Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year's Resolutions

While 2013 was a pretty good year for me professionally, I always feel like I can strive to be better. Whether that means learning a new skill or trying a new program, this coming year I resolve to do the following:

1. Learn the ukulele for storytimes: At ALA Annual in Chicago this year on a whim, I decided to stop in to the Guerrilla Storytime session in the Uncommons. Boy, was that one of the best decisions I made at the conference! Structured as a highly informal, participatory program attendees spent the hour sharing their favorite rhymes, songs, ways to deal with talkative parents, etc. I could barely keep up with my note-taking! If you ever find yourself at a conference that is offering Guerrilla Storytime, I highly recommend stopping in to see what all the fuss is about.

During the session, Amy from The Show Me Librarian was kind enough to bring her ukulele and show off her skills. She mentioned that with just a few chords you would be able to play a plethora of storytime songs.

If you are also interested in learning the ukulele here are some helpful links:

Miss Mary Liberry
Music and Libraries: ALSC Blog
Simply Storytimes
Storytime Songs: Chords

2. Make a sensory blanket for Lapsit Storytime: I currently lead a lapsit storytime for ages birth to 10 months. I like to set out a comforter-type blanket for the babies to crawl around on. While surfing storytime blogs, I stumbled across this post about sensory blankets.

From: theshowmelibrarian.blogspot.com

It sounds incredibly easy: just take a fleece blanket and sew on some patches of different textured fabric. It creates both visual and tactile interest for babies! 

3. Create some more technology-based programs: When I started my current job a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted to do some techie-based programs for older kids/teens and I thought I would be on the cutting edge of it all. Now, I can hardly keep up! I started out with smaller programs such as Smash Brothers/Mario Kart Tournaments and worked my way up to a Minecraft Build-Off. Now, I'm finding that teens and tweens have moved on to more advanced things such as coding, robotics, and app building. Here are some places I've found extremely helpful for emerging technologies:

4. Make more flannels: Flannel Friday always makes me feel like a slacker when it comes to using/making felt stories. This year, I resolve to make some of my own and use them in my storytimes.

5. Use more props in storytime: Katie Salo has a great post on the ALSC Blog about storytime props. So far, I've made and used a song cube with varying degrees of success. I also have a listening dust box that I use when I do preschool storytime. I'd like to try different types of props this year to make my storytimes more interesting.

6. Blog more regularly: This has been a busy year for me professionally, so I haven't been able to be as up-to-date with my blog posts as I like.

7. Relax!: I am a perfectionist by fault and it often shows in both my work and life. I worry too much about the future and what could happen. This year, I will try to focus on the present and take things one step at a time.

What are your new year's resolutions?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All Aboard the Polar Express!

My library has a tradition that every December we host a Polar Express family program. Over the years, it's grown in popularity so much that we are doing 4 different sessions and we still have a 2 page waiting list! Originally done by my coworker (who retired at the end of this year) I helped her out this year and will be fully taking over the program next December.

The program is open to all ages and runs a little over an hour (depending on how quickly we get through everything) beginning at 7:00 p.m. (the library closes at 9:00 p.m.). Due to space constraints and craft item limitations, we take roughly up to 50 kids per program. Patrons must register ahead of time and check in at the start of the program to make sure they are on the list. It's that popular in my town!

As the families check in, they set their coats down onto a chair in the front of the room and then head to the back to complete our crafts. This gives latecomers (a frequent issue at my library) a chance to arrive without interruption. We give them roughly 20 minutes to complete 2-3 crafts.**

**I should mention that for this program we have 2 staff members and ask for about 4 teen "elf" volunteers to help with the crafts and changing over the tables. One staff member dresses up like a conductor and the other wears pajamas, just like in the book "The Polar Express". The teen volunteers usually wear varying degrees of elf-wear, based on their comfort level.

We try to do different crafts every year. Though my coworker always liked to do some sort of hat with the kids' names on them and some sort of ornament. This year, we did 3 different crafts:

1. Elf Hats:
- Red and green paper head bands
- Pre-cut elf ears (cut from manila file folders)
- Pre-cut triangles for the elf hats
- Red and green or other festive pom poms
- Makers/crayons
- Staplers

Assemble with staples and decorate as desired.

2. Elf Ornaments
- Ornament kits from Oriental Trading (such as this one)
- Foam glue (found at my local craft store or online)
- Sharpie markers to let families personalize their ornament

Assemble according to directions.

3. Christmas Countdown Paper Chain
- Instruction/coloring sheet
- Christmas Tree Chain
- Red and white mints
- Glue sticks to glue mints to paper

Create a paper chain with number of links equaling the number of days until Christmas. Color the instruction sheet and glue mints on. Attach chain to the bottom of the sheet. It should look something like this:

After about 20 minutes, we need to get everyone into the seats in the front of the room to read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. One staff member leads the kids around the room in a train/conga line while saying some sort of train rhyme, such as "I'm a Little Choo Choo Train" which goes like this:

I'm a little choo choo train
Chugging down the track
First I'm going forward
Now I'm going back
Now my bell is ringing (make ringing noise)
Hear my whistle blow (make toot toot sound)
What a lot of noise I make
Everywhere I go!

(Repeat until you have most/all kids chugging along with you.)

Then we have the families all gather at the front of the room in the chairs and play "Conductor Says" with the kids. This is exactly like "Simon Says". Whoever is dressed like the conductor can make up silly commands as long as they include, "Conductor says have a seat with your parents" and "Conductor says parents turn off cell phones and other electronic devices!" (We added the last part after a dad spent the entirety of the story on his iPad! In the dark!)

Then the person wearing the pajamas usually reads the story. We have a Power Point version with the illustrations that we project on the big screen in the meeting room. We turn out the lights to create a feeling of Christmas ambiance.

During the story, our teen volunteers clear all of the craft items off of the tables and set up cookie decorating items on them.

After the story, we have the kids get their wiggles out with some songs. We start with a version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" called "Hat, Whiskers, Belt, and Boots" in honor of Santa:

Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots
Belt and boots
Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots
Belt and boots
Twinkling eyes and a little cherry nose
Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots
Belt and boots!

Then we do a couple of more fun songs, such as "The Reindeer Pokey", "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer", or "Santa Clause is Coming to Town".

While we are singing, the teen volunteers and the person wearing pajamas open up the kitchen which has sugar cookies set out on plates and hot cocoa.

After the songs, the Conductor mentions that she thinks she hears a knock on the door. She goes over to the door to the chair/table storage area and out walks Santa! (Note: we purchased a Santa suit for the library years ago and have gotten a lot of use out of it! We have a couple of older male connections who are good at personifying Santa and are generous enough to volunteer their time.)

While Santa is making his entrance, one person brings out an armchair hiding in the coat closet for Santa to sit in. They also bring out a big bag with gift boxes. These are small favor boxes that we make ahead of time which have some tissue paper and a silver bell inside.

After Santa gets settled in, we explain to the families that we will split them up alphabetically by family last name (which we create and Excel sheet of ahead of time). The first half will visit with Santa as we call them by name. The second half will go get some hot cocoa and a cookie to decorate while they wait and then we switch. The kids get a quick visit with Santa and a box with the bell in it just like the boy in the book! The elf hat craft was a genius idea by my coworker because the kids put their names on them so Santa can call them by name!

That's it! Then we clean up and gear up to do the entire thing again the next night!

Do you do a similar program at your library? What activities do you include?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pajama Storytime - Snowmen

Tonight was my very first evening storytime. While I've been doing regular storytimes for awhile now, this was very new territory for me. At my library, we have a once a month evening storytime from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. It's a drop-in storytime so we never know how many to expect. Here's what I ended up doing:

The Setup:

I set out 2 big blankets in the middle of the room and place about a dozen puppets around the perimeter to make things cozier. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas and bring pillows to the storytime. Of course, the librarian wears pajamas too! It's a good excuse to invest in some fun pajama sets. Tonight I wore pink monkey pajamas and sock monkey slippers. I had tried to find some winter-themed pajamas but that turned into a fiasco that I'll spare you the details of.

The Plan:

Opening: "The More We Get Together" (with sign language) - see my post about the song and which signs I use here.

Listening Rhyme: "Ten Little Fingers"

I have ten little fingers (hold up 10 fingers)
And they all belong to me (point to yourself)
I can make them do things (wiggle fingers)
Would you like to see? (point out to audience)

I can shut them up tight (make 2 fists)
I can open them wide (spread fingers wide)
I can put them together (put fingers together)
And I can make them all hide (hide hands behind back)

I can hold them up high (stretch arms high)
And I can hold them down low (bend over and touch ground)
I can fold them together (fold hands together)
And hold them just so. (put hands in lap)

Book: The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler

Song/Rhyme: "I'm a Great Big Snowman" 
(to the tune: I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a great big snowman (hold arms out to sides)
Round and fat (make arms look round)
Here is my scarf (touch neck)
And here is my hat (touch head)
But when the sun gets warmer (hold arms above head to make a sun)
I get flat (clap on flat)
I melt into a puddle, just like that! ("melt" down to the floor)

Book: Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

Song Cube: I write about my song cube here. Tonight's winning tune was "Five Green and Speckled Frogs".

Book: Flip's Snowman by Petr Horacek

Snack/Song: Here is where were have some sort of snack. Tonight it was apple juice and holiday colored cookies. Because I am all about transitions, I made up a snack song:

(to the tune: If You're Happy and You Know It)

If you're ready for a snack, clap your hands
If you're ready for a snack, clap your hands
If you're ready for a treat, then get up on your feet (stand up)
If you're ready for a snack, clap your hands!

Bedtime Book: I read this while they are eating their snacks. Tonight we read Snowbaby Could Not Sleep by Kara LaReau

Song: "Twinkle Twinkle" (with star wands) - I found some silver star wands though a party supply website and ordered 20 of them for storytime. I pass them out and we sing the song while waving them in the air.

**This is where I improvised a bit. I always bring extra books, but I brought more than usual because I wasn't sure what the ages of the children in tonight's storytime would be. I ended up having kids as young as 1 and as old as about 6 or 7. They weren't quite done with their snacks yet, so I pulled another short book out of my stack and read it. I chose Snow Happy by Patricia Hubbell which is a nice, short participatory story.**

Closing: "Tickle the Clouds"

Tickle the clouds (reach high and "tickle" the air)
Tickle your toes (reach low and tickle toes)
Turn around
And tickle your nose
Reach down low
And reach up high
Storytime's over -
Wave goodbye!

How It Went:

As you've read I had to improvise a bit, but overall I thought it went pretty well for my first one! I had a small, quiet group (I tried to encourage the parents to participate, but no dice) of kids that seemed to have fun. I even got a hug and a kiss from a child I had just met tonight!

Do you do evening/bedtime storytimes? What do you do in yours?