Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reading Resolutions

Photo by tourist_on_earth

To finish out the year, I'm over at the ASLC Blog talking about reading resolutions. Setting reading resolutions can be a great way to build and strengthen your arsenal when it comes to reader's advisory and professional knowledge!

Click on through and share your reading resolutions in the comments! Since I am just finishing up my Newbery year, my resolution is to be easy on myself about setting reading goals this year. I would love to know what YOUR reading resolutions are for this year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to Us!

I have some happy news to share.

The Boy and I got engaged last weekend!

Our first wedding-y gift from my sister-in-law!
No date's been set; I keep promising that planning won't start until after Newbery (but short, TIMED Pinterest sessions can make a nice reading break).

And other than that, my life has been reading, reading, reading, reading...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eating the Frog and Following Your Bliss: Tackling the To-Do List

Photo by Bev Sykes
As I have mentioned before, I recently had the pleasure of taking an online youth services management class through UW-SLIS, taught by the inimitable Marge Loch-Waters and one of the topics we discussed was finding your zen. By this I mean finding a balance between life and work, managing stress, and getting everything done. It's not always easy and it's something a lot of us struggle with throughout our careers.
This year has been an overwhelmingly busy one in the Children's Room at my library. It's awesome - we love what we're doing - but it's meant that figuring out a to-do list system has been a MUST for me. Stacy Dillon wrote a great post for the ALSC Blog about various organization systems and what she's trying out. (I am using Wunderlist at the moment.)
But once you have settled on an organizational system, how do you keep yourself productive? One of my classmates in my management class suggested "eating the frog". 
"Eating the frog" basically means doing the worst thing you have to do that day to get it out of the way. The "frog" is something you need to do, but don't want to do. Get that thing out of the way. The idea is that if the first thing you do is eat a frog, the rest of your day will seem easy by comparison.
[The term comes from a quote that is repeatedly credited to Mark Twain, but might not actually have been something he said.]
So, I think that's pretty good advice. Tackle something important on your to-do list that you just don't want to do. And it is true that it makes everything else on your to-do list seem much easier!
But sometimes that to-do list can just be overwhelming. Or sometimes you get to a point where you have a bunch of stuff you need to do and they're all of equal importance. When I reach that point, I follow my bliss. I start working on whatever seems the most fun, whether it's putting in a book order, planning a preschool storytime, or getting materials together for our monthly staff reader's advisory discussion. Something's getting done off the to-do list, which is going to make it a little less overwhelming soon.
And maybe tomorrow I'll eat another frog.
How do you keep yourself organized and productive?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Reading Club at the ALSC Blog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about our Winter Reading Club and how we tweaked what we did last year to make this year's even better! We still keep this program really simple and aim for giving kids and families something fun to do together during these cold winter months.

Click on through to read the post, and please comment! I would love to know what you do for Winter Reading!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Preschool Lab: Kitchen Science

With a big American food holiday coming up this week, I thought kitchen science would be a fun topic for this month's preschool lab. I have some thoughts about this program, but first I'll tell you what we did: 


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez (Charlesbridge, 2011). In this cumulative tale, a farm maiden and her barnyard friends are making arroz con leche - rice pudding - and each animal has something to add to the pot (cazuela!). If you're not familiar with the Spanish words included in this brightly-illustrated story (I was not!), there's a pronunciation guide in the back of the book and I'd recommend reading it out loud a couple of times before you read it to your group. My audience was not Spanish-speaking, so I would occasionally repeat a Spanish word in English. Cumulative books are great for helping children learn new vocabulary. 

Felt Rhyme: Five Red Apples 

Book: Soup Day by Melissa Iwai (Henry Holt, 2010). On a cold snowy day, a little girl and her mother make vegetable soup. This story takes them through all the steps, from buying ingredients at the market to chopping and cooking the vegetables to waiting for it to cook to serving it for dinner. This is another great book for introducing children to new vocabulary and I like that it clearly shows the steps you follow in cooking. 

Felt Activity: Healthy Foods. I put up the MyPlate and talked very briefly about the different kind of foods that we eat. I passed out the different felt pieces and went around the plate, calling up the vegetables, then the fruit, then the grains, then the protein, and the dairy. This is a good activity for learning new vocabulary words. Children also practice listening, following instructions, and approaching an adult who's not in their family. 

Book: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002). This fun rhyming story is perfect for this time of year. While Bear hibernates in his den, his animal friends take shelter from the storm, one by one contributing snacks and food for a wintry party. Sharing books with rhyming words helps children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. 


Pasta Shapes: I put out small piles of pasta in different shapes and prompted kids to sort them and count them. Sorting and counting are both math skills and playing with shapes helps with the ability to recognize letters. 

Bean Measuring. I purchased two large bags of pinto beans and put them out with all kinds of measuring cups. Measuring is a math activity that young kids can help with in the kitchen. 

Play Food and Felt Board. I also put out a set of play food and dishes and I let the kids explore the food set on the felt board. Imaginative play helps develop vocabulary (you'd be amazed at what words you find yourself using as you go through imaginative play with a child!) and self-regulation skills like taking turns and sharing. 

My thoughts:

So, I had the best of intentions with this one and the kids did have fun. They mostly stayed at the beans station and the play food station. 

However, when I thought this one up I had wanted to include a lot more science-based stations and, due to a super-heavy programming schedule this month, that just didn't happen. My thinking was to give parents some ideas for fun things to keep their kiddos occupied while they potentially spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week. SO, if you want to include more explicitly STEM-based stations (using stuff you'll find in the kitchen!), here are ideas for you: 

You can search "preschool kitchen science" on Pinterest for TONS of additional activity ideas. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Didn't Check My Email (and Lived to Tell the Tale)

Vacation! No emails in sight...
This past October, I had the pleasure of taking Marge Loch-Waters's online youth services management class and I wanted to post about one small thing I'm trying to put into practice:

Your email does not have to own you. 

On last week's vacation, I made a pact to myself that I would not check my work email. I'm often so tempted to log in, even just to delete the hundreds of ads I know will be waiting in my inbox. But even if it's mostly ads, there's always something I need to respond to. Maybe it's something I can respond to or forward right away, maybe it's something I need to star and come back to later. But logging in when I'm supposed to be off work just lets it into my head. 

And, especially in a career when SO MANY OF US struggle to find a balance between life and work, it's important to know that you can draw a line. I still thought about checking it at least once a day while I was away, but I made a conscious decision not to log in, not to let that email encroach on my vacation time.

Guess what?

Everything was fine. My staff held down the fort. They knew that if something important came up, they could call me. And when I finally did log in to my email, out of over 100 emails, only about 20 of them had information I needed or items I needed to respond to.

Don't let your email run your life (or ruin your vacation)! Keep these things in mind:

  • It was pointed out in my management class that no one expects an instant response to an email. If something that urgent is happening, someone will call or text you.
  • You can set an auto-response so that anyone who does email you will know who to contact if they need a response more quickly. I always make sure to set mine up, particularly because I will sometimes get school collection requests emailed directly to me and those can be time-sensitive.
  • No one minds you taking a vacation. If someone does mind, she's probably not a nice person. You're probably being conscientious about scheduling your vacation time to create the least disturbance and to make sure everything is covered or breaks are well-advertised. You earn that time off as part of your salary. Take it!
  • And you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your patrons. The burned-out, no-rest librarian can all-too-easily turn into the bitter, resentful librarian and not the welcoming, flexible paragon of customer service that your patrons deserve. If you're checking in twice a day while you're on vacation, are you really getting the rest you need? 

Even now that I'm back to work, I'm trying to wean myself of the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning and constantly throughout the day. Yes, I like the idea of being available to teachers and patrons and colleagues so that working with me is super easy and awesome. But, as suggested by one of my management classmates, I'm making an effort to check off a couple things on my to-do list in the morning before I check my email. I'm trying to consciously close my inbox when I'm not actively working on email, which results in a lot fewer interruptions. 

So, take stock of your email habits. If you feel like your email is owning you, maybe it's time to rethink some things. 

(Super thank-you goes out to Marge Loch-Waters and all of my awesome YS Management classmates! I'm finding lots of ways to implement what I've learned in that class!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Booktalking Librarian

I've posted before about how our booktalking programs have exploded this year. We're now in the schools more than ever before and I'm LOVING it! Booktalking is truly one of my favorite things to do and I'm so glad to have the chance to do it more!

I have not been posting about my specific booktalking programs, in part because I've been super busy, but also because most of the books I'm sharing are Newbery-eligible and due to confidentiality guidelines, I don't feel right posting about them. But last week, I realized that almost all the titles I had brought to one school were not eligible, so I wanted to share with you how my booktalking program typically goes!

This particular visit was to 3 fourth grade classes at one of our local elementary schools. They combined all three classes in one room, so I only needed to do the presentation once. Some schools prefer to have us visit each classroom individually, which we are happy to do. Usually if we're doing multiple presentations, I try to send two people together so one person doesn't have to talk for 45+ minutes straight.

For this group, the teachers had asked me to bring nonfiction books, especially books that showed problem solving and cause & effect. This tied in with the unit they are doing in their class. Here's what I brought and a little about how I booktalk each one:

When Is a Planet Not a Planet?: The Story of Pluto by Elaine Scott (Clarion Books, 2007).

This is a book about Pluto, but it's also a book about how scientists find out information about space and the fact that scientists can be WRONG. In fact, scientists have been wrong lots of times, all throughout history! When I booktalk this book, I emphasize to kids that when I was their age, when their teacher was their age, Pluto was a planet! We were taught that there were nine planets in the solar system. We had never even heard of a dwarf planet! This gets lot of nods from teachers. At the end, I let them know that scientists are always finding out new information. Who knows what they'll discover next? And I bet there are some future scientists in this room, so who knows what one of YOU might discover next?

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand New Colors by Chris Barton (Charlesbridge, 2009).

This picture book biography features two brothers who invented new colors. I tell the kids that one of my favorite kind of books is a book that tells me about something I never even thought to wonder about - just like this book! I read the first two spreads and talk a little bit about what Day-Glo colors are - usually several kids are wearing Day-Glo colors, so I can point that out. And I show them one of my favorite things about this book - the illustrations start out black & white in the beginning and as Bob & Joe begin experimenting, more and more color is added in until they have their breakthrough and I show them the spread that's entirely in Day-Glo colors.

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean (Scholastic, 2012).

Stay is the story of ten dogs, yes, but it starts with a human. I tell the kids Luciano's story, how he was hurt at his job performing in the circus and he was determined to be able to perform in some way. He had the idea to train dogs to be in a circus act, but Luciano didn't want just any dogs; he wanted the dogs that nobody else wanted. Then I share the story of Penny with them (you could choose any of the dogs to share). This is an easy sell to dog-lovers (many kids are dog lovers!)

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic, 2012).

The Titanic is always a familiar subject to kids. It fascinates them! Some may have seen the movie, some may have read other books about The Titanic, but this book is different from any book I've ever read about The Titanic. Deborah Hopkinson uses real survivors' accounts to bring this story to life. Reading this book is like sailing on the ship alongside them. There are plenty of facts and anecdotes to share to entice kids to read this book, but I read a part from the beginning where Jenny, the ship's cat, decides to take her kittens off the ship, "one by one down the gangplank" before it sets sail from Southampton. It always gives me chills!

I Survived Five Epic Disasters by Lauren Tarshis (Scholastic, 2014). * The stories in this book had been previously published and are collected here for the first time. *

Here's another easy sell, particularly if you have fans of the I Survived series in your midst (chances are you do). While the I Survived books are fictional, here we get five true stories from actual survivors of disasters. When I booktalked this one, I mentioned the Children's Blizzard, the Boston Molasses Flood, and the Henryville tornado (which happened just a few miles from here in 2012!). This is a great pick for kids who love action and adventure stories or who are interested in learning about real disasters.

When my staff and I go booktalk, we always bring bookmarks with all the book covers, titles, and authors so that the kids can remember what book they heard about that sounded good. A lot of times, kids will bring these bookmarks in to the library. We keep extras at our desk, so if they didn't bring theirs with them, they can easily say "I have a bookmark like that!" and we'll know they're from a booktalking class.

We keep a record of what everyone's booktalking in our Evernote account, organized by school and grade, so it's really easy to look up what books a kid might have heard about at their school. If we're doing a longer program with more than 5-6 books, we'll make a book list handout for the kids. And we always give these to the teachers, too! I think our teachers enjoy and benefit from the booktalks just as much (sometimes more!) than the kids.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Children's Manager

It's been quite awhile since I posted about a day in the life of a Children's librarian. Since I recently took an AMAZING online class on youth services management, I wanted to choose a day when I have several manager things to do. It certainly varies a lot from day to day, but here's one day in the life of a Children's Services Manager:

8:45am - I arrive at work and debrief with one of my staff members about what had happened over the weekend, etc.

9am - 12pm - I work at the Children's reference desk. I pull the holds list, pull a School Collection, and work on an ALSC Blog post in between answering questions about:

- Choosing a poem to recite for a school project
- Bob books
- Dinosaurs
- Where people vote at the library
- Name tags for storytime

11:30am - One of my staff members arrives back from last week's vacation, so I catch her up on what's been going on.

12:00pm - Off desk, I get booktalking stuff together for later in the day.

12:15 - 1:15pm - Lunch time!

1:15 - 1:45pm - I email out reminders for next week's booktalking programs.

1:45pm - I leave for this afternoon's booktalking program. I booktalk five books to a fourth grade class at one of our local schools. I visit them every month!

2:35pm - I'm back at the library; I put my things away and record my statistics from the booktalking program.

2:50pm - I clean off my desk (mostly?) and prepare for a staff evaluation meeting. I've already written the evaluation, but I get all my ducks in a row and make sure I have my notes for questions I need to ask and things we need to touch base on. We're doing annual evaluations right now.

3:30pm - I meet with one of my staff members to go over her annual evaluation.

4:00pm - Our meeting is done; I polish up the evaluation and add the goals that we discussed together and get that printed off for my employee to sign and add comments if she wishes. The original signed copy will go to our director and I make copies for myself and my employee.

(Side note: I once worked for a library that refused to give us copies of our staff evaluations, even when I asked for one. It was the weirdest thing! So I always make sure everyone gets a copy!)

4:30pm - I print out a PO to take up to the Business Office and deal with an order of books that's come in.

5:00pm - As manager, I'm here late tonight covering a program for one of my employees who had to be off. It actually doesn't happen that often, but I make sure that I am familiar with all our programs being offered so I can step in if need be!

I start getting ready for tonight's program (Books and Building, a.k.a. Lego Club!). I pull the books I'm going to read, set up tables, and set up our arrow sign pointing to the room we'll be in.

5:20pm - I work on a book order.

6:00pm - I tackle my email inbox. Oy.

6:30 - 7:30pm - Time for Books & Building! We do this program weekly and share books in some way each week - it might be one or two readalouds or a few brief booktalks. After our books, we break out the Legos and have some time for building!

This week, I read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, 2014) and Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon (HMH, 2006). We have a nice crowd of about 13 kids (great for us in the evening!) and everyone has a fun time. The kids are SO imaginative and they mostly like to help each other out, looking for specific pieces, etc.

7:45pm - I've got the room all cleaned up and reset to how we'll need it for the next morning and it's been a long day, so I head for home!

And that's just one day in the life of a children's librarian! If you want to see more, check out the posts I've tagged with "day in the life". One thing I LOVE about being a librarian is that each day is different!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Changing Spaces at the ALSC Blog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog writing about some big and small changes we've made to our Children's Room in recent years in order to make our collection more useful to our patrons.

Here's a little preview (our brand new display furniture!):

Monday, October 27, 2014

Preschool Lab: Bats

I don't know if you know this about me, but I love bats! I think they're awesome! And with Halloween coming up this week, what better time to explore bats in our Preschool Lab? Here's what we did.


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Bats in the Library by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). I shortened this one a bit since I tend to have a young, wiggly crowd. We talked about bats being nocturnal and pointed out funny things the bats were doing in the pictures. The text is rhythmic and rhyming. Hearing rhyming words promotes phonological awareness, the ability to hear that words are made of smaller sounds. Even though this is definitely a made-up story, there are lots of fun details that present facts in the picture (like when the bats are looking at "fancy food guides", they're actually looking at insect books!).

Felt Activity: Color Bats. I had made this set for a nocturnal animals storytime some time ago. We again talked about bats being nocturnal. I passed out the bats and then read this rhyme to call kids up to put their bats on the board:

The sun is setting,
The moon's rising high.
Now all the red bats
Start to fly!

After all the bats had been placed on the felt board, I told them that a group of bats is called a colony and together we counted the number of bats in our colony.

If you want to continue the fun, talk about how bats sleep (hanging upside down) and you can turn your bats upside down as you say this rhyme:

The moon has gone,
The sky's getting light
And all the red bats
Say goodnight!

Not only does this activity reinforce the idea of bats being nocturnal (though the repeated rhyme), it helps kids practice colors and get more comfortable with approaching an adult who is not in their family (school readiness skills!).

Book: Zipping, Zapping, Zooming Bats by Anne Earl, illustrated by Henry Cole (HarperCollins, 1995). The full text of this book is too much for my littles, but I did use one spread that shows the bat's wing. We talked about how a bat's wing is different from a bird wing - no feathers and the bone structure is different. And we talked about how a bat's finger bones make up the structure for its wings, so a bat is able to make its wings bend in many different ways. And we demonstrated using our own fingers.

I think the concept would have hit home more if I had a bat model, even a stuffed or large plastic bat to really show them where the bones are. But some of the kids got it, I think!

Book:  Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Patricia Wynne (Charlesbridge, 2007). This simple nonfiction picture book is great for sharing with a young group. Simple text asks and answers many questions about the smallest of bats. It's quite easy to skip spreads if you need to shorten. And I had one little gentleman who somehow asked a bunch of questions out of curiosity just as we got to the spreads that answered those questions!

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?


Hear Like a Bat - This simple activity is designed for kids and caretakers to do together and it illustrates how bats "see" with sound (very simplified, of course). One person puts the blindfold on and the other person rattles a maraca. The blindfolded person points to where the sound is coming from. This activity was adapted from Child Care Lounge.

Measure a Bat - Did you know that there are over 1200 species of bats and they come in many different sizes? Miss T created these paper bats for me, illustrating the great size difference in different types of bats. Pictured here, you see the flying fox with a wingspan of 5 feet, the Indiana bat with a wingspan of 10 inches, and the bumblebee bat with a wingspan of 6 inches. I put out rulers and invited kids to measure the bats. 

Nocturnal Animal Puppets - The most fun station for everyone was our nocturnal animal puppets. I looked up a list of nocturnal animals online and found that we actually had quite a few nocturnal animals in our puppet collection! I put out a fox, deer, wolf, beaver, owl, cat, mouse, possum, and firefly for the kids to play with. 

All in all, the stations were not super popular this time around, but the storytime went over better than I thought it would. The kids were really interested in the books, asking great questions and sharing what they knew. We also learned some great vocabulary words like "nocturnal" and "echolocation". 

And, of course, I am happy to spread my love of bats to the next generation!

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!