Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reading with Little Miss Muffet: May 2015

New Book Behaviors

  • Character Recognition. This month, Little Miss Muffet has become much more interested in the characters in her books. She likes to hear their names, and when given a name, she can usually point to the correct character. In certain books, she will even wave to her favorite characters to say hello or goodbye. 
  • Shhh, they're sleeping! Any time a character's eyes are closed in an illustration, Miss Muffet assumes he is asleep, and therefore points to him and says, "Shhh!" I spend a lot of time saying, "Hmmm, I don't think he's asleep. I think his eyes are just closed." She has a great eye for detail, though - half the time, I haven't even noticed a character's eyes are closed until she shows me!

Current Favorites

  • Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea. We borrowed the entire Gossie & Friends series from our local libraries this month, but Gossie and Gertie was Miss Muffet's breakout favorite. Any time I suggested reading a story, this was the first book she brought to me, and sometimes hearing it just once wasn't enough. Though I do love this series, I was definitely ready for this one to go back to the library when it was finally due. 
  • Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Stephanie Yue. This is a new picture book we stumbled upon at the library. It follows a mouse through the four seasons, as he observes the conditions outside of his hole, and gathers food to keep in his storeroom. Miss Muffet squeals with delight at the sight of the mouse, and of his other furry friends, including squirrels and beavers. Each month, when the mouse pops out of his hole, Miss Muffet enthusiastically throws her hands up and says, "Pop!" 
  • Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley. Miss Muffet's grandma purchased a library discard copy of this book from a book sale when she was visiting last year, and we just recently pulled it out again. Miss Muffet loves to jump like the cow and paddle like the duck, and she loves it when Mrs. Wishy Washy says, "Just look at you!" I have this book memorized, so I also recite it to her in random places - public transportation, the bathtub, the doctor's office waiting room, etc. 

One Tip from Mom 

  • Enhance the reading experience with props. Little Miss Muffet and I have had a great time this month exploring props to accompany our favorite books. We continue to love Stanley the Farmer (mentioned in the April edition of Reading with Little Miss Muffet), so I took the time to print, cut, and laminate the flannel board pieces for the book. She is completely enamored of them, and can easily spend 30 minutes at a time, sorting them and arranging them on the flannel board. I also happen to have a set of Mrs. Wishy Washy finger puppets, which give her busy hands something to do while I read the story. I don't recommend having a prop for every single book you read, but some carefully selected choices make reading time a little less monotonous for you, and even more fun for your little one. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

#ArmchairBEA Day 3: 10 Favorite Picture Book Characters

Armchair BEA continues today with two prompts: Blogging Q & A and Character Chatter. For the character prompt, I have decided to make a list of some of my favorite characters from picture books.


from Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams
Frances is such a spunky little girl, who wouldn't want to spend time with her? She knows how she wants others to treat her and demands nothing less, she appreciates a good song (and frequently writes her own), and she (mostly) loves her little sister Gloria.


from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
My favorite thing about Harold is that when he gets hungry on his moonlit walk, he draws "all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best" and then, concerned about the leftovers, he leaves them for "a very hungry moose and a deserving porcupine.”


from Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
Of all the children's books I read as a child, this one was one of the most relatable, because Ira has the concerns of a real child. I especially loved his relationship with his manipulative sister, and the realness of his embarrassment over sleeping with a teddy bear.

King Bidgood

from King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood
There is something irresistible about a supposedly responsible grown-up who acts like a child. I love to read this book aloud and say "Come in!" in a very kingly voice, which somehow makes his refusal to leave the tub that much more ridiculous.


from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
I love Max for his wildness, but also for his underlying sweetness, which ultimately causes him to calm down his angry feelings and wish for home and his mother.

Miss Nelson

from Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall
I remember thinking Miss Nelson was brilliant even when I was a kid, and that feeling has only increased now that I am an adult. She appears so sweet and innocent, and yet underneath her friendly smile lurks the diabolical mind that conjures Miss Viola Swamp.


from Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
You don't have to be the middle child to empathize with Nora's frustration in this book. In many ways, she is like a female Max, full of wildness when her feelings are hurt, but also willing to forgive when the anger subsides.

Owl Mother

from Owl Babies by Martin Waddell 
Though this book is mostly about the three owl siblings waiting for their mother to return, the mother herself is a definite force to be reckoned with. I frequently find myself quoting her, as I say to my daughter, "What's all the fuss?"


from Stanley the Builder by William Bee 
Little Miss Muffet is fascinated by Stanley, which makes him even more likeable than he might be on his own. I like his wide range of abilities, his willingness to help his friends, and his reliable adherence to a bedtime routine.


from Titch by Pat Hutchins
We have all felt like Titch - small and insignificant - at some point. This books reminds us of those opportunities when our actions mean something and impact the world around us. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#Armchair BEA Day 2: Social Media

If you are a blogger, it is likely that you are also active on various social media platforms. Social media makes it easier to find an audience for your blog, and to network with other bloggers inside and outside of your area of focus. In my case, I use different sites to accomplish different goals. My Twitter account automatically updates each time a new blog post is published. I use Pinterest to curate my posts visually, and to collect other sites' materials that will complement my own. And Facebook is where I network with other library, literacy, and book bloggers. As I become more involved in various communities on Facebook, I also become aware of how interaction could be improved. Since one of today's Armchair BEA topics is social media, this seems like a good opportunity to share some of my tips for interacting professionally on Facebook.

Tip #1: Do your homework. 

Before you begin posting in a Facebook community, make sure to seek out the rules and review them. Administrators of online communities  have the difficult task of managing the behavior of dozens, hundreds or sometimes thousands of nearly-anonymous users. You can avoid making their job more difficult by making sure that whatever you post in the group is permitted by the community rules.

It is also important that you do not post questions to the group that you have not already attempted to answer on your own. There is nothing more frustrating (especially in library-oriented communities!) than reading someone's question, only to find the answer in the first result that pops up on Google. Professional networks are wonderful for crowd-sourcing difficult questions and troubleshooting real problems, but it is a waste of everyone's time and resources if each individual doesn't do his or her homework.

Tip #2: Read carefully. 

When engaging in discussions in your Facebook communities, it is really important to read carefully and make sure you understand what is being said before you reply. This is especially necessary when answering a colleague's question. Often, a poster will indicate exactly what type of information he or she needs, and what type of information he or she is not looking for. When you read too quickly and miss these statements, your responses to the discussion can easily turn out to be irrelevant and pointless, not to mention frustrating to the original poster who has to wade through useless information to find the helpful content he or she requested.

Tip #3: Don't be an echo.

Often, you will find that the comment you wished to add to a Facebook discussion has already been posted by someone else. Your initial temptation might be to repeat the same sentiment in your own words, but this is not really necessary. You can just as easily show your support for the comments you agree with by clicking "like" underneath each one. This saves other members of the group from having to read the same response over and over again, and it makes it easy for everyone to read the truly different opinions being presented.

Tip #4: Turn on notifications. 

You probably don't want to be notified every time anyone posts in your Facebook communities, but sometimes you may want to get notifications for a specific post. Instead of commenting with an asterisk, period, or the word "following," you can simply turn on notifications for that specific discussion. To do so, click the drop-down menu and choose "turn on notifications." This will allow you to follow the conversation without cluttering the discussion with unnecessary comments.

Tip #5:  Don't spam. 

Even in communities which allow self-promotion, you should use discretion when sharing links to your own blog. It is usually fine to do this in response to requests for specific information, but it is less welcome when you post a link just to promote your blog, or to ask for general feedback. Obviously, in some communities, it is expected that you will ask for help with specific aspects of blogging, and many of these questions will require a link, but there should always be a reason behind the post, and you should also make a concerted effort to participate in the community in other ways.

These are just my top five tips - do you have others? Share them in comments! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#ArmchairBEA Day 1: Introduction & Library Love

Armchair BEA

Today is the beginning of Armchair BEA, the online conference for book lovers who are unable to attend Book Expo America in person in New York City. Today's topics are Introductions and Library Love. One of the suggested prompts is to interview a librarian, so I decided to interview myself. The first five questions below are the five I chose from the official Armchair BEA list, and the others are questions I made up to ask myself (based in part on questions I used to ask when I posted interviews at The Library Adventure.)

Part 1: Armchair BEA Introduction 

  • Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?
    I'm Katie Fitzgerald, and I live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. I started blogging in January 2011, shortly after I started working for the DC Public Library as a children's librarian. My original blog was Secrets & Sharing Soda, where I posted book reviews and "random thoughts on children's and teen literature." A few months after starting that first blog, I also started blogging here at Story Time Secrets, where I recorded all of my story times and other library programs. When I had my daughter (known around here as "Little Miss Muffet") in late 2013, I left the library and subsequently merged both blogs into one. My content now ranges from book reviews to story time programs to literacy activities for all ages.
  • Why do you loving reading and blogging?
    I love to read because I love getting to know different characters. Stepping into someone else's life for a little while is a great way to gain new perspective on the world - and sometimes to escape briefly from my own life! Blogging has turned me into a more careful and more dedicated reader. Now that I have a blog to maintain, I am more organized and deliberate about my reading choices, and I look more deeply into the books I read, searching for layers of meaning to share with my audience.
  • What is your favorite genre and why? Though I can be persuaded to read the occasional fantasy novel, I am naturally drawn to realistic stories. This has always been true, ever since I learned to read and began to select my own reading material. I don't think it's that I'm not imaginative; I just prefer to imagine things that could conceivably happen in real life. I have a hard time connecting with books set in worlds completely removed from reality because I have no personal experience to draw from, and therefore no emotional connection to the book. And this is not  a genre, but I also prefer middle grade novels over any other type of book. The themes that are most common in middle grade books - friendship, family, getting to know oneself, and solving everyday problems - are the ones I relate to the most, 
  • Share your favorite blog post on your blog.
    My favorite blog post is actually not a book review, but this list of 10 Creative Ways to Share Nursery Rhymes at Story Time.
  • What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?
    I'm excited to read Sarah Dessen's Saint Anything. I have been reading her books since That Summer was published when I was in high school, and I never miss one. Even  though I technically don't review YA anymore, I will probably make an exception for this book! 

Part 2: Librarian Interview

  • Describe your path to librarianship.
    I did not set out to become a librarian; I set out to become a writer. This did not prove to be as easy as I had hoped, and as college graduation loomed, I found myself in need of a plan B. One day, a friend said to me out of the blue, "You know what you would be good at? Being a librarian." It turned out she didn't really know that much about what librarians do, but when I began researching library school programs, I realized it really was a natural match for me. I started out thinking I would be a school librarian, but then fell in love with the freedom of the public library to make reading fun without a prescribed curriculum. I finished my degree in three semesters and a summer and never looked back.
  • Which libraries have you worked in? 
    I was an intern for the Albany Public Library during graduate school. Then my first real library job was at the Josephine-Louise Public Library in Walden, NY, where I was responsible for our tiny reference area and young adult programming. (My "young adults" are graduating college this year, and it is mind-blowing!) After three years in Walden, I needed a change, and I moved to Washington, DC where I was the children's librarian at the brand-new Tenley-Friendship Library for three years. Now I am a stay-at-home mom to Miss Muffet, whose library is far less organized than any other I have worked in.
  • What is your favorite thing about being a librarian? Story time! I still get to perform a few story times now and then, as a volunteer, but I miss the days when I was doing nine or ten programs every week as part of my job! 
  • What is the craziest/funniest/strangest thing you have ever seen or experienced on the job?I was once alone on the second floor of the library (I won't say which one) not long before closing when a patron (who was mentally ill) undid her pants and just let them drop to the floor, giving a little squeal of glee. ("Whoo!") I was so stunned, I don't even remember if I said anything to her, but I know she did take her sweet time putting her pants back on. It was an especially funny incident at the time because the Pants on the Ground guy had just been on American Idol.
  • What is one thing you wish library users knew? 
    That children's librarians are not going to be angry if a child rips a book. I have talked with a lot of moms about why they don't use the library, or why they don't allow their kids to borrow books, and the response always involves a tale of shame where a ripped book was quickly taped up and  returned in the book drop after hours to avoid facing the wrath of the librarian. I always tell them they definitely shouldn't worry, that most librarians know kids are not always careful and that anything that can be taped or glued is probably not going to result in a lecture or a fine. (If there are libraries where this is not the case, that makes me sad.) 

Friday, May 15, 2015

14 Literacy Activities About Flowers

Last month's April showers inspired a post about Rainy Day Literacy Activities. Now that it's May, let's think about activities that will help welcome those May flowers!

Action Songs & Rhymes

These five activities are some of my story time favorites for the month of May. Each one encourages movement - either of the hands, or of the entire body.

  • Flowers Tall, Flowers Small 
    This rhyme can be done as a fingerplay, using your middle three fingers as the tall flowers and pinky and thumb as the small ones, or you can have a group of children pretend to be the flowers, making themselves tall and small, and then counting themselves off out loud. 
  • One Seed 
    The chorus of this song makes a perfect story time extension activity. Follow the motions suggested by Laurie Berkner in the music video (linked above), and watch how quickly kids and parents begin to act them out along with you! 
  • Sunny Day
    This soothing song by Elizabeth Mitchell is a good calming down song for the end of story time, or perhaps before naptime at home. The lyrics lend themselves to simple motions, which you can easily invent to suit your needs. 
  • There's a Little Flower Growing...
    Take the tune for There's a Little Wheel a-Turnin' in My Heart, and using paper, foam, or tissue paper flowers, have your kids pretend there is a flower growing on their heads, arms, legs, toes, elbows, and anywhere else that will make them giggle. (This activity would pair well with a silly book like Daisy Head Mayzie.) 
  • I'm a Little Daisy
    Sung to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot, this song gives kids the chance to stand like daisies, showing off their stems, leaves, and petals. 

Flannel Boards

These activities are best used on a flannel or magnet board.

  • Five Little Flowers 
    Any five flowers will suit this simple rhyme, which is about picking flowers in a garden. For Mother's Day, add in the final stanza (included in the link above), which talks about collecting the flowers to give to mom. 
  • Oh, Yellow Flower
    This folk song recorded by The Carter Family (and later, by Elizabeth Mitchell) has a simple tune that is very easy to learn, and with a few lyrical adjustments it lends itself very well to flannel board use. See more in my Flannel Friday post about the song. 
  • My Garden 
    I wrote this rhyme about flowers growing in a garden when I needed a rhyme for use with a specific set of felt flowers I bought at a craft store. The colors you need are pink, blue, orange, yellow, and green - but orange and pink can be changed to other colors if necessary, as the rhyme scheme does not depend on them. 
  • My May Garden 
    This piggyback song by Jean Warren based on Skip To My Lou provides a simple lesson on what is needed - seeds, sun, and rain - to grow a garden. Though the title refers to May, there is no mention of the month in the song itself, so it can really be used any time!
  • Five Little Seeds
    I have never used this rhyme myself, but it was featured as a guest post on Storytime ABCs a few years ago, and it's a slightly different take on the "five little flowers" idea. In this garden, three seeds become flowers, but the other two become weeds! This rhyme appears in a few places around the Internet, including Can Teach.

Games & More

Here are some more great ideas from around the blogs that will make great activities to celebrate flowers at home, in the library, or at school. 
  • Flower Letter Sorting Cups 
    The Childcareland Blog has a great idea for practicing letter recognition. Print out some flowers labeled with letters, then sort them by letter using plastic cups. Though the free printable has expired, the idea itself would be so easy to recreate using homemade flowers. The template is also available through the blog's Members Area, but there is a fee. 
  • Flowers in a Row 
    This game idea from Mailbox Magazine is similar to the sorting cups above, but it allows kids to pretend to "plant" each letter flower in a box of sand or soil. 
  • Spring Tulip Name Puzzle
    Last Spring, Sarah from How Wee Learn shared this great idea for teaching kids to spell their names - a flower-themed puzzle! Though Sarah's flower of choice was a tulip, you could use any flower you like. (I'm thinking a chrysanthemum, to accompany a certain Kevin Henkes mouse book, which is all about names...) 
  • Flowers in the Garden
    This coloring sheet from Crayola gives kids the opportunity to imagine their own wacky flowers. Provide some crayons or markers, then stand back and see where their imaginations take them!

Friday, May 8, 2015

12 Picture Books About Spots & Dots

I recently received a review copy of Spectacular Spots by Susan Stockdale, which got me thinking about all the many picture books which talk about spots and dots. This list includes 12 titles which are perfect for story time, preschool and elementary classrooms, and/or one-on-one reading at home.

Spectacular Spots by Susan Stockdale
In rhyming text, the author shares information about the function of various animals' spots. This book is newly published by Peachtree Publishers and is great for STEM story times. 

Lots of Spots by Lois Ehlert
In this collection, Lois Ehlert describes the features of many animals in very short, pithy poems and accompanies them with illustrations in her signature collage style. (Link is to my review.)

In her bold style, Nancy Tafuri celebrates the features that make animals unique - including spots. Children get the chance to guess on every page who belongs to which feather, tail, spot, etc.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Young Vashti feels that she is not an artist, but when she takes her teacher's advice to "just make a mark and see where it takes you," she discovers the hidden depths of her creativity.

Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier
This colorful book shows kids all the places in the world they can find lots and lots of dots!

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni 
Two little spots - one blue, and one yellow - are best friends. But what happens when they hug each other so hard they turn green? Will they ever be Little Blue and Little Yellow again? This classic picture book published in 1959 is still a favorite for many kids today.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illusrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
In this perennial favorite, a spotted dog names Harry runs away to escape from the bath only to return so covered in dirt that he has changed from a white dog with black spots, to a black dog with white spots. Betty White recorded a charming reading of this story for Storyline Online.

Press Here by Herve Tullet 
This unique picture book invites kids to interact with it by instructing them to press, blow, clap, and engage in other actions which appear to have a direct impact on what happens in the illustrations.

Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
This counting book shows what can be made using one black dot, two black dots, three black dots, etc. First published in 1968, this picture book was revised slightly in 1995 to make it easier to share at story time, and more appealing to young readers.

Dotty by Erica Perl
On the first day of school, Ida brings along everything she needs - including a giant, spotted imaginary friend named Dotty. At first, Dotty isn't the only imaginary friend in class, but over time their numbers begin to dwindle until Ida wonders whether she should start leaving Dotty at home.

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
As Dog travels through town during the day, he finds himself marked by spots of different colors. By the time he gets into the bath at night, he has ten spots to wash away!

Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug! by Mem Fox
A ladybug is hiding on each page of this book, and the reader is challenged to find her! The detailed illustrations make this a poor story time choice, but it's excellent for one-on-one sharing with toddlers.
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