Monday, May 20, 2013

Brace Yourselves.

It's that time of year again. It's a time when we brace ourselves for the 8ish weeks of chaos, stress, and fun known as SUMMER READING. Someone posted this meme on the Internet not too long ago and I think it sums it all up perfectly:

No really...brace yourselves.

Ah yes...brace yourselves. 

Soon the library will be filled with a steady stream of excitable kids and parents looking to cash in those long reading hours for fabulous glory (and prizes from the Highsmith catalog). Our work days will just fly by as we struggle just to keep up with the madness. We will be tired. We will be cranky. We will get laryngitis from explaining the rules of the summer reading game for the umpteenth time. 

But despite all of that, we keep in the back of our minds that we are making a difference. We are getting those kids away from the television and video games and into the arms of their favorite book characters. We are saving them from the "summer slump". We are creating those lifelong readers. 

Anyway, that's what I'll be telling myself as I am cleaning up the children's room which looks like a hurricane blow though it. Again.
This is what it basically looks like every day during the SRP.

I always get a little tense right around this time of year. Our spring programming and storytimes are winding down, yet at the same time we are gearing up for a full slate of school visits. I adore visiting the schools. I geek out in my summer reading t-shirt (which always fits me like an awkward tent) and as I cross through the threshold of a class, I can sense their excitement that the "library lady" is here! I try my hardest to make the summer reading game and programming sound like the best thing since Dora or One Direction.

I pull out the instant prizes which, last year, included those finger trap things as well as uber-cool glow-in-the-dark frisbees. The kids "ooh'd" and "ahh'd" and I knew I had won them over. Then I tell a fun participation story to end things on a memorable note. This year, we'll be doing a rendition of We're Going on a Bear Hunt. I highly recommend the song  "Cool Bear Hunt" by Dr. Jean. Instead of the usual nature-inspired obstacles, one must traverse through a candy factory, a peanut butter river, and a Jello swamp. Very cool indeed. (Fun fact: I performed this song in the interview that landed me my current job!)

And then I head back to the library to brace myself for the influx of our community of summer readers.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Storytime - Butterflies

Spring is in the air in Ohio, so I was inspired to do a caterpillar/butterflies storytime!

The Plan


Don't Worry Bear by Greg Foley (Preschoolers)
The Caterpillar and the Polliwog by Jack Kent (Preschoolers)
Butterfly Butterfly by Petr Horacek (Toddlers)
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (Preschoolers)
Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr. (Toddlers)


“Five Little Caterpillars” (w/ flannel)

5 Little Caterpillars tucked in eggs among a score
1 began to hatch and that left four.
4 Little Caterpillars munching on some leaves
One became too full and that left three.
3 Little Caterpillars spinning their cocoons
One fell right to sleep and that left two.
2 Little Caterpillars basking in the sun
Then he became a butterfly! …BUT WAIT! There still was one.
1 Little Caterpillar waiting for his turn
But it never came because he was…a worm!

I got the inspiration for this one from Narrating Tales for Preschool Storytime. Her flannel is much better than the one that I did last-minute, so I'm not even going to post a picture.

“Fuzzy Little Caterpillar"

(sing to Itsy Bitsy Spider)

A fuzzy little caterpillar curled upon a leaf
Spun her little chrysalis and then fall fast asleep
While she was sleeping she dreamed that she could fly
And later when she woke up, she was a butterfly!


Coffee filter butterflies! Geekily enough, I had been waiting to do this craft for a while. You just take regular old coffee filters, set out washable markers and let them at it. I went around a folded the filter up for them and put it in the clothespin. They then folder their pipe cleaner antennae and we clipped those in on top. No glue required! If you are feeling ambitious, you can give them googly eyes to glue on. I was not feeling ambitious as we are frantically trying to get ready for school visits. 

Please forgive the poor quality from my camera phone.

Have you done a butterfly themed storytime? Any good books/rhymes/crafts you'd like to share?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Teens, Pizza, and Books...Oh My!

So you want to start a teen book club. What's the best way to go about it? I see this question a lot on listervs and other various librarian sites. I was lucky enough to be able to start a teen book club last year and fortunately it's still going strong.

I noticed that at my library we have a very strong base of middle school aged teens that hang out in the library and regularly attend our programs. I decided to start by catering to this specific age group (grades 6 to 9) and offer a monthly book club.

The first thing I had to do was choose a book. I wanted a book that would appeal to both boys and girls, would encourage a great discussion, and wouldn't be too controversial right out of the gate (our community is on the conservative side). After talking with some of my coworkers, I came up with the perfect book: Unwind  by Neal Shusterman. It's fast-paced, science-fictiony without being off-putting to those who aren't complete fans of the genre, and it would spark some great talking points.

I belong to a consortium of libraries   so it's usually no problem to order in enough copies of a title for 20 teens. If you don't have access to something similar, another option is to see if you can apply for a grant or ask your Friends of the Library group for funds to purchase paperback copies for the teens. Then you can either let the teens keep the books or create a Book Club Sets section in your library.

I decided to hold the program on Saturdays from noon to 1:00 p.m. in the Teen Room and call it Pizza and Pages. As we all know, one of the tried and true methods for bringing teens to programs is to feed them. So I thought that I could hook some of them by offering pizza along with the book discussion. One of our local pizza places generously donates pizza every so often for the club. The other meetings, I will order it and pay for it out of my teen programming budget. I also provide beverages. The teens LOVE the pizza and I have a steady total of around 15 teens at each meeting.

I also wanted to have some sort of activity to go along with the book discussion. My brilliant coworker came up with an idea she saw on Pinterest and it evolved into what we currently do: book charms. They are super easy to make and are an absolute hit with the teens.

Here's how to make them:

  • Buy a pack of Shrinky Dink Inkjet Plastic. Make sure it's the kind that you can put in the printer. You can usually find it at your local craft store or online. The package looks like this: 

  • Open Microsoft Publisher (or another similar program) and copy and paste several images (I use Google Images) of your book cover. (You'll notice that I have 2 different titles on one sheet. This is to save paper so I plan a little ahead with my book choices.) The ideal size to shrink the covers to is 1.5" tall by 1" wide. The'll end up shrinking in the oven to the perfect charm size. You'll also want to lighten any images of any dark book covers (like Unwind) as the colors get darker in the oven as you bake them.

  • Print your document onto the plastic. Cut out each charm and punch a hole in the top of each one. I use just a normal sized hold punch and it works perfectly. 
  • Arrange your book covers on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. 
  • Bake these in the oven at 290 degrees for around 5 minutes. If you watch your Shrinky Dinks bake you'll notice that they will shrink and curl up, then uncurl. Once they flatten back out again, they're done.  This is how I bake them in our oven at work. There are instructions in the plastic package that explain the range of oven temperatures and time limits that you can use to bake your Shrinky Dinks.
  • Take the Shrinky Dinks out of the oven and if needed, press on them to flatten using more parchment paper. Caution: these are hot at first!
  • Let them cool down and you're done!
  • I also purchased a bag of 7mm silver jump rings from a craft store. You can buy these in bulk pretty cheaply. 
  • Because charms may be associated with girls, I gave the teens an option. They could either make a charm bracelet or a keychain. I purchased a roll of silver chain, lobster claspskeychains, and split rings. I also invested in a few sets of jewelry pliers knowing that we would use them each month.
So every month, I allot about 15 minutes at the end for the teens to add that month's charm to their bracelet/keychain. I have some members who are familiar with basic jewelry making, so they help the others while I pass out next month's book.
Here are some other titles we've read this past year:

  • Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jorden Sonnenblick
  • Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
Do any of you run a teen book club? If so, leave any ideas/tips/success stories in the comments!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May the "Fourth" Be With You!

This past Saturday was a double-header of awesomeness: it was Free Comic Book Day as well as "May the Fourth Be With You" Day (a.k.a. Star Wars Day). So I felt like it would only be natural for my library to host a Star Wars Jedi Training Party. I had done the program in July 2012 and it was met with much success, so I was hoping history would repeat itself. And, in a sense, it did!

If you've never participated in Free Comic Book Day, I highly recommend it! I am lucky enough to work with a local comic book shop who is gracious in ordering a bunch of comic for me. I simply pick them up and set them out the day of. If you aren't into Star Wars, you can do a number of programs to coincide with Free Comic Book Day, such as author presentations or comic drawing workshops. Or you can just keep it a passive program.

Ok, back to Star Wars...

Because I set my program up as a family program, I wanted to have mostly self-directed stations. I had first gotten the idea for how to run my Star Wars Party from an excellent presentation by the librarians at Westerville Public Library. The gist of the program is that each child enters the program as a young Padawan and leaves as a Jedi Knight. I chose the following activities/stations:

  •  Lightsaber Building - I bought long balloons from Amazon and set out hand balloon pumps for the parents to blow them up. Then with the help of my coworkers I collected a TON of toilet paper rolls. You just stick one end of the balloon into the TP roll, then use silver duct tape to attach the balloon and cover the rest of the handle. Voila! Instant lightsaber!
  • Train Your Brain - Here the kids had to complete 2 of 3 mind-training exercises:
    • Star Wars puzzle - I found a picture from Star Wars Clone Wars and copied it into Publisher. I then cut it up into squares and the kids had to assemble the picture.
    • Mazes - I printed out two different mazes from the Star Wars website and DK Star Wars Activity Kit. The kids could choose to complete the easier or the harder maze.
    • Which Yoda Is Different? - Found here, the children had to choose which Yoda was different from the rest.

  • Flight School - I set out plain white copy paper and instructions on how to make a simple paper airplane. Each child had to make one, then throw it through a hula hoop held by a teen volunteer.

  • Harness Your (Creative) Force - For this one I simply set out crayons and printed out page 11 from the DK kit and had the kids customize their own X-wing and droid.

  • Agility Test - I cut out construction paper rocks and fire clip are and glued them to a long roll of red paper. The kids had to walk across the "lava pit" by only stepping on the rock using their agility.

  • Fighter Pilot Training - I gathered 2-liter pop/soda/soda pop bottles and taped pictures of TIE fighters on the front. One had a picture of Darth Vader. Using the bean bags from storytime, the kids had to knock down the bottles and Vader. If you fill the bottles with a little water, they fall over more like bowling pins.

  • Pin the Bun on Princess Leia - 'Nuff said. 
  • Jedi Refueling Station - As every hardworking Jedi needs to refuel, we provided Wookiee Cookies (chocolate chip cookies) and Yoda Soda (green Hawaiian punch) to our young Padawans.
After each child completed all the activities, they could come up to me (dressed as a skinny Princess Leia with glasses, by the way) and receive a Certificate of Completion stating that they were now officially Jedi Knights. I wrote their names on each with Sharpie.

Other activity ideas include:

- Droid Robotics - Set out some toilet paper tube and any craft materials you want to get rid of and watch the creativity happen!

- Keep Jabba the Hut Talking! - Last year, instead of Pin the Bun on Princess Leia, we played this game. I cut out some frogs using our Ellison die machine and made a large Jabba the Hut poster.

Have you ever done a Star Wars Party? Any activities/crafts/ideas that were hits?

Storytime - Mothers

My Plan


Is Your Mama a Llama? by Steven Kellogg (Preschool)
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza (Preschool)
What Moms Can't Do by Douglas Wood (Toddler)
Who Loves the Little Lamb? by Lezlie Evans (Toddler)
Don't Wake Up Mama! by Eileen Christelow (Preschool) - I changed the Happy Birthday theme to Mother's Day instead. The preschoolers never knew the difference!


"Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" - I did this popular song using a Monkey Mitt to go along with Don't Wake Up Mama!:

"There's Something in My Pocket"

There's something in my pocket
Could it be a moose? (show picture of a moose)
Could it be a train with a caboose? (show picture of a train)
Could it be a snake? (show picture of a snake)
Or some sticky glue? (show picture of a glue bottle)
Right here in my pocket is a KISS from me to you! (blow kisses)


(You can use a CD version like on "Great Big Hits" by Sharon, Lois, and Bram or "Wiggleworms Love You" or you can just sing it a capella)

Skinnamarink a dink a dink
Skinnamarink a do
I love you!
Skinnamarink a dink a dink
Skinnamarink a do
I love you!
I love you in the morning and in the afternoon
I love you in the evening and underneath the moon
Skinnamarink a dink a dink
Skinnamarink a do
I love you!


I found a cute poem about little hands online, so I typed it up and cut it out using scalloped scrapbooking scissors. I then had the preschoolers glue the poem to one side of a piece of pink construction paper and trace their hand on the other side. I pre-hole punched and tied yarn at the top so that they could hang their masterpieces up at home.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Life-Size Monopoly

Life-sized programs are always a blast. At my first library job, I worked with some other staff members to create a life-size Monopoly game. I was lucky enough to have a really creative PR staff to help me, so they created the squares of the board game and made something that looks way more professional than I ever could have done myself. Now I work at a different library, but they were still gracious enough to lend me the game. This was my second time running this program and both times were a blast!

We created the board game using white poster board. The PR Department used vinyl cut-outs to stick on the property names and colors at the top. If you don't have access to this, you can use print-outs blown up on the copier to fit the poster boards. Then I stuck velcro on the bottom of each square so that they would stick to the carpet and the kids wouldn't slide around.

We made the houses and hotels out of milk cartons covered in red and green vinyl. Again, if you don't have access to vinyl, you can always paint them.

The inflatable dice were purchased online.

The Chance and Community Chest cards were made by blowing up the cards from the board game about 400% onto yellow and orange cardstock.

I made laminated team names that could hang around their necks.

We then used the money and the properties from the board game. Our jail was constructed using an appliance box and painted paper towel tubes for the "bars".

Our House Rules are as follows:

  • Play by the “Nice Rule” – You pay for the rent of the properties you land on, even if the owner forgets to ask.
  • Immunities are NOT allowed – (a.k.a. “I’ll trade you this property if you don’t make me pay rent for the next 3 turns, etc…)
  •  If you land on  Income Tax, you must pay the $200
  •  No money will be places in the middle of the game board. “Free Parking” is just a free resting place
  • You must build evenly. This means that you cannot buy 2 houses for your properties in a certain color group until you have bought 1 house for each one, etc…

We played the game unofficial tournament style in 90 minutes. The kids (who were in grades 4 to 6) signed up for the program in teams of two (or could choose to be randomly assigned to a team). They each had a role during the game: Walkers or Treasurers. The walkers were the ones who rolled the dice and moved around the game board. The Treasurers kept track of the money and properties. Every 3 turns they would switch so that everyone had a chance to do everything. I had 2 teen volunteers to help me. One was my banker and one was responsible for hanging up the property names on the wall under the corresponding team name as they purchases properties:

We would play for an hour and then take a trading break The teams were given 5 minutes to convene about which properties they might want to trade and then one representative from each team came up to the wall to trade.

Then we finished out the 90 minute game. I had a snack at the ready after the game was over. I called the teams up one at a time with their money and properties and totaled them up using a score sheet from the official Monopoly tournament site. (*note that this site is no longer available so please contact me for a PDF of the form*) The winning team received copies of the Monopoly Deal game.

Overall the program was a great success each time and it was interesting to see the strategies of each team!

Have you ever done a Life-Size Monopoly program? If so, any tips or tricks?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Coming Distractions

Picture this: You're trying to lead storytime and there must be something in the water. Or is it a full moon? Or maybe it's just that time of year?

The kids are acting up. And none of the tried-and-true methods are working to focus them. It can make someone feel like this:

I know we've all been there.

At my library, the parents do not come in the room for preschool storytime. So it's me, myself, and I...and 20 preschoolers for 30 minutes. In that time, I have to get through 3 books, rhymes/songs/fingerplays, an opening, a closing, and a craft. All by myself. And some days I have their rapt attention. And other days I feel like I'm trying to herd 20 very small, energetic cats.

I've tried everything from magic listening dust to "Shake Your Sillies Out" to pointing out the kids that are behaving (in hopes that the misbehaving kids will shape up) to just simply stopping what I'm doing and waiting until they notice I'm not reading/singing/talking.

Some days it works, and some days it doesn't. When it doesn't work I immediately over-analyze the storytime. What could I have done differently? Should I have done anything differently?Was there anything I could have done? Part of me realizes that sometimes we all (even kids) have off days and that it's okay. I have them for a half hour once a week. For them, it's the blink of an eye. But still I wonder if I'm missing some magical method.

There was an excellent post in the ALSC Blog about having a "Wiggles Kit" for storytime. I use the Storytime Dust and "Shake Your Sillies Out" method. These usually work, but in the not-so-distant past, I've had things like this happen:

- A child decides he doesn't want to be in storytime and takes his shirt and shoes off
- Two children decide they are going to lay down on the floor and wrestle
- Two different children decide they would like to sit behind me on the radiator
- One child needs a tissue and when I go get him one, everyone else decides that they need a tissue
- One child decides to color with the glue stick (we use the Elmer's glue sticks that start purple and turn clear when dry) on the table
- One child comes in 25 minutes late and then proceeds to loudly proclaim that she was late the rest of the storytime

What would you do in these situations? Do you have tried-and-true methods for focusing the kids in storytime? Is there anything in your "wiggles kit" that you find to be particularly helpful?