Friday, January 31, 2014

Afterschool: December

I only had one Afterschool group in December because my other visit was snowed out. Here's what we read:

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner (Dial, 2002). This rhyming story about what snowmen do at night works with a wide range of ages. Those crazy snowmen get up to all kinds of things once people go to sleep - snowman races, sledding, snowball fights, and drinking ice-cold cocoa, of course. This was a fun one since we recently had some snow (fairly rare for us in Southern Indiana), so many of the kids had build snowmen or gone sledding or something.

It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard (Chronicle Books, 2012). This one's all in the way you read it, I think. I told the kids we're going on an adventure together and whenever that tiger comes up, I scream my head off. This was a fun, funny one and I love the colorful illustrations.

I'm a Frog! by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion, 2013). By popular demand! We have made little Elephant and Piggie fanatics of all our Afterschool kids, I think. These books just lend themselves to reading aloud. This new E&P stars Piggie pretending she's a frog and Gerald trying to figure out why Piggie is suddenly a frog (she looks like a pig...). Another rollicking good time.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, 2011). I had read Klassen's This is Not My Hat with them last year, but realized that I hadn't brought this first book! They really enjoyed this funny story. Illustrations are very important to getting the jokes, so make sure everyone can see!

This month's craft was snowman scratch-art ordered from Oriental Trading. The kids looooove scratch art and would happily do it every single time. I had a ton of kids wanting to do this craft. I always debate with myself over whether we should be switching it up every month (like we're doing now) or just give in and order scratch art every month. I guess my fear would be that if we have budget cuts, we may not be able to order scratch art at some point, so I don't want them to be counting on it. But maybe that's just not a good way to think about it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reflections from ALA Midwinter

Maybe it's because I'm serving on an awards committee this year, but I feel like I've finally figured out the ALA Conference this time around. I learned so much, connected with my colleagues, and had no session regrets.

Of course, I'm lucky to have been selected for the Bill Morris Seminar on Book Evaluation Training, which was a completely amazing day. We split up the day between guest speakers and small group discussions on preselected books. Topics included how to evaluate books, how to discuss books in a group, and what the experience of serving on an ALA awards committee is like. In our small group discussions, we were able to practice what we learned as we discussed the books we had read. I came away feeling much more confident about evaluating and discussing books.

On Saturday, I met my 2015 Newbery Committee for the first time (a few of us had met previously, but this was the first time the entire group got together). At our open meeting, we got to know each other a little, went over the criteria and process for the Newbery committee work, and had an opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions we might have. I know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but it's going to be such worthwhile work and I'm really excited.

On Sunday, I attended my very first Guerrilla Storytime, which was an amazing grassroots training and sharing opportunity. Watch out, ILF Conference! Soon there will be Guerrilla Storytime at you! I also attended the Preschool Services Group Discussion, where we talked about the importance of play and how to incorporate play into our programs and our libraries.

Monday was the Youth Media Awards announcements, which were very emotional for me at this juncture (my friends kept leaning over and saying "Next year, that will be you!"). I loved finding out which books the committees chose to honor this year, and I especially found it interesting the wide range of ages this year's Newbery and Printz Awards covered.

Monday afternoon, I sat in on one of the Notable Children's Books discussions, which was illuminating and interesting. This is definitely a session I would recommend sitting in on (their meetings are open) if you're interested in book evaluation and/or serving on an awards committee. Again, I was able to see some of the elements of book discussion put into practice while watching the committee go through their process to select the year's notable books.

And Monday night, I attended the joint ALSC/YALSA reception, which is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and get to know new people. I have been to enough conferences and involved in enough ALA activities now that I know people at these events and it's always fun to see everyone. I've learned, too, that everyone gets really excited when you tell them you're on the Newbery Committee and it's a great conversation starter.

My only regret is that I did not have a chance to sit in on the Notable Children's Recordings session, but there's always next time!

All in all, it was a GREAT conference and I'd like to thank the ALA staff and volunteers for a great learning opportunity. I'd also like the thank all the ALA awards committees for their hard work this year in selecting the year's most distinguished books for children and teens. It is NOT easy work and so much thought goes into every choice.

Although I am super exhausted (I'm writing this at the Philadelphia Airport), I'm also refreshed, in a way. I'm excited to bring some of the things I learned back to my staff. I'm excited to put the things I learned into practice. And I'm excited to start my Newbery year.

It's going to be an amazing year, folks!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

And I'm Off!

Philadelphia City Hall by angelo

I'm off today for the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia! Make sure to tune in to the ALSC Blog over the next few days because several fabulous people are liveblogging the conference! If there is anything in particular you'd like to hear about, be sure to let us know!

You will find me at the Morris Seminar on Friday, the introductory Newbery Committee meeting on Saturday (!!), Guerrilla Storytime on Sunday, and the Youth Media Awards ceremony on Monday (watch it live!!!). And I will be around other places, too.

When I get back, it will be time to read, read, read, read, read, read... ;)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reading Wildly: Kicking Off 2014


We kicked off our 2014 year of Reading Wildly with a reader's choice month, and we spent a chunk of our meeting time talking about reader's advisory and how to do a reader's advisory interview. I had a new staff member start last week, so I got him up to speed about our program and we all shared our booktalks. 

To start our conversation, everyone had read this Readers' Advisory article from the Ohio Library Council. It gives a good basic overview of what reader's advisory is, so it was perfect to use with a new staff person. Our Winter Reading Club has been going on in December and January and one of the boxes on our BINGO sheet is "A Librarian's Suggestion". As our patrons began asking for suggestions, I realized that we maybe needed a refresher on how to start a reader's advisory interview. 

My staff brought up several good points about the article: 

  • We talked about being approachable and ending each RA transaction by encouraging patrons to come back and give us feedback. 
  • We talked about how to start a reader's advisory interview. Although many people might be stumped when asked "What kind of book are you looking for?" we usually get results if we ask a kid to tell us about the last book he read that he really liked and why he liked it. 
  • We talked about how to continue the reader's advisory interview as you walk back to the stacks (ALWAYS walk back to the stacks!) and how new information might spark new suggestions. 
  • We talked about how readers might like books for different reasons and it's important to find out what a reader liked about a certain title before jumping to conclusions. 
  • We talked about the language "I suggest" as opposed to the language "I recommend" and why we should suggest and not recommend (recommending implies that we endorse that particular book and puts pressure on a patron to choose the book the expert recommends). 
I also shared Becky's 10 Rules of Basic RA Service and I've tweaked our book review forms to include a place for writing down adjectives that describe the books we're reading. 

And we shared booktalks. These are the books booktalked by my staff this month: 

Next month, we're talking about realistic fiction since we've had some requests for that genre lately. Realistic fiction is kind of a genre-bender and can include mysteries, funny books, sports books, and more as long as they don't include magic, fantasy elements, or science fiction. Some may consider historical fiction a part of realistic fiction, but we're doing historical fiction later this year, so I'm asking my staff to read contemporary realistic fiction. 

Our article for next month is Keeping It Real: How Realistic Does Realistic Fiction for Children Need to Be? by Barbara O'Connor (Language Arts, vol. 87, no. 6, July 2010). Barbara O'Connor discusses several different elements of realistic fiction, including dialog, characters, and family relationships. I've asked my staff to keep those elements in mind as they read. 

I definitely enjoy realistic fiction, so this will be an easy month for me. What are some of your favorite realistic fiction titles? 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Simple Solution: Hang a Desk Calendar

Last year, some of my staff and I went to a district roundtable of children's librarians held at the Madison Jefferson County Public Library in Madison, IN. I spotted a simple, hanging calendar listing all their children's events and I knew I had to have one for our library!

I purchased the Librarian's Desk Calendar from Upstart, which I like because it lists authors' birthdays and it is bright and colorful. But you could use any desk calendar for this use.

Tons of people look at this calendar every day! It's eye-catching and most people recognize the shape of a calendar. This calendar says, "HEY LOOK, WE HAVE PROGRAMS!" better than any of our flyers, which are many and can blend in together. They provide information and are great for families to take home, but they don't catch the eye like this calendar does. It is an easy way for patrons to see our monthly schedule at a glance and quickly figure out if we have programs they can attend. It's also a way for them to get an idea about how our weekly programs are scheduled.

The calendar has two holes in the top corners for hanging. Since we didn't want to put nails in our desk, we ran some wire through the holes and it hangs on a screw we put into the back part of the desk (where no one will see it).

Every season, once we have our program schedule set, I take the calendar down and hand-write our schedule in simple entries. For example, Monday, January 27 lists:

Preschool Explorers 10am

Mother Goose on the Loose 4pm

There's no room for other information (although I suppose you could add age ranges if you wanted to squeeze them in there), so I put a little note saying to ask at the desk for more information. Since the calendar is hung right on our reference desk, there is almost always a staff person right there to say, "Hey, if you have any questions about our events, I'm happy to answer them!"

This was a simple solution for us to help advertise our programs: cheap, easy to update, and visually appealing.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fancy Nancy Books "For Boys"

Have you ever has this reference question (or something similar)?

Where are the Fancy Nancy books for boys? My son loves learning all the fancy new words, but Fancy Nancy is just too girly!

Okay, I'm not coming down on any side of the girl-books/boy-books debate, but I've been asked this question more than once and could not find a book list, so I thought it was high time to create one!

This is a list of suggestions for boys OR girls who enjoy learning the longer words in the Fancy Nancy books. Many thanks to my colleagues at my library, on PUBYAC, on Code Name Awesome, and on Twitter who contributed suggestions. I know there are more that I don't have listed here, so please, please, please add suggestions in comments!!

A Thesaurus. No, really. Look for a children's thesaurus. Barron's First Thesaurus is chock full of fancy words and while they're not in a story, they are presented in an appealing way (not like boring old grown-up thesauri with just lists and lists of words).

Nonfiction. There are TONS of new words in nonfiction books and many will define them right in the book. Look for narrative nonfiction picture books if kids want more of a story or choose a series at their reading level.

Books Teaching About Adjectives or Synonyms. Some of the picture books listed below are these type of books and if you don't have these particularly titles, you might have others.

Books About Homophones and Palindromes. If kids love learning new words, would they also be excited to learn about some special kind of words?

Poetry? This may be a stretch, but words are chosen so carefully for poetry that word-minded kids might be fascinated by how they fit together.

Books About Kids Who Love Words and Wordplay

Picture Books That Use Longer Vocabulary Words and Define Them Somehow

Picture Books That Use Longer Vocabulary Words Without Defining Them
Although the desire may be for a text that defines the words within the story, there are just way more picture books and chapter books that simply use longer words. Maybe pair this with a dictionary? Or read them together until a young reader can figure out the words from context?

Longer Books and Chapter Books That Use Longer Vocabulary Words
Depending on the age and maturity of your young patron, some of these may work or not (and if not read independently, they might work as a family read-aloud).

Also, books by : 
  • Philip Ardagh
  • Roald Dahl
MUCH thanks to the lovely people who responded to my pleas for help and contributed to this list. I know there are more books for kids who love fancy words!!! Help a librarian out and leave more suggestions in the comments!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fizz Boom Re-sources

Photo by Lotzman Katzman, used under Creative Commons. 

Is your library using the Collaborative Summer Library Program theme this summer? We just had a fabulous training by our state library's children's consultant, Suzanne Walker, and she shared some great resources for programming that take us beyond what the CSLP manual offers. (The CSLP manual is a great first resource and I always encourage my staff to go through it and get ideas for summer programming. Even if I don't use their programs straight out of the book, I will always find bits and pieces to use and ideas to put my own spin on. )

Here are some of the resources Suzanne talked about:

Pinterest! I know you've already thought about this and you've been pinning ideas for months now, but just in case you haven't... Pinterest is a great resource for all kinds of science activities for a variety of ages. You can search for STEM activities in general or use keywords to narrow your search if you're looking for an activity to flesh out a theme you're working on.

Suzanne has created Pinterest boards for Fizz Boom Read and for the teen theme of Spark a Reaction and she's often adding new ideas, so make sure you follow those boards. Many other librarians are using Pinterest to keep track of programming ideas, so follow them, too, and soon you will have your entire Summer Reading Club planned. :)

Edmund Scientifics is a vendor carrying some very cool science stuff for kids. You may find incentives or prizes here or you may find some cool stuff to enhance your programs.

The Iowa Summer Reading Program Workshops: Fizz Boom Read So, these wonderful gals in Iowa, Ann Hartman and Sarah Day, were tasked with going through the CSLP manual, trying out the activities, and creating this website. The website goes through the manual chapter-by-chapter, suggesting additional activities and materials. This is a great resource if you're not finding exactly what you need in the manual. / Science Sites Kidsites is a great place to find vetted, safe websites for kids. Their science section has lots of great websites that may include activity or theme ideas. From amusement park physics to Bill Nye the Science Guy to How Stuff Works, you'll find many great sites to use in your programming.

Love My Science is a great website with many kid-friendly science experiments. These may make great additions to your program or they may be perfect for a take-home packet to continue the learning at home. I am not someone who is very brave about doing science experiments with kids and many of these look like something I'd be happy to attempt. :)

The Show-Me Librarian, Amy Koester's blog, is a wealth of STEM resources. She's posted many program plans for young children and for school-age kids and she has a fantastic section of links to online STEM resources. This one is a paid subscription, so maybe not everyone has access to it. Indiana residents have access to through INSPIRE and they have come up with some great book lists centered around the CSLP theme.

YouTube is a great source for videos explaining science experiments or for stop-motion (time lapse) videos showing scientific events (like plants growing). Adding a video can be a great way to introduce a topic or to enhance a program you're offering. Try a general search for stop-motion and see what cool things you'll find!

Are you using the Fizz Boom Read theme this summer? What great resources have you found?

Monday, January 13, 2014

And the (Mock) Winners Are...

Last night, I held our second annual staff Mock Caldecott party. We keep it casual and I've blogged about how to host a Mock Caldecott party before. This year, we determined some nominees ahead of time and it really made for some close voting (so we had tons of honor recipients!).

This year's Mock Caldecott winner is...

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

And we gave honors to all of our runners up: 

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley (Peter Pauper Press)

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky (Chronicle Books)

Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler (Peachtree Publishers)

I'll be attending the Midwinter Meeting, so I'll be in the audience as the actual 2014 awards are announced, but I've arranged for my staff to come in early to watch the live webinar together in our computer lab. I know that now that we've had some conversations and looked closely at this year's picture books, my staff will be more invested in the results and excited to watch the awards announcements!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Training for New Employees at the @ALSCBlog

This morning, I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about training resources I use with new employees. I would love to hear what training resources you find valuable, so please click through and leave me suggestions in the comments!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Give Me a Break!

Photo by KOMUnews, accessed via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, I added to a great conversation started by Julie Jurgens in the Storytime Underground Facebook Group (if you are not following Storytime Underground, I must insist that you do so immediately!) about storytime scheduling. When, if ever, do you take a break?

(Before I get any farther, I'm gonna encourage you to read Marge Loch-Waters's thoughts on storytime breaks, too!)

While I know that our families love storytime, we take several long breaks throughout the year.

Typically, our winter/spring session starts mid-January and goes through mid-April. We take 5-6 weeks off during April and May to prep for Summer Reading Club and to allow for school visits to promote the SRC and connect with our school-age kids. We'll have 7 or 8 weeks of storytime over the summer and then take August off. Fall session runs from the week of Labor Day through mid-December and then we take a 4-5 week break over the holidays and beginning of January.

All of our storytimes are currently drop-in because attendance was going way, way down for registered sessions of storytime. We offer baby storytime and toddler time (2's and 3's) twice a week each and we offer Preschool Explorers and Reading Rock Stars (beginning readers, ages 4-6) once a week each. Starting this month we'll also be offering a monthly bi-lingual storytime in the evening and hopefully at some point a regular evening storytime.

In addition to this, we often have several group visits and outreach visits each week. Yes, I have a staff and we spread out the workload so that everyone typically ends up doing 2-3 programs a week. But I cannot fathom doing all that we do without breaks here and there.

Storytimes tend to break up the day, making it difficult to work on a large, involved project. Having to schedule staff meetings, staff training, employee evaluations, committee meetings, outreach visits, etc. gets really tricky when you're working around the storytime schedules. I truly can't imagine being able to schedule visits to our 13+ elementary schools while having to work around a storytime schedule. With state testing, field trips, and specials, the schools have enough conflicts to work around! If we didn't have a completely open schedule, we would not be able to make it to most of the schools.

Librarians are professionals and we need time to participate in professional development, to attend conferences, workshops, and webinars. This year, we'll also be taking a one-week break in March while the PLA Conference is being held in Indianapolis because my director wants to send as many staff as possible.

In the winter, storytime attendance really drops off as people start getting busy with holiday prep and the winter colds make their rounds. (Also, people in Southern Indiana are pretty afraid of Weather, so even the idea of snow and ice is enough to keep people indoors!) We're just coming out of this winter storytime break and here's what we've done with our time "off":

- Employee evaluations
- Year-end book ordering to get all our budget money spent
- Weeding and recataloging projects
- Planning the winter/spring storytime session, including creating handouts, pulling books, creating flannels and props, researching early literacy information to share...
- The Winter Reading Club
- Several Winter Break all-ages programs while the kids were out of school
- Department meeting
- Reading Wildly readers' advisory meeting
- Several staff members took time off around the holidays to relax and recharge

And all that on top of serving patrons at our reference desk.

Even if we weren't doing all that other stuff, I can see a benefit in taking planning breaks. It sends a message that planning a quality storytime requires thoughtful work. We value our children enough to ensure that programs are age-appropriate and contain activities that will develop school readiness skills. We're doing our research so we can pass that on to the patrons. Although we know our patrons will miss us, we explain to them that we're taking time to plan the next round of fun and learning. And they understand!

You wouldn't expect an academic librarian to put together a semester's worth of classes with no planning time, would you?

I have no doubt that there are superhero librarians doing storytime every week year-round. If that's what works for you and for your community, more power to you. But I ask you to ask yourself if that's really working for you and your community. Does it give you the chance to learn and try new things? Does it allow you to do work on work time or are you taking it home and doing it on personal time*? Does it result in storytimes that are rooted in early literacy and child development research? Does it give you a chance to recharge occasionally and keep from getting burned out?

I am lucky to have a super supportive administration who trust my judgment in storytime and program planning. I am lucky to have a super staff who take on everything that I throw at them. And I will always fight for my staff to have the programming breaks they need to give them time to plan, to develop their skills, to recharge, and to keep loving what they are doing!

* Yup, children's librarianship is a passion and I have definitely done work at home when I'm feeling inspired or come across some great resource. But this should be the exception, not the rule!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cybils Shortlists Announced!

Oh, friends, Happy New Year, indeed! It's January 1 and you know what that means... the Cybils Shortlists have been announced! The Cybils - Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards - aim to recognize books that have a combination of literary merit and kid appeal, so they make particularly great book lists to share with patrons! The winners in each category will be announced on February 14, so make sure you add these finalists to your reading list!