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’.

Best Recorded Songs for Storytime

Singing songs and playing music are one of my favorite parts of doing storytime. Children of all ages relate to music, and whatever your theme is, there is a song for you. That being said, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, which is why I often gravitate towards using recorded music in storytime. These are my favorite recorded songs, the ones that I turn to time and again when planning storytime. I don’t always relate my storytime music to a theme, because often I just want a reliable favorite that will get the audience up and moving. Try one of these songs out; you’ll be glad you did!

Songs for Babies

When Cows Get Up in the Morning – Hugh Hanley (Circle of Songs)

Smooth Road to London – Kathy Reid-Nailman (A Smooth Road to London Town)

Horsey Rides – Carole Peterson (Sticky Bubble Gum)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat – Rob Newhouse (Songs for Wiggleworms)

Pop Goes the Weasel – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Noble Duke of York – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Bumping Up and Down – Raffi (Singable Songs for the Very Young)

Baby 1, 2, 3 – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!) – this reminds me of a slower version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”; it’s a lot of fun for parents to point to baby’s body parts during each part of the song.

Everybody Knows I Love My Toes – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!)

Pat-A-Cake – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Acka Backa Soda Cracker – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Mother & Father & Uncle John – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Elevator Song – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

This is the Way the Ladies Ride – MaryLee (Baby-O!)

Bounce Your Baby – Caspar Babypants (This is Fun!)

Run Baby Run – Caspar Babypants (More Please!)

Songs for Toddlers

Can You Clap – Sue Schnitzer (Wiggle and Whirl, Clap and Nap)

Milkshake Song – Wiggleworms (Songs for Wiggleworms) – use with bells or egg shakers for a participatory element!

Pig on Her Head – Laurie Berkner (Buzz Buzz) – use puppets to act out the song, or pass out die-cut shapes of animals to each caregiver. Invite the cargiver to place them on the toddlers’ heads as you sing the song.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat – Rob Newhouse (Songs for Wiggleworms) – a fun and innovative take on the traditional song, with plenty of interaction!

I Know a Chicken – Laurie Berkner (The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band) – use with egg shakers!

Shake Your Scarves – Johnette Downing (The Second Line)

Scarves on Your Laps – Johnette Downing (The Second Line)

Songs for Preschoolers and Older Children

Glad to See You – Peter Allard (Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It!)

Put Your Finger On – Parachute Express (Feel the Music)

Shakin’ It – Parachute Express (Shakin’ It)

Jump Up, Turn Around – Jim Gill (Moving Rhymes for Modern Times)

Shake My Sillies Out – Raffi (The Singable Songs Collection)

Jumping and Counting – Jim Gill (Irrational Anthem)

The Freeze – Greg & Steve (Kids in Motion)

Hands are for Clapping – Jim Gill (Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes)

Spider on the Floor – Raffi (Singable Songs for the Very Young)

If You Feel Like Rockin’ – Greg & Steve (Holidays and Special Times)

Sticky Bubble Gum – Carole Peterson (Sticky Bubble Gum)

Riding in My Car – Ralph’s World (Ralph’s World)

For additional resources, check out this great SLJ article titled, “Why Your Library Needs Music“. And here’s another great list of other songs to use in storytime, put together by the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy.

Riverwalk: Storytime Outside!

Each summer, our library puts on a summer storytime performance at the Riverwalk, an outdoor amphitheatre in the city’s downtown area, near the river and across the street from one of our libraries. It’s always so much fun to create a massive performance for our patrons, and we often have upwards of 600 people attend!

Riverwalk storytimes last for 45 minutes, and are loosely tied to a theme. They all end with a puppet play, which is usually the part of our performance that our patrons look forward to most. The stories that we read are us ually adapted to entertain a large audience, whether they be big books or prop stories. We include several participatory songs (Jim Gill is a favorite!), and action rhymes that the children can do along with us.

In case of inclement weather, we do reserve a large meeting room inside the downtown library for the Riverwalk performance to occur. We do Riverwalk storytimes twice a week during the summer, one on Tuesday nights and one on Wednesdays around lunch time. Patrons usually bring a lunch to enjoy during the Wednesday storytime, and we see many families plan to meet at the performance, and in other cases, meet each other for the first time at our event.

The Riverwalk storytimes are a chance for children’s staff from other buildings to come together and do a program. It’s a wonderful collaborative effort that we look forward each summer.

Storytime Behavior Management: Tips and Tricks

We’ve all been there… storytime begins, and a rambunctious child steers the attention away from the story you’re reading. Or, a group of adults are using storytime as a chance to chat with one another, thereby distracting the audience. What can you do to curb these (and other) distracting behaviors?

Use nametags. It’s easier to get a child’s attention when you can address them by name. This can also work for positive reinforcement, or with opening/closing songs that insert children’s names into their songs.

If the overall group noise becomes too loud, try whispering. This change in tempo will get the attention of the audience over time. Try the age old whisper game: “If you can hear my voice, touch your nose. If you can hear my voice, touch your knees, etc.” It takes several times of repeating whatever you’re saying, but it can be more effective than yelling.

Address your concerns at the beginning of storytime. If you’ve been having issues with parents conducting side conversations during your storytimes, emphasize at the beginning how important adult participation in storytime is. Let them know that you expect them to do the songs with their child so that they can be a role model for their child. If participants don’t know what’s expected of them, you can’t fault them for behaviors you’d rather not see.

Catch a bubble. I routinely do storytimes for a large audience (sometimes upwards of 100 people!). Overall volume can get out of hand quickly. To rein the audience back towards the story that I’m reading, I tell the audience to “catch a bubble” on the count of three. This means that everyone holds their breath at the exact same time, usually for only a few seconds. Then I tell the audience to take a deep breath out, and the result is silence and eyes on me. This has worked for me every time!

Read the longest story first. Audience attention will almost always wane towards the end of storytime, so be sure to read the longest story first. Save the more interactive books or activities for the end of storytime, to bring the audience back to your focus. Make sure you are alternating between books, songs, fingerplays, flannels so that the audience doesn’t lose interest.

Have a backup plan. If you’re doing an all-ages storytime with no advance registration, you really have no way to predict who is going to show up. If mostly toddlers show up, you don’t want to be stuck reading long stories or books with advanced humor which would fall flat. Always have a variety of books on hand so that you can adjust your stories to the audience that shows up that day.

Check out this great Q&A post on Storytime Underground for additional tips on behavior management.

What other tips do you have for storytime behavior management? I’d love to hear them!

Scratch Programming

Last fall, our library offered an introductory Scratch program for 3rd-5th graders. Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art – and share your creations on the web. We used a Powerpoint slide show to share step-by-step directions with the kids, as each of them simultaneously sat in front of a laptop to follow along.

Many of the kids had never used Scratch before this program, but they were quick learners. Because we only had one hour for the program, we mostly stuck to the script and used Scratch for planned activities, rather than giving them free time at the end. This made it easier for us to move around the room and offer assistance, since everyone was working on the same thing at the same time. We required registration for this event, and capped the maximum number at 20 participants (so we could ensure that every kid had a computer to use).

The Powerpoint I used as a framework was borrowed from another library, though I can’t seem to locate the original source anymore. We did make several large edits to the original version to make it fit our needs, but if I run across it, this post will be updated accordingly to give credit.

In a few months, we’ll be using Scratch to program our Lego WeDo Robotics, again with 3rd-5th graders. Stay tuned for information on how it goes!

Here’s a list of additional coding apps for kids, similar to Scratch.

Bedtime Math Pajama Party

Have you heard of this organization? Bedtime Math was created by a mom who wanted to encourage doing math nightly for fun, in the same way that reading a story before bed has become a regular bedtime routine.Bedtime Math

Libraries can partner with Bedtime Math to offer one of several math programs for different ages. We offered a pajama party for the big kids (ages 6-9), which had activities like “Terrifically Twisted Tangrams”, “Monster Dominoes”, and a word problem to introduce children to the use of a “Bedtime Math Calendar”. They give you all of the supplies for FREE; you only need to print out a few items to include in each child’s goody bag. The kit gives you enough supplies for 20 children to participate.

After giving a brief introduction to our group, we divided the participants into groups (based loosely on age), and had them begin with the tangrams. Some groups breezed right through making the tangram animals, and others took their time, but no one seemed to be so frustrated by the process that they couldn’t finish.

The next step were the word problems. These were, without a doubt, extremely easy for our patrons. And maybe that’s okay; just like we encourage recreational “beach reads” for patrons, perhaps we should also encourage recreational, or easy, math problems. We explained the purpose of the bedtime math calendar, a place where parents and children can keep track of their progress by placing a gold star on each date that they complete a math problem.

Our last activity were the “Monster Dominoes”. Children used the stickers provided to create their own dominoes, which we played with once everyone had finished decorating. I took the time to explain how to play dominoes, since many kids didn’t know and an equal amount of parents didn’t either.

We did this program on a weekday evening and scheduled it for an hour. This gave our patrons ample time to decorate their dominoes, which they REALLY enjoyed. We did most of our activities on the floor, which gave patrons the chance to spread out their tangrams and gave them plenty of room for their monster domino game. For more Bedtime Math ideas, check out PJ Puzzles by Bryce Don’t Play.

*Bedtime Math provided a free program kit to my library, as they will do for all U.S. public libraries per their website. I am not affiliated with them in any way.

Why Reading Books is Not Enough

Think of the storytimes that you do at your library; what do they include? Reading books aloud is probably the cornerstone of your storytime, and for good reason. You probably also include fingerplays, songs, rhymes, and flannel stories in your storytime.

But is it enough? In a day and age when patrons have access to a wealth of books, apps, and toys, what can we offer that is unique? One powerful tool that our storytimes provide is the group experience. While parents may be able to buy that Jim Gill CD you used or entertain their child with plenty of books and apps at home, they can’t offer the structure and interaction that our storytimes provide. In that sense, it is important for us to capitalize on the group experience. Try bringing out the parachute, egg shakers, or allowing children to take turns in other paticipatory activities. The group experience is one of our best assets!

For more ideas on group experiences that you can offer at your library, check out these slideshows from some of my favorite librarians.

Play, Baby, Play by Kendra Jones of Read Sing Play – Lots of unique and cost-effective ways to introduce play to babies

Storytime: Not Just Reading Aloud by Storytime Underground – Suggestions for ways to introduce the ‘Every Child Ready to Read’ skills

Do you have any unique group activities that you provide at your storytimes? I’d love to hear them!

Baby Art in a Bag

Lately I’ve been trying to come up with different activities to introduce during our Lapsit programs. Kendra, from Read Sing Play, had a wonderful idea to try “Baby Art in a Bag”, and I knew I had to try it out too!

This art activity is very simple; place a piece of cardstock inside a gallon-size ziploc bag, and put two squirts of paint on the cardstock. After sealing the ziploc bag shut, the babies can begin to squish and mix the paint blobs together. After the paint has been mixed, parents can take the bag home and let it dry, and then they have their child’s art to display at home. Here are a few pictures of the art activity that the babies created!

What unique activities have you introduced during Lapsit? I’d love to hear from you!

Sharpie Tie-Dye

This week our library hosted Sharpie Tie Dye, a craft program for 3rd-5th graders. It was a huge hit! The appeal of the craft would also would for younger or older kids, providing a parent stay to assist the younger children.

For this craft, you will need the following:

  • Sharpies (as many colors as possible)
  • Rubbing alcohol (buy more than you think is necessary; kids use a lot! We probably could have used 1 16-oz bottle for every three kids.
  • Plastic cups
  • Eye droppers & spray bottles
  • Rubber bands
  • White t-shirts, bandanas, or other type of fabric

Place several sheets of newspaper on each table to protect the table from the marker colors as the rubbing alcohol may run off the fabric before it dries. The first step is to have kids color and design their piece of cloth with the Sharpie markers. They should completely finish this step before moving on to the rubbing alcohol, because you can’t re-use the markers on the cloth once it’s even mildly wet.

Once the shirts/cloth have been colored and designed, have the kids put the designed part of the shirt on top of the cup, with a rubber band holding the shirt in place. Depending on the size of their design, they may have to do this more than once.

After the shirt/cloth has been rubber banded onto the cup, they can begin to put a few drops of rubbing alcohol onto the design. We provided spray bottles and eye droppers for this. Eye droppers will allow for a more precise application, and spray bottles can be effective for larger designs. Our group was split down the middle on which one they preferred to use. Encourage the kids to use a little bit of rubbing alcohol at a time, so that they can see the design change over time. The more rubbing alcohol that is used, the more distorted the design becomes.

Once the rubbing alcohol has been used and the child is finished, remove the tshirt/cloth from the cup and allow it to dry. We didn’t have the time or space to allow the kids cloth/t-shirt to dry at the library, so we wrapped the damp cloth/shirt in newspaper and put it inside a plastic trash bag.

The kids were advised to allow the cloth/shirt to dry completely, and then to either use an iron (with parent’s help) or the hottest setting on their clothes dryer at home. This will set the design and limit the amount of bleeding that will happen. We did tell the parents to wash it separately the first few times so that it wouldn’t bleed onto other clothes.

And there you have it! This was one of the few crafts that I’ve done where the boys enjoyed it just as much as the girls. It could also be a perfect Fourth of July program if you use just red and blue Sharpies.