Thursday, May 26, 2011

Theme of the Week:Caterpillar and Butterfly

That garden I talked about in my last post contains a lot of butterfly friendly plants. I work in a pretty urban neighborhood, but there are lots of gardens and it's not that far to parks, woods and the river. So we DO get butterflies and I do my best to encourage them.

Most springs I buy a jar of Painted Lady butterfly larvae and let the kids observe them turning into butterflies. When they hatch, I keep them at the library for a day or two so the kids can see them, then take them home so that my girls and I can release them. I wasn't able to manage that this month, but I hope to do so during June. And by then, a lot of the flowers outside will be in bloom!


I started this week's programs by reminding the kids and adults of how we'd read "Planting A Rainbow" last week, all about planting a flower garden. And then we read this book, also by Lois Ehlert, showing the caterpillar eggs on the plants, the caterpillars, the butterflies and then the butterflies heading for the flower garden. I made sure to point out the big Tiger Swallowtail butterfly--we get those around here quite a bit.

I don't buy Disney books, or TV books for my library for two reasons--one, they're substandard lit and two,we all own them in our homes.But not everyone owns something like Eric Carle's "Very Hungry Caterpillar"--and that's why it's just the sort of book that needs to be there to discover in the library. And  I've never been to a preschool or kindergarten that doesn't own this book!

They have it because it's loaded with good stuff. Colors. Days of the week. Fruits. Counting. How a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Above all, it's a story told simply but with perfectly chosen words. It's so good that all the kids who DO know it greet it with delight and are thrilled to read it again, chiming in on the "still hungry" lines.

Toy and moveable books last about 15 minutes in the library, but they can really be a fabulous addition to a story hour. This one is one of my favorites.

Lucy (who is a lot cuter than "Ladybug Girl" in HER ladybug dress)goes through her garden looking for her butterfly. Cut holes in the pages frame everything from a pink worm to a family of ladybugs. And when Lucy finally finds her butterfly, the book opens to a two page pop-up butterfly like the one on the cover, a butterfly that will "flap" as you slowly open and close the covers. Spectacular!

Songs And Games
My Tuesday group has been my smaller group lately, so they've gotten gypped out of some of the  movement activities I've done with the Wednesday crowd. This week I decided to even the score and brought out my scarf box. These are the juggling scarves I bought for use at my annual "Nutcracker" program--they're from Oriental Trading, are inexpensive and endlessly useful.

We used them to dance to Nancy Stewart's "Dancing Rainbow Colors" (and Nancy is a marvel--everything on her site is downloadable for your use!) and to Johnette Downing's incredibly catchy "Rhythm In the Scarves"--it's my favorite scarf song from her album full of scarf songs "The Second Line"

The Wednesday group didn't get the scarves, but they did get to play one of their favorite games--another Nancy Stewart gem called  "I'm Hopping Like A Bunny"Nancy uses a slide whistle for this song, and I happen to have a dandy one I bought years ago (believe it or not, from Lands End of all places), but if you can't scare one up a bell or other whistle would work just fine. The kids love this game and it's great to build listening skills--waiting for the whistle before falling down! And the challenge to me is to come up with a movement that works for any animal the kids can pick!
This is my favorite caterpillar rhyme:

Roly-Poly Caterpillar

Roly-poly caterpillar                             Roll your hands around
Crawling all around                               Crawl fingers up your arm Roly-poly caterpillar                            Roll your hands around
Curled up on the ground                       Curl hand up on your palm
Weave a little blanket                            Weave your fingers together
Cover up your head                              Cover head with woven fingers
Have yourself a little nap,                      Pretend to sleep
in your silky bed.

But then:
Roly-poly caterpillar                            Roll your hands around
Wake up by and by                             Stretch out your arms like wings
Now you have two lovely wings        Flap your wings!

Cause you're a BUTTERFLY!
This is my last "regular" story time until September.

My summer programs are going to be larger programs, done with lots of storytelling and very few books. Lots of fun, and a special challenge.

More on those, and on my special toddler program to come in the weeks ahead!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Theme Of the Week: In My Garden

I have trays of flower transplants sitting in the flowerbeds outside the Children's Room right now, waiting for the rainy weather to clear so that I can plant them. They're "my" flowerbeds and I care for them year round.

Every year the children who come to my programs plants sunflowers for my garden--they plant the seeds in small peat pots at the library. Then I take them home and put them on a seed warming pad under a plant light on my kitchen windowsill. Later this summer there will be sunflowers blooming outside the children's room, bearing tags with the kids names.

So this week's theme was gardens--in particular, flower gardens because I am going to do a vegetable themed program in June.

 I adore Loise Ehlert and I am very glad to have this book as a "Big Book". The bold art and bright colors have tons of appeal and you have first the details of how the plants grow and then the fun of admiring the flowers by each color of the rainbow.

I grew up on Pete Seeger and other folk singers, and I'm a gardener. So "Inch By Inch" is one of my favorite songs and I love to sing it at programs while showing the children this book. If I was doing a vegetable program this week, the huge radish/beet the little farmer produces would be a perfect lead in to the "Great Big Turnip" story, but as I said, I am saving that for June!

If you don't know this song, you can find it on recordings by Peter,Paul & Mary,
John Denver, Maria Muldaur and Raffi.  But Pete's version is my favorite, of course, especially since I can recall being in audiences like this one,singing it with him:

I had hoped to use this lovely book as part of the program. Miela Ford is the daughter of the late great Tana Hoban, queen of the photograph picture book, and Sally Noll's bold illustrations are just perfect for describing the sunflower life cycle to preschoolers. But alas, some patron with good taste had it out--the nerve of them :D   It's out of print so I just found a used copy to buy on Ebay and will keep it with my other "reading room" books.

Songs and Games

The wonderful thing about doing library programs like this for years is that no matter how long you do them, if you can always find something new in what you do. Several years ago, I found a game called "There's Something In My Garden" on the wonderful website Sur La Lune. You can find the original version here on the website's Story Time section.

The storyteller used a set of finger puppets to do this story. But I prefer larger puppets-especially since I often have large groups--and they have more kid appeal.
And using them with this game, I found that each puppet wanted to DO something. Things like my rabbit going from child to child, eating pretend carrots that they offered.

For my bumblebee puppet, it was the "Baby Bumblebee Song"
Do you know it? The tune is "Turkey In the Straw"
I'm bringing home a baby bumblebee, 

won't my mommy be so proud of me?
I'm carrying it very carefully.....OW!!!  It stung me!

 For my turtle puppet it was the Vachel Lindsay poem:
There was a little turtle.
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito.
He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow.
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito.
He caught the flea.
He caught the minnow.
But he didn't catch me.

On Wednesday the program was so crowded I couldn't do it in my story room! We moved all the furniture in the main part of the Children's Room and I did what I do best--I adapted.

I brought out the scarves and we danced to "Rainbow Colors" by Nancy Stewart, because it went well after "Planting A Rainbow".  And to "Rhythm of the Scarves" by Johnette Downing because it's so high energy and with this crowd I needed it.

And after I brought out my singing robin as the last animal in the "Something in My Garden Game", we danced to "The Red,Red Robin".
I long to choreograph a dance for ballet class to the Fred Penner version because I can feel the steps in the music every time I use it!
You can listen to that version HERE--it's from his "Happy Feet" album.

And then the sunflower seeds. Thank heavens several moms helped me to organize the crowd on Wednesday. It's easy for kids to drop the seeds into small paper cups or peat pots filled with seed starting mix--and the mix is so dry their hands don't even get dirty!

That's it for my programs this week. And now to get all those sunflower seeds started!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Theme of the Week: It's A ZOO In Here!

And so it was this morning, when I had too many people to fit into my teeny-tiny story room. What were they all doing in here on this beautiful May morning?

Luckily, we recently replaced the two large heavy tables I used to have in the children's room with 4 smaller, lighter square ones. They are easy to move and when they are moved, there is a large open area I use for summer programming.

So I did this program--one of my favorites--in a large open space. Luckily, the books I used today are both large, if not super big, and people were able to see them.  Besides, this is a typical example of one of my programs--lots of props and lots of action!


The animals at the zoo are all ready to go to sleep. All except the newly arrived Baby BeeBee bird that is--he has been sleeping all day, and his cries of "beebeebobbibeebee" keep everyone up all night. Happily  the lion comes up with a noisy solution that convinces the little bird that "Night time is really best for sleeping--especially for little birds!"

The large Steven Kellogg illustrations are perfect for a group read as are the various noises. The kids will love this--though your throat might not, that's why I keep that water bottle with me at story time!
BTW, this was one of my daughter's favorite books in preschool--one of the books I'd read to her in class each morning before I left for the day...

You really don't need the book to sing this classic Tom Paxton song with children. At "Mother Goose Time" for the toddlers, I sing this on a regular basis. But the pictures are fun to pore over anyway--big, bright and full of fun details. And there's lots of action whether the kids are standing or sitting!

Sadly, the Tom Paxton album of the same title is out of print. But thanks to the wonders of MP3 downloads, his version is available again. There are also plenty of covers of this song by other terrific children's musicians, including "Peter, Paul &Mary",  Raffi, & "Sharon,Lois & Bram".

I don't buy lift the flap/pop up/fold out/gimmick books in general for the library, because the first kid that handles them tears them--they're just too fragile for circulating use. But a lot of them are fun for use at story time.

If I have a small group of older kids, I can go round in turn and let them open the flaps on this book. But usually I have younger kids and a LOT of them.So instead of using the book, I use puppets in a big bin to tell this story.

I am lucky enough to have all the needed puppets--even a camel--but if you didn't you could always change the animals to ones that you do own, or make paper bag or stick puppets. The Internet is great for patterns these days!

The kids really love seeing the different animal come out of the bin--and they especially liked the "jumpy" frog, who did just that--jumping from kid to kid and landing on their heads. And that "naughty" monkey, who decided to crawl under my shirt...........

I have also used Eric Carle's "Polar Bear, Polar Bear"--it's available as a big book. 
And I got this one last year and really liked it. 
Excellent for toddlers and preschoolers, but too small for a big group....


"Going to the Zoo" is an action song in itself. With or without the book, there's tons of movement opportunity here.

The Boa Constrictor Song"   Written by Shel Silverstein in 1962, by the early 70s this was a kids play chant I learned in camp or school. I use this as a "tickle" song with my toddlers, ending in a huge, swooping hug, and with the older children, it's a stand up and touch your toes, your knees, etc. You can find Shel's wonderful croaky recording of this as an MP3--it was published in "Where the Sidewalk Ends", and there's a great version of it as well on "Peter,Paul and Mommy". Bet Shel knew them back in Greenwich Village days....

Long ago, I had a 2 year old SC on my lap and we were poring over this beautiful collection of nursery rhymes, lullabies and more when we came upon a rhyme called "The Zoo In the Park". Sung to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" it begins:

Here we go to the zoo in the park, the zoo in the park, the zoo in the park.
Here we go to the zoo in the park, so early in the morning!

There are verses about "how the elephant walks", "the monkey jumps", etc. SC and I started playing it as a lap game, and I still play it that way with the Mother Goose set.  But with the older kids, it became a running, jumping, crawling, slithering, whatever-animal-they-come-up-with-I-find-a-movement  sort of game and they love it! Great if you've got lots of space, but workable even in a small area.

That's all for this week. Coming next week? Gardens, I think!
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