Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolve to Rock 2015: Final Checkup

At the beginning of the year, Storytime Underground was encouraging youth services librarians to share their professional goals for the new year. I reflected a little on my progress in this post, but wanted to provide an end of the year update for the ones I hadn't fully accomplished as of that point. Now that the year is over, I'm able to see exactly what I've managed to accomplish in the past 365 days.

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. 
    • This is one I feel like am starting to make pretty good progress on. In 2015 I managed to include evening programs during storytime breaks (such as our Frozen Party), and a few very successful Saturday programs (like our Baby Sensory Time). In what I have scheduled of 2016 so far I've managed to increase my evening and weekend programming even more.
  • 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.
    • Space constraints have continued to make this a difficult goal to accomplish. Definitely going to keep doing my best to expand this collection.
  • 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.
    • I think I succeeded in trying some new and fun preschool/toddler programming in 2015. A parachute play program will likely require purchase of a larger parachute than my library currently owns.
  • 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.
    • In 2015 I managed several preschool tours throughout the year. I recently made a valuable connection with a local childcare center that I hope to explore further.
  • 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.
    • The changes I made to our reading logs were a great success. Participation in the program has continued to increase. 

Overall I think I accomplished the majority of my goals for 2015. I truly feel like I've continued to grow as a librarian, in large part due to being a part of a wonderful online community of other children's librarians. I truly appreciate the support, friendship and ideas shared. Wishing you all the best in 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

American Girl Holiday Party

The holiday season means one thing for our American Girl Club: Our annual holiday party!

The theme of this party is showcasing all the different ways the characters in the American Girl books celebrated the holiday season. We do games and crafts related to these celebrations and just generally have a great time. It is definitely one of my favorite programs I do with this age group.

We started out with our usual short group discussion. I went through each of the characters and gave a quick summary about which holiday they celebrate and what happens in their story. The holiday focused books were only published for the earliest groupings of American Girls, so this mainly focused on about 8 characters.

Our activities:


Human Dreidel

Image from

I found this game idea here, and it sounded like a great tie in to the celebration of Hanukkah. The version I came up with was pretty simple. I divided our program room floor into four spaces using masking tape on the floor. I wrote the words corresponding to each side of the dreidel on pieces of tagboard and taped those down as well. The kids were each given 8 gumdrops as their "gelt". I also set aside a small pile of gumdrops for them to prospectively win. Each child would spin around with their eyes closed, and the space they would land on would determine what happened to their "gelt". For more specific directions you can see the basic directions for the dreidel game here. The kids seemed to enjoy the activity, even though a couple were not a fan of the gumdrops.

Ornament Shuffle 

Photo from
This game was based on one called Steal the Treasure. Because I already had the floor divided into four parts I broke my group of 15 kids into 4 groups (I played on one team to make things even. Definite job perk!). I took four hula hoops and put 6 plastic bulb ornaments in each. The teams each had to steal ornaments from the others' hoops, all while following a few simple rules. For instance, they couldn't guard their "treasure" and they couldn't steal from the same teams hoop twice in a row. It was definitely a pretty fast past game, and a good one to get a little bit of the kids' extra energy.



 Gift exchange

Photo from
As a present to each girl I gave them each a paperback copy of an American Girl holiday book. These books came from an extra stash we've had since I started at my library five years ago. The club used to be ran in a more traditional "book club" format, and I guess at some point extra copies of many of the books were purchased. I've been lucky enough to be able to give these books away at every possible opportunity. If you do not have extra books to give away you could also substitute candy or other small prizes for this game. 

For our gift exchange game I try to do something different each year. This year we played a game I called "If you...". I can't remember where I found it, so if it sounds familiar please let me know. The basic idea is that you have the kids sit in chairs in a circle. One wrapped gift is on each chair. The kids all choose a chair and switch chairs based on "If you..." questions. The gifts stay on the chairs. For instance you could say "If you have a brother." and the kids who had brothers would have to get up and move to another chair. At the end they open the gift at whichever seat they are currently at. It is not only fun, it also helps the kids learn a little bit about each other. 

Snack and craft

Our craft was to decorate a printable template for a doll party hat. I used the one found here. As our snack we had a few different snacks representing some of the American Girl characters. We had popcorn (because Rebecca wanted to be in the movies), gingerbread cookies (because Samantha makes a gingerbread house), Fritos (invented during Kit's time period), and apple juice. This was also a time they could do a wordsearch or enjoy playing a Holiday ABC game. Feel free to use these printable activities in any and all programming.

Another great year of our American Girl Club has ended. To look back on some of the things we did you can head on over and check out my other American Girl related posts.

If you ever have any questions about this or any programs I'd love to answer them! Feel free to comment here, reach me on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets), or email me at marrak at

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

ATLAS: DIY Gift Making with Tweens

Everybody loves presents, right?

Making presents is pretty fun too, so I figured it would be a good choice for December's ATLAS (At The Library After School). Gift giving is a pretty universal aspect of the holiday season (and a good thing to do year round), so it also provides a festive program that doesn't exclude any group that may not celebrate Christmas.

For this program I had three ready to make gift suggestions for my 3rd through 6th graders. I also gave them the freedom to make whatever else popped into their minds with the supplies. The goal was for the attendees to be as creative as possible, but at the same time make sure kids that were stumped for ideas had something to fall back on.

Supplies for this program were basically already on hand, although I did need to buy a box of Popsicle sticks. The only other cost involved was for snacks. Snacks are not necessary, but I chose to provide them mainly because I had hinted to a few kids that we may decorate cookies at this program but nixed that idea in my final planning. I figured as long as the kids were given some kind of treat they wouldn't be too disappointed! As it turned out nobody even brought it up.

The crafts

Fabric bookmarks:

I had leftover fabric from making superhero capes over the summer, so I cut it into bookmark sized rectangles and let the kids draw on it with fabric markers. I also provided string to make a tassel for bookmarks, which as it turns out was not the best decision because our hole punch couldn't go through the fabric. For the kids that wanted a tassel I ended up using scissors to cut a small hole myself.


Popsicle stick coasters

I found this idea at No Time For Flashcards. The basic idea is taping or gluing a group of Popsicle sticks together to create a homemade coaster. This was surprisingly one of the most popular gifts made.

The rainbow version.
The football themed version.

Candy cane ornaments

Inspiration for this craft came from The Fountain Avenue Kitchen. I decided to use it mainly for the purpose of getting rid of some unused pony beads in my craft cupboard.

In addition to these three main craft ideas, I also made additional suggestions such as Popsicle stick stars (made by gluing six Popsicle sticks into two triangles then gluing into a star), and Popsicle stick sleds (inspired by seeing pictures such as this one on Pinterest). I also provided construction paper, crayons and markers in case anyone was inspired to make a card for their loved ones. Brown paper bags were available for any gifts the kids wanted to keep secret. 

The atendees were all able to take gifts home, and some presents were given to their recipients on the spot. I was happy to provide an opportunity to supply holiday gifts that are both free and from the heart. If you've got any other creative gift ideas feel free to share them!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Booktalking 2.0: Books for Kindergartners and 1st graders

I truly enjoyed sharing the books I promoted at two of my local schools during the last school year. I have been back at it again, so I figured I'd start a new series of posts to cover this year's books. Because the schools have been so accommodating, the booktalking visits have been speeding along at a little faster pace than last year. The pace has been fast enough that I should be able to update you all two grades at a time. Without further ado, here are the books I shared with Kindergartners and 1st graders.

Books for Kindergartners:
  • Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio: This picture book chronicles the rise to fame of Bacon (the main character and "hero"). I like the retro style illustrations and the humor in the story. I am also all for anthropomorphizing food.
  • I'm Cool by Kate McMullan: A picture book on about a Zamboni seemed like it would have natural kid appeal, especially in a town so close to Detroit (aka "Hockeytown"). Vehicles and sports are always a winning combination. 
  • The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton: I wanted to include a picture book with a strong female character and this one about a warrior named Princess Pinecone fit the bill. As an added bonus it mentions farting. The first few pages made for a great read aloud; her big battle beginning was a natural cliffhanger.

Books for 1st graders:
  • Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka: Jon Scieszka is one of my all time favorite authors, and this is the first in his "Time Warp Trio" series. I wanted to include something on the upper end of the difficulty spectrum for first graders and this seemed like it would work perfectly. Comparisons to the popular "Magic Tree House" series seemed fitting, because both involve time travel. The first chapter of this book was my read aloud selection for this age group. It involves the characters being threatened by the Black Knight and definitely grabbed the kids' attention!
  • Don't throw it to Mo! by David Adler: This beginning reader is about a boy named Mo who loves playing football but isn't all that skilled at it. It also has a diverse main character, which I try to include in my booktalks as much as possible.
  • Frog and Friends celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve by Eve Bunting: I've shared "Frog and Friends" books in previous booktalks with first grade because it seems to fit well from a difficulty standpoint. With the holiday season approaching I figured this latest addition to the series would be a good choice.

Books shared with both grades:
  • We're in the wrong book! by Richard Byrne: Bella and Ben get bounced out of their story and into a variety of others. The tie ins to other stories (such as Red Riding Hood) make this a picture book with pretty broad appeal. 
  • I really like slop! by Mo Willems: I love all things "Elephant and Piggie" so I am always happy to share a new one as part of my booktalks. The gross out factor of slop was definitely a point in this book's favor.
  • How to swallow a pig by Steve Jenkins: This was my nonfiction selection for both grades. Animals are always a popular subject, and the kids seemed appropriately awed that a snake could swallow a pig whole. 

As usual, I've tried to include a range of difficulty levels and topics in my booktalks. I've also tried to include both fiction and nonfiction, and stick with newer titles as much as possible. Six books works well to fill my 15 minute visits to each class.

I hope these titles are of help for other librarians planning book talks, and anyone looking for book suggestions for this age group! I will be updating you on the titles I chose for 2nd and 3rd graders as soon as possible.