Monday, September 30, 2013

Reading Wildly: African American Fiction

This month, my staff met to discuss African-American fiction at our monthly Reading Wildly meeting. As I mentioned last month, African Americans make up the largest minority population in our town and we want to make sure that we're representing our community in the books we purchase, display, and have in our arsenal for readers' advisory. But books featuring people of color are not just for people of color to read. Books can be a great way to expose kids to all kinds of cultures and different people. Take a look at the displays you have in your room. Do the kids of your community see themselves represented in what's displayed? Do kids and parents see options for expanding their horizons and exploring different cultures? And when you think about your readers' advisory arsenal and the books you're using for programs and book discussions, are you providing multicultural options? 

Not sure where to start with finding great African-American literature for kids? Check out The Brown Bookshelf, a blog featuring and interviewing many authors and illustrators of color. Do not miss the Coretta Scott King Book Award winners and honor books. I'm super excited that we're including Coretta Scott King winners and honor books on our new Winter Reading Club BINGO sheet (inspired by Angie Manfredi of Fat Girl Reading).

And, of course, you can check out any of these books that my staff read this month: 
(Side note: I suggested The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 as a crossover read for our adult book club a couple of years ago and it was a big hit! Also, a Hallmark Channel movie just came out this month!)

I had challenged my staff to look for contemporary titles since a lot of African-American fiction is historical fiction. I think we had a nice blend and some great titles shared this month.

Next month, we'll be discussing scary stories in honor of Halloween. This is a perennially popular topic and a particular favorite of one of my librarians. I made it clear to everyone that "slightly scary" is definitely okay, since I know that horror is not everyone's wheelhouse. When talking about horror, we definitely need to know books that will truly scare your pants off and also books that are creepy or thrilling without being terrifying. Each kid that asks for "scary stories" has a different level of tolerance (even if they won't admit it!).

I already got some great suggestions via Twitter and Code Name Awesome, but I'd love to hear your favorite scary (or slightly scary!) middle grade books in the comments!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Too Long for Babies

There's an art to selecting books for baby storytime. Ideal baby storytime books have large, clear pictures for everyone to see. They have simple text with bonus points for strong rhythm and/or rhymes. They may explore a regular part of baby's life like bathtime, getting dressed, or bedtime. They may include animal sounds or rhyming words or be books that can be sung. They hopefully include great vocabulary since reading books is a great way to introduce kids (and adults) of all ages to new words.

But what do you do when you find a great book that's just too long to read in baby (or any age) storytime?

You shorten it, of course!

This is going to take a little bit of preparation, but it's a good thing to do for a number of reasons:

  • You're modeling to parents that you don't have to read every single page or word in a book for it to "count as reading". It's much more important for reading time to be engaging and fun for kids and adults than it is for reading time to last a long time (or even a certain amount of time). 
  • Another way to say this is that you're validating that babies may not have the attention span to sit and listen to even one book and that's okay. 
  • You're illustrating that we, as librarians, know what we're doing. We know that babies don't have the attention span to sit still and listen for very long (if at all!). We can choose books or alter books to be developmentally appropriate for the age we have in our storytimes. Yay for early literacy professionals! 

So... how do you shorten a book to use it in storytime?

First, get familiar with the book. Take note of which parts will work for your storytime and which parts are maybe too wordy or too slow or don't have natural ways to invite participation. Then, plan how you will shorten it. Paperclipping pages together is a great way to skip some pages without fumbling to find the right pages. Physically skipping/turning pages might give you an opening for a message to parents: "This book is a little long, so I'm not going to read every page. That makes it just right for our babies! The most important thing is that reading together should be a fun time."

If you're reading a book to preschoolers, they will notice when you skip a page (especially if it's a book they know). I'd recommend telling them beforehand that you're going to skip a few pages to make the book short enough for storytime. Tell them that if they want to read every word, they can check out the book and take it home after the program!

You may not want to skip any pages, but you may paraphrase some of the words on the page. Practice what you'll say beforehand if you're a little unsure about doing it on the fly. You may want to use a post-it note to mark where you want to start reading. Or you may want to skip the words altogether and talk about the pictures you see. All of that is valid reading, both for storytime and for parents with their children. Especially at very young ages, it's more important that we're talking with babies and engaging them than that we're reading every printed word.

Here's an example of a book I shortened for baby storytime recently. Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont (Greenwillow, 2012) has fun, colorful pictures and a strong rhythm and rhyme, but it's just a little wordy for the babies. Instead of reading the first few spreads, I showed everyone the cover and we talked about how Dini Dinosaur was playing in the mud and got so dirty. Then I skipped straight to the bath pages. As I read each spread, I ask everyone to find their own body parts as Dini is washing his - feet, legs, tummy, head. Then I just read two more spreads after that, ending with everyone giving a nice tickle to end our story.

Using techniques to shorten books to fit your storytime audience's developmental needs is a way to expand your storytime repertoire and expose your library families to even more great books! If one of the books you share sparks a child's interest, their caregiver might want to check out that book to use at home. They might talk about the pictures or they might discover all the words that are just right for one-on-one reading but weren't right for your large group in storytime.

Which titles have you shortened or altered to use in your storytimes? How did you do it?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reading Wildly: School Stories

It has taken me forever to get this post up! August was a beast this year. But our kids went back to school on August 1 and last month, my staff met at our Reading Wildly meeting for to talk about school stories. So, what is a school story? It's just what it sounds like: fiction set in or centered around school and classroom life. I'd say it's typically, but not necessarily, realistic and contemporary. As you can see, my staff picked a couple of genre-benders, which is fine by me.

The meeting this month took place while we were closed for staff training on our new ILS system. We didn't get heavily into discussions of the genre because it was the last bit of a long day of meetings.

So what did everyone read last month?

One way that these meetings have been helpful to my staff is that it gives them a starting point when they have kids or parents looking for specific genres. I always type up a list of the books everyone has shared, including the readalikes that they have designated, and send it out to my department. The list is a tool to help them remember which books people had talked about, which titles their colleagues liked and recommended for certain age groups, and readalikes in case those titles are checked out.

Patrons may not come in with an assignment to read a school story. They may not know the terminology "school story", but I would use this list as a starting point for kids who want stories about their everyday life. Stories about kids like them doing the same stuff that they do. Of course, not every single title on this list would fit that description (and, of course, not every kid's "everyday life" includes attending school), but it's a starting point. And having a starting point goes a LONG way towards feeling confident about doing readers' advisory (even for me, who took a graduate-level readers' advisory course and who has been doing readers' advisory for years).

Next month err... This month, our topic is African-American fiction (meaning, in this case, a novel with an African-American protagonist). African-Americans make up our largest minority group in our county. I have seen firsthand the magic that happens when you can hand a kid of color a book with a kid that looks like them on the cover. I gave my staff a special challenge to choose or include a contemporary book, so we'll see what they have chosen to read...!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reading Rock Stars

One of the new additions to our storytime lineup this fall is a beginning readers' storytime called Reading Rock Stars. We're offering Reading Rock Stars weekly (drop-in) for ages 4-6. It was inspired by the awesome work of Miss Julie and Storytime Katie. I'm turning this program over to our new library assistant, Miss A, who joined us last spring after 10 years of teaching kindergarten, so I won't be posting about this program regularly, but I wanted to share an outline of what our program looks like.

For now, our storytimes have both a letter of the day and a theme. I wanted to use a theme to help us incorporate science and social studies texts into our program. At our local public schools, they concentrate on literacy and math at the K-1st grade levels, encouraging parents to talk and read about science and social studies concepts at home. Using these books in our program is a great way to model nonfiction exploration for parents and let them know about some great books!

Nametags: We start with nametags and we use the laminated ones that Miss T made for Toddler Time. We provide crayons for children (or parents if children are still learning) to write their names. It is much more important to us that children get to practice writing than that the nametags be legible.

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. This is typically our opening song, but since we're offering this program on an afternoon after some kids have been in preschool or kindergarten all day long, we may need to switch it up to a song with more full body movement (or some jumping, at least).

Letter Song: Each week, we'll choose a letter of the day. Miss A taught us this great song to the tune of "Do You Know the Muffin Man?"

Do you know the letter F? The letter F? The letter F?
Do you know the letter F? It makes the sound: ff, ff, ff!

Yes, I know the letter F, the letter F, the letter F!
Yes, I know the letter F! It makes the sound: ff, ff, ff!

Message of the Day: Miss A writes the message of the day on chart paper which is taped to our felt board. It contains the date, a blank for the weather (she has a volunteer draw in the day's weather), and a blank for today's letter (she has a volunteer write the letter of the day).

Action Song: The first week, we did the song "The Shape Shake" by CJ. This "following directions" song asks children to make different shapes in the air with their fingers. Drawing/making shapes is a great first step towards being about to see that letters look different and to begin to write letters.

Book: Ten Little Fish by Audrey & Don Wood. Kids are always drawn to the computer-drawn images in this colorful book. The rhyming text makes it a great choice for an early literacy storytime (hearing rhyming words helps children learn that words are made up of smaller sounds). And counting down from ten helps reinforce math concepts.

Participation Activity: Mail Carrier Bag Game. For this game, Miss A had prepped envelopes with two small cards inside. One card had a capital F and one card had a lowercase f. She passed them out and had all the children open them at the same time. She asked them to raise the capital F, then the lowercase f. Then she played a game where she said different words and asked them to hold up their cards if the word she said started with "F". After she went through half a dozen words, she asked the children to put their cards back in their envelopes and "mail" the letters by putting them back in her bag.

This was a fun game that was easy to do with a group of children and very low cost!

Nonfiction Book: Clown Fish by Carol Lindeen. I love the Pebble Plus series for simple texts and large color photographs. They are great for sharing with groups of young children.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Play Time/Take-Home Packet: Each week, we'll close with a little play time and bring out some of the toys from our collection. I am hoping to build our collection of literacy toys and games for use in this program. For right now, the play time is more of a free-for-all, but we may move towards more concentrated stations at some point.

And each week, Miss A has put together a take-home packet with a coloring sheet featuring the letter of the day and some printables with lines for writing and practicing making the letter of the day. She includes one sheet for tracing/writing the letter and another sheet that's blank on the top with blank lines below for children to draw and write their own story or recreate their favorite moment from storytime. Eventually we'll send a letter craft home with them, but our budget was frozen this fall, so we're on a shoestring. Miss A also includes a half-sheet with some tips for parents of children who are learning to read. Reading Rockets and Productive Parenting are great sources for tips and activities!

We had 15 kiddos for both the first and second weeks of the program, which is a nice number for us. I'm especially pleased to see such good attendance for a program that is 1) new and 2) aimed at a slightly higher age group. 

Do you do a storytime for beginning readers at your library? What has worked for you? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Counting by 7s Blog Tour

Welcome to the Counting by 7s blog tour! As you may know, I loved Holly Goldberg Sloane's new middle grade novel Counting by 7s. It was a story that I did not want to put down and if you love character-driven tales like I do, you won't want to miss this one*. I'm so excited to be a part of this blog tour with some other fantastic bloggers!

So, what is Counting by 7s about? 

Counting by 7s Synopsis (provided by publisher):

In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn't kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

And just as Willow counts by 7s in the book, Holly Goldberg Sloane is counting by 7s in this blog tour! She's sharing 7s - from her seven favorite books to seven things her fridge can't do without - around the blogosphere. For more of Holly's lists, make sure you check out the other tour blogs listed below. 

And now for today's list!

7 things to imagine in the future

1.  Bike lanes where there are now freeways
2.  Showers and bathrooms and drinking water for everyone in the world
3.  Pets that can talk to you
4.  A single cure pill to take when you are diagnosed with cancer
5.  Shoes that allow you to jump ten feet off the ground
6.  Mobile apartments
7.  Trips to Mars on weekends

About Holly Goldberg Sloan:

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the
Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon. She has written and directed a number of successful family feature films. The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California. I'll Be There was her debut novel (she earlier had written a middle reader book called Keeper).

Follow along the Counting by 7s blog tour to read all seven of Holly’s posts.

So, don't miss this book. And if you read it, join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #CountingBy7s. And feel free to share your own 7s in the comments below. ;) 

* (While you're at it, don't miss Sloane's debut novel I'll Be There, either.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Storytime: All About Me

Our Fall programming season is upon us! Last week, I had a class from a local preschool visit the library for an All About Me storytime. All About Me is one of those themes that pops up in the fall every year and it's sort of ambiguous. Body parts? Self-confidence? Families? Community? There's a lot that can fit into this theme and it's easy to be overwhelmed. I decided to talk about where we live, our bodies, and our families. Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Intro: Mail! I've been wanting to try out using mail to introduce storytime themes since I read about it at Storytime Katie (who read about it in a post from Amanda Struckmeyer on Wisconsin's Youth Services Shout-Out collaborative blog). And this was the perfect theme since it led into a short discussion about where we live. Not only does using mail reinforce the idea that writing and reading is used in everyday life, but it led into a discussion about what state and city we live in and what street we live on.

Book: Do Lions Live on Lily Pads? by Melanie Walsh. We actually skipped this book in my storytime because the kids were pretty squirrelly and I had to cut down, but this is a fun, simple book that can lead to conversation about where we live and where different animals live.

Felt Story: Mr. Pine's Purple House (book by Leonard Kessler). Mr. Pine has a problem: all the houses on his street look the same and he can never remember which one is his! So he plants a tree next to his house. But soon all the neighbors are following suit and soon they all look the same again! This is a great story to talk about same and different. After I told this story, I asked the kids what color their houses are.

Book: From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. Next up, we talked about body parts. This was a great book for a restless crowd because we could stand up and do all the actions together.

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. This is one of my favorites and we always do it normal, fast, and superfast! This is a great song for getting the wiggles out.

Book: The Family Book by Todd Parr. I feel like librarians can be very divided about Todd Parr: either you love his illustrations or you hate them. I love them and I love that this book shows many different types of families in very simple text, with funny illustrations and warm affirmations. There is a lot to talk about with this book if your group is inclined to do so.

Song: I took my standby "If You're Wearing Red Today" and changed the words to "If you have a brother..." We repeated with sister, cousin, pet, and friend (because I figured even if some kid didn't have any of those family members, they are all MY friends!). You could repeat with more if you want! This is a great song for practicing listening skills and following directions.

Activity: Color Library Cards. I wanted one more interactive activity, so I threw in a little bit about the library being part of our community and passed out the color library cards. When I called their color, kids came up and put their cards on the board. When they were all on the board, we counted them together.

Mystery Bag: Today's Mystery Bag had the letter M inside and also a mouse, a marker, a magnifying glass, a magnet, and MONEY!

Closing Song:  Do You Know What Time It Is?

After we finished our storytime, the class spent a few minutes playing in our Children's Room before heading back to their school.

Alternate Books: Here are other books you can use with an All About Me theme!

Parts by Tedd Arnold
You Can Do It, Too by Karen Baicker
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
I Like Me! by Nancy Carlson
What Brothers Do Best/What Sisters Do Best by Laura Numeroff

Check out Storytime Katie's Me storytime! You may also want to look for books about family, neighborhoods, pets, homes, or body parts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

Oh, man. You turn around and discover that this is the first Day in the Life that I've done all year. Well, it's high time! And Tuesday, September 3 was the perfect day to do it. Here's how my day went:

8:35a - I arrive at work, return my library books and CDs, and put my stuff away.

8:40a - I start setting up the meeting room for Mother Goose on the Loose - our first storytime of the fall session! Woo! We’re switching things up a little bit, so I spend a little extra time going over my storytime plan. We use the same format every week, but I was a bit tired of the same old things, so now I have to ignore my autopilot and pay attention to our new plans.

9:10a - I refill displays around the department and take down our craft table before we have the perfect storm of kiddos coming in. (If you have a craft table, do you take it down when you know a large group will be coming in? Or does that make me Mean Librarian?)

9:25a - I research lesson plans for Mr. Popper's Penguins for one of our local teachers and email her with what I find.

10:00a - Mother Goose on the Loose! We have 4 kids, three of whom are new faces. We’ve changed the program outline a little bit, too, so I’m constantly checking my notes to make sure I don’t go back to autopilot and miss a bunch of stuff.

10:40a - I help clean up toys, wrap-up my program, and come out to desk so that T can start getting ready for Toddler Time.

10:40a - 1pm - I'm on desk. I sign up a couple of Mother Goosers for our brand-new 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. We're actually much quieter than I expected on our first storytime day, but I suspect that the long weekend has thrown everyone's morning schedules off a bit.  I chat with one of my new employees about the Success by 6 Action Team and Conscious Discipline, which our school system is using this year. I check email. Miss A comes in at 12 and is back from almost a week of vacation, so we chat about school collections, etc.

12:45p - Our regular volunteer comes in for her hours and I get her started shelf-reading the paperback series books and prepping some craft supplies.

1-2pm - Lunch time!

2:00p - I work on some budget stuff for my director. I send email to my department with new procedures for marking items as damaged or missing (changing ILS’s is hard to do).

2:40p - I discuss a school collection issue with staff member. Then I meet with one of our local historians about a Bicentennial project we're helping with.

3:00p - I print off booktalks for tomorrow and prep for other programs later in the week. On Friday, a local pre-K class is coming in for storytime and I pull together the stuff I need. This week is jam-packed, so I'm taking advantage of every spare minute!

3:45p - I report to Miss A to help out with today’s storytime! It's our very first beginning readers' storytime and Miss A has planned it. Since Miss A is new to our staff and new to storytime, I'm helping out with the first one. I greet people and get out the nametags for them before we open up the doors to the program room.

4:00 - 4:45p - Reading Rock Stars storytime!!!! I'll definitely have a blog post up with more about what we did. Afterwards, I spend a little time giving Miss A some feedback and helping her clean up.

5:00p - I heck emails one last time and respond to my director about professional committee commitments of my staff for this year and next.

5:30p - Time to go home!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

15 Minutes for Booktalks @ the @ALSCBlog

Yesterday, I was over at the ALSC Blog talking about how we've brought monthly booktalks to the fourth graders at one of our elementary schools, taking just 15 minutes a month of their literacy time! Click through to see how it works for us!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mad About Science: STEM Books to Use in Your Programs

Last week, I presented at the Children's & Young People's Division Conference on the science programming we have done (and plan to do!) at my library. I had a great, engaged crowd and the presentation was really fun! The first part of the presentation, I talked about our science programming at the library, how we started and tips for starting your own. Check out the handout from Mad About Science here!

At the end of the session, I shared a few of my favorite books and authors to use in science programming, and today I wanted to share my booklist with you. For a printable version, click here!

For each age group, I look for something to read aloud and/or something to explain complicated concepts in simple language. For preschoolers and early elementary, I'm usually looking for picture books that I can read (either in their entirety or in a shortened form), either on their own or as part of a larger storytime. Adding STEM books and concepts to your already-existing preschool storytime is a great way to encourage learning without having to add another entire program to your repertoire.

For elementary and tween audiences, I might read a picture book in its entirety or I might read passages from a longer book. Another way I use books in science programs for these age groups is to feature photos and facts, always making sure that they know where I got them ("citing my sources", per se). My goal in any program that I do is to feature and foster excitement about literature, so I always root programs in our collection.

A great tip someone from the session shared was to read magazine articles! It's such a simple and wonderful idea that hadn't occurred to me, so I'm really glad someone shared that tip with us.

When sharing books with kids, don't feel like you have to read the entire book, even for preschoolers. It's fine to share part of a book, to paperclip pages together, or reword certain passages if they're too wordy for your audience. When we're talking about books for preschool storytimes, books with rhyming words and/or big, clear pictures get bonus points! (Rhyming words help foster phonological awareness and big, clear pictures make books easier to be seen by large groups.)

Okay, that was a huge lead-up to my STEM programming booklist:

Preschool/Early Elementary

Series and authors:

Let’s Read and Find Out About Science - Great for illustrating concepts in simple language and they sometimes contain activity ideas, too. 

Pebble Plus series (published by Capstone) - The easy reader text makes it easy to share in storytime and the large, full-color photos are great for sharing with a group. 

Rookie Read-About Science (Scholastic) - Although they're a smaller trim size, this easy reader series is another good choice for explaining science concepts in simple language. 

Zigzag series by Becky Baines (National Geographic Children’s Books) - I love these books for their rhyming text. The rhyming text can be read by itself or you can add some of the facts found in smaller text on each spread.

Jim Arnosky
Bob Barner
Gail Gibbons
Darrin P. Lunde
Anne Rockwell
April Pulley Sayre
Anastasia Suen
Ellen Stoll Walsh

Parts by Tedd Arnold (human body)
Over in the Jungle
by Marianne Berkes (jungle, biomes, animals - great vocabulary!)
Count Them While You Can by Annie Bowman (endangered species)
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (insects, butterflies, life cycle)
Moon Bear by Brenda Z. Guiberson (bears, animals)
Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na (seasons, animals, camoflage)
Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada (eggs, animals, life cycles)
Pumpkins by Ken Robbins (fall, growing, plant life cycle)
Hop! Plop! by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Tali Klein (weight, measurement)


Magic Tree House Research Guides (Random House) - This companion to the fiction series offers age-appropriate info on nonfiction topics. Choose passages from these books to introduce science concepts. 

A True Book series (Scholastic) - These titles are a little more involved than some of the series listed above, but still explain science concepts in simple language. Even if you don't read them aloud, they're great for familiarizing yourself with the concept you're presenting!

World Book Learning Playground (World Book) - These books have lots of curriculum and project ideas for various topics. Check here for activity ideas!

** Don't forget to feature these authors and titles as you're booktalking or doing readalouds for summer camps or afterschool groups. Many of these titles and authors have books that are easy to share with groups and add some variation to your usual stories! **

David A. Adler
Nic Bishop
Steve Jenkins
David M. Schwartz
Janice VanCleave

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock
The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino
How Big Is It? by Ben Hillman
Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya
Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum
by Meghan McCarthy
Why Are Animals Orange? by Melissa Stewart


Scientist in the Field series - This excellent series features different scientists and the work they do. These are ideal for budding scientists and for inspiring conversations about college/career readiness (yay Common Core!). 

Janice VanCleave
Sally M. Walker

Shark Life by Peter Benchley
100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet by Anna Claybourne
A Black Hole is Not a Hole
by Carolyn DeCristofano
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
by Deborah Hopkinson
Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins
Zombie Makers by Rebecca Johnson
The Lives of the Scientists by Kathleen Krull
The Kid Who Named Pluto by Marc McCutcheon
Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

Those are some of my favorite STEM titles to share/booktalk with library kids. I know you have suggestions to add to the list, so let's hear 'em!

What are your favorite STEM books to use in programming? How do you use them?