Category Archives: Summer reading

Today’s events

The Museum of Science is coming to the library today with their inflatable planetarium, Starlab.  Starlab inflates to be twenty-five feet in diameter and twelve feet high, and can accomodate twenty-five participants at a time.  Expecting a good deal of interest in this program, I scheduled four sessions spread out over the afternoon, and at this point the two later sessions are completely full.  (Do call the children’s room this morning if you’re not signed up yet and would like to attend the 2:00 or 2:45 sessions, as there is still plenty of room in each of those.)

After Starlab is packed up and on the road back to Boston, I’ll be setting up the performance room for movie night.  Tonight’s movie is Toy Story, and there is PLENTY of space available for those of you who would like to attend.  Although, I must admit that an under-registered movie night means a great deal less work for me, especially since Lisa won’t be working tonight (last week, Lisa and I worked frantically for a solid half-hour to fill enough popcorn bags to feed the entire audience). 

Neither of today’s events really fits into the Massachusetts library summer theme of “Catch the Beat at your Library,” but that doesn’t bother me too much.  While I think that having a summer theme can inspire children’s librarians to bring in some excellent events that we might not otherwise have thought of, I do also think that there is a danger of being limited by the summer’s theme.  As I study the statistics produced by our new online summer reading log, it becomes clear that summer reading participation and enthusiasm centers on three specific grade levels: those kids entering third, fourth, and fifth grade in the fall.  What happens if there are three mediocre summer reading themes in a row?  Do the kids going into these prime grade levels those years lose out?  In losing out, do they lose interest in reading, and therefore not develop excellent life-long reading habits? 

My approach, therefore, is to run some events each summer that make use of the summer theme, but also schedule other events that touch on other subjects.  For instance, with “Catch the Beat,” it could be tempting to focus mostly on musical events, but that would leave the kids who are interested in math and science out in the cold.  And I certainly wouldn’t let our book group choices to be determined by the summer theme; the books we read should be chosen by virtue of quality and interest level for the kids who are in the book group.

All this by way of explaining my choice of having Starlab come today.  It’s a totally cool program, for which we finally have the appropriate space, and which appeals to kids who are fascinated by science.  And Toy Story was chosen by way of patron request, an appropriate means of choosing programs for a public library.  It’s all good.

One last thing before I start my work day:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEAN!!  With love from your little sis.  Have a terrific day!!!

A story

Yesterday a mom told me this story:

Her son, who is about five, won a library raffle last week.  He won exactly the thing that he had wanted: a copy of Little Mouse by Bill Montague.  And he LOVES the book, which is about a little mouse that lived with Henry David Thoreau.  In fact, he loves the book SO much that his mother took him on a field trip to Concord the other day, visiting Walden Pond and the center of town.  The trip was such a hit that they’ll be going back again soon, to find the location of Thoreau’s house at the pond.

This little boy’s mom tells me that he now talks about Mr. Thoreau, and that his interest in this part of local history has been ignited by the book.  “You never know,” she says, “what will start an interest for a child, but this book has totally started a passion for him!”

I’ll be writing a letter today to Bill Montague, the owner of the Concord Mouse Trap, to thank him again for his generous donation to the summer reading program, and to let him know what an effect that donation has had on a young reader.


Just like that, summer reading has now truly begun.

With the 4th of July occuring right in the middle of last week, I assumed that we would have a slow start to summer reading this year: lots of families out of town those first two weeks.  In fact, I didn’t schedule a single event last week, which was oddly calm.  But this week is another matter.  Monday was the meeting of the 5th grade book group, yesterday was an appearance by Professor Readalot, today Alex Andrews from Music Together will be singing with the youngest kids in the morning, this afternoon I’ll be running a puppet-making workshop, and then tomorrow evening will be a showing of the movie “Happy Feet.”  Phew.

Professor Readalot, real name Greg McAdams, was a huge hit again this year.  When he came last summer, I was really blown away by his ability to hold the attention of a large group of kids, as well as his masterful crowd control.  Lots of parents commented favorably on his performance, too, so he was an obvious choice as an “ask-back” this summer, and one of my choices for a Cultural Council grant.  So it was no surprise when he pulled off another flawless performance yesterday.

The beauty of Greg’s performance lies in the mixture of comedy, magic, and library-specific booktalking and gentle discussion of how to handle library books.  He uses humor that exactly appeals to kids, even to kids as young as three or four, and they were giggling their heads off throughout his show yesterday.  Yet he never let the crowd get out of control: he starts off his show with a quick discussion of not talking when he’s talking, and that if he needs to keep asking kids to be quiet, then there will be less time for a show  (unfortunately, though, his request for decorum was lost on a couple of parents, who chatted throughout the whole show, despite his direct appeal for parents to be quiet – he even made eye contact with the chatty pair!).  More importantly, Greg knows how to bring the group dynamic quickly back down after a raucous laugh, and possesses the ability to take the room from 60 back down to 0 in a few seconds.  Pretty cool talent.

So it was a really fun time yesterday, with a full house of attendees.  It will be interesting to see what the attendance is this morning for Alex Andrews.  Alex has a huge following, but her following was a bit discouraged last summer by the lack of air conditioning at the old library.  Put 40 moms and 40 babies in a small room in the middle of a hot summer without air conditioning – not a good thing.  Pretty rank.  We’ll see how many show up today, for the air-conditioned comfort of Volunteers Hall!


After a few rough patches in the first week of using the e*vanced Summer Reader software, we’ve finally hit smooth sailing with the summer reading logs.  I had to make a few adjustments (book reviews are no longer required from the children who use the online log, sadly) and had to learn the ins and outs of the software, and, most importantly, had to learn how to accomodate the kids who didn’t want to use the online log.  But it’s all working now, and in the long run, I think it’s substantially easier to operate than the traditional paper clock-face summer logs.

And the statistics are fabulous.  Now I can run reports and see the distribution of hours read – the concentration is in the rising fourth grade population – and really get a sense of which kids are intrigued by summer reading, which are enthusiastic, and which could give it a pass.   I can run reports on prizes awarded, total number of hours read, number of kids registered: you get the idea.  I can also read the book reviews that the kids have written, and get a sense of what the most popular books are at this moment. 

All of these statistics will help me to do my job better, help me to do next year’s summer reading outreach, and help me to plan a truly phenomenal summer reading program for next year.  If you’re a children’s librarian and haven’t tried this software out, or if your region/state doesn’t yet offer the software, do investigate it.  It’s a terrific tool and makes our job easier.

Flushed Away

Recently there was a conversation on MASSYAC (the list serve for children’s librarians in Massachusetts) about movie nights and why it’s hard to attract patrons to movies at the library.  The whole conversation totally puzzled me, since it was the exact opposite of what I experience at the library I work for.  Other librarians complained that they would hold a movie night and no one would come, or only a few people would come, or that attendance would be spotty and irregular from one movie to another.

Perhaps it’s simply the geographic makeup of the town in which I work, but movie nights are a consistent hit for us.  This town has no movie theater, and is quite a drive from movie theaters in other towns.  So the weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, movie nights that we have planned for this summer are a terrific way for families in town to socialize with each other, and now that we have reliable air conditioning, it will also be a great way to beat the heat in the midst of summer.

And the fact that Mary, Lisa, Roy, and I are willing to work an evening shift in order to run movie nights, even Friday evenings in the school year, must count for something too.  Though I do want to instigate gentle afternoon movie showings in the children’s room for the coming school year, I also feel quite strongly that it’s necessary to hold movie nights, events that working parents can happily and easily attend with their children. 

All these reasons aside, our first movie night in the new building was an unqualified success, with an almost full house of attendees (a full house is 89, we had 74).  The movie was Flushed Away, a movie that Jim and I had rented a few months ago to watch at home.  Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it much when Jim and I watched it, but I still put it on the summer schedule because the demand for our circulating DVD has been high at the library.  And I was pleasantly surprised by Flushed Away when I saw it on the library’s big screen, with a crowd of happy, rowdy (in a good way) children in attendance.  It was a LOT of fun, and the crowd gave a heartfelt round of applause at the conclusion.

Next week’s movie is Shrek (might as well show the first of the trilogy, the one that started it all!), and I’ll be going out today to buy some more of the incredibly popular popcorn that we served at this week’s movie.  Which might be another key to our success:  good popcorn. 

In other news…

It’s definitely been an interesting week – the sad time with Rudy, and the utter highs of the start of the summer reading program.

The Ice Cream Social was on Wednesday, and that morning was absolutely insane.  It was pouring with rain at 10 and 11 AM, and many, many library patrons called the library to see if we were moving the Social to the rain date.  More times than I can remember, I had to kindly tell patrons that the weather forecast was indeed conducive to an outdoor afternoon event, that I was obsessively viewing the weather radar, and that it was going to be ok, really, it was.  I even sent out an email to all patrons who had pre-registered, and asked them to please pass the word on to their friends who might not have registered.

After a brief hiatus in the staff room to make some rain of my own after hearing about Rudy, I sat back at my desk and saw the rain move out and the clear skies move in.  By 12:30, things were obviously going to be fine, and it was time to get the ice cream and start to set up.

Jim and two of his buddies, Mark and Rich, were the band for the event, and they did a fabulous job.  Really awesome.  (I’m not just saying this because I’m married to Jim – they really were awesome.  One woman who attended with her kids came up to me to rave about the band, and her jaw nearly hit the grass when I told her it was my husband’s band.)

We had lots of volunteers helping with the event:  six teenagers and one adult, as well as the library page extraordinaire, Alyson.  This meant that I could schmooze rather than scoop ice cream, and it was so much fun.  I can’t count how many times grinning parents came up to me, shaking their heads, and saying “Wow, you’re good.  I thought you were crazy about the rain letting up, but you were SO right!  What a beautiful day!”

So it was a success, hugely fun for all, and the best summer kick-off the town has ever seen, thanks to the extensive grounds we have at the new site – plenty of room to run and play without danger of cars.  Roy took some great photos of the event, and if I get ambitious I’ll try to post one or two that don’t feature kids (for safety reasons, of course). 

Tomorrow’s post: the first movie night in the new building!

Tuesday update

– Rudy, the double-pawed big-hearted tuxedo cat, will be receiving an ultrasound this morning.  Hopefully the news will be good.

– Two new kids signed up for the summer book groups: one for the fifth grade group, one for the seventh-ninth grade group.  Something tells me that there will be even more new kids signing up over the summer, which is very exciting.

– The Ice Cream Social, the summer reading kickoff event, is only a day away.  There’s a chance that we may need to use the rain date of Thursday, but I’m really hoping that we don’t have to make that decision. 

– Last storytime of the school year is this morning.  It’ll be nice to have a break from all the planning that entails, but I’ll miss the social, fun group that comes every week (average attendance lately has been well over 30).

– Perhaps because of Rudy’s health, I’m only mildly freaking out about summer reading this year (as compared to last year).  But I still can’t wait for it to get started, to get over the hump of beginning the summer.

– And, last but not least, a funny story from yesterday:  I was buying water for the upcoming movie night and for the Ice Cream Social.  Kmart had a really great deal on individual bottles of Poland Spring water, so I piled six cases into my shopping cart, along with three of the counter-top bottles that have a pouring spout.  As I maneuvered the heavy-as-heck cart to the register, I announced to the clerk that “I clearly have a drinking problem.”  She thought that was pretty funny.

busy busy busy

It’s been a long week, though a fun week.  I really enjoyed visiting with all of the first through fifth grade classes this week, and especially enjoyed their reactions to the stories that I read them.  It’s not often that I get to read longer, more complex picture books out loud to kids, since my Thursday storytime at the library is primarily attended by 3 and 4 year-olds, so it was a true treat to dip into these more involved stories.  My personal favorite of the week is Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse, which I read to the fifth graders.  It was so fun to see these sophisticated fifth graders get totally wrapped up in the drama of the story, some girls covering their eyes and turning their heads in anticipation of the mouse’s death or the injury to the cat’s tail.  And then to experience the visible, audible relief in the room as the mouse escapes, and the cat clearly recovers from the cut to his tail.  (Thanks, Gayle, for reminding me about this book!!)

And I did a first this week:  I spoke to an assembly of 88 second graders, pretty successfully, too.  What nice kids, all of them!  I got such an incredibly warm reception from all of the classes I visited, and really enjoyed my week.

But, the work week is not over yet.  At 1 PM today, the H—- Puppet Players (a group of teenage volunteers “dedicated to the art of puppet performance”) will be performing “The Reluctant Dragon.”  These awesome creative volunteers have poured so much energy into the preparation for this performance, including creating a soundtrack and staying late at the high school’s art room yesterday to make scenery.  I can’t wait to see how the production goes today, and hope that they get a good-sized audience.

Before the show, though, all of the staff from the library will be attending the memorial service for Joanne’s late husband.  My thoughts are with Joanne and her family right now, as they prepare for the service. 

Busy week

Only time for a brief entry this morning:  this is the week that I visit each class at the elementary school to promote the summer reading program, which means getting to work an hour earlier than usual…which is, of course, my daily blog time. 

It’s so much fun visiting the classes this year, since at least half of the kids in each class already know who I am (as opposed to last year, my first year, when very few kids knew me).  And this year I’m reading a variety of stories aloud, as the whim strikes.  Last year I only read one book to every single class, Beatrice’s Goat, as an introduction to Heifer International and the then-new charity component of summer reading.  Since most kids remember Beatrice’s Goat this year, all I have to do is hold it up, talk for a minute about this year’s Heifer donation, then slide on in to a great read-aloud story.  Aaaaah.

More updates on the school visits as time permits – for now, it’s time to head to school!

Ready to go live…I think…

After a long day yesterday setting up our preferences on the summer reading software, I think – hope – that we’re ready to go live with it.  This software should be a good addition to our summer program, since it allows kids to log their reading time (the number of hours they’ve spent reading) from a computer at home or from their vacation destination.  Then when the kids come to the library, the library staff can easily look up how many hours each child has spent reading.  No more shuffling through pages of colored clocks, no more worries about lost clock pages (though, of course, we still have hundreds of the clock pages available for those kids who would rather keep track that way).  It’s pretty cool, and will be linked from the library’s home page for ease of use.  I can even update the messages on the front page of this summer reading site to reflect upcoming events and other pertinent summer reading information.  And best of all, I’ll have some really great statistics at the end of the summer, easily transfered to Excel format (now that I’m an Excel devotee, this totally excites me; the Abby of ten years ago is rolling her eyes at the me of today).

So today I’ll write up the parent information letter for the school packets, to be delivered starting on Monday, and will include all the news and necessary links for this new program.  Hopefully the kids who participate this summer will be as excited about this as I am!