Coding Concepts for Preschoolers

In my library, we’re a little obsessed with coding.  We’ve been working on a project to introduce computational thinking and free coding resources to kids called Coder Time. For over a year, we’ve been searching for ways to teach our audience some complex ideas by experimenting with apps, activities, and lesson plans to create library programs (you can learn more about it here). While these programs were always for our older kids and tweens, we’ve been amazed at our youngest participants’ enthusiasm to jump right in. As we work with this age group, we keep finding overlap between coder concepts and early literacy skills.  For example, play teaches symbolic thinking, a skill important for both reading and coding.  Narrative skills help children understand story structure, but also strengthen computational thinking.  I’ve recently started incorporating coding concepts into my preschool storytimes.  After some trial and error and a mobbed flannel board, here’s what I have in the works:

Coder Values: Collaboration, perseverance, imagination, it’s all about attitude!  My favorite book for this is Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems.  Partner with your parachute and kids can work as a team to make Gerald, or your elephant puppet, soar.

Algorithms: An algorithm is the set of instructions you follow to complete a task.  Understanding this is the first step in writing a program.  I’m using Lois Ehlert’s Growing Vegetable Soup to introduce the seed planting activity found in Course One of Code Studio. I also adapted their “Happy Maps” activity for use with a magnetic whiteboard. In a very simple maze of boxes, we help Bingo find his bone.  Apps like Kodable and Lightbot Jr. are too advanced for my preschool audience, so this lets me control the level of difficulty, and give the kids a more tactile experience.

Conditionals: Conditionals are pieces of code that only run when certain conditions are met.  They are the If/Then parts of coding.  A good introduction is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff.  In looking for other ways to teach this, I found Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby’s paper dolls. This inspired me adapt our “Teddy Wears a Red Shirt” flannel board. Teddy’s wardrobe has grown to include pajamas, yellow boots and a bathing suit.  If it’s raining, Teddy wears his rain boots all day long.

coding concepts preschoolers

Photo taken by the author of this blog post.

Throughout this process, our approach has always been to give families a taste of the possibilities that are out there, and help them discover that coding can be fun and accessible regardless of your background. As a result, a lot of these are variations on program staples.  If you have ideas for other ways of integrating coding into programming for preschoolers, please share!

Brooke Sheets is Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. 

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An Unusual School Visit

An Unusual School Visitinstitution-icon

We’re accustomed to classroom visits … there’s Read Across America Day, Library Card Sign-up Month, Summer Reading Club outreach, and any other number of reasons why public librarians visit classrooms.  Last month, a colleague and I enoyed another type of classroom visit.  We were virtual guest lecturers for a university class in Children’s Literature.  The class was not for librarians, but rather, for aspiring teachers.  We spent two weeks with the students during their planned chapters on censorship and graphic texts.  We introduced discussion articles and scenarios, and participated in the discussion boards by posting topics and responding to students’ questions.

training-icon (1)

I firmly believe that librarians and teachers should be close partners in serving their constituent children.  I am fortunate that my library is located in a school district that is wonderfully cooperative, and where I have met and worked with many caring teachers.  Still, I have often ranted about things that annoy me  – particularly minimum page requirements and a frequent admonishment that picture books (and by extension, graphic novels) are “not allowed.”

This partnership with our local university, gave me the opportunity to speak directly with the future generation of school teachers.  We spoke of the importance of knowing one’s collection and being prepared to defend it; the value and appeal of graphic texts; the collection development resources available from ALSC, ALA, and other organizations in making collection development decisions; and a myriad of other topics related to censorship and graphic texts.  It was refreshing to hear what is on the minds of future teachers and to offer to them a librarian’s perspective on the same.

Kudos to Constance Chismar, Ed.D. of the Georgian Court University English Department for asking us to participate and to Ocean County Library for allowing us to attend.  If you have a local university or college that offers undergrad degrees in education,  inquire if you might participate in something similar.  It was a valuable experience for me and my colleague, the university students, and the children who will someday benefit from the partnership!


Images from

Posted in Blogger Lisa Taylor, Bloggers, Children's Literature (all forms), Outreach, Partnerships, Professional Development, Slice of Life | Leave a comment

Halfway Mark: Favorite Books (So Far) for 2015

The calendar doesn’t lie; it’s nearly June, which means that summer reading programs are fast approaching. The looming of June also brings ALA Annual, during which awards committees will meet (many in secret, of course) to discuss their readings and thoughts (so far) for 2015.

Although the awards committee meetings are closed to non-members, you can attend meetings for Children’s Notable Books, Children’s Notable Recordings, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults committees. If you have time during your packed Annual schedule, I recommend attending at least one meeting. It gives you great insight into how committees choose and discuss titles. If you can’t attend meetings in person, look for the committees to publish their nominations lists sometime after Annual (YALSA’s committees for Best Fiction for Young Adults, Great Graphic Novels, Popular Paperbacks, and Quick Picks post their nominations lists here, and ALSC’s Notable Books committee usually publishes its first nominations lists here after Annual). They are great collection development tools, especially when it gets closer to Youth Media Awards time! (I check the sites every several months for updates and right before Midwinter). Check the Scheduler section on the conference site for more details on where/when the open committee meetings are held.

If you’re not a committee member and can freely discuss your favorites for the 2015 publication year, please discuss in the comments below! Here are several titles that I personally hope have a shot at making the committee lists and Youth Media Awards. (Did you know that you can nominate books for the Notable Children’s Books and even many awards committees? Check the individual pages for the committees for further detail.)


(image taken from author’s website)

I’m a fan of historical fiction, but even I can admit that it can be heavy and sobering reading at times. If you’re in need of fun, fast-paced historical fiction with a great deal of heart (and mystery!), The Detective’s Assistant (based on the life of the first American female detective) should be in your collection.


(image taken from publisher website)

I try not to attach too much hope on any particular book for the Newbery or Caldecott; at the end of the day, my main wish is that we have the titles in our collection on the day the Youth Media Awards are announced. Occasionally I can’t help it, and I get too invested in one book being the big winner.  A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat is my #1 hopeful (at this point!) for the Caldecott, and I’m already way too invested in it winning, I’m afraid. This extraordinarily researched, written, and illustrated look at the evolution (social and technical) of food preparation through the creation of one dessert (blueberry fool) is one of a kind.



(image taken from author’s website)

I believe ALSC ran an online poll (last year?) in which it asked readers to vote for their favorite Youth Media Award. While many chose Newbery or Caldecott, quite a few (including me) chose “all of them!” I look forward to each and every announcement of the awards. While X: A Novel is probably more mature than the audience for the Newbery, I’m quite hopeful for its chances for the Coretta Scott King Medal and the Printz Medal. Co-written by Ilyasah Shabazz (Malcolm X’s third oldest daughter) and Kekla Magoon, this is a moving and eye-opening fictionalized look at the childhood and early adulthood of the civil rights leader.

What have been your favorite reads for 2015 (2015 books only, please)? Tell us about them in the comments!



Posted in Blogger Jennifer Schultz, Children's Literature (all forms) | 5 Comments

ALSC Member of the Month — Lisa Mulvenna

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Lisa Mulvenna.

1.  What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?

Lisa Mulvenna

Courtesy photo

I am the Head of Youth/YA Services at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. I have been in my current position since September 2013. Before that, I was a Youth Services Librarian at CMPL for 12 years. While I am in management now and don’t have as much to do with it as before, my specialty was early literacy and young children’s programming. Now I get to do fun things like helping to shape budgets and goals for our organization so we can do great things like early literacy or school outreach.

2.  Why did you join ALSC? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?

I joined ALSC to connect with other children’s librarians and to grow in my profession. The networking opportunities are invaluable and I have pulled many ideas from colleagues. I am also a member of PLA.

3.  Do you enjoy summer weather?

Despite living in Michigan, which is definitely a four season state, I am a total summer lover! As soon as the weather starts warming up in the spring, I am outside in my flip flops and shorts or driving with my sunroof open. Plus, there is nothing as relaxing as a summer evening spent reading on the front porch!

4.  E-books or Print?

It’s a mix. When I am working with kids, especially those under the age of 5, I prefer print books. It is important to learn about print, practice turning the pages, and being able to cuddle up to a caregiver to share a story. Plus, the illustrations are awesome! As an adult, almost all of the books that I read for pleasure are e-books because I am a device junkie and they give me easy access to e-books. On the other hand, I still love to be able to browse my local Barnes and Noble for a couple of hours!

5.  Favorite part of being a Children’s Librarian?

I love being able to watch the kiddos grow up! I get to see them in my baby and toddler story times, then as they grow, they will be back for homework help and pleasure reading once they hit school.

6.  Favorite age of kids to work with?

It used to be just 2 year olds, but I have now added babies into the mix. Even though their ages are close, they are very different to program for. Both are a lot of fun!

7.  What movie would you rather watch in a theater than at home?

The whole Harry Potter series! While I have them all on DVD, I loved seeing them all on the big screen.

8.  When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was one of those kids where it changed often. At my kindergarten graduation, I wanted to be a nurse, but I have also wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a child therapist, and a music teacher. Luckily, I picked right!

9.  Tell us something that not many people know.

My family is in the 2001 Guinness World Records for largest family reunion. We had 3500 people at the Lake County Fairgrounds outside of Chicago. Since the Guinness World Records is a hot item at our library, the kids are flabbergasted when I tell them that I am in there.

10.  What do you think libraries will look like fifty years from now?

I think that the ideas and basic missions will be the same, but the way that we do them will change. Books are not going away and literacy will always be important. After all, you need to be able to read to do just about everything else. I see us becoming more of a community organization. Staff will do more outreach to take their mission on the road. We will do more programming out in the community, rather than mostly in the library.


Thanks, Lisa! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature!

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to; we’ll see what we can do.

Posted in ALSC Member Profile, Blogger Mary R. Voors | 1 Comment

Super Animals!

Look! In the library! Is it a librarian? Is it a book? Faster than a reading turtle! Able to carry books taller than a giraffe’s neck! Wilder than a monkey checking out library materials! It’s SUPER ANIMALS!

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Imagine if all of your favorite Super Animals from picture books, chapter books and graphic novels arrived at the library to…Save the Day!  HeroBear and the Kid by Mike Kunkel, Ready Rabbit Gets Ready by Brenna Maloney, Extraordinary Warren, A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard, Superworm by Julia Donaldson, Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero by Charise Mericle Harper, Super Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, Superfab Saves the Day by Berengere Delaporte, Turbo the Hamster in Captain Awesome Takes a Dive by Stan Kirby, all of the Super-Pets in the DC Super-Pets series, and a brand new book, Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero! by Todd H. Doodler.  Picture it!  Now we are ready to create comics at the Super Animals! summer reading program at the library.

Read Superworm by Julia Donaldson (or one of your favorite super animal books.)

Create your own comic book:

  • Draw a Super Animal. Supplies for each table include colored 8 x 11 paper, white paper, pencils, markers, glue sticks, and scissors.
  • Draw Big! Draw one Super Animal in action with your group of kids. (If you have more time, have everyone draw one BIG Super Animal and display them around the room. Supplies: colored pencils and butcher paper.
  • Talk about your Super Animal.
  • Describe your super animal. A Super Frog? A Super Flamingo?

    Super Flamingo! by JC and P.  Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

    Super Flamingo! by JC and P. Photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

  • What is their super power? Check out the Big Book of Superheroes by Bart King for super ideas.

    photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

    photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

  • Share a story idea.
    One story idea:  The children’s chapter books are disappearing from the library! They start to re-appear a month later in the outside reading garden in the shape of animals.  First, a HUGE penguin book sculpture appears, the following week, a HUGE zebra.  Every Saturday after Book Buzz, another new chapter book disappears.  Who is taking the books out of the library?   Is it Sneaky Snake?  Or Master Mouse?  And why are they making animal sculptures out of children’s chapter books?
  • Who will save the day?
  • Continue to share Super Animal powers around the room.
  • Create a comic with six frames and dialog bubbles so kids can tell their animal’s story: intro to your super animal, where? what? how? and an ending.  (You can always add more.)
  • ZAP! Act out your Super Animal comic book.  (If you have time.)

    photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

    photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Explore more Summer Reading programs at Deschutes Public Library.

Check out some of the other SUPER animal summer reading programs:
Wildlife Superheroes at NYPL
Be a Hero, Save a Butterfly at Arnolds Park Library
Great Stuffed Animal Superhero Sleepover & Storytime at Belvedere Tiburon Library
Animal Superhero Show at Mason Public Library

Comic Book Websites:

The fabulous Dana Horrocks and Lindsey Krabbenhoft share four Superhero and Hero songs to get us ready for Summer Reading at the library! Thank you, Dana and Lindsey. 

Are you ready for Every Hero Has a Story at your library? My library cape is on…SHAZAM! 

Happy Summer Reading!

Super Animals! by JC and PF photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery and the ComicBook! app.

Super Animals! by JC and PF photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery and the ComicBook! app.

Please share your comic book and super animal ideas or photos in the comments below.

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.

Posted in Blogger Paige Bentley-Flannery | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Hot Dogs, get your Hot Dogs

Galactic Hot Dogs, that is! Cosmoe’s Weiner Getaway is the first book in a three part series written by Max Brallier and published by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

The book has taken off on, a popular gaming website for children that has been a launch pad for some of the biggest blockbuster hits in children’s book publishing. Jeff Kinney’s ever popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid got its start there as a free book in 2004 and now has over 150 million copies in print.

Other titles such as Rachel Renee Russell’s Dork Diaries series, Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate and Brandon Mull’s best-selling fantasy series The Beyonders all of gaining wider audiences due to their popularity on Funbrain and its sister site Poptropica.

Galactic Hot Dogs seems to be destined for the same success. More than six million children have read the book on Funbrain since its debut in the fall of 2013 when individual chapters were posted. What sets this apart is that more than a million children have played the story-based Galactic Hot Dogs game that went live on Poptropica two months ago. Like many books that are popular on the site, it appeals to 8- to 12-year-olds who appreciate its kooky hero, Cosmoe, and its humorous, comic-strip-style illustrations.

Recently, multiplatform books with online gaming components have become essential tools in the children’s book publishing industry. They are clearly seeking to reach young readers who are migrating to digital and mobile reading. Sixty-seven percent of children between the ages of 2 and 13 read e-books, according to a report released in January by Digital Book World and PlayCollective, up from 54 percent in 2012.

While many fear that sites such as Poptropica and Funbrain might detract from reading time, authors and publishers clearly seem to think differently. Some publishers have found that interactive games can increase print sales rather than erode them. Scholastic’s multiplatform game and book series, 39 Clues, which started in 2008, has more than 17 million copies in print.

Clearly there is core audience for this new books to gaming crossover market and they are buying the print books. I think this is definitely the next “big” thing in the children’s digital world.

Allison Santos

ALSC Digital Task Force

Director, Princeton Children’s Book Festival

Princeton Public Library, NJGalactic Hot Dogs

Posted in Blogger Digital Content Task Force, Books, Children & Technology, Children's Literature (all forms), Digital World, eReaders/eBooks, Gaming | 1 Comment

Next ALSC Community Forum, Tues., June 2nd

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper

Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper

ALSC members are invited to the next ALSC Community Forum! The ALSC Board of Directors and ALSC President Ellen Riordan will be hosting an ALSC Community Forum live chat on the topic of media mentorship.

ALSC’s next forum will be held on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at 2pm Eastern/1pm Central and will also serve as a virtual release party for the new Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth white paper. Members are invited to logon to learn more about the paper, discuss its implications on the field, and share experiences as media mentors in their own communities.

Accessing the Forum

ALSC Community Forums take place on Adobe Connect. A few days prior to the event, ALSC members will receive an email with a URL link to the forum. You can also find a direct link to the forum from the Community Forum site. Questions? Contact ALSC Membership and Marketing Manager, Dan Bostrom, by phone, 800-545-2433 ext 2164.

Posted in Blogger Dan Bostrom, Community Forum, Digital World | Tagged , | Leave a comment

More Coding for Kids: HTML

Our Coding Club at the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) has been jam packed with kids in grades 3-6 ever since its inception last year. We have used Scratch, Code Academy, and all the others you have heard of, but I sensed the kids were getting a little bored of the programs they’ve been used to using. After hosting an amazing Intro to HTML session taught by a member of the Central NY chapter of Girls in Tech at the library for high school students and adults, I decided these kids were more than capable of learning basic HTML.

I used a basic PowerPoint shared by Dee Cater who gave the HTML course for adults and teens, and used the free tutorial on the Girl Develop IT website to introduce kids to the history of HTML, its significance and how the web actually works. We wrote our code using Mozilla Thimble which is a free website that allows you to write code and see the results side by side. It is a great way to visually show how building a website works. Thimble also does a great job highlighting where your errors are. If you right bad code a red exclamation point will appear with a suggestion on how to fix it.

Basic HTML is extremely easy to learn and with a plethora of free resources on the Internet you can learn enough and feel confident about it to teach young kids how to make their own basic websites. The excitement is there from the kids, the moment you mention they can make their own website from scratch. They will jump for joy asking if they can really make a fan page for “Five Nights at Freddy’s” or whatever else they are into at that moment and you can tell them, “Yes, you can”!

So far we have learned how the web works, how to create a heading, paragraph, line breaks, formatted text, images, lists and links. I created a fake webpage that the kids will have to recreate before going on to make their own webpage. This is to make sure they understand the basics and it is good practice. Depending on how well this goes we will teach them basic CSS in our next series.


The outcome of this program is so valuable. We now have 16 kids in grades 3-6 who understand and know the fundamentals of creating websites. They have been so engaged throughout this series that they have been working on their code at home with their families. This is a 21st century skill that will benefit these students as they continue to learn. All of them now are viewing source code on all of their favorite websites and learning to create instead of consume, which is always a goal of ours at the FFL.

Remember, you do not have to be an expert at web design or code to teach a basic HTML class. Take a couple hours and refresh or teach yourself the basics and in no time you will be able to teach HTML to students and the outcome will be well worth it!


Meredith Levine is the Director of Family Engagement at the Fayetteville Free Library. Meredith is a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Find out more at or email Meredith at

Posted in Blogger - School-Age Programs and Service Committee, Children & Technology, Programming Ideas, STEM/STEAM, Technology | Leave a comment