Friday, February 10, 2012

Hugs & Kisses After School Story Time, 2/9/12

Today, I threw out the rule book for my after school story time and started over from scratch. What I've been doing all along is more of a traditional story time format like what I might do on a Pre-K class visit or in a morning preschool story time. But this group is much more diverse, and much less interested in singing and dancing than my morning groups. Plus, they've been in school all day and are much more tired than the wide-awake little ones we see on Tuesday morning. So, with an eye toward re-structuring this as a read-aloud program rather than a story time, I turned today's program into an experiment.

My original plan when I set up my Winter schedule back in November was to read chocolate-themed books and play Bingo with Hershey's kisses. I quickly realized there aren't very many quality children's books on chocolate. So I started brainstorming other ideas. I considered candy, then expanded that to sweet treats. I still couldn't find anything  I considered high enough quality to share at a story time. So I brainstormed some more, this time focusing in on the actual Hershey's kisses I'd be using as Bingo markers. And, well, bingo! It hit me. Kisses and hugs would be the perfect theme for the week before Valentine's Day.

But I didn't want to find a bunch of lame songs and rhymes on an already somewhat borderline cheesy topic. So I gave myself permission to forgo the songs and instead borrowed a suggestion another librarian gave me a few months ago. I decided to set up tables in the story room and let the kids color while I read. They started coloring their Bingo cards (which came from DLTK) whenever they arrived - from about 3:45 - and then at 4:00, I introduced my first book and started to read. Here are the three books I shared:

Book 1: A Hug Goes Around by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (2002)
This book is kind of random, but in a style similar to All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee, it explores concepts like family, friendship, weather, peace, and comfort.

Book 2: Won't You Be My Kissaroo? by Joanne Ryder (2004)
I felt really cheesy reading this book, but it ended up being at the right level for most of the kids who attended this program. It's most appropriate, probably for threes and fours.
Book 3: Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (2007)
Jules the kitten tries to hug the world and encourages us to do the same. It's not quite as touchy-feely as it sounds, though, and the kids laughed at the kitten's efforts to hug large animals like elephants and giraffes.
When we finished reading all three books,  I transitioned right into the Bingo game. When I printed the cards from DLTK, I selected the Valentine's Day design and chose to have capital letters appear in the squares rather than pictures or numbers. Then when I called out each letter, I also called out a word that started with that letter. I also went around to each table to show the letter so kids who were a little shaky on their letters could have that additional help. Most of the kids also had a parent or caregiver with them to help them place the Hershey's Kiss or Hug on the correct space. (One parent actually played along, and won, and made a big deal out of it, which was weird, but she was the exception.)

Each time a winner called Bingo, that person got to keep the five Hershey's kisses marking the winning squares, and then everyone removed their candies from their board and played with them for the next game. At the end of the second game, we were getting restless, so I decided not to play a third. I invited each child to check with their grownup about how much candy was okay to take home, and everyone took some from the bowls before we cleaned up.

This was a huge success. I always have in mind that I want at least ten kids at a program, and I had exactly that number, and it was probably the least hectic and stressful program I have ever done. For next time, I want to worry less about themes and more about good quality books, and I'll need an activity less complicated than Bingo, but otherwise, the structure and concept worked much better than expected.

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