Monday, December 31, 2012

"Chatty" Patrons Welcome Here

I am going to end this year with a rant because I saw someone I like retweet a tweet to the tune of dealing with "chatty" patrons by asking them "Can I help you with something LIBRARY related?"

Now perhaps said patron is holding up a 10 deep circulation line, or a reference desk with 25 people waiting eagerly to have their question answered. But somehow, I doubt it.

Yes, perhaps you have other work to do. Perhaps you really need to go to lunch, or relieve someone on another desk. Perhaps you're burned out after 2 story hours in a row, or you need to make 15 more cunning flannel boards that are totally unnecessary because they're of great picture books, or you need to cut out 50 craft items that the kids can stick on paper to make 50 identical, boring, uncreative crafts.

I get that there are times when you don't want to talk to anyone. Hell, in my first years in this profession I was happy to go home and have no one to talk to but my cat, and there are times that I still feel that way.

But here's my news for you, girlie:



Most of what you can get in a library, you can get WITHOUT the library.

You can get book information from our catalog. You can get your book reviews or suggestions from Amazon or Good Reads or a hundred other places. You can look up your reference questions on a computer.

People want more than that when they come to a library. They want HUMAN contact.

I have spent 25 plus years working in libraries and a lot of that time has been spent talking to people, from little old ladies who just needed to chat to moms who need some thoughts on parenting along with their toilet training books, to teens who like having an adult who talks to them like a grown up, to small children who want to be silly. 

I've chatted with our crazy and or homeless patrons who just want someone to speak to them and acknowledge them like people.
Frequently it has nothing to do with books, or reference questions or anything else "library related: And none of it has been a waste of my time. I've built friendships. I've built trust. I've learned from every conversation I've had. When you talk to that "chatty" patron you are building  a relationship that will bring that patron back into your library. Isn't that the point?

In this day when the NY Times actually has had discussions of whether we need libraries, when e-readers and Amazon make it easy for people to get their books without us, we need more than ever to make our patrons feel that this is place where people WANT to talk to them.

And if you don't get that, please go work in a frickin' research library, or work on-line, or somewhere where you don't have to deal with "chatty" people.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can't We Just Tell The Story? A Rant About the "Five Practices"

Many years ago I had a parent who I think was home schooling and never missed a minute for learning.
One day she and one of her sons were sitting at a table reading a book while I was working in my "office"--a plexiglass partitioned off area right nearby. 

I heard her talking to him about the story, which apparently featured glass. "Oh, Benjamin, do you remember what glass is made of?"

And I heard Ben reply: "Mom, can't we just read the book?"

I couldn't laugh, but inside I was cheering, because Ben got what reading with a parent should be about. He didn't want to be educated every second of the day. He just wanted to enjoy his time with his mother, and enjoy the story.

I ranted this past spring about Saroj Ghoting's courseon "Early Childhood Literacy" and how stultifying I found it. But I am bringing it up again now because of the wonderful Melissa Depper's blogpost today about fingerplays helping to develop early motor skills.

Now, as I just said, Melissa is wonderful, and I respect the incredible work she and the rest of the Colorado Early Childhood people do, and wish we had something similar here. And it was a well researched piece. And yes, kids do need to work on those motor skills.

But does it have to be underlined so carefully? Does every moment in story times at libraries have to have some correlation with the "Five Skills" or whatever the hell they're calling it this week?

Do we have some sort of inferiority complex because we are librarians, not teachers?

We ARE both early childhood educators. But so are parents and caregivers. And parents and caregivers are the bulk of the adults most public librarians serve.

Is the message we want to send them the need to look for teachable moments in every second of the day?
Do we want them to think of reading and singing and playing and talking and writing as educational tools and nothing more?

Where are the deeper things that reading, singing and the rest can bring to the relationship of an adult and a child? The love, the closeness, and humor, the sharing that go with those interactions over a book or a song or a fingerplay?

Where is the frickin' JOY in it?

My job as a librarian is to teach all right. It's to teach parents that they can go home and read and sing and play and talk with their children and find joy in it--joy that will make them want to do those things day in and day out, every day.

Tell the story. Read the book. Sing the song. Do the fingerplay.

Have fun with it. Share your joy in it with a child.

When Saroj Ghoting and the rest have stopped peddling their stuff, when ALA has moved on to new and more fashionable theories the stories and the songs and the fun will still be there.

I hope librarians will find their way back to the fun.
Because everything else stems from that and that alone......

Friday, November 30, 2012

Flannel Friday: Countdown December!

You could call this a "Flannel Friday" because there IS some felt used on the calendar. And I am betting there is some incredibly crafty person out there who will see this and perhaps be inspired to make a masterwork of this for 2013.

But you don't have to be terribly crafty to make the countdown calendar we've been using at the library for years. In fact, between Google Images and the like, you could easily whip one of these up in short order.

This started about <gulp> fifteen years ago when I worked at another branch library where we had a large bulletin board. Our talented teenage page created a "countdown" calendar using his own artwork. Each picture was hidden beneath a sheet of construction paper with the number made with our Ellison stencil machine. It was simple and colorful and fun.

Here at my current library we have a huge display wall and I realized that though I can't draw, I could make great graphics with the old Print Shop program. It even has wonderful number graphics. For some years I laboriously attached pictures and date covers to the wall--and it was a pain because the wall has molding that leaves big open spaces--attractive but not helpful for bulletin board projects.
Since then my very talented husband built a HUGE bulletin board, complete with a hand stained molding frame for that wall. It's great.

So my assistant at that time and I got the idea to get a big sheet of fabric and make a basic calendar backing.
It's just muslin, but Sally added felt decorations along the edges and marked the weeks and days off with wired ribbon. At each top corner, she put a felt loop and made additional loops of the ribbon along the top edge.

She ended up not even sewing the loops, but simply pinning them, and I think they've lasted better that way!

Now all I do is take the pictures and put the number page on top of each picture, then simply pin them in the right spaces. The pins are the pearl headed sort, easy to see and handle. As I remove each date, I use the pin to resecure the picture. Easy-peasy.

I would like to send one of my notoriously good cheesecakes to whoever invented Contact adhesive hooks. These are the best thing on earth for holding hanging objects on walls. We have 6 of the biggest hooks on the wall above the board. All I have to do is slip a curtain rod through the loops at the top of the calendar sheet, hang it up and I'm done!

The finished board. And if you'd like to see some of the pictures, the slideshow follows. Happy Holidays!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Novem-Bear Again

I love having themes because they help me pull things together quickly. It's become especially helpful in the past few years, since I've become a one woman children's department!

Novem-Bear has always been one of my favorite themes and I blogged about it last year. But just because it's the same theme doesn't mean it's the same materials.  I do have favorites, but I'd go out of my tree (well more so than usual)if I did the same things year after year. And there is so much bear stuff!

Goldilocks.  Teddy bear stories. "Jesse Bear" and "Jamberry" and more!
But this year, I pretty much stuck to "real" bear stories:


 In Denise Fleming's Time To Sleep all the animals are getting ready to hibernate. I knew that bears hibernate, but I didn't know that snails did! Or ladybugs. I really need to look it up--good thing I've got all those books in the non-fiction!

I love "Bear Snores On" best of the Karma Wilson series, but this one is great for the fall and Thanksgiving. Bear's friends all come to share foods with him and Bear gets sad because his cupboard is "bare". But his friends tell him that's okay, because he has something else to share: stories!
We talked briefly at the 2 & up programs about "bear" vs. "bare", but when I had preschool classes I emphasized it a bit more. I don't tend to do too much with the "literacy messages" because my goal is to get parents to read and share books with their kids, but once in a while when it's relevant, I like to comment without driving the message home with a sledgehammer!

Movement/Games and Songs

  I was doing the "Bear Hunt" game long before Michael Rosen's book, so I just suggest the book as a follow up to the game we play! I love adding bits to this game--this year after we swam a river we all made a "fire" (I lit the match, of course!) and toasted marshmallows. And when we went through a swamp and I complained about the mosquitoes, one of the kids immediately said "I have bug spray!"  That's why these games never get boring--they're never the same twice!

The Wiggles LOVE kids--3 of the 4 originals were all training to be preschool teachers and it showed in the way they performed. I went to see them live in concert with my girls when they were little and we all had a blast--you could tell how much the Wiggles loved what they do, just as I do. This clip of them singing "Rock A Bye Your Bear" will show you what I mean-- even the kids who don't know the Wiggles love this song.

  And last, but not least, I love "The Bear Went Over the Mountain". It's a great song to use as a
game with the little ones, marching your hand/bear up and down their arms, and bigger kids can just sing it:
Oh, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain,
the bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see! 

And what do you think he saw? What do you think he saw?
The other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain,  the other side of the mountain,
was all that he could see!

So the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain,
 the bear went over the mountain, so very happily!

But he's not happy, because now he's far away from home! 
So repeat both verses so he can see his home and get back to his house "so ve-ry hap-pi-ly!"

And now for a two week break to clean up my storeroom and office, celebrate Thanksgiving with my family
and get ready for December, which  brings "The Nutcracker!"

Friday, November 9, 2012

Turkey Hat--Thrice As Nice Or:Another Plea For Creativity

Yesterday I wrote a post about this week's Novem-Bear program, which has different, cool stuff that I didn't use at last year's Novem-bear program and in it I commented that no matter how often I play "Going On A Bear Hunt", or tell "Sody Salleratus", it is always different. Something new always comes out of it each time.

Storytelling, game playing are journeys of the imagination. There's always something fresh and new if you look for it.

I will post that story time later next week because it was a blast and because I'm going to be doing it yet again for the only programs I'm doing next week--two sessions for my favorite local preschool. But instead, today, I want to talk about the craft I did yesterday, because it's really related.

I have been even less organized than usual at work--between several days off for Hurricane Sandy and my angst about the election I really didn't plan well for my craft for my afternoon, age 3 and up program. And when I started to assemble what I needed for a "triangle turkey" I discovered I was missing the one and only pattern piece I needed, the turkey head. So I went on the web and decided I'd done something like this craft, which I found in Parents Magazine's website.

You can click on the photo and get full directions, but I just grabbed some paper plates and the magic markers. I usually would have made templates for circles so the kids could practice tracing with a marker and  cutting with a scissors--a skill they really need to learn at this age. But time was short so I traced 4 circles of the right size on  a sheet of paper, stuck some plain white construction paper in my copy machine, and cut them myself.

They got the paper plate halves, the circles for the turkey heads and some markers. I grabbed a couple of packages of colored feathers from my craft stuff and let them pick two each.

No pattern. No instructions. Just "make a turkey hat". And here is what 3 of my friends did:

No, you really are seeing triple here--these three young ladies are triplets and I've known them since they were toddlers. They are almost 5 now, but I still never remember who is who because they look so alike and often dress in the same outfits.

But they are 3 individuals. And it shows in their hats:

This is the most conventional.  Face in the middle, feathers left and right.

No face whatever--she just drew patterns.

And last but not least--she saw the turkey from a side view.Head on left at "front", feathers on right in "back". 

 Three sisters who look identical. But each THOUGHT about her craft in her own way and did her own thing.

The next time you're busy assembling perfect little patterns for perfect little crafts, please stop and think about what you want your kids to get out of these crafts. Is it to make a copy of what you do, or is it to learn new skills. Is it to THINK about what they're doing?

And then,please! Chuck away the patterns and the "models" and the rest and let them spend the time away from the goddamned IPads and computers having creative, thoughtful fun!

The results will amaze you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"On Halloween Night" OR:Parents Don't Use Puppets or Flannel Boards or....

I could make cute little finger puppets or flannel boards for every rhyme that I do with the kids--but I don't.

When I'm working with a group of children I am performing in a way that I never did at home with my girls. I "razzle dazzle" them, as the saying goes because the dynamics of working with a group are totally different from that one-on-one with your own child.

But the thing is, my goal is not just to entertain that group--though I certainly hope that I do--but to educate their parents and caregivers as to what THEY can do when they're not at story time.

When I have a great time with a group but see them go out of the library without books, I don't feel that successful.

But when I have a parent  or caregiver ask me for the words or tune to a song we've been singing, or report that their child "sings that all the time!" I beam with pleasure.

When I have a parent or caregiver specially request we do a song--last week it was "Zoom,Zoom, Zoom" another time recently, it was "Going to the Zoo", I know that I've made a connection.

So a lot of the time I DON'T use flannels or stick puppets or mitt puppets or any other such.
Because I want to show parents and caregivers that all you need to entertain a child is your hands and your voice and a sense of fun!

I could make a flannel board for this poem by Nancy Carlstrom, but why should I?
It's perfect to act out, just the way it is:

On Halloween Night

Stretch your arms in front of you and "pit-pat" your paws!
This is the way the cat walks, the cat walks, the cat walks,
this is the way the cat walks on Halloween night!
She goes pit-pat,
Pit-pat, on Halloween night

This is the way the kids walk....
"Trip-trap" your hands on your legs

This is the way the wind walks..... 
 "Rip-rap" your arms in big circles

                                               This is the way the trees walk......  

                                     Sway your arms in the air & "scritch-scratch" with your fingers

                                             This is the way the moon walks.....
                                   Reach your arms up and "tip-tap" your fingers in the sky

The moon goes........
The trees go............
The wind goes.........
The kids walk..........
 The cat goes pit-pat..
On Halloween Night!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halloween Round-Up Or: Kids Like Repeats Or:It's Never The Same Twice

Kids don't mind repeats. When I read a book at a program like, say "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", the cry of "I KNOW this book, Miss L!" is a cry of joyous recognition, not blase boredom.  Even the moms and nannies who come year after year seem to enjoy a re-reading.

This applies even more to telling a story--and if I've said this before, well, it's worth repeating too and perhaps even more applicable.

Even if you follow a script word for word, each time you tell a story--and that applies to any form, flannel board, puppets, etc--it's going to be different. You will have a different audience--or if it's the same one week to week, they will be in a different mood each time you deal with them. You will react differently. You will read/tell differently.

I will tell these stories again this Halloween. I will do most of them 7-8 times. And yet, each time it will be a completely different experience.

Without getting boringly New Agey about it, telling a story is an organic process and each time you bring something new to the story.
And you'd better--otherwise you will get bored quickly. And so will your audience!

I have read/told most of these Halloween stories for years--and I don't mean 2 or 3 years, I mean 20 years--and over time the stories have gotten better because I've had time to play with them. I've found new ways to tell them.

If I read these stories from books, it wouldn't be as much fun for me or for my audience. A reading to a group is a performance that differs completely from reading to that beloved child or two on your lap. I've come a long way from that.

And yet, it's because these are such good stories, so well told by their authors, so well illustrated, that they work year after year after year.

Click on the pictures to go to the links for my Halloween line up. There are slideshows or videos for each.
Enjoy and have a wonderful time this Halloween!

"The Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman
Classic flannel board. But it's the telling, with audience participation that makes this so much fun.

"The Ghost's Dinner" by Jacques Duquennoy
Slide out sheets of paper let the ghosts change color

"The Witch's Hat" by Tony Johnson.
Told with props and magnet board pieces

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flannel/Foam Friday: "Fall Is Not Easy", But It Sure Is FUN!

It was not the spring and summer I wanted--my family woes kept me from doing a lot of programming, never mind blogging about it. But fall is beginning, things are (knock wood) on a more even keel in my home world, and I'm back to programs.

 Fall has lots of built in themes. Leaves, apples, pumpkins. Hibernation. Halloween and Thanksgiving. And after more than 20 years of programs I've got lots of great stuff to use, from classic books to stories and songs with props and puppets. I will use a lot of that stuff. A story like "What Will It Rain?", a song like "Five Red Apples" or a wonderful book like Nancy Tafuri's "The Busy Little Squirrel" need to be shared every year. There are always lots of new kids and the veterans never complain about repeats! 

But as easy as it would be to just coast along and do the old faves, that wouldn't be a good thing for me. I need to challenge myself to keep coming up with new ideas, new material. I was leafing (so to speak) through the Flannel Fridays and the Flannel Friday boards on Pinterest and "Fall Is Not Easy" leaped out at me. 

Why didn't I know this one? Simple. None of the branches in my system owned it--not even me. So I got it from a neighboring jurisdiction and fell in love with it.

 Now I will repeat something I've said here before, but with all due respect to the masterworks of flannel art that I see on the blogs, I often don't see the NEED to "flannelize" a lot of books.  But once in a while I find a book that will really be even better in a special format, and I could see how the kids would love watching me change the tree's leaves on the board. So it was upstairs to my craft supplies to figure out how to do it.

 I prefer foam to felt and I have tons of foam shapes we've used at craft times. Plus I have fabric paints and lots of tubes of glitter glue. A little time in Michaels' scrapbook aisle produced leaves--and I got a great deal on them thanks to their phone app with its onscreen coupons! So this was easy to make, and a ton of fun. 

My thanks to Storytiming, Lucy, and others whose versions inspired this. And special thanks to the immortal Melissa Depper  from whom I got the basic tree pattern and better still, a window into all that's going on in the story timing world!

The slideshow explains how I made some of the pieces.
Happy Fall!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Flannel Friday--Well, "Foam Friday" Really--"Eggcellent"

My daughter needed an emergency visit to the orthodontist the same day I had 2 preschool classes visiting back to back in the AM. I needed to leave early, so I called the director of preschool #2 and asked if the class could come earlier in combination with the class from preschool #1. Being a long time patron herself and generally nice person, she was fine with it.

I then had one hour to readjust the planned program. The books I had, with the theme of eggs weren't going to work--too small for a large group. So I moved over to a "spring things/eggs" sort of them, trotting out my brand new "big book" edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar,  and pulling out the puppets for "Who's In Rabbit's House?", which is also caterpillar related. And since caterpillars come from eggs, I could still use my egg shakers and do Laurie Berkner's fabulous, bluesy "I Know A Chicken".

I'd also made a flannel board, inspired by Miss Mary Liberry's "Baby Duck" flannel board. The two and up crowds had loved it, but it was too small for this big group.

So I hunted through my craft files, found a large cardboard egg outline, grabbed some sheets of fun foam and made larger eggs. Fun foam is one of my favorite craft materials to work with--it's soft and pliable, but had more substance than felt. Easy for me to cut, even with my awful left-handed cutting!

I had made the original animals from clip art found in various places--can't remember the source, and then I'd pasted all four onto one page on Print Shop. All I had to do was enlarge them.
 Some of you <sigh> may be too young to know this program, but I have a 10 year old version that works beautifully and I use a lot for graphics.

Magnets on the back of the foam pieces. Contact paper over the paper animals and magnets on their backs too and I was set.

And a good thing too. Because not only did my 2 classes show up, a third class from another school walked in!

The first 2 schools serve the well to do and I have regular contact with them. The third school serves mostly underprivileged kids and I have had very sporadic communication with them. It's the sort of place where the teachers change frequently.

But the current teachers have been calling me regularly for books. They didn't know I do preschools separately from the public programs due to space problems. They had just walked in and how could I have turned them away?

I didn't. So I had about 50 kids for one very, very, cool program.

They LOVED the egg game. I didn't say a rhyme, I just said something to the tune of "Can you help me find the baby duckling?"   With so many kids, I just closed my eyes, wiggled my hand a lot and then pointed at someone to take a turn. Somehow <grin> I managed to get someone from a different class each time.

We played it several times. I'd let them keep the egg shakers next to them, and as I reset the board,

I asked them to count backwards together from 10 to 0 as they shook the eggs. Occupied their hands and gave me a chance to get things done.

It was an (sorry) EGGCELLENT event!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bad Craft #2 :Easter Tree of Artistic Boredom

Another craft dredged from the files of former, well meaning staff members.
The tree outline is fine--I've used stuff like that myself.
The horror here is the coloring book eggs.
 They are pre-printed with patterns,nd were clearly pre-cut by my Type A former assistant.

This is a coloring sheet that offers no practice at cutting, no real chance for self-expression
 and is completewith a "model" here to show the kids how to place the eggs.

What a waste of staff time and what a lost opportunity to teach kids skills and let them have some FUN!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Flannel Friday:Take You Riding In My Car

 I am attending the PLA conference in Philadelphia, PA and writing this from my hotel room, which is not IN Philadelphia,but in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Lancaster County! A little nutty of me, but it's much less expensive than the city and it's a hotel my family loves, so I decided to give myself a bit of a treat. It does mean I'm spending extra time in my car driving back and forth, but most of the trip is lovely--it was delightful driving through the rolling hills dotted with farms as the sun rose this morning.

So cars were on my mind this week, and before leaving for this trip I did a car program for my Tuesday and Wednesday morning groups. I'll give more details about the program,but I did want to get this flannel board song/game up in time for Flannel Friday!

It's from the ever wonderful Nancy Stewart and you can find this on her website--the pattern and the song, which is called "Lots of Cars".

I made the cars from felt, with with black pen windows that I drew freehand. The wheels are glued on foam circles. I made the whole thing in a bit of a hurry--you could easily fancy this up a lot.

The basic song is:
There are lots of cars driving on our street.
Tell me what color car do you see?

The kids name the color and then you sing (with gestures I don't think I need to give you)
Big cars
Little cars
Beep, beep, beep!

Once the cars are all on the board you sing the first line and the second becomes:
Tell me which color car is the smallest?

And the largest. And you could probably do other things as well.

I turned it into a guessing game as well, akin to the owl "Whoo's Missing"game.
Remove a car and sing:
There are lots of cars driving on our street.
Tell me what color car is missing?

We did this with take away one car, then take away two cars. With older kids I might use more cars and remove more!

Happy Driving!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mother Goose Monday: Off To the Moon!

 This song has been a terrific hit with both the babies and the toddlers. I am not sure of the true origin of this, but I got my version from a Kathy Reid-Naiman album. You can hear the tune here on her "Zoom,Zoom,Cuddle and Croon" album
You can walk around and around with your child, or with a group in a circle. With older children, they can crouch down and "blast off" on their own.And I'm going to use this with a parachute this summer!

Zoom, zoom, zoom, I'm going to the moon!
Zoom, zoom, zoom, I'm going to the moon.
If you want to take a trip, just climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom, I'm going to the moon.
Crouch down now(Spoken) 5,4,3,2,1
Lift child high into the air and:BLASTOFF!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bad Story Time Crafts #1

I have ranted several times here about librarians who cut out endless pieces and make crafts that are basically coloring sheets with a little pasting. Waste of their time and of the kids. I used to work with several perfectly nice ladies who did these sort of things, despite my attempts (!) to get them to do things that were a little less anal-retentive. And while going through my files today if found this little gem:

This was the "model" done by the librarian, but there was little need for it, except to tell the kids where the pictures SHOULD be pasted. The drive, the animals and the kids are all cut-outs that were pre-cut by my assistant. All the kids did was color them and slap on the pictures in the "RIGHT" places.
(Please note that even the animals are arranged in a sequence from largest to smallest. Sigh.....)

The school bus w/o the logo would have been fine--and add your own people/animals. That at least would've allowed for some creativity on the part of the kids.

But this one?


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Early Literacy Course Rant

Now running HERE on The Library Lady Rants. Going to PLA and listening to this woman speak (she's one of the main speakers at several early childhood events) is going to be interesting....

Monday, March 5, 2012

Read,Sing & PLAY, Baby!

This is the logo I'm using for
"Read,Sing &Play,Baby!"
Okay, so why didn't anyone tell me that after umpety-ump years of doing toddler programs and dealing with my own girls, doing baby programs would be so easy and SO MUCH FUN?

This fall I noticed a grandma bringing in her adorable granddaughter in frequently around 4 in the afternoon. Then I noticed other moms/nannies around that time of the day, sometimes in pairs, more often on their own.

In this neighborhood school age kids are few and far between and those that we do have are generally elsewhere in the afternoons. <SIGH>  We're just not very busy in the afternoons, whereas in the mornings I am swamped with toddlers and preschoolers at programs.

So I took the plunge into baby programs. Put out the word that I might be doing a 4PM on Monday program--were people interested?

I asked our admin if Santa Claus could be kind and find me some toy/book money. He came through with enough to buy a large cache of toys and lots of board books--especially the sort I don't generally circulate, the touchy/feely kind.

I did an on-line course from the University of North Texas on baby programs and watched a batch on line. I was particularly impressed by Babygarten who are kind enough to offer a full program demo video. I watched what they do, loved it and knew I could do it.

I named the program "Read, Sing And Play, Baby" because I wanted the music and literacy components to be clear.And "Read" comes first!

I started in January and was terrified. But by the time I was done with the first one, I knew this would work, and now it's one of the highlights of my week.

I do about a 20-30 minute program of songs and games. Last week I tried using a "focus book" where we all read "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" together. Gathering sufficient copies is the main problem, because from the start my room has been full--20 families on average!

When the program is over I bring out my red truck loaded with toys and books, scatter them on the floor and let them hang out and play for as long as they like. It's a 4PM program, so people seldom stay past 5.

As usual, I am being frustrated by parents who are using me as another free program, not getting that we are a LIBRARY!  But I've also had parents get cards, ask for book advice, etc. Today I showed a mom our great (pats self on back) kids music section.

And no matter what else goes on, the babies are cute, cute, cute!
It's a great way to start my week's programming.............

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dr Seuss On the Loose

I will save a rant on the way Dr Seuss's legacy has been sold out by his widow, and how no librarian with any sense of Seuss should be promoting the crappy new movie of "The Lorax" for my Library Lady Rants blog. Here I will just talk about this week's Seuss related programs.

I try to discourage parents from reading beginning reader books to their toddlers and preschoolers. Lots of them are fun--and the texts are brief, which may make them easier for short attention spans, but they lack the full language pre-readers need so much. They need books with full language, lots of new vocabulary, and if they do have brief texts, they ought to have lots to talk about in the pictures.

On the other hand, if you want to do Seuss at story hours, you've got a problem because his other, non-beginning reader books tend to have long,long texts with tons of tongue tangling made-up words. This is a big part of Seuss's charm for children, but it does make things hard on the grownups. And when you are a librarian doing story hours for a group, multiply that by 100 at least!

But certain Seuss and Seussian beginning readers DO lend themselves to lots of interaction between adults and children.And it's those that I gravitate to when it's time to do a Seuss program:

Some years back I went to a Wolf Trap workshop on using music and books together. Most of it was either nonsense or stuff I'd done for years, but as usual, these workshops always give me something new to do, and at this one the instructor used "Hand, Hand, Fingers,Thumb"
I did this book with my 3-5 year old set, and brought in a drum. I let them try using "one thumb", then"one hand" and then "two hands". Each child got a turn. Some did patterns--real music, some just banged away, but all had fun. If you have enough drums or such to give everyone their own, you could try that, but I like doing it this way--more controlled and less cacophony!
We also beat out some of the rhythms just with our hands, and mimed some of the other actions.All of it was fun.
BTW, this is by Al Perkins, NOT Doctor Seuss. But try finding info about Al Perkins--it's just not there. Perhaps it was another of Seuss's pseudonyms.......

Speaking of cacophony, "Mr Brown Can Moo!" truly is, as it is subtitled:
"A Book Of Wonderful Noises"  This is a bit hard on the throat, but the enthusiasm with which even the 2 year olds respond to this book is truly impressive. And I am SURE that a "hippopotamus chewing gum" would really sound like "Grum, Grum"

I was reading this and was reminded of the wonderful sequence in "The Phantom Tollbooth" where Milo meets the Soundkeeper, and the sound of "an octopus opening a cellophane covered bathtub". Wonder if Seuss ever read that--bet he would have been a fan!

 I grew up in the late 1960s/early 1970s and one of the reasons I hate the Seuss crap now being produced so intensely is that back then CBS used to have fabulous kids programming almost every Friday night. And one of its staples were cartoons produced by Chuck Jones--the Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame. He and Seuss had been colleagues since the Second World War, when they produced outstanding wartime cartoons for the US Army--look up "Private Snafu" on YouTube to see their work.

"Green Eggs and Ham", voiced by Paul Winchell (also the voice of Tigger in Winnie the Pooh) was one of those cartoons and one of my favorites. So I was inspired to find a way to do it for the kids. And my method is props:

1)Sam I Am doll/toy
2)Mouse puppet
3)House prop (puppet show scenery)
4)Box (yellow box on floor)
5)Fox (toy)
6)Tree (display prop)
7)Car (toy car)
8)Mini-umbrella (for Rain)
9)Thomas the Tank Engine Whistle (train)
10)Goat (big stick puppet)
11)Boat (wind sock toy)
12)Cat in the Hat Hat for me to wear
 (not shown)

I couldn't figure out a way to do "dark"--hard to turn off the lights and too awkward to duck under a blanket, so I just omitted it. And next time I am going to make signs saying "here" and "there".
The "green eggs and ham" are barely visible under the umbrella--I blew up a cardboard cut out, backed it with stiff felt and used it that way. Next year I intend to make a green felt ham (you can buy them via Etsy, BTW) and use 2 green plastic eggs!

For use it again I will. The kids loved this and joined in repeating all the items each time, which is good literacy practice.

But above all this was FUN, in the best Seussian fashion.

I looked at crafts, decided that they were all too fussy, too patterned and totally contrary to Seuss's
way of thinking:
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
...You are the guy (or gal) who'll decide where to go.

So we watched the original, real "Green Eggs and Ham" and  they each got a lovely fox stamp, since for some ridiculous reason there are no Seuss stamps at all. Of all the things NOT to sell..
And I hope none of them go to see that stupid "Lorax" travesty this weekend!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What A Librarian Looks Like

My response to Garrison Keillor's stupid "Ruth Harrison,Reference Librarian" was to post my picture on "What A Librarian Looks Like" site-- and to write a post for "The Library Lady Rants", which you'll find HERE.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Recent Dribs and Drabs From Story Times: January

I have been trying to post some of what I've been doing at story times recently, but between daily life, dealing with the recent passing of my father-in-law, and various things at work, just never have managed to finish most of my posts.

So since I am going on a week's break from story times (need to rest my voice regularly, since I do up to 8 programs a week!) here's some of what I've been doing at programs since mid-January:

January: "Happy New Year (Months)
             "Year of the Dragon" (Chinese New Year)

I started a New Year of programs with a program about the months, and when I do that program I always include this book. It's out of print and I just bought a used copy in excellent condition to make sure I always have it.
This is my sort of book for a story time--the sort that holds lots of opportunity to get the kids physically involved with the story. We  "Jump for joy in January" and then go on to such things as making pretend mudpies in May, juggling pretend jacks in June and doing a dance in December. This year when it was July: "Join A Jubilee" we marched and I sang "Yankee Doodle"-with my oldest kids it really became quite a parade. And when it was "Admire an artist in August" we discussed what we'd like to draw at the beach. Even though I can't draw, I CAN pretend!

Where have you been all these years, Jim Gill? I happened to hear some clips of your music on a video about baby programs, fell in love with your music and got this album.  We did his "List of Dances" song, which offers directions (and then you do them all again in reverse order!) and "Let's Dance Now" for some free dancing, something that I am a big, big advocate of everyone doing with their kids--and no whining about how you have 2 left feet. I do and I go to ballet class twice a week anyway!

And I was looking for a video to post with this and found that my web associate Sharon "The Reading Chick" made a lovely banner to go with the "List of Dances" song and used it as a Flannel Friday entry last year!You can see it here

My Chinese New Year/Year of the Dragon was a bit of a bust. The stories were fine--got lots of Chinese tales to do--but I wanted to do a dragon dance and let the kids bang on musical instruments and make noise. This didn't work too well, partly because of the passivity of the families and partly because I just couldn't find THE perfect music! I can't say if this would have gone over better for my 3 and up set (probably would), because the death of my father-in-law put an end to my being at work that week. Hopefully next year I can try something similar and even more hopefully, next January will be a lot better!

And February's been a pretty good program month. Some new ways to do some favorite things of mine coming up in the next post!

Friday, February 10, 2012

NOT A Flannel Friday: Heart Art or I Am An Anarchist Librarian

This artwork  was created by a talented member of the library staff, based on "My Heart Is Like A Zoo". It's wonderful and I was tickled that she made it and I'm proud to display it on my small bulletin boards.

But I love what "my" kids did at story time this week far,far,better.

I pre-cut hearts because I couldn't buy them in assorted sizes and colors. I used a page from some craft on the web and xeroxed it onto construction paper and cut them out. But I also made the kids plain white copies of the page. I set out markers and scissors and glue sticks.

We read the book as the last book of the story hour and then we went out to the tables.

And this is what they made.Without patterns. Out of their own ideas.

There are birds and art inspired by the hearts. There's a heart with a face. There's a train and an incredible duck and a caterpillar worthy of an Eric Carle book.

And a "scary one eyed monster"!

There were 30 kids there and none of them did the same thing, including our triplet girls, one of whom was the very last child to finish her project.

 I think that their work says more about kids and art than anything else I could say.
So enjoy it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Plea For Creativity, Or: Crafts Are For the KIDS

Attention children's librarians and preschool teachers!

Yes, I mean you, the nice lady spending hours pre-assembling crafts that you expect the kids to put together perfectly, just like one of those kits from Oriental Trading or something.

Yes, you, the other nice lady who is carefully crafting the "model", the elephant with the perfectly placed trunk, the mouse with 2 nice symmetrical ears, the spring scene with the blue sky, green grass and red flowers.

You are spending far too much of your time on these projects and you are doing something that, if anything, is DETRIMENTAL to the development of the kids that you love.

I know, I know. You think that they need to learn that the grass is green, that the skies are blue, that rabbits have 2 ears and that hair goes on the top of the head and the mouth on the bottom.

You think that having done their craft, the children will give it to their parents with this sort of an attitude:
"Here's this dumb craft thing I made in 2 seconds. If you don't keep if forever, I will come to resent you"

Sorry to burst your happy rainbow bubble, but odds are, that craft is going to get scrunched into a backpack, abandoned on a library table or live in the car for months.

The ones that do get pinned to the fridge will stay there a while, then odds are they will be covered over by other projects, or disappear under the coupons and finally end up in the trash or the recycle.

As the mother of a pair of very creative daughters (and they get all their art talent from their dad, I'm not boasting on my behalf), I can tell you that after 17-odd years (eep!) of motherhood, most of those art projects disappeared long ago into that Great Repository of Kids Art in the sky.

I have certain, very treasured samples of their work--things that mean a lot to me. The rest?
Gone, baby, gone!

I bring this up because I want you to take a look at the title of this book and commit it to memory:

"Preschool Art:
It's the Process, Not the Product"

Take that as your mantra!

It's not about copying a model that looks just like yours. It's not about carefully gluing pre-cut pieces together, following directions step by step.

It's about learning to use scissors. Getting sticky with glue. Shaking glitter.  Learning to string beads onto a pipe cleaner.Squishing dough in your fingers.

It's about making the trees purple and the grass yellow, or coloring everything black. It's about deciding that the ears go on the back--and you like putting them there. Or deciding that the caterpillar you're making needs antennae that the librarian didn't think of--and making your own.
(True story, that one.) It's telling your mom, or your nanny or your teacher or your librarian all about your picture, and what it shows and why you're proud of it.

It's writing your name on that creation and showing it to someone, then promptly forgetting about it.

Preschool crafts teach fine motor skills, thinking skills, problem solving skills. They instill pride in kids for being able to do things themselves.
Doing cookie cutter crafts is doing nothing more than filling time. It isn't educational, it is counter-educational!

So what DO I recommend---after 20 years of crafts with preschoolers, usually on a shoestring budget?

1)Present crafts that work on the skills kids need. They need to learn to hold a crayon/market correctly. They need to learn to work with a scissors. They need to practice other fine motor skills. Skills, BTW, that you and the parents/caregivers already have. YOU don't need the practice.

2)Present crafts that allow kids to make choices. Do you want to make a red rabbit or a green one, Jacob?  What color do you want your cat's tail to be, Bella?  Let them pick their own color paper, their own colors to use. Somehow, they all eventually learn that the grass is generally green and the sky often blue. This is their play time. Let them PLAY!

3)Want to use a pattern? Fine. I've made lots of crafts where I've given the kids simple cardboard templates they can trace around with a marker, then cut them out, sometimes with a little help from a grownup. Kids usually LOVE cutting, and modern kids scissors work for both right handed and left handed kids.

4)Get asked by parents for a model? Tell them to ask their child. If things go together upside down and it looks right to that child, fine. It's their craft. Let them own their creation!

5)Collage related crafts are easy and adapt to just about any time of the year. If you insist on a pattern, use an outline--last week here I gave them a simple polar bear shape that they filled with cotton balls. But the kids used them different ways--several figured out how to unroll the cotton and used it that way.

Stickers, ribbons, foam shapes and torn paper of various textures are collage basics. I've also  used popcorn, dried beans, and shaped pasta of all kinds. And muffin cup liners in different sizes are great--they can be cut, smooshed flat or folded any way your kids can imagine it.

6) If the craft is so complicated the parents/caregivers are doing it, no matter how good it looks, it is NOT a good craft. Just give them a coloring sheet to take home and be done with it.

PS: Right now I am prepping stuff for a craft based on( what should have been a Caledecott Honor Book) Michael Hall's "My Heart Is Like A Zoo" . And I will admit that I am cutting out tons of hearts in advance, mainly because I couldn't find an easy source for lots of paper hearts, even at Valentine's Day!
I will also have some extra pages with hearts printed on them that the kids can color/cut their own way. Maybe even some heart stickers if I can unearth them.

There will be markers, glue and scissors but no examples, no models. The kids can cut them, fold them  paste them and turn them into any animal they can imagine.And if they don't all do animals that's fine with me. Will try to take some pictures tomorrow..........

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another REAL "Flannel Friday": Two Crows for "Three Craws"

I've had a version of this old Scots song running through my head for years--from some kids album or another--but have never used it. But for some reason I was singing it up in my story time storeroom the other day and decided I wanted to use it.

My initial thought was to make sewn felt finger puppets--and I did find a source for a nice pattern.  But then I decided to check the "Flannel Friday" boards on Pinterest, and sure enough, Library Quine, there in bonnie Scotland, had something I could use!

I went to the pattern she linked to, printed it out, cut out the pattern and with the help of some stiffened felt, an X-Acto knife, scissors and my trusty glue gun, made two crows in short order.

I only made two crows, because the way I sang this, the third crow "wasna there at'a". And when we got to that part, I opened my arms and shook my head and the kids and the parents really liked it.

Just for the heck of it, I am offering my sung version of this. I am not Scots of course, but a Jewish girl from New York City, however, we can roll our "rrrs" pretty well too, and this song wouldn't be any fun if you sang "Three crows, standing on a wall". Boring!

I used these with the leg holes, but I think I may try making legs for them and mounting them on sticks for the next time I want to use them. For use them again I will! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let The Little Piggies Go Home: Or:It's Not Just About the Theme

I was thinking of my former colleague Linda. Lovely lady who'd worked in libraries for years as an assistant, went to library school and ended up as a children's librarian. She was wonderful with the kids, but had a minimal background in children's literature. She was childless, so she didn't even have experience in dealing with bedtime reading for her own offspring. So she really knew next to nothing about kids books--not even sure she'd done a kidlit course in grad school.

All the children's managers in our system used to get together once a month or so to do book order. We'd read book reviews we'd selected from places like Kirkus and Hornbook and SLJ and we could choose which books we wanted to order. And I have vivid memories of Linda's book selection methods.

If she had been asked for or was doing a certain topic--say squirrels, she would go into Amazon and get printouts for every title on the topic she could find. Never mind if they got awful reviews, Linda would bring them to meetings. And often she would buy a whole batch, even some of the bad ones.

I bring Linda up today because as someone who has been doing kids programs longer than some of the librarian blogging about their story times have been able to read on their own, I am appalled at some of the stuff I'm seeing them using for story times because they are doing a theme and it needs to fit that theme!

Bad piggyback songs--their own or ones they've culled from other sites. Flannel boards with stories they've created purely to fit the topic.

Don't get me wrong--there ARE some good creations. There's some talented writers out there. And the art work is often top notch. Being very untalented in that department, my hat is off to those who can.

But having spent 25+ years professionally reading kids stuff, I think I am reasonably qualified to tell Spam (the canned kind) work from Beluga caviar. And a lot of the stuff I'm seeing is Spammy.

Look, if you work in a library you have (I hope) access to the best children's books, the best children's music.

I certainly have. I read every picture book that comes into my library. EVERY DAMN ONE, and I have done so for 20 years. Because if I don't know my books, how can I help my patrons?
I do draw the line at series I hate. I've read one "Olivia" and that was plenty.
And I do the same for regular kids fiction and young adult books, BTW, though I've begun to shy off YA paranormal fiction and I don't do zombie books. Feh.....

It's taught me that children's writers--the good ones are probably the best writers in existence.
Via my patrons, my kids and their friends I've also seen what appalling dreck most kids are exposed to in their home libraries.

That's what librarians are here for--to promote a love of reading via quality literature. If not that, why not just go work in Barnes and Noble or the frickin' Disney Store?

You owe it to yourself and even more to your patrons to find the good stuff, use it and promote it.

Can't find books, fingerplays and a feltboard all to fit your theme about one-eyed crocodiles who live in Malibu, California?  Well, perhaps you need to broaden your topic.  Perhaps there are some alligator stories out there, a cool song or too.  Hey, "The Lady With the Alligator Purse" SORT of has an alligator in it, and the book w/the cool Nadine Westcott pictures is worth a giggle!  And there's Michel Doucet's wonderful song about "Sue", who shouldn't bathe in the bayou where the crocodile might eat her tous cru (naked!) on his "Hoogie-Boogie" album!

Or perhaps your fab story about the one eyed croc has him going to buy some designer chocolate chip cookies on Rodeo Drive. Bet you could lead away from that story into say, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie".

There is way too much good stuff out there for librarians to spend their time creating mediocre stuff merely to fill a theme.

Better to do "If You're Happy and You Know It" or "The Wheels On the Bus" in their old, familiar forms then to rewrite them to fit every theme.

The kids LIKE the originals. They love recognizing songs they love and singing them over and over. If you are not a parent, you may not have learned this, but trust me, they do!
When SC, my older daughter, was 2, I sang her "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "Chanukkah O Chanukkah" every night straight for 2-3 months. Maybe longer. Really....

Kids need to learn the originals.Especially in this day and age when you'll often find that parents themselves don't know the originals!

The purpose of story time is not to create themes, but to create a love of reading and of books.
Good books!

And there's too much really good stuff to offer kids to waste time on less than stellar offerings.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snowballs: Or, Lois Ehlert Deserves A Caldecott

Year after year the Caldecott committes have ignored Lois Ehlert, who has done some of the most creative picture books ever done for children. So in her honor today, I present the snow family I made that were inspired by her book "Snowballs"

They are made from styrofoam balls. I discovered that a saw toothed knife like a bread knife is perfect for cutting them in half, and since they were going against a board, halves worked nicely. Toothpicks were used to join body parts and decorations were from various stuff I had in my craft stashes. There's a heart theme, since this will stay on the big board through February.

You may not have any Caldecotts, Lois, but you inspired an uncrafty person like me to make this. Imagine what you have done for art loving children everywhere!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Real "Flannel Friday": It's Not Just For Story Time

I use few flannel boards/felt boards/ magnet boards in my story times because there are so many other ways I prefer to tell stories.

But the recent success of my "playground of the mind" project (more about that some other time) and some of the "Flannel Friday" offerings inspired me to make flannel boards for use by parents/nannies and children visiting the children's room.

It was easy to find lots of "how tos" on the Intenet and I ended up heading to Michaels, where for about $5 I bought 2 8" x10" artist canvases.

I had a large piece of gray felt, so I used that to cover on of the boards, gluing the felt on the back with a glue gun.

It's not terribly neat, because I am not terribly neat.
You can find directions on how to do it here.

Having made my board, I had a bigger dilemma--making shapes to use on it. As I may have said before, I am NOT an artist and can't do freehand cutting. In fact, I am a bad cutter because I am a left handed person who learned to cut right handed--back when I was a kid left handed scissors just weren't around,and I'm pretty good with my right hand for a lot of things.

We have an Ellison cutting machine at our central library, but it's a trip to go out there and takes time from work and I wanted stuff now. But years ago, the machine was housed in the branch where I worked, and I had made lots of cardboard stencils for use in kids crafts.  Including shapes and letters.

So I cut a whole batch of shapes out of colored felt. We had some stiffened felt and I really liked working with that--when I do letters I'll use that. It's more expensive, so I may try making my own--apparently it just requires dipping felt in a glue/water mix.
Here are some of my shapes. I cut all of them as fairly large pieces because for one thing the board is small and for another I don't want small, choking hazard pieces!

I didn't have any blue felt, darn it. Need to get some this weekend, but I made plenty of cut outs in the other colors, heaped them in small tray and put tray and board in one of the flat metal baskets I'm using for the toys:

 Shortly after I set this out one of my favorite almost 2s and her mom came in and were playing with it. The mom had fun making pictures for her daughter, the little one also had fun dumping out all the pieces and putting them back in the tray again.

And later that evening I saw an older girl in the 6-9 range making pictures with the shapes.

The next set I'm going to make are Chinese tangram shapes. And then letters. And perhaps a "make a face" set if I can get help in making those pieces.

And I've still got another flannel board to make with that second canvas.

All in all, a really satisfying project!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Makes Story Times WORK

In a nutshell:

An enthusiastic librarian. Not necessarily loud and physical (though I am!) but someone who loves what he/she does and lets that shine through.

Well chosen material--I've talked about that before and will again, but if you do this job, you know what I mean.

And one more, very, very, VERY important ingredient:

A receptive audience!

Because it doesn't matter how good you are or how many bells and whistles you bring to the party if your parents sit there and play with their cell phones or talk to each other and the kids either universally run amok or just sick there staring at you!

My Tuesday group is tiny. Eight to twelve kids in a room where fifteen to twenty fills it up well, and when it's over twenty we manage, or I move everyone out to the main children's area.

And this fall they were PASSIVE. Aside from one nanny (who I adore and whose employers should double her salary)most of the adults just sat there, and the kids mostly just sat there too.

But today, they got up and danced. We did Nancy Stewart's January dance --with a small group, we could walk around the room in a circle and they did, and they participated. They danced to other music. They joined in on the books.

And it was MAGIC!

This is what story time is supposed to be like. And I hope it continues for the rest of this week and for the rest of this session.....
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