Unconventional Preparations for Storytime

Okay, fellow storytime librarians — you all know the lengthy preparations we take to ensure that our patrons attend the very best storytimes we can offer them. We choose books, songs, rhymes, and fingerplays. We make flannelboards and props. We create handouts and take-home information packets. We practice those literacy tips in the mirror until they sound natural and just roll off of our tongues.

Those are the expected practices.

But it’s time to talk about the unexpected preparations. The things you find yourself doing in the weeks, days, or minutes before your patrons get your undivided attention in your programming space. The untold stories of storytime prep.

The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials! [Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials!

[Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

Like planning your storytime wardrobe the night before and singing your opening song in front of the mirror so you can make sure that your clothes will move in an appropriate manner.

Or keeping a new storytime CD in your car and switching to it the minute a commercial break hits the radio waves. And letting your fellow travelers watch your awesome hand motions while stopped at a train crossing or a red light.

And packing an extra sweater to change into once “the storytime sweat” hits you. Which is always around thirty minutes after your performance is over and you’ve finished your clean-up routine.

Or running to Michael’s and being the first customer in line because you read an amazing last-minute idea the night before and you just KNOW it’s going to make your storytime ever better.

And giving up your front passenger seat for storytime outreach. And the immediate apology to guests in your car, “Hang on, let me move all my things. Sorry about the portable flannelboard.”

Or testing out new action songs for your sister’s dog. If he wags his tail and tries to jump in, surely it will work for the toddlers, right?

So, let it out! This past week, I demonstrated my storytime outfit dance for my storytime moms and not only did it make them laugh, I also think it made them realize the care and thought that I put into storytime. It made the program all the more special.

What are your unconventional storytime preparations? Do you also schedule a bathroom break ten minutes before you get started? Let me know in the comments!

- Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

Posted in Blogger Katie Salo, Storytime | 18 Comments

Series Collecting: How do you know?

Unless your library exists in the digital world rather than the physical one, everyone has experienced the limitations of shelf space at one point or another. With 3,000+ titles published each year for children, weeding is a way of life for the children’s librarian, lest our shelves begin to look like a particularly literary episode of hoarders! Older books and series that no longer have an audience have to make way for exciting new books and series that will become a whole new generation’s favorite books.

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures - and they're always checked out!

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures – and they’re always checked out!

So my query today, fellow collectors of books for children, is this: how do you decide to take the plunge on a new series? There are some obvious indicators, like a rave review for the first title or a first printing size that indicates the publisher believes the book has legs. I place some of my trust in the selectors at Baker & Taylor, and ask to see all titles in my carts which my warehouse (South) has purchased 400 or more copies of.

Beyond that, deciding to purchase a new series that has decent but not astounding reviews becomes a puzzle with many pieces – do we have kids that read this type of fiction? Do we have similar series already? Does that series have any distinguishing factors, either character or plot, that will make it stand out from the pack? I admit that we have become very wary of purchasing new fantasy series without stellar reviews, as their popularity (at least in our library) seems to be on a slow decline.

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Our most recent series decision was a long time coming. We didn’t purchase those pink-and-purple, absolutely adorable Cupcake Diaries for the first 6 months of their lives, for a few reasons. The series was publishing at a fast rate, which meant we would have to devote ever-increasing amount of shelf space to it each month. Additionally, our library already had several multi-book series about girls, cooking, and cupcakes. Demand for the series rose and we made the decision to weed a few of the older cupcake/cooking series to make room for Katie and her friends. Of course, the series circ’d like hotcakes and I was kicking myself for not snapping them up immediately!

How do you know when to purchase? How do you know when to let a series go?

Posted in Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Collection Development | 5 Comments

Nominate the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecturer!

The 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee seeks nominations for individuals of distinction to present the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture. The lecturer, who will be announced at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, may be an author, illustrator, publisher, critic, librarian, historian, or teacher of children’s literature, of any country, who shall prepare a paper that will make a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature. Additional Information about the lecture can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/arbuthnot.

Nominations should include the following:

  • Name of nominee
  • Professional title/occupation
  • Biographical sketch
  • Justification for consideration
  • Major publications

The committee recommends that the body of the nomination be 2-3 pages with a separate bibliography. Nominations should be submitted as an attached document to committee chair Julie Corsaro at juliealsc@gmail.com. The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Posted in Awards & Scholarships, Blogger Dan Rude, Publishing World | Leave a comment

The ALSC Board—active throughout the year

The ALSC Board of Directors conducts open meetings at Annual Conference and during the Midwinter Meeting, but the Board also attends to business between those occasions.

The members of the ALSC Board communicate with one another and conduct association business on the ALSC Board Electronic Discussion List, ALSCBOARD. I invite all interested individuals to stay current with ALSC issues and business proceedings by subscribing to ALSCBOAD at http://lists.ala.org/sympa/info/alscboard. Subscribers receive all posts to the list, (but cannot post messages themselves), including notices of online meetings which can be followed by members via ALA Connect.  The results of any actions taken by the Board in these online sessions are also posted the ALSCBOARD.

Archives of discussions on ALSCBOARD may be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/alsc20/alscdisclist/edlarchives.

Please join me and my fellow board members in examining the issues that shape our organization. And be sure to check out the other ALSC electronic discussion lists at http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/alsc20/alscdisclist.  There are online communities dedicated to storytelling, preschool services, legislative issues, Día and more.  Remember, the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!

Posted in ALSC Board, Blogger Starr LaTronica | Leave a comment

Mandatory Reporting

As librarians we know that April is ‘National Poetry Month’ but did you know that it’s ‘Stress Awareness Month’ or ‘National Donate Life Month’? With so many monthly designations it’s hard to keep up. We become saturated with “awareness” and can overlook educational opportunities that are important in our profession.

April is ‘National Child Abuse Prevention Month’, a time to be aware that we all play a part in the emotional and physical well-being of the children around us. As librarians many of us are considered employed in “positions of trust” and are subjected to background checks and periodic drug screenings. But as our relationships with our communities expand we should always be aware of our expanded responsibilities. Do you meet regularly with your law enforcement agencies? Do you have a clear process for incident reporting and follow up? Can you recognize the signs of abuse in children and families? Do your local health departments offer training in this area? Are you a mandated reporter? These are things that you should be asking yourself and your administration.

Mandatory reporting efforts began as early as the 1960’s when the U.S. Children’s Bureau sponsored a conference aimed at the growing concerns around the effects of child abuse. Between 1963 and 1967 every state and the District of Columbia passed a child abuse reporting law. But as awareness and conditions expanded so did policies and statutes and by 1987 almost every state included sexual assault as part of the abuse, as well as mental and emotional abuse as well as neglect. (1)

Mandatory Reporting is becoming a hot topic in light of recent high profile abuse cases. Here in the District of Columbia, where I am a librarian, city council legislation passed in 2012 requires any adult who knows – or has reason to believe – that a child age 16 or younger is being abused is required to report the incident to the police or the city’s Child and Family Services Agency. This is a change from mandatory reporters being strictly “positions of trust”. In the wake of the Penn State scandal, More than 100 bills on the process of reporting of child abuse or neglect were introduced in 30 states and the District, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with 18 states instituting a universal reporting law. (2)

Take time this month to be proactive, make yourself aware of the laws and statutes of your state. Below are some valuable resources that can help inform you and your staff, as well as spark conversation between your library and other service agencies.

Resources to consider:

The Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more. Make sure to click on their “state specific resource” link. They also produce valuable fact sheets and handouts.

Founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp® is a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect.

The Child Abuse Prevention Center is a national and international training, education, research and resource center dedicated to protecting children and building healthy families.

Family Resource Information, Education and Network Development Services (FRIENDS), the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP), provides training and technical assistance to Federally funded CBCAP Programs. This site serves as a resource to those programs and to the rest of the Child Abuse Prevention community.

Don’t forget to reach out to your local Health Department and Child Services Agencies, they will have the most recent and local information for your community.

(1) Hutchison, E. D. (1993). Mandatory reporting laws: child protective case finding gone awry?. Social Work, 38 56-63

(2) Craig, T. (2012, Nov 16). Council advances bill expanding rules for reporting child sex abuse. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1152062603?accountid=46320

Lesley Mason, ALA ALSC Committee Member, Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers and Children’s Librarian at DC Public Library

Posted in Blogger Library Service to Special Population Children and their Caregivers, Child Advocacy, Uncategorized, What I Wasn't Taught in Library School... | Leave a comment

Counting & Measuring: A Preschool Math & Science Program

I’ve been branching beyond straight preschool science programs lately to incorporate more of the overlap between all the STEM areas. My latest endeavor focused on counting and measuring–both math skills that are important in many science activities.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Doing simple tasks like counting and measuring in a storytime setting shows caregivers that they do not need to be scientists or mathematicians to be able to engage with their kids in science and math activities. We can all handle preschool-level activities in these areas, and our recent program illustrated that fact.

First, we read a story. I knew I wanted to use books with cooking in them to illustrate counting and measuring, and I ended up using one of my favorites, Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington. There are lots of interesting things going on in the illustrations, giving the children and me plenty of openings to include counting, color matching, and cooking vocabulary into our reading. If you want to replicate this program, you can use any sort of cooking story you prefer.


Photo by Amy Koester.

Next, we “told” the story of how pizzas are made. I created a felt set for making a pizza. It includes images of the common ingredients, like flour, tomatoes, and cheese. We told the story of our pizza from the bottom up. First we pretended to measure flour, salt, yeast, and oil to make our dough. We used our new cooking vocabulary as we talked about kneading, stretching, and tossing our dough to get to a pizza shape. We talked about and mimed making sauce, then grating the cheese. Finally, we talked about the types of toppings we wanted on our pizza, then counted them as we distributed them over the top. We ended up counting slices of green peppers, onions, and pepperoni.

We got hands-on with measuring by making no-cook play dough. Each child had a plastic cup and spoon, which they brought up to the measuring station. Our no-cook play dough recipe was very simple:

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c salt
  • 1/4 c water

I had plastic measuring cups on hand for the children to measure out their ingredients. Note that the recipe isn’t always super precise, so we added extra tablespoons of water or flour as the consistency of the play dough required.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

And then we counted and measured as we played with the play dough. I set out a number of random cutting and stamping tools for use with the play dough. Some of the children pretended to make their own pizzas; others created designs in their dough; and others cut their dough into lots of pieces and then counted the pieces. I purposely didn’t give specific instructions for playing with the dough aside from encouraging counting and talking about what kids were doing–I wanted the caregivers to see how math and vocabulary flow naturally in so much of the play that preschool-age children do. When kids were done with their dough, they put it in baggies to take home.

Everyone got to take something home to encourage more counting and measuring. I set out a number of our counting and measuring books–both fiction and nonfiction–and I also created a half-sheet handout that included ideas for counting and measuring together, as well as a recipe for making pizza at home. I heard lots of chatter about how families would be making pizza together over the weekend following our program. Our program definitely inspired at-home conversations and hands-on activities around counting and measuring!

Posted in Blogger Amy Koester, Programming Ideas, STEM/STEAM | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Spring Fever!

Image from freefoto.com

Image from freefoto.com

I don’t know about you all, but the kids in my library are feeling SPRING FEVER!  There are quite a few ways to capitalize on this and harness it rather than just stare at in wonder.

One of the first things I like to do it take the kids outside.  Even though our school is firmly planted in an urban environment, right outside of our front door is a collection of city benches where I can bring the kids for independent reading or for a story time.  There is quite a bit of noise out there so I try to make sure any read aloud is short and boisterous.

A less weather dependent way of adding some spring to the library, is simply reading some books that are spring themed or related in some way.  Some of my favorites are:

clementine2Clementine and the Spring Trip, by Sara Pennypacker





CuriousGardenThe Curious Garden, by Peter Brown






and then it’s spring, by Julie Fogliano






In for Winter, Out for Spring, by Arnold Adoff





What are some of your favorite books to read aloud to welcome Spring?


Posted in Blogger Stacy Dillon, Children's Literature (all forms), School Library Media Specialist, Slice of Life | 1 Comment

ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee welcomes suggestions

Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books for inclusion on the Notable Children’s Books list. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: “Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding.” Books intended for children, birth though age 14, that have been published in the United States in 2014 are eligible for consideration.

The ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee welcomes suggestions for books to be considered.  Please send your title suggestions to chair Edith Ching at ec.notables15@verizon.net

Posted in Blogger Mary R. Voors, Books, Children's Literature (all forms), Evaluation of Media | Tagged | Leave a comment