Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall Storytime: Cows

I was especially excited to do storytime this morning because I just got back from the 2012 ALSC Institute and I'm all jazzed up about early literacy and learning through play and brain development! Our theme this week was cows and here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a chicken from the book Cock-A-Doodle-Moo (and many of the other books/activities in storytime).

Book: Cock-A-Doodle-Moo by Bernard Most. This is a silly story about a cow trying to take over for rooster in waking up the farm. You could easily tie in an early literacy message about rhyming words and encourage parents to engage in wordplay with their kids. Making up nonsense rhyming words is a great way for kids to start to hear that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Fingerplay: This Little Cow.

(Point to or gently grasp each finger on your hand as you say this rhyme)

This little cow eats grass
This little cow eats hay
This little cow drinks water
This little cow runs away
And this little cow does nothing
But just lies down all day! (Lay your thumb across the palm of your hand)

[A session at the ALSC Institute has reminded me to include fingerplays in storytime because they are great for fine motor development!]

Felt Activity: Color cows. I passed out our cows of different colors and had children bring them up to me when I called their color. You can sing a song as you do this: "If you have a red cow, a red cow, a red cow. If you have a red cow, bring it to the farm!" I always try to do different tunes, but always always always the tune that pops into my head is "Do You Know the Muffin Man?".

Book: The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson. Karma Wilson is a master of rhymes, so I love using her books in storytime. Since this book talks about the different animals on a farm, that was a great transition into our next song...

Song: Old MacDonald Had a Farm with puppets. [ALSC Institute also reminded me that kids love and respond to puppets! It's easier for me to use them with a song than with a script, so this was a perfect activity for me!]

Book: Raising Cows on the Koebels' Farm by Alice K. Flanagan. I wanted to include a book with photographs that would show something about where milk comes from or how cows live on a farm and this book fit the bill! It's a little dated - I'm sure the machines and computers have changed - and I mostly paraphrased the text, but it has nice, clear pictures. We talked about what baby cows are called and how milk gets from the cow to our glass.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Play!: After our last song, I brought out the wooden barn pictured at the top of this post. Honestly, this is something I wouldn't have bothered with before attending the ALSC Institute. We include playtime at the end of our baby and toddler storytimes, but we have not been doing it regularly with our preschool storytimes. Sessions at the Institute reminded me that children learn through play, so I made sure to include some free play time at the end of our storytime. I let them play with the puppets I had used for the song as well as the plastic animal toys we have with our wooden barn. Next steps will be coming up with language to communicate to parents why play is important and why it's important for them to be engaged with their kids in storytime.

Craft: This is a picture of what was in our craft packet this week. We had materials and instructions to make a paper bag cow puppet. Kids can color the cow pieces and cut them out (cutting is a kindergarten readiness skill, so we always try to let them cut out their own pieces whenever possible!) and then glue them on to the bag. We also include a handout that has a book list on one side and early literacy and/or extension activities on the other side (pictured).

Alternate Books: If you don't like or don't have any of the above books, try some of the following:

Click Clack Moo: Cows Who Type by Doreen Cronin
The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming
Cows Going Past by Bruce Balan
Moo Who? by Margie Patalini
Sakes Alive! A Cattle Drive by Karma Wilson
There's a Cow in the Cabbage Patch by Stella Blackstone
Too Many Pears by Jackie French

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Fresh Look at Storytime

My storytime looked different this morning. Thanks to the 2012 ALSC Institute (and, in particular, sessions by Melissa Depper & Lori Romero on storytime training and evaluation and by Sarah Mackie on the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Ready to Read Corps), I'm thinking about storytime a little differently this morning. 

When I returned to work on Sunday, I spent some time checking out the Indiana Department of Education's Kindergarten Readiness Matrices. After hearing about how the Columbus Metropolitan Library took early literacy training to the streets in order to improve scores on Ohio's kindergarten readiness assessment, I wanted to see what skills we might reinforce in our storytimes. I'm not sure (yet!) what assessment our local schools use, but this gave me a great start to thinking critically about what activities we offer in our storytimes and what skills they are developing. 

As I prepared for this morning's storytime, I thought about transition between the elements and what activities and books might lead into our next activities. I remembered that fingerplays are important because they develop fine motor skills and puppets are important because they engage kids and encourage creative play. I included a nonfiction book to get at some of those Tier 2 words that kids are not hearing every day. I remembered that learning through play is vital, so I got some related toys ready to put out for the kids after storytime. 

As I did storytime, I noticed how some of the parents were involved and engaged and some spent the entire time on their cell phones. I'm sure this was the case before, but now I'm noticing and I'm going to change some things about my storytimes to try to engage parents more. 

I thought about places where I could insert early literacy messages. We include them in our take-home craft packets, but we could certainly do more. I thought about our Memory Box and whether switching to a Mystery Bag or being more purposeful about what items we're including in the Memory Box might benefit children more. 

All of that on my first program after the ALSC Institute and there's much more to come. I spent some time brainstorming about what training I need to offer my staff and we'll spend more time over the coming weeks thinking critically about what we're offering to our patrons and why. 

There will be another storytime post this week with the materials I used (we talked about cows this week!). As I wrote up that post, I kept coming across small elements I had changed because of the Institute or activities I included specifically because of Institute sessions and I knew I had to write this post first. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm at the #ALSC12 Institute

Today through Saturday, I'll be attending the 2012 ALSC National Institute in Indianapolis, IN! If you're in Indy with us, I hope to meet up with you (feel free to Tweet me!). If you're following along from home, be sure to check out the ALSC Blog where several attendees (myself included) will be blogging from the conference. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with the #alsc12 hashtag.

I'm super excited to connect with some ALSC folks I've only had the pleasure of knowing online and to attend some great sessions and bring back lots of new knowledge to share with my staff!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall Storytime: In the Jungle

This week, we did a jungle storytime and it was super fun! This is a great theme because there are TONS of books to choose from and you get to talk about animals a lot, which kids tend to love. Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a large plastic ant from the book Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme by Marianne Berkes.

Book: We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs. I explained that Tanzania is a country in Africa and asked the kids to help me identify the animals as we counted through the book. The book includes the number words 1-10 in Swahili, which might be fun to share with your kids.

Felt Story: The Parrot Tico Tango, adapted from the book The Parrot Tico Tango by Anna Witte. I love this book with its repetitive rhymes and great vocabulary words (mango! Date! Papaya!), but find the cumulative story too long to do a straight readaloud. So I shortened the text, keeping the repetitive "The parrot Tico Tango had a round, yellow mango". The kids loved the feathery parrot that Miss T made for me and the shortened script worked well. 

Book: Over in the Jungle: A Rainforest Rhyme by Marianne Berkes. This is another one with great vocabulary words. I love Jeanette Canyon's polymer clay illustrations. I also love any book you can sing, as that mixes things up a little bit.

Book: If You're Happy and You Know It: Jungle Edition by James Warhola. The kids had been sitting for awhile at this point, so I had them stand up and do the actions as I sang this book. I didn't do all the spreads, just a few to help them get their wiggles out. Their favorite was "If you're happy and you know it, give a ROAR!"

Rhyme: Five Little Parrots. My group was awesome and attentive today, so we did the whole rhyme, counting up and then back down.

Sorry they're blurry!

Felt Song: We're Going to the Jungle! I took this idea from Mel's Desk and printed out pictures of jungle animals (found using Google image search). We sang this song to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell":

We're going to the jungle!
We're going to the jungle!
I think we'll see a parrot there,
We're going to the jungle!

Once I had all the pictures up on the board, we talked about them a little bit. We talked about which animals were big and which were small, which animals had fur and which did not, and what the animals eat. (I made sure to do some research and have some notes with me so I could tell them correctly!)

Activity: Jungle Animal Box. This is a prop that Miss T made for our Toddler Time group. I passed out the fun foam animals and sang a little song. As I called each animal, the kids who had that animal came up and put their animal "in the jungle" (i.e. in the box...).

(To the tune of "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" because it's the only tune I can ever think of when I'm on the spot...!)

If you have a lion, a lion, a lion,
If you have a lion, put him in the jungle!

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Craft: This week's craft packets had a "P is for Parrot" craft, found via Pinterest. We included die-cut lowercase p's, a small piece of construction paper for a background, feathers, and a google eye.

Alternate Books:

If you don't have or don't like any of these books, consider using some of the following:

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
I'd Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylvianne Donnio
If I Were a Jungle Animal by Amanda Ellery
Jazzy in the Jungle by Lucy Cousins
Roar!: A Noisy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards
The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera (featuring jungle animals!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Grades 8 and up. Hyperion, May 2012. 343 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

I don't even want to tell you too much about the plot because it's twisty and I think the best way to experience it is to just dive on in.

Her code name is Verity. She's a British spy and she's been captured in Nazi-occupied France. She never thought she'd be the kind of person to give up information if she was captured, but that was before she was tortured. Now, she'll tell them anything for a glimmer of hope that she might survive. She's already given up eleven lines of code. And now she's writing down anything else she can think of that might be of interest. But will her secrets be enough to ensure her own survival?

Holy cats. So, I picked up this book because it's getting crazy positive buzz around the blogosphere. War stories aren't necessarily my thing, but I was intrigued by the aspect of women serving in the British military in WWII. And once I got into the story, I just never wanted to put the book down. The thing about this book is that the characters are SO REAL and it's written in such a way that the reader can EASILY believe that all of the things actually happened exactly how they are written. This is a story to get lost in with characters that I came to love and root for.

The story is steeped in historical detail, meticulously researched by the author (and yes, she provides an author's note and a selected bibliography). She took great pains to make sure the details she included were plausible, even if they weren't necessarily exactly true (she made up place names, etc.). It's an intricate story with a lot of characters and a lot of action as Verity reveals how she came to be on her particular mission through her friendship with Maddie, a woman pilot for the British RAF. Really, this is a war story and a historical story, but it's very much a story about an incredible friendship. Maddie and Verity are the kind of best friends who would actually die for each other. Maybe it's the kind of friendship that could only be forged in an intense situation like a war.

I'd hand it to fans of World War II fiction, people looking for strong heroines (this would make a great Women's History Month selection), and possibly fans of Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist, which is another intricate WWII story with a female protagonist (although The Explosionist is alternate history!). I'd also try it on fans of Flygirl by Sherri Smith, which is another story about a strong young lady serving her country by flying planes during WWII.

Check out more reviews at Book NutConfessions of a Bibliovore, Forever Young AdultParenthetical, The Reading Zone, and STACKED.

Code Name Verity is on shelves now!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fall Storytime: Mice Are Nice

Yaaaaay, it's storytime time again!!!!

Our first session of fall storytime started up this week and it was great to see all the kids again. I had some regulars and some new faces in my group - about 24 kids this week. We made some changes to our schedule this year. Typically, we offer one 6-8-week session in the fall and one 6-8-week session in the spring. We've decided this year to offer two 4-week sessions in the fall and one 4-week session in the spring (this might change, as we just hired a new children's librarian!). When storytime is in session, we offer the same theme at 4 different class times each week. You can see what we did last year in this recap post.

So, today was the first week of our Fall Session I and we talked about mice today! Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Memory Box: This week's Memory Box item was a silver bell from Mouse Mess

Book: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood. This is a perennial favorite and my kids loved it. The big pictures make this a great choice for storytime sharing and they always crack up at the picture of the strawberry wearing a disguise. 

Book: Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley. The rhythmic, rhyming text makes this one a great choice for storytime. 

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. My kids were starting to get a little squirmy, so I threw in a song and dance number here. 

Felt Story: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. Miss T in my department made this one. It's a story so familiar to many kids that it lends itself well to a felt story. It's also neat to look back at the end and look at ALL THE THINGS we gave Mouse! (A note: I typically do not memorize felt stories and keep a script nearby!)

Book: Mouse's First Fall by Lauren Thompson. There are lots of Mouse stories by Thompson, perfect for sharing in any season!

Prop Story: Lunch by Denise Fleming. Miss A, who planned this week's storytime, made this awesome prop story. You can see our tiny brown mouse finger puppet in the top left corner, poking out of the turnip. Each food item had a hole in it so I could show the kids how mouse ate right through. 

Song: Hickory, Dickory Dock. I used another mouse puppet to "run up the clock". After we had sung the song together, I passed out little laminated paper mice in different colors and sang "Hickory dickory dock, the red mouse went in the clock!" (going through all the colors we had). When I called their color, kids came up and put their mouse in the clock (can you see the panel that opens beneath the clock face?). Miss A made this clock out of a long pizza box (we had a bunch that were donated for a craft project last year). 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? 

Craft: We've done take-home crafts for our storytimes for a couple of years now. We include all the supplies for the craft and instructions on how to put it together. We do not include supplies like glue, crayons, scissors, etc. We also include a related book list and other suggestions for extension or early literacy activities and tips. If we have another handout or flier we want to include (ex. a flier for an upcoming early childhood fair), we include those, too. 

This week, we did M is for Mouse and included a die-cut M (paper, not fun foam) and all the supplies for turning their M into a Mouse!

Alternate Books/Ideas:

If you don't have or don't like any of the above books, consider using any of the following: 

Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh (Storytime Katie has a really cute Mouse Paint flannel story!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills. Grades 9 and up. Flux, October 2012. 288 pages. Reviewed from egalley provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

Gabe is finally embracing his B side. Born Elizabeth, Gabe has always known he was a boy. Now that graduation is looming, he's decided to live as Gabe full-time. His parents are having a hard time dealing with it, but he's got the support of his BFF (and, incidentally, his crush) Paige. Plus, there's his weekly radio show, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, where he connects with a community of listeners, despite the late air time. Not everyone in his small Minnesota town is supportive, though, and when people start to threaten his family and friends, Gabe starts to question whether being true to himself is worth what might happen to his loved ones.

This is a beautifully written story that shows the pain of being caught between two lives, of having to make decisions when there aren't really any choices to be had. It's a story of finding beauty and love where you'd never expect it. And it's a story about the B side in everyone.

This book wasn't even on my radar, but then I got an email from Kelly basically demanding that I request the title from Netgalley. She, however, neglected to mention the author. Guys, this book had me at Kristin Cronn-Miller. I was a big fan of Cronn-Miller's The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind and I was eager to pick up her next book. It doesn't disappoint.

First of all, the writing's gorgeous. Kristin Cronn-Miller is a lady who knows how to turn a phrase. She's also a master of voices. Not once did Gabe's guy voice ring false. He's an incredibly real character, complete with self-doubt (crippling, sometimes) and an incredibly determination.

Gabe tells his story through the lens of the music he's selecting and playing for his radio show. Music is a huge part of Gabe's identity, so it's fitting that his late-night radio show is one of the few places where Gabe can truly be himself. No one can read him over the air and he's free to experience his "new" identity with no holds barred. One of his first radio shows explores B sides, the often unplayed second sides of single record releases, and this is a theme that carries throughout the book.

This is a book for music lovers, a book for anyone who's had a secret, a book for anyone who's ready to embrace their B side (c'mon, we all have a B side). This is a book for anyone who's looking to fall into a great story.

Of course, teens interested in GLBT stories might have a special interest in this book and I'd hand it to fans of Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger and Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children will be on shelves October 8.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers. Grades 8+ National Geographic Children's Books, January 2012. 160 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

It's a bird... It's a plane... It's SUPERMAN!
He's faster than a speeding locomotive. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
But could Superman defeat the divide between races in America?

I found this book totally fascinating. I love history books that read like a story someone's telling me, but I am easily bored by a lot of history books (even when the concept sounds like something I'd be interested in). Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan is a book that I didn't want to put down. It was so well told and so fascinating that it definitely kept my interest and I can see it having high teen appeal.

In 1946, the Superman radio show broadcast a miniseries called The Clan of the Fiery Cross in which Superman takes on a white supremacist group modeled after the KKK.

 Rick Bowers weaves together two histories that would seem unrelated at first. He starts with the creators of Superman and explains how much the American people needed a superhero at the exact moment of Superman's creation. He goes into the rise of the comic book industry and Superman's phenomenal popularity. At the same time, Bowers details the rise of the Ku Klux Klan from its start as "a social club for a handful of men with time on their hands, a taste for the absurd, and a penchant for harmless mischief" (pg 57), through its rises and falls. Eventually the KKK would have thousands of members and carry out violent acts in the name of white supremacy.

Bowers weaves these two narratives together in alternating parts. The fact of the matter is that the actual collision between Superman and the KKK was actually a rather brief event in the book, but the real meat is what leads to that point. Creators of popular media for CHILDREN were actually taking a social stand in the name of educating kids about racism. In 1946. It's kind of amazing.

Back matter includes an index, a bibliography, and a list of sources. Rick Bowers ends the narrative with an afterword that explains what happened to the major players after the broadcast and public response. Bowers is the author of Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement, a finalist for the 2011 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award.

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan is on shelves now! And hey, it's Nonfiction Monday. Check out this week's roundup of nonfiction book reviews from around the Kidlitosphere at Books Together.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Audiobook Review: Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt, written and read by Jack Gantos. Grades 4-7. Macmillan Audio, 2011. 7 hours and 16 minutes. Review copy provided by my local library.

Norvelt is a dying town. Subsidized by Eleanor Roosevelt as part of the New Deal to help poor people get back on their feet, the original residents are reaching an age where it's not unusual to read their obituaries in the morning paper. And all those obituaries are written by the inimitable Mrs. Volkert, herself an original Norvelt resident. A sassy old lady with a penchant for history, the only thing slowing Mrs. Volkert down is the crippling arthritis in her hands. And that's where Jack comes in. In trouble for shooting one of his father's old guns from the army, Jack is grounded for the summer, except when Mrs. Volkert needs his help to type up obituaries. And when people start to get suspicious about the deaths of so many original Norvelt residents, Jack will have to help solve that mystery, too!

Blending fact and fiction into a semi-autobiographical novel about his own childhood (the town of Norvelt is real, Jack really suffered from terrible nosebleeds as a kid), Dead End in Norvelt, is a story about examining one's own past and learning from history and also figuring out how to embrace change. It's entirely fitting that a book with those themes would feature elements from Jack Gantos's own childhood, and I'd imagine that looking back at  his own past helped Gantos make the story even more meaningful.

Jack Gantos is a boy obsessed with story and with history. Part of the reason he bonds with Mrs. Volkert is that she insists on adding paragraphs to each obituary, loosely connecting some forgotten moment in history with the life of the person who has died. Another reason is that she lets him drive her car, but that's neither here nor there.

The town of Norvelt is so richly developed that it almost becomes another character in the novel. By the way, Norvelt is a real place and it really was built during the Depression to improve the lives of poor people. Norvelt, once a model community, is now a dead end. It's not growing and flourishing; the population dwindles as the residents die off one by one. But it's also a place with a rich history and that makes it valuable to those wise enough to know it.

I listened to the audio recording of this title and that was a great way to experience this book. Jack Gantos narrates, which fits the story perfectly since it's such a personal story. The reading is a little weird and quirky, but if you've ever heard Gantos speak, you know that's just how he is. The reading wasn't voiced, but it felt authentic. The audiobook includes an interview with Jack Gantos answering questions about the book and his writing.

Dead End in Norvelt was the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal and the 2012 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The story has a lot of humor and I think it will appeal to guy readers. I'd hand it to fans of the Grandma Dowdel books by Richard Peck because of this historical setting and the quirky old lady character. I'd also hand it to fans of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, which is another book set in a small town in the 1960s with a strong male character (although the tone of Schmidt's book is darker).

Check out more reviews at Reading Everywhere (audiobook review), Book Nut, GreenBean TeenQueen, and the Nerdy Book Club.

Dead End in Norvelt is on shelves now!