Step Into Storytime, October 1

Today’s storytime was a big success! The weather (gray and threatening rain) helped bring people in, and Lots of Dots with a tie-in craft – gluing colored paper dots to a huge piece of butcher paper with glue sticks – was a huge hit. Hello Hello was a great book to start with, too – I forgot how many excellent opportunities it affords for interaction (“Hello Tongue, Ears, Hands, and Nose”), and it has a built-in quiet pause (“Hello Quiet”). For “Hello Bend” I demonstrated how to wiggle like an octopus, and at “Hello Neighbor” I asked the kids to turn and say hello to a neighbor.

Last week I made some early literacy signs to hang up along with a Step Into Storytime sign; I laminated them so they’ll be reusable. (I made them in Canva; if you’d like copies, I’m happy to share the PDF.) During “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” I mentioned that fingerplay helps develop fine motor skills.


Book covers
Hello Hello, Hooray for Hat, A Greyhound A Groundhog, Some Bugs, The Odd Egg, Monkey and Me, Lots of Dots
  • Welcome and announcements
  • Hello song with ASL
  • Name song (there were about 10-11 kids to start, some more trickled in later)
  • Passed out scarves right away for Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel – wave the scarves hello! Keep them for the song cube.
  • Song cube: “ABCs”
  • Hooray for Hat by Brian Won (lots of kids caught on to the pattern of the story and said “Hooray!” at the appropriate times)
  • Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Gravett and Chris Appelhans (I brought a little stuffed greyhound from home and let the kids come pet it after the story)
  • Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi and Brendan Wenzel (I pointed out that it says “words by” and “bugs by,” which I love. “Author” and “illustrator” aren’t as meaningful for little kids; “wrote the words” and “drew the pictures” are easier to understand)
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “I’m A Little Teapot” (it landed against my chair, so both sides were showing)
  • The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (with a big alligator SNAP! with two arms at the end)
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (this is sing-song-y enough that I did it with all of us standing up and doing the animal imitations – waddling penguins, elephant trunks, etc.)
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot” again
  • Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier (some kids found “dots” – buttons – on their clothes when I asked, and one found “dots” in the flower print on her leggings)
  • Goodbye song with ASL
  • Craft: I taped a long piece of butcher paper to the floor and scattered colored construction paper dots on it for kids to glue with glue sticks. They LOVED it. Definitely something to do again in a couple weeks. When everyone was done I taped the paper up on the wall.
This is my kid. No photo release form required.

Step Into Storytime, September 24

Today we had a big crowd at storytime! It was a gray fall day, so maybe the weather urged people inside, or perhaps they’re just getting back into the rhythm of the season (storytimes are a little more sporadic in the summer because of all the other programs we do). There were at least 15 kids in the 2-3 age range, plus assorted siblings and several late arrivals. In the beginning, we had more than ten but I did the name song anyway – it’s a great way to learn names and start building individual connections.

Books face out on storytime chair
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!, Oh No George!, Please Mr. Panda, Count the Monkeys, Five Little Monkeys, Chu’s Day, Still Stuck
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL
  • Name song (“Hello ____, hello ___, hello ____, we’re glad you came today”)
  • Handed out shaker eggs for Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
  • Kept the shaker eggs for Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. Collected shaker eggs after.
  • Song cube: ABC song
  • Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
  • Song cube: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed by Eileen Christelow (jumping encouraged!)
  • Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle”
  • Scarves (by audience request) for Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake. Collected scarves.
  • Goodbye song with ASL. Put away colored mats. Dance party with bubbles! (We have an old ipod loaded up with Raffi and Disney versions of classic kid music. And I brought my own bubbles from home because I am devoted to Pustefix bubbles.)

I skipped the flannel board and craft this week, but for next week I am thinking of a craft with paper dots and glue to go with Lots of Dots, and maybe The Very Hungry Caterpillar flannel board again…if I can make a butterfly before next Monday!

Library (re)design: Hopkinton Public Library

“The fountain of Wisdom flows through books”

This week I attended a meeting of the MetroWest Program Planners at the Hopkinton Library, and after the meeting we got a tour of the recent redesign and addition (they reopened October 2017).

Fold-up tables and lightweight chairs

There was so much to love about the new library, I almost don’t know where to begin. But if you’ve been reading here long, you know how I love mobile, modular furniture, so we can start with the fact that everything is on wheels: tables, chairs, displays, even the circulation desk (though the circ desk, we were told, is heavy and they don’t plan to move it often. The reference desk is not on wheels, but that is because it moves up and down). Many of the tables fold up, as well, so they can be folded and wheeled out of the way to make room for events.

Now, let’s go upstairs, and work our way down. Upstairs is the children’s room; it has historically been upstairs, and it was important (to the community? to the staff?) that it remain there. It had beautiful light from lots of windows; a friendly low desk with display space built into it (they feature a different kid’s collection each month); a central area with low tables and chairs; a puppet theater and a Duplo table; and plenty of little reading nooks with built-in benches (okay, not modular, but very cozy). There was also a glassed-in separate room for storytimes and other programs, with a little cart of floor mats, built-in storage cabinets, and two sinks (big and small). Perfection!

Above, clockwise from top left: A brilliant, double-pun bulletin board display; the central area of the children’s room; a puzzle corner; a reading nook.

Downstairs on the main floor is the circulation desk, new books, adult fiction, the teen room, a large meeting/conference room (formerly part of an Episcopal church, incorporated into the library in 1967 if I remember right), and a smaller board room that was part of the original library (complete with grandfather clock donated in the early 1900s).


Let’s talk about the teen room: the awesome, amazing teen room! Separated by a glass wall from the public computer area, adult fiction, magazines, and newspapers, the teen area is obviously unique; visual clues such as paint color and matching carpet squares (bright blue) set it apart from the rest of the library. There is a laptop bar, plenty of comfy “mitt” chairs, tables and chairs for group work, and of course, a great selection of teen books.

The teen room: laptop bar, tables and chairs, stacks with endcap displays, and the mitt chairs by the windows on the right.

Downstairs on the basement level (with with some windows high up and some skylights – skylights in the meeting rooms! – there was plenty of natural light) is the reference desk, which can move up or down with a switch, so librarians can be seated or standing. (There is also a beautiful heritage quilt on the wall behind the desk.) There is a small reference collection in addition to the nonfiction, a local history room, meeting rooms for small groups, and a larger meeting room set up as a classroom – that’s where Girls Who Code takes place, and there’s a laptop cabinet (on wheels, of course) in the room.

Above: Was it weird to take photos of these? Yes. But I love the inclusive signage AND the transparency built into the door lock so people waiting can tell at a glance if it’s vacant or occupied without having to knock or try the door.

Above: Offering bags for wet umbrellas is a nice touch (and protects the new carpet); cafe-style seating across from the circulation desk offers visitors a place to snack.

Throughout the library, most of the display space is on beautiful endcaps, where books are face-out. In many places, displays are coordinated so a flyer for an event is positioned above relevant books.  Overall, it’s an impressive, clean, friendly place that will serve its population flexibly for years to come. Bravo, Hopkinton!

Step Into Storytime, September 17

There was a smaller group at storytime today, but that allowed me to do the name song (“____ is here today, ____ is here today, let’s all clap our hands, ____ is here today”) after our usual “Hello friends” song. If the group is bigger than ten or so, I don’t do it, but because we only had seven or eight today, we did. I think it’s a good way to start because all the kids feel included, and it helps me learn the names, so I can address kids by name throughout the storytime.

When we use the song cube, or sing a new song, I make sure we do it twice, because young brains are hungry for patterns and repetition.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?, Flyaway Katie, Five Little Monkeys, My Heart Is Like A Zoo, Perfect Square, Make A Wish Bear, Where Bear?
  • Welcome: Glad you’re here, please keep the doors clear, take snacks outside, feel free to come and go as needed.
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL
  • Name song
  • Book: Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan Shea
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle”
  • Hand out scarves
  • Book: Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar
  • Book: Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow
  • Collect scarves
  • Book: My Heart Is Like A Zoo by Michael Hall (with flannel, but not interactive)IMG_20180917_094132
  • Song and activity: “Shake Your Sillies Out” with shaker eggs
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot”
  • Book: Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Song cube: “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”
  • Book: Make A Wish Bear by Greg Foley
  • Song: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
  • Book: Where, Bear? by Sophy Henn
  • Goodbye song with ASL
  • Activity: coloring with crayons on a big piece of butcher paper (one bowl of crayons at each corner of the paper)

See last week’s Step Into Storytime here.

Step Into Storytime, September 10

Today kicks off our fall series of storytime programs, and mine is “Step Into Storytime” for two- and three-year olds (though siblings are allowed to join, and we’re pretty lenient about ages; the come-and-go-as-necessary philosophy enables kids and their grown-ups to leave if they’re having a tough time and come back in when they’re ready, or next time).

We started off, as usual, with an introduction and a few guidelines (keep doors clear, take snacks outside), then our welcome song: “Hello friends” with sign language. I sang it through once with the motions, then showed each sign (should have done that first!), then we sang it through again, and lots of the kids and adults participated. Next:

  • Song cube: “Zoom zoom zoom, we’re going to the moon” (standing, twice)
  • Book: Fall Is Not Easy by Marty Kelley
  • Activity: Adding leaves to the tree on the flannel board. I think every kid participated and we had 16 leaves!
  • Song cube: “I had a little turtle”
  • Book: Hooray for Hat by Brian Won (“Show me your grumpy faces!”)
  • Song cube: “ABCs”
  • Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleIMG_20180910_095130
  • Activity: Very Hungry Caterpillar flannel board. At the appropriate point in the story, a kid would come up and remove the fruit the caterpillar ate that day (apple, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges). One kid who wanted to participate didn’t get a chance to take fruit off the board so I let her take the caterpillar off. And note to self: I need to make a butterfly!
  • Song cube: “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” (standing, twice)
  • Book: Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex (kids loved the big sneeze!)
  • Song/activity: I passed out shaker eggs and we stood to sing “Shake Your Sillies Out.” Kids brought the eggs back to the front and put them in the bag at the end of the song.
  • Book: The Duckling Gets A Cookie by Mo Willems (I put my flannel Pigeon and Duckling up on the flannel board but we didn’t do anything with them)
  • Song: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to calm a slightly squirrelly crowd. I meant to do the “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL like usual but I forgot!
  • Activity: Coloring with crayons. I traced one of the pages from Blue Chameleon and made copies for kids to color however they liked. We have a giant bin of crayons and they color right on the floor – next time I would scoop a few smaller bowls of crayons and spread them out around the room. People were great about putting the crayons back when they were finished!

Overall, this was a great storytime. Hooray for Hat seemed to be a favorite, several kids recognized The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I think the Mo Willems book might have been more successful earlier in the lineup.

We have a whiteboard along one wall, and after “Welcome to Step Into Storytime!” I had written the five activities that support early learning: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play. Next time I want to incorporate more early literacy information into the storytime for caregivers, explaining in a sentence here and there why I’m doing what I’m doing (why sing songs twice, for example, and why do fingerplay or sign language) to support that early learning.


Imagine it changed

Follow my breadcrumb trail…from a Booklist e-mail to “Maggie Reagan’s fantastic long-form review of Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares” to this part:

In her Printz Honor acceptance speech, Taylor discussed the importance of fantasy, now more than ever. “Human decency depends on empathy,” she said. “Empathy depends on imagination.” And what fantasy gives readers, especially young ones, is the ability to imagine worlds that can be remade. They can look at a community that mirrors our own and imagine it changed, and only by imagining it changed can we hope to change it.

That reminded me of what Neil Gaiman had to say on the topic of fiction and empathy. I’ve quoted from this speech of his before, but here it is again, slightly abridged:

“And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy….You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed…

You’re also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this:

The world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.

….Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.”

The bit above in bold (emphasis mine) is crucial. I included it in a slide when I presented on “Readers’ Advisory in an Age of Uncertainty” at MLA last spring, alongside recommendations of fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, and other speculative literature.

Personally, I haven’t encountered anyone who has flat-out declared that fantasy books are lesser than other books. Certainly, there are people who say they don’t like the genre, and that’s fine – every reader their book, etc. – though in closing oneself off to entire genres, one is likely to miss some great stories.

Cover image of Strange the DreamerBut Taylor makes a good point about fantasy being important “now more than ever.” I went looking for the full text of her Printz honor speech and couldn’t find it (let me know if you can!), but I did find a post by Karen Silverman about Strange the Dreamer on the SLJ blog “Someday My Printz Will Come.” Between Silverman and Reagan, I’ve been convinced to make Strange the Dreamer my first Laini Taylor book (finally!) and continue straight on to Muse of Nightmares.

As a side note, SLJ and Library Journal are pretty much the only places on the internet where the comments are constructive, intelligent, interesting, and relevant. Elsewhere, I usually stop scrolling at the end of the article and pretend comments don’t exist.

On the topic of fantasy, The Atlantic recently ran a piece entitled “Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories.” I forwarded it along to all my children’s/YA reader/librarian friends, and while a few objected to the competitive aspect of the comparison (“There are so many good books on both sides of the pond!”), I won’t hesitate to admit that many of the magical books I loved as a kid (and still love) start with that tear in the fabric between our world and the other: “A tear in this fabric is all it takes for a story to begin.”

Of course there are incredible, magical, fantastical books from the U.S. and the U.K. (never mind all of the other countries in the world). But I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, read by Jim Dale, and I shivered when I heard Wendy ask, “Boy, why are you crying?” Pure magic.

Summer Storytime II

My second all-ages summer storytime was this morning, and it was a full house! I didn’t get an exact headcount because people came and went, but the room was full, and I think I put out at least 30 mats, and all were in use. Like last time, I started with a welcome and a reminder to keep doorways clear so people could come and go. I also explained I would be placing the books I read during storytime to the side of my chair and anyone was welcome to check them out afterward.

  • Song: “Hello” song with American Sign Language (ASL) from Jbrary. Demonstrated the signs first and invited everyone to do the signs and/or sing along; sang it twice.
  • Book: There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk. This is one of my absolute favorites, and I brought along a stuffed lobster to show every time the line “…there might be lobsters” came up in the story. Some kids began shouting along, which was just what I’d hoped.
  • Song cube: I made a song cube with pictures on each of the six sides that correspond to a simple song; the first one was “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” I tried to get a different song to come up each time…sometimes a little manipulation was required.
  • Book: Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. Some of the older kids had good guesses about what George would do.
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle”
  • Prop/toy: Hand out colored scarves (the Golden Rule of Storytime: you get what you get and you don’t get upset!). I enlisted three of the older kids to help pass out scarves, which we keep stored in empty tissue boxes.
  • Song: “Shake Your Sillies Out” waving scarves around
  • Book: Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda. We “huffed and puffed” or waved the scarves at the appropriate times during the story. All of the kids were super into it! Collected the scarves afterward, with helpers.
  • Book: Bark, George by Jules Feiffer – another book about a dog named George!
  • Song cube: “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (twice)
  • Book: They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel (only fair to read a cat book after two dog books)
  • Song cube: “I’m A Little Teapot” (twice)
  • Book: Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake. Most kids can relate to this one, and the grownups appreciated the humor too – I heard a few chuckles.
  • Song cube: “Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon”
  • Book: One Little Blueberry by Tammy Salzano, illustrated by Kat Whelan
  • Book: There’s A Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins
  • Song: “Goodbye” song with ASL from Jbrary. Same tune as the “Hello” song, taught the signs first, repeated it twice.
  • Thanks for coming, time to put mats away so we can…
  • Dance to music (“Banana Bread” by Caspar Babypants) and bubbles! Bubbles are always a hit.