Monday, October 20, 2014

That is a GREAT Idea (Puppet Show in the Library)

Friends, I am mildly uncomfortable with puppets at best. Which is why I am so lucky to have staff members who put on an AWESOME puppet show over the kids' Fall Break last week!

I grabbed some video of the last story Mr. S and Ms. T did: a puppet adaptation of That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems.

Before they told the story using the puppets, Mr. S read the book to the group so that they would know how the story goes and when to chime in with their chorus. The little things you can see the kids holding are chick stick puppets. I believe they blew up the chicks from the book and copied them on card stock, then glued them to craft sticks. Before they retold the story with puppets, Mr. S passed out a stick puppet to each child.

Obviously, you can see that they're having a ton of fun! And they're also learning, of course. Getting kids involved in retelling a story is a great way to build narrative skills, one of six early literacy skills that help children get ready to read. Providing the stick puppets encourages kids to talk (one of five practices that helps build early literacy skills), not only when they engage in helping tell the story, but I could hear them continuing to talk about the story as they filed out of the room after the show.

I hope you enjoy the show!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Read All the Things: What the Newbery Committee Does

Image by Stuart Miles, from
I have not been around on this blog much lately. And that is partly because work has been crazybusy with an exponential increase in our school-age outreach, but it's also because I am serving on the 2015 Newbery Committee and that, my friends, is a big commitment.

Now, if you are like me before I started my Newbery endeavor this year, you may have a vague idea of how the Newbery Medal is awarded, but you're not really sure of the specifics. (If you are like my boyfriend's father, you may even think that the Newbery Medal is awarded to the Committee member who reads the most books. This is not true. But it's awfully cute.)

I'm here to hopefully shed some light about how the Newbery Committee works.

The Newbery Committee consists of 15 members, including a chair. To serve on the Newbery Committee, one must be a member of ALSC. Half of the committee members are elected in the ALA annual elections; the other half of the committee members are appointed. SLJ had a great article about what to do if you're interested in serving on the Newbery or Caldecott Committee, so check that out if you're so inclined.

Much about my particular Newbery Committee's process is confidential. I can't post about the books I'm reading this year. I can't tell you how many books were suggested or nominated by our committee. I can't repeat anything that committee members say.

BUT the Newbery Committee manual is NOT confidential! Everything I'm posting about today can be found in that manual. (But c'mon, who is actually going to click through and read it?!)

Okay, first of all, there are specific criteria for the Newbery Medal.

And nowhere in the criteria does it say that the book must be known and beloved by children and teachers and librarians. The age range to be considered is from 0-14. Nowhere does it say that Newbery Medal-winning books must ALL be appropriate for fourth graders (no matter how much teachers want to assign kids to read a Newbery book!).

We are looking for the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".

There are 15 people on the committee. Have you ever tried to get 15 people to agree about something? Every committee member comes to this work with different experiences and different tastes and a different reading history. This is a GREAT thing. That is what makes this award mean something. It's not (necessarily!) Abby's Favorite Book of the Year. Nobody cares about that (except Abby). This will be the book that the entire committee decided was the most distinguished this year. And it's a lot of work. But it means something and that makes it worth it.

So, what has the Newbery Committee been doing all year? 

We have been reading everything we can get our hands on. Publishers have sent us books for consideration. We have also been frequent library patrons, checking out books that haven't been sent to us. We've been reading deeply, thinking critically about each title, taking copious notes.

And we have been suggesting titles. As you can (but probably won't) read in the John Newbery Award Committee Manual, the committee chair solicits suggestions from committee members on a regular basis (usually monthly). These suggestions are anonymous. We can suggest as many titles as we want or we can suggest no titles in a particular month. Committee members read all suggested titles. We can suggest something that someone has already suggested - this may help us gauge support for a particular title.

So, we read everything we can get our hands on and this includes books that have been suggested.

And then in October (that is now), committee members start nominating books. Nominated books are the books we will discuss at the Midwinter Meeting (along with any late-published suggestions). Each committee member nominates SEVEN BOOKS and we do it in three rounds - 3 nominations in October, 2 in November, and 2 in December. Seven books! That's it! From the myriad of books published (we read as many as we possibly can), we each get to nominate seven books.

More than one committee member can nominate the same book, but each committee member nominates seven distinct titles. So, ostensibly, we could have as many as 105 books (if every member nominated completely distinct titles, more with late-published suggestions!) or as few as 7 titles (if every member happened to nominate the exact same books).

And I can never be more specific because the number of nominated titles is confidential forever!!! 

And what will the Newbery Committee do at the Midwinter Meeting? 

The ALA Midwinter Meeting is usually held in mid- to late January.

We are scheduled to meet all day on Friday and Saturday (literally our meeting rooms are booked from 8am-10pm) and then Sunday morning. Will will discuss the books that have been nominated. As I learned at the 2014 Morris Seminar, committees often follow the Cooperative Children's Book Center's Discussion Guidelines, calling for positives about the book in question to be discussed first and then concerns.

After our discussion, we will take a vote. I'm gonna quote directly from the manual here about balloting:
  • Committee members list first, second, and third place votes for the award on a selection ballot.
  • In tabulating ballot results, the tellers assign four points to each first place vote, three points to each second place vote, and two points to each third place vote.
  • There is a formula to determine the winner. A book must receive at least 8 first choices at four points per vote for a total of at least 32 points, and it must have an 8 point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points.
After the vote, we may have a winner or we may not. If not, we will re-ballot according to however our committee decides to.

I can never reveal any information about how the voting went, how many ballots were held, the points distribution. That is all strictly confidential.

But on the Monday of the ALA Midwinter Meeting (this year, it'll be Monday, February 2), the Newbery winner will be announced as part of the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements.

And that's what I've been up to all year and what I'll be up to until February.

Do you have questions about the Newbery Medal? Ask away and I'll try to answer! (Just don't ask me what I've been reading this year!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What to Read at Baby Storytime #6: Diverse Books

When I look for baby storytime books, I look for books that are fairly short (or can be pretty easily shortened), books that have some kind of interactive element (counting together, an action we can all do together, a refrain that everyone can repeat with me), and/or books that I can sing. One of my goals in baby storytime is to expose kids and parents to a range of different books and to model how to read to babies.

Finding books that fulfill these criteria can be hard enough, but looking for diverse titles (titles featuring people of color, titles set in other countries, titles written or illustrated by people of color) makes the task this much harder. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite diverse titles to use in baby storytime!

Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Amy C√≥rdova (Tricycle Press, 2010). This bouncy readaloud features colorful illustrations of babies on parade and includes some Spanish words in the text.

Hush!: A Thai Lullaby by Minfing Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade (Scholastic, 1996). This sweet, quiet story has a nice rhythm to it as a mother tries to make things quiet for her little one to sleep. I don't read the whole thing, but a few of the animal spreads and then skip to the end. This is a fun one for making animal sounds, too.

Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007). The rhythm and sounds in this book are so fun! Get ready to scat and make sure you read this one through before you try it with a group. ;)

A Kiss Means I Love You by Katherine Madeline Allen, photographs by Eric Futran (Albert Whitman & Co, 2012). This book features large photographs of kids of all colors exploring common gestures and what they mean. A kiss, a wave, a frown... your families can do these gestures with you as you read, and most babies love to look at pictures of children.

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuin (Charlesbridge, 2014). Young children are often very interested in books that reflect what they do each day, which makes this book a great choice for baby storytime. As you read about Leo's storytime experience, talk about the activities that your baby storytimers are doing, too.

Look at the Baby by Kelly Johnson (Henry Holt, 2002). Here's another book featuring diverse baby faces, something my baby storytimers are always into!

Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez (Henry Holt, 2013). Here you'll find the familiar song Mary Had a Little Lamb, set in Peru with a llama. Invite your storytime grown-ups to sing along.

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). This Old MacDonald book is set in Africa and features African animals. This is a great book for singing, learning some new words, and practicing some different animal sounds.

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora (Putnam Juvenile, 2002). In this fun book, we do peekaboo on every page as we meet different members of the family. This is a great title for encouraging patron interaction - babies love to peekaboo.

Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Simon & Schuster, 2006). I love the bouncing, rhythmic text of this book, which also features many things babies do every day. Parents always laugh along at the familiar behaviors they see illustrated in this book.

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by John Parra (Chronicle Books, 2013). I definitely shorten the text of this book, reading about one or two shapes. Make this one interactive by handing out foam shapes or shape toys to your listeners so they can explore the shapes close-up while you read about them.

These are some of my favorite diverse titles for baby storytime. WHAT AM I MISSING?? Please add your favorites in the comments!

You also may be interested in the following previously posted lists of books I love for baby storytime (a few are repeated here!):

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall into a Good Storytime at the ALSC Blog

Friends, today I have some ideas and resources for fall-themed storytimes (since OMG it's already October how did that happen?????). Click on over to the ALSC Blog to check it out, and I'd love to hear your favorite fall books and activities for storytime!

Here's a little preview:

Everyone loves FALL IS NOT EASY!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Power of the Reread

Photo by Indi
I used to be someone who eschewed the reread. I don't have time to reread when there are more great books being published than I can ever get to already! I would protest.

Which is kind of weird since I was a huge rereader as a child. I read the books on my bookshelf over and over again. I loved to visit my literary friends: Sally J. Freedman, Jerusha Abbott, Anastasia Krupnik, Johnny Tremain, Ramona Quimby, and the rest. But somewhere along the line - probably in college when I started keeping track of what books I was reading - I gave up rereading.

I had no idea what I was really missing.

This year, through my work on the Newbery Committee, I have discovered the power of the reread. I have discovered how the reread allows you to pick up on the many layers of a story, to notice details you may have missed the first time around, to solidify your opinion (positive or negative) about a book and pick up details to support that opinion.

So, I hereby give you permission to reread.

Of course, you don't need my permission for that. But just in case you, too, were stuck in the mindset that there are too many great books to read to "waste time" rereading something you've already read... I give you permission to change your mind.

Reread books you love. Reread books that you didn't like but everyone else seems to love (take a little break first; read some other books in between). Listen to audiobooks of books you've enjoyed.

And then go talk to a friend or colleague who's also read those books because conversations about books are also amazing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reading Wildly: Animal Fantasy

This month, for Reading Wildly we've changed things up a little bit. Our genre this month was Animal Fantasy (i.e. books where animals are the characters, animals talk, etc.). But we've had SO MANY booktalking programs scheduled that I know people may be reading all they can just to keep up with their assigned programs. So we read Animal Fantasy OR I asked each staff member to share a booktalk that they had done for a group or that they were planning on doing for a group. 

Yes, we want to be reading widely in a variety of genres to keep our reader's advisory skills sharp, but sharing booktalks with each other also helps everyone on my staff stay abreast of books they may want to take for booktalks. When I put the question of keeping our scheduled genres or lifting genre requirements to my staff, I did have some that liked the genre requirements. They push us all out of our comfort zone now and then. But I didn't want to overwhelm everyone with additional out-of-work reading when I know they're working hard to prep for programs. We made the genre requirement optional and I'll probably keep it optional at least through the end of 2014.

So, what did we read this month? 

Animal Fantasy:

Other Genres:

As you can see, some of the books my staff shared this month were easy readers and picture books. Normally, I ask that the books shared be chapter books, graphic novels, or nonfiction, but we have been doing some booktalks for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. As our programming continues to expand, we'll keep our readers' advisory training flexible to make it as relevant and useful as possible! 

Next month, our genre is general fantasy, including high fantasy, supernatural, etc. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reading Wildly: Graphic Novels

I am super delayed in posting this, but we have been super busy with a billion new booktalking outreach programs! Last month, my staff met to discuss graphic novels. Although graphic novels are always an option for everyone to read for our Reading Wildly meetings, my staff members seldom self-select them, so they chose to have graphic novels as one of our genres this year.

We started by discussing the article Using Graphic Novels with Children & Teens from Scholastic's website. This article suggests some great graphic novels, so it gave everyone a place to start if they weren't as familiar with this genre. It also gives examples of how teachers have used graphic novels in curriculum with success. Lots of kids love graphic novels and they're an easy sell in booktalking programs. Bringing a graphic novel along on booktalks helps to balance what you're bringing and it validates for kids and teachers that we do consider this "real reading"!

And here's what we read: 

As you can see, we read graphic novels from many different genres - realistic fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction...! 

For our next Reading Wildly meeting (which has already happened... I'm so behind!), we're reading Animal Fantasy. However, since we have all been working really hard on prepping for our booktalking programs, I've made the genre requirement optional. More on that next month! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Storytime: All About Me

Last week, a preschool class came to the library for an All About Me storytime. All About Me is one of those themes that can be hard to pinpoint because it can include a LOT of things. When I'm planning an All About Me storytime, I tend to include a book along the lines of I-can-do-it or I-like-myself, a book about body parts, and a book about family. Then I add related stretchers as I can. You might also think about different homes, likes/dislikes, pets, favorites (favorite color, etc.), and anything else that kids might share with a new friend or a new teacher.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - This is our standard opener and signals to the kids that it's time to start storytime. In this song, they practice saying hello to their new friend (me!). It also gives them a chance to move their hands, feet, and other body parts to get out some wiggles so they're ready to sit and listen. 

Mail: I love to start an All About Me storytime with some mail to the kids. I reused a manilla envelope and printed a simple letter to the kids welcoming them to the library and explaining that we were going to share stories and songs all about me. Before I got the letter out, I went through each line of the address with them. This reinforces the concept that print is used in lots of different ways. And we talked about the name of our street, the name of our town, and the name of our state. I got this idea from Storytime Katie, who saw it in a post from Amanda Struckmeyer on Wisconsin's Youth Services Shout-Out collaborative blog). 

Felt Story: Mr. Pine's Purple House by Leonard Kessler. This story of a man who tries to make his house distinctive from his neighbors is a great introduction to talking about our own houses. It's also a great story for emphasizing the concepts of same and different. After Mr. Pine makes a change to his house, I ask the kids if his house is the same or different. I ask again after all the neighbors have followed suit and the houses look alike again. 

Book: I Can Do It, Too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. This book uses simple, rhyming text to introduce many things that young children can do - get dressed, help bake a cake, read books with their grandparents, etc. As I read this book, I asked the kids if they did some of the things in this book, too. 

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. The kids were pretty squirrelly at this point, so we needed to get up and move a little bit. This is a familiar song and the kids were proud that they knew it and they could do the motions along with me. It also helped introduce body parts, which tied into our next story. 

Book: We've All Got Belly Buttons by David Martin, illustrated by Randy Cecil. This brightly illustrated book shows different animal body parts (ears, neck, hands, etc.) and encourages children to move along as you read it. The interaction helps keep the kids' attention and the text reinforces the vocabulary for different body parts. 

Book: The Family Book by Todd Parr. Learning about each other's families is definitely something you do when you meet new friends. I love Todd Parr's book for this because it has silly, colorful illustrations and it's very inclusive. Without making a huge deal, the book lets kids know that some families are the same color and some families are different colors, some families have two moms or two dads and some families have just one parent. The text always comes back to something all families have in common, for instance all families help each other be strong. 

Felt Activity: Color Library Cards. Since it's National Library Card Sign-Up Month and since this was a group coming into the library, I brought out these felt library cards for a fun ending activity. I passed out the pieces and as I called each color, children came and put their card up on the board. This activity not only reinforces color concepts, it helps kids practice following directions and interacting with an adult who is not in their family (or their teacher, in this case). 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? - This is our standard closing song and a signal to the kids that storytime is over and it's time for them to pay attention to teacher and find out what to do next. 

Alternate Ideas: If you don't like or don't have any of the books I used, here are some sources for more ideas: 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preschool Lab: Shapes

This was our first week back for Preschool Explorers and I started us off with a really easy and fun theme: shapes! Shapes probably doesn't necessarily fit within science themes, BUT it definitely fits into math (the M in STEM!), and learning shapes is great for letter recognition later. Also, I got a great set of foam shapes and I wanted to put them to use!


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello - This is our standard opener; it signals to the kids that we're ready to start storytime.

Book: Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong. This picture book examines three different shapes: circle, square, and rectangle. In each spread, rhyming text talks about where we might find these shapes in the world around us. The illustrations feature a Chinese girl and her family and friends, so we see many Chinese items in the illustrations. Circles are found in mooncakes and lanterns, squares are found in a name chop (name stamp) and tofu cakes, etc. 

Felt: Shape name cards. We have a set with the names of shapes ("circle", "diamond", "oval", etc.), felt shapes, and then objects of different shapes. I put all the words up on the board and then as I brought each felt shape out, asked the children to name the shape and then put it with the appropriate word. This activity helps reinforce shape vocabulary (and possibly introduce new vocabulary like "oval") and it shows children that printed words have meaning. 

Song: The Shape Shake by CJ (you can find it on his album "Move It!") I was introduced to this song by one of my staff members who used to be a Kindergarten teacher. We do lots of shaking and then use our hands to draw shapes in the air. It's a great movement song and it introduces kids to concepts like "horizontal line" and "vertical line", as well as practicing shapes. 

Book: Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier. Simple, rhyming text points out circles ("dots") that are everywhere we look! I chose this book because it tied in nicely with our shape hunt station (more info below!). 

Book: Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert. This book introduces kids to many different shapes! Cutaway illustrations reveal different animals made up of shapes. Text simply labels each animal and as I turned the pages, I asked the kids what shapes they saw. This book also introduces octagon (8 sides) and hexagon (6 sides), and when we got to those shapes I counted the sides with the kids. Great new vocabulary!

Felt: Color shapes. We have a set of different objects in different shapes (i.e. a circle clock, a rectangle door, and oval Easter egg) and I passed out a shape to each kid and then sang a little song and had the kids bring up their shape when it was called. This is a great activity for reinforcing the vocabulary we've learned and for practicing following instructions and listening carefully. 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? - Our standard closing song tells kids that the storytime portion of our program is over. Time to explore stations!


I got some GREAT station ideas from this article in Teaching Young Children: Discovering Shapes and Space in Preschool.

Foam Shapes. I received this set of foam shapes and used them as a station. Kids could build pictures with our foam shapes. They might be similar to some of the pictures in the book Color Zoo or they might be different. We had a lot of fun abstract pictures. Handling the shapes and talking about what shapes we has was a great activity for reinforcing the vocabulary we had learned. 

Pipe Cleaner Shapes. At this station, children were encouraged to make different shapes with the pipe cleaners. Constructing shapes helps children learn what makes a different shape. For example, a triangle has three sides, a square has four sides that are all the same length. Kids made many different geometric shapes and even some letter and number shapes!

Shape Hunt. I made this simple shape hunt for kids and parents to do together. Here's a copy of it; I just made it in MS Word with the shape drawing tool. Kids LOVED this station. I think having the clipboards made it seem very official. I left space on there for some writing, but most of the kids simply checked off each shape as they found it. 

Shape Toys & Felt Board: We had purchased a shape sorting set from Lakeshore Learning and I put that out. I also put out our felt shape pieces on the board for kids to play with. 

This was a fun theme and pretty easy to put together. There are LOTS of shape books, so if you don't like or don't have any of the ones I mentioned here, there are plenty you can substitute. The shapes that kids had the most trouble with at our session were rectangles (they kept calling them "squares") and ovals (they kept calling them "circles"), so I was glad I had included those shapes! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Flannel Friday: Library Card Sign Up Month

Here's a really simple and fun idea to use during September for Library Card Sign Up Month: color library cards!

Miss T made these felt library cards by making color copies of our library card on cardstock. Then she laminated them, cut them out and glued them to different colors of felt. She added a little velcro on the back to help them stick since the cardstock makes them a little heavier than the typical felt. If you have library cards to spare, you could also just glue your library card onto colored felt, especially if you're not making a set of 30. ;) 

We use a lot of these color sets by passing them out to children (we typically have less than 30 children in each storytime) and then having them bring them up to the felt board when we call their color. This not only reinforces color concepts, but it helps kids practice following instructions and it helps them get used to interacting with an adult who is not in their family. 

If you have a larger group, you could certainly use these cards in different ways. Maybe a five little... rhyme, maybe placing each card by a word label for each color. 

These are especially great for outreach storytimes because it allows us to end by letting the kids know that they can get a free library card, too! And, of course, they're great to use during Library Card Sign Up Month. Do your patrons know that children can get library cards, too?

Bridget at What is Bridget Reading? has the Flannel Friday roundup this week, so click on through to see what other flannels everyone's using!