This month, we started back up with our visits to the local YMCA Afterschool program. The Y program meets at each of our nine public elementary schools and provides afterschool care for K-4th graders in groups ranging from 20-60 kids. This will be our third year visiting them and I've written about it before at the ALSC Blog here and here. I want to post throughout the year and let you know what books we're sharing with the kids and how they're going.
I have to get sappy for a minute here and tell you that I love these visits. I love the kids and site leaders that we see each month. I got to work a table for the library at the annual Lights On Afterschool program and was happily greeted by many of the site staff, one of whom told me that her kids were so excited that I'm going to be visiting again next week. It really made me feel good that they value this partnership so much. And on a more personal note, I was a kid who had to go to the YMCA Afterschool program in elementary school. It was probably good for me, but I actually disliked it quite a bit. I was shy and the counselors' attempts to get the other girls to befriend me were well-intentioned, but misguided. I much preferred to sit in a corner with my book and read until my mom or dad picked me up. I would have loved a book lady who came every month. So I also love these visits because I know there are kids like me at these programs, kids who maybe don't ever say anything but love it when I come and share books. (And MAYBE someday those kids will be librarians who also make it a point to partner with afterschool programs.)
This year, we've got it down to a science, it seems, and the visits are going really well so far. Enough of the kids know us and know the routine when we come that the visits are going smoothly. I also spoke with the coordinator for the visits and asked her to encourage her site staff to separate the kids into two groups at craft time, allowing those who don't want to do the craft to go outside or go to the gym. This has made it a lot easier to administer the craft with the larger groups.
Here's what I shared with my groups this month:
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall. Houghton Mifflin. 1977.
This is a classic story beloved by pretty much every kid I've ever read it to, and I like to kick off the school year's visits by reading this title. Even though kids have read it before, they love to hear it again and again and it's one of my favorites to read aloud. The kids who are familiar with it love to solve the mystery for me at the end. This month, I also read this with my homeschool group and they loved it just as much as the school kids have.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems. Balzer + Bray. 2012.
We are HUGE Mo Willems fans in my Children's Room and as soon as this one came through on the New Books cart, we all agreed that it would be perfect for our afterschool crowds. This retelling of the Goldilocks story features a family of dinosaurs hoping to entice a little girl snack into their home, with lots of clues to alert young readers as to what is actually going on. It's perfect for the school-age crowd because they're familiar with the original story and the humor carries across a wide range of ages. You definitely want this book for your collection if you don't have it already!
Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves. Chronicle Books. 1999.
I came across this title as I was planning for my preschool storytime on dance earlier this year and it wasn't the right fit for that group, but I knew I wanted to keep it in mind for my afterschool kids. It's a great choice for October because it's a little gross without being too scary. And the monster theme makes it Halloween-y, but inclusive to any who may not celebrate the holiday. Frank's biggest dream is to cut a rug on the stage, but when he starts getting carried away with his toe-tapping, he starts to fall apart... literally! His brain and eyes bounce across the stage, his arm falls off, etc. As I was reading, I got a pretty constant chorus of "Ewwwww!" Which is exactly what I was hoping for. :)
Our craft for this month was magic scratch art photo ornaments, ordered from Oriental Trading. Since the kids recently received their school photos, this gave them a way to dress up one of their photos a little bit. I feel somewhat lazy because we use scratch art with the afterschool kids A LOT and it's so easy. But. The kids love it (no matter how many times we do it) and since we're planning a craft for 250+ kids every month, I feel like it's okay to take the easy way out. Still, I've tried to switch it up a little bit so that we're not doing scratch art every single time.
Any EASY school-age craft ideas you have are welcome! The crafts that work best are crafts where we can distribute the supplies and let them be creative in decorating, drawing, etc. Step-by-step crafts don't work so well due to the large groups and the large age range we're working with.