Crafts Vs. No Crafts, The Great Storytime Debate

There’s been a lot of discussion about this in various circles. When it comes to arts & crafts, librarians often fall into one of two camps.

There’s the “We don’t do crafts in storytime!” bunch and the, “We love crafts! Glitter for everyone!” crowd.

This is how I feel when I hear about libraries that don’t do art or crafts.

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I should say, this is how I feel on the inside because, well, I work in a library. Continue reading

Why It’s Absolutely Okay to Take a Break

What’s a surefire way to make blogging feel new again? Take a break for 3 months or a while! I could stress that I haven’t ticked off every. single. item. on my to do list. But, you can not do it all. The earth will continue to spin. Life happens. And a lot of life has happened in the interim. Moving back into my library branch after it being closed for most of 2016 which meant getting back into the groove of working a public desk, answering phones and doing storytimes. And lots of personal adulting stuff that I’ll spare anyone from reading. I need a tshirt that says I’d rather be playing.  Continue reading

An Ode to Libraries

My library is now closed for the next several months for an extensive renovation . People that don’t use libraries are often confused about them. “Aren’t you guys going to be extinct with everything online?” My response is usually, “It’s been a while since you’ve been to a library hasn’t it? Not everything is online and libraries are more than books.” It’s been surreal watching the library I’ve worked in for the last several years gradually empty out as they moved items to other branches.

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It felt like I imagine it must feel working in a store that’s going out of business. Seeing the picture books–my favorite part of the collection–go was a little sad.

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My library was full of life. The new library will be too but it won’t have the old memories.

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Like the crayon-written and misspelled notes left in the toy mailbox. The littles, oh the littles and the stories they would tell. I’ll never forget one little girl who came in all excited one day exclaiming, “My book flew away! It flew away just like a bird!” Apparently, she was in the back seat reading a small paperback picture book with the windows down and it flew out of her hands and right out the window landing in the street behind them! Grandma had to stop the car and go back to retrieve the flying book. There was the 6 year old boy who saw Pinterest  up on my computer and said, “I’m on Pinterest. Look me up.” I did. He had a board dedicated to pictures of rear ends!  One day he informed he was on LinkedIn. He listed his background as, “likes to play and Pokemon”.  This sort of became a thing where every time he came in he’d tell me about the latest social media site he was on. To date he can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube and Twitter. You don’t meet a kid like that everyday! There’s the little preschooler who’s never met a batch of slime or play dough she didn’t love. The 18-month old who has a lot of suggestions about storytime or at least I think he does. I can’t quite understand what he’s saying yet but there’s a lot of babbling, pointing to something and then looking at me with very serious expressions. There was the girl whose name I’ll never forget because it’s an unusual and hilarious pairing of two nouns. She came in not long ago and asked me if I remembered her and I thought, “Oh honey, you have no idea!” I remember the precocious 5-year-old who would just sit on the floor in the nonfiction section looking at every book we had on science and animals. There were the tweens and teens who’d swap book recommendations with me and have big conversations with about books and how to get through the horror that is the middle school years. There was the  teary-eyed mom who came in on our last day with her kids and a camera around her neck to take pictures of the old place. The mom who tried not to cry and didn’t want to say goodbye. The older woman who came in during our fixtures sale because she “just wanted a souvenir of the place where her daughter learned to love books “. The library was a part of their lives impacting them in huge and meaningful ways. There is no place like a library, a place that’s open and free for everyone of all ages and walks of life, a place to learn, interact, connect or just be. Are libraries dying? Not on your life.

Storytime 101

Storytime has been a hot topic around me lately. I’ve got a friend doing storytimes for the first time and asking lots of questions, a Facebook group was discussing advice for new storytime presenters and I’ll soon find myself in a new library doing storytimes in a way that’s totally different from my normal format. Aagghh! When I started no one told me what to do or what not to do. There was no Pinterest. I didn’t even have the benefit of observing a storytime before doing one. It took me a while to find my groove. Here’s what I wish I had known in the beginning.

Do the stories, music and activities that you love. 
I can think back to books I used that were total flops because they didn’t have much of a story or just weren’t very interesting but I used them anyway because they went with The Theme. (More on themes later.) Because I didn’t like them it was hard to get into the reading. I decided a long time ago not to do that anymore. If I don’t like the book, why in the world would I read it to other people? Only do stories that you like yourself and your enthusiasm for them will be felt by the audience. Being told you have to do a certain book or song? Try it various ways until you find a way to make it your own.

Storytime will never be perfect and that’s okay.  
In the beginning I’d write up elaborate plans so that every moment was laid out with visions of one thing flowing seamlessly into the next with no dead space making for the perfect storytime. The only problem is that that’s not how it works. Right when you’re getting to the good part of that awesome book is just the time one of the kids will decide to throw a fit. Just when you’re getting ready to play a song for everyone to dance to is when the Ipad or CD player will mysteriously stop working. Or a kid will pull the fire alarm during storytime requiring you to excuse yourself and frantically hunt down the key that silences the alarm while simultaneously racking your brain trying to remember what the procedures are for this but you can’t because the last time the alarm was pulled was four years ago. For example. Not like that’s ever happened or anything! The point is even the best plans can go awry and you just have to roll with the punches. Have a plan but don’t be afraid to improvise or move on if something isn’t working. The storytime crowd is usually very forgiving (with the exception of persnickety soccer moms and they’re never happy anyway) and kids don’t care if you make a mistake.

Take themes and….throw them out the window.
This doesn’t mean never do themes. There are lots of good themes around which to build a storytime. But don’t feel like you have to do a theme each week in which every single element is tied to said theme. There are themes that you can find books, songs, and rhymes for easily, ducks or bedtime, for instance. Recycling, not so much. Pick good books, songs and rhymes and don’t worry about themes. However, if you must, pick broad themes, like letters or concepts or “Every Child Ready to Read” skills. Choose activities that appeal to a variety of learning styles.  If you feel limited by a theme, get rid of it. Storytimes aren’t about themes anyway.

Have your elevator speech ready to go!                                                                                      At a storytime several years ago I had kids fingerpainting with pudding. A  mom asked me about it and I didn’t have a professional, academic response at the ready. I still regret that missed opportunity. Since then kids at my storytimes have walked through paint, played with dyed spaghetti, painted with blowdryers, built marble runs and lots of crazy stuff. I can tell you the cognitive/social/motor skills being developed for any activity I do. Be ready and able to explain developmental benefits of your activities should someone ask.

Choose good books!
There are so many wonderful picture books out there but not all of them work as read alouds. The best readalouds have simple text and clear, easy to see illustrations. Here are some of my favorites. This list of readaloud do’s and don’ts from Teach Preschool has great pointers.

Have fun with it!
Try something new, experiment. Find your style and run with it! I’m all about music and movement and play so there’s always lots of that in my storytime. I know a librarian who often doesn’t read books but rather does actual storytelling. Others swear by puppets. You do you. Ultimately the goal of storytime is to help parents and kids form positive connections with books and reading and by extension, the library. If they leave smiling rather than running out screaming that’s success!

Friday Faves

Just found Late Night Library podcasts. This one of them discussing Susan Atkins’ biography (member of the Charles Manson cult) was especially good. 

I absolutely LOVE this activity that’s a mix of science and art from Ana @ Babble Dabble Do!

Process Art for Kids - Ooey Gooey Oily Art

Check out this cool mini library/book exchange that transforms!

Mark your calendars or bookmark this page now for the release dates of these awesome picture books by award-winning authors and illustrators!

 And finally, this. I need this in my life. Look at the way the box shows how you can make all the 3D things! Eating Building 3D chocolate designs–that’s a STEM activity, right? 

Toodles!

One Day I Did Storytime

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This is the only pic I have from this week’s storytime, Velcro sticks. They’re easy to make, fun and kids enjoy building with them and using them to form letters.

Books

          

I loved In a Village by the Sea, the story and especially the art. But, it might be too ‘quiet’ of a book for a group read aloud with preschoolers. Parents liked it.

One Day, The End is hilarious. Parents and kids laughed through this one. Kids got a kick out saying ‘the end’ together. It’s a good book for introducing littles to the concept of telling a story.

Activities

One of the most popular stations this week was Magnatiles. These are super fun and make building easy. They are rather pricey, though.

The other station that kids love no matter how many times we do it is a sensory bean bin. Now, this is not our bean bin. See how all of the beans are inside the bin? Ours is a water table filled with black beans underneath which is usually a large pile of said beans (because it’s really fun to see them flying through the air).

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THE END!

What did you do in storytime this week?