Friday, November 21, 2014

On "Teaching Moments"

One of the responses on Facebook to my post of yesterday was a nice lady who recounted how during an owl making craft she had talked with one little girl who was making an orange and yellow  "explained to her that owls are not that color in real life, but she could color it however she wanted."
She was proud of having created a "learning opportunity."

I'm very, very glad she let the child do as she wished, but, as I've ranted before, sometimes why can't we just read the story, make the craft, and let things happen as they will?

Why don't parents, caregivers, teachers and librarians realize that creativity will take these kids further into the world than learning to do things as they are in "real life"? They'll get their fill of that soon enough!!

I could go on, but instead I will refer you to the late, great Harry Chapin and his immortal song,
"Flowers Are Red." I've wanted to sing that for every parent, every nanny, every teacher I've ever deal with.

This is especially appropriate as on a CD which we often listened to with our daughters in the car, Harry starts this song with a chorus of "Rant, Rant, Rant, Rant."And I'll add that both of my daughters are creative souls who "march to their own drummers."
I hope that they always will.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And Yet Another Example of What Happens Without Patterns and Models

Two years ago I did turkey hats with the kids and did a post here about the adorable triplets who each made a hat in their own way. You can find it here. And here are two of the hats the kids made today.

I meant to take a picture of a third hat, where the young lady had flipped the paper plate and made her hat the opposite way, but missed it in the busy group.

So once again--throw away the pre-cut pieces (aside from basic shapes, like the circles today).
Stop making models.
Let them figure it out.

The results will astound you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Before I Explode: Story Time Is About The Unknown

There's an earnest discussion of holiday story times going on at the Storytime Underground Facebook page right now, and I am hearing the usual "Oh, we don't want to offend anybody, so we don't do Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza, we just do winter themes," or some such.

Bad enough. But then you get the dear, sweet librarian who chimes in:
" ... since I do storytime in a place where snow is not really a part of the kids winter experience, I generally stay away from snow stories in the winter."


This is the biggest piece of mishegosse (nonsense to those of you who don't know Yiddish) I have heard in many a year. And I've been a children's librarian for <ulp> 30 years.

It is exactly the opposite of what any children's librarian should be doing!

What is the point of story time, of reading to kids, if not to open up a wider world to them?

I get a constant stream of parents wanting books on moving, on new babies, on going to the doctor or the dentist. Books help children prepare for new experiences.

If I followed this lady's reasoning I would never read about anything at story time but a 4 season climate, since that's what we have here, never do farm books since we are in the city, and pretty much never do anything but books about rich little white kids living in a rich Mid-Atlantic town, with hot and cold running nannies.

Books teach children about places they will never see, cultures they will never experience.
They teach diversity. They teach that despite the fact that we live in many different ways, have different beliefs, different foods, different colors of skin and hair, we all live on one planet.

They teach tolerance. 

They teach that the unknown can be known--and celebrated in all its rich diversity.

 I am so, SO going to do Chanukkah and Christmas, in secular ways. Chinese New Year. Mardi Gras.
If someone wants story times on Eid, or Kwanzaa or Diwali, I'll figure them out. 

I'll read books about deserts. Books about mountains. Books about lions and tigers--and bears.
Books about snow--and if it doesn't snow, we'll make pretend snowmen and throw yarn snow balls!

I am going to bring the world to the kids who come to my story times.

And all I can do is shake my head at "Harvest Festivals" instead of Halloween, the nearly universal kid holiday, people who flee from secular holiday trimmings like Santa Claus, and these sad, sad, CLUELESS people who don't get that most of these holidays come from even older holidays, and are a vital part of the human experience.

It's pathetic. It's sad.
Above all, it's stupid.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flannel Friday: Talking Turkey, Year 2

I made a lovely flannel turkey last year for our mobile flannel boards, and someone took it!

Between then and now, I made the flannel table I described last month. And someone decided to take one or two of the cars and the bus I had worked so hard to make.  They also took one of the two felt trees I'd added in October and several little pumpkin felts. It really ticks me. This is something I do with my time and MY money--and I posted a sign saying as much and asking "Please don't "borrow" the felt pieces."

So this month, I have made a basic turkey body. I did use wiggle eyes, but that's it.  And I have basted the turkeys to the felt table--that is "basting" in the sense of sewing them there :D

I did it as much on the underside as I could, so you can't see the basting, but the turkeys are secure.
It seems to be working. So far so good.

And I've just added a few "Novem-bears" and basted them on too.  I will see how it goes.

Meanwhile, here's what I found on the table this week:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Transitions With Toddlers, Or: "Can you put the bell in the basket? Good job!"

From my lofty <yeah, right> 30 years of experience as a children's librarian and <eep> nearly 20 as a mom, I am often amused by the ways many young, eager, earnest children's librarians complicate things.

Perhaps elaborate rituals and plans give them confidence. As the Anarchist Librarian, I hope that they will gain enough personal confidence to ignore the nonsensical proclamations of EECR2, of "Mother Goose On the Loose" and on the rest of it, and to learn to trust their own abilities.

Take the question on Storytime Underground's Facebook page about transitions with objects. What this basically means is "It's time to put the bells/shakers/scarves in the basket/box/bag," and there is great concern about child meltdowns and fussing.

First off, let me say that when I am talking about "toddlers" I mean one year olds. Two year olds are NOT toddlers. You can't always reason with a two year old, but the language skills are beginning, and you can have a conversation, and they can follow directions.

One year olds ARE toddlers. And yes, they can get upset when they have to give up the bell, or the shaker, or the whatever. Transitions ARE hard.

But making an elaborate ritual only complicates the matter. It prolongs it.

This morning we used the bells. And then I said "Okay, can you help me put the bells back in the basket so we can play Ring Around the Rosie?"

With the parents help, 22 bells went back into the basket in about 2 minutes flat.
No crying, no fussing, just lots of "Good job, Sophia! Thank you for helping, Michael!"
Etcetera, etcetera.

If anyone had gotten upset, I would have just let that child keep the bell until they were ready to hand it back. No big deal.

When we do the scarves, same thing, only they go in a bag, and the kids not only help put them back, they LOVE putting them back.

In the words of the song from Mary Poppins (though I like the books better):

"In every job that must be done, 
 there is an element of fun,
 You find the fun and SNAP, the job's a game!"

Make putting the toys away as much fun as taking them out.
And if the rituals are only making things harder, chuck em out the window.

Simpler is better. Especially with toddlers!
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