Step Into Storytime, April 22

Yet again, a minor sore throat/cold caused me to lose my voice, and it still wasn’t at full strength today – but I explained to the kids and they were SO QUIET. It was astonishing.

Our magical puppet/stuffed animal closet once again delivered, so we had Mr. Panda and the patient penguin from I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda. I also borrowed an idea from a parent/child yoga class I went to at another library recently, and we made stars with our bodies (feet apart, arms out to the sides) and rocked back and forth (balancing on one foot at a time, or just swaying) while singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

  • Welcome, announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL, from Jbrary
  • Edward Gets Messy by Rita Meade: This story has a lot of words per page for this age group, but whether because of my quiet voice or the easily graspable subject matter, the kids sat and seemed to be listening!
  • Yoga
  • Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian: A sweet story of two worms who just want to be married – and eventually they are, because Worm loves Worm.
  • Who in this room has thumbs? Okay, now hide your thumbs behind your back. “Where is Thumbkin?”
  • I’ll Wait, Mr Panda by Steve Antony, with panda stuffed animal and penguin puppet.
  • Yoga/song: Stand in “star” pose, balance/sway, and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle”
  • Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
  • Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Perfect Square by Michael Hall (tie-in activity at the end)
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL, from Jbrary
  • Clean up mats, put out project: Paper squares to tear, crumple, and glue

Bird's-eye view of kids gluing squares to paper

We still did six books as usual, but a little less singing (still, five songs/rhymes including our hello and goodbye), and wrapped up a little bit earlier than usual. The project was popular, though next time I’d cut the squares a little smaller; I had cut sheets of colored construction paper into six pieces each (not exactly squares, but close). With older kids, they could have worked on their own projects and used scissors and a hole punch to recreate some of the pictures in Perfect Square, if they’d wanted. Michael Hall’s books really lend themselves to craft tie-ins!

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Step Into Storytime, April 12

Today I covered our Friday session of Step Into Storytime, which skews a little younger (more twos than threes) and a little smaller.

Spines of storytime books

  • Welcome and announcements (closed next Monday for Patriots Day)
  • “Hello friends” song with ASL
  • Name song (“____ is here today”)
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld: Kind of a quieter lead-off book that I might not have chosen if I’d known the book beforehand, but it worked okay.
  • “Kookaburra”: I thought I’d introduce a new (old, actually, 1932) song. I printed out the lyrics and put them up, along with a picture of a kookaburra (we didn’t have a kookaburra puppet, believe it or not), and also made small copies for the grown-ups.
  • Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Yoga flow – and we sang “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” while we were doing it, because I saw a kid put her hands on her head.
  • Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott: This simple little story shows kids playing together, solving problems, and ultimately agreeing about the main thing in life: WE LIKE ICE CREAM!
  • “Happy birthday” song and putting candles on flannel board cake. It didn’t look at all like I envisioned and that was perfect.
  • When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano: This might not be a book you want to read over and over to your own kid, but it’s perfect for a group – you can put a ton of expression into it.
  • Yoga flow – using both sides of the body and the brain.
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: Probably one of my top five storytime books for this age group. It’s got a sing-song repetition AND animals. What more could you want?
  • “Kookaburra”: We sang it again (repetition helps learning), and I dropped in an early literacy tip (“If you’re wondering why we do so much singing in storytime, it’s because singing breaks words down into parts and introduces new words, all of which helps literacy development”). Plus I just love this song.
  • One Woolly Wombat by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent: A counting, rhyming book full of Australian animals.
  • “Goodbye friends” song with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Color with crayons
  • Handout for grown-ups

Flannel board cake and candles

Step Into Storytime, April 8

It’s a rainy day, so I looked for Christian Robinson’s book Rain, but it was out. I went with my original lineup, including some books about bugs and eggs hatching. Maybe because of the weather, we had a slightly smaller group today, about 12-13 kids.

Book covers

  • Welcome, announcements (no storytime next Monday because of Patriots’ Day)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Name song (“____ is here today”)
  • Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt: This might’ve been too much of a reach for this group. The story is in rhyme, but it’s a little on the long side, or maybe there just isn’t the familiarity with the classic Cinderella tale yet, so it’s harder to enjoy variations. Some of the grown-ups liked it, though.
  • Song cube: “Where Is Thumbkin?” “ABCs”
  • We All Went On Safari by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns: Today we focused on the counting aspect of this book, but you could easily focus on animals instead.
  • Yoga flowBug puppets on chair
  • Bug puppets! We had a big basket of them in the closet, so I pulled them out and we looked at them one by one. One of them was even a caterpillar/butterfly, so the kids could see the transformation. We also had a ladybug, an ant, a spider, a fly, a monarch butterfly, a praying mantis, and a grasshopper. This was a perfect lead-in to…
  • Some Bugs: words by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel. I love this book for storytime or one-on-one: it rhymes and moves quickly, and the illustrations are bright and interesting.
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” “Row Row Row Your Boat”
  • Shake A Leg, Egg by Kurt Cyrus: One of my favorite springtime books, though maybe better one-on-one than in a group; the author/illustrator uses some really different perspectives, and there’s plenty of detail in the realistic illustrations. But I do love saying the first line (“Hello in there!”) like Miracle Max in The Princess Bride.
  • Speaking of eggs…time for shaker eggs and “Shake Your Sillies Out”!
  • Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, with penguin puppet. Most of the kids came up to pet and hug the penguin, which helped its grumpy mood. There’s also counting (“One, two, three…SPLASH!”).
  • Yoga flow
  • There’s A Bear On My Chair by Ross Collins: Kids’ attention was starting to wander a little but the ending got a laugh from a couple grown-ups.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Clean up mats
  • Handout for grown-ups: Great books to share with two- and three-year-olds
  • Drawing with crayons on butcher paper on the floor

Next Monday we’re closed for Patriots’ Day, but I’m covering another Step Into Storytime this Friday and might debut a flannel cake and candles I just made to go with When’s My Birthday? Stay tuned!

Arlington Author Salon: Love in Tumultuous Times

The theme for tonight’s Arlington Author Salon, an event held quarterly at Kickstand Cafe in Arlington, was “Love in Tumultuous Times,” and the three featured authors were Whitney Scharer (The Age of Light), Jenna Blum (The Lost Family), and Christopher Castellani (Leading Men). The Arlington Author Salon is supported by the Arlington Cultural Council, which is in turn supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. I’ve only been to two events so far, and both have been packed.

AgeofLightWhitney Scharer was up first, showing slides and then reading from her debut novel about Lee Miller, known as a model for Vogue and surrealist Man Ray’s muse, though she was a photographer in her own right, and co-inventor of the technique of solarization. (Aside: Every student should have a project like the one mentioned in Meg Wolitzer and Holly Goldberg Sloan’s new middle grade novel,  To Night Owl From Dogfish, “Give the right person the credit.”) Scharer discovered Miller at an exhibit featuring Man Ray at the Peabody Essex Museum in 2011, and was interested in the two of them “being in love and making art together.” (Miller went on to be a war reporter; she reminded me of Robert Capa’s partner, Gerda Taro, who was killed while documenting the Spanish Civil War.) Scharer read a scene from her novel in which Miller describes what she calls “wild mind”: her ability to set any expression on her face while modeling, yet thinking of anything she wants, setting her mind free. The scene (possibly the whole novel?) was in present tense.

LostFamilyNext, Jenna Blum (The Stormchasers, Those Who Save Us) talked about and read from her new novel, The Lost Family, set in New York and centered around a Holocaust survivor, Peter, who lost his wife and daughters. He now owns and runs a restaurant called Masha’s, after his late wife, and has sworn not to get involved with anyone again – but, of course, he does. The novel is about Peter and his second wife and their daughter, “a whole family trying to put its arms around a loved one’s PTSD.” Blum didn’t have slides, but she did share a cocktail of her own invention, and cream puffs called “Masha’s Little Clouds”; she said that she invented and kitchen-tested all the menu items in the book.

LeadingMenFinally, Christopher Castellani (A Kiss From Maddalena, The Saint of Lost Things, All This Talk of Love) talked about his newest novel, Leading Men, which imagines a party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino in 1975, the guests, and the aftermath. Castellani said that people always want to know “how much is true and how much is not true,” so he explained that the party did happen, and that Tennessee Williams and his lover Frank Merlot really were invited, but that Williams’ journal does not mention the party in the days or weeks following it. Using both “real and invented people,” Castellani imagined and invented “between the cracks of what was known about these people.” Merlot is his main character; Williams isn’t a “point of view character” largely because he is too well-known, has written and been written about too much; Merlot, though not obscure, is less of a known quantity. Castellani admitted that it was daunting to write dialogue for characters like Capote and Williams; he would often use an “anchor quote” from their writings in order to get the tone of the dialogue and scene, and would sometimes remove the “scaffolding” once the scene was finished.

Though the book I’m currently reading (Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess, who, like these three authors, also has a Grub Street connection) is firmly speculative, I do love historical fiction and all three of these books are on my to-read list now. Thank you, Arlington Author Salon! (If you’re local, the next one is July 11.)

NERTCL 2019: “Transform Our Communities, Transform Our World”

Last Friday, I went with our teen librarian to a one-day conference put on by the New England Round Table of Teen and Children’s Librarians (NERTCL) at the beautiful Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen, MA. The conference was called “Transform Our Communities, Transform Our World,” and featured Rita Meade (@ScrewyDecimal), a panel about drag storytime, Luke Kirkland from the Waltham Public Library talking about “Selling Social Justice Programs to Your Teens and Your Community,” and another panel about spaces and programs for the library’s youngest patrons (birth-5 years), as well as round table discussions before and during lunch. It was a fantastic day!

Rita Meade ScrewyDecimal Twitter bioRita Meade: “Keep Calm and Transform the World”

Rita began her presentation by acknowledging that the “do more with less” message that library staff so often hear is frustrating and unhelpful. (Actually, she began by mentioning her anxiety, and the fact that she almost turned down the offer to come speak to us. I’m glad she didn’t!) Then she gave her background and the path she took to working in a library: working as a page, then later getting a teaching degree, and only later turning to library science. She reviewed for SLJ and wrote for Book Riot, and also started a blog: “It’s frustrating and it’s tiring to always have to defend your job….Basically I kept running into people who didn’t understand what librarians did. ‘Oh, libraries are still a thing?’ So that’s where the blog came from.”

Libraries Are For EveryoneNow, she works at the Bay Ridge branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, where she believes that “Our job is to respond to community needs. It’s a balancing act….We fill a lot of gaps in society – We are being asked to fill a lot of these societal gaps, but we don’t always have the resources to do so….You can’t make everyone happy but our job is to try.” Because LIBRARIES ARE FOR EVERYONE, Rita is always working to counteract her own assumptions and biases, work against intolerance and ignorance, promote diversity in staffing and collections, and promote underrepresented voices. “Make inclusion the default. Err on the side of inclusion. Think about how your choices might affect the people in your space. More often than not, people are not telling us something.” She gave examples of ways that libraries can be political without being partisan: a march against hate, or a display about migration, illustrated with butterflies (“Migration is brave / essential / gorgeous”).

To our group, Rita emphasized that big changes don’t happen without risks, and normalizing helps promote acceptance. “One program at a time, one small thing at a time. These small steps lead to big changes.” (Here’s a small example that everyone can do: make your descriptions more inclusive: instead of “men and women” or “boys and girls,” say “people/everyone/friends.”) Programs she mentioned included drag queen storytime (about which more below), Genderful, and TeleStory. “We are in a unique position to be a positive influence.”

Nevins Memorial Library interior
Nevins Memorial Library

Drag Storytime Panel and Presentation

We heard from four people about their different experiences hosting drag storytimes: Megan McLelland from Sturgis, MA; Jennifer Billingsley from Middletown, CT; Hillary Saxon from Cambridge, MA; and Alli T.  Ultimately, my favorite quote from the session was this one from Alli T.: “People in fun costumes reading beautiful stories to children is not a new concept.”

“People in fun costumes reading beautiful stories to children is not a new concept.” -Alli Thresher

Each librarian who decided to host drag storytime at their library approached it carefully and thoughtfully. All were aware of the possibility of pushback from the community, and the importance of administrative support, but all felt it was worth it: “Reading to kids isn’t really what it’s about, inclusion and making everyone comfortable is what it’s about.” Overwhelmingly, the drag storytimes were well-attended, joyful events.

Here are some of the book titles mentioned:

  • The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  • 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray
  • Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato
  • Some Monsters Are Different by David Milgrim
  • Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, illustrated by Suzanne DiSimone
  • It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr
  • Red: a crayon’s story by Michael Hall

If you’d like to host drag storytime at your library, and you have (or can get) admin support but are lacking funds, try The Awesome Foundation, or, if you are a bit edgier, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

IMG_20190329_093707
Nevins Memorial Library

Luke Kirkland: “Selling Social Justice Programs to Your Teens and Your Community”

Luke is the teen librarian at the Waltham Public Library, and his presentation was about how to foster social justice in the teen population. Waltham is far more diverse than many other towns and cities in New England, so one of the questions that came up during the Q&A is how to start these conversations about social justice and racism that white kids might not already be having; how do you get them to ask the questions? Luke pointed back to the “Fandom Trojan Horse,” approaching a subject or topic they’re already interested from a social justice angle, as well as the documentary Accidental Courtesy, a TED talk by a former white supremacist, and even the picture book Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller.

One interesting project Luke presented was a presentation on “The Birth of Hip-Hop.” Nestled inside this attractive topic was a history of Jim Crow, fair housing protests, and redlining; see the Mapping Inequality project for more info.

As librarians, “We do research, we build community, we encourage civic dialogue.” Frame activism as a project-based learning activity. In Waltham, the library partnered with several other organizations (“lots of community collaboration takes some of the pressure off”) in the For Freedoms project, covering the front lawn of the library with yard signs. (Luke is planning to do this again, and noted that, while yard signs are expensive, the price drops when you order in bulk. Contact him if you want in!)

Additional takeaways: Libraries are not neutral; privilege has a way of reinforcing privilege; human rights are not partisan.

Hungry Caterpillar for Reading
A display outside the Nevins library children’s room

Early Learning Spaces and Play

The last panel of the day featured librarians from four different libraries. Rachel Davis from the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, ME, and Kayla Morin from the Goodwin Library in Farmington, NH, both spoke about becoming Family Place Libraries. Core components of Family Place libraries include: having your parenting collection near/next to/with the children’s materials; parent/child workshop series; specially designed spaces to play, learn, grow, and explore; and programs for babies and toddlers (focusing on the birth-3 years age group). In order to become a Family Place library, one youth services librarian and one administrator from the library must attend a four-day institute, complete an online training, and commit to the core components. Kayla said that becoming a Family Place library involved “retraining staff and patrons to think of the library as a welcoming space for everyone, including small kids.” Rachel said that once parents had time to socialize outside of storytime, they became more engaged during storytime (rather than talking to each other).

Seana Rabbito from the Waltham Public Library talked about turning an unused room into a PIE room (Play, Imagine, Explore) with a “Mind in the Making” grant. (Side note: What libraries have these unused rooms lying around??) The PIE room encourages play, nurtures curiosity, and fosters a lifelong love of learning. Theme-related learning activities hold attention and spark curiosity. It supports early literacy through play; book displays accompany each theme. Each different playspace helps build vocabulary, increase subject knowledge, hone communication skills, develop problem-solving skills, and improve gross and fine motor skills. Seana said the rotating display/theme does take a lot of work, but it’s hugely popular and has revitalized the space.

Finally, Katrina Ireland from the Northborough Free Library, MA, spoke about Mother Goose on the Loose (MGOL). Developed by Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, the program is intended for kids birth-3 years and their caregivers. Katrina offers a series of 10 sessions of the 30-minute program, which includes opening rhymes, a drum sequence, Humpty Dumpty, and two developmental tips for adults; 80% of the content changes week to week (some repetition is key). MGOL embodies all five practices from Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR): singing, talking, reading, writing, playing.

Overall, it was a day full of fantastic ideas from presenters and attendees (particularly the table of Rhode Island librarians I was sitting with, most of whom I’d seen present at NELA last fall!). And the nice thing about the library world is that, while we care deeply about citing our sources, we’re always happy to share ideas – or as Rita said, “Steal the ideas, steal them all day.”

Step Into Storytime, April 1

Song cube, yoga cube, picture books

Happy April! Today was a super fun storytime. We had a great group of about 14 kids and their grown-ups, and I was excited for our activity/craft to go with A Parade of Elephants. Initially I was planning to read The Rabbit Listened, but ended up swapping it out for Z Is for Moose.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel: I’m tempted to lead off with this book every time. It always elicits engagement from the kids and provides so many opportunities for moving and thinking.
  • Wolfie the Bunny by Amy Dyckman and Zachariah Ohora: This was a little long, but funny, and it doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go. The kids stuck with it (one of them took one look at the cover and observed, “That doesn’t look like a bunny!” Correct, kiddo.)
  • Yoga flow: mountain pose and forward fold, feet apart and gentle twist
  • I Am Josephine by Jan Thornhill and Jacqui Lee: In general I like to stick to books that have some kind of story (and forward momentum), but this one has questions and animals, which worked out pretty well. It’s also a good one-on-one book to discuss the different categories: living thing, animal, mammal, human being.
  • Song cube: “Itsy-bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Goose Goes to the Zoo by Laura Wall: The last goose book until she writes a new one. The best part of this one was the page with all the honking: one kid yelled “It’s a car horn!” (It’s not. It’s geese.)
  • Yoga flow: tree/flamingo pose (there were flamingos in Goose Goes to the Zoo), Warrior 1 and 2
  • “ABC” song to get ready for…Z is for Moose (pages D and E)
  • Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky: If you’ve never read this aloud before, give it a few run-throughs first, to decide how you’re going to do the interruptions by Moose and Zebra. So funny, and a sweet ending.
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle”
  • Clean up mats
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: We cleaned up the mats first because I wanted clear space for marching and parading. I also turned the flannel board around so everyone could see the flannel elephants, and lots of kids came up to touch them, take them off, and put them back on. Then we read the book and marched!
  • “Goodbye friends” song with ASL from Jbrary
  • Craft: using glue sticks to glue paper elephants and stars to butcher paper on the wall. I drew a path for them to use if they wanted but we ended up with beautiful chaos, of course. The kids spent a long time doing this – gluing is always a fun activity.

Kids gluing paper elephants and stars