Friday, February 28, 2014

Flannel Friday: There Was an Old Man with a Beard

I have a slight obsession with Babybug magazine. I don't have a subscription, but my local library allows back issues to be checked out, so I have borrowed a few here and there. On the last page of the March  2013 issue, I found "Nonsense Rhyme" (also called "There Was an Old Man with a Beard") by Edward Lear. I had heard the rhyme before, but the illustration in the magazine by Ruth Tietjen Councell made me think it might work as a flannel board. Thus, the following adaptation was born.

There was an old man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two owls

and a hen,
four larks
and a wren
have all built their nests in my beard!"

This flannel board would be a fun addition to a bird-themed or hair-themed story time, or even to a Father's Day or Grandparent's Day program. 

Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Jenna from Stories with Ms. Jenna. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reflections on Library Service to Beginning Readers

Early elementary school kids in Pre-K through 2nd grade are one of my favorite age groups to work with. Last school year, I had regular monthly visits with Pre-K, Kindergarten, and first grade classes, and from January to August 2013, I also offered a weekly beginning reader story time. During those months, I learned a lot about the needs and interests of kids who are beginning to read on their own. Here is my list of best practices for serving their needs in the library.
  • Make them laugh.
    Once kids reach the age of about five, they start to develop a sense of humor adults can really appreciate and engage. Though kids in this age bracket are notorious for loving toilet humor, this is not the only thing that will make them laugh. Silly words, overly-dramatic characterization, word play, knock-knock jokes, tongue twisters, and pretty much anything else unexpected, will give them the giggles. Be prepared, though - if you share a really good joke with them once, they’ll tell it to you again and again, and they will expect everything you share from then on to be just as funny.
  • Encourage storytelling skills.
    Kids are natural-born story tellers. As I mentioned in my post about serving preschoolers, just mention a dog in a room full of four-year-olds, and you’re in for 25 different dog-themed tales, some true and some pure fiction. With my beginning readers, I learned to slow down the pace of story time to leave room for their input. When I introduced our letter of the week (which I usually did using images on the iPad), I would ask the kids to tell me about a time they used a certain object, or experienced a certain type of weather. We made lists, explaining what we’d wish for if we could wish upon a star, or telling about our favorite and least favorite foods. These conversations made the kids feel like story time was about them, but it also helped develop the narrative skills they need to become strong writers. I always made sure to allow the kids lots of time for writing and drawing at the end of story time, too, so they could tell their own stories inspired by what happened at story time that day. 
  • Expect controlled chaos.
    I discovered pretty quickly that an engaged group of early elementary kids is pretty similar to a wild mob. In order to get the kids talking and laughing, I did have to let go of a certain degree of control. I couldn’t plan my story times to the minute, and I had to be prepared for pretty much anything to happen. I learned to say, “Now it’s time to…” instead of “Would you like to…” unless there was a choice involved. I learned to bring the kids back from a chaotic moment using quiet signals, or even just asking them to put their hands on their head, on their shoulders, etc. Early on, I was frustrated when kids wouldn’t sit quietly and just listen, but once I understood that there were ways to harness their energy into something productive, I thrived on the craziness. I knew I had accomplished something when I presented a flannel board version of Quick as a Cricket to 40 aftercare kids and had every kid in the room eagerly clambering to guess what each animal would be. It looked like feeding time at the zoo, but it was also the most successful story time I’d ever done for this age. 
  • Teach them to browse. 
    When kids are small, they tend to pick up books at random based on their size, or shape, or color, but their parents are often the ones who choose the books they will actually borrow. What I noticed is that kids coming to the library with their classes, rather than their parents, had no idea at all how to look for books that interested them unless they already had something specific in mind. This resulted in long lines at the children’s desk, of kids asking for fairy books, snake books, and graphic novels, and lots of bored wandering if the one book a particular child had in mind was checked out. First grade started to become so unhappy during their visits, that I actually made up a lesson plan to teach the kids how to browse. I pulled a selection of first-grade-friendly books and laid them out in the story room in a style similar to a book fair. I explained what browsing was, and told them that for today only, I wouldn’t be helping them find a specific title. They needed to choose based on their own interests. It was one of the only days all year that every child took a book home. I think it’s important to remember that beginning readers are also new to selecting their own reading materials, and they might need guidance beyond just being pointed toward the easy readers.
  • Don’t get hung up on reading levels.
    Reading levels have a very definite place in the lives of beginning readers. Often, first graders know exactly which Guided Reading level they are on, and for some of them, it is used as a status symbol to prove how much more mature they are than a younger child, or even than a classmate. If kids know their level and ask for a book on their level, I will provide it, but otherwise, I worry more about suggesting books the kids will like than whether they will read every word. At this stage, kids are often still reading with their parents, so books they can’t read on their own might wind up in the bedtime story pile, and even the newest emergent reader can get something out of the illustrations even if he’s not yet ready for the text. It’s also important not to make assumptions based even on grade level. I have known first graders who read novels as well as third graders who are still in level one easy readers. The best bet is to ask the child what she’s read lately and help her find her next book based on that information.
Beginning readers are just starting to appreciate the joy the library can bring. Give them even more reasons to love the library by making it a fun place to visit where kids can express themselves, learn a good joke or two, and find books they can read on their own.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Flannel Friday: Bumpin' Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon

Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Won't you be my darling?

Bumpin' Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon has been a staple of my story times since I became a children's librarian, but I typically only use the first verse of the original song, followed by two piggyback verses I wrote myself. Recently, I listened to the original version, however, and I remembered the second and third verses:

One wheel's off and the axle's broken
One wheel's off and the axle's broken
One wheel's off and the axle's broken
Won't you be my darling?

Freddie's gonna fix it with his hammer
Freddie's gonna fix it with his hammer
Freddie's gonna fix it with his hammer
Won't you be my darling? 

In Raffi's version, he sings that last verse over and over, changing the name of the child and the name of the tool each time. This idea lends itself to a very basic - and highly interactive - flannel board activity.

Start out by singing the first two verses. (My wagon is intact, as I have never used it with this song, but if I were to make another one, I'd have a detachable wheel, so I could pull it off at the appropriate time.) 

When you get to the third verse, show the kids a hammer. To model what the kids will do when it's their turn,  sing your own name in place of Freddie.

Miss Katie's gonna fix it with her hammer...

After that, ask the kids one at a time which tool they would use to fix the wagon. Allow each child to put the tool of his or her choice up on the board. (To keep the tools organized, it might also be fun to have a toolbox like this on hand.) Sing the verse, substituting the child's name for your name, and their chosen tool for the hammer.

Sarah's gonna fix it with her screwdriver...

David's gonna fix it with his saw...

For an even more fun interactive experience, you could also bring in a real wagon and a set of real or toy plastic tools and let the kids take turns pretending to fix the wagon.You could also borrow the hand motions used by the kids in this Raffi video to keep the whole group engaged while they wait for their turns. 

This song has been flannelized in the past by Sarah at Read it Again, who changes the red wagon to a yellow school bus, an orange dump truck, a green train, and a blue truck, and by Sarah at Read Rabbit Read, who sings about wagons of all different colors. It's a perfect addition to a transportation-themed or tool-themed story time!

This week's Flannel Friday host is K Leigh from Storytime ABCs. For more on Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, February 17, 2014 The Browsing Room: A Library Activity for First Graders

Looking for new ideas for class visits? Check out my latest post at The Library Adventure, where I explain a fun way to teach young readers how to browse in the library.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Flannel Friday: Good Morning by Muriel Sipe

Today's Flannel Friday contribution is an adaptation of a poem by Muriel Sipe called Good Morning, which can be read here courtesy of Google Books. I read this particular poem to my daughter a lot because I like the repetition and the rhyme, and I think it would make a great weekly opening for a baby story time.

To effectively share the rhyme with babies, you need large, simple images, preferably in contrasting colors to the background you'll be using. In addition to showing the images on the flannel board, consider providing a set of stick puppets of the images to every child/caregiver pair in the group so the babies can see them up close. Another option would be to cut the animals out of construction paper and glue them to a black, blue, or other dark-colored background so they still stand out, but each pair can still hold their own copies. You could also give the materials to the adults along with a copy of the text so they can share the poem again at home.

Each of the four animals in the poem is shown below, along with the sound it makes. Each animal was created using a silhouette from Google Images which I recolored using MS Paint. You can download a set of the final images in a .pdf document here. Use them as is, or use them as templates for cutting out felt pieces.

Downy Duck
Quack, quack, quack.

Timid Mouse
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
Curly Dog
Bow, wow, wow.

Scarlet Bird
Cheep, cheep, cheep.
Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Meg at Miss Meg's Storytime. For more about Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, February 10, 2014

At the Children's Desk: A Day of Questions Volume III

In the weeks before I left my job, my duties away from the reference desk began to dwindle, and I started really focusing my attention on answering questions. There were several days in September and early October where I was on the desk more often than I was not, and on those days, I took notes, keeping track of every question I was asked, and by whom. Today's post focuses on the questions I handled on the afternoon of Thursday, September 26. I mostly let the questions speak for themselves because they're more interesting - and funnier - that way, but I have included some notes in brackets where necessary.

1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

  • Parent: Do you have any books on changing leaves?
  • Adult:  Where is the October 2003 story time schedule? [I think she meant to say 2013.]
  • Adult: I heard you guys cancelled story time? [We had not.]
  • Parent: Do you have to register for any of these story times?
  • Adult: What is the library near 20th street where the story time is in the morning and the lady is good? What is the librarian's name? Is she almost white with braids? Could you write that down for me? What bus could take me to that library? I can borrow your pen, right? Actually, better make it a pencil. Do you collect pencils? Are the hours on the door your new hours? Are these the new hours here? 
  • Adult: How does it work with reciprocity with [neighboring library system]? What do I need to get a card?
  • Child: Can I call my mom?
  • Middle schooler: Can I borrow headphones? [Comes back moments later with two open Oreo packages.] I found these on the floor- where do I put them?
  • Adult: What are these? [They were suggested reading lists by grade level.] Who puts them together?
  • Middler schooler: Is it appropriate for [girl's name] to watch a cat giving birth?

4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
  • Child: Where is Super Chicken Nugget Boy? What about Captain Underpants?
  • Child: Where are the Alvin Ho books?
  • Parent: Uh... Mysteries of Droon? Or something?
  • Parent: Do you have any Ninjago books?
  • Child: Yesterday, I put a hold on The Encyclopedia of Me. Where is it?
  • Child (roughly 10 years old): Do you have any songs for a two or one year old?
  • Child: Printing is free?!
  • Parent: Can I put a hold on a book that's not here? Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane? Do I still have a Cornelia Funke book checked out?

5:30 p.m. - LIBRARY CLOSES

For more questions from the children's desk, check out A Day of Questions Volume I and A Day of Questions Volume II.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Connect with Story Time Secrets via Social Media

Now that I have consolidated my blogs, I have a bit more time to keep up with social media. Here's where you can find me.

On Facebook, I make daily updates to the Story Time Secrets page, which include story time songs and rhymes of the day, quotations from and about children's books, links to interesting library and literacy related articles, and story time outlines from my archives relating to upcoming holidays and events. I'm also starting to invite more comments and interactions from my followers.

On Twitter, I am @mrskatiefitz. I retweet interesting comments and links from authors, publishers, and librarians, and share my comments on things like the ALA Youth Media Awards, Cybils, and other major news in the kidlit world. I also talk a little bit about parenting my two-month-old.

On Pinterest, I have a visual archive of all my reviews and every story time I performed in 2013, along with story time activities (flannel boards, crafts, rhymes, etc.) sorted by theme. I also curate boards about babies, homeschooling (for future reference), and writing, and I pin to two boards for The Library Adventure: Library Adventure Contributors and For Librarians Only.

On Goodreads, I keep track of every book I read and give star ratings. I try to post comments there on books I don't have time to blog about, and I also provide links to reviews on this blog.

I'm also slowly getting used to using Sulia, Google+, and Tumblr, and you're welcome to follow me in any of those places as well!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flannel Friday: Mother and Father and Uncle John


If you use bounces in baby story time, you probably know this one:

Mother and Father and Uncle John
went to town one by one.
Mother fell off!
Father fell off!
But Uncle John...
went on and on and on and on and on and on!

(If you're not familiar with it, you can see the ladies from JBrary perform it here.)

Today's Flannel Friday post will show you how you can share this same rhyme with an older (preschool) audience using the flannel board.

Though the rhyme doesn't explicitly say how the family is traveling to town, it's pretty likely to involve a horse, so you can begin with Mother, Father, Uncle John, and their horse on the flannel board. (The people in this photo are clipart images from and the horse can be found here. The "flannel board" is actually just a piece of felt stapled to a file folder, which is all I had at home, but it does the job!)

To emphasize the rhythm of the rhyme, clap or tap as you say it and invite the kids to do the same. After saying the rhyme a couple of times to get everyone familiar with it, start to get the kids involved. Give each child a turn to name another way that Mother, Father, and Uncle John might travel to town. If you have a good assortment of transportation-themed flannel board pieces, the kids probably won't name anything you don't have on hand, but if you want to limit the selections a little bit, you could have them either choose from a pile, or give each child a piece on the way in to story time and call each child up to identify the one he or she was given when it's his or her turn.

Here are Mother, Father, and Uncle John riding some vehicles that typically fascinate three and four year olds: bulldozer, motorcycle, cement mixer, ambulance. Others would probably include school bus, pick-up truck, dump truck, garbage truck, and car.

To really personalize the kids' choices, and to add some variety to the rhyme itself and not just the visuals, you can also substitute the child's name into the rhyme and ask the child who he or she would like to ride with him or her. You might wind up changing the rhyme to "Sarah and Alice and Santa Claus..." or  "Dylan and Aidan and Knuffle Bunny..." or any other number of fun combinations.

If you decide to provide options for the kids to choose from, or if you just want to end the presentation of the rhyme on a silly note, you can also bring out some unlikely choices. Below, Mother, Father and Uncle John travel by elephant and unicorn. If you're working with an animal theme, you could easily substitute other wild animals like a cheetah, giraffe, or zebra, for the elephant.

By adapting this rhyme for preschoolers, you provide them with opportunities to strengthen their transportation (or animal) vocabulary, to take an active part in the events of story time, and to share their own interests and preferences in an organized and controlled way.

Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Christine at Felt Board Ideas. For more about Flannel Friday, visit the official website.

Monday, February 3, 2014

At the Children’s Desk: “Can you find me this Rainbow Magic fairy?”

Who can resist those beautifully colored Rainbow Magic paperbacks? Though they are beginning chapter books intended to be read independently, they are just as popular with the preschool set as with second graders, even though the preschoolers can’t read a word of them. Now and then, one such excited preschooler will come running to the children’s desk, plop down a book, point to one of the fairies on the back cover and say, “Do you have her?”

The first time I got this question, I was stricken like a deer in headlights. All the fairies look the same! I thought. How am I supposed to know if we have her?! I could have sent my little patron back to the shelf and forced her to look through every book until she found the fairy wearing the exact outfit that had struck her fancy. But even a four-year-old with a fairy fascination deserves good library service, so that’s not what I did. Instead, I asked my little friend if I could see the book. I flipped it over to find out which of the many groups of fairies the one she was looking for belonged to.

Thankfully, the Rainbow Magic series is pretty clearly labeled, so the front cover makes it clear which series we’re talking about. I’m equally thankful that Rainbow Magic has such a visual website. The next thing I did was type in and find the series we were interested in. I allowed the preschooler to stand beside me while I looked so she could see the fairies as well. As soon as I found the right set of fairies, she pointed at the one she had in mind. I typed her name into the catalog and from there, we were able to locate the correct book.

I really wish I had a good enough memory and enough time to memorize the hair color, wand, and style of dress of each of the hundreds of fairies created by the pseudonymous Daisy Meadows, because nothing would make me more popular with preschoolers than the ability to name them on demand, but until that day comes, this system is pretty foolproof, too.
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