Friday, June 27, 2014

Flannel Friday: Fourth of July Sensory Bin for Babies

Today, I'm sharing my first post ever to explicitly focus on the early literacy practice of play. Sensory bins - which I originally discovered on Pinterest - provide great opportunities for kids to explore the world using their sense of touch. While most of the examples I have seen have been geared toward preschoolers and thus contain small objects, I thought the concept would work really well for babies in general, and for my 7-month-old specifically. Therefore, I set out to create a bin that would be safe for a child who puts everything in her mouth, but that would introduce her to a new concept. Since July Fourth is just around the corner, I opted to make a red, white, and blue bin. 

First, I made sure to avoid any object that is small enough to fit into a toilet paper tube, as objects of that size are definite choking hazards for babies. Next, I worked on trying to have a decent representation of each of the three colors in the mix of objects, so that the distribution would be even. Finally, I selected objects featuring a variety of sizes, thicknesses, and textures, so playing in the bin would be a true sensory experience.

Contained in the bin (which is just a white dish pan that used be the baby's newborn bathtub) are the following items: 
  • 13 pompoms - 5 red, 5 white, 3 blue (purchased at A.C. Moore)
  • 4 Linkadoos - 2 red, 2 blue (received at our baby shower)
  • 3 ribbons - 1 red, 1 white, 1 blue-and-white striped (from my craft supply box)
  • 2 wooden keys - 1 red, 1 blue (borrowed from our Melissa and Doug clacking key ring set)
  • 2 strands of beads - 1 red, 1 blue (purchased at Dollar Tree)
  • 1 sponge - blue (purchased at Dollar Tree)
  • 1 stuffed lamb - white (received as a Christmas gift)
  • 1 cup - mostly red (borrowed from our set of Nuby Splish Splash Stacking Bath Cups)
  • 1 washcloth - red (from our kitchen)
Though I bought some of these items specifically for the baby to play with, I didn't have the idea for this particular sensory bin until long after my shopping trip, so everything in the bin was something I already owned that happened to fit the color scheme. It's amazing how many everyday objects can be easily repurposed as baby toys!

My daughter has only played with her bin twice so far, but here are some observations:
  • She had some trouble getting into the bin and preferred to have me dump the contents out on the floor for her to see. (Her own attempt actually caused the bin to smack her in the face. Oops!)
  • She picked up one item at a time, putting each one to her mouth briefly and then setting it down before picking up the next.
  • Eventually she settled on some favorite items: the red strand of beads, the blue sponge, and the Linkadoos.
  • Pompoms went directly into her mouth, and I didn't feel comfortable letting her have them unless I was right next to her and watching her closely.
  • My husband held the red ribbon above her and she batted at it with her hands.
  • She showed no interest in the wash cloth.
I think a sensory bin like this would be a perfect activity for families to play with after baby story time, or in the early literacy play centers that are beginning to pop up in some libraries. Unlike so many other baby toys, the items in the bin come with no preconceived notions about how they should be played with, so babies and their caregivers can feel comfortable coming up with their own ideas.  It was also really easy to pull together at home, and it provided an uninterrupted 30 minutes of entertainment for my daughter, which gave me a chance to eat my lunch and finish up a blog post. I definitely think there will be more sensory bins in my family's future!

Flannel Friday is hosted this week by Bridget from What is Bridget Reading. For more about Flannel Friday, visit the official website. There is no Flannel Friday  next week, July 4, but on July 11, the roundup will be here at Story Time Secrets.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Story Time Secrets Reader Survey

Greetings, readers and subscribers! It has been over three years now since I started Story Time Secrets and nearly 4 months since I combined blogs and began posting all my book reviews here. Now that things are more or less settled, I'd like to hear from you.  Please take a moment to fill out my reader survey and let me know how and why you access this blog, what you like about it, and what else you might like to see in the future. There is also an open space in the survey for you to share any other comments you might have. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Mommy Librarian's Story Time Secret #1: Sit with the Grandmas!

First I was a children’s librarian. Then I became a mom. As I attend story times with my daughter, I have started to make a list of hints that might be helpful to story time performers and/or story time attendees. Today’s hint is for moms (and dads) who attend story time: When in doubt, sit with the Grandmas!

At every story time I have attended or performed, it seems like there has always been at least one grandmother in attendance. Whether Grandma is the regular caretaker, a one-time babysitter, or an out-of-town visitor, here’s why I recommend sitting next to her whenever possible:
  1. Grandma knows how to behave at story time. She remembers the old days when story time was about sitting still and listening. While she might not expect the baby in her care to be completely attentive, she will, without a doubt, be respectful of the story time performer and she will probably not elbow you to make a snarky comment about the silly book the librarian is reading. 
  2. Grandma has been there, done that when it comes to meeting other parents, and knows how to smooth over socially awkward situations. Recently, another mom and I were sitting next to the soft blocks after story time, looking back and forth between our babies and each other, struggling for something to say. A grandmother nearby picked up on this and immediately said just the right thing to get the conversation going again. 
  3. Grandma says nice things about your baby. People who have just had their first baby or don’t have children at all often don’t know what to say to a new mom about her baby. Not so with Grandma! Grandmothers give great compliments on your baby’s clothes, eyes, and hair, and they always point out how your baby looks just like you. They never say weird things like, “Your baby grew” (because that’s obvious) or “Do you breastfeed?” (because that's personal.) They know what their own daughter would like to hear and they say those things to you.
 Do you use a seating strategy when you bring your kids to story time? Share it in comments!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fizz Boom Reads: Chapter Books

Though this year's CSLP summer reading theme, Fizz Boom Read, lends itself well to nonfiction reading, it's inevitable that kids will also want to read a few good stories. So far, I have shared my suggested lists for fiction picture books and easy readers. Today's post focuses on chapter books.

Eliza Boom: My Explosive Diary
by Emily Gale, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy
After many failed attempts, Eliza Boom, a budding inventor, finally creates a useful invention with the help of a classmate.

Stink and the Shark Sleepover
by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Stink and his family win an overnight stay at the aquarium.

Phineas L. MacGuire... Erupts by Frances O'Roark Dowell
After losing his science partner, a friend who has moved away, Phineas "Mac" MacGuire is paired with Mac R., who is notoriously not nice.

Scab for Treasurer?
by Trudy Trueit, illustrated by Jim Paillot
Scab, a self-proclaimed "lab rat," runs for class office, using wild and disgusting stunts to get voters' attention.

Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat
by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
Violet learns a hard lesson when she tries to keep a ladybug in captivity overnight.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms
by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca
As part of her class's effort to save the earth, Marty enlists her grandmother's help in raising worms.

Squish: The Power of the Parasite
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Squish, a young amoeba, makes friends with a parasite whose sense of humor proves more cruel than funny.
Ivy & Bean: What's the Big Idea?
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Ivy and Bean struggle to find a suitable project for the class's global warming unit.

The Jelly Bean Experiment
by David Adler
Daniel's unusual classmate, Calvin, uses him as the subject of a strange social experiment involving jelly beans.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Choosing Books for Story Time

A quality story time depends on many factors, but great books are high on the list. Not all picture books are created equal, so story time performers must choose wisely and carefully. Here are the questions I typically ask myself when deciding whether a given book is a good fit for story time.
  • Will this book engage the target age group?
    This is usually the first question I ask about any given book, because if the book is not suited to the age group, nothing else matters. Books with few words and big, bold illustrations are probably best for baby story times. Toddlers like books with rhyme, animal sounds, and interactive elements. Preschoolers can follow longer plots and even make guesses about what might happen next. Books for story times for all ages might include some combination of all of these. The important thing is to think about the age group and choose a story that suits their developmental needs and interests.
  • Do I like this book?
    As much as story time is about the kids and not the librarian, I think it’s important for the story time performer to choose books that she likes. I think kids can always tell when an adult is lukewarm about something she is reading, and I know I always do my best reading when I am enjoying myself. I can’t say I’ve never read a book I dislike at story time, but I can definitely say that my best story times have always happened when I’ve read titles I really love.
  • Is this book a good read-aloud?
    Some picture books, beautiful though they might be to look at, do not make good read-alouds. Awkward rhyme schemes, difficult-to-pronounce character names, overly-complex sentences, and lack of connection between the illustrations and the text are all reasons that I would avoid reading a book aloud. I also avoid books that I just don’t feel comfortable performing. I will usually try to read a book aloud to myself, or even to a colleague, before I take it to story time, just to make sure it works and that I don’t feel awkward reading it to an audience.
  • Do I know any songs or rhymes that would pair really well with this book?
    Though books are at the heart of story time, it’s usually not enough to just sit and read for thirty minutes. (Though I have had groups that prefer that approach.) Once I find a book I like, I think about what else I have in my repertoire on the same theme. It’s not absolutely essential that every book have a matching activity, but it helps a lot with the continuity of story time, and with narrowing down my options. I might still use a book for which I don’t have a matching song or rhyme, but I’m more likely to use a book that easily inspires other activities.
  • Are there other books on a similar theme?
    I don’t always do themed story times, but sometimes a book will make me think of five other similar titles, and inspiration will strike. I also find it useful to look at a book from a variety of angles in order to brainstorm new themes I’ve never used before. This is also a great way to learn about books in my collection that I might not be familiar with, whether they turn out to be useful for story time or not. 
  • Is the book difficult to hold?
    Some books are just unwieldy. I find it impossible to effectively share a big book because I have never been able to find a way to hold it up that doesn’t require intense acrobatics. I also have a hard time holding up books with lots of flaps and fold-out pages. When I have an unusually shaped book, or a book with lots of parts to it, I always give it a test-run for an imaginary audience just to see whether I can even show the book to the group. If not, it doesn’t make it to story time.
  • Will those sitting in the back be able to see the pictures?
    This question depends on the size of the audience as much as on the size of the book. If I’m doing story time for one hundred people in a large meeting space, I want to be sure the book is easily seen from the very back row of the room. If I have a smaller group I might just want assurance that kids within a couple of feet of me can see the pictures. The important thing is to choose a book that both kids and adults are easily able to see so they can engage with the visual elements of the story as well as the text.
  • Does this book encourage audience participation?
    Not all story time books need to be interactive, but it helps to consider whether an audience participation element will engage or alienate your audiences. With larger groups, I like an opportunity to invite everyone to make animal sounds or repeat a particular refrain because it keeps the attention focused on the book instead of on the ten thousand distractions 100 toddlers can easily create for each other. With smaller groups that I know to be shy or quiet, though, I might not want to depend too heavily on audience participation because I know the kids will not participate and the mood in the room will be very uncomfortable. 
How do you choose your story time books?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fizz Boom Reads: Easy Readers

Though this year's CSLP summer reading theme, Fizz Boom Read, lends itself well to nonfiction reading, it's inevitable that kids will also want to read a few good stories. Last week I shared my list of suggested fiction picture book titles. Today, I'm focusing on easy readers.

Robot, Go Bot!
by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Wook Jin Jung
A little girl builds a robot and bosses it around, only to discover she is hurting its feelings.

Pearl and Wagner: Two Good Friends

by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R.W. Alley
Pearl and Wagner partner up to build a robot for their school science fair, with unexpected results.

Iris and Walter and the Field Trip
by Elissa Haden Guest, illustrated by Christine Davenier
Best friends Iris and Walter are having fun on a field trip to the aquarium until Walter goes missing!

A Green Green Garden

by Mercer Mayer
Little Critter and his family head to the garden store in preparation for planting at home.

Butterfly Garden
by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Mike Gordon
At Robin Hill School, Mrs. Connor's class raises caterpillars.

Pup and Hound Hatch an Egg
by Susan Hood, illustrated by Lisa Hendry
Pup and Hound find an egg and search for the bird to whom it belongs. 

by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Melanie Hall
This collection of easy-to-read poems captures the essence of every condition from wind to ice.

Snow Wonder
by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Julia Woolf
Rhyming text describes the beauty of the first snowfall of the season.

The Tooth Book

by Dr. Seuss, illustrated by Joe Mathieu
Wacky rhyming text teaches readers about different animals' teeth  and how to care for them.

Monday, June 16, 2014 52 Science-Themed Literacy Activities for Kids

Today I'm over at The Library Adventure sharing a list of 52 science-themed literacy activities, along with a free printable. These simple ideas will make a great addition to Fizz Boom Read programming!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reflections on Library Service to Summer Camps

It’s been a few months since I added a new post to my Reflections on Library Service series. Previously, I have talked about library service to parents, babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and beginning readers. Today, because summer is upon us, I’m focusing on serving summer camps.

Before I worked in an urban library, I didn’t realize that libraries hosted so many summer camps when school is out of session. In the DC area, though, many summer camps incorporate literacy components in order to help kids complete their required summer reading assignments. Summer camps also see libraries as an affordable field trip destination. To help your local summer camps get the most out of their library visits, and to keep yourself sane during those busy summer months, follow these guidelines:
  • Be proactive. If you have camps in your neighborhood, or you know of camps who have contacted you for visits and programs in the past, get in touch with them far in advance of when their session actually begins. Instead of waiting for them to ask you for your involvement in their program, pull together a packet of information that lets them know what you can offer. Make it clear that they can contact you any time during the year, not just during the summer, and make sure they are aware of special programs like summer reading.
  • Set limits. Sadly, some summer camps will try to take horrible advantage of the library. This is either because the camp does not have resources of its own, or because the folks who run the camp would prefer not to plan their own activities. (Sometimes it’s also because the folks running the camp just don’t know what libraries do, and they assume you have nothing but time to devote to their needs.) It’s important to provide camps with a reasonable number of programs, and to make their visits to the library positive and productive experiences. I tend to treat camps the same way I treat school groups. I limit the frequency of their visits based on how many camps (classes) I need to serve and I make sure not to schedule their visits in a way that detracts from the quality of service I provide to everyone else. 
  • Communicate expectations. I’ve found that a lot of camp counselors seem unsure of the library’s rules, and that they may not be regular library users on their own. When camps contact me - or when they show up unannounced at the library - I like to introduce myself and let them know the lay of the land. I show them where to put books when they are finished using them. I briefly explain behavior policies. I let them know where to go to ask questions, and inform them about the summer reading program. I make sure they understand what the library can and cannot offer, and I remind them as needed during their visits. Rarely have I seen a camp group come into a library and just naturally know what to do and how to behave. It’s helpful to have this conversation up front so no one is surprised when rules are enforced. 
  • Sign them up for summer reading. I have alluded to this twice already, but it bears repeating. Camp groups make great summer reading participants. They come with their own group of adults who can handle all the kids’ paperwork, and they do wonders for increasing participation statistics. The easier you make it for a camp to participate, the more likely they will be to do so, and the more likely they will be to seek out your library for the same experience the following year. Even if you have to provide a simplified version of your program to make it possible for a larger group to join in, it’s worth it.
Does your library host summer camp visits? What would you add to my list?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fizz Boom Reads: Picture Books

Though this year's CSLP summer reading theme, Fizz Boom Read, lends itself well to nonfiction reading, it's inevitable that kids will also want to read a few good stories. Over the next four weeks, I'll be sharing my lists of suggested fiction titles in each of four categories: picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and middle grade novels. First up, picture books!

Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World)
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat
A young girl builds a robot for her science project, then watches as it begins to destroy her city. Also check out the sequel, Oh No, Not Again!

11 Experiments That Failed
by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
A mischievous little girl makes a series of hypotheses, then makes big messes as she tries to prove them.

Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine
by Alison Wortche, illustrated by Patrice Barton
When the self-proclaimed best student in Rosie's class falls ill during the class's plant-growing project, Rosie becomes a star by raising both her plant and the other girl's.

Weeds Find a Way

by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher
This poetic text describes weeds and how they grow, despite our efforts to thwart them.
How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps
by Mordicai Gerstein
This imaginative picture book provides all the steps necessary to ride one's bike to the moon and plant flowers on its surface.

by Jorey Hurley
This almost-wordless picture book takes the reader on a visual journey through the life of a baby bird.

by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Andrea Wesson
Everyone in Mrs. Henshaw's class  receives an egg to hatch. Most contain chicks, but Sally's turns out to be something much more interesting!

Henry's Heart  
by Charise Mericle Harper
This book takes a look inside Henry's body, watching how his heart responds to various stimuli in his day-to-day life.

Water Can Be...
by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Poet Laura Purdie Salas shares the many uses and functions of water.

Water in the Park
by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
In 24 hours, water plays different roles in the lives of people who visit the park.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Interview: Meet Jennifer Wharton, Youth Services Librarian

The second post in The Library Adventure's new series of interviews with library professionals was published this morning. Check out my exchange with Jennifer Wharton here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Story Time Music: Saying Goodbye

Over the past few weeks, I have been blogging about my experiences with story time music. I have discussed recorded music, a cappella singing, and playing live music, and I have also shared my thoughts on selecting hello songs, extension activities, and movement-based songs. In today's concluding post to the series, I focus on using music to end a story time session.

Just as a hello song signals that story time is starting, the goodbye song lets everyone know it’s time to go home, or at least that story time is finished, and it's time to move on to whatever comes next. To be truly effective, I think a goodbye song needs to directly state that it’s time to leave, and that we’re saying goodbye. If there is a craft or other activity to follow, the song would ideally reference the transition to that activity as well.

Though adults can watch the clock and figure out that story time is about to end based on the fact that 30 minutes is up, kids don't have that advantage, so I like to help them wind down from story time with a predictable closing routine. At most of my morning story times, this routine consists of singing If You're Happy and You Know It and then our goodbye song. At class visits, kids know we're just about done when we sing Laurie Berkner's These Are My Glasses. At pajama story time, we wind things down a bit more calmly by singing goodnight to animal puppets with Goodnight (also by Laurie Berkner). Kids are creatures of habit and routine, and if the end of story time is the same every single time, they begin to understand intuitively that it's time for the session to end when they hear certain songs.

Three great goodbye songs and rhymes are listed below:
  • We Wave Goodbye Like This is my preferred goodbye song. The motions are very simple - waving and clapping - and the song signals the end of story time and also applauds the kids for participating. The song is also very short, so if people get up and start leaving in the middle of it, they're not really interrupting anything the kids will miss out on.
  • The Open, Shut Them Goodbye Song is my simplified goodbye song for babies and toddlers. The youngest kids typically can't open and shut their hands very well, but they can definitely raise their hands up high and wave goodbye. I always sing this song twice so the kids can learn it, and it's definitely a favorite of the parents as well. 
  • My Hands Say Thank You is the first goodbye rhyme I ever learned, and I still tend to use it for Thanksgiving themed story times. It's a nice alternative for librarians who don't like to sing, and it works best with twos and threes.
Thank you so much for reading this series of posts about using music at story time. If you missed any of the previous installments, all are linked below:
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