Storytime today started with a small enough group (just 8 kids, plus an infant) that I swapped the name song in for “The More We Get Together.” I always like to do the name song if there are ten kids or fewer, because (a) it helps me learn the kids’ names and (b) some of them really love being the center of attention! Usually we have more than ten kids, though, so the name song would take up too much time. Today some more came in throughout storytime, and we ended up with about 11.
Welcome and announcements (I remembered – I’m very proud of myself – that next Monday is a holiday and the library will be closed, so my next storytime after this is in two weeks)
“Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
Name song (“___ is here today” x3 “we all clap our hands, ___ is here today”)
Three short poems from The Frogs and Toads All Sang by Arnold Lobel
Are You A Monkey?: a tale of animal charades, by Marine Rivoal, translated/adapted by Maria Tunney. This is a much longer book than I’d usually use for a group of 2-3-year-olds, but it has so many opportunities for participation (animal sounds and motions) that it worked as a lead-off book…
…provided we did “Shake Your Sillies Out” with egg shakers right afterward!
And we kept our egg shakers for The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. I would have liked to have Monkey and Me in the lineup instead, but it was checked out, and The Odd Egg worked well with the shakers – I asked the kids to shake on page turns or when we said the word “egg.”
Mamasaurus by Stephan Lomp: This is a “where’s my mother?” plot, but with dinosaurs. It’s not my most favorite picture book of all time, but I thought the dinosaurs might appeal. It seemed to hold their attention well enough.
The mouse house game! They love this. We played three times.
“Where is Thumbkin?” song/fingerplay
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: I have felt elephants for this, but didn’t use them today; we just counted, marched, and made elephant sounds.
“Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
“Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
Put away mats, color with markers(!) and crayons on butcher paper (This is the first time I put out markers. I did ask the grown-ups to help make sure the caps got on the markers when they were done, and they did!).
“Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the orange house?”
After missing the last two Mondays (for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the NELA conference), it was so nice to be back at storytime! And I was able to bring two new elements to storytime today, another song with ASL from NELA and a mouse house felt board game from the Belmont Public Library storytime earlier this month.
“The More We Get Together” song with signs for “more,” “together,” “happy,” “be,” and “friends” (hat tip to the Chelmsford children’s librarians at NELA!)
The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury
My Name Is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee and Matthew Forsythe
“Shake Your Sillies Out” with shaker eggs
Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton
“Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
The mouse house game: “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” We played it three times, with me switching the houses and mouse location each time (I made six houses, but only four fit on the felt board at one time).
Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” standing in star position and rocking side to side
Spots in a Box by Helen Ward
“Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
Clean up mats, put down paper for spots craft (using glue sticks to stick colored spots to the butcher paper)
The new song and game went well. Lately I’ve been feeling like six books is too many – most other storytimes I’ve been to for this age group usually do only three or so – and five is still plenty.
I always sketch an outline of my plan for storytime, and it always changes a little bit. This time I switched the order of two books (Not A Stick and Shh! We Have A Plan), switched the order of two movement songs (“Shake Your Sillies Out” and “Twinkle,” because one kid saw the shaker eggs and got very excited), and added a song (“Row Row Row,” because there is paddling in Shh! We Have A Plan). The baby sign language cards pictured above I ended up taking down before storytime started (they’re great up close, but hard to see from farther away). I also had A Parade of Elephants and several other books available as options, but did stick with my original lineup. Next week, elephants! (And dinosaurs.)
Left: stack of storytime books. Right: the final lineup of five books on the storytime chair.
The New England Library Association annual conference (#NELA2019) was in Mystic, CT this year. I went for just one of the three days, presenting one session and attending three others. (I also lucked out in the exhibit hall, picking up three galleys I’m really excited about, plus a pair of socks.)
What’s Play Got to Do With It? Every Child Ready to Read in Action, Andrea Grant, Deborah Morrissey, and Marty Mason, Chelmsford Public Library (11:15am)
Three youth services librarians from Chelmsford, MA talked about the Playspace program they’d developed, inspired by the launch of the second edition of Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) at PLA in 2012. Playspace, as the program name indicates, focuses most on play, though it also includes reading (one story), singing, and talking (and play includes some fine-motor pre-writing skills).
ECRR is to educate parents and caregivers to help nurture pre-reading skills at home: reading, writing, singing, talking, and playing. The importance of play for young children is well documented, and the audience brainstormed some of its benefits: fun, builds social-emotional skills, fine/gross motor, imagination, exploration, bonding between adult/child. Children’s natural instinct is to play; with Playspace, they set up the environment for that. It is designed for the two- to three-year-old age group. (Older and younger kids are welcome, but “don’t complain” if you’re not in the target age group (“We don’t actually say that”)).
The basic outline of the program is:
Start with a song (“The more we play together” with ASL)
Read a story
Offer activities related to that story
Use each story twice (two weeks in a row)
In order to encourage reading and play at home every day, the librarians use low-cost, simple, easy-to-replicate-at-home activities (e.g. make a cave by draping a tablecloth over table or chair and put a stuffed bear in there; use painters tape to make a path/maze on the floor; fill a bin with soapy water and plastic animals, whisks, and spoons, etc.). All of their activity sheets are available on the library website!
The librarians plan a Playspace by:
Choosing a story
Brainstorming appropriate themes
Brainstorming activities related to the story/theme
They try to offer activities in each of the different developmental areas (gross motor, fine motor, art, sensory/sciences, drama, felt board, literacy), though they acknowledged that not every book lends itself to all of these areas equally. During the session, everyone in the audience got some sticky notes and helped plan a Playspace around “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
The Playspace program is offered weekly (there are two 14-week sessions in fall/winter/spring) in a large room and lasts for about an hour. It’s a drop-in program (no registration) and they usually get about 45 people (grown-ups and kids).
Starting from the Ground Up: How to Promote Civic Engagement & Inform Teen Voters, Charlie Gluck, Youth Services, Boston Public Library (2pm)
Charlie (who presented at MLA in 2018 on “The Role of Fantasy in the Library”) did a ton of research for this session on informing teen voters and future teen voters about the voter registration process and (to a lesser extent) how to learn about candidates and issues, especially on the local level. Each state in New England has slightly different rules about when people can register to vote, but all of them allow pre-registration (before you turn 18). The Secretary of State’s website should be the most helpful place to start to learn the rules for your state (if you’re a Massachusetts resident, it’s here).
Charlie is part of YALSA’s 22×20 Task Force, which recognizes that there will be 22 million new voters eligible to vote in the 2020 elections (since 2016), and is intent on helping them become active, informed voters.
While of course we cannot be partisan in a public library – most of this session’s attendees were public librarians – we can encourage people (including teens) to vote. Libraries are meant to promote civic engagement and democracy; “Libraries are democratic institutions first and foremost.” We can have sample ballots, make displays or handouts about how to register and when the deadlines are (and the number to call if you’re turned away at the polls). We can partner with other organizations (such as high school political science classes, model UN and student government, teen advisory group/boards, NHS, student/community groups that serve diverse or underserved populations such as GSA, BSA, and ESL groups, local transportation or school transportation systems).
Charlie also encouraged outreach to specific underserved populations, like those in juvenile detention centers or those without a fixed address. For the teens that you do see regularly in the library, ask if they have a birthday coming up – and if they’ve registered to vote yet. And while she acknowledged that teens might not flock to a program called “know your voting rights,” she suggested making it part of an “Adulting Decathlon,” where they could learn a little bit about several different necessary life skills.
Sparkin’ a Love of Literacy: 1st and 2nd grade literacy programs at Newton Free Library, Lisa Norcross and Sandra Leifeld, Newton Free Library (3:45pm)
Lisa and Sandra talked about two programs they run together at Newton, Book Bunch and Write Stuff. Both programs were born in response to interest from parents. Book Bunch is a book discussion program exploring different genres by reading, discussing, and follow-up activities for first- and second-graders and their caregivers. It meets monthly from September-January and February-June; a second group was added during each session to meet demand.
The first Book Bunch title of the session is usually an early reader (e.g. Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee). At the first meeting, they discuss what’s on the cover: the title, author, and illustrator. Follow-up activities are as varied as the books themselves, and have included a pajama party, making stone soup, popcorn and “movie” (a Cece Bell video), made and wrote their own books, used typewriters, and talked to authors and publishers in person or via Skype.
What works, what doesn’t? The level of the book is important; some 1st graders are reading 1st grade books comfortably, while some 2nd graders may be reading 6th grade books. For Book Bunch, they don’t choose books beyond beginning chapter books – and of course, there have to be enough copies in the system. Librarians come prepared with questions to discuss, but kids are welcome to bring questions too. And “If you don’t/can’t read the whole book, that’s okay – that’s why we have the discussion.”
Write Stuff is for second graders and their caregivers; the program covers writing basics and story structure. Two five-month sessions run during the school year, and at meetings, participants share stories and build vocabulary through mini-lessons, writing time, and sharing time.
There are six guidelines/things to remember in the group:
Everyone is learning and at their own level
Do your best
Everyone shares (in small or whole group)
Respectful and constructive feedback to help each other
One conversation at a time
The librarians prepare a folder for each kid including a schedule, writing paper, final edit paper (with “airplane line” like they use at school, glossary of Words to Know (e.g. dialogue, fiction, nonfiction, characters – with pictures, good for ELL), and Word Wall ideas (the Word Wall is a collaborative project; all participants can add to it throughout the program, to share their expanding vocabulary).
Each meeting is one hour, and starts with reading a story aloud. The first and last book are always the same (Rocket Writes AStory and How This Book Was Made), but they use different ones for the three middle sessions. Then there is a writing prompt and an activity. The final product is a finished book, including a story (fiction or nonfiction) from each participant, including a beginning, middle, end, and “about the author.” The librarians make copies of the book at the town printer, so everyone gets one to keep, and the kids also get a journal and a pencil at the end of the program to continue their writing.
Lisa and Sandra also mentioned “Story Time From Space,” which puts an interstellar twist on traditional story time.
And that was my day at NELA 2019. If you went to different Monday sessions, or attended on Sunday or Tuesday, I’d love to hear about the highlights! Fewer people were on Twitter than usual, but again, the hashtag was #NELA2019. And now, I’m off to read my ARC of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern!
The School Library Journal (SLJ) Day of Dialog at the Cambridge Public Library was a day-long event that brought librarians, authors, and publishers together. The day included:
Three keynote speakers: Erin Entrada Kelly (Hello Universe), Deborah Heiligman (Torpedoed), and Nikki Grimes (Ordinary Hazards)
Three panels: picture book, nonfiction, and tween/teen
Two “book buzz” presentations, where representatives from different publishers gave lightning talks highlighting their upcoming books
There was an hour break for lunch, and a few minutes between the keynotes, panels, and book buzzes to speak with folks from the publishing houses, meet authors, and get books signed. It really felt like we were all book-lovers, all on the same side: the side of making great books and getting them into the hands of readers.
Highlights from Erin Entrada Kelly’s keynote, which focused on honesty in middle grade literature:
The most important thing is to write honestly; it’s important for young readers to experience practical truths
In Blackbird Fly, bullies don’t get comeuppance. “A lot of times that does not happen…That’s how the real world works.” It’s important for young people to see the world mirrored back at them.
Young people are already their own complex beings with their own beliefs
“My hope is that young readers, when they finish reading my book” or any book, is that they can be their own hero, see their own worth and value…they don’t have to conform to our society.
“Walking around like an open wound” -being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, etc. – is not a liability, as long as you’re the best version of yourself. “Characters don’t change the core of who they are, they accept the core of who they are.”
“Even though the world isn’t perfect, we can make it better….Change happens when ordinary people do extraordinary things”
“Someone once told me, Everyone has a year in their childhood where things change, and there was a before and an after…for me that year was twelve.”
The picture book panel was Julia Denos, E.B. Goodale, Kyle Lukoff, Vita Murro, and Cornelius Van Wright. I was already a fan of Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale’s picture book Windows, and was delighted to pick up their new collaboration, Here and Now, which is a wonderful book for bedtime or any time you need to wind down. Kyle Lukoff (When Aidan Became A Brother) and Vita Murrow (Power to the Princess) were engaging speakers, and Cornelius Van Wright’s (The Little RedCrane) response to the question “How would your book have been different a decade ago?” made me laugh out loud: “A truck book would have been the same.” The moderator’s last question was what the authors’ favorite books were when they were kids, and if those influenced the kinds of books they create now.
In the first book buzz, I wrote down several titles from Candlewick and Charlesbridge to look up when they come out, including This Boy by Lauren Myracle and Not A Bean by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez. I also chatted with the editorial director of Owl Kids about Sloth at the Zoom, which was on the cover of one of their catalogs. (If you haven’t read Sloth at the Zoom, you should go do that right now. It’s about a sloth that gets sent to the Zoom instead of the Zzzzzoo.)
After lunch, Deborah Heiligman gave the afternoon keynote, about the process of writing her new book, Torpedoed. (See her interview in the Horn Book: Deborah Heiligman Talks With Roger.) She talked about “Deb’s Rules for Researching”: start with primary sources, don’t write everything down, only take “oh wow” notes. She also talked about writing for middle grade: what does that mean? What do they know, what don’t they know?
The nonfiction panel was Kim Chafee (Her Fearless Run), Marge Pellegrino (Neon Words), Melissa Stewart (Seashells, Feathers), and Carole Boston Weatherford (Box). The moderator, Maggie Bush, observed that children’s nonfiction used to be more “utilitarian,” whereas now it’s often more heavily illustrated, and there are more narrative nonfiction books than the type of dry fare students might use for book reports. One of the authors – I think Melissa Stewart – explained that her picture book nonfiction has “Multiple layers of text” to “make the book accessible to different age groups.” There’s the main text, secondary text, etc. I’ve definitely noticed this in picture book nonfiction (e.g. Gail Gibbons, Nick Seluk), and it’s great.
The teens & tweens panel was Craig Battle(Camp Average),Ryan LaSala (Reverie), Maulik Pancholy (The Best At It), Christina Soontornvat (A Wish in the Dark), and Karen Rayne (Trans+). Moderator Ashleigh Williams observed a “a common theme between these different books…how compassion shows up in difficult places.” All of the authors spoke about representation and diversity. A few key quotes:
Christina Soontornvat: “In your middle grade years, you are really ready to confront…Maybe it’s not working the way it should….maybe the way society is set up is not fair”
Maulik Pancholy: “Kids live complex lives…you can’t lie to them.”
Ryan LaSala: Internal fantasy worlds are sometimes a response to unkind realities… “just because you’ve gone through shit doesn’t mean you are absolved from having compassion for others”
Christina Soontornvat: “One small act of kindness or one small act of cruelty has these reverberating impacts”
Karen Rayne: “You are the expert on your self.”
Christina Soontornvat: Kids are eager to push back, ask questions, be activists, be aware of the world they’re living in, they want to be more inclusive.
I got fidgety during the second book buzz and went to visit the publishers’ tables. The last speaker of the day was Nikki Grimes. Highlights:
A tenth grade teacher told her “Good enough, isn’t” and taught her to strive for excellence.
“The words you traffic in have the power to save lives….reading and writing were my survival tools”
“The right story at the right time for the right reader is magical.” What is the right story? One to which the reader can relate in some special way.
Representation matters, and not just for children
Library card: “a magic pass I used to climb into someone else’s skin any time I needed”
“Stories unite us, stories transform us, stories anchor us”
Thank you to SLJ and the Cambridge Public Library for a fantastic day! I’m already looking forward to next year.
Today we started with 13 kids and ended up with at least 18, as a few more trickled in during our hello song and first book. I don’t read holiday-specific books, but we had a spooky/zoo theme today, in honor of it being October.
Welcome and announcements (the library is closed next Monday)
“Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel: This is one of my favorite books to start a storytime with, because of the many opportunities for movement, observation, and saying hello to our friends and neighbors.
Hoodwinked by Arthur Howard: I started by asking who had a pet, and what kind, then introduced Mitzi, who wants a pet too. This is on the longer side for the younger kids, but they made it through! I found an orange cat puppet in the closet, just like Hoodwink.
Yoga and songs: “I Had A Little Turtle,” “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” One kid started to cry, so we segued from mountain pose and toe-touching into star pose and sang “Twinkle Twinkle” as we swayed back and forth.
Matilda’s Cat by Emily Gravett: Fortunately, Matilda’s cat looks a lot like Mitzi’s cat Hoodwink, so I could use the same puppet.
Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh: This might be the first time I’ve read a nonfiction picture book at storytime, and it worked out great! Halloween decorations are starting to appear, so kids had seen skeletons, and the book has a positive, reassuring message about skulls (“they’re like a car seat for your brain!”).
“Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” (we’d identified eyes, ears, mouth, and nose in Skulls!) and some more songs.
My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall with flannel board (I made a frog, crab, clam, owl, and penguin, which the kids identified before I started reading the book)
Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: I stood up to read this one so we could all do animal impressions throughout.
The rest of the songs on the song cube, “Goodbye Friends” with ASL, clean up mats
Coloring on butcher paper taped to floor; Caspar Babypants music
It seems really obvious, but encouraging grown-ups both at the beginning and end of storytime to come to me with any book- or library-related questions totally works! I’ve had one or two people approach me after each storytime so far this fall. Today’s question was about the Kevin Henkes Penny books (Penny and Her Song, Penny and Her Doll, Penny and Her Marble). I showed them where they should be on the shelf, showed them where Kevin Henkes picture books are, and recommended Frog & Toad and Charlie & Mouse as well.
Today’s group of about sixteen kids was unusually quiet and engaged! (Noisy and engaged is also fine, of course, but as someone whose voice is not naturally loud, quiet and engaged is delightful.) We read six books, did some stretching, sang some songs, and did a craft that I came up with about 20 minutes before storytime started.
Welcome and announcements
“Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough, with two bears (one big, one small) from the storytime puppet stash
Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, with flannel board sheep: I put blue, pink, and yellow sheep on the board (kids identified the colors when I held them up) before the story, and pulled out that sleepy green sheep at the end. (Hat tip to Laura L. for showing me how to read this book aloud properly.)
Yoga: Stretching tall, touching toes
Goose by Laura Wall
Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle” and “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan Shea: This is the first time I’ve had success with this book! I encouraged everyone to shout out “yes” or “no,” and mostly it was the grown-ups, but they get participation points too.
Yoga and music: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Where Is Thumbkin?” and more stretching (mountain pose, forward fold, star, triangle pose)
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer: This book is storytime gold. Someone always checks it out afterward.
Carrot and Pea by Morag Hood
“Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
Clean up mats
Craft: Carrot and peas. Big orange paper triangles for carrots, medium-size green circles for peas, glue sticks, crayons for drawing on faces.
It is Banned Books Week again (a.k.a. Freedom to Read Week). I’m going to quote from Rob’s BBW/FtRW post from the Robbins Library blog:
During Banned Books Week, we celebrate the freedom to read. As you can imagine, this is most librarians’ favorite theme week; after all, as our code of ethics states, “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” But you don’t have to be a librarian to enjoy Banned Books Week – all you have to do is read!
(The word “Banned” is in quotation marks in the title of this post because the name “Banned Books Week” is a bit of a misnomer. First, we celebrate Banned Books Week not because we like or support books being banned – we celebrate to support intellectual freedom and the freedom to read whatever you want. Second, it’s now much more common for books to be challenged than actually banned, thanks to the efforts of teachers, librarians, and other supporters of the freedom to read. You can read a bit more about Banned Books Week here (or in our blog archives here) and check out a few lists of books that have been banned or challenged here & here.)
They link to a few of my Banned Books Week posts for the blog from past years, as well as the ALA site. Here are ALA’s infographics for this year:
There is a difference between a challenge and a ban; there are many more challenges than bans. And just because a book is removed from one library, that doesn’t mean it’s removed from all of them, or unavailable at bookstores or online. But you’ll notice that almost all of these titles are children’s or teen books, and kids don’t always have options beyond their school library (if they’re lucky enough to have a school library and librarian) or their local public library. If a book is removed from those places, it’s effectively unavailable for that kid.
It’s easy enough – for many of us pro-intellectual freedom types, at least – to see a story like the recent one from Nashville, Tennessee, where a Catholic school banned the Harry Potter series, and rail against it. Most librarians – and plenty of teachers and parents – believe that while parents do have the right to decide what their own children can and can’t read, they do NOT have the right to decide that a book should be unavailable for everyone.
However, there’s a subtler kind of censorship that I see a lot of, and I’m sure I’ll have moments where I wrestle with myself about this as well: the “is my kid ready for this yet?” question. Parents with eager, advanced readers, especially, see their kids racing through all the chapter books and middle grade novels and into the teen section. They’re concerned that their readers will encounter bad language, violence, sex, drugs (maybe even rock ‘n’ roll), etc.
So far, I’ve developed four responses to this: one, of course, is to talk with the parent (and the kid!) about the books they’ve liked, and suggest any others I can think of or find along those same lines, without going into more mature territory. Two is to suggest to the parent that they read the book too (either before the kid does, or at the same time, or after), so they’re prepared to talk about anything that concerns either of them. Three, if a kid is reading way above their age level (content-wise), they will likely either put the book down, or some things will just sail over their heads; they’ll take something away from the book, but they won’t understand it on every level, and that’s okay. Four, books are the safest places to encounter scary things. Plenty of fantasy and sci-fi scenarios won’t happen in real life (probably, hopefully), but realistic fiction that deals with death, divorce, poverty, bullying, mental health issues, violence, sexual assault, and any of the multitude of things that can and do go wrong in our world…those things happen. If they don’t happen to you, then knowing about them can build empathy for others; if they do happen to you, you know you’re not alone.
A final note: one other way that adults censor kids’ reading is by designating “girl books” and “boy books.” Here, I’m going to turn it over to author Shannon Hale:
Stories make us human. We form bonds by swapping personal stories with others, and reading fiction is a deeply immersive exercise in empathy.
So, what happens to a culture that encourages girls to read books about boys but shoos boys away from reading books about girls?