Category Archives: Storytime

Ah, I wish…

At this morning’s storytime, one mom told me that she was watching Downton Abbey yesterday, and she talked with her young daughter a bit about the show.  As the credits were rolling, the daughter asked her mom if that was where Abby the librarian lived. 

Ah, I wish…

Little Books

I’ve written many times before about my success stories using projects from MaryAnn Kohl’s book Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product – enough times that I’ve felt a bit redundant in my praise of Kohl and her book – but yesterday’s experience at storytime was good enough to warrant yet another post on the topic.

With my broken foot, I’ve struggled with how to continue with art projects in the weekly Art & Stories for 4’s & 5’s storytime.  Last week, I was still on crutches, so I thought long and hard and finally decided to go with an old standard project: rolls of paper laid out on the floor, kids lie on the paper, adults trace the outline of each child, and then the kids color in their tracings.  Huge success!  No set up for me – no tables, no stress, the parents did the tracings of the kids – and the kids kept going for forty-five minutes with their artwork.  (Of course, this makes total sense, since four and five year olds are still quite self-focused, and working on a self-portrait at that age completely fits their developmental level.)

So last week’s art project was terrific, and I was feeling the pressure yesterday to come up with a similarly awesome project.  But I’m still pretty gimpy: off the crutches, but hobbling around on a walking boot that comes up almost to my knee.  I knew I would be able to drag some tables out of the closet, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to sort through our stacks and stacks of awesome art supplies in order to set up a complex project.  What to do??!?!

A paper-only project seemed in order (especially since my coworker Carol, a recently retired teacher, had just donated three grocery bags full of the most gorgeous construction paper I have ever seen), so I opened up Kohl’s book, flipped to January’s projects as a starting point, and ka-bam.  There it was:  Little Books.  The only prep necessary was to use the paper cutter to cut some white copy paper down to half size, and also to cut some sheets of construction paper down to half size, and then I dug out pencils, markers, and some staplers.  The idea (without giving away Kohl’s project instructions – you REALLY should buy her book if you don’t already own it!) was to have the kids and their grownups work together to construct a little book.  Then the grownups stepped back and let the kids create the insides of the books.

Before we started on the project, I talked to the group about the process they would be going through.  One wise little boy, upon hearing that he would be creating a book, said, “But I don’t know how to write words!!!!”  And so I talked about how there are many wonderful books that tell their stories only with pictures, no words.  Perhaps, I suggested, if the kids knew how to write their names, they could do that, but otherwise they could just fill up the pages with pictures.

And they did.  And they kept going and going and going.  Some kids talked out loud as they created, telling anyone who would listen what their book was about, while other kids hunched over their creations so that no one could spy on their artwork as it was in process.  We started the project at 2:25, and several kids were still going strong at 3:15…and they would have kept going for quite a while if it hadn’t been time to pick up their older siblings at the elementary school.  Only a reassurance that there were markers and pencils at home to use kept these last artists from having a meltdown at having to step away from their book before it was finished.

Another huge success.  Now to find another project for next week that meets the criteria of helping a gimpy librarian run a great art project.  Thankfully, I have the resource to find that awesome project!

Tooting my own horn

One of my storytime regulars said the nicest things to me today – so nice that I just had to share them, though I know it comes close to blatant self-promotion…

This storytime regular (who drives in from another town) has been coming to my storytimes for a few years now, first with just her oldest son, then with both of her sons once the younger was born.  Their family has come to my Mother Goose on the Loose storytimes for a long time, and then the oldest son grew older and they also started coming to my Storytime for 2’s & 3’s.  And today they tried out my Art & Stories for 4’s & 5’s for the first time.  As the kids in the group settled in to their art project, this mom came up to me and said, “Abby, you are phenomenal.  You’re good with all the ages – some people are only good with one age, but you’re good with them all.  You’re phenomenal.”  She went on to say some other really nice things, all of which made me feel appreciated and understood in a way that I haven’t in a long while.

And then later we were chatting again as I rinsed out paint-filled Chobani containers and messy paintbrushes.  I mentioned that my mother had been a teacher, and that she had always wanted me to be a teacher, too, grooming me from an early age; Mom even brought me with her to work when she was a preschool teacher and I was ten or eleven, putting me to work with the kids and talking me through how to work with them.  “The sad thing is,” I said, “my mother never lived to see me in this job.  Which is a shame.”  And this lovely storytime regular said to me – bringing tears to my eyes then and now – “I bet your mom knows exactly what you’re doing, and that she’s watching and smiling down on you.”  And then she went on to say, “It’s definitely in your blood, teaching.  You’re a teacher-librarian, that’s what you are.”

So here I am tooting my own horn, but also expressing gratitude to someone who did what we all should do more often, but don’t: telling another person that you value and appreciate them.  It’s such a great feeling to know that you’re making a difference in the world, because I know that there are many days that go by where I’m not sure if what I’m doing is having any impact.  Today, happily, is not one of those days.  Today I am reassured that what I do every day is worth doing.  Thank you!!!

Storytime progress

It’s been slow – rather tedious – and at times torturous – but I’ve made significant progress on my goal to add new storytime lesson plans to my repertoire.  I realized recently that my goal for this fiscal year stated that I would add sixteen lesson plans to reach a total of sixty-seven in my storytime bank…but that actually I would be adding twenty-three new lesson plans, not sixteen, to reach that total of sixty-seven.  Silly me, I forgot that I had made files for some lesson plans that I had not yet created; so I thought that I had fifty plans already on file, but really some of those plans did not yet exist.  But I’m committed to reaching sixty-seven total, and I’m ALMOST THERE!  Only five left!!

Tomorrow’s storytime is on Sickness and Health, with two fun featured stories:  Llama, Llama, Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney and Guess Who, Baby Duck! by Amy Hest.  None of the books I pulled for this week would work in a feltboard format (feltboard stories can’t be forced, I’ve learned), so I’ve decided instead to have a bear puppet come visit storytime.  The poor little bear isn’t feeling well – he has the sniffles and the sneezes and his throat is sore – so we’ll tuck him up in bed (an Ikea plastic bin with a pillowcase folded to be a pillow and another pillowcase as a blanket), feel his forehead to see if he has a fever, and put a box of tissues by his side.  Then we’ll distract the sick bear puppet with some fingerplays and stories and see if he feels better by the end of storytime.

And, meanwhile, just to add verisimilitude, I’m fighting a cold of my own.  Bah humbug.  Lots of echinacea today!  And hopefully a very fun storytime tomorrow…

New lesson plans update

I’ve been completely and totally neglecting my blog lately, but for good reason:  one of my four work goals for this fiscal year was to create new lesson plans for the Storytime for 2’s & 3’s.  Here is my official goal, as submitted at the beginning of the fiscal year:

Create 16 more lesson plans to add to the curriculum for Storytime for 2’s and 3’s.  Lesson plan creation includes selecting 20 to 30 book titles for each theme, creating weekly handouts, choosing fingerplays, rhymes, and songs, and creating feltboard materials (which is done at home on my own time).  This will bring the total number of lesson plans up to 67, which is enough to get through two full years (including summers) with repetition only occurring a few times in those two years (Halloween/Fall, Winter, Spring, Valentine’s Day, Summer, etc.).  Though two and three year olds actually love repetition, parents are never as keen on it, so it is important to  have enough lesson plans to cover the entire period that a child is registered for this storytime.

I knew that this goal, along with my usual reading-done-at-home for the five book groups that meet each month, would seriously impact my ability to write blog posts.  But I didn’t anticipate that it would mean no blog posts for a huge span of time!  But, I am very pleased with how these new storytime lesson plans are turning out, and very happy that I will have enough plans to cover two full years; good for me as the presenter, good for the folks who attend.

One reason these plans have been taking longer than expected is that I have moved beyond my original source for plans, Storytimes for Two Year Olds by Judy Nichols, and am creating everything from scratch.  In her book Nichols provides fifty themes, with suggested book titles for each theme, as well as suggested fingerplays and songs, follow-up activities, craft activities, suggestions on which books to turn into feltboard stories, and so on.  While I’ve always viewed Nichols’ book as a starting point for me, since I am my own person and like to put my creative stamp on my storytimes, having that starting point was absolutely invaluable.  I’ve been totally on my own for these new lesson plans, and thus bring much of the planning work home (in addition to the feltboard work), since creating from scratch takes soooooooo much longer than using someone else’s template.  And my theme ideas haven’t always worked out, meaning that I’ve had to regroup many times…

I’ve had to trash several ideas for themes that seemed good when I chose them, but turned out to have insufficient books available for this age group.  I gave up on “Dragons and Unicorns” after spending a great deal of time searching for and reading picturebooks on these two mythical creatures; fewer picturebooks exist on them than I thought, and those that I found were far too complex and long for my target age group.

Another theme that I thought would be terrific, but didn’t work out at all, was “Royalty.”  Queens, kings, princesses, princes, knights – surely that would be a great topic, right?  Not so much.  I found a few books, but ultimately gave up and completely nixed the theme after deciding that the books I had found (both in my library and other libraries) were either too long or too dull or both.

And “Snakes.”  Great idea, especially since we have a couple of terrific snake puppets that I’ve been dying to use.  But a total washout in terms of books that are available.  I finally had the great idea to take the snake idea and broaden it out to “Pets.”  The snake puppets still got used, and I found a tremendous number of great books.

Why so many books, you ask?  Partly to include in the weekly handout, which I know many parents use as a source for age-appropriate books for their children.  Partly so that there is a stack of books available for checkout by the kids and their parents on the day of the storytime (which many families love).  And partly so that there are thirty or so books on display in a ring around the carpet squares in the room; these books are there for the Quiet Time section of the storytime, as recommended by Nichols.  I’ve grown quite fond of the Quiet Time section, and love seeing the caregivers each reading to their children – it’s a terrific way to take the reading skills learned during the storytime and bring them back to their everyday one-on-one at home usage.

And on that note, I think that I had better get to work on the handout and lesson plan for Monday’s storytime, theme of Spring…wish me luck!

Three quick things

Thing number 1:  I really enjoyed Silverfin by Charlie Higson.  I had expected it to be purely an action story, but Higson takes the time to establish the character of James Bond at age 13.  He also gives us a good sense of what it would have been like to be a student at Eton in the 1930’s.  And then, of course, the story moves away from Eton and into some good fun Bondish action.  Definitely a good book for any of you James Bond fans.

Thing number two:  yesterday’s Book Gobblers program was interesting for me.  Usually we have fourth and fifth graders who attend this read aloud program for older kids, and they have really enjoyed hearing selections from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.  Given that past history, yesterday I decided that I would read “The Cat That Walked By Himself” to them.  But there was a little change in demographics yesterday, with mostly second graders attending.  They mostly liked the story, but they didn’t love Kipling’s language like the older kids have; the older kids have literally sat in rapt attention, almost devouring Kipling’s words as I read them.  But the younger ones looked slightly puzzled at times.  The second story I read them, though, was a huge hit:  Ghost Hands by T.A. Barron.  As you may remember, T.A. Barron spent the early years of his life in the town in which I work, so I always love sharing his books with kids at my programs.  And Ghost Hands, which provides an imagined reason for paintings of hands in a real cave in Patagonia, really grabbed their attention – total focus from the group as I read, and lots of great questions and discussion after the story was done.  I’ll definitely be reading this book to kids at the school when I do summer reading visits in June.

Thing number 3:  Last but very definitely not least, the third grade book group had an exciting and wonderful meeting on Monday as we had a Skype visit with author Sara Pennypacker.  I will be writing a full post on this visit over the weekend to do it full justice, but wanted to mention it here in brief to whet your appetite.  Ms. Pennypacker is an incredibly generous, kind, open, and engaging speaker, and I believe that this Skype visit was a really transformative moment for several of the kids in the group.  More on this visit in a day or two…and now it’s time to get ready for work!

New storytimes

I’ve been working on adding some new lesson plans to my collection for the Storytime for 2’s & 3’s, and have been very happy with the three I’ve just added.  A couple of weeks ago I added a singing theme lesson plan, and it went over very well; I was pleased by how many books I was able to find that are either songs turned into picture books, or picture books that feature classic nursery rhymes, or picture books that can easily be either read or sung.  The three books that I used with the group were The Wheels on the Bus by Paul O. Zelinsky, Boom Bah! by Phil Cummings, and Today is Monday by Eric Carle.  In addition, of course, there were twenty-plus other books that I pulled and placed around the room for the quiet time (when each adult shares a book with their child).

Then last week I debuted my Monster storytime, which was a huge hit.  I was very careful in planning this one, and especially in picking the books that would be featured, because I didn’t want to create a fear in these kids that didn’t already exist, since these kids are so young and impressionable.  Best of all for the Monster storytime were the two Folkmanis puppets that inspired it:  Blueper and Twickety.   The kids absolutely LOVED the puppets, and came up and gave them hugs and gentle pats on the head – and asked to have the monsters taste their fingers instead of our usual Zebra puppet fingertaster.  The two books that I read aloud were Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (one of my all-time favorites), and Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty.  Both are just the right combination of silly and didactic – yes, there’s a lesson in each, but it doesn’t hit you over the head, and the humor in each keeps the lesson from being cloying.

Tomorrow I’ll be debuting my new Mouse theme storytime, using two mouse puppets from Folkmanis.  This afternoon I’ll be making some feltboard pieces for the story All For Pie, Pie For All by Valeri Gorbachev; there will also be another book – no feltboard pieces – that will precede it: Inside Mouse, Outside Mouse by Lindsay Barrett George (I like that George’s book features mice that live in the wild and mice that live in our walls).  And each child will taste like a different kind of cheese when Zebra tastes their fingers at the end.

It’s a lot of work to add these new storytimes to my repetoire, most of which work is done at home, but it is so fun to have some fresh new material and new themes.  Storytimes are only as good as the level of excitement brought by the presenter, and I’m always more jazzed about something new and fresh than something I’ve done too many times before.  At some point, though, I’ll run out themes and ideas…but that’s ok, the older storytimes will then seem fresh again.  And now I’d best get going on those feltboard pieces:  a cat family, a mouse family, an ant family, and a rapidly disappearing divided pie.

Wednesday was another day

So Monday’s storytime was a bit rough…but then I did the exact same storytime lesson plan on Wednesday, with a group of similar composition (i.e., ages and number of children), and it went very well.  Though the two stories I read were long, this group was able to stay attentive; though there are a fair number of newbies in the group, the group dynamic was focused for most of the twenty minutes.  This was good, since it reassured me that I’m not crazy and this lesson plan on hats can be used successfully with this group, but it also made me think that I should have changed tactics a bit more midway through the Monday storytime.  If I had stopped and deliberately encouraged everyone to stick it out, rather than keep rolling as if there weren’t a problem, if I had addressed the unraveling of the group directly, then perhaps the entire storytime could have been resurrected.  I did think about doing this, but I didn’t want any one parent to feel self-conscious or singled out, so I decided to just keep on going.

What is the best solution?  Stop and talk about the meltdown when it’s happening, or keep going and give the parents and caregivers time and freedom to address inattention without feeling singled out?  The “keep going” option has always, always worked for me before…but perhaps there are just times when it’s not the way to go.

A bad day for storytime

We had a less than stellar storytime today.  The two’s and three’s were not in synch with each other or their parents or me this morning, and my well-planned and usually popular storytime on Hats went over like a sinking lead balloon, going down, down, down.  By the halfway point of the storytime, half of the kids and their caretakers had left the room, leaving the other half rather confused and distracted and definitely not attentive.  I soldiered on, determined to finish the storytime – which I did – even if it wasn’t going to be my best ever.  It’s a challenge to work with this age group, since they can be very attentive and devoted, but they are also so easily distracted and taken off course.  One too many distractions, and it’s all over, storytime lady!  But it’s still my very favorite age group, and even in the midst of chaos on days like today, it’s a lot of fun.  And by next Monday I’ll have come up with a succinct peptalk for the adults in the room to encourage them to try to stick it out for the whole twenty minutes of storytime; perhaps if we can all make it through one entire storytime together, we’ll be able to grow as a group and have an easier time the week after that.  At least, that’s the plan…

A better year

For various reasons, today is my own personal New Year’s Day, and I have a bunch of resolutions for this coming year:

–  I’m going to attend my first highschool reunion, which makes me simultaneously cringe and wonder at the possibilities.  Maybe I’ll reconnect with some cool people.  Maybe.  And hopefully there will be good food.

–  I’m going to step outside my comfort zone (I hate that term, but it does describe the feeling well) and get trained in the “Every Child Ready to Read” program from the American Library Association, with the intention of presenting the program to parents in a series of seminars.

–  I want to, and need to, add some new lesson plans to my repertoire for the Storytime for 2’s and 3’s.  I already have a list of themes that I want to develop, and I’ve already ordered some cool puppets to supplement those themes.  Now to just put in the time to create and develop…

–  I’m looking forward to exploring some additional afterschool programs for the library.  I’ve already got a lot of ideas, so the thought is to schedule these programs and see how they run.  (And no, I’m not going to preview these ideas here first!  But I will let you know how they do…if they’re a success.)

–  I’m looking forward to spending some more time making jewelry.  If only the price of silver would cooperate with my plans and drop to a reasonable level.

–  For this year’s book groups, I’m going to insist that the kids of the older groups trust my judgement and let me pick half of the books (they get to pick and vote on the other half).  I feel like we haven’t been reading enough new fiction lately, and our reading has also been far too fantasy-heavy.  Time for some different genres.

–  And maybe this year will be the year that we “finish” work on our house.  We’re sooooo close, and I really think that we can do it.  It would be nice to transition into maintenance mode from renovation mode.  (And even nicer to have guests over without feeling like we need to apologize for all of our unfinished projects.)

–  Oh, and yeah, I’d like to write a best-selling novel, first in a series, that will enable Jim and me to live in the manner in which we’d like to be accustomed.

Happy New Year!