Blogger Abby Johnson

After School Adventures

Okay, I know all you public librarians out there are popping vitamins to ready yourselves for Summer Reading, but fall is going to be here before you know it. Last year my library started offering a program for early elementary students called After School Adventures. It’s still small at the moment, but we’re building it and it’s one of my favorite programs to do! Want to offer more after-school programs at your library? Here’s what we do:

Program: After School Adventures

Logistics: The program is open to kids in grades K-2nd. I offer the program in a 6-week session that runs concurrently with our preschool storytime sessions (six weeks in the spring, six weeks in the fall).  Parents sign up their kids to attend all six sessions (but of course we’re flexible – if there are other kids in the department that want to join us that week, they are welcome!).  Each program is approximately 45 minutes long and I offer it on Wednesdays after school.  I’m still trying to figure out what time slot will work best.  We offered it at 4:00 this spring and I think some families had trouble getting here in time, so next fall we’ll probably try it at 4:30.

Set-Up: I set up a space at the front of the room where the kids will sit and listen to stories. In this space, I scatter some age-appropriate “browsing books” for the kids to look at as they wander in before the program. I pick out books that relate to our theme that week and add some of my random favorites. In the back half of the room, I set up craft tables (with tablecloths) and chairs. I put out all the supplies we’ll need for the craft.  I always have some music playing as the kids come in to the room and start looking at browsing books. It’s nice to have music for the latter part of the program when we’re doing out craft, too.

Schedule: I shoot for a 45-minute program. Sometimes the kids are quiet and they breeze through the craft and we’re done in 30 minutes. Sometimes they get really into the craft and I have to cut the program off after an hour. That said, here’s approximately how it goes:

3:55 – I put on the music and let kids into the room. They find their nametags (which I have them make on the first day) and look at the browsing books while we wait for everyone to arrive.

4:00 – We get started. I ask them to move the browsing books to the side of the room (they’re always eager to help) and remind them that they can check out any of those books after our program. I talk to them a little bit about the day’s theme and we sing out opening song – “Sticky Bubblegum”.  Then we do the Memory Box.  This is a decoupaged box in which I place a small item that can be found in the pictures of one of the books I’m going to read.  We add a new item each week, so by the end of our six-week sessions they have six items to remember.  (Read more about the Memory Box.)

4:10 – I start with the stories. I generally pick out 3 or 4 books on some kind of related theme.  We may get to all of them, we may not.  Some of the books I choose books are a little longer or more complex than the books we’d read for preschoolers, but I’m not afraid to use some of my favorite storytime books for the older kids as well.

4:30 – When I’m finished with the books (or if I can see that I’m losing them and we need to move on to something else), it’s time to start our craft or activity.  I ask them to find a seat at our craft tables and explain how to make the craft.  Then I put on some music while we work.  Sometimes they breeze through a craft that I think will be hard.  Sometimes they have trouble with a craft that I think will be easy.  The key is flexibility.

If they finish the craft early, they are welcome to spend some more time looking at the browsing books (and hopefully choosing some to take home!).  If they want to spend some extra time finishing up their craft, I let them do that (at some point, I have to close the room up, so they can always take their craft home to finish it).

Here are a few of the themes that we’ve done in this program:

Fish/Under the Sea

Books read: I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre
Ugly Fish by Karen LaReau

Craft: Window aquariums.  I cut off sheets of waxed paper.  The kids use one to design an aquarium.  We use paper die-cut fish, yarn for seaweed, sequins, bits of cut up paper for aquarium gravel, and whatever else we have on hand. They might want to add a castle or a diver, etc.  When the kids have their aquarium the way they want it, tape a second sheet of waxed paper on top so that the fish and decorations are sandwiched between the two sheets.  There you have an aquarium that you can hang up in a window!


Books read: Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca, Adrian, and Ed Emberley
The Night of the Paper Bag Monsters by Helen Craig

Craft: Paper bag monster puppets.  This is one of my favorites because it is so easy and the kids get a chance to be creative.  I put out paper lunch bags, crayons, google eyes, scraps of paper, and any other odds and ends we have laying around and ask the kids to create a monster.


Books read: Micawber by John Lithgow
Art by Patrick McDonnell
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont

Activity: I rolled out and taped to the floor a long stretch of bulletin board paper, set out art supplies (crayons, markers, pastels) and we all worked together on creating a giant picture.  The kids could draw anything they wanted and when our time was up, I took up the picture and posted it on the large bulletin board we have in our Small Meeting Room.  Another idea (which I may try next fall) is that you could tape a long piece of paper to the wall and have the kids add to the picture with every session.  Not only is it a fun project for them (and neat to see how the picture will develop), but it’s eye-catching and may attract more people to sign up for your program!

And voila After School Adventures!  Anyone else offer after-school programming at your library?  What do you offer?

Books mentioned in this post:

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2005).
The Night of the Paper Bag Monsters by Helen Craig (Candlewick, 2003). – First published 1985.
There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca, Adrian, and Ed Emberley (Orchard Books, 2009).
Ugly Fish by Karen LaReau (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2006).
Micawber by John Lithgow (Aladdin, 2002).
Art by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2006).
Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre (Northword Press, 2004).
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Harper & Row, 1963).
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (Dial, 2007).
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2005).

– Abby Johnson
Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN


  1. Susan

    A few weeks ago I had an American Girl Spring Social focused on Molly, the WWII era girl. We looked at some artifacts from the era, read an excerpt from one of the books, deciphered a letter from Molly’s dad in Morse code, watched some scenes from the Molly movie, made a trinket box craft, and ate 1940s era candy like Tootsie Rolls. I’ve also done a Hannah Montana event where we played Hannah trivia, made a microphone craft, and sang karaoke to all the Hannah hits. The kids had a blast singing – I couldn’t get them to stop!

    I swear all my programs aren’t usually this girly.

  2. Cara

    Wow! What a wonderful idea to let the kids help create the bulletin board. I always feel that it is my job to do that job I bet the kids love it. Have fun!

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