ALA Annual 2014

Genuine Language in Youth Characters #alaac14

I attended an event this afternoon put on by Bloomsbury Children’s Books to celebrate their author Brian Conaghan’s book When Mr. Dog Bites. Conaghan spoke about his protagonist, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and the fact that his book resultantly includes bad language. Conaghan went on to talk about how his young readers express that they aren’t phased by bad language in books like his, namely because it’s not gratuitous–it’s part of the character and makes the character more genuine and fully fleshed out. As a librarian who has responded to caregivers’ concerns about language in books for youth, I think Conaghan’s point is incredibly important. For many people, the way they speak and the words they use are absolutely intertwined with who they are. And genuine characters–characters to whom young readers connect–may be all shades of different from the readers themselves, and the values of their caregivers. That doesn’t make a…

Blogger Amy Koester

Magnets and Magnetism: A Preschool Science Program

Our latest adventures in preschool science have proved rather attractive. (Get it? That’s magnet humor!) I’ve seen a number of my colleagues (Katie and Abby, for example) offer some great preschool science programs on the topic of magnets, and I figured it was high time I offered something on the topic, too. Here’s what I did: First, we shared a story that provided an introduction to the concept of magnets. I opted for Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, a whimsical story about a young boy whose kite becomes stuck in a tree. He tries throwing increasingly more ridiculous items up in the tree to try to dislodge the kite, but everything seems to get stuck. Quite an amusing story. Next, we retold the story of Stuck using magnet props, and we talked about how magnets stick together. Kids helped me stick the various objects onto our tree on the magnet board, and they experimented with things that…

Blogger Amy Koester

Take-Home Activity Handouts for Preschool Science Programs

Every other month when I post about a preschool science program, I mention the take-home activity handouts that I share with attendees and other library visitors. I get lots of requests from ALSC Blog readers to see what these handouts look like, so today I’m sharing a few. The purpose of these take-home activity handouts is to extend the science learning we do at the library into activities families do together at home. Children learn through experience, and my goal is to facilitate lots of fun, interactive experiences with a science topic to encourage concept learning. As a result, my typical handout includes a few activities and experiments, each with step-by-step instructions and a list of supplies (which I try to keep to common household items in order to make doing the activities easier). I’ll also include important vocabulary, with preschool-appropriate definitions from a children’s dictionary, that relates to our…

Blogger Amy Koester

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. 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…

Blogger Amy Koester

Tinker with Technology! #pla2014

Tinker is a group of librarians in the Chicagoland area who, after learning that they were all experimenting with open-ended tech play programs at their libraries, formed a network with meetups to share their experiences. Six Tinker members were at PLA to share some examples of their successful programs for tinkering with technology with kids and teens. All of these programs, in three categories, are available in detail on their handouts: Animation and Film Making Stop-motion animation Pencil animation 90 Second Newbery Robotics Artbots WeDo Mindstorms Art Meets Tech Light Painting

Blogger Amy Koester

My Makerbox Takeaway #pla2014

This morning I attended the Makerbox: No Space Required program. The panel of presenters put together an outstanding handout of what is in their various Makerboxes–on topics like music, electronics and circuitry, engineering, 3D creating, and crafting–and I hope they’ll share it online. The handout wasn’t my greatest takeaway, however. My greatest takeaway was inspired by the failed marshmallow tower my team of fellow volunteers built. The takeaway: time for open ended activities is integral for the maker mentality. There needs to be time for trial and error, for learning to use the materials, for adapting methods. With a few simple materials and a chunk of time, an engaging maker program is accessible for every library.

Blogger Amy Koester

Confronting Injustice with Bryan Stevenson #pla2014 Opening Session

Today’s opening session of the 2014 PLA Conference featured Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is a fascinating man on paper and the web, but hearing him speak about how public libraries can work to confront and correct injustice was truly inspiring. Stevenson shared four suggestions for how public libraries can make our services to the marginalized more effective: Think about proximity. Make sure the library and all it offers is accessible to those who need it most. Don’t just accept the narrative; change it. We all know the status quo because we’re living it, but the status quo can be changed. And that starts with changing the narrative about what’s realistic and what’s needed for services and access. Commit to being hopeful. That doesn’t mean being blindly optimistic; it means we need to be willing to go to places where hopelessness…

Blogger Amy Koester

Marshmallow Engineering: A School-Age STEAM Program

You may have come to expect a full science program from my monthly posts here on the ALSC Blog. Today I’m going to share something a bit different, because my overall goal is to share STEAM programs–and science is just one facet of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). I want to focus today on a recent school-age STEAM program we did at my library: Marshmallow Towers. It combined engineering and the creative aspects of arts and crafts. Here’s what we did: The Opener: Talking about building. What sorts of things do architects and construction workers have to take into account when they think about building? We talked about design and knowing the materials you’re working with. I also made available lots of the library’s non-fiction titles that give a sneak peak into buildings and construction. Heavily illustrated books like those from David Macaulay and DK Eyewitness were attendees’ favorites,…