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?