Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Pregnancy and Parenting Resources for Librarians

In my opinion, children's librarians are actually family services librarians. We have the opportunity to serve parents, grandparents, educators, etc., in addition to our community's youth. Many times parents feel more comfortable talking about researching parenting choices with the children's department's staff because they have a personal relationship with us. We're "their" librarians, after all! 

As a new mom myself, I want to encourage my fellow youth librarians to take a minute and refresh your knowledge of pregnancy and infant care.  I'm going to share some of my favorite resources for those stages. Please add your own in the comments! I'm sure I forgot some and I'd love to know more.  

Parenting Choices and Pediatrician Recommendations 
Links in this section go to the appropriate page on
Cloth or disposable diapers
Baby's sleep accommodations and safety 
How/when/if/method(s) of sleep training
Vaccine schedules (regular schedule, delayed, no vaccines at all)
When and how to introduce solids (purees versus baby led weaning)
Parent-centered or child-centered approach (Feeding on a schedule or on demand, for example)

General Parenting Sites and Resources

Apps and Text Services
Most available for iPhone and Android users
What to Expect When You're Expecting
Text4Baby free, educational texts available in Spanish or English for expectant and new mothers (babies up to 1 year old)

The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD How to calm and settle a baby for fussy periods and naps. Best for babies 3 months and under. Every public library should have this in its collection. 

General Websites
Healthy Children (from the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Parenting Blogs I Read
Hellobee (modern parenting written by real parents from across the U.S. and Canada. Lots of urban dwellers.)
Motherlode (New York Times parenting blog)
Young House Love (Technically a DIY blog, but lots about how they are raising their daughter)
Parenting Starts Here (Isis Parenting blog)

Message Boards to Know 
These are all free to register and post: 
Hellobee My personal favorite
The Bump

Twitter Users to Follow
Nancy Holtzman (@nancyholtzman) A registered nurse and lactation consultant at Isis Parenting (Boston-area) dispenses practical baby care and parenting advice what seems like 24/7. 

My parenting-related Pinterest boards 
Baby Led Weaning (introducing babies to solids without purees)
Great Gifts for Parents and Babies (these are my favorite baby products)
Nursery & Kids' Spaces
Future Kids

Resources in Your Community
Do you know where patrons can get: 
  • free or reduced price vaccines (local health department--Vaccines so expensive! It is not unusual for me to take a peek at our insurance company's statements and see $700 or more in vaccines in a 20 minute well-baby appointment.)
  • formula, breastfeeding, or food assistance (WIC and other social services)
  • treatment for postpartum depression (local mental health agency)
  • Reduced price prenatal care (Planned Parenthood, some health departments)
  • cloth diapers (Do you have a store or service in your area?)
  • information on product recalls ( from the Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • second-hand baby products (consignment/thrift stores, mom-to-mom sales, etc.) 
  • information about adoption (local agencies, Catholic Charities in some areas) 
  • information about becoming a foster parent (AdoptUSKids, state information here)
  • car seat installation and/or inspection (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a locator, often it's hospitals and public safety departments) 
  • affordable well and sick child care (I think it's also handy to know some of the names of the local pediatricians, but obviously the feasibility of this depends on the size of your community.)
  • health insurance for their kid(s) (CHIP is the national Children's Health Insurance Program, administered by your state's health department)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Programs That Failed

I confess to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have as many failures as successes as far as programming goes. Here, by reader request, is but a small sample:

Programs no one showed up for: 

  • Stuffed Animal Sleepover (would have been awesome)
Programs that I failed to plan for SO! MANY! people to show up for:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Party (never made it to the blog, but it was fun! Incredibly stressful when all those people walked in the door though.)
Programs that originally got good numbers but drizzled out:
  • Baby Storytime (which now that I have a baby of my own, I wish we still did!)  
Paid Performers that didn't get nearly enough attendance to justify the speaker's fee, which isn't necessarily their fault, but still: 
  • Basically any author visit we've booked, unfortunately. We don't have the money to get someone super famous and the turnouts for more minor writers are dismal. 
Overall, most of my programs go off well. There will always be something that doesn't work out as well as planned. A lot of attendance issue seem to stem from scheduling conflicts with the intended audience. So much trial and error trying to figure out what works with kids and then BOOM! a blizzard hits or the school system changes the official end time and you have to cancel or adjust.

Readers, what programs have been failures for you? 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Playing Santa!

I was inspired this morning (while digging through my ever-so-crowded storage room) to play Santa! We are having our gingerbread house programs today and I thought it would be fun to give the kids a free picture book. Many of the kids in our community are lower-income and don't have books of their own. These books were all donated to the library from parents whose kids have outgrown them, but they are still in great shape. Rather than put them in the book sale, I like to save them to give out when the mood strikes me. We also give them to the winners of our weekly trivia contest during the summer reading program.

You can tell that I could never be a teacher because I cannot write without lines! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shelf Raiders: Program Ideas from the Nonfiction Section

I thought it would be interesting to see if we could all come up with a list of ideas for programs based on Dewey classes. I know poor DDC has fallen out of favor, and I'm hardly its biggest defender myself, but using its structure could lead to some great ideas for programs for all ages (not limiting this to kids). Let's give it a shot:

Creating web pages and blogs
School visits to promote library
Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunts
Crafts with discarded magazines
Museum Visits or at least see if you can passes to check out
Unexplained phenomenon

Invite philosophy professor to speak
Ghost hunting
Secrets of successful students
Local haunted houses

History of The Bible or other religious texts

Local candidates forum
Mock election
Fairy Tales Party
Saving money, the stock market, budgeting, etc.
Manners & etiquette (throw a fancy tea party and teach kids about good manners)
Costumes of different eras
Career Day

Bilingual storytime
Spanish (for example) conversation group meeting at library

Food Math
Live animal visits
Gross Science
Science demonstrations (kitchen science, etc.)

Baby chicks at storytime!!!!
Sewing camp
"Trashion" show
Skateboarding demonstration
Babysitting class (include CPR but also the business aspects)
Cooking (have a chef demonstrate or make smoothies)
Pet Show
Ask a local vet to talk about his/her experiences
How to maintain your car

Thumbprint drawings
Photography class
Music appreciation program (play famous musicians from your state--Michigan has tons! Wikipedia is a great resource for this, as most geographic areas have a "notable persons from _______ section")
Talent Night
Altered Books
Any kind of craft
What student athletes need to know about being recruited for college
Anime club
Film club
Music lessons

Poetry readings
Open mic nights
Teen theater readings (pick monologues or improv situations)
Book discussions

Titanic program
Pirate Party
Local veterans could speak about experience in wars

Anything I'm missing? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Creative Librarian

Two bloggers I admire, Sara and Marge, have been posting their thoughts about creativity and librarianship. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject as well. I think there is some confusion about creativity. A lot of people don't seem to think they are creative. Well, what does that mean? Creativity does not rely on artistic talent. All humans are creative. There are things you can do to make yourself more creative. It is not an innate personality quirk that some have and others are doomed to flail through life without.

When many of us think of the word "creativity," we think of being a gifted painter or other artist. Artistic talent is just one aspect of creativity. One that, while it seems to be a talent from birth, can be honed with practice. If you spend 10,000 hours drawing, you'll probably wind up being pretty good at it. But if you spent one hour and expect to produce a masterpiece, you'll never get good. Never compare a first draft with a finished product without appreciating how much work went into it.

Another is resourcefulness. If you're a children's librarian, I'll eat my hat (if I was wearing one) if you're not resourceful. If you can think of 1,000 craft uses for a paper towel tube, that's resourceful. If you can put on programs using props you found at home, or dug out of your kid's toy chest, that is being resourceful: using what you have.

A creative thing I do a lot at work or even decorating my house is to find an idea I like and steal it. I figure out how I can make it myself cheaper or faster. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. A lot of the most popular projects I've blogged about weren't my own idea, but I made them my own.

Here are some things you might do creatively every day without even thinking about it:

  • Put together an outfit
  • Adjust your route to work because of traffic and/or construction
  • Spontaneously invite a friend to lunch
  • Draw a face on your burger with ketchup
  • Make up parody lyrics in your head
  • Doodle on a meeting agenda
We need to have a conversation as a profession about how we can be more creative. We need our administrators to give us time to experiment and create. And we need to not be afraid to fail. To do that, we need to accept that failing sometimes is a given. Remember that, in baseball, if you have a .300 batting average, generally considered good, you still only got a hit about every third try. 

Never Give Up; Never Surrender: Library Carnival 101

I've mentioned this here and there before, but the biggest program my library puts on is our annual summer reading Carnival. It is always on noon the Saturday after Labor Day in our parking lot.

I can't explain how Carnival works without first explaining how our summer reading program works. Kids going into 5th grade and below earn "library dollars" by filling out logs. 15 minutes of reading = 1 library dollar. They can fill out as many logs as they want (obviously there are only so many hours in a day.) At Carnival, the kids can use their library dollars as tickets to play games. As they play games, they earn prize tickets. (Game tickets can also be purchased for 4 for $1 by families who didn't participate in summer reading.)

The morning of Carnival, most of the staff arrives at 9. The parking lot is blocked off and the staff puts up tents and a fence along the road (we are located at the busiest intersection in town). It winds up looking a little bit like a tailgate party once the grill starts going. It's your basic hot dog/chips/cookies/lemonade spread.

 Carnival Games and Frames
We rent carnival games from our local Fun Services affiliate. This is a great option for those of you, who like us, lack storage for carnival games you won't be using year-round. I believe it runs us about $200 (not including delivery) for about 6 games and all the carnival frames. We use folding tables to set the games on.

Picking out prizes at the duck pond
In addition to renting games, we have a few activities that live in the youth department storage room. They are: duck pond, cake walk, face-painting (cheat and buy stencils), and balloons (we'd do animals if anyone on staff wanted to try). Also, our local American Legion chapter has a toy locomotive that they bring for free and give train rides to the kids. Next year I am bound and determined to go on it myself.

Everyone on staff works that day. Most people are assigned a game or to work at the redemption table (where the kids pick out the prizes). We do use volunteers to fill in the gaps.

I run around all day making sure people get breaks and that everything is stocked up. Usually the whole thing winds down naturally around 2:30 or 3 p.m. It is a very hectic couple of hours but I love Carnival and look forward to it each year. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

My House Draw and Tell

I saw this finger-play in one of my favorite books for planning storytimes, Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom, and I thought it would be fun to adapt into a draw and tell story. 

My House
I'm going to build a little house.
With windows big and bright,
With chimney tall and curling smoke
Drifting out of sight. 
In winter when the snowflakes fall
Or when I hear a storm, 
I'll go sit in my little house
Where I'll be snug and warm. 

Source: Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom by Judy Herr and Yvonne Libby Larson We have the 5th Edition at my library.

There are several versions of movements you can use with this, if you prefer it as a fingerplay. 

Download my Draw and Tell PDF for step-by-step instructions. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Structuring Programs for Kids

Can we talk a little about program structure? I've read countless professional reference books about storytime and most of them recommend structuring your storytime so that the longest book is read first. That's a good plan if your idea of a good storytime is one where the kids sit quietly and you read. It's advice that has been less successful for me.

Remember my storytime philosophy?
I like interactive stories. But people of all ages, kids and adults, often need to be coaxed into participating. We don't do storytime registrations at my library, so I always have a different group at each program. Even if you require registration for your storytimes and the same people come each week, their moods will be different. Kids can be shy one minute and climbing all over you the next. 

I wanted to show you a little bit about how I decided to structure my shadow puppet program that I am doing over the winter school break this year. I'll be posting more about the stories from this program on the blog later, so stay tuned for that. The typical advice to start long and get progressively shorter as the kids' attention spans fade would leave me with a "set list" looking like this: 
  1. Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
  2. Arthur's Nose upcoming
  3. The Ant and The Grasshopper upcoming
  4. "My Shadow" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar
  5. "The Dog and His Bone" (patterns from Judy Sierra's Fantastic Theater: Puppets and Plays for Young Performers--amazing book!)
  6. "Shadow Wash" upcoming
I am dissatisfied with this approach for a few reasons:
  1. Always someone comes into my programs late and misses the beginning (and thus, the plot setup). That is a huge problem with a story many kids won't know already like Mother Mother. 
  2. Several of the stories rely on audience participation and you really need to prime the audience for that gradually. 
I decided to order the stories in a way that would allow people who do not come in on time to not miss the most important parts and so that people would gradually "warm up" to me as a storyteller and participate more.*

Another consideration was that I wanted to end with Arthur's Nose, as we have a tradition of letting the kids come up and play with the puppets after the show. I wanted them to be able to do that without breaking our overhead projector. So I needed to be able to wheel that out of the way before chaos broke lose. 

Here's what the set list looks like now: 
  1. "My Shadow" 
  2. "The Dog and His Bone"
  3. "Ant and the Grasshopper" 
  4. "Shadow Wash"
  5. Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
  6. Arthur's Nose
*I also use this trick with my recurring storytime pieces that I start each storytime with. "Open, Shut Them" has people simply moving their hands, "Little Mouse, Little Mouse" has the kids guessing colors, and finally they are ready to participate fully making animal noises and movements in "Let's Hear You Roar Like a Lion," the last lines of which prime them to settle down like mice.  

Now I'm curious: How do you structure your programs? What other factors come into play in putting together a "set list"? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Faces in the Crowd: Library Programs for Adults

I'd like to chat about programs for adults. Don't worry, I'm still a children's librarian! But I know it can be really hard to find great programs geared at an adult audience, so I thought I'd post some of our more successful programs for grown-ups. Most of these do not require much staff time beyond marketing efforts and picking up supplies. I didn't plan or present any of these, but if you have additional questions I will try and get answers for you.

Holiday Programs
Wreath-Making Class
One of our staff members taught patrons (class size limited to around 10) how to make Christmas wreaths. Cost was about $10 per person, and another $2ish if they wanted to make a bow, as well. I believe the most cost-effective way to obtain the greenery was to buy 3 full Christmas trees. But this is Michigan and Christmas trees are everywhere. I was shocked the first time I heard of anyone paying more than $20 for a tree! 

Cookie Exchange
Participants register ahead of time and give a copy of their recipe to the library. The librarian makes copies of each recipe for everyone. On the day of the program, they bring a dozen cookies in and try each others. We have done these with winter and autumn themes. 

The local chocolate shop presented on techniques, history, etc. of chocolate-making around Valentine's Day. 

Programs for Any Time of the Year
Antique Appraisals
This was an awesome program! Mike Gaylord, of the antiques radio show Everything Classic, came and gave free antique appraisals. He was a great sport and here all day. I have no idea what it cost to get him here, but one of the car dealers in town sponsored it. He broadcast the show from their dealership and then came straight to the library for our program. 

Ghost Hunters
A local paranormal group talked about some of their hunts. I wondered if we might get complaints about this, but we didn't. A neighboring system had someone teaching tarot cards in a branch and there was at least one letter to the editor of the local newspaper about that. 

History of Quilts
A staff member and quilter presented on different techniques and styles of quilts. If I recall correctly, local quilts from the historical society were displayed as well.

What programs for adults have been successful at your library. Please chime in and leave a comment. (If you email me, I'm the only one who will see it!)  

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Nonfiction at Storytime

Earlier we talked about using poetry in storytime. I promised to return with more titles to raid your non-picture book collection for when planning storytime. Here are just a few suggestions from each of the Dewey classes (and please add your own in the comments):

My Librarian is a Camel: I love this book for an audience with some school-age kids, as it talks about libraries all over the world. You could bring a globe with you and show the students how far some of the countries are from your own country.

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Children's Classics: Have the kids recite some traditional nursery rhymes, then teach them one of these re-imagined versions. My pick would be "Old King Coal" on page 48.

Two recent collections of international rhymes and tales I enjoyed were Sally Go Round the Stars: Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood and The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India (told in comic strip format, so probably better adapted to a storytelling format).

If you are working with an older audience than preschoolers, I think 14 Cows for America and Mama Miti are great potential read-alouds. The former is the true story of a remote Kenyan village's healing donation of 14 cows to the U.S. after the September 11th attacks. The latter is inspired by the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

You will have tons of options in the animal-heavy 590s, like Tara and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends. I also like Elephants Can Paint Too! and Wombats. There are some great picture books about wombats, but my preschoolers in Michigan aren't likely to know much about them. This is a great introduction for the little ones.

 At the Fire Station An older choice, this is a great nonfiction complement to a firefighter storytime. My firefighter storytime is probably the biggest hit of all the themes I do all year. I like to think the fire department enjoys it too.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick, Quick, Quick Shadow Puppet Show

I have been on a bit of a kick making shadow puppets lately. I am really enjoying this art form and it's a great one for libraries for the following reasons:
1) Super cheap puppets (essentially free) that you can make yourself
2) Can easily be presented by one person
3) Can do anything from illustrating a nursery rhyme to a full adaption of a picture book or a full-scale play.

One of the greatest picture books of all time is Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick, Quick, Quick by Remy Charlip, who actually suggests trying it out as a shadow puppet show. I decided to take him up on that idea and MMIFSSFTDQQQ will be the main attraction at our Shadow Puppet Theater Program over the school break. (I'll post another time about the other, shorter stories we performed). I'm submitting this for Flannel Friday because it would be possible to do this story at storytime (even without a helper), so I think it counts.

First I want to say that I had SO. MUCH. FUN. making this show but that basically everything that could have possibly gone wrong* in preparing it did. Murphy's Law totally applies to children's librarians.

One way to perform this story would be to take a child volunteer from the audience and have him/her play the main character. All he/she needs to do is lay down and you would play the doctor and pull miscellaneous items out of his stomach as if he had swallowed them as in the book. You would both be hidden behind a large white sheet and the audience would see you in shadow. You could use whatever junk (official library term: realia) you have around. Very little is referenced directly in the text and you can make up your own bits to stretch it out.

Another way is to make shadow puppets for an overhead projector using a mix of black cardstock (or poster board) and transparency sheets. Here's how I did that:

1) I drew all the pieces in Microsoft Paint using this method I posted about previously. It took me a few hours of desk time, but I think they turned out great! I made the doctor's hat a separate piece from his body so it could disappear at the appropriate time. I also cut the doctor's body in half so he could bend to pull items out of the boy. Likewise, the boy's stomach is made separately so it can shrink as items exit.

2) I opened them all in Microsoft Publisher and used the image re-sizing tool to get the pieces exactly the right sizes.

3) Then I printed the images of the doctor and the boy onto black card stock using our ink-jet printer. Even though the images are all black and the paper was black there was enough difference in the blacks that I was able to see well enough to cut them out. The people have to be opaque, so the other pieces will be surprise when "the doctor" pulls them out of his young patient.

4) I printed the images of the boy's stomach contents onto clear transparency sheets using our copy machine. They actually printed quite well, as you can see (ignore the zebra print duct tape, a story for another time): 

5) Cut the pieces out. In my opinion, it looks better if you do not trim them, as the edges will be visible. Use tape to attach plastic straws to cutouts and the movable parts of people. 

Supplies List: 
Black card stock ($3.97 at Walmart for 50 sheets of 8.5" by 11"--office supply aisle)
Transparency sheets (if using an ink-jet printer, make sure you buy the kind meant for that type of printer)
Clear plastic straws
Clear Tape
Overhead Projector + Working Bulb(s)

*I knew we had transparency sheets and black stock but couldn't find either, found them both and printed the transparency in an ink-jet printer--all the ink rubbed off, originally made some of the pieces too large to fit on the projector, and when everything was finally made correctly and I turned the overhead projector on to test it, the bulb burnt out immediately. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Printable Snowperson Craft

I've already started planning our winter storytime sessions (kicking off the first full week of January here) and, for me, the hardest part is trying to come up with an art or craft activity that is simple enough for the littler ones and yields a decent result without having to buy materials. So I decided to make my own craft for some of the weeks. Here's my first effort: a simple snowman, which is still a little tricky for the little ones to cut for themselves.

I know there is a philosophy out there that it's better for kids to have open-ended art activities than to have "copy this" adult-directed crafts and I agree with that, but for a lot of reasons, I'm not sure my storytimes are the best time and place for that. I'd love to offer an open art studio program in the future sometime. Maybe during summer reading? It's tricky for me because the county arts council is mere steps away from my library and I don't want to step on their kids' programming toes.

You can download this craft for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Creative Commons License
Printable Snowperson Craft by Anne Clark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Shadow Storytime

I thought much of the content that I'm currently working on for my winter shadow puppet show would adapt easily to a great preschool storytime theme. I love the idea of doing this in late January or early February for Groundhog Day.

Here's a selection of books and poems to run with:
Arthur's Nose shadow puppet show
"The Dog and His Bone" shadow puppet show (patterns from Judy Sierra's Fantastic Theater: Puppets and Plays for Young Performers--amazing book!)
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick as a shadow puppet show or just read the book
"My Shadow" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar
"Shadow Wash" prop story

You can also hang a plain sheet up and let the kids practice making shadows in front of the audience. Photo opp!

A fun activity for slightly older kids would be to team them in pairs and have them take turns pretending to be each other's shadows. We used to do this in drama club. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Trouble at the North Pole: A Christmas Draw and Tell Story

Here's another original Draw and Tell by yours truly! Today my fellow Flannel Friday-ers are all sharing holiday stories and I've decided to join them with "Trouble at the North Pole!" 

Trouble at the North Pole
By Anne Clark

It was Christmas Eve and all of Santa’s toys were ready to be packed up in the sleigh. They were in big piles like this.

The elves put all the piles into one big bag like this.

It was too heavy for the elves to carry, so Mrs. Claus and Santa each grabbed a side of the bag like this.

The bag was so heavy, the two of them struggled to carry it!  To make things worse, the snow was falling so thick at the North Pole that they kept getting lost! The Clauses kept taking the wrong path, so their tracks in the snow looked like this.

Finally they found the sleigh! “Good luck, Santa!” said Mrs. Claus and she gave him a kiss!  

Santa threw the bag in the sleigh, buckled his seatbelt, and yelled “Merry Christmas!” as he and his team took off into the night, flying all over the world like this.

And leading the reindeer team was…. RUDOLPH!

The End!

I'm providing a free PDF of Trouble at the North Pole with the words and drawing instructions. I'd love it if you included it in any of your programs or storytime plans, giving me credit, of course.

Last year I shared Rudolph, Rudolph.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Poetry at Storytime

I'd like to thank the person who suggested today's topic on my reader survey! It reminded me that I've been meaning to incorporate more poetry into storytimes I'm planning for our next session. I'm going to do a series of posts on using material from outside your picture book collection in storytime. This is the first one!

I love using poetry with this audience for a few reasons:
  • Richer language is used in poems as compared with some other genres
  • Preschoolers haven't learned to "hate" or be intimidated by poetry like many older kids (and adults) have
  • Poetry can make a quick transition between longer stories to regain the kids' attention or change the atmosphere of the storytime
  • A lot of parents don't read poetry to/with their kids
I've made some Flannel Friday posts about poems (and some of these are upcoming as well) 

Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
Moose in Love by Diane Briggs
Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Shadow Wash by Shel Silverstein upcoming
Signals by Shel Silverstein upcoming

Storytimes All Year 'Round
Add some poetry to your school visits with "The Library Cheer" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar by Brod Bagert. (Chorus is: Books are good! Books are great! I want books! I WILL NOT WAIT!") Other good ones suitable for storytime from this collection are "Snack Time," My Shadow," "The Spice of Life" (an ode to every kid's favorite condiment--ketchup), "Teddy Bear" (twist ending!), and "Little Dipper."

PJ storytimers, rejoice! There is lots of fun to be had in Maybe I'll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight and Other Funny Bedtime Poems by Debbie Levy. 

Celebrate seasonal changes with Sharing the Seasons edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, Come to My Party: And Other Shape Poems by Heidi Roemer. 

Preschoolers love to talk about getting dressed! To go along with a storytime on that theme, try Button Up: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle. "Joshua's Jammies" is one of the best, but I think "Wanda's Swimsuit" is my favorite. 

Brighten the dreariest month with colorful collections like National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry and His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear.

Valentine's Day programs aren't complete without a sample or two from Bear Hugs: Romantically Ridiculous Animal Rhymes by Karma Wilson. Celebrate Presidents' Day with older kids by sharing a selection of two from The President's Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents

March is Women's History Month, so let's pay special attention to female poets. Some of the ones you'll find in this post are Karma Wilson, Alice Shertle, Betsy Franco (actor James Franco's mom!), Heidi Roemer, and Debbie Levy, among others. Be on the look out for more and drop me a comment below with women to add! 

It's National Poetry Month, so go nuts! My suggestion here is to hit up and coming poets as well as older favorites like Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutskey, and Alan Katz. 

Let's not forget the mom's! Celebrate them with "Peace" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems,

June, July, and August
Fun poems for Father's Day: "Bellowing in the Bathroom" from Someone Used My Toothbrush and Other Bathroom Poems

Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham has some quick little poems on campfires and fireworks that would be fun to perk up summer storytimes. 

Kids' poets seem to love the theme of back to school. Look for Countdown to Summer and Messing Around on the Monkey Bars

This actually is a picture book, but I can't help but throw The Spider and The Fly on here because really, what is a better book? Other poems great for the spookiest time of the year: "Clyde's Costume" from Button Up; basically anything from Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown; and for upper elementary students, The Creation of Sam McGee by Robert Service.      

Try adding some food-themed poetry into your Thanksgiving storytime! A favorite of mine is Food Hates You Too.

I'm not going to surprise you with this suggestion, but "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore has about a zillion editions. Also How the Grinch Stole Christmas by an obscure writer named Dr. Seuss. Outside of Christmas, I'd do some of the winter-themed selections from the seasonal collections mentioned earlier. 

Poetry Collections to Share with the Teachers in your Life
My best friend is a teacher, so I'm always on the hunt for books she can share with her inner-city students. Here are some suggestions for various content areas: 

Art: Many kids' poetry collections are illustrated by famous artists like Chris Raschka. Also be on the lookout for collections of concrete poetry. Two of my favorites are Flicker Flash, A Dazzling Display of Dogs, and Come to My Party.  Different poetic forms can be introduced with A Kick in the Head by Paul Janeczko

Language Arts: Look for collections using onomatopoeia or exploring new poetic forms such as Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer.

Music: Song lyrics are closely related to poems, so really anything could work. One to keep an eye out for is The Carnival of the Animals

Science: Science Verse by Jon Scieszka

Ask the readers: Do you use poems in storytime? Which ones? How have they been received? If not, will you try some now? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 So Tomorrow Reader Survey

Image courtesy of Open Clip Art
It's time for my annual blog reader survey! Last year your feedback was so helpful to me that I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say now. I'd love to hear what you have to say this year! While I try to do a survey about every year, I'm always open to constructive comments here on the blog or you can email me anytime.

Friday, November 23, 2012


A favorite game at my old elementary school was Tic-Tac-Toe. Like many libraries, mine has a chess/checkers/backgammon(!) table. I thought it would be fun to make a reusable Tic-Tac-Toe game for the kids to play.

You could also play a group game of Tic-Tac-Toe at Storytime! Play everyone versus you or kids versus grownups. Or whatever combination your little heart desires. These would also make a cute gift for a kid (or kid at heart) in your life. I can imagine an adorable little stuffed and sewn version. 

To make, cut 4 thick lines out of felt. Cut (at least) 9 rectangles. Mark both sides of them with Xs and Os. I used puffy paint because it's much, much faster, but you could lovingly cut them out of felt or you could print some off in whatever font you want and hot glue them on.  I also hot-glued a piece of scrap felt in the bottom right corner to use as storage for the pieces. 

Here's a printable version you can laminate. Don't forget to make extra pieces! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Quick Tip: Use poster tubes to keep items on the shelf neatly

If there's one thing that drives me crazy, it's a messy DVD shelf. I can forgive unruly fiction and nonfiction shelves because the books are all different shapes and sizes. BUT there is NO EXCUSE (and yes, I am yelling at you) for anything but the straightest line of DVDs. I am a laid-back person in general but militant about this. 
So, how can busy librarians keep their DVD shelves nice and tidy? A little recycling of poster tubes is how. We are constantly getting promotional posters from publishers via our book distributor. Like any children's librarian, I am a hoarder of things that may be useful in the future. The big tubes I use individually behind the DVD cases and the smaller ones I tape together in a bundle. Anyone else out there do this? It saves us so much time! 

Business in the front
Party in the back

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Making of a Flannel Friday Post

I get tons of emails asking for help getting involved with Flannel Friday (YAY! Keep them coming!), but since I'm a visual learner, I thought I'd show you step-by-step what goes into one of my Flannel Friday posts. This is my process, but I'm sure the other bloggers involved have (probably better) other ways of doing theirs.  This is the behind-the-scenes version of today's Flannel Friday post "Nobody Likes Me."

Let's get started! First we need an idea. Ideas can come from anywhere, but I was reminded of this summer camp singalong classic from the 2013 summer reading manual when I received it months ago. Instantly I knew I had to flannelize it. I had a vision of a black silhouette face and fun colored worms. 

Step 1: Create a pattern. Some patterns I can draw (on paper or in Microsoft Paint). Human faces are beyond my drawing skills. So the first place I turned to was Open Clip Art. I searched "silhouette" and Score! Someone had posted a plain man's face in silhouette. I also searched "worm" and that was a little trickier. Most of the worm images also included apples or other icons that I'd have to edit out to use. I thought it would be easier to use this earthworm and stretch and distort him into the appropriate size for templates. I copied my worm and silhouette images and pasted them into Microsoft Publisher* (where I make all my patterns). At this point, my project looked like this: 

Next, I cropped and resized the head until I got it exactly how I wanted it. I like to make the main piece in a flannel as big as possible so everyone can see. You also get the best yield out of pre-cut felt sheets that way (slightly smaller than a normal sheet of paper). 

Next, I added a second page to start creating my worms. I was able to distort the original worm into several different worms by stretching the image's corners. Here's what they looked like at that point (the original worm was the top one): 

At this point, I was happy with how the pattern was looking, so it was time to print it out and test it. 

Step 2: Test the pattern. After printing my pattern, I cut it out. Then I picked a new sheet of black for the face and bright scraps for my worms, like so:  

I taped each template piece to the felt. I like to use lots of tape loops on the back to minimize the possibility of the pieces shifting for the best cuts. On smaller cuts, such as the worms, I place the tape like this: 

I get the best results when I cut the trickiest parts of the piece first, before it begins to shift from the tape being cut through. In the case of the worm, that would be the tail and with the silhouette, the face itself. Another tip when trying to cut a straight line (not relevant with this template), is to keep your scissors on the table instead of picking them up to cut. I learned that tidbit from a sewing book and it has changed my life. 

Then I grabbed my fabric scissors and cut out the pieces. The mouth is a little small on the template, so I just cut a little triangle into it, so it would be wider. After all, the whole song is about eating worms, so you're going to want to see the mouth! 

Here's what the head looked like when done: 

And here's the worms and the head together: 

Now I knew that the templates worked. So I could move on to the next step. 

Step 3: Decoration. I wasn't sure at the beginning how much decorating I wanted to do, but the worms didn't look finished just yet. So I had got to bust out the puffy paint! I dabbed some on to the worm faces to make eyes. After that dried, I used a permanent marker to finish the eyes and draw on a smile:

Now my pieces were done, but since this was for a Flannel Friday post I still had a few more steps to make. 

Step 4: Take photos and write the blog post. Self-explanatory, I hope. I use all Google products** because they integrate so nicely. The blog itself is written and hosted by Blogger. Photos are uploaded to Picasa, then edited in Creative Kit (also the step where I write "So Tomorrow" on the photos as a watermark). 

Step 5: Create and upload the template PDF. When last we saw the template, it was sitting around in Microsoft Publisher as a regular .pub file. It's easy enough to save it as a PDF, like so: 

Once it's a PDF, I was able to upload it to my Google Drive account. Here's how to do that: 

Click upload button on top left and choose Files from the menu: 

Find the file to be uploaded and click upload:

Click Change (to edit sharing settings):

Change to "Anyone with the link": 

And click save! Then I copy the link and go back to my blog post to put it in.

Step 6: Schedule the post! I tend to write several Flannel Friday posts in advance and then schedule them to post automatically. (This post was written in October!)  I aim to post Flannel Fridays every other week and tend to write them in batches of 2 or 3 a day. I try to be about a month ahead of schedule. I write down the dates my post will be going up in my desk calendar, so I remember to watch for the round-up link to submit my posts.

That's it! PHEW! 

*Why Publisher and not Word? Mostly because I find it much easier to get the image exactly where I want it on the page in Publisher. But Word would work too if I didn't have access to Publisher. 

**I like to use all Google products so I only have to remember one username and password, but I am going to be in serious trouble if they ever have a system-wide failure.

"Nobody Likes Me" Flannel Song

Getting way ahead of myself again, today I'm sharing a song that will be just perfect for those of you using the collaborative summer reading program's theme of "Dig Into Reading." It's "Nobody Likes Me," also known as "Guess I'll Go Eat Worms." This is a summer camp classic perfect for acting out at silly storytimes.

Nobody Likes Me
Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I'll go eat worms,

Long, thin, slimy ones,
Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Down goes the first one, 
Down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Up comes the first one,
Up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Download my pattern (adapted from Open Clip Art images).

In a pinch, you could cut strands of thick yarn to give the kids if you wanted to act the story out. Make a bunch and get the audience to play along. I'd do the felt board version once to teach it to people as it's not as commonly known as some other storytime classics.

I'll be doing a worm storytime this summer, and plan to pair this with the fingerplay "Little Worm," which now that I'm reading it almost sounds like it could be done to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

Little Worm
The little tiny wiggly worm Move index finger
Went crawling through the ground.
Down came the rain Wiggle all fingers downward.
It was muddy all around.

Rain filled the tunnels Make slow fist
And out came the little worm. Push index finger of other hand through fist. 
So the puddles on the ground
Were the only place to squirm. Move index finger. 
Source: Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Perks of the Job

One of the perks of my job is that my LEGO mini-fig collection is coming along swimmingly. We don't circulate the little dudes (and yes, they are always dudes--no girls with the LEGO books, I observe) so I keep them in my desk. I left Han Solo in the carbonite plastic he came in. It just seemed appropriate. I'm not sure why Harry Potter is bald, maybe Voldemort was feeling petty. Or I just lost his toupee. No way of knowing, really. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Jane's Garden Draw and Tell Story

Here's another draw-and-tell story! This one, "Jane's Garden," I wrote for summer reading 2013. The theme will be "Dig Into Reading." I hope you like it! 

Jane loved to plant seeds in the spring. She would walk all around her garden gently placing them in the ground. When she was finished, she went back into her house. 

Three times, she watered the ground where she had planted in the seeds. 

Then all she could do was wait. But that didn’t stop her from walking back and forth, up and down the garden, to check on the seeds.

One day Jane’s patience paid off! She saw that a flower had begun to bloom where she had planted the seeds.

Do you know what kind of flower it was?

A rose! Good job!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Succinct Argument for Ditching Dewey?

It's just a little excessive for a nearly-wordless book about drawing, don't you think? 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

How to Draw (A Giraffe) in Microsoft Paint

A reader requested a tutorial on drawing in Microsoft Paint. I'm going to confess that I am far, far from a talented artist. Like seriously far. I took drawing as an art elective in high school and it was so awful. I am still traumatized by trying to draw still portraits in perspective. And it was a bottle tableau, not anything with crazy lines. So I do not even bother trying to draw with paper or pencil because it is incredibly frustrating to me.

BUT it turns out that I may be semi-decent at illustration in the simplest of software programs: Microsoft Paint. I like Paint because every PC has it. And I am extremely overwhelmed by PhotoShop. So Paint it is! No worries, because it has all the function I need for clip-art type projects.

I start all my drawings by having something to copy. That's right! When it comes to artwork, I am a straight-up plagarist. I cannot draw anything from memory. So I'll pull up a Google Image* search on penguins (or whatever) and study the shapes. I try to reduce it to the simplest shapes of circles, rectangles, triangles, etc. This will give a cartoonish effect rather than a more realistic one, but since I'm creating stuff for kids that's fine.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret to drawing animals: they look cuter with ginormous eyes. And one of the reasons I love Mo Willems' artwork, is because the technique is (deceptively) simple. Look at the shapes that make up his Pigeon character: circles, lines, and triangles. You can draw that easily! I am not saying that Mr. Willems doesn't deserve his Caldecott Honors and I think it's a crime the man hasn't won an outright Medal yet. But his genius is in tweaking the simple shapes to make the Pigeon so expressive.

If you've never used Paint before, here's what the screen looks like when you open it:

Mainly I use these functions:

So, here's how to draw a giraffe in Microsoft Paint. 
1) Find an image of a giraffe. Here's a really cute one from Open Clip Art, except that I don't think they've made the neck long enough to exaggerate the giraffe's most famous feature! But we can fix that if we're drawing our own version.
2) Take note of the shapes in the image. I just eyeball them normally, but I marked up a copy so you can see. The pink is for the two straight lines, and almost everything else in the image is circles!
3) Time to put mouse to screen to try our own version. Open Paint. I do almost everything with the auto-shapes. So first, let's draw the body. I draw one big circle and then save the file as "giraffe1.png" Every element that I add will be saved as a different file. That way if I get on the wrong path and want to start fresh, I will just go back a few versions.

Next I draw a smaller circle for the head.

The neck is just two straight lines. I accidentally drew mine too long, but I'll fix it later.

The feet can be made with two ovals. To get them the same, I create one with the circle shape and then copy and paste it for the other side.
The rectangular selection tool inadvertently erases some of the body so I go back and draw it in, using the zoom function. While I'm zoomed in, I shorten the neck line where I drew it too long.

Time for the ears, again they can be drawn as ovals.

The horns can either be circles on top of short rectangles or just circles. Time to add some color to our giraffe before we add the finishing details. I use the bucket function to paint all the areas we've drawn already yellow.

More circles for the eyes and spots! I also use the pencil tool to draw some spots so they are not all circular. Use the bucket tool again to fill in the eye balls and spots. 
Even more circles for the giraffe's pupils and nostrils. 

Use the paint bucket again to fill in the pupils and I like to add a single fleck of white for where the light would hit the pupils. 

So that's it! You can stop there or you can try and erase the black lines with the paint bucket tool. You will be left with some gaps between the spots and where the black outlines were, so I filled them in with the brush tool. You can also draw a tail, if you'd like. Or more spots on the face. 

Here are the final versions: 

Verdict: I love him. I shall name him Gadget. And he shall be my giraffe.

*I used an open source image for this example so I didn't have to feel guilty about showing you how to copy a piece of art.