Wednesday, July 19, 2017

#24in48 is Coming!!

Friends, the next 24in48 Readathon is coming up THIS WEEKEND, Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23. Will you join me?

The goal of the 24in48 is to read 24 of the 48 hours between 12am Saturday and 11:59pm Sunday. You don't have to read any certain number of book and you can set your schedule so that you can sleep and get other things done.

I have participated in the past 3 readathons and it's been a lot of fun. I'm going to spend some time before Saturday getting my reading piles all ready to go. And then you can catch me updating Litsy probably more frequently than I will update here (although I will try to update the blog at least a couple of times throughout the weekend).

Won't you join us??

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer Reading: A Blast from the Past

I don't know where they came from. Someone must have cleaned out a cabinet somewhere. Suddenly, there appeared these boxes.

Boxes of stuff from past Summer Reading Clubs, dating back to the 1980s and 1970s. 

So, a couple of weeks ago on a quiet Friday morning, I delved into these boxes to take a look at our summer reading past before the boxes went to the Indiana Room for archiving in our library history files. 

Some of what I found is delightful, so I wanted to share with you today. :) 

Apparently our Summer Reading Club used to be a lot more collaborative with our neighboring libraries, including the Louisville Free Public Library across the river. Check out these mascots! And yes, our mascot for MANY years was a rat named Floyd the River Rat who was "a retired river boat captain". For MANY years. You will see him again. 

Do you remember the California Raisins? They did a Summer Reading campaign in 1989! Sometimes my library participated in national or statewide campaigns and sometimes we went our own way. 

I have no idea if this was a large scale campaign, but I find the image unfortunate. (What must parents have thought?! Or is it only me whose mind goes there?)

Of course there was a roller skating theme in the '80s! Lots of the coupon prize packs I found had tickets to local roller rinks (which are no longer in existence, sadly). 

As promised, here's Floyd the River Rat again in an Indy 500-themed club called the "Reading 500". As far as I can tell, 1982 was not any kind of special anniversary year for the Indianapolis 500, but I'm sure it was a popular theme nonetheless! 

This might be my favorite of the ones we had in our boxes: a 1978 play on the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 

And I have to give a special mention to this dinosaur-themed Summer Reading Club log, which was not ours (it was from the Louisville Library across the river), but I would participate in this club in a heartbeat. Hmm. It was 1987 when I would have been turning 5 years old, so it's possible I DID participate.... Look at those bones to write your books on! Yes, please. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Check-In #3

This week we met our signup goal!!! My director challenged us to sign up 5% of our population, which almost doubled how many we had been typically signing up. I was Very Skeptical. But we did it! Early this week she told us that whenever we met our goal, we would get to wear jeans for the rest of the summer, so the faster we met it the more jeans days we would get. And we hit our goal on Wednesday!

Also this week, I hit my wall where I started really wishing for summer to be over. It's a fun time of year with tons of families visiting us, but it's also time to start thinking about planning fall programming and the projects we need to be working on. It's hard to get started on that (even mentally) when you're giving so much energy to the summertime crowd.

Luckily for us, our summers here are short now. School starts in less than 2 weeks and we put up our Back to School displays this week.

Things have been hopping, but they are starting to slow down as people go on vacations and start squeezing in the last things they want to do before school starts. We are starting to get lots and lots of SRC finishers coming in to collect prizes and we're having to refill our prize cart at least once a day. We've run out of our marshmallow building Science Activity Pack, so we took that off the menu. 

Our Summer Reading In Your Neighborhood sites have slowed down, too. After the schools' camps ended in June, we no longer had a captive audience and we moved some of our sites and we've had (comparatively) few visits. It's got me thinking and thinking about what we're going to do next year - there's a lot of potential to capitalize on daycares and summer camps and maybe make it more of a mobile service (a mini-bookmobile) with one or two stationary spots that are more central to where people ARE. I'm wondering what would happen if we set up at Walmart on Saturdays, for example. Or maybe we need to be at a playground near public housing in the evening. 

I will meet with our interns to debrief the #instaLibrary program next week and my staff and I will talk about it at our department meeting. I want to get everyone's ideas for what we should keep  the same and what we should change and how we can keep building on this service. 

This week on our Engineering Table, we built with cardboard boxes, which means that my office finally doesn't look like a trash heap. ;) Although this is a very simple and obviously a homemade activity, this is one that I wanted to make SURE to include because this is a cheap activity idea that any parent could do at home. I don't get to throw them away quite yet; we're still saving these boxes for next week's Build-a-Thon program, which is going to be our last big children's program of the summer. 

Ms. B has been working on the Build-a-Thon program, which will be a self-directed building program. She's got several stations planned where families can build with all kinds of different materials. We'll set up all the stations and leave them up for several hours. We can bring out all the Engineering Table stuff we've used throughout the summer, plus our Lego collection. She's printing out tangrams that the kids can cut out and try to make the tangram shapes. And I don't know what else! I am very excited to see and I hope we have a great turnout. 

Our "reading log" continues to grow and I've noticed lots of kids and parents still stopping to take a look. Next year I'd love to explore ideas on how to make it a little less raggedy-looking. Of course I can laminate, but I also want to make it easy for my staff to add to it and laminating adds another step. Any other ideas? 

If you're still in the middle of everything (or maybe towards the beginning of your summer), I wish you strength. If you're starting to see the light at the end of summer, I wish you strength.  How's your summer going?

Monday, July 10, 2017

All's Faire in Middle School

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. Grades 4-7. Dial Books for Young Readers, September 2017. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.


This fall, Imogene will be running from a dragon, forced to talk to crowds of strangers, and cleaning up horse poop. But even scarier? She'll be starting middle school.

Imogene has grown up in the Renaissance Faire, a magical place frozen in time where knights still joust, people feast on giant turkey legs, and the queen visits from time to time. She's finally old enough to join the cast as a squire, an apprentice actor, this season. And after years of homeschooling, she's decided to start attending the local public school.

This means the first time trying to find all her classes, figuring out who to sit with at lunch, dealing with mountains of homework, and trying to make friends with a bunch of strangers. And just when Imogene starts to think she's got everything figured out, everything goes horribly wrong.

My thoughts: 

Okay, I loved ROLLER GIRL, but this one is even better.

Victoria Jamieson presents a story about navigating middle school but with a twist. Imogene's grown up with her Renaissance Faire family. Every summer since she can remember, she's worked at her parents' shoppe and this year she's finally becoming an apprentice in the cast. She's also starting middle school (her choice) after years of being homeschooled. Middle school, it turns out, is trickier than Imogene had anticipated and she finds herself navigating a twisted maze of friendships, mean girls, strict teachers, and potential love interests. 

The Ren Faire theme is woven cleverly throughout the book - each chapter begins with an illuminated panel that harkens the reader back to books of the Renaissance time. Little details like Imogene's natural habit of thinking "Oh, fie!" when something goes amiss or her parents friends coming over for a roleplaying game really bring the Ren Faire culture to life. 

There are so many little recurring things that bring the entire novel together in a really nice way. There's the "scooch" to signify kids making room for friends. Imogene first experiences this with a wave of relief as one of the girls from her science class scooches over to make room for her at the cafeteria table. Later in the book, it comes back in, signifying that a rift is starting to mend. 

The narrative explores not only the complicated nature of middle school friendship, but it delves into class issues a little bit, too. Imogene never felt like she was lacking until she started comparing herself to the other kids at school, and in particular the queen bee of her group of friends. Suddenly she needs the right shoes, the right brand name jeans, etc. etc. Suddenly, her Ref Faire life doesn't feel like enough, when it always did before. 

I know there's a lot here that will be captured in a reread and this is the type of book that begs to be read again and again. 


This is a surefire hit for fans of Raina Telgemeier's Smile, Cece Bell's El Deafo, or Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham's Real Friends. Hand it to them post haste, for it's sure to garner many admirers. Huzzah!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

#MGDebutBundle Giveaway!!

I love my favorite authors as much as the next gal, but there is something about checking out DEBUT authors that is extra special. You never know when you might discover a new favorite!

To help celebrate some 2017 middle grade debut authors, I'm hosting a giveaway of middle grade debut book swag!

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter entry below! This giveaway is open to folks in the US and Canada.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In this #MGDebutBundle, the winner will find a variety of bookmarks, pencils, stickers, and postcards for each of these fantastic debut novels:

IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE by Wendy McLeod MacKnight
AHIMSA by Supriya Kelkar
THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET by Karina Yan Glaser
ZINNIA AND THE BEES by Danielle Davis
FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry
UNDER LOCKER AND KEY by Allison K. Hymas

In addition to all this amazing loot, each swag bundle comes with one hardcover copy of a book in the QUARTZ CREEK RANCH series, by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber Keyser.

Check out the hashtag #MGDebutBundle on Instagram for more pics of this great loot!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Storytime

I had a BLAST this morning with my Red, White, and Blue storytime! I wasn't sure if I would have many come - lots of families are on vacation and making this a long weekend - but we ended up with a great crowd and they were so into everything.

I wanted to do something a little related to Independence Day, but I don't like to do holiday storytimes, so I went with the theme of Red, White, and Blue. Not only does this tie into the holiday without being overtly holiday themed, but it gives a lot of flexibility in planning so you can choose your favorite stories, felts, and rhymes.

I wore a red and blue dress in honor of this storytime and realized that I was twinning our Spider Man mannequin.

Here's what I did: 

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

(Red) Book: The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood (Child's Play, 1984). 

I love this book because of the humor and because kids really have to take in the illustrations to get the humor in the story (and it's a large book with big pictures that is easy for a group to see). There's a lot that you can talk about with kids in this book. I especially like pointing out the mouse's facial expressions and asking how he's feeling. This is a great way to model for parents how books can help you have a conversation about emotions. 

One of my preschoolers pointed out at the end that we never saw the bear in the book, so we talked a little bit about how we heard about the bear and we were maybe a little afraid of the bear, but we never actually saw the bear.

Rhyme: Five Little Apples

I use a bear puppet with this rhyme and he "eats" the apples off the tree. Children can play along with me by using their five fingers as the five little apples. Hearing rhymes helps children hear that words are made up of smaller sounds. This rhyme also practices counting down. 

Five red apples, sweet to the core.
Bear came and ate one and then there were four.

Four red apples, sitting in a tree. 
Bear came and ate one and then there were three. 

Three red apples, one for you and you and you.
Bear came and ate one and then there were two. 

Two red apples, shining in the sun.
Bear came and ate one and then there was one. 

One red apple, left all alone. 
Bear came and ate one and then there was none.

(White) Book: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw (Harper & Row, 1947).

This classic picture book shows lots of different shapes - many different shapes a cloud could be. I found it fascinating that during my reading, lots of kids called out possibilities of what "it" was. Slime! Water! Play Dough! But no one guessed a cloud until the very end. 

Action Song: "Jump Up, Turn Around" by Jim Gill from his album "Moving Rhymes for Modern Times"

At this point, everyone was a little squirrelly, so we all stood up for an action song. I like to sing in storytime, but sometimes it's nice to use recorded music in order to expose families to new songs and artists. This song is not only fun and silly, but when dancing to it, children are practicing gross motor skills (jump up, turn around) and following directions (a school readiness skill).

Felt: Red, White, and Blue (Source: Mel's Desk!)

For this felt, you just place shapes on the board and say their color. "This heart is red. This fire engine is red. This apple is red." And THEN... "This snowflake is red..." The kids will immediately howl with laughter and correct you. Then you continue on the next line, and so forth. The very last piece will go with any line since it is red AND white AND blue!

Oh man, the kids LOVED this one. They laughed and laughed when I said the wrong color and they were happy to jump in and correct me. This is the perfect age (3-5 year olds) to do this felt with! It's fun, but it also helps them practice colors and it gives them a sense of empowerment when they know better than the librarian (hey, librarians don't know EVERYTHING). 

(Blue) Book: One Little Blueberry by Tammi Salzano (Tiger Tales, 2011).

The rhythmic, rhyming text of this picture book describes groups of bugs chasing one little blueberry as it rolls down a hill. It's a cute book to share in summer or spring when you're seeing a lot of bugs (and/or berries) around. Again, rhyming text is great for helping kids hear the smaller sounds in words. And this book counts up from one to ten as more and more bugs join the chase. A surprise ending lends a little whimsy to the tale. 

Scarf Activity: Fireworks!! Because I had planned a fireworks craft station for afterwards, I wanted to incorporate fireworks into the storytime somehow. Scarves were the perfect fit. I passed them around and we did our usual warm up activities (wave high, low, fast, slow) and we waved them in the shapes of lines and shapes (helping to practice or introduce this knowledge, which helps with letter recognition later on). Then I told them we were going to make our scarves into fireworks. 

I had them scrunch their scarves into little balls and then we tossed them up in the air and yelled "BOOM!" We did this several times and then I asked them to look and notice what color scarf they had (they will take a minute to shout out the color to you, just wait). And then I called for the fireworks one at a time by color. After that, we all did our fireworks together one last time for a grand finale!! And then I called them to bring me their scarves by the color so we could put them away.

This was a really simple, basic activity, but the kids had a lot of fun with it! We made a connection between our activity in storytime and an activity they may be doing with their family later tonight (watching fireworks). We also practiced gross motor movements, following directions, and identifying colors. 

Play Stations: 

  • Blocks (we always have this one available) 
  • Scarves (I dumped the scarves out onto  the floor so kids could interact with them)
  • Color sorting boxes
  • Firework craft!

I don't always do a craft, but when I can think of a simple, fun craft I like to offer it. I searched on Pinterest for non-messy firework crafts (no paint or glitter for me!) and found this easy craft that uses solid color cupcake liners to make fireworks. All the kids had to do was cut along the ridged part so it would spread into a firework shape and then glue onto black construction paper. Thanks, Pinterest!

This is a great craft for practicing scissor skills and I really encouraged the parents to try to let their little ones do the cutting. Here's another connection from storytime to watching fireworks with family (our town's firework show is tonight!).

And I put up a display of red, white, and blue books for checkout:

All in all, the kids had a fun time and I had a blast! If you don't like or don't have the books mentioned here, feel free to substitute books of your choice! 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Summer Check-In #2

Woohoo! We've made it to the halfway point of our Summer Reading Club! Five weeks down, four weeks to go! (Yes, our students start back to school July 26 - we're on a balanced schedule!)

It's that time in the summer when many of our popular series are checked out and we're constantly making trips back and forth from the shelving carts. As soon as a Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, or Elephant and Piggie book comes back in, someone wants to check it out again. (Which is awesome!!!)

We put up some VERY EASY displays during summer so that we can highlight books without having to spend a ton of staff time searching for thematic books. Under our large bulletin board, we keep a display of books that we grab from the recently returned carts at Circulation. 

Not only is this super easy for us to fill, but it's a popular display because lots of people want to read what others around them are reading. Often this display is filled with new and popular series.

The other easy display we do is our "Librarian Favorites" display. No involved searching necessary, just take a stroll through the stacks and pull out your favorites and put them out for everyone to see. We have a older child favorites display with chapter books, middle grade, and nonfiction, and we have a younger child favorites display with picture books and easy readers. It's fun for staff to get to highlight their personal favorites and it even helps us do a little self-directed reader's advisory when staff are busy helping lots of people.

Of course, we like to display the new stuff we're reading this summer, too. Our staff "reading log" is growing weekly and I've seen lots of kids and parents pausing to check it out and asking for the books shown.

Our Engineering Table continues to be a fun activity for the kids. This past week, we put out our letter builder set from Lakeshore Learning and kids had fun making letters and all kinds of different things with it.

Our entire library staff has been working very hard on getting people signed up for the Summer Reading Club and we're at about 90% of our sign-up goal! As we pass the halfway mark, a lot of people think maybe it's too late, maybe they missed their chance, and we're encouraging them to continue to sign up and participate. There's still plenty of time to read and earn prizes. It's more important than ever to ask every person if they've signed up for the SRC so we can nab that last 10% and meet our goal.

How's your Summer Reading Club going? Everyone holding up okay?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Preschool Storytime: Construction

I did preschool storytime for a packed house earlier this week and it was a great crowd for Construction storytime! I had done a construction storytime theme previously, and there are so many great books to choose from that I chose all new ones. When I do storytimes in the summer, I make sure to mention that children of all age can do the Summer Reading Club and earn prizes. I also grab some of our paper reading logs and encourage families to take them. Ideally they will create their online account and sign up, but if it's easier for them to keep track on paper we can catch them when they come in to collect prizes and have them make their account.

So, storytime! Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Tap, Tap, Bang, Bang by Emma Garcia (Boxer Books, 2010).

This book has such fun sounds and bright, colorful pictures. Garcia puts a sound effect with each tool and she includes basic tools like a hammer and a screwdriver and also some that kids may not be familiar with like a vise and a level. This is a great storytime choice for including vocabulary words and it has a great rhythm and word sounds to it, which help kids hear that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Rhyme/Fingerplay: Five Little Nails
Source: Mel's Desk

Five little nails, standing straight and steady.
Here I come, with my hammer ready...
Bam, bam, bam that nail goes down
Now there are just four nails to pound.

I used my prop and had the children hold up their fingers as their "five little nails" and use their fist as a hammer to gently hit the nails in. Some were able to join in on most of the rhyme as we kept repeating and everyone LOVED shouting out "Bam, bam, bam!" together. This rhyme helps children practice counting down and it exposes them to rhyming words, which help them hear that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Book: Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus (Henry Holt, 2016).

As soon as I saw this book last year, I knew I wanted to use it for a program during our Build a Better World Summer Reading Club. It has a really great rhythm and rhyming words and uses a lot of great vocabulary words. Before I started reading it, we talked about the word "Billions" and whether it meant just a few things or a lot of things. The complete text was maybe a tiny bit long for my group and I would probably shorten it a few spreads if I did it again for this age group. I think this would also work well with school age kids, particularly in conjunction with any kind of building or engineering program.

Song: "Dump Truck" (to the tune of "Ten Little Indians")

Bumpity-bumpity goes the dump truck,
Bumpity-bumpity goes the dump truck,
Bumpity-bumpity goes the dump truck,
Duuuump out the load!

(Credit: Pre-K Fun via Storytime Katie)

Because I was doing this with a preschool audience and we definitely had some wiggles to get out, I had everyone stand and bounce or jump along. After we did this once, we did it again SLOW (like we were carrying a reeeeally heavy load!) and then FAST (like the dump truck was empty and we were whizzing down the street!). 

Book: Dreaming Up by Christy Hale (Lee & Low, 2012). 

So, I ended up skipping this one because I had a huge crowd and although I love this book I wasn't sure it would hold their attention for long enough. Featuring a diverse cast of kids, each spread shows children building or creating and then a photo of a real architectural structure in the same style. It has a lot of interesting illustrations that would be fun to talk to kids about. This is another one that I think would work with older kids, too. I just had too many squirrelly kids for two books at the end and I thought Rex would hold their attention better.  

Book: Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton (Candlewick, 2014). 

When his friends build creations, guess what Rex does? That's right - he WRECKS THEM. Until, that is, they all discover that they can have more fun working together. This is a fun story about something that's familiar to kids - it's fun to wreck the things you've built with blocks and it can be very tempting to knock over others' creations, too. We talked a bit about emotions with this book - how do Rex's friends feel when he wrecks their buildings? How does Rex feel when they build without him? Talking about and identifying emotions helps children start to learn how to regulate their own emotions. Pointing out these talking moments in storytime helps model for parents how they can use books to start these conversations. 

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is? 

Play Stations:

We got out lots of building stations this week! I always get out our wooden blocks. Today I put out shapes on the felt board for kids to "build", Duplo Legos, and two of our previous Engineering Table activities (building with pool noodles and the Billy Goats Gruff set from Lakeshore Learning). 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Lego Challenge Nights

We started Lego Challenge Nights this summer as a way to add an evening program to our packed summer calendar. Since the program is relatively self-directed, it's a fairly easy program to offer and it doesn't require a huge amount of advance prep, set-up, or instruction.

It's been a kind of surprise hit this summer, attracting way more people than our Lego Club had attracted in previous years. I think part of that has to do with how we're marketing it ("Lego Challenge" sounds more mature and more interesting than "Lego Club") and part of it has to do with setting it up out in our department instead of in a meeting room (more visibility = more kids joining in).

I handed this one off to my staff to plan and they have really done a great job with it. Ms. A came up with the weekly Lego Challenge topics. Our first week, we challenged them to build a robot and our second week we challenged them to build dinosaurs. Ms. T is the one actually running the program and she does a great job of building suspense for the challenge so that it feels  more like an actual PROGRAM and less like a self-directed activity. As families came in and started asking about it, she would let them know that the program started at 6pm and the week's challenge would be announced at that time.

She put up tables in the department and put out our Lego collection. Once she announced the challenge, kids and families went to town, building their creations. As kids finished up, they brought their creations to the desk to tell her about them. She took photos of them and talked to the kids about what they had come up with.

We do not offer any prizes or judging of the creations. That's not what this activity is about. We asked kids to challenge themselves to come up with an original creation, either working by themselves or with friends and family.

After the program, Ms. T created a poster with the photos she took and posted it in our room so that everyone could see some of the creations the kids came up with. Hopefully this will spark some interest for future weeks!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Check-In #1

We're two weeks in over here and holding up strong! These first two weeks of the summer were the most stressful of the summer for me personally, with launching and attending our first week of #instaLibrary outreach sites. Now that I've turned that over to my staff, I hope the rest of the summer will be relatively easy...!

Our director challenged us to sign up 5% of our service population for the Summer Reading Club (which almost doubled past signups) and we're getting closer to our goal each day. We still have about 1000 signups needed (children, teens, or adults) to reach our goal, but we can do it!

We've had lots and lots of kids coming in for their along-the-way prizes, which actually surprised me. I thought for sure most families would wait until the end and get everything at once, but it's been great to see everyone visiting the library multiple times to collect their prizes. We're using our Science Activity Packs for the along-the-way prizes and luckily have actually had a bunch of teen volunteers coming in this summer, so we have them work on whatever we're running shortest on.

The Engineering Table continues to be a lot of fun for everyone. This week I put out cut-up pool noodles (which were NOT EASY to cut up with scissors... if I was doing this over I would find something else to use!).

One kind of surprise hit has been our weekly Lego Challenge. Last Monday was our first one of the summer and we got WAY MORE attendance than we ever had with our weekly Lego Club. A couple key differences:

1. Marketing. Calling it a "Lego Challenge" instead of a "Lego Club" appeals more widely to our kids and families. Even though we're not really doing anything super different, kids love to be challenged and see what they can come up with.

2. We're setting it up out in the department instead of in one of our meeting rooms. This not only makes it hopefully a little easier to run (since the staff person on desk can supervise instead of having to schedule an additional staff person to run it), but it makes it way more visible. Families that just happen to be visiting the library are more apt to join in since it's very easy to see that something is going on.

I had added that program as an easy weekly evening program, just so we had SOMETHING to offer folks in the evening. But the first week was a hit, so I'm excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring. More on that program later. ;)

And of course we are reading, too, this summer! 

Has your Summer Reading Club started yet? How's it going??

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Reading In Your Neighborhood

This has been a project that has been in my head for many years and this is probably going to turn into a whole series of posts as we go through the summer and see how it goes.

You see, since I started at my library there has been a huge discrepancy between certain schools. Schools from certain areas of our county have had huge participation in the Summer Reading Club, which schools from other areas have had low participation. There are a lot of barriers there, but one of them is definitely access. So we decided to bring the Summer Reading Club to them.

This summer we are taking a mini-collection, activities and crafts, and all the accoutrements of Summer Reading out into some of our neighborhoods to try to reach families where they are. We're calling it Summer Reading In Your Neighborhood, which is a subset of our new #instaLibrary service.

Our Friends of the Library gave us a grant to help us get started, which allowed us to purchase a canopy tent, folding tables, plastic tubs to carry books, nylon drawstring bags to check out the books in, new library cards specific for this program, and a laptop to take out with us. The collection of books has been culled from donations and fair-condition withdrawn books. We also placed a large order from Scholastic's FACE program to ensure that we would have enough books to carry us through this summer. This collection will grow as we continue to solicit donations (and my review copies have a great home now!).

Kids who visit the sites will be allowed to check out a book bag with five books of their choice in it. The books aren't cataloged and there's no overdue fines or fees for lost or damaged books. We won't check out individual books, just the book bags. If book bags are lost, kids will have the option to pay a small fee or to volunteer or read off their "fine". If patrons already have a library card, they may use that (we will override any blocks for them to check out an #instaReads bag). If not, they may get a free #instaLibrary card just for use at these pop-up libraries. Anyone may get an #instaLibrary card, regardless of whether they have ID, live in our county, know their address, etc. This is modeled off the Indianapolis Public Library's Bunny Book Bag program.

Each morning Monday through Thursday this summer, we'll be loading all this stuff up to head out to a different site in our county. We've partnered with our local schools and other community organizations to bring the sites to places that we can hopefully reach the families that haven't been coming to us. We're also setting up sites farther out in the county where people have to travel farther to reach us.

We will send at least two people to each site - one staff member and at least one intern. We have a couple of interns who are going to be helping us out with this program. I have an intern from our local community college who is completing her early childhood practicum with this internship. We got another intern through one of our local high schools who won a grant for an internship stipend for working in a nonprofit over the summer. Our college intern will be in charge of planning activities each week. Our high school graduate intern may be planning activities, helping to sort through the books in our collection, or just offering another set of hands at the sites.

Yes, this makes our staffing a little tight at the library since we are continuing with our regular summer storytime schedule. We have cut back a little bit on library programming, electing to offer more self-directed programming which is easier to run with fewer staff. And we'll just see how it goes.

In June, we are partnering with our local schools' Bridge to Success camps, so I know that we'll have a captive audience to utilize the sites. In July, after that camp ends, we're moving some of our sites to other community locations that were recommended by some of the principals as areas where we might be closer to the families in their districts.

I have no idea how it's going to go yet, but I'm really excited to see. It's been a TON of work getting this all set up, but the best thing is that now that we've got the infrastructure in place this is a service that we have ready to go throughout the school year and next summer. We'll learn as we go and change whatever doesn't work.

I'm going to write in more detail about this program throughout the summer. And I'll keep you updated on how everything is going. Help me formulate more detailed posts:

What questions do you have?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Any Prize Can Be an Activity Pack

As we were putting together our Science Activity Packs this year, I realized that we needed to have an option for babies and toddlers. This year, we're lumping babies in with our preschoolers and school-age kids because developing another separate program when we were changing SO MUCH was too overwhelming. But our Science Activity Packs were not baby-appropriate.

I turned to one of my employees who recently had a new baby and asked her what she thought would make good baby-appropriate prizes and we decided on the Bright Starts Lots of Links toy and farm animal bubbles from Oriental Trading.

The catch is, I wanted these toys to also be activity packs so that everyone was getting the same things. So I asked my employee to come up with some activities that parents could do with their babies using these toys. And voila! Put them in a baggie with the activity guide and they become Activity Packs! (Learning Links activities sheet here and bubble activities sheet here.)

It got me thinking that probably any toy or prize you offer for your Summer Reading/Learning could be an "activity pack" and offer ideas of how to carry on the learning at home. Yes, it's more work to put together an activity pack than it is to just hand someone a plastic toy, but if it's feasible for you it might be worth it.

I took a look at the incentives offered by CSLP and iREAD to see if I could think of some basic activities you could include and here's what I came up with:

CSLP incentives:

Color-Your-Own Flower Pots. This is an easy one! Buy a big bag of sunflower seeds and encourage kids to germinate and plant their own seeds. Or even if you don't include the seeds, you could include a list of books about flowers and gardens or instructions for how to plant a seed and what to watch for as it grows.

Racing Car Building Block Kits. Build your car and then test how far it will roll. Create an inclined plane with a propped-up book and measure how far your car will roll. Record it. What happens if you make a steeper incline? What happens if you make a shallow incline? How steep can you make the incline before the car topples over? Test, record, and compare your results.

Build a Better World Water Bottle. Get outside and move (or move inside!). Include some activities or games that kids can play to get moving and get their hearts pumping. Or you could include information about why it's important to keep hydrated or why it's a healthier choice to drink water than to drink sugary drinks.

Jacob's Ladder. The Jacob's Ladder toy operates using a kinetic illusion that makes it look as if one of the blocks is traveling all the way down to the end. Pair this toy with information about optical illusions that they can share with friends or a family member. Science Sparks has instructions for an easy activity for kids to create their own optical illusion.

Color Block Bouncing Balls. Hold your bouncing ball straight out in front of you and drop it. How high does it go? What happens if you release it from a higher or a lower height? Experiment with trajectory ala Angry Birds. Set up a block tower or a stack of cardboard boxes and try bouncing your ball from the floor to your structure to knock it down. Did you aim correctly? If not, adjust and try again.

Construction Hats. These are a great toy for some imaginative play. An activity guide for this prize might include some info for parents on why imaginative play is important and suggest some ideas for other props to extend the fun. Wooden spoons could be hammers, a large cardboard box could become a backhoe, bulldozer, or other construction equipment.

iREAD incentives: 

Propellers. How do propellers work to lift things off the ground? Can you think of a way to measure how high your propeller is flying? What happens if you slide your hands more quickly or more slowly? Can you aim your propeller at a target? How close did you get? Experiment with how you can get closer to your target.

Bubble Illusion. Here's another one for optical illusion activities (see Jacob's Ladder above).

Flying rockets. Test how far your rocket will go. If you pull the rubber band farther, how does that affect the rocket's flight? Why does a rocket have fins? Can you design different fins for your rocket and attach them? How does that affect the rocket's flight?

Geometric Light-Up Bouncing Balls. See activities for "Color Block Bouncing Balls" above, but also ask yourself how does the shape of the ball affect the bounce? These balls are made up of geometric shapes, so how does that affect the height and how easy it is to aim?

Water Bottles. See activities above.

With a little creative thinking and research, almost any toy incentive can lend itself to at-home learning. If you don't want to create activity packs or separate instruction sheets, maybe you could put extension ideas on your website, include them on your summer reading log, or create a poster to put up at your prize station and encourage parents to take a photo of it.

What prizes are you offering for Summer Reading/Learning this year? How do you think your prizes could encourage learning to continue at home?

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Engineering Table

This summer, one of our self-directed programs is our Engineering Table. During the school year, we offer a craft table with a different self-directed craft each month. Over the summer, it's too cumbersome to refill supplies and keep a craft table stocked, so we have turned it into an activity table. This year, to go with our Summer Reading theme of Build a Better World, the table is all about engineering.

I put the Engineering Table up this week when our Summer Reading Club started and it has already been a big hit! I wasn't sure if kids would engage with the materials - they look so handmade - but they dive into it, making some really interesting creations. We've seen a lot of families engage in the table together, having some great conversations as they build together. That's exactly what we wanted!

I love providing self-directed activities because it means that no matter when a family stops by the library, there's something for them to do. We may not have a program for their age going on every single day this summer, but we always have some type of activity they can do. We mention the Engineering Table in our printed program calendar and I added it to our web calendar so that families who are looking will realize that there is always something for them to do at the library.

Each week, I'll change it out with some activities being more "handmade" and some being more polished (see our full schedule below).

I purchased several sets from Lakeshore Learning to use with the table. Some of these sets could be homemade if you're tight on funds. I was tight on time, so ordering the sets was easier for me.

Here's what I'm planning for each week:

Week 1: Building with craft sticks, clothespins, and binder clips (source: Frugal Fun 4 Boys).

Week 2: Fairy Tale Problem Solving Kit: The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Lakeshore Learning)

Week 3: Building with pool noodles and sponges (source: Handmade Kids Art)

Week 4: House Building Engineering Center (Lakeshore Learning)

Week 5: Letter Builder Set (this is similar - not sure if it's the same set we ordered several years ago) (Lakeshore Learning)

Week 6: Fairy Tale Problem Solving Kit: The Three Little Pigs (Lakeshore Learning)

Week 7: Building with cardboard boxes (source: 2014 Preschool Lab; we'll be using smaller boxes so that they'll fill on our table)

Week 8: Vehicle Building Engineering Center (Lakeshore Learning)

Week 9: Bridge Building Engineering Center (Lakeshore Learning)

Do you have any self-directed programming planned for this summer? I would love to hear about it in comments!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Reading Club: Our library #hashtag

This may be a no-brainer. I may be the very last librarian to think of this. But a late realization is better than none at all, right?

This summer, we decided on a library hashtag and I'm putting it on all of our stuff that we're doing to encourage families to take photos of how they're experiencing the library and share them with us on social media.

We haven't done it yet, so I'm not certain how it's going to go. But I suspect that people love any excuse to post to social media and that having our hashtag to follow may help us find those posts and collect ways that families are engaging with the library.

I've posted this on all our Science Activity Packs we're giving out as prizes and on the weekly instructions for our Engineering Table. I'm also creating general signs to put up at all our programs to encourage families to help us document the summer.

When we tried to think of a summer-specific hashtag, everything we came up with was too long or too weird (our library has a super long name). So our hashtag is #nafclibrary in case you want to check and see if anyone is following through...!

Has your library done this? Did people participate?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#middlegrademay Recap!

This month, I challenged myself to pick up more middle grade books and post about them on social media with the hashtag #middlegrademay. There are still SO MANY MORE great middle grade books on my radar that I want to get to, but here's what I was able to read this month:

(Full disclosure! I'm an Amazon Associate, so if you purchase something after clicking the links on my site, I get a small commission.)

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2017). This is a really solid contemporary middle grade story about Amina, a Muslim kid living in America. When her best friend Soojin decides to adopt an American name after she gets her citizenship, it throws Amina for a loop. Suddenly everything seems to be changing. Can Amina find her voice to stand up and tell everyone how she feels? Although Amina and her family deal with some issues related to immigration and being Muslim, I wouldn't call this an issue-driven book. I would hand this to kids who like realistic stories about characters who are dealing with a lot of the typical middle school issues - friendship, family, school, etc.

The Apprentice Witch by James Nichol (Chicken House, July 2017). This one's coming out in July and it's a great read for kids who like stories about magic and witches. When Arianwyn's evaluation goes awry and she does not graduate to the status of full witch, she is sent to a desperate little town near the edge of a powerfully magical forest where they are happy to have even an apprentice witch. There Arianwyn does the best she can dealing with the creatures that venture out of the wood, and she tries to understand the mysterious, dark glyph that keeps appearing to her. This is a magical adventure story that's a bit dark, but not too scary. It reminded me a lot of The Thickety series (which I love) and I think readers who enjoy that blend of slightly scary magical fantasy will like this one, as well.

Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank (Houghton Mifflin, 2017). One of my staff members raved about this historical novel, set in 1970s Los Angeles and telling the story of two boys - one who is bused to a predominantly white school from an African American neighborhood, and one who has attended the white school his whole life. I enjoyed it, although the characters read older than sixth grade to me. As a kid who was bused myself, it was interesting to see two sides to the story. I'd suggest this to readers who love historical fiction and school stories.

The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim (Scholastic, 2017). In the vein of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, this is a richly depicted historical fantasy novel about a young girl sold away from her family to abusive in-laws who helps and befriends jing, animal spirits who eventually help her in return. Kids who love Grace Lin's work or who enjoy Chinese folklore and/or fantasy adventure stories will like this one, too.

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House, 2016). Here's another historical novel, this one set in Depression Era Key West, Florida. Beans does what he can to make ends meet and help his family, even when his jobs are not quite legal. When strangers show up to makeover Key West as a tourist destination - a last ditch effort to save the city from bankruptcy - they turn the whole town on its head. I especially like historical fiction that tells me about things I didn't know, and I had no idea this had happened in Key West. Hand this to fans of Jennifer Holm's other works and any fans of historical fiction.

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley (Scholastic, 2017). The discovery of a hidden painting in a community garden in Harlem and a subsequent attack on an elderly man in that garden sends three kids on a hunt to solve a mystery and save their neighborhood. With developers looking to transform Harlem into something much different than the historic neighborhood, Jin and her new friends know they must stop them or risk losing their homes for good. I'm not a huge mystery fan, but I could really appreciate the rich setting, filled with details of life in Harlem. Kids who love mystery stories, especially novels like Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett or The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, will like this one, too.

The Thickety 4: The Last Spell by J.A. White (Katherine Tegan Books, 2017). This is the fourth and final book of a series that I LOVE and it did not disappoint. Definitely start with the first book, but don't skip the rest. This is a creepy magical adventure story that will please fans of slightly scary fantasy books.

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (Houghton Mifflin, 2017). Rose is used to being left behind, so when her mother leaves with her new family to travel North away from the hard life 1950s Mississippi has to offer, Rose resigns herself to her fate... for now. Her deepest hope is that her mother might send for her or that she might find some other way out of the South where tensions are rising. When a Negro boy from Chicago, Emmett Till, is murdered, Rose realizes that change is coming in Mississippi, but whether it will be good or bad, only time will tell. Hand this to kids who enjoy civil rights stories, especially fans of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor.

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic, 2016). This book is a complete thrill ride! Cassie has spent her life moving around to different places, following her art history professor father's career. Now they're living in Italy when one day her father picks her up from school in a panic, saying that she is in trouble, that a group called the Hastati wants her dead. And Cassie finds out that she is part of an ancient bloodline, she is a person marked from birth with the ability to control the Spear of Destiny and alter the course of human history. But many people would kill her before she can take that power into hand. This action-packed adventure story will appeal to kids who love the action in series like Percy Jackson or Loot by Jude Watson.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, 2016). Oh, man. This book got me in the feels. When their beloved sixth grade teacher is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and leaves unexpectedly early, missing her Last Day party that the class was throwing her, three boys set out to give her the send-off they know she deserves. Both funny and heartfelt, this is a contemporary novel for kids who like to feel the feels, but who also love to laugh. I love books that are sometimes funny and sometimes serious, and this one fit the bill.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill (Oni Press, 2016). In this fairy tale graphic novel, Princess Sadie is waiting for rescue in her tower when it's not a prince who arrives but another princess. Although the story felt a little sparse, this is a much-needed GLBT twist on the traditional princess rescue trope (and done in a middle-grade friendly way).

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda (Scholastic, 2013). This rip-roaring action adventure story features Hindu mythology like the Percy Jackson series features Greek mythology. Don't miss this one for your Rick Riordan fans!

Did you read any middle grade this month?