Saturday, May 27, 2017

Science Activity Pack: Soda Straw Rocket

Science Activity Packs are back at my library this year! For the full list of the activity packs we're offering, click here!

Soda Straw Rockets
Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

In this pack, we included:
And here are our extension ideas for this activity:
  • Blow into your straw to launch your rocket. Measure how far it goes and write it down. Can you make your rocket go farther? Can you make it land closer to you? 
  • Find something to aim at (not a person or a pet!) and see if you can hit it with your straw rocket. Did you miss? What adjustments should you make to try again? 
  • How does the angle you use affect the distance the rocket travels? Try launching at a different angle and see what happens. 
  • Can you design your own rocket to launch with your straw? Which design works better?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Science Activity Pack: Marshmallow Building

Science Activity Packs are back at my library this year! For the full list of the activity packs we're offering, click here!

Marshmallow Building
Source: This one's a repeat from 2014!

In this pack, we included:
This one is more of a free-form activity, so our "instruction sheet" really just has building challenges for things you can make with the marshmallows and toothpicks. It challenges them to try building different shapes and: 

Build the tallest structure you can build. Did it fall over? How can you change it to make it more sturdy? Try again!

Test your structure against the elements! How does it stand up against wind (fan) or earthquakes (shake table)?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Science Activity Pack: Germinating Seeds

Science Activity Packs are back at my library this year! For the full list of the activity packs we're offering, click here!

Germinating Seeds
Source: Fantastic Farm Enterprises

In this pack, we included:
  • About 10 sunflower seeds - I bought a big bag of bird food sunflower seeds and tested some first to make sure they would germinate. They did!
  • 2 paper towels
  • 1 instruction sheet
On the back of the activity instructions, I included the following extension ideas:

  • What do your seeds look like as they start to grow? Draw a picture of what your seeds look like when you start and check each day. When do they start to look different? How long do they take to germinate?
  •  The seeds in this kit are sunflower seeds. What foods do you eat that have seeds in them? Do they have many seeds or just a few seeds? If you try germinating those seeds the same way, what happens?

Science Activity Packs Revisited

A few years ago when the CSLP theme was about science, my staff and I developed Science Activity Packs as a summer reading prize. Instead of rewarding reading with plastic toys and junk, we elected to give kids the supplies to do a fun science activity at home.

We only used those one year because we have since been able to go to giving everyone a free book at the end of the summer.

BUT NOW THEY'RE BACK! This year, we've revamped a little bit and we're trying some along-the-way prizes in order to encourage families to make multiple visits to the library and to help encourage kids to stick with the program and complete the reading to earn their free book. (Side note: we're hoping for lots of newbies to our program this year since we're taking Summer Reading into lots of our neighborhoods this year. More on that later!)

We did recycle one of our ideas from 2014, but we have some brand new Science Activity Packs to share and I will be posting about them in the upcoming days (complete with the printable instructions, which I know lots of you have asked me about!). As I get those blog posts up, I will link here so you have the complete list.

2017 Science Activity Packs:
Of course, I do not mind if you borrow any of these ideas, but it's actually not super difficult to come up with your own Science Activity Packs.

And these can definitely be used as prizes or take-homes, but a lot of these activities may be fun to build programs around. If you're looking for some fun, cheap science activities to do with your students or the kids at your library, these may work for you (or be tweaked to work for you).

Have you tried Science Activity Packs at your library or something similar? I would love to know what ideas you have! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Be Gentle with Yourself, Librarian

Here is a picture of me doing storytime. Because it's funny.

It's okay if you're behind on your GoodReads goal (I am).

It's okay if you're behind on your RunKeeper goal (I am).

It's okay if you don't finish your Overdrive audiobook before it is automatically returned. You can check it out again and keep going (or move on to something else).

It's okay if your blogging has slowed down to a trickle. You will pick it back up when you want to.

It's okay if you didn't follow your meal plan every day this week. Everyone survived.

It's okay that you woke up at 6am, mind racing, because then you did some yoga to try to reduce that anxiety.

It's okay that you cried with frustration at part of your day on Wednesday because the next day was a new day and it was a better one.

Summer is coming. Be gentle with yourself, librarian.

Monday, May 1, 2017


In looking at my reading choices over the past couple of months, I have realized that I have GOT to add some more middle grade books into my reading diet! I've been reading lots of adult and teen books, which have been great, but I need to give myself a little push to pick up more middle grade and keep things balanced.

Here are a few of the books on my middle grade TBR stack!

So, who will join me for #MiddleGradeMay? 

Just read middle grade books during the month of May and post about them with the hashtag #middlegrademay. Do this anywhere you normally post (Twitter, Litsy, Instagram, whatever floats your boat!) and then check out the hashtag to find some more great middle grade suggestions!

It's worth mentioning that when I say "middle grade" I mean books that are aimed at kids in approximately 3rd-8th grade. At least that's what I'm concentrating on reading more of this month. What you choose to read is up to you!

Let's help motivate each other to pick up middle grade books this month! 

What middle grade books have YOU read and loved lately?? I will take all the suggestions I can get!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reading Wildly: Manga

Last month for Reading Wildly, my staff and I tackled manga. This is a genre that is SO popular, especially with our teens, and it's a genre that none of us naturally gravitate towards. That makes it a perfect genre to include in our Reading Wildly meetings!

We talked a little bit about why manga might be so popular with teens - it's often funny or wacky or strange, so something a little different than typical American books. Even the format feels like a rebellion or like something that many adults wouldn't understand or like or bother with. Emotions are often depicted as over the top (which can be exactly how something FEELS when it's happening to you). Manga series can last tens or hundreds of volumes, which gives readers plenty of fuel to keep going and engaging with the characters or plots they are enjoying.

Here, our teens know what they love and what they want in manga and anime. Most often they are the ones making suggestions to us on what to buy, rather than our staff giving them reader's advisory. But even if our RA skills aren't called for very often with this genre, it's great to pick up books, series, and genres that our teens and kids love so that they know that we honor what they value and we're willing to give it a chance.

I don't know that anyone in our group necessarily discovered a newfound love for manga, but I appreciate that they were all willing to give it a try! Here are the series we read from:

Next month is Reader's Choice as we gear up for the Summer Reading Club! What great books have you been reading lately? 

Friday, April 14, 2017


Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. Grades 5-8. Aladdin, March 2017. 277 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Middle grade GLBT for the win, guys. Don't miss this one.

(Mild spoilers below - be aware!)

At its heart, this is a story of Mattie, an eighth grade girl, dealing with first crushes and playing a role in the class play. It just so happens that one of those crushes is on a girl, Gemma the new student from England who is cast as Juliet in the class production of Romeo and Juliet. This is confusing for Mattie - does she like Gemma just a lot as a friend or is it more than that? Could Gemma feel the same way? What will her classmates and friends think? Does this mean Mattie's a lesbian? Can she still like boys, too?

All of these questions are explored in a middle-school-appropriate way. There's no action except a couple of kisses in the play, but Dee still manages to craft a swoony love story (remember how those middle school crushes felt?!). Mattie's friends and family are all supportive and positive as she starts to reveal her feelings, and there's a scene where Mattie's teacher calls out a kid for using "gay" as an insult, so it's a supportive class environment, too. This is maybe idealistic, but I was fine with that. Let's give kids and teachers some ideals to aspire to. And the story is not at all about Mattie dealing with fallout from coming out or anything, but a much more introspective look at having a first same-sex crush, which again felt realistic for the age of the characters.

I appreciated Dee's choice of having the class play be Romeo and Juliet - there are a lot of parallels here between Mattie's feelings and Romeo's feelings, which he thinks he can't share because of his family's rivalry. There are secrets and layers of trust in both stories.

Hand this to tweens who like reading love stories and/or tweens interested in theater.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Currently Reading #1

I'm in the middle of some great books right now!

Here's what's currently on my bedside table (so to speak):

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (Random House, 2016). I'm rereading this one for my book club and it is definitely holding up. I suggested this one for us because there has been so much in the news about immigrants and it's definitely a timely story. I love the characters and revisiting them has been nice. I'm excited to talk about this book with my book club ladies and see what everyone else thinks. 

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (Knopf, 2013), read by Rita Moreno (Random House Audio, 2013). I have been meaning to pick up Sonia Sotomayor's memoir for a long time and I am so glad that I finally started listening to it. The daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a young age, Sotomayor worked hard to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court judge. Her story is both interesting and inspiring as she aimed high and followed her dreams. The book is conversational in tone and reading about the early years of Sotomayor's life reminded me of my favorite Judy Blume books I read as a kid (a high compliment!). 

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich (Random House, 2016). I am about a third of the way through this beautifully written medical history book that weaves together a personal family history with the history of the first lobotomies and the story of Patient HM, a man who had parts of his brain removed to combat epilepsy and lost short-term memory. I am so intrigued to see what author Luke Dittrich will weave in next! 

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (Balzer + Bray, May 2017). I downloaded an e-galley of this title because I loved, loved, loved Dumplin' so much. I'm not too far into it yet (no lunchtime reading lately!), but liking it so far. There's some kind of brouhaha on GoodReads about people preemptively rating it based on being offended by the publisher's synopsis? But I'mma hold judgment until after I've read it. Like ya should. 

What are you currently reading??

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Leaders are Readers: A #PowerUp17 Book List

I had the GREAT pleasure of attending the first Power Up Conference in Leadership for Youth Services Managers and Staff at the University of Wisconsin - Madison last week. It was such an amazing two days and I am feeling really empowered (!!).

But the learning continues even now that I'm back home from conference. Not only will I be taking some time to read back over my notes, journal, and reflect, but I am busy tracking down all the great leadership and professional development books that were mentioned at the conference! Of course (since we're librarians), many of the presenters had book suggestions for us. And here's a compiled list. If you're looking to power up your leadership skills, start with these books!

Leaders are Readers: A #PowerUp17 Book List

**I did my best to write down as many book suggestions as I could, but of course I couldn't be in two sessions at once. If you remember any that I'm missing, please comment and I'll add them to the list!!**

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything in Business by Patrick Lencioni (Josey-Bass, 2012).

Being the Boss: 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011).

 Brene Brown - This author was mentioned, though not a specific book.
Daring Greatly (Avery, 2012).
The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazeldon, 2010).
Rising Strong (Spiegel & Grau, 2015).

Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block (Berret-Koehler, 2008).

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson et. al. (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Books, 2009).

Effective Difficult Conversations by Catherine Soehner and Ann Darling (ALA Editions, 2017).

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James Collins (HarperBusiness, 2001).

It's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace by Anne Kreamer (Random House, 2011).

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2014).

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandburg (Knopf, 2013).

Library 2020: Today's Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow's Library ed. by Joseph Janes (Scarecrow Press, 2013).

Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer (Harper, 2006).

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2009).

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press, 2007).

**What books did I miss? Please tell me in comments and I'll update!!**