Providing Activities During Storytime Breaks

My library has seven storytimes a week and we typically see around 30 kids at each storytime. We’re also the headquarters branch with the most traffic and additional programs, so I think it’s vital for my staff to take breaks during the year to regroup and refresh and plan for our next round of storytimes. We take off the months of May (to help us promote, prepare for, and kick off the Summer Reading Program) and the month of December (typically we have lower traffic in the branch and we noticed that between iffy weather and so much being packed into patron’s schedules, our attendance is much lower).

I’ve learned to present these storytime breaks to our storytime families by telling them that we are taking a break  to get ready for our next round of storytimes and we want to plan and prepare the best programs for them. I also let them know that while we won’t be hosting weekly activities, we still will have things happening in the library and that they are always welcome to visit the library! I found that in presenting it this way is a great approach and our patrons feel like we care about them and want to provide the best we can. I even have several patrons comment on how we work so hard that we deserve a break, which is nice!

We want to make sure we do still have various activities going on, so we use the months we’re off from storytime to focus on a lot of passive programming as well as a few special programs throughout the month. Here’s what we have going on during our storytime break this month:

-Cookie Club-We kick off our Cookie Club Winter Reader’s Club in December. I got this idea from Marge Louch-Waters from Tiny Tips for Library Fun and adapted it for my library. In our club, the kids get a card to get stamped each time they visit the library. They are also invited to decorate a cookie (a brown circle) and place it in our workroom window. If the kids get six stamps by the end of February, they get a special invite to our invite only Cookie Club party in March. At the party we read books about cookies, play cookie games, make cookie crafts and of course eat cookies! The parents and the kids get excited about this. This is our third year doing the Cookie Club and I had a family say “Oh yes! The Cookie Club is back!”

-Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award Voting-The Missouri Library Association sponsors The Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award that is voted on the kids of Missouri birth-Kindergarten. I spend all of my Fall storytimes reading the nominees and the kids can vote during the month of December. We have a voting box and a poster of all the nominees as well as ballots out on display. When the kids vote for their favorite, they get an “I voted” sticker to celebrate. Each week during December we’ve been rotating passive activities based on the nominees from mustache making for Mustache Baby to an elephant finger puppet for Little Nelly’s Big Book. The kids have loved it!

-Special Movie Marathon Days-Once the kids are out of school, our phones start ringing non-stop with the question “what does the library have going on today?” To help offer something for families that doesn’t take up a lot of staff time and planning, we host several movie marathons in our auditorium. We show double features of popular movies like Cars and Cars 2 or a princess theme with Tangled and Sofia the First. We also will occasionally set up simple crafts or trivia to go along with the movies. Our patrons love the chance to take a break and watch a favorite movie on a large screen.

-Crafterspace & Builderspace-This year we’re hosting an afternoon of crafting and an afternoon of building. These programs were also designed to be lighter in planning and staff time and are very easy to set up. For the craft afternoon, we clean out of craft supply closet and let the kids create whatever they can come up with. For the building program, we put out Legos, giant foam blocks, wooden blocks-any block we can find and let the kids build. These are programs that are easy to gather supplies for, easy to set up, and great for families to spend an afternoon together.

We found that providing a lot of passive family activities during our storytime breaks offered the perfect balance between still offering programs and giving staff a break.

Do you take storytime breaks? And if so, any tips for providing activities for your patrons while on break?

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Suggestions for the Batchelder Award?

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2014.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to the Chair, Diane Janoff at

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”.

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Mary R. Voors, Books | Leave a comment

Puppet Shows at Storytime

“Where’s Rockie? Is Rockie going to be here today? He’s so funny!” Preschoolers call out their excitement as soon as they see the puppet stage set up and ready for action. Rockie is the main character for our series of puppet shows about a raccoon and how he learns about his world. Each show is an original script, written by two librarians. It is usually based around a topic that is of some concern to young children—new baby, sharing, fears, exercising, learning to read, manners, moving, etc. Although the themes are somewhat serious, the antics of the puppets are always silly and broad, causing plenty of laughter as well as discussion.

The basic format is as follows:

  • RockieDig_smallAct One brings on Rockie and his friend(s).  One librarian is working the puppets, the other is outside the stage, interacting with the puppets and encouraging the children to participate in the conversation.  The “problem” is identified, there is some conversation, and the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads a story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Two brings back Rockie and pals.  There’s more conversation and lots of silliness, such as a chase scene, a puppet that appears and disappears, bubbles or a water pistol, and a movement song that everyone joins in on.  Then the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads another story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Three always offers either a resolution to the concern, or at least a conversation with Rockie (or whoever is experiencing the issue) and a promise to find a solution, based on the possibilities identified during the puppet show. For instance, in our show about getting a pet Rockie imagines having a porcupine, a monkey and a snake, each of which causes laugh-out-loud mayhem and chaos.  He finally decides to get a book at the library to help him choose.

Each of the puppets has a distinct personality. Rockie is melodramatic, Zelda the Zebra is logical, Tembo the Elephant can be a bit grumpy. One of my favorites lately has been Dig the Squirrel, who is always digging, never paying attention, and just when he finally gets around to talking with the librarian he suddenly stops, looks out, yells, “Dog!,” and disappears. Kids think it’s hilarious, especially when a dog really does appear at the end and calls out, “Squirrel!”

SheilaRockie_smallThe best part about Rockie Tales is that whatever we’re doing, the kids really listen and take the lessons to heart, while laughing and participating with the puppets. One mother said, “I could never get my son to follow best manners at the table, but after Rockie Tales, he was telling us how to behave!” Plus we’re demonstrating to care givers that the library has book resources to help with many of life’s challenges.

One script is here for you to review, but feel free to contact me if you need more examples or information. I hope you’ll try your own version of Rockie Tales; it is guaranteed to be a great way to teach as well as have fun.

(Pictures courtesy guest blogger)


Our guest blogger today is Heather McNeil. Heather is the Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library in Bend, OR.  She is the author of Read, Rhyme and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers and Parents, as well as a professional storyteller and author of two collections of folklore.  You can contact her at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Guest Blogger, Programming Ideas, Storytime | Leave a comment

Participate in the Newbery Selection Process

Dear ALSC Members,

ALSC personal members are invited to participate in the 2015 Newbery Award selection process by submitting titles for consideration.

The Newbery Medal is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States during the preceding year.  Honor books may be named.

“Distinguished” is defined as:

o    marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement

o    marked by excellence in quality

o    marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence

o    individually distinct

For more information about the award, including a full list of criteria, terms and definitions, visit the ALSC Website.

Reflect on the 2014 books that you have read which clearly meet the Newbery Award Criteria and submit for the committee’s consideration with the following information:
1) author, 2) title, 3) publisher, 4) a brief explanation as to why you think the book meets the Newbery Award Criteria, and 5) your name.

Send your suggestions to Randall Enos, Chair at

Suggestions should be submitted as soon as possible but by December 31 at the latest.
Thank you for your support and participation.

Remember: Only books from the 2014 publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award.   Publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not nominate their own titles.

The award will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards Press Conference during the ALA Midwinter Conference to be held in Chicago, February 2, 2015.

The award will be presented at the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet during the ALA Annual Conference to be held in San Francisco, June 28, 2015.


Our guest blogger today is Randall Enos, Chair of the 2015 Newbery Selection committee.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media | Leave a comment

Happy Hanukkah!


Pinkwater, Daniel, and Jill Pinkwater. Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2014. Print.

Like many of Daniel Pinkwater’s books, his latest release features a large chicken. Yetta is a poultry farm escapee who lives in Brooklyn with a flock of runaway (flyaway?) parrots. (To learn more about Yetta’s  escape from the poultry farm, read the prequel, Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken.) One day the birds find a lost kitten. They don’t know how to take care of it, so they bring it to a human grandmother for help. The birds see that the grandmother is celebrating Hanukkah which they refer to as “the festival of lights, when the humans are in a good mood.” The grandmother is in such a good mood that she takes in the kitten and feeds latkes to the the birds.

Unlike most Hanukkah books, this story includes Spanish, as well as Yiddish and English words. The birds are bilingual–Yetta speaks Yiddish and English, and the parrots speak Spanish and English. The grandmother is also bilingual; she speaks Yiddish and English. The cat speaks only English, but with a Chicago accent. (The author confirmed this last fact via Twitter.)

This book may not teach you about the deeper meaning of Hanukkah, but it will make you smile, and it’s perfect for story time. I give it five latkes.


Our guest blogger today is Rebecca Scotka. Rebecca is the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at the East Lyme Public Library in Niantic, Connecticut.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

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Expand Your Collection with Bookapalooza!

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015 (image courtesy of ALSC)

Dream of expanding your collection with a huge shipment of books, videos, and audio books and recordings? Boy, have we got an offer for you!

ALSC and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Bookapalooza Program. This program offers select libraries a collection of materials to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families. The materials are primarily for children age birth through 14 and include newly published books, videos, audio books and recordings from children’s trade publishers.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Sunday, February 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Bookapalooza Web page.

Posted in Audio books, Blogger Dan Bostrom, Collection Development, Professional Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Home Library for Friends and Family

Do you often field gift book questions from patrons around the holiday season? I’ve had my share of parents ask me for the best new picture book of the year for their daughter or a grandparent who wants to gift their tween a book but has no clue where to start. If you have also had these experiences, check out ALSC’s updated booklists! These are a great resource to help parents, grandparents and caregivers of all sorts purchase great books for the children in their lives during the winter holiday season- or any time of year.

Image from

Image from

The ALA-Children’s Book Council (CBC) Joint Committee, with cooperation from ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee, have updated the four Building a Home Library booklists to provide advice to caregivers and others interested in constructing an excellent, star quality library for children at home. The committee looked to include less mainstream gems, wonderful multicultural books, beloved classics and new, notable titles.

The CBC Committee has included two printer-friendly versions of the bibliographies for four specific age groups. You will find suggested titles of exemplary content and quality for children from birth to age 3, children ages 4-7, children ages 8-11 and even for tween-aged children 12-14. The brochures are great for putting out at your desk for interested patrons. Does your library receive donation gifts for area shelters, churches or other organizations? You can place these brochures next to your donation bin for easy suggestions the busy patron can bring to their local bookseller when shopping.

Some of my favorite choices from the lists that would be perfect gifts are:

Carle, Eric. La oruga muy hambrienta/ The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Philomel/ Penguin, 2011.

This classic story from beloved author and illustrator Carle is indeed a great gift for babies birth to age 3.  This publication is particularly great because it will introduce both English and Spanish words to your little one.

Snicket, Lemony. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. The Dark. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket. Image from

The Dark by Lemony Snicket. Image from

Children ages 4-7 are sure to enjoy this wonderful picture book that gives a voice to the dark. This is an especially fun read-aloud with two readers and a perfect opportunity for caregivers to participate in their preschooler’s reading time!

Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Knopf/ Random House, 2012.

8-11 year olds of all reading levels will appreciate this heart-warming story of a 5th grade boy with facial abnormalities. It’s realistic tone and kind message make it a lovely holiday gift choice.

Telgemeier, Raina. Drama. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., 2012.

Encourage caregivers to snag this title if they have a reluctant tween reader to please. This graphic novel about middle-school drama club and making new friends will become a well-read book at home.

What books do you love to recommend for holiday gifts? If you have any favorites, please share them with us in the comments!

From everyone on the Public Awareness Committee, happy holidays!


Nicole Lee Martin is a  Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at

Posted in Blogger Public Awareness Committee, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Collection Development, Committees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Retro Tech: How “Old” Technology Helped with a “New” Problem

This fall at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central Library in Baltimore, MD, we welcomed a traveling exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s works. Maurice Sendak, The Memorial Exhibition: 50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons features exactly that, 50 of Sendak’s works spanning his career accompanied by 50 quotes from authors, academics, and celebrities about his art and books.

Our incredible Art Director, Jack Young, immediately got busy finding a way that we could help the exhibit be interactive. While we knew that the artwork was impressive on its own, we wanted to really make Sendak’s seminal book Where the Wild Things Are truly come alive. In Young’s artist’s eye, Max’s bedroom and ship took physical form.

A family explores Max's bedroom come to life. Photo owned by the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

A family explores Max’s bedroom come to life.

The result of all of this is an experience of Sendak’s art: seeing it in person, up close and experiencing it by physically stepping into the art of a beloved children’s book.

And here’s where we ran into what my dear colleague and friend would call a “high class problem”: we started drawing groups of students from schools all around the greater Baltimore area. Lots of them. Sometimes, one hundred kids would descend upon our library unannounced.

That’s when my awesome colleagues (Hi Wesley and Selma!) came up with an idea to do a video introduction to the exhibit. It was something we could show to a large group of students that would frame their visit, but wasn’t dependent on staff. It was more engaging than paper brochures. With the help of our technology guru, Ryan O’Grady, it became a quick reality.

Had we had limitless resources and time, we could have made an app! We could have done a badge-type scavenger hunt that would have connected to other library materials and resources! We could have let kids 3D print their own wild things to take home!

But we didn’t.

Frankly, we couldn’t.

Sometimes, even though we can dream it up, we just can’t do it. Librarians feel a lot of pressure to be sure that we’re keeping up with what’s cutting edge, providing experiences we know we want students to have with technology, and challenging ourselves as professionals to innovate.

And then sometimes, there are one hundred fourth graders staring you in the face and you realize that in this case, really, it’s about the art and bringing books alive for children and families. It’s about sharing an opportunity that might be once in a lifetime.

Opening the door inside of Max's bedroom reveals this fun surprise: Max himself!

Opening the door inside of Max’s bedroom reveals this fun surprise: Max himself!

Here’s my big aha: it’s okay not to make an app. And it’s okay to be okay with it.

So while we didn’t make use of any real 21st century technology, we did make use of what’s becoming a bit “retro” in the land of tech: video. Teachers have been thrilled by this simple introduction to the exhibit, and students sit up and pay attention.

My takeaway from this is to let the content, the intent, the purpose be your guide with technology. Choose what makes sense for your population and your mission. And while you shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to engage with and utilize what is new and cutting edge, don’t forget about those tech resources you have from days past that are still with us, still useful, and might just be the solution to your one hundred student problem.

— Jessica Brown
Children’s Services Coordinator
Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD

Posted in Blogger Children and Technology Committee | Leave a comment