Step into Storytime, March 9

We had low turnout at storytime today – just three kids at the beginning, with two more joining them in the first few minutes – which could be due to coronavirus fears, but could also be chalked up to the gorgeous weather. Anyway, the show must go on…

Picture books in foreground, mouse house game in background

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Hand-washing song discussion
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
  • Stretch: up, down, sideways
  • Shake A Leg, Egg by Kurt Cyrus
  • Song cube: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” (regular speed, fast, slow)
  • I brought two books about dogs named George; I showed them at the same time and said we’d read both, and gave the kids a chance to vote for which one they wanted first, by raising their hands. Only one kid voted. And that’s democracy.
  • Bark, George! by Jules Feiffer: This one’s a hit. It’s got animal sounds and surprises; at this age, kids like discovering and pointing out things that aren’t right, e.g. when a dog says meow instead of arf!
  • Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton: It’s always interesting to hear their predictions about the ambiguous ending.
  • Mouse house game
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett
  • Explanation of traffic light game and variation
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Traffic light game #1: Essentially Red Light, Green Light, starting at one end of the room and getting to the other. Traffic light game #2: Unusual colors! Blue = clap, orange = hop, pink = twirl, purple = touch toes, and red = stop.

All of today’s books were relatively short, which meant more time for open-ended questions while we read them (e.g. “What did Little Jumbo do when he didn’t want to wear his overalls?” and “What do you think George did?” and “What is the weather like outside today?”).

Step into Storytime, March 2

song cube, books, tissue box

When I walked into the children’s room at the library this morning, two staff were already talking about recent infectious disease news. I decided to address the issue of how sickness spreads at the beginning of my storytime by sharing two tips: (1) Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, and (2) when you sneeze or cough, bring your elbow up to your face, instead of coughing into your hand or whatever else happens to be in front of you. Fortunately, I had made a birthday cake felt board a while ago, so we counted out three candles (because March is the third month, and no one had a birthday today – I asked) and sang the happy birthday song while pretending to wash our hands.

felt birthday cake and three candles

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL
  • “Happy Birthday” song, miming hand-washing, with felt board cake and candles
  • Book! by Kristine O’Connell George and Maggie Smith
  • Stretch: hands up, hands down, hands to the left, hands to the right, repeat (faster)
  • A Fox Found A Box by Ged Adamson: How do you listen to music? (Most kids today wouldn’t recognize a radio as drawn in this book, so we talked about that first.)
  • Song cube: “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” and “ABCs”
  • “Bees” by Aileen Fisher, from The Beeman by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Valeria Cis: I decided this book might be a little long, even as a lead-off book, but I shared the poem from the beginning.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, with felt board fruit, caterpillar, and butterfly: I hand out the felt fruit first, and there’s always enough for every kid to have at least one piece. They come up and stick their fruit to the board when we get to that page in the book.
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle” (make a turtle with your hands by holding four fingers together, thumbs out, one hand on top of the other)
  • Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig: This is one of my Top Ten storytime books. It’s just the right length, it’s funny, and there are plenty of opportunities for motion/action (kneading dough, sprinkling cheese, etc.).
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL
  • Craft: Decorate a pizza together (butcher paper, pre-drawn pizza, yellow and red paper circles, glue sticks, crayons)

Pete's A Pizza, The Beeman, Book!, A Fox Found A Box, The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Stay safe and healthy, everyone. Happy reading!

Step into Storytime, February 24

Song cubes and picture books

Eight kids and their caregivers came to storytime today. We read five books, sang some songs, did some stretches and wiggles, and used glue sticks.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • Stretch
  • Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuaka: This board book opens vertically instead of horizontally, which is pretty unusual – but it has a good reason!
  • Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham: A newly-minted Caldecott Honor book that I’ve read at home, but this was my first time reading it aloud at storytime.
  • Song cube: “ABCs”
  • “The Kookaburra Song”
  • Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney: Many people are familiar with Llama Llama, but I love Dewdney’s shy pangolin just as much. We practiced rolling up into a ball by hugging our knees and tucking our heads down.
  • Perfect Square by Michael Hall: Thanks to Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach webinar, I took some time to examine the cover of this book with the kids: What shape is it? A perfect square, of course! One of the kids knew the book already and noticed little details throughout, like the kite in the park.
  • Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
  • Yoga: mountain pose, forward fold, crossing the midline by touching opposite toes. Some of today’s kids were closer to 2 than 3, so I also have the option of touching the opposite elbow.
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: One of my favorite storytime books. I brought along my felt elephants, and the kids identified their colors, and we counted together. We also did plenty of marching, stretching, yawning, and trumpeting.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Craft: gluing paper elephants and paper stars to butcher paper.

I did a quick time check after our last round of yoga, and decided to skip Don’t Push the Button! and the Mouse House Game.

The same kid who participated during Perfect Square was also the only one to say her own name during the name song – and, this was the first time she’d used a glue stick (another point in favor of continuing crafts after storytime – not every kid is familiar with crayons, markers, glue, scissors, etc.). Her mom came up to me afterward and said how unusual this was for her; she’d been going to our storytime for birth-2 and always sat quietly without talking or singing at all. I love to hear that kids are coming out of their shells and feeling comfortable in the library!

 

An Introduction to the Whole Book Approach

Cover of Reading Picture Books With ChildrenMegan Dowd Lambert presented a webinar on the Whole Book Approach through the Massachusetts Library System last month; I heard about it from Rhonda Cunha, the speaker at January’s Youth Services Interest Group meeting (more on that soon), and carved out time to watch it recently. Megan’s presentation was excellent, and I’m planning to read her book as well (Reading Picture Books with Children, Charlesbridge, 2015). Here are some highlights from her introduction to the Whole Book Approach in the MLS webinar.

“The Whole Book Approach is a co-constructive model created by Megan Dowd Lambert in association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art that centers children’s responses to picture book art and design.”

Megan emphasized that it’s an approach, not a method or a script. “Co-constructive” means that the storytime is interactive: kids are making meaning during the storytime, it’s not a performance by the adult reader. We are reading with children (discussion), not reading to them (performance).

Main tips/takeaways:

Cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Engage children with a book they know already (e.g. The Very Hungry Caterpillar).
  • Ask open-ended questions (“What do you see happening here? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can we find?”).
  • Use picture book design and production terminology (jacket, case, orientation, trim size, gutter, etc.) to empower children to become experts about books.

Don’t be “the sage on the stage,” be “the guide on the side,” Megan advised. The group makes meaning together; facilitate responses, don’t correct responses. Be alert to nonverbal responses as well. For those – librarians, teachers, or caregivers – who are concerned that this approach will make storytime too rowdy, Megan offered techniques to redirect children’s attention when necessary, and advice for what to say to adults who may have concerns about the Whole Book Approach:

  • Point to the book and say “Eyes on art!”
  • “1,2,3 page turns”: If discussion wanders too far/long, wrap it up by saying, “We’ve had such a great conversation about this picture, let’s see what happens next. Count with me… 1,2,3 [turn page].”
  • Broaden the frame for a successful storytime: “That was a really busy storytime, but there are lots of different ways to measure success about storytime. Kids were excited about books, wanted to talk about their ideas and their feelings – that’s successful.”

Megan said she did not use themes in her storytimes, but chose books that she loved and wanted to share. Here are a few (not all!) of the ones she mentioned: Saturday by Oge Mora, This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, and Nine Months by Miranda Paul.

A lot of content was packed into an hour-long webinar, and I can already tell that my next storytime is going to be a little different: more open-ended questions, more time spent looking at the cover art. Thank you, Megan and MLS!

 

Step into Storytime, February 10

Storytime books with bowls of crayons

There was a big group for storytime this morning, about 15 kids plus their adults, and many of them were at the younger end of our age group. I put out some extra colored sitting mats because I could tell not everyone would fit on the rug. Fortunately, most of my books today were relatively short and simple, and/or had an interactive component, and most of the group stayed through till the craft at the end.

  • Welcome and announcements (library is closed next Monday for Presidents’ Day)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Mr. Scruff by Simon James: I adore this new book, which reminds me of Let’s Get A Pup, Said Kate by Bob Graham, but is much shorter and therefore perfect for two- and three-year-olds. There are person-and-dog rhyming pairs (e.g. Molly and Polly), and then there’s Mr. Scruff and Jim…who make a perfect pair, even though their names don’t rhyme.
  • Quick wiggle: Wiggle fingers up to the sky, down by our toes, out to the sides (if you can without hitting a neighbor), repeat.
  • Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer: One of my all-time favorite books to read at storytime. Everyone can identify with the grumpy penguin who washes away his mood by taking a nice cold bath.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” The latter we sang three times: regular, slow, fast. This is a simple way to change it up and the kids are usually into it – it’s like a game.
  • My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall: I explained that all of the animals in the book were made with heart shapes, and asked if anyone knew what holiday was coming up on Friday (Valentine’s Day). I pulled my felt animals out and the kids identified them (except the clam, which is a tricky one); once they were on the felt board, I asked them to point to them when we got to that animal in the book (clam, crab, owl, penguin, frog). They did great!felt board tickle monster
  • Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau: There are a lot of pieces to this felt creation, so I asked the kids for help to put it together. I propped up the book cover so they could see what Tickle Monster was supposed to look like, then pulled the felt pieces out one by one and they told me what each one was and where to put it.
  • Yoga cube: Warrior one, forward fold, half lift, chair pose (with our invisible chairs, of course). Then some bilateral, cross-the-midline movement: touching right hand to left foot and left hand to right foot.
  • The Button Book by Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin: This is a new book that invites the reader to take part in the story by pushing different colored buttons and making sounds or doing actions (beep, thbbbt, tickle, hug, bounce, sing, etc.). It includes two songs (“Wheels on the Bus” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) and is just generally fun and delightful – recommended for groups who like Don’t Push the Button! by Bill Cotter, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson, There’s A Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda, etc.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Clean up mats
  • Craft: color and glue paper hearts to butcher paper on the floor (or color hearts and take them home to give as valentines)

Step into Storytime *and* Preschool Storytime, February 3 & 4

 

Step into Storytime, February 3

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
  • The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury: A classic, and they can help count to three with Mama Frog.
  • Song cube: “ABCs” and “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Yoga: mountain pose, forward fold/seated forward fold
  • Chicken Wants A Nap by Traci Marchini and Monique Felix
  • Mouse House game: Usually I save this for toward the end when the kids are getting wiggly and chatty, but in this case I moved it up because they were so quiet and I wanted to get them more engaged. (I know it’s possible to be engaged and quiet while listening to a book, but I felt like shifting gears would be helpful.) Needless to say, they were super into it, they love this game.
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” (I had the lyrics for the kookaburra song up, but decided not to sing it)
  • Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier: Our library copy was destroyed (every page scribbled on, some ripped), so I bought my own. It’s a simple but creative concept, nice and bright, and an easy tie-in craft.
  • “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with scarves. I handed out two each and we practiced waving them, throwing and catching them, then sang “Twinkle” in star pose, leaning or rocking back and forth.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Craft: coloring with crayons and gluing “lots of dots” to butcher paper on the floor

Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play posters

Preschool Storytime, February 4

Due to the planned absence of another staff member, I got to do the preschool storytime this week! Attendance was lower than usual, just four preschool-age kids and one little sibling, and all five were boys. Two of them brought their own books that they looked through while I read the first two books, but all of them were responsive and engaged for songs and the mouse house game, and more interested in the last two books as well.

Stack of picture books

  • Welcome, introduction, announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (2x)
  • The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett: I think at least two of the four were interested in this story, but it was hard to tell.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and “Where Is Thumbkin?”
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng and Ellen Shi: This one felt a little long, especially after The Very Last Castle (which is also longer than I would do with 2- and 3-year-olds), but it’s got a big sneeze and some interesting pizza toppings (seaweed, spicy pepper, chocolate cherry), so we got to talk about pizza toppings afterward. And I only teared up the tiniest bit at the line, “And in that moment the world was filled with kindness and love and no fighting.”
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “ABCs,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”
  • Princess Bess Gets Dressed by Margery Cuyler and Heather Maoine: Proof that boys can be into princess books! Especially if the book ends with underwear. We talked about our favorite outfits (costumes and pajamas, mostly).
  • The mouse house game: this has yet to fail. If you need a sure-thing felt board activity, this is it. (Hat tip to a children’s librarian in Belmont.)
  • There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott: As close to a sure thing as there is in storytime. Everyone had fun chasing the monster out of the book, and then luring him back.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL
  • Clean up mats and put out craft: A big castle outlined in black on butcher paper, with crayons, markers, paper animal cutouts, and glue sticks.

 

Step into Storytime, January 27 *and* ALA Youth Media Awards

Last Monday we were closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and next week I get to do a double storytime (2- and 3-year-olds on Monday as usual, preschool storytime on Tuesday), but this week was a regular Step into Storytime session. Attendance was on the low end to start with, about seven kids (all boys, coincidentally), but a few more came in during our initial songs and first few books.

Goose, Dragon, Pirate, Bear books on chair

  • Welcome and announcements (including “storytime is my favorite part of the week.” I borrowed this lovely phrase from a librarian at the library in Arlington said this at her storytime last week. It is 100% true for me as well, as long as we’re talking about the work week)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • Goose by Laura WallPirate Jack gets dressed felt pieces and list
  • There’s A Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher (this book encourages plenty of interaction: blowing out fire, popping a water balloon, etc.)
  • Song cube: “The Wheels on the Bus”
  • Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Allison Black: This is such a fabulous book to talk about colors (and getting dressed). I made a set of felt shapes to correspond to each item of Jack’s clothing and placed them on the felt board as we got to their page in the story. Before starting the book, we also took a look at what colors we were wearing.
  • Mouse house game (by request). “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” Apparently this never gets old!
  • Song cube: “Zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon” (twice)
  • Make A Wish, Bear by Greg Foley: I had A Parade of Elephants with me too, but decided to save that for next week and made Bear the last book of today’s storytime. We noticed the star shapes on the cover and in the book, to tie in to our craft project.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Invited questions, and one boy raised his hand and said, “I have a question! Will you put the paper out now?” (Later, a grown-up came up and asked for books for her kindergartener who likes funny books like Elephant & Piggie and Pigeon, so I helped her find several funny picture books.)
  • Craft: Butcher paper taped to the floor, pre-cut colored construction paper stars, glue sticks, crayons.

And when I was finished cleaning up from storytime, the ALA Youth Media Awards had been announced! I was so excited to see that New Kid by Jerry Craft won the Newbery AND Coretta Scott King, and that Dig by A.S. King won the Printz, and Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez won the Pura Belpré. Many other winner and Honor titles were books I’ve liked or loved this year:

  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (Newbery Honor)
  • Bear Came Along by Richard Morris and LeUyen Pham (Caldecott Honor)
  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Coretta Scott King Honor)
  • What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison (Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award)
  • The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (Schneider Family Book Award Honor)
  • Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (Schneider Family Honor Book)
  • Dominicana by Angie Cruz (Alex Award)
  • The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Alex Award)
  • Children’s Literature Legacy Award to Kevin Henkes
  • ALSC Children’s Literature Lecture Award to Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop (if you’re heard of mirrors, windows, and doors in children’s literature, she is why)
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka (Odyssey Award for best audiobook, though I read the print edition)
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell (Odyssey Honor; American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor)
  • We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (Odyssey Honor)
  • ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raúl Gonzalez (Belpré Illustrator Honor Book)
  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise and Paola Escobar (Belpré Author Honor Book)
  • Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal (Sibert Award; American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor)
  • This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (Sibert Honor)
  • Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis (Sibert Honor)
  • Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor)
  • The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli (Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor)
  • Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed (Asian/Pacific American Picture Book Honor)
  • Stargazing by Jen Wang (Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature)
  • Frankly in Love by David Yoon (Asian/Pacific American Young Adult Literature Honor)
  • Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell, cover art by Marlena Myles (American Indian Youth Literature Middle Grade Award)

…and naturally I added several others to my to-read list this morning. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators, thanks to the committee members, and happy reading to everyone! | School Library Journal ALA YMA announcement

Screenshot of SLJ tweet announcing Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz winners

 

Chunky Monkeys at Belmont Books

Tonight, seven of the eleven members of the Chunky Monkeys writing group spoke on a panel at Belmont Books. I’d seen Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light, speak once before (at the Arlington Author Salon) but hadn’t had a chance to hear the others speak, even though they’re all local (they meet in person) and many teach or have taught at Grub Street.

The group started in 2012 with Jennifer DeLeon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From) and Adam Stumacher, and expanded to nine members, then eleven. When the group started,  none of them had yet published a book; the goal was that, within a decade, all of them would. Grace Talusan (The Body Papers) said she believed in all of the others, but “I didn’t necessarily believe in myself – but all of you did.”

Grace, Jennifer, and Adam were on the panel tonight, along with Whitney Scharer, Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere), Sonya Larson (who just won an NEA grant), and Calvin Hennick (Once More to the Rodeo).

screenshot of @bostonbookblog tweet and photo of panel at bookstore

They started by discussing tenets of an effective writing group (noting that, of course, the exact same rules won’t work for every group):

  • Discuss and agree on expectations and hopes for the group, and level of commitment, at the beginning
  • Rigorous feedback
  • Positive support
  • Specific systems in place (more rigid at first, more flexible now)
  • Deadlines!
  • Ongoing experiences together
  • Relationship with each other and each other’s work (“they know how to give feedback in a way that you can hear it”)
  • Inspiration and integrity; mutual admiration and “healthy intimidation”
  • Respect each other as readers and as human beings
  • Make decisions by consensus

Sonya described the “standard workshop”: a writer submits 20-25 pages, and receives a written letter and line edits. The group meets once a month for three hours on a Sunday, planned 5-6 months in advance (they use a Google calendar and a Doodle poll to set the dates). Hosting rotates, and they workshop three writers’ work each time, but there is not a strict rotation.

Sometimes, in order for the group to thrive, and to be useful to every member of the group, they do things differently. (“Ask the group for what you need on this project right now.”) In fact, the name Chunky Monkeys doesn’t come from the ice cream flavor – it’s because they referred to “chunks” of writing, sometimes asking for the group to review a “double chunk” (twice the usual length) or asking a few members of the group to form a “side chunk.”

They are also connected via e-mail, daily (though this isn’t a formal requirement for group membership). They share “yay-ables” and occasionally have family get-togethers. After many years together, they have a high level of trust, and Sonya said, “with high trust comes high freedom,” which is reflected in their feedback on each other’s work. And being in a group with other writers you admire makes you “up your game” in a way that is positive, not competitive. “All boats float.”

Celeste also talked about the high level of trust among group members: not only do they workshop each other’s writing, but they offer support in “meta-writing” activities, like practicing Q&As before a book tour, helping each other with book proposals, helping each other find agents (“and break up with agents”), and figuring out how to ask for an honorarium. Because they’re at different stages of their writing careers, and have different areas of expertise (fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short fiction), it’s useful to compare notes.

When bookstore employee and moderator Miriam Lapson asked, “How many of you are in multiple writing groups?” the reaction was almost comical, with everyone looking around at everyone else, asking, “Who’s cheating on us?!” (Only one admitted to being in another group, but others said they sometimes asked other people to read their work to get “fresh eyes.”)

Moderator Miriam asked the group how they manage conflict; Jennifer replied that there’s usually something underneath, but “there’s a level of maturity – it’s our passion, but also our profession.” Adam reiterated the group norm of decision by consensus, which means they have to talk through big decisions (such as whether to allow members who move away from the Boston area to stay in the group, or whether to add a new member). It can be a long conversation, but everyone gets heard. Celeste said, “All of us are very invested in making sure everybody’s voice gets heard.”

Once the Q&A time opened up, I observed that every member of the group had a background in teaching writing – how did that inform their workshop process? (At the beginning of the panel, they had said that any writing group could have their kind of success, which I thought was a tiny bit disingenuous, since all of them had taken and/or taught classes at Grub Street and some had MFAs.) Adam replied that when the group started, they’d had a facilitator/moderator for each session, and that, as teachers, they had a specific way of thinking about craft. Celeste added that their feedback is focused on the intent of the writer; they don’t read a piece and say, “You should do this,” but rather, “It seems like your intent is _____, here are some ways you can do that.” (As someone who hasn’t taken creative writing classes or done any formal workshopping, I found this particular piece of advice really helpful.)

Another person asked what the group members did when they had a complete draft ready for submission. Enter “side chunks”! Three or four people read the whole manuscript and critique it. This is also a point at which “fresh eyes” from outside the group may be helpful.

Thanks to Belmont Books for hosting, and to all seven of the Chunky Monkeys for sharing their time and expertise on a freezing Thursday night.

 

Wands Out: Harry Potter Trivia at the Library, round 3

Daily Prophet photo frame
Daily Prophet photo frame

We hosted our third Harry Potter trivia event almost a year to the day from our first one. Registration didn’t quite fill up this time (we cap at 52 due to the room capacity), but we still had about 50 people: a lot of kids/tweens around 10 years old, plus some families, teens, adults, and even younger kiddos. We’re planning to do it again this summer, around Harry’s birthday, and then make it an annual thing instead of a biannual one.

Program time: 2-4pm. We started checking people in as soon as they showed up, about 10-15 minutes before 2pm. We were going to finish on time, but ended up needing about seven tie-breaker questions, so we went a few minutes past 4pm.

Staff: Four staff members are present at this program. I check people in and MC the event; another one makes the refreshments and manages that table; and two more do the scoring (one collects answers on post-its and the other enters them into a google spreadsheet. If that seems like something that one person could do alone…I invite you to try it!).

Cost: We usually spend about $100 on food and drink and $100 on prizes. I like to do House-themed coffee mugs or travel mugs for door prizes, so we can pick one winner from each House, as well as prizes for the first- and second-place teams. It’s a little bit of a challenge finding cool items in the right price range, because they ought to be equally suitable for adults, teens, and kids, and teams can be up to 4 people, so there must be 4 of each prize for the winning team(s).

Setup:

  • Large table for food and drink: This time around, our magical chef whipped up lightning bolt cookies, pretzel wands (not chocolate-dipped this time), jelly beans, and gillywater (seltzer, mint, and cucumber water. Less popular than the butterbeer – cream soda and whipped cream – but also way less sugar and not so sticky).
  • Small table for registration and door prizes. If people registered ahead of time, have that list of attendees so you can check them off as they come in. Also, the door prizes, raffle tickets, pens (our teen librarian decorated some bic pens with feathers to make quills), and pads of post-its.
  • Small table for scoring
  • Chairs for the participants, organized in clusters of 2-4 throughout the room
  • A working mic
  • Music: We used a laptop streaming from hoopla, but with so many devices in the room it was lagging.
  • Decorations: We are minimalist where decorations are concerned. I hung five handmade Golden Snitches from the doorframe, and scattered a few stuffed owl puppets around.
  • Photo op: Our teen librarian made a mock-up of the Daily Prophet on posterboard that people can hold up to frame their faces.
punch bowl with mint leaves
Gillywater

Cleanup: There are usually several spills and some dropped food. Chairs need to go back to their places around the edges of the room or get stacked up and returned to storage.

Review: Thanks to my “what to do differently next time” section after last July’s trivia event, and the fact that we’d run this twice before, it went pretty smoothly. When making up the questions, I designed them so that they could be answered in one or two words, and most were single-part questions worth just one point each (there were a handful of two-point questions). However, this made the scores very close, and I had only prepared three tie-breaker questions. With a lot of Potterheads in the room, it can be hard to design questions that are very hard but not impossible! (And, one team caught a mistake in one of the answers about who was the Minister of Magic at the start of the sixth book. After verifying that she was correct, we threw out that question.)

All our attendees seemed happy, and it’s a pretty fun program for staff, too (in my opinion). We’ll be doing it again in July. For now…nox.

Step into Storytime, January 13

We had another great Step Into Storytime session this morning! Although I don’t run my storytimes that differently from when I started (all-ages storytimes in summer ’18, 2- and 3-year-olds in fall ’18), I’ve made some tweaks and the last few in particular have been smooth and successful. The grown-ups who come to storytime set a great example for their kiddos by being alert and engaged – they sing with me, do hand motions or help the kiddos do them, and react to the stories.

bowls of crayons, stack of books

  • Welcome, announcements (library is closed next Monday for MLK Jr. Day)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka: I almost never do board books during storytime, because they’re smaller and therefore harder to see from the back of the room, but this one is perfect. It has a simple pattern (animal, jump, animal, jump), a funny surprise (guess what snails don’t do so well?), and ends by including the reader (“And I jump, too”). Of course we read this one standing up so we could JUMP!
  • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld: This is a longer, quieter book, but an important one, and the kids paid attention. It’s a good reminder for everyone about how to handle disappointment: when something you made collapses and you’re disappointed, what you might want isn’t a solution – it’s for someone to listen.
  • After all that listening, we stood up again and I explained about the body’s midline, then we did some crossing the midline stretches (inspired by the December SLJ article “Storytime’s Brain-Building Power“) to help develop bilateral coordination.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • Song cube: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” three times: regular, fast, slow
  • Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan: I skipped most of the text in black, focusing on the text in red and green. “Red light, green liiiiiiiii-“
  • Mouse house game with felt board: Three rounds of finding the mouse, trying to make sure each kid who wanted a turn to pick a color got one. “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” Everyone looked invested in the mouse hunt, even those who didn’t want to guess a color.Five colored mittens on blue felt board
  • Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson: I whipped up five felt mittens. We identified the colors before the book, then I handed the mittens out to five kids. Unlike with the fruit in The Very Hungry Caterpillar last week, there weren’t enough mittens for everyone who wanted one, so I might not do that again unless I can figure out a way to give everyone a turn. Good book for today, though, since we had snow flurries this morning.
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” with egg shakers: This was my first time attempting freeze dance in storytime. Some of the older kids were familiar with the game (we had a couple 4-year-olds today), but the music wasn’t quite loud enough. It was fine, though! They love dancing with shaker eggs.
  • I decided to skip my last book (Make A Wish, Bear) because it had already been half an hour, and go straight to “Goodbye Friends”
  • Clean up mats
  • Color giant mittens (I drew two huge mittens in black marker on a piece of butcher paper that I taped to the floor; kids used crayons to color in and around them). Also pulled out our giant blocks to tie in with The Rabbit Listened.

Jump, The Rabbit Listened, Red Light Green Lion, Little Penguins