn doing storytimes for infants and babies at the moment, so word smushing isn’t a part of my weekly routine.  I miss it!  If you try this out, I’d love to hear how it works for you and your storytime friends.  

Thanks for sharing your idea Mari! Happy Birthday Flannel Friday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

American Girl Club: Meet Grace

For this month's Thrive Thursday bloghop, I figured I would share a new post about one of the most popular programs at my library, our American Girl Club.

Every year, American Girl releases a new "Girl of the Year". The "Girl of the Year" has stories set in present day, and is only available for one year. This is kind of a good news/bad news situation for my library's American Girl Club. The good news is there is a new American Girl to focus on, which always seems to excite the kids that attend. The bad news is coming up with new activities can be difficult, because there is no historical time period to fall back on. I kind of have to pick a theme or two from the girl's stories and run with it.

The theme for this year's "Girl of the Year", Grace Thomas, turned out to be Paris, France. This worked out particularly well because I was able to pull from the ideas I compiled when our summer reading theme was "One World, Many Stories".

Image from

Here is what we did when we learned about Grace:

We started out discussing Grace, her trip to France and love of baking. The girls were pretty familiar with the stories, which is always a good thing. I asked questions about the good and bad aspects of travel, and talked about how Grace and her friends want to start a business. We followed up with the "Which Cupcake Are You" personality quiz from American Girl's Grace Event Kit. Unfortunately this quiz is no longer available on their website.

Next we played a game called "The Beret".  It basically involves breaking the kids into two groups and assigning numbers to each. There are two people assigned to each number. Each child must try to be the first to grab a beret from the center of the room when I call their number. The kids got pretty active with this one and seemed to really enjoy it.

Our third and final group activity was trying to make the Eiffel Tower out of marshmallows and toothpicks. I gave each table a pack of marshmallows, a box of toothpicks and a picture of the Eiffel Tower and told them to see what they could come up with.

Here are some of the results:

Even the dolls ended up in a sugar coma.

We closed out the program by having a snack of French bread, macaroon cookies, sugar cookies and grape juice. While eating their snack the kids could work on an American Girl coloring page, or do a wordsearch about Grace. Unfortunately, these resources were also later removed from the American Girl website.

One of my favorite things about this program was the fact that it exposed the kids to the culture of a new country. The ideas would definitely work well for any France themed programming you may be planning. They would also be great to include for any programs held when Grace's new book comes out in May.

For information on other recent American Girl related programs go to these posts:
For more great school age program ideas head on over to this month's Thrive Thursday roundup. It is hosted by Carol Simon Levin at Program Palooza You can also learn more about Thrive Thursday at the Thrive Thursday blog, or check out Thrive Thursday on Pinterest and Facebook!