Stellaluna Storywalk

On Saturday we hosted our first-ever Storywalk! You’ve heard of it, right? Children and their families follow a trail outdoors where book pages are displayed on signs throughout the trail. It’s the perfect way to blend literacy and physical activity, and it’s also a great way to partner with local organizations. Storywalk was created by Anne Ferguson in Vermont in 2007, and many libraries (and other community organizations) have created their own Storywalk too.

To pull this program off successfully, our library partnered with the park district as well as a local children’s museum. The story we chose to tell was Stellaluna by Janell Cannon. Our Storywalk was held at our city’s Riverwalk, a popular walking area downtown next to the river and across the street from our library.  It took place from 10:00am-12:00pm. At the beginning of the program, our staff handed out maps to participants, listing 26 stops throimage (1)ughout the trail. 25 of those stops included enlarged storybook pages along a designated path, and the final stop gave families a chance to get refreshments and play with interactive tinker toys brought by the children’s museum.

It was a chilly day, but the abundance of sunshine made up for the cooler weather. We had over 200 individuals enjoy our Storywalk during the two-hour period that we offered it. The resounding success and interest from our patrons has already encouraged us to look into offering Storywalk all summer-long next year, and possibly offering it at more than one location!

For more ideas, take a look at these successful Storywalks done by other libraries:

The Best Professional Development Books

Professional development books can sometimes be a mixed bag. Some books can be tedious or even feel repetitive, but a few can be extremely informative and helpful. I’ve found a helpful few that I continually revisit to find new ideas and sage advice when I need a fresh perspective on storytimes and other library matters. In no particular order, here are my favorites:

Baby Storytime MagicBaby Storytime Magic by Kathy MacMillan – This book is wonderful for those who do Lapsit programs for babies, whether you are new to this program or you have been doing it for a number of years. My favorite aspect is the “literacy bit” included with each book or activity. When we do programs for babies, we are also modeling the desired behavior to caregivers, and teaching them why it’s important to include certain activities for babies. The “literacy bits” are an accessible and fluid way to describe the importance of what we’re doing.

Mother Goose on the Loose by Betsy Diamant-Cohen – This wonderful book contains complete scripts to plan your Lapsit programs. Everything is ready-to-use and extremely time-friendly for librarians. This book includes a CD of all the rhymes in the book, so you can hear exactly how that rhyme is supposed to flow. This is an invaluable resource you’ll want to have in your librThe Black Belt Librarianaries.

The Black Belt Librarian: Real World Safety and Security by Warren Graham – This book is a must-read for all library staff, no matter which department you are in. It covers safety in the library, particularly how to handle disgruntled patrons effectively and confidently. In this day and age, everyone should be well-equipped to deal with library safety issues.

Children’s Services: Partnerships for Success by Betsy Diamant-Cohen – This book is great because it gives real-world examples of partnerships between libraries and community organizations. Some of my favorites included inviting the police to read at your library (which we do, along with them bringing their Partnerships for Successpolice car or firetruck), and the outreach that the Carroll County Library did to increase awareness of library services to immigrant families. Each section takes time to discuss the partnership, including logistical information such as applicable costs, the time involved, and possible roadblocks/solutions. This book is well-worth your time.

The Early Literacy Kit: A Handbook and Tip Cards by Betsy Diamant-Cohen – This another book, similar to Baby Storytime Magic, that gives you practical early literacy tips that you can share with parents during storytime. This book makes it even easier to share these tips by creating removable cards that you can take with you to read from, rather than memorizing the tip that’s relevant.

What are your favorite professional development books?

Best Read-Alouds for Babies

It can be challenging to find books for babies that work well in Lapsit. These books need to promote interaction between the child and the caregiver, contain eye-catching & simplistic illustrations, focus on concrete themes that babies can relate to, and most of all, be short. Here are some books that have worked well for me in Lapsit:

Freight Train by Donald Crews – I love the choice of simple colors in this classic book. Plus, a transportation theme is a cinch to do for babies.Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox – This is a cute rhyming book that moms love, and kids do too. The book has plenty of repetition that is great for little ones. We have multiple copies of this title so that each child & caregiver can read a copy together while I read the master copy up front.

The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell – This is another cute title that works well for a transportation theme. I encourage the adults to help make the noises that each page mentions.

Time for Bed by Mem Fox – This book makes me feel sleepy just reading it! This would work perfectly for a bedtime theme or for an animal theme, as every page spread shows a baby animal with its mother as it gets ready to say goodnight.

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle – A great active book that will have the babies and grownups up & moving! Encourage the adults and babies to do each activity that the animals do in the book.

In My FlowerIn My Flower by Sara Gillingham – Any title in this series is a great choice! I love that every title in this series has a familiar refrain; the animal , and it ends with that animal with their family. Each book has a felt animal attached to the center of the book, with an opening for you to place your finger in. This is sure to capture the attention of babies.

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora – This cheerful story shares the tale of an African-American child who spies different objects in his everyday life, such as his mommy and puppy. This author/illustator has also written several engaging books for older children that use traditional folk tales, like Princess and the Pea or Cinderella, and retells the story using African landscapes and other cultural elements.

This is the Farmer by Nancy Tafuri – Seriously, anything by this author is a gold mine for Lapsit. With just a few words on every page, you’ll retain the interest of the babies and likely make it through an entire story before the little ones wiggle away! I always ask adults to make the animal noises that correspond to each page.

Peek-A-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti – Like with any pop-up book, the element of surprise in this title is sure to excite even thePeek-a-Moo littlest audience members. Each spread begins with “Guess who? Peek-a-…..” and after lifting the flap, the animal is revealed along with the corresponding noise it makes. This can be made even more interactive by asking the grownup to cover the baby’s eyes until the flap is lifted. Although this book is only available as a picture book, you can try “Peek-a-Zoo” Nina Laden by for a similar title in the sturdy board book format.

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli – The books by these authors are a fun perspective on opposites. This one can be good for a mealtime theme. I ask adults to make faces for each type of food, a happy face for yummy foods and a grossed-out face for the  yucky foods.

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker – A colorful rendetion of the popular rhyme “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”. Each page has an item which you can choose to count with the audience. Promoting math and traditional nursery rhymes? A win-win.

I Kissed the BabyI Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy – A cute story that naturally lends itself to interaction between the caregiver and child, with an activity that they can do on each page. “I tickled the baby. Did you tickle the baby?”, etc. The illustrations are mostly black & white, which is an added bonus if you have very little babies in attendance, as they will find the high-contrast illustrations especially appealing.

Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz – Another amazing author that is worth her weight in gold. This is a perfect choice for a theme about body parts. This book contains lift the flaps which have parents and babies looking for each of baby’s body parts.

Bathing by Liesbet Slegers – Choose from any of these author’s books, and you’re sure to find a Lapsit gem. This particular book is a great choice for a Bathtime theme, and it contains simple sentences about the ways in which a child gets ready for bath. The childlike illustrations are inviting and fun.

This Little Chick by John Lawrence – You can never have too many barnyard tales! This story focuses on a little chick who goes around the farm and visits several different animals. One page reads, “this little chick from over the way/ went to skip with the lambs one day, and what do you think they heard him say?”. Encourage caregivers and babies to mimic the animal noises as you read. Pair this with “When Cows Get Up in the Morning” by Hugh Hanley for a storytime filled with animal sounds.

What are some of your favorite stories to read in Lapsit? Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

Junior Detectives

This program was for children in grades K-2, and our Junior Detectives had a crime to solve. As the children came in to the room, we played several brain teasers to get our detective juices flowing. I had a table of books on display in the corner of our room. While the kids were busy trying to solve the brain teasers, I had three different co-workers enter the room at different times. Each of them carried a tote bag and casually went over to the display table to view the books. Only one of them took a book from the table, leaving behind two folded notes.photo 1

Once the group had finished solving a few brain teasers (and once all three suspects had exited the room), I went over to the display table and announced that a book had been stolen! I asked whether the children had seen anyone come into the room, and they answered that they had (thankfully no one knew right away who had taken the book). Together we compiled a list of what we could remember of each suspect: what were they wearing, what they looked like, etc. I turned the board around to reveal a picture of each of the three people who had been in the room, along with a brief description of them. The suspects were:

  • Candy Johnson, a chef with a loop fingerprint.
  • Sarah Stego, a paleontologist with a loop fingerprint.
  • Jessica Bolt, a track coach with a whorl fingerprint.

photo 2After creating the suspect list, I shared the first note I had found with them. It was an encrypted note printed from Martha Stewart (a template for a save-the-date, if you can believe it!). There was also a fingerprint on the back of this note. This then naturally led to each of the stations that I had set up in the program room.

Decoding Station: Kids used a magnifying glass covered in red film (found at the dollar store and cut to fit inside the magnifying glass) to decode the message. The message read, “I am holding this book hostage. You must pay me one thousand dollars by midnight or I will destroy this book!”. After they had decoded the note, they went to the Fingerprint station.

Fingerprint Station: At this station, I had each of them practice taking their own fingerprint. I showed them the three different types of fingerprint patterns that people can have, and then I asked them if they knew which fingerprint was on the back of the note. Everyone determined that it was a loop, which meant Jessica Bolt could be crossed off the list of possible suspects.

Code-Breaking Station: I now shared the second piece of paper that the suspect had dropped. It was a printed catalog record for a book in our library titled “Bizarre Dinosaurs”. On the back of that paper, there was a handwritten note which read “6-9-14-4 20-8-9-19 2-15-15-11! 19.19.” I showed the kids a popular code which links each letter of the alphabet to a different number. A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. Once they had the hang of that, they broke the code and discovered that the hidden message read: “Find this book! S.S.”photo 3

With this clue, the kids came running back to the suspect board to see if they could solve the mystery. The book was about dinosaurs, and one of the suspects was a paleontologist. The initials were also S.S., which pointed to one suspect: Sarah Stego. The kids had solved the crime!

After they solved the mystery, I told them how proud I was that they had figured it out, and that they were now bonafide spies. I had one station remaining for them to visit.

Disguise & ID Station: As true detectives, they got to make an identification card, with their secret agent name and their fingerprint. They also got to choose a disguise; either a moustache or a pair of lips that they glued on to a popsicle stick.

This program was so much fun for everyone involved, and the kids couldn’t stop talking about it. If you’re looking for more ideas on spy programs at the library, check out this post by Future Librarian Superhero on an entire spy week, Spy Science by LibriErin, Spy School by Bryce Don’t Play, and Spy Night by the Neighborhood Librarian.

Using iPads in Storytime

Using iPads in storytime is a relatively new venture for me. I’ve used the device a few times in storytime, but only when it adds value or presents an aspect that I couldn’t do in a traditional format. That means no e-books for me, at least right now. If I can tell a story or sing a song in a traditional way, then I do so without the help of an iPad. I only use apps as an extension of my storytime theme, and I usually use them in the last 5 minutes of my storytime. If you’re unsure of where to start, make sure to check out a post from Anne’s Library Life that explains how she uses iPads in storytime. Texas State Library also has a pretty detailed and thorough Powerpoint detailing all aspects of using iPads to support early literacy.

Do what feels comfortable for you. Just like books, some apps may work for you, and others don’t feel right. Likewise, you may feel comfortable using iPad apps where children each have their own device to try it out, or you may only feel confident using apps connected to a projector. It’s all good as long as you feel confident. Here’s a great Powerpoint that gives detailed information for those just beginning the introduction of iPads in storytime.

Be patient. With others, and with yourself. Everyone has a different level of understanding when it comes to technology. The children in your audience are digital natives, so they will likely catch on quickly. This might mean that they’re several steps ahead of you. Likewise, the parent attending storytime with their child might be unfamiliar with the app or device, and may need extra assistance. Just remember: everything is a learning experience, and the more you practice the more confident you become.

Practice an app before using it in storytime. You would never read a story for the first time in front of an audience, so make sure you use the same rule of thinking when it comes to apps. Take your time when you practice; there are often hidden ‘extras’ that you can choose to use in storytime to extend the activity (clicking on a farm animal to hear it make noise), or you may choose not to click so that your group usage remains fluid.

Use the apps at the end of storytime. This allows parents to leave storytime before the apps are used, in case they’re sensitive to their child having screen time.

Now that we’ve covered a few tips and suggestions, here are some great concrete ideas for using iPads in storytimes:

Our fall storytime session has just begun, so I’ll hopefully be sharing additional ideas for apps and ways to use them in the very near future!

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Our library does a “Stuffed Animal Sleepover” twice a year, much to the delight of our youngest patrons. It’s so sweet to see the children bring their favorite stuffed animal to the reference desk, create a nametag, and give their stuffed animal a kiss before they depart. Once all the stuffed animals have been dropped off, it’s an intense and well-planned mission to take pictures and create a slideshow before the children come again in the morning to retrieve them. Here are some tips that we’ve learned as we’ve done this program over the years.

Create name tags. The last thing you want is to give a stuffed animal to the wrong child. And believe it or not, we always have one or two stuffed animals left unclaimed the next morning. We ask that the adult fill out the nametag (so that it’s legible) with the child’s first name, the stuffed animal’s name, and a phone number we can reach them at. The phone number comes in handy when a stuffed animal isn’t claimed the next morning. These nametags are a Ellison die-cut, and they’re tied around the stuffed animal with ribbon.

Set a clear start and end to the stuffed animal drop-off. As much as we love to accomodate patrons, we need to give ourselves ample time to take photos of the stuffed animals on that night.

Partner with a co-worker. If staffing is tight, at least see if someone can help with picture-taking. If there are two floors in your library, assign a co-worker to one floor and you can take pictures on the other floor. Develop a workflow before you get started so that you aren’t overlapping.015

Create a map. Once you’ve decided on places to take pictures, write them down in order of where they are located in your library. This help eliminate needless trips from one end of your library to the other.

Take group photos AND solo shots. If you have a large number of stuffed animals that were dropped off, you don’t need to include each stuffed animal in every shot. Sometimes taking a photo of just a few at a time will make it easier for the children to spot theirs when the slidshow is shown.

Keep track of the number of times you photograph each stuffed animal. Believe me, kids will notice if their stuffed animal is only featured twice while another animal is featured much more. You may think you’re playing fair, but keep a running total of hashmarks, just to be safe.

Picture Ideas:
Vending machine
Check-out desk (with books of course!)
Book drop
Inside elevators
Staff lounge, inside the refrigerator (the kids just loved seeing the internal part of our building)
Bathroom with toothbrushes
On a blanket and pillows listening to the librarian read a bedtime story
Playing with the library toys and board games
In the collection, preferably in a section that relates to that stuffed animal (ex: a teddy bear in the nonfiction section about bears)

We read the books, “The Stuffed Animals Get Ready for Bed” by Allison Inches, and “When the Library Lights Go Out” by Megan 100McDonald. We danced to “Five Little Monkeys” and sang “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around”.

You can view our powerpoint here. After the morning storytime event, we added music to the slideshow and uploaded it to YouTube, with a link on our website. We had so many requests from parents to make the slideshow available, and this was an easy way for us to do that.

For other great suggestions on how to do a Stuffed Animal Sleepover, read this post by Claudia Haines at ‘Never Shushed’.