Friday, October 24, 2014

Flannel Friday Roundup

Welcome to Flannel Friday!

We have a couple of stellar submissions today for your reading pleasure:

First off, Anne at So Tomorrow has a Five Superheroes flannel that can scale tall buildings in a single bound! Check it out here!

Next, Kathryn at Fun with Friends at Storytime, has a fun activity that involves forest animals and tents and fine motor skills so it's bound to be amazing. Here it is!

Finally, I have a Montessori-inspired idea for toddler storytime right over here

If you want to learn more about Flannel Friday, here are some helpful links:
And follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #flannelstorytime

Flannel Friday: Practice Writing with Toddlers

For Flannel Friday this week, I have a simple, adaptable way to practice writing with toddlers--sandpaper letters! This is a classic Montessori learning material, but I saw them on Pinterest and thought it might be interesting to try in storytime. You can purchase sandpaper letters from a variety of online sources, OR you can make them yourself. If you have a die-cut machine, this is super-simple. If you don't have a die-cut machine (or don't feel like driving to the Central library to use the one machine that your system owns) then you can do what I did and make a template for the letter, trace it on sandpaper, and cut it out. I personally used a rougher grain of sandpaper because that's what I had at home, but you could use whatever you can access easily. Once I cut out the letters, I glued them on foam rectangles. You could also use cardstock or poster paper as a base for the letters. Also, you could sub felt for the sandpaper. The main idea is to make the letters out of something with an interesting texture. As you can see, this is a really flexible project. :) To start off, I made 5 cards all of the letter D. But, I plan to make more cards of more letters when I have a chance to use a die-cut machine.

In storytime, I passed around the cards and invited all the kiddos and their caregivers to feel the letters as I sung a song to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush". I think it went something like this:

Let's all touch the letter D, letter D, letter D,
The letter D says, "duh"

I know, I know, you want to nominate me for a Grammy for my amazing songwriting skills. Basically, you can make up whatever song you want to sing. I would just suggest trying to incorporate the sound that the letter makes, but other than that, sing whatever you want.

The purpose of the sandpaper letters is to teach the shape of letters through tactile learning. Sometimes it seems too complicated to try to practice writing with toddlers in storytime, but I hope I've given you a simple way to do so. Has anyone else used sandpaper letters or other Montessori strategies in storytime? I'd love to hear about it!

I'm hosting the Flannel Friday Roundup today! Check it out here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hello again! (and Flannel Friday Placeholder)

Wow! It's been a while since I've done anything around here and I want to apologize to my 5 readers (hi mom!). I do have excuses--becoming a supervisor and then, 2 months later, moving back to North Carolina. I'll post about some of my new supervisor experiences as well as how I made the transition out a an awesome job really soon. Until then it's (almost) FLANNEL FRIDAY!

For anyone who isn't familiar with Flannel Friday, it is a weekly bloghop that showcases creative storytime ideas! Find more info about FF at any of these lovely locations across the internet:
And follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #flannelstorytime

If you want to be included in this week's roundup, leave a link to your post in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Surveys and STEM and School-Agers

Over the past few months, I've been feeling uneasy about the programming at my branch. Not uneasy about what we're already doing--I think we've got early literacy programming down pretty well and we can throw a pretty solid character party. But, I am uneasy about what we're not doing. We're not doing consistent, effective school-age programming. As it stands right now, the only consistent thing we offer for school-agers is a monthly Paws to Read program, when kids can come practice reading to therapy dogs. But, our attendance for that has been really low--like 5 kids is a "busy" day. We have system-wide programs (usually arts and crafts) during fall break and spring break and in June and July. But, when a new family comes to the library and picks up our calendar or asks me what we have for their 8 year old, I'm usually at a loss for something to offer them. I hate not having something to offer. To adapt Ranganathan: "Every patron his/her program". Serendipitously, Thrive Thursday got started around the same time I started having these feelings. If you haven't heard, it's a monthly blog hop of after school library activities. I haven't posted anything since, clearly, I have nothing notable to post about, but I have been following along. I've also been stalking Amy's STEAM programs over at The Show Me Librarian, which have encouraged me that STEAM programming is possible, even for non-science people.

However, even though I had a feeling there was a programming void and it seemed like the stars were aligning on the interwebs, I knew I'd need more proof to convince my manager and fellow children's librarians that we should be spending time on school age programming. The general assumption here has been that kids in school are too busy or too uninterested to come to library programs. But, I don't agree so, I set out to prove that assumption wrong. I decided to create a simple survey to leave at our SRP prize desk--the place in the library that gets the most traffic from school age kids and their families. My main goal for the survey was to determine what types of programs people wanted the most and when they would prefer to attend those programs. I also added a few open-ended questions at the end just to get some general feedback.

Here is the text of the survey:
1. Please list the ages of your child(ren):

2. What kind of programs would your child(ren) be interested in attending at the library? (check all that apply)
Kids book discussions
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program
Craft program
Music program
Cooking program
Minecraft/gaming program
Rainbow Loom program
Fitness program
Homework club
Paws to Read (reading to therapy dogs)
Homeschool club/meetup
Other (please specify):

3. What days and times would you prefer to attend library programs?
(Please check all times that apply)
Morning (10-12) Afternoon (1-4) Evening (4-7)






4. What library service(s) children and their families do you value the most?

5. What can the library do to improve its service to children and their families?

We ended up with about 20 responses, 3 of which were from families with kids who were all under 5. I didn't really use those, since this my main focus was school age kids/families. I didn't specify age on the survey, so I think it's really interesting that the majority or responses were from parents of kids over 5. I'm assuming that's because families with young kids are already having their needs met, but, families with older kids aren't as much. So, I'm glad we gave them a voice!

I won't bore you with the raw data, but here's my analysis of the responses from the program types section:
  • Our system-wide children's services department consistently books high quality art and craft program presenters, so it would probably be better to focus our branch-specific efforts on other programming.
  • An ongoing STEM program could encompass music, cooking and fitness and would also incorporate related fiction and nonfiction books. So, this might be a good program to try that would incorporate the interests of a range of children.
  • Further investigation is needed to determine the actual interest in a book discussion as well as a gaming program.
  • It might be a good idea to talk with area schools to see if Paws to Read is still a needed service. Since many schools have therapy dogs visit, many kids who might come to our program, could already be reading to a therapy dog at school. However, this survey isn't exhaustive, so it might be that the families who come or would come to Paws to Read didn't happen to take the survey. Also, it could be that we need to do more marketing of this program. 
  • Having a safe technology use program definitely falls under the library's expertise, but more investigation needs to be done to determine whether it would be of widespread interest. 
As far as program times, the votes were resoundingly for the early evening, which is a bummer staffing-wise, but can definitely be done. We had a few votes for 1-4pm, a few for 10-12 and a few for Saturdays. 

Taking all this into consideration, my overall suggestion to my team will be to start a monthly or quarterly STEM themed program aimed at kids 6-11 years old, and we should try to have the program at 4 or 4:30 pm on a weekday afternoon. In order for the program to be successful, we will first need to market assertively, then present the programs excellently so that kids will keep coming back and will tell their friends. Books can be incorporated by introducing the theme with a book and/or having related books and movies available for checkout. We will evaluate the effectiveness of the program after a few sessions to decide if it should be continued. I'm really excited about this! It think we'll have a lot of fun and retain/gain some happy library patrons by providing programming for this currently under-served age group. If anyone has any tips on starting up a new ongoing program/school-age program/STEM program, please share!!  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flannel Friday--I Spy Forest Animals

Recently, I've been trying to up the ante on the games/activities we do in storytime. For a while I did a lot of games in the vein of Little Mouse, but they weren't always well-received and I felt like there had to be more robust options.  I'm trying one today that I'm calling I Spy, but I won't be spying something actually in the room. I got the idea from The Stillwater Public Library Children's Department blogpost about their forest animals storytime, but I adapted the clues a little bit.  I'm excited about this activity because we'll definitely be doing a lot of talking and critical thinking. I also like this because, like Little Mouse, it's easily adapted to any theme or age group. You could definitely make the clues harder or easier depending on the audience.

Update after storytime: Since we had a smaller group (at least for the summer, about 15), this activity went really well and we were able to talk about the different animals. The rabbit clues stumped them at first--they thought it was a kangaroo. But, I said it lived in America and liked to eat veggies from gardens and they figured it out. I'd thought the porcupine might be hard, so I made a point to talk about one that showed up in Into the Outdoors when we read it. They were able to guess it immediately during the game.  The kids seemed to enjoy the activity and I'll definitely do similar ones in the future. 

Miss Mollie is hosting this week's Flannel Friday roundup and it's her birthday so go say hi! If you're new to Flannel Friday, check it out on Facebook, Pinterest and on the blog.

***Can you tell I don't really love to make flannels? I use real life images whenever possible because I think kids see a lot of cartoon-y images already. I want them to know what a real porcupine looks like! That being said, I do use traditional flannel pieces too. I'll post some eventually : ) 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

All About Animals--Preschool Storytime

This storytime is pretty basic. I tried to keep it simple because we were supposed to have guest readers come (a city official and his wife) and I didn't want to make things extra complicated for them. They didn't end up coming, but we still had a great time. And I was reassured that you don't have to be super creative to have an effective, fun storytime. 

Sooo, our theme was animals! The low-hanging fruit of storytime land. Basically, my go-to theme if I'm not feeling too creative because it is absolutely always fun to act like animals :) 

Intro: Welcome and guidelines

Opening Song: Silly Dance Contest

Theme intro: Animals!

Book: Are You My Mother?*

Theme Song: Down by the Bay (Raffi version on CD) with shakers

Sit down rhyme:
Open, shut them
Open, shut them
Give a little clap, clap, clap
Open, shut them
Open, shut them
Put them in your lap
Creep them, crawl them
Creep them, crawl them
Right up to your chin
Open wide your little mouth...
But do not let them in.

Book: From Head to Toe 

Action Rhyme: Animals on the bus from 1234 More Storytimes

Song: Hip Hop Tooty Ta (I've convinced a lot of grownups to join in the fun on this one by calling it a workout, which it is!)

Sit down rhyme:
If you’re ready for a book, clap your hands!
If you're ready for a book, clap your hands!
If you're ready for a book, listen up,
And take a look. 
If you're ready for a book clap your hands!

Book: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy

Flannel game: Little Mouse

Craft: Adaptable Animal Game

I designed this craft because I refuse to make animal masks in storytime. It is pretty basic but can be used in a variety of ways. Each child got a brown paper bag and a stack of pre-cut pictures of animals from this coloring sheet. They could color the animals and decorate their bag. At home, I suggested that they sing Animals on the Bus, act out the animals like in From Head to Toe, or come up with their own animal game. The parents were enthusiastic about being able to extend storytime at home! Most kids didn't finish coloring all the animals before they left, but planned to finish at home. One girl colored all hers green and one boy took 15 minutes to painstakingly color the toucan. I like crafts that cater to different abilities and artistic desires!

This storytime was a lot of fun and even though it wasn't a super creative theme, I got several compliments from parents who said I'd done a good job of creating a developmentally appropriate learning experience. (Ok they didn't say that exactly, but that's what they meant.) Are You My Mother was a way better read aloud than I'd been expecting. A colleague suggested I include it because the city official's wife enjoyed reading it last time they came to storytime--otherwise I probably wouldn't have picked it. But, I'm glad I did! The kids really got into the plot of the story, which made me realize that I haven't been giving them enough credit for their ability to understand and pay attention. From Head to Toe is a blast every time. And The Pigeon Wants a Puppy went over well once we talked about how to take care of a puppy. My forthcoming flannel friday submission is something I adapted because Little Mouse hasn't gone well in the past. But, I decided to try it one more time and the kids actually really got into it! I turned the flannel board around when I hid the mouse (which I don't usually do), and I think it cut back on the cheating, which made the game more fun.

*Now that I am a newly converted Dr. Who fan, I can't see this book without imagining this creepy little guy...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Reminder to Chill

Mr. Soldier Bear: educating children since 1985
Promoting early literacy in your library--or in your home--can seem daunting. I know we have ECRR2 and the 5 practices that help make it less so, but it's easy to forget that in the face of all the blog posts telling me another thing I could be doing to make my library and my librarianship extra awesome. But, today I had a really epic, really obvious reminder that early literacy can be really simple. Nothing out of the ordinary happened to snap me out of my must-be-a-super-librarian fog. In fact, it was something really normal. A mom and her toddler walked past my desk on their way to find books, when the toddler noticed the stuffed bear standing guard in front of my desk. This bear is dressed like a toy soldier and is just over two feet tall, the perfect height.

The boy toddled up to the bear and smiled and laughed delightedly. His mom instantly knelt down and engaged him in discussion about the bear, even though her son only has a few words and doesn't speak in sentences yet. They discussed what he's wearing, named all his facial features and pointed to their own eyes, ears, nose, etc. I told them that my bear loves hugs so the mom modeled hugging the bear first and the boy immediately hugged the bear too. He thought that was the best and kept laughing and babbling and hugging the bear. Eventually his mom told him that they needed to go get books and they wandered away.

Similar occurrences happen multiple times a day. Even kids who are 6 or 7 will come by and hug the bear for old times sake. This bear has been around for over 20 years and generations of kids have come by to inadvertently share in a learning experience with librarians and their caregivers. They talk and listen. They learn how to hug gently and wait turns. They are amazed by a world in which a bear can be soft and dressed in a cool outfit and be their size. They interact with new and familiar people. They practice new vocabulary. Maybe this isn't mind-blowing, but I think it's wonderful. These interactions are an example of how something as simple as a stuffed bear can facilitate early literacy learning, as well as social learning. As an added bonus, it brings people to my desk, who might not come by just to ask a question. This allows me to ask them about what they're looking for or have already found and allows me to tell them about our programs. So, even though this bear sometimes becomes a punching bag for kids who have been stuck at the library too long, I'm glad he's here. He's a great reminder that even the most mundane things about the library can be beneficial, despite the fact that they aren't new or elaborate. Innovation and development definitely have their place, but so do bears and blocks and crayons. So, it's allllll good! :)