Step Into Storytime, September 16

It was another large group for Step Into Storytime this morning! Again, the group skewed toward the younger end of the age range (2-3 years, with siblings welcome), and we had a mix of new families and regulars, including a couple older regulars who were very helpful during Not A Box.

Books, shaker eggs, greyhound and panda stuffed animals

Books for storytime

  • Welcome and announcements: Keep the doorways clear, feel free to come and go (wiggliness, noise, bathroom, snack breaks), calendar of events available at desk and on website, etc.)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Stretch: a seated stretch toward the ceiling, to toes, to ceiling, to toes
  • Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex, with enormous panda bear and fake sneezes.
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle” (seemed unfamiliar to most) and “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (familiar to everyone!)
  • I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry: this giant squid knows how to make the best of things.
  • Passed out shaker eggs, tested them to make sure they worked (they did), instructed them to shake them every time they heard the word “glitter” in Just Add Glitter by Angela DiTerlizzi and Samantha Cotterill. (One of my favorite storytime tips is to recognize that little kids are going to make noise – so get them making the same noise at the same time.). Collected eggs.
  • Yoga cube: Downward dog is a little crowded when the storytime room is that full, but some kids made it work!
  • Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel
  • “The Kookaburra Song”
  • Not A Box by Antoinette Portis (we read Not A Stick last week): This is where my older kids came in handy, especially because one of them was already familiar with the book. If it’s not a box, what is it?
  • Songs/rhymes: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and “Where is Thumbkin?” (twice, replacing “sir” with “friend”)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, with flannel board: I always have volunteers to help put the different fruits on the board.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Clean up mats, invite questions (and someone did ask about chapter books with pictures for her 3-year-old!), tape down paper and put out crayons for coloring.

Kookaburra picture, yoga cube, song cube

Advertisements

Step Into Storytime, September 9

It’s a new season of Step Into Storytime, our library’s twice-weekly storytime for two- and three-year-olds (and siblings of various ages). I run our Monday storytime, and I’m excited to get back into a weekly rhythm!

Storytime room

Room setup:

  • Step Into Storytime laminated poster and early literacy tips (Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play) on the board with magnets
  • Colored mats in a stack
  • Storytime box (contains magnets, posters, bubbles, scissors, tape, scarves, shaker eggs, stickers, ipod with music, etc.)
  • Additional props (flannel board and shapes, puppets or stuffed animals)
  • Song cube(s) and yoga cube(s)
  • Books! (Usually 4-6 I plan to read, plus several alternates in case the crowd skews younger, older, wiggly, etc.)

Books, donkey, song cubes, scarves, yoga cubes

Storytime:

  • Welcome everyone and announcements (keep the doorways clear, location of bathrooms and where to have snacks, upcoming program info)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“____ is here today”) and early literacy tip: we do a lot of singing in storytime, in addition to reading, because the rhythm of songs helps with language development and lays the groundwork for reading and writing later on.
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel: This is one of my all-time favorite openers. There’s not a lot of text, but there are so many opportunities for interaction (who’s wearing dots/stripes? Can you move like an octopus? Show/touch your tongue, ears, hands, and nose, etc.). In today’s group, we had a few returning families but plenty of new kids and they were a little younger than last spring’s group. Storytime for younger groups is always going to be noisy and wiggly, so if you can get them making the same sounds/movements as each other, that’s a win.
  • Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott and Bob Graham: Even with a younger crowd, I like to have at least a couple books with some kind of narrative arc or story, and this one is perfectly simple, in a familiar scenario for most kids – a playground, toys, ice cream.
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot” and “ABCs”
  • Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis: An off-page voice asks the little piglet about its stick – but it’s not not not a stick! This is a brilliant representation of the way grown-ups misunderstand kids’ imaginative play, or simply don’t see the same things. (I’m planning to read Not A Box next week.)
  • Handed out scarves for Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda. “Does anyone know the story of the three little pigs? Okay, this is different!” The scarves are fun in themselves, give the kids something to do with their hands, and help illustrate the wind created by the wolf’s huffing and puffing.
  • Yoga cube (“Yoga is a way of moving our bodies”): Warrior poses and chair pose (“Everyone pull up an invisible chair…and sit in it!”)
  • Fall Is Not Easy by Marty Kelley: Change is hard. Even young kids are familiar with the changing of seasons, and they can tell that there’s something funny about this tree’s fall leaves.A Parade of Elephants book and flannel board
  • The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley, with donkey puppet. This one is funny, repetitive, and not as much of a tongue twister as it seems.
  • Flannel board: elephants
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: Like Hello Hello, this one has so many opportunities for interaction and engagement: We identified the colors of the elephants, counted them, marched, stretched, yawned, and trumpeted.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Clean up mats
  • Music (“Watch Petunia Dance” by Caspar Babypants) and bubbles (and no one got trampled or threw up!)

Bonus: Lots of high fives and hugs at the end, plus a huge hug from a kiddo who’s been coming for at least a year with her older brother! The storytime love was strong today.

 

Summer Storytime: Inclusion and Acceptance

Storytime books on chair

Again, I didn’t plan around a theme, but as I looked at the books I’d chosen, a theme emerged: inclusion and acceptance. Whether it’s solving world hunger through pizza, allowing every kind of pet into the pet club, or trying on new identities (penguin, mermaid), the kind thing to do is always to accept those who look or act differently.

  • “Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • World Pizza by Cece Meng
  • Stretching, “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes”
  • Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
  • Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” (Raffi music, scarves to shake)
  • I Am Actually A Penguin by Sean Taylor
  • Song cube: “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “I Had A Tiny Turtle”
  • Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig
  • “Goodbye Friends” w/ ASL (Jbrary)
  • Decorate a pizza slice

Most of the kids seemed engaged throughout, and the pizza slice decoration was a hit. I told them they could take their slice home or add it to our pizza on the wall, and almost everyone chose to add theirs, so we made a whole pizza (with lots of interesting toppings).

I’ve gotten out of the habit of checking the blogs I follow via Feedly (and I can’t blame it all on the demise of Google Reader, either), but I dipped in recently to see what I’d missed and found these great posts:

  • From Tiny Tips for Library Fun, an examination of the Diversity in Children’s Books infographic, comparing 2015 to 2018. We have made a little progress but still have a ways to go – especially since the percentage of books featuring white characters dropped, but the percentage of books featuring non-human characters went up.
  • From Story Time Secrets, a new storytime complete with books, songs, and activities. The Giant Jumperee is one of my favorites to read aloud for toddlers, and I might use her “Story time is starting, clap your hands”/”Story time is over, clap your hands” sometime, although I really like “Hello Friends” and “Goodbye Friends.” I also think the “elevator” movement could work as a variation on “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” while standing up.
  • Betsy Bird’s Newbery/Cadecott 2020: Summer Prediction Edition. My reading list just got so much longer, but fortunately, lots of the titles are picture books. I’m looking forward to new Brendan Wenzel and a Bob Shea/Zachariah Ohora collaboration, and I’ve already enjoyed Antoinette Portis’ Hey, Water! I love middle grade too: New Kid and Other Words For Home were amazing, and I can’t wait for Corey Haydu’s newest, Eventown. Queen of the Sea looks interesting too.

Happy birthday, Harry Potter! More HP trivia at the library

Last January’s Harry Potter trivia was so successful that we decided to do it again on the last Saturday of July, as close to Harry’s birthday (7/31) as possible. Once again, registration filled up and we had a few on the waitlist (not as many as last time, but I suspect that has to do with it being summer and lots of people being away on vacation).

The program still required plenty of (team)work to run, but it was easier and smoother the second time around.

Ahead of time

  • Make up new questions and print two copies (one for MC and one for scorer)
  • Set up a new spreadsheet for scoring
  • Create calendar event (registration opened three weeks before the program)
  • Promote on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Order prizes
  • Plan music (we used a library laptop streaming Harry Potter music from the London Studio Orchestra via hoopla)
  • Make refreshments
  • Gather decorations (re-used from last time: stuffed owls, Golden Snitches)
  • Gather supplies (“quills” from last time, pads of post-its, raffle tickets)

LEGO Hogwarts

Another added element to the program this time around was the display of LEGO Hogwarts, which had been build in the preceding weeks by kids (10+), teens, and adults in eight separate weekend and evening sessions. They did an incredible job and finished just in time! (Now, we’ll have to see if anyone wants to take it apart in such a way that it can be built again.)

Registration table with door prize raffle, quills, and post-its; owls; Golden Snitches

Day of trivia

Despite opening the doors and starting registration before our 2pm start time, the program did run past 4pm. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it was in part due to some younger teams taking longer to turn in answers, and partly me adding short breaks between most question rounds. Next time, just one break about halfway through, and full steam ahead (from Platform 9 3/4, naturally) the rest of the time.

Like last time, we had seven rounds of five questions each, one round per book in the series. We started with a practice question (for no points) and had some between-rounds questions for no points too – teams would just raise their hands, and I tried to let everyone who wanted a turn get to answer.

Snack table with pretzel wands, lightning bolt sugar cookies, jelly beans, and butterbeerThere were some really clever team names (Granger Danger was my favorite), and I was so happy to hear that at least one team at the event had been waitlisted for trivia in January, and were able to come to this one. There was also a team that left after round four because the kid on the team hadn’t read books five through seven yet, but said they’d had a wonderful time.

The questions were just about right, with most teams being very successful but not perfect (we didn’t want a fourteen-way tie for first!). Most of the snacks got eaten; we had pretzel wands, lightning bolt sugar cookies, jelly beans, and butterbeer. Some people used the Daily Prophet photo frame to take pictures.

Our door prizes were House-themed socks (Gryffindor socks for the Gryffindor winner, etc.), first prizes were Harry Potter postcard coloring books, and two teams tied for second place. One of the “teams” was a girl playing on her own, so I let her have first choice between Harry Potter themed socks (“Mischief managed,” etc.) and a vial of Felix Felicis (not edible! but good for putting on a necklace). The other second place team also chose between socks and Liquid Luck and everyone seemed pretty happy.

What to do differently next time

Other than running slightly over time, which no one seemed to mind, everything went smoothly, but there are always small improvements to be made – mostly to do with making the scorekeeper’s job easier.

  • Our participants got very sugared up on the snacks, so next time we might replace “Every Flavour Beans” (jelly beans) with popcorn. And maybe have pumpkin juice instead of Butterbeer.
  • Have teams bring their team names to the scorekeeper as soon as they decide on them – before the practice question.
  • Add a question for no points between each round, to give the scorekeeper time to catch up.
  • Multi-part questions are fine, but space them out – don’t do two in a row.
  • Design questions so the answers can be as short as possible (a few words, not a sentence or a paragraph!).
  • Calculate the total possible score in the spreadsheet (i.e. a perfect score), in case teams want to know how many they missed.

LEGO Hogwarts on display; a happy team on the front page of the Daily Prophet; a pile of answers on post-it notes

 

 

Summer Storytime: Being brave

Pile of picture books, spines showing

I have missed my weekly storytimes and was so happy to return to the storytime room this morning for an all-ages summer storytime! I chose some of my favorite summery (or anytime) books, and there’s definitely a theme about facing new situations with courage, though I didn’t set out with that intention. Sometimes it just works out!

Stuffed toy lobster on computer keyboard

  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL, via Jbrary
  • The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young
  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  • Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” and “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and Laurel Molk, with stuffed lobster (every time I held it up, the kids shouted “lobsters!” along with the word in the story)
  • Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee
  • Song cube: “ABCs,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • The Little Taco Truck by Tanya Valentine and Jorge Martin
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL, via Jbrary
  • Clean up mats
  • Activity: Use crayons to color on a food truck on butcher paper

Favorite interactive moments:

  • Before Jabari Jumps, asking who’s been swimming, who’s jumped off the side into a pool, who’s jumped off a diving board (two had!)
  • Before Roller Coaster, asking if anyone has been on a roller coaster before (yes, and it was blue!)
  • A younger kid about halfway through said “I’m done” and started toddling out. It’s good to know when to call it!
  • Asking for suggestions during “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” one kid raised their hand but then didn’t have a suggestion, so we sang, “If you’re happy and you know it, raise your hand.”

Five basic practices for early literacy: talk, sing, read, write, play

There were about fifteen kids at today’s storytime. I have one more summer storytime in August, and then in the fall our weekly storytimes will start up again. What are your favorite read-alouds for summer?

 

#MiddleGradeMay

Abby the Librarian’s #MiddleGradeMay wrap-up made me think of all the middle grade books I’ve read this spring (and of course it lengthened my to-read list; I’m especially excited to get my hands on Dear Sweet Pea, Pie in the Sky, and Roll With It).

My reading has certainly shifted along with my job in the last couple years; when I was the adult fiction buyer for my library, I read mostly adult literary fiction, young adult fiction, and some nonfiction (I was also the “speed read” buyer, for especially high-demand titles). Now that I’m working partly in children’s, I’m reading a lot more children’s books, especially middle grade books. In May, I got to go along and give book talks to classes of fifth graders in two different elementary schools in town – not about their required summer reading books for middle school, but a list of books we’d come up with that we thought they’d really like. (There’s actually a little bit of crossover with their middle school list, which is great.)

Some of the books I book-talked most enthusiastically at the schools were: New Kid by Jerry Craft (graphic novel), Blended by Sharon M. Draper (realistic fiction), The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin (realistic fiction), To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (epistolary realistic fiction). I also really liked Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen (realistic fiction), We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (science fiction), and It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (realistic fiction) but my co-worker talked about those ones. Teamwork!

Here are some of the (mostly new) books I’ve read so far this year. Books on our list for students entering sixth grade next fall are in bold.

Cover image of Night OwlNew(ish) middle grade books:

  • Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen (2017)
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2017)
  • The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson (2018)
  • Breakout by Kate Messner (2018)
  • Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks (2018)
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (2018)
  • It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (2018)
  • Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live In A Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos (2018)
  • So Done by Paula Chase (2018)
  • The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn (2018)
  • Blended by Sharon M. Draper (2018)
  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (2018)
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (2018)Cover image of Paulie Fink
  • You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino (2018)
  • Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever, edited by Betsy Bird (2018)
  • The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin (2019)
  • To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2019)
  • We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (2019)
  • A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata (2019)

This kind of diversity did not exist in kid-lit when I was a kid. There is so much here and it’s wonderful. These books tackle issues head-on: contemporary racism, poverty and wealth, restorative justice, Deaf culture, historical fiction that isn’t set in WWII Europe or the American home front…lots of mirrors, lots of windows.

Classics:

  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
  • Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, and Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary (1955, 1968, 1975)
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1971)
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements (1996)

These all stand the test of time with flying colors. I read Frindle in print on a friend’s recommendation, and listened to the audio of the others; Stockard Channing reads the Ramona books (and Neil Patrick Harris reads the Henry Huggins ones!). I appreciated The Phantom Tollbooth more as an adult than I did as a kid (“it goes without saying”), and I’d never read Mrs. Frisby before but it’s pretty timeless.

Cover image of New KidGraphic Novels:

  • Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (2014)
  • Awkward, Brave, and Crush by Svetlana Chmakova (2015, 2017, 2018)
  • The Babysitters Club (Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day, Claudia and Mean Janine) by Ann M. Martin/Raina Telgemeier (1986/2015, etc.)
  • Little Robot, Mighty Jack, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke  (2015, 2016, 2017) (See also: Zita the Spacegirl)
  • Bingo Love Vol. 1 by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, Joy San (2018)
  • Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano, Chris Dickey (2018)
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft (2019)
  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Modern Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero (2019)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry/P. Craig Russell (2019)

The rebooting of classics like Little Women and The Babysitters Club and The Giver is an interesting trend. In some cases, the graphic novel adheres closely to the original (e.g. The Giver). In other cases, there’s a major update and overhaul: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy is set in present-day New York, the Marches are a blended family, and…I don’t want to give too much away, but some other major plot points change as well. (I really liked it. That said, I’m not a die-hard fan of Louisa May Alcott’s version.) The Babysitters Club books fall somewhere in between, but closer to the “faithful to the original” end of the spectrum. (There is also, for those who are interested, a funny podcast called The Babysitters Club Club. More for a teen or adult audience.)

Cover image of The Poet XYoung Adult:

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018)
  • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (2018)
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (2018)
  • Picture Us In the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert (2018)
  • 500 Words Or Less by Juleah Del Rosario (2018)
  • With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo (2019)
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (2019)
  • Sunny by Jason Reynolds (2019)

I’ve been reading less YA lately but I absolutely loved both of Elizabeth Acevedo’s novels. I read With the Fire On High in print, and listened to the audiobook of The Poet X, which the author reads – I’d highly recommend the audio version.

And what about adult literary fiction? I still love it, and there are a bunch of new novels coming out this summer and fall that I’m excited about, but that’s a post for another day.

 

MLA 2019: School libraries, Neutrality, Youth Services

Read about the Keynote and breakout session with Deborah L. Plummer here.

11:45am “Advocacy for Access and Equity to Massachusetts School Libraries,” Greg Pronevitz, James Lonergan, Robin Cicchetti (Concord-Carlisle Regional High School)

In memory of Judi Paradis

Greg Pronevitz (formerly of MLS, currently a consultant) introduced this session off by acknowledging the great impact of Judi Paradis, a school librarian and advocate for school libraries. Judi was instrumental in the formation of the Legislative Special Commission on School Library Services in Massachusetts, which produced the report The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity and Access for Students in the Commonwealth. “This study is a result of her efforts,” Pronevitz said.

The report concluded that there is a lack of equity in Massachusetts schools. In its long-range action plan to build equity, it suggests hiring someone at DESE (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) to manage school library services; at present, it isn’t even possible to get a complete count of the number of schools that have libraries (let alone librarians, book budgets, and appropriate technology). A possible partnership between DESE and MBLC could conduct a census of school libraries, librarians, and services. School libraries should also be included in ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) funding. The report also recommends that the state set regulatory minimum standards, to ensure at least some level of equity and access for students, whether they’re in rural, suburban, or urban districts.

Equity v PrivilegeJames Lonergan from MBLC (Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) mentioned a number of other possible partnerships and stakeholders, including COSLA, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, EveryLibrary, and MLA. MBLC already supports school libraries through LSTA grants, the Commonwealth Catalog, and access to statewide databases; in fact, schools account for two-thirds of the use of state databases – would DESE consider contributing?

Robin Cicchetti, Head Librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School and one of the authors of the Equity and Access study, spoke about the important takeaways from the school library impact studies:

  • A strong school library program (SLP) leads to higher overall test scores
  • Access to better libraries means higher reading scores
  • School librarians provide much more than access to books
  • High levels of poverty mean little access to books
  • Access to books appears to offset the impact of poverty
  • Economically disadvantaged children benefit at a higher rate

Unlike a classroom teacher, a school librarian can have a relationship with an elementary student for six years (in a K-5 school), getting to know their interests and preferences and helping them find the right books and other resources for them. Because many schools have lost their librarians due to budget cuts, nearly a whole generation of students (and teachers) does not know what a librarian can offer – “And you don’t know what you don’t have.”

More information about the Massachusetts School Library Research Project is located on this LibGuide hosted by Salem State.

EVERY Student Needs A School Library

1:45pm “Neutrality in the Library – A Continuing Conversation,” Laura Saunders and Rachel Williams

Simmons School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) associate professor Laura Saunders and assistant professor Rachel Williams each spoke for several minutes before opening up the conversation to the audience. “Neutrality” has been a hot topic in libraryland over the past year, especially around the Library Bill of Rights as discussed, amended, and un-amended at ALA last summer and last winter. (See Meredith Farkas’ take in American Libraries, “When Values Collide,” November 1, 2018.)

“Neutrality replicates existing oppression. Being true to our professional core values around access, diversity, and social responsibility requires finding ways to make historically marginalized members of our communities feel that they belong in our libraries and are reflected in our collections, staffing, and services.” -Meredith Farkas

Some questions that arose during the session (from the speakers and the audience) included: Are libraries ever really neutral? How do we define “neutral”? What does that mean in practice? What/who are we including/excluding? Our libraries reflect our communities; how do we make sure our libraries reflect everyone in our community? Do all library users feel safe? What voices do we support and amplify?

Are libraries neutral, can we be neutral, should we be neutral? (Remember, a position of neutrality doesn’t necessarily mean an outcome of neutrality.) As information professionals, do we want to promote/defend intellectual freedom when it comes at the cost of social responsibility? What are the impacts of intellectual freedom? Which voices will be limited, which will be amplified? If access to information is a human right, should the education to be able to evaluate information be a human right also (information literacy)?

It was pointed out that freedom of speech is a “negative right” (i.e., “Congress shall pass no law…”). Government cannot get in the way of freedom of speech, but it doesn’t have to promote it either.

The session closed with Saunders’ reference to Dante’s Inferno, in which neutrality was found to be “not just unethical, but damning.”

2:45pm “Youth Services Quick Start for Everyone,” Monica Brennan, Turner Free Library (Randolph, MA)

Brennan brought plenty of energy and enthusiasm to this session, which wasn’t quite what I expected but had an important core point: Identify your “tribe” (or team, or pack), what they need to know, and what you can learn from them. There are a couple “tribes”: one is library staff, especially those who may be working only a few hours a week in the children’s department and may feel especially overwhelmed and underprepared to answer specific questions about levels from kids, parents, teachers, and caregivers. Make sure everyone who works in the children’s department feels comfortable answering those questions, or knows where to find the information. (This might be preparing a binder full of pathfinders, posting the various levels and their grade equivalents and some representative books, or whatever else works for you and your staff.)

Another “tribe” includes those who come into the children’s department and may have knowledge to share with you: parents, teachers, caregivers, coaches, kids, siblings, peers,  librarians. Find out what the schools are using, talk to teachers (especially if they have very specific requirements). People are usually happy to share what they know, what they like, and what they don’t like.

Brennan shared two readers’ advisory tips that I liked: one was simply asking the kid to give a thumbs-up/thumbs-down when you show them or tell them about a book. This saves them from talking if they’re shy, but quickly allows you to gauge their interest and move on. Another strategy involves tiny colored post-it notes, which she sticks on/near books in the stacks so kids can browse without a librarian hovering; if it’s busy, you might use different colors for different kids.

Wipe Clean Workbook Uppercase Alphabet“Everyone deserves to be trained in kid’s services, but not everyone is” – Brennan gave an overview of the areas of the library (fiction/nonfiction, picture books, early readers, chapter books) and the different levels (Lexile, Fountas & Pinnell, DRA). Kids need books at their “level” to learn certain skills and grow as a reader, but can “reach” for books they’re interested in and are motivated to read. She is a big fan of the NoveList K-8 database, which can be a useful tool for those who aren’t as familiar with children’s books.

Brennan is passionate about children’s services and early literacy in particular; to that end, she has developed backpack kits that kids can check out for pre-K, toddlers, and infants. It’s never too early to start reading together; “families that read together achieve together.”

Librarians can “model it”: be open, be cool, be confident, be fun. Encourage a growth mindset with a “Let’s find out together” approach. Remember that “There’s no more important library patron than our youth,” and “The windows and mirrors you have as a kid literally shape the rest of your life.”

Read about Wednesday’s MLA sessions here.