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The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,200 children’s and youth librarians, children’s literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and others who work with children.
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1. Suggestions for the Batchelder Award?

ALSC Personal Members are invited to suggest titles for the 2015 Batchelder Award given to an American publisher for a children’s book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during 2014. Please remember that only books from this publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award. Publishers, authors and illustrators may not suggest their own books. The deadline for submission is December 31, 2014.

You may send recommendations with full bibliographic information to the Chair, Diane Janoff at diane.janoff@queenslibrary.org.

The  award will be announced at the press conference during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in February 2015.

For more information about the award, visit the ALSC website at http://www.ala.org/alsc/. Click on “Awards and Grants” in the left-hand navigation bar; then click on “ALSC Book & Media Awards.” Scroll down to the “Batchelder Award Page”.

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2. Puppet Shows at Storytime

“Where’s Rockie? Is Rockie going to be here today? He’s so funny!” Preschoolers call out their excitement as soon as they see the puppet stage set up and ready for action. Rockie is the main character for our series of puppet shows about a raccoon and how he learns about his world. Each show is an original script, written by two librarians. It is usually based around a topic that is of some concern to young children—new baby, sharing, fears, exercising, learning to read, manners, moving, etc. Although the themes are somewhat serious, the antics of the puppets are always silly and broad, causing plenty of laughter as well as discussion.

The basic format is as follows:

  • RockieDig_smallAct One brings on Rockie and his friend(s).  One librarian is working the puppets, the other is outside the stage, interacting with the puppets and encouraging the children to participate in the conversation.  The “problem” is identified, there is some conversation, and the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads a story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Two brings back Rockie and pals.  There’s more conversation and lots of silliness, such as a chase scene, a puppet that appears and disappears, bubbles or a water pistol, and a movement song that everyone joins in on.  Then the puppets exit.
  • The librarian reads another story related to the theme, followed by a movement rhyme.
  • Act Three always offers either a resolution to the concern, or at least a conversation with Rockie (or whoever is experiencing the issue) and a promise to find a solution, based on the possibilities identified during the puppet show. For instance, in our show about getting a pet Rockie imagines having a porcupine, a monkey and a snake, each of which causes laugh-out-loud mayhem and chaos.  He finally decides to get a book at the library to help him choose.

Each of the puppets has a distinct personality. Rockie is melodramatic, Zelda the Zebra is logical, Tembo the Elephant can be a bit grumpy. One of my favorites lately has been Dig the Squirrel, who is always digging, never paying attention, and just when he finally gets around to talking with the librarian he suddenly stops, looks out, yells, “Dog!,” and disappears. Kids think it’s hilarious, especially when a dog really does appear at the end and calls out, “Squirrel!”

SheilaRockie_smallThe best part about Rockie Tales is that whatever we’re doing, the kids really listen and take the lessons to heart, while laughing and participating with the puppets. One mother said, “I could never get my son to follow best manners at the table, but after Rockie Tales, he was telling us how to behave!” Plus we’re demonstrating to care givers that the library has book resources to help with many of life’s challenges.

One script is here for you to review, but feel free to contact me if you need more examples or information. I hope you’ll try your own version of Rockie Tales; it is guaranteed to be a great way to teach as well as have fun.

(Pictures courtesy guest blogger)

***************************************************************

Our guest blogger today is Heather McNeil. Heather is the Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library in Bend, OR.  She is the author of Read, Rhyme and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers and Parents, as well as a professional storyteller and author of two collections of folklore.  You can contact her at heatherm@deschuteslibrary.org.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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3. Particpate in the Newbery Selection Process

Dear ALSC Members,

ALSC personal members are invited to participate in the 2015 Newbery Award selection process by submitting titles for consideration.

The Newbery Medal is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States during the preceding year.  Honor books may be named.

“Distinguished” is defined as:

o    marked by eminence and distinction: noted for significant achievement

o    marked by excellence in quality

o    marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence

o    individually distinct

For more information about the award, including a full list of criteria, terms and definitions, visit the ALSC Website.

Reflect on the 2014 books that you have read which clearly meet the Newbery Award Criteria and submit for the committee’s consideration with the following information:
1) author, 2) title, 3) publisher, 4) a brief explanation as to why you think the book meets the Newbery Award Criteria, and 5) your name.

Send your suggestions to Randall Enos, Chair at renos@rcls.org.

Suggestions should be submitted as soon as possible but by December 31 at the latest.
Thank you for your support and participation.

Remember: Only books from the 2014 publishing year are under consideration for the 2015 award.   Publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not nominate their own titles.

The award will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards Press Conference during the ALA Midwinter Conference to be held in Chicago, February 2, 2015.

The award will be presented at the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet during the ALA Annual Conference to be held in San Francisco, June 28, 2015.

***********************************************************************

Our guest blogger today is Randall Enos, Chair of the 2015 Newbery Selection committee.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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4. Happy Hanukkah!

yetta

Pinkwater, Daniel, and Jill Pinkwater. Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2014. Print.

Like many of Daniel Pinkwater’s books, his latest release features a large chicken. Yetta is a poultry farm escapee who lives in Brooklyn with a flock of runaway (flyaway?) parrots. (To learn more about Yetta’s  escape from the poultry farm, read the prequel, Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken.) One day the birds find a lost kitten. They don’t know how to take care of it, so they bring it to a human grandmother for help. The birds see that the grandmother is celebrating Hanukkah which they refer to as “the festival of lights, when the humans are in a good mood.” The grandmother is in such a good mood that she takes in the kitten and feeds latkes to the the birds.

Unlike most Hanukkah books, this story includes Spanish, as well as Yiddish and English words. The birds are bilingual–Yetta speaks Yiddish and English, and the parrots speak Spanish and English. The grandmother is also bilingual; she speaks Yiddish and English. The cat speaks only English, but with a Chicago accent. (The author confirmed this last fact via Twitter.)

This book may not teach you about the deeper meaning of Hanukkah, but it will make you smile, and it’s perfect for story time. I give it five latkes.

 

Our guest blogger today is Rebecca Scotka. Rebecca is the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian at the East Lyme Public Library in Niantic, Connecticut.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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5. Expand Your Collection with Bookapalooza!

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015

Submit your Bookapalooza application by Feb. 1, 2015 (image courtesy of ALSC)

Dream of expanding your collection with a huge shipment of books, videos, and audio books and recordings? Boy, have we got an offer for you!

ALSC and the Grants Administration Committee are now accepting online applications for the 2015 Bookapalooza Program. This program offers select libraries a collection of materials to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families. The materials are primarily for children age birth through 14 and include newly published books, videos, audio books and recordings from children’s trade publishers.

Applicants must be personal members of ALSC, as well as ALA members to apply. Deadline for submissions is Sunday, February 1, 2015. For more information about the award requirements and submitting the online application please visit the Bookapalooza Web page.

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6. Building a Home Library for Friends and Family

Do you often field gift book questions from patrons around the holiday season? I’ve had my share of parents ask me for the best new picture book of the year for their daughter or a grandparent who wants to gift their tween a book but has no clue where to start. If you have also had these experiences, check out ALSC’s updated booklists! These are a great resource to help parents, grandparents and caregivers of all sorts purchase great books for the children in their lives during the winter holiday season- or any time of year.

Image from http://www.ala.org/alsc/building-home-library-2014-update.

Image from http://www.ala.org/alsc/building-home-library-2014-update.

The ALA-Children’s Book Council (CBC) Joint Committee, with cooperation from ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee, have updated the four Building a Home Library booklists to provide advice to caregivers and others interested in constructing an excellent, star quality library for children at home. The committee looked to include less mainstream gems, wonderful multicultural books, beloved classics and new, notable titles.

The CBC Committee has included two printer-friendly versions of the bibliographies for four specific age groups. You will find suggested titles of exemplary content and quality for children from birth to age 3, children ages 4-7, children ages 8-11 and even for tween-aged children 12-14. The brochures are great for putting out at your desk for interested patrons. Does your library receive donation gifts for area shelters, churches or other organizations? You can place these brochures next to your donation bin for easy suggestions the busy patron can bring to their local bookseller when shopping.

Some of my favorite choices from the lists that would be perfect gifts are:

Carle, Eric. La oruga muy hambrienta/ The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Philomel/ Penguin, 2011.

This classic story from beloved author and illustrator Carle is indeed a great gift for babies birth to age 3.  This publication is particularly great because it will introduce both English and Spanish words to your little one.

Snicket, Lemony. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. The Dark. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket. Image from www.hachettebookgroup.com.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket. Image from www.hachettebookgroup.com.

Children ages 4-7 are sure to enjoy this wonderful picture book that gives a voice to the dark. This is an especially fun read-aloud with two readers and a perfect opportunity for caregivers to participate in their preschooler’s reading time!

Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Knopf/ Random House, 2012.

8-11 year olds of all reading levels will appreciate this heart-warming story of a 5th grade boy with facial abnormalities. It’s realistic tone and kind message make it a lovely holiday gift choice.

Telgemeier, Raina. Drama. Graphix/ Scholastic Inc., 2012.

Encourage caregivers to snag this title if they have a reluctant tween reader to please. This graphic novel about middle-school drama club and making new friends will become a well-read book at home.

What books do you love to recommend for holiday gifts? If you have any favorites, please share them with us in the comments!

From everyone on the Public Awareness Committee, happy holidays!

_________________________________________________________

Nicole Lee Martin is a  Librarian at the Grafton-Midview Public Library in Grafton, OH and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at nicolemartin@oplin.org.

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7. Retro Tech: How “Old” Technology Helped with a “New” Problem

This fall at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Central Library in Baltimore, MD, we welcomed a traveling exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s works. Maurice Sendak, The Memorial Exhibition: 50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons features exactly that, 50 of Sendak’s works spanning his career accompanied by 50 quotes from authors, academics, and celebrities about his art and books.

Our incredible Art Director, Jack Young, immediately got busy finding a way that we could help the exhibit be interactive. While we knew that the artwork was impressive on its own, we wanted to really make Sendak’s seminal book Where the Wild Things Are truly come alive. In Young’s artist’s eye, Max’s bedroom and ship took physical form.

A family explores Max's bedroom come to life. Photo owned by the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

A family explores Max’s bedroom come to life.

The result of all of this is an experience of Sendak’s art: seeing it in person, up close and experiencing it by physically stepping into the art of a beloved children’s book.

And here’s where we ran into what my dear colleague and friend would call a “high class problem”: we started drawing groups of students from schools all around the greater Baltimore area. Lots of them. Sometimes, one hundred kids would descend upon our library unannounced.

That’s when my awesome colleagues (Hi Wesley and Selma!) came up with an idea to do a video introduction to the exhibit. It was something we could show to a large group of students that would frame their visit, but wasn’t dependent on staff. It was more engaging than paper brochures. With the help of our technology guru, Ryan O’Grady, it became a quick reality.

Had we had limitless resources and time, we could have made an app! We could have done a badge-type scavenger hunt that would have connected to other library materials and resources! We could have let kids 3D print their own wild things to take home!

But we didn’t.

Frankly, we couldn’t.

Sometimes, even though we can dream it up, we just can’t do it. Librarians feel a lot of pressure to be sure that we’re keeping up with what’s cutting edge, providing experiences we know we want students to have with technology, and challenging ourselves as professionals to innovate.

And then sometimes, there are one hundred fourth graders staring you in the face and you realize that in this case, really, it’s about the art and bringing books alive for children and families. It’s about sharing an opportunity that might be once in a lifetime.

Opening the door inside of Max's bedroom reveals this fun surprise: Max himself!

Opening the door inside of Max’s bedroom reveals this fun surprise: Max himself!

Here’s my big aha: it’s okay not to make an app. And it’s okay to be okay with it.

So while we didn’t make use of any real 21st century technology, we did make use of what’s becoming a bit “retro” in the land of tech: video. Teachers have been thrilled by this simple introduction to the exhibit, and students sit up and pay attention.

My takeaway from this is to let the content, the intent, the purpose be your guide with technology. Choose what makes sense for your population and your mission. And while you shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to engage with and utilize what is new and cutting edge, don’t forget about those tech resources you have from days past that are still with us, still useful, and might just be the solution to your one hundred student problem.

— Jessica Brown
Children’s Services Coordinator
Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, MD

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8. Teaching Early Literacy to Library Staff

Play" and the objects that belong to that practice. [Image courtesy of the author.]

“Play” and the objects that staff decided belong to that practice. [Image courtesy of the author.]

My library recently gave me an incredible opportunity: thirty minutes of early literacy training with every staff member in our organization.

Everyone at my library is incredibly supportive of training and professional development, but not all 100 staff members are able to go to conferences or workshops regularly. Our administration staff and department heads worked together to create a “Year of Learning Opportunities” (YOLO) to give everyone the chance to learn some new skills. Six classes were chosen as mandatory sessions, including mine. Staff can sign up for additional non-mandatory classes including topics like Evanced, inter-library loan, local history, Arduinos, STEM, social media, and more.

But since my session was mandatory, I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be most beneficial for all staff to learn. Using Every Child Ready to Read’s five practices as a framework, I decided to focus on teaching everyone a few reasons why/how staff promote that practice in storytime and in the library.

To introduce “Sing”, I gave a few early literacy tips about why singing is important:

  • Singing slows down language which helps young children process what you’re saying
  • Each syllable/word gets a different note making it easier for children to hear individual sounds
  • Songs are repetitive (chorus) and children learn best through repetition

Next, I led the group in a discussion about how the library supports that skill; here’s what we came up with for “Read”:

  • Reading books in programming, like storytime (Kids&Teens)
  • Signs and postings around the library (Marketing)
  • Modeling reading (Kids&Teens, Adult, Circulation, and Technology Services)
  • Providing multiple formats to read on (Technology & Technical Services)
  • Having quotes on the wall (Building)
  • Hosting book-based programming like book and play discussion groups (Adult Services)
  • Providing books for check out (everyone — from Building staff who bring the boxes in to Technical Services who processes it to Admin who handles the bills to Kids&Teens/Adult recommending and finding the books to Circulation who get the books home

Last, I gave a few tips for staff to encourage that practice with young children; here’s what I said about “Talk”:

  • Greet all patrons, including young children who are often overlooked
  • Ask and answer questions — even if it’s an adult conversation, children are still hearing great vocabulary
  • Be patient and understand that tantrums/noises are a part of communication and can be the child’s way of trying to “talk”/li>

The table full of early literacy tools, sorted by staff members. [Image courtesy of the author.]

The table full of early literacy tools, sorted by staff members. [Image courtesy of the author.]


And that was it for the formal presentation. Afterwards, I invited staff to touch and sort different kinds of early literacy tools according to the five practices to “test” their knowledge. I prefaced this “test” with the fact that each item could go in multiple practices, so there were no right or wrong answers. This was my favorite part — to hear the conversations between staff members made me feel like I had given them useful, practical knowledge.

What a gift for me!

If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to email me [simplykatie.at.gmail.com] or to leave a comment on this post.

– Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library
http://storytimekatie.com

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9. The Original Art Show

bear

2014’s Gold Award winner, Benjamin Chaud for The Bear’s Song (Chronicle Books)

Each year, the New York Society of Illustrators hosts The Original Art, which showcases the exquisite work of children’s book illustrators in the previous year. If you live in the Northeast, the show, which is in its 34th year, is an absolute must-see.

“In 1989, The Original Art found a permanent home at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. It also became a juried event, with a committee of art directors, editors, publishers and illustrators selecting the best books from among hundreds of submissions and awarding Gold and Silver medals to the top pieces.” NY Society of Illustrators 

Monday, December 8th was the Society’s fourth annual Reading Pictures event, a sold-out afternoon and evening seminar for librarians and children’s book lovers alike. Three amazing illustrators (Melissa Sweet, Barbara McClintock, and E.B. Lewis), all with pieces in the show, spoke at length about their backgrounds and creative processes. Melissa Sweet and E.B. Lewis even gave demonstrations of their techniques! Then art directors led groups on tours of the show, which fills two galleries with 166 works, to speak at length about the creation and successes of the art. Check out this year’s amazing artists!

gary

Gary Kelley won the Silver Award for Harlem Hellfighters. This book was also a NYT Best Illustrated Book!

The show began on October 22nd and runs through December 20th. If you happen to be in New York in the next few weeks, I cannot recommend this experience enough! For anyone who loves picture books or art, the chance to see such exquisite work up close- to examine the minute pieces of paper in a Steve Jenkins picture or be overwhelmed by the size of a painting from Neighborhood Sharks- is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s also an excellent reminder that among the many attributes of the picture book, when you give one to a child, you are letting them hold a piece of art in their hands.

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10. Diversity Matters

We know diversity matters. It is a part of our strategic plan, it is a major focus of our work and it is critical to our customers and our communities. Figuring out the best way to help increase diversity awareness in our communities and having this reflected in our libraries isn’t always easy. Libraries have been at the forefront of realizing the value of diverse content. Our communities are changing and it is challenging to build content that really reflects the world we live in today. It starts with our collections and our collections are dependent on what is available from publishers. ALSC has taken up this charge by organizing a dialogue around diversity with publishers in Chicago as part of the Midwinter meeting.

On the heels of ALSC’s invitational dialogue on diversity in publishing, Sunday, February 1, 2015 – 1:00pm to 2:30pm McCormick Place West W183b there will be an opportunity for all interested attendees to learn more about what we can do, as children’s libraries, to increase diversity awareness in our communities and to lay the groundwork for a more promising future

Join us! Bring your ideas, examples of what works where you live and help us create a real exchange between publishing and library work and further define what diversity means to us as a profession. Together is where change happens. The time has come.

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11. Changing up the Curriculum

CSK Seal

CSK Seal

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was going to embark on a Coretta Scott King illustrator award study with my students.  I am lucky enough to be fully in charge of my own curriculum, so what I decided to do was to swap out the Caldecott study I had done in the past.

So far we have read 5 honor and winning titles including Beautiful Blackbird, Mirandy and Brother Wind, Uptown, Ellington Was Not A Street, and Jazz on a Saturday Night.  We will continue reading until winter break. After break we will work on our ballot and vote for our favorite of the titles that we have read.  Luckily, one of these classes has library during the award announcements and we will be watching the live stream.

The discussions about the art work have been rich and informed (“I think it’s collage”- “Wow…those pictures look so realistic!” -“Blackbird has brighter colors. Ellington Was Not A Street has quieter colors.”)  What has been more telling to me are the discussions about the content. While I cannot recall ever hearing a student notice “all the characters are white”, they have been noticing “all of the characters are African American.” These comments are the ones that let me know that I need to be making an even more conscious effort to diversify my book choices across the board.

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12. Building STEAM with Dia

STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math for the uninitiated) has been the hot topic on many a librarian’s mind in 2014. ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee has been working recently on creating a specific booklist that showcases the many, many books being published that have a STEAM connection. This STEAM list has a twist though! It focuses not only on STEAM but on another very important topic, Dia (diversity in action). Not only do these books provide a great look at STEAM ideas but they feature a wide array of multicultural backgrounds and experiences. Speaking as one of the members on the committee, this list was immensely fun to put together. It will be a handy collection development tool for anyone (librarian or not!) looking to diversify the STEAM experience for children. Here is a small preview of some of the titles on the list.

For the birth to Pre-K crowd, expect to see concepts set amidst different cultures and experiences.

  • In Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by John Parra, a little girl spends time in her neighborhood discovering shapes. This title is interspersed with Spanish words and a glossary at the end to help readers in their pronunciation.
  • Jennifer Vogel Bass’s Edible Colors will be a great jumping off point for children and caregivers to learn colors and talk about different food experiences.

For older readers, there is exploration and fun to be had in the titles the committee chose.

  • Yuyi Morales’ Viva Frida examines the artwork and creation process for Frida Kahlo in a kid-friendly story that will have readers itching to create art themselves.
  • In Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, failure seems like an all too scary proposition for this small girl. Will it put a halt on her creativity?
  • Patrick Dillon examines the engineering and history behind several famous buildings in The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond. Be sure to have some craft sticks and glue or Legos handy as children attempt to create their own building!

These titles are only the tip of the iceberg! The multicultural STEAM possibilities for programs, storytimes, outreach events, and passive programs will seem endless with this list. And if you are having trouble brainstorming a great activity, the Quicklists committee will provide a few ideas to get you started. Look for the complete Building STEAM with Dia booklist on the ALSC website soon!

 ******************************************************

Our guest blogger today is Sarah Wethern. Sarah is a Youth Librarian at the Douglas County Library in Alexandria, Minnesota. She is a member of ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee and is an active YALSA member too. You can find her on Twitter (@whtabtpineapple).

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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13. Resources for Serving Special Populations

One of the things that I love about librarianship is that it’s a dynamic profession. It is an evolving field that challenges us to continuously learn and grow in our professional development to better serve our communities.  As a member of ALSC’s Library Service to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers Committee, we have a specific goal to advocate for special populations children and their caregivers.  We strive to discover, develop, and disseminate information about materials, programs and facilities that are available at the library for these groups of patrons.  One of the things that we suggest is that library staff at all levels participate in continuing educational programs and classes about serving these special populations.  Here is a current list of online resources available through ALSC, ASCLA, YASLA, and Webjunction for you to help you grow in awareness and competency in this area.

Be sure to also check out ALSC’s list of Professional Tools for Librarians Serving Youth.  You’ll find a lot of great information about access, advocacy, diversity, public awareness, and more.

 

Renee Grassi, LSSPCC Committee Member

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14. ‘Tis the Season (Again!) for Winter Reading Club

Last year, I posted about my library’s first Winter Reading Club. We had a lot of fun with it (and kept it SIMPLE!) and now we’re gearing up for Year 2, so I wanted to revisit that post and talk about how we’ve tweaked the club this year.

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

Our goals have shifted a little bit this year. Last year, we were all about getting families in the library and introducing them to library resources. We still want to do that this year, but the additional time we’ve spent working with students in our schools has really highlighted the need to help kids get their blocked cards cleared up. This year, we’ve tried to make it easier for kids to visit the library and read books to earn Fine Bucks to clear up their cards (more on that later!).

We’re again using the BINGO sheet format, inspired by Angie Manfredi, but this year we’re keeping it simple by having one BINGO sheet for all ages (Pre-K through 5th grade; our teen librarian runs a Winter Reading Club for grades 6-12). Instead of requiring folks to choose five boxes in a row, they may choose any five boxes to complete the program. Last year, we found that it was more complicated to suss out which game board (picture book or chapter book) kids needed and then it sometimes got complicated finding them, say, easy chapter book award winners. This year, everyone has the same boxes to choose from and anyone can read anything that fits in the boxes.

Last year, we offered a prize for a BINGO and a second prize for completing all the rest of the boxes. This year, we have one prize for checking off any five boxes on their sheet and then they may continue to read to earn more Fine Bucks. They can complete their sheet, read any number of books on their sheet, they can pick up a new sheet and read the same boxes again, whatever they want to do.

Last year, we really had success with offering Fine Bucks as a prize. Fine Bucks can be redeemed to pay off fines (or, this year, lost books) on Children’s or Young Adult cards. It costs us very little, if anything. We might lose out on a little revenue from the fines, but our Circulation Manager and Administration agreed that it was worth it to get kids using their cards again.

Children must read at least five books to be eligible for Fine Bucks and they earn one fine buck per book. They don’t expire, so even kids who don’t have a fine right NOW can save them for later or use them to keep a DVD a little longer at some point. We had Fine Bucks coming back throughout the year, so we know families are using them!

This year, we are also allowing children and teens to use fine bucks to pay for lost items. We didn’t do that last year because we wanted to encourage them to find and return those items! But we came to the realization that we may never see those items and we’d rather get the kids involved with the library again.

Children will also receive an activity pack when they have read five books. We’re repeating some of the activity packs that we offered over the summer. Again, the point is that we want to offer kids and families something interesting to do during these cold winter months.

And, of course, we’re putting up displays to help kids find books that fit the squares on our game board. This is a great way to highlight different areas of our collection!

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

We’ve also simplified it on the staff side. Because the only real statistic that we need is how many children actually participated and completed the program, we’re not registering patrons when they pick up their game board. We’re setting out the game boards and we’ll register them when they return a completed game board.

Do you offer a Winter Reading Club at your library? What do you do for yours? I would love to get some more ideas!

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN
http://www.abbythelibrarian.com

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15. Checklist for a Successful Skype with an Author

As an author, I love that moment when I hit the “answer video call” button on my computer, and the smiling, wide-eyed faces of readers in Alabama or California or Montana pop onto my screen. Skyping with readers is a remarkably rewarding experience. I am, after all, Skyping right at my desk, and that means the readers get a personal peek into my writing world. I can grab my latest draft and hold it up to the camera to point out a specific line, or let the audience see the messiness of my writer’s notebook, or grab my guitar and sing a song that I’ve just written.

Nothing beats a “live” visit, but Skyping with an author is a great alternative for two reasons: it’s cheaper and it provides an opportunity that is often intimate. Surprise guests, such as the author’s dog, or cat, or spouse can make a cameo appearances; authors can pick up their laptops and show a quick glimpse of their desk, the rocking chair, or the favorite place to write.

If you’ve never tried an author Skype, the first thing you have to do is find your author. Many authors offer fee-based workshops or presentations as well as shorter Q-and-A sessions for a lower cost (or even free). If you have an author in mind, check the author’s website. Otherwise, there are sites that collect the names and contact info of authors who Skype, such as the Skype-an-Author Network.

Regardless of how you find your author, there are some tips and tricks that can help make the entire experience run smoothly and enjoyably. From the author’s point of view, here’s what you can do to be a great Skype partner. (You can also download an easy-to-use version of the checklist here.)

BEFORE THE SKYPE

  • Try to list your information and questions in one email to reduce back-and-forth messages. Here are the typical details to clarify:
  • Put your library name and the word Skype in the subject line when contacting an author to set up a Skype session and in all subsequent emails so that the author can easily find the message(s) if s/he has forgotten your name and needs to search.
  • If the author has instructions on her/his website for scheduling a Skype visit, read and follow those instructions.
    1. Type of session: Q and A, workshop, or presentation
    2. Ages of participants
    3. Number of participants
    4. Length of session
    5. Date and time: Specify your time zone every time you communicate with the author
    6. Clarify if special materials are needed, such as notebooks and pencils
    7. Ask permission to photograph or make a video recording of the session, if desired
    8. Determine who makes the call; most author prefer the library to initiate the Skype when ready.
  • Include all your contact info in one easy-to-read list in every email you send:
    1. Your library name and full address
    2. Your name, title, library phone number, and cell number
    3. Your Skype name.Authors receive lots of professional requests as well the usual myriad of personal and junk-mail messages. Imagine getting an email with “one more question” as the subject line, which only consists of the message: “Do you mind if we increase the number of kids? More signed up than I thought! Just let me know!” If the author can’t recall who you are or what you’re talking about, s/he either needs to write you back asking for clarification or search through emails using your email address to try and retrieve the previous emails and figure out your identity. Either way, you’ve given the author an extra job to do.Add the author’s Skypename to your Skype contact list and send a request via Skype for the author to add your contact to his/hers.
  • Test your system–especially if you’ve never Skyped before–with someone. Call a librarian friend. Or your mom. If the author is Skyping for free or for a low rate, please don’t request a test call with the author.
  • Make sure your internet connection is good. The stronger and more reliable your connection, the better your session will look and sound.
  • If you will have a large group, an external microphone plugged into the computer can be helpful to pick up the speaking voices of the participants.
  • Read the author’s work. Participants will get much more out of a session if they are familiar with at least one book and know the author’s basic biography: how many books has the author published, what type of books does the author write, etc.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time for a Q-and-A. Asking each participant to write down a question on an index card often works well.

Questions that work best for Skype visits are specific questions related to one or more of the author’s books that do not require long, complex answers.

Examples of good questions: How long did it take you to write Invisible Lines? Why did you choose mushrooms as a recurring theme? How did you come up with the names of your main characters? If readers want to ask about the general writing process, please help them to be specific: Do you use outlines? Do you ever write with pen and paper? Do you ever ask anyone else to read your work before it is published?

Examples of difficult, hard-to-answer questions: How do you write books? Can you talk about the writing process? These are big topics that take a long time to answer.

  • Go over the questions ahead of time to make sure they are appropriate. Many authors appreciate receiving the questions via email at least one day in advance so that s/he can pull any related visuals.
  • Rehearse what you and the participants will do during the call. Where will they stand when asking questions?

Allowing individuals to step up to the computer’s camera and talk directly into the lens makes the experience much more fun for the author as well as the child or teen. Use this opportunity to practice public-speaking skills with participants. Focus on projecting the voice, slowing down, and speaking clearly.

  • Remind everyone that there is no way of knowing how many questions will be answered in the time allotted. Have a plan for the order in which the questions will be asked and how to deal with any disappointment if the group is too large to have all questions answered.
  • Don’t forget the Skype! If you come down with the flu that day, make sure to tell your stand-in what to do or else call the author and explain that you’ll need to cancel.

DURING THE SKYPE

  • Have the author’s cell phone number on hand. If there is a technical problem, call the author’s cell phone and stay on the line until you solve any glitches. If you have to end the Skype call and try again, you can still be connected via the cell.
  • Position the computer’s camera so that it captures the whole audience, if possible. If you have pint-sized participants who will be coming up to ask questions, make sure to have a step stool, if needed. It’s frustrating for the author if all s/he can see is the top of a little guy’s head.
  • Begin the session by doing a “sweep” of the room so that everyone can wave hello. If the group is large and the camera can’t pick up everyone in the room, the participants sitting on the sidelines can feel left out. To avoid this, at the very beginning of the Skype, let the author know that you’d like to begin with a sweep. Ask the participants to say hi and wave as you physically move the computer from one side to the other, slowly, giving participants a chance to see the whole group waving on the screen. Then, set the computer down where it will have the best overall view and go on with the session. At the end, you can always “sweep” goodbye.
  • Repeat questions from the participants if the author is having trouble hearing.
  • Watch the time. Setting a timer can work well. Stop when the time is up.

AFTER THE SKYPE

Many readers mistakenly believe that all authors are rich and that every book they write gets published. This is far from true. Most authors don’t make a living wage from book sales. Many authors pay the rent by teaching writing workshops and giving presentations.

  • Please consider showing your thanks for the Skype session by supporting the author’s promotional efforts. Here are some ideas:
    1. “Like” or “follow” the author’s facebook page, twitter handle, pinterest boards, or other social networking.
    2. Write and post a collaborate book review online.
    3. Have readers write and videotape a fun review or creative commercial for the book. Share this video online with parental permission, if needed.
    4. Write an article about the Skype experience and send it to your local newspaper or publish/post it on your library’s newsletter or website.
    5. Tell colleagues about the author. Word of mouth really helps.

Finally, if there is something the author could do to improve the experience, definitely send that feedback. Writing is, for the most part, an exercise in isolation; authors take great joy in connecting with readers and want the experience to be the best it can be.

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mary library portrait nj email

Photo credit: Ivan Amato

Our guest blogger today is Mary Amato, an author of fiction for children and teens. She also enjoys teaching workshops in creative writing and songwriting. Her latest series for ages 7-10 is Good Crooks. Her latest YA is Get Happy and features original songs. You can find out more about her at www.maryamato.com or www.thrumsociety.com


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

 

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16. ABOS Conference – An overview

Last month, I attended the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference in San Diego, CA. The theme this year was “Doing More With Less”, a concept that all of us can relate to! Not only was it a celebration of bookmobiles, but it encouraged what we all want, librarians who speak up and connect with others about their work and ideas. Even if you don’t have a bookmobile at your library, you can enjoy some of the wondrous takeaways for reaching diverse children’s audiences. I even got a chance to share some of the cheap and easy ways my library collaborates with local partnerships.

Some highlights from programs I attended:

Children’s Program Ideas for Outreach & From Your Bookmobile by Marianne Thompson (Bolingbrook, IL)

Marianne thought outside the bookmobile for her idea to engage children during the summer months, literally right outside her bookmobile door. She used a small space where the handicap access was to create a stage for a summer puppet show. Starting with simple sock puppets and some creative children’s librarians, they recreate classic children’s stories to delight huge audiences. And even with the addition of professional puppets, the socks ones are still some of the favorites!

Medina R.O.C.K.S by Ann Plazek (Medina, Ohio)

Ann’s presentation showcased her version of R.O.C.K.S. as Reading Opportunities Create Kindergarten Success. A partnership with United Way enabled her library to become empowered investors with parents. And with that partnership, they could facilitate the education of the literacy concepts needed to enter kindergarten for local families. To create that growth, they offer three 2 hour sessions in the summer for families to learn together using ECRR concepts. From this program, they can add on additional skills as needed, like computer literacy for children who will have to take standardized tests on computers and have never used one before.

Sweet Reads by Colleen Hall (St. Louis, MO)

What could be better than hearing the ice cream truck music on a hot summer day? What if instead of ice cream, you got to pick out free books to take home? That basic idea is what has transformed the “summer slide” in some of St. Louis county’s most impoverished areas. With a collection based on donated, deleted, and surplus items, the community can “check out” books on a honor system. Her program provided access to books that children had not previously had due to circulation issues or trouble getting to the physical library. It’s been a sweet success to encourage reading over the summer!

Little Early Literacy Community Connections by Amy Steinbauer (Beaumont, CA)

My bookmobile is focused on children’s literacy from birth to age 5, so the concepts of ECRR are fundamental in the work that I do. One of the “littlest” ways that I connect with the community is through “Play and Learn Kits” that are deposited in local businesses. The kits are comprised of shoe box sized tupperware that is filled with a few donated or discarded children’s books, donated Legos or similar toys, scrap paper, pencils, and advocacy information about the library and our programs. Once a month, the kits are cleaned, and exchanged for new ones. This is a quick and easy way to connect the library to local organizations, and allow an opportunity for parents to interact with their children as they wait at the auto shop, nail salon, or for a haircut.

PLK

Take aways:

Small conferences are great to build connections with other librarians and share ideas! Even though we focus on outreach, many of the presentations were done by children’s librarians! We all have the same goal of providing access to children’s materials for all, and many of the ideas presented could work at the library or beyond it!

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Today’s guest blogger is Amy Steinbauer. Amy has her MLIS from University of Hawaii, and is the Early Childhood Outreach Librarian at Beaumont Library in California. She drives a bookmobile, has a best friend that is a puppet (Bobby), and advocates for children’s literacy for all! Follow her on twitter @merbrarian.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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17. Riddles: Not Just Child’s Play

Lately I am often approached by unfamiliar ten-year-olds who have a singular purpose. I recognize their expression every time; it begins with a friendly smile, followed by a look of cunning, then a question: “Can I tell you a riddle?”

“Okay, what’s your riddle?” I reply.

And out comes the challenge: “What has four eyes but cannot see?” or “What has a mouth but doesn’t eat, a bed but doesn’t sleep, and runs but never walks?” Or perhaps it’s this one: “What does the poor have, the rich lack, and if you eat it you’ll die?”

It all began during my recent book tour. At the first school event, I threw in a few riddles because there are riddles in my novel. I really didn’t expect much of a reaction, but the enthusiasm from students was obvious. Kids love riddles.

Faced with this eureka moment, I suggested a riddle-making session, not expecting it to last longer then ten minutes. My first group of twenty-four students spent a solid hour working on them.

Riddles are playful and funny as we all know, but composing them is hard work. Try thinking of words with double meanings, or rhyming words then compose your clue question. It’s a challenging mental exercise.

It began to occur to me that riddles might be a rather potent reading and writing tool.

The Ancient Greeks knew this. Aristotle pointed out the link between riddles and metaphor. Riddles compel us to think about veiled meanings, allegories, and the flexible quality of our language. They challenge our wit, memory and verbal facility.

This doesn’t sound like child’s play, but I’ve yet to see a child turn down the opportunity. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of leaping from the literal to figurative or the simple joy of fooling a grownup!

Riddles are subversive, they ambush serious thinkers with trickery, and this is delightful to children. Take this common riddle for example: Constantinople is a very long word. How do you spell it? Imagine the thousands of adults who have spelled Constantinople only to be told by a youngster they’re completely wrong. The word to be spelled is it!

In a broader sense, you might think of riddles as mental athletics. They turn up in literature, mathematics, science, music and art. Shakespeare was fond of putting riddles and puns in his plays. The Dutch artist, M.C. Escher, was famed for his perplexing pictures of repeating staircases and interwoven birds and fish. Bach wrote the enigmatic Crab Canon, which plays the same note sequence forwards, backwards and in complement to itself; and then there’s Einstein’s riddle of the five houses.

So, if a child invites you to answer a riddle, be prepared! Have one of your own, ready. You’ll be doing your brain a favor!

Answers to the riddles:

  • What has four eyes but cannot see? Mississippi.
  • What has a mouth but doesn’t eat, a bed but doesn’t sleep, and runs but never walks? A river.
  • What does the poor have, the rich lack, and if you eat it, you’ll die? Nothing.

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Our guest blogger today is author, George Hagen. Mr. Hagen’s most recent novel is the middle grade fantasy, Gabriel Finley & The Raven’s Riddle. If you have a favorite literary/math/science riddle, send it to his contact page at GabrielFinley.com.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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18. The New Year, the New You…with ALSC Online Courses!

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

New year, new ideas, new ways to shape your career track.

When January comes around, it will bring new opportunities, including ALSC online courses! Registration is now open for the winter 2015 ALSC online course season. Topics include children with disabilities, STEM programming, using puppets, and storytime. Classes start Monday, January 5, 2015.

Three of the courses being offered this semester are eligible for continuing education units (CEUs). The American Library Association (ALA) has been certified to provide CEUs by the IACET. ALSC online courses are designed to fit the needs of working professionals. Courses are taught by experienced librarians and academics. As participants frequently noted in post-course surveys, ALSC stresses quality and caring in its online education options. For more information on ALSC online learning, please visit: http://www.ala.org/alsced

Children with Disabilities in the Library
6 weeks, January 5 — February 13, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 3 CEUs

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, January 5 — January 30, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytelling with Puppets
4 weeks, January 5 — January 30, 2015

Storytime Tools
4 weeks, January 5 — January 30, 2015
CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Learning site. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer for Continuing Education, Kristen Sutherland or 1 (800) 545-2433 ext 4026.

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19. Tips for ALSC online education courses

After recently taking the ALSC Online Education course, “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy,” with Angela Young of Reed Memorial Library, my initial thought was to write a post extolling the virtues of ALSC’s Online Education, but then I remembered, I’ve already done that. (see earlier post)

Instead, as a veteran of five or more ALSC online classes, I have these few tips to help you make the most of your next class.

  1. Plan ahead.  Remember to add your professional development needs to your annual budget requests.
  2. Think ahead.  Don’t attempt to take a course during a season or time that you know you’ll be busy. There is homework. ;)
  3. Folders, folders, folders.  Whether the class is more instructional, e.g. Children with Disabilities in the Library, or more collaborative, e.g. Stem Programs made Easy, you will receive a lot of information in a short amount of time.  Use your hard drive, thumb drive, or cloud storage to make a folder and subfolders for your course content.  If your class is a collaborative one, i.e. each student contributing programs for re-use, you will receive a plethora of useful programs that you will want to use in the future.
  4. Rename files.   Most students (myself included) will submit work to the group’s shared board with some variation of Name, Assignment Name, Date.  This is helpful to the class instructor, but not to you as you frantically sort through folders trying find the great program on flight dynamics. If you download any of the proffered assignments, name them appropriately and include the author’s name (see below).
  5. Save a list of your classmates.  In the future, you may need a name or email address to connect, collaborate, clarify or credit.

Any tips you’d like to share?

New classes start January 5th!  What are you waiting for?

 

Clipart images free of copyright restrictions and obtained from Open Clipart .

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20. Día in Iowa!

Over the past two years, Iowa Library Services/State Library of Iowa has incorporated the recognition of Día in its annual strategic plan.  Our efforts have resulted in a greater level of awareness among staff in many of Iowa’s 544 public libraries of the importance in recognizing the multiple cultures present in Iowa’s towns and cities, and of providing programming and collections that reflect those cultures.

Iowa’s population is currently just over 3 million people, with significant populations of many cultural groups.  Among these are the following:  5.5% of the state’s population is Latino, with a projected increase by 2040 to 12.4%;  African Americans at 3.2%; Asian-Pacific Americans at 2.3%; Native Americans at under .5% and recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa. Information at these links from the Iowa Data Center and the PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Mark Grey of the University of Northern Iowa detail the specific cultural groups within these broader categories.

Families enjoy reading together during a Día storytime in Skokie, IL.

Families enjoy reading together during a Día storytime in Skokie, IL.

Preceding Iowa Library Services’ inclusion of Día in its strategic plan, the Marshalltown Public Library, which has long celebrated Día and has made other significant efforts to include Latino families in its services, was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Services in 2013, awarded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.  Marshalltown’s youth services manager, Joa LaVille, was instrumental in developing the services that in large part led to this award, and inspired us collectively to encourage other libraries to engage in outreach to all families in their communities, and to recognize the richness of the cultural diversity within their communities.

We then offered a webinar, offered on a statewide basis, last April 2, which is archived on our website.  Joa and another youth services librarian, Betty Collins of the Musser Public Library in Muscatine, presented their successes with Día programming to Iowa’s youth services librarians.  Both libraries have successfully mounted a variety of programs recognizing the multiple cultures in their communities.  Many of Iowa’s libraries are very small, with limited staff and hours.  But we encouraged them to do what they can, perhaps a display of books and other resources that can act as a welcoming gesture to families in their communities.

This spring, we were delighted to learn that one of our libraries, the Sioux Center Public Library, which serves a community of about 7,300 people won the national Mora Award, presented by REFORMA for the program their staff offered to celebrate Día.  Ruth Mahaffy, Bilingual Services Director, developed the program and will accept the award at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January.

This spring, at our biennial conference for Iowa’s public youth services librarians entitled “Kids First,” Ruth and other staff from the Sioux Center Public Library will present a program on Día, and how they put together an award-winning program with very little money.  Joa LaVille will also be presenting a session on outreach to Spanish-speaking populations.  We used to hold this conference at the end of April, but I’ve moved it to early May, so that it no longer conflicts with Día.

Putting together a state-wide initiative means a commitment to a long arc and working to help library staff start where they are . . . sometimes small rural libraries with one staff member and relatively few hours of service per week can feel overwhelmed at the thought of an outreach project.  But by showing them that their peers are doing this, we can build momentum across the state in emphasizing the importance of recognizing the growing cultural diversity of their communities in their choices for programming, outreach, and collection development.


Merri M. Monks is the Youth Services Consultant for Iowa Library Services/State Library of Iowa.  Her email is merri.monks@lib.state.ia.us.

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21. Sensory Storytime Tips

I’ve been doing my Sensory Storytime for 3 years now. I posted a brief “how-to” guide here a few years ago, and still get contacted frequently by people who are looking to start a storytime and want some help. I am so happy that librarians continue to want to reach this audience and serve these families in their communities. In the interest of providing more useful advice to people looking to get started, I’m going to list out some of my “top tips” here, stuff I’ve learned during my 3 years doing this program. You’ll see that the prep that goes into a Sensory Storytime is really similar in many ways to the prep you’d do for a “typical” storytime. (For even more great tips, check out Renee Grassi’s recent post. It is full of helpful info for those getting started or those who have tried and want to change their approach.)

1) Think Like a Teacher

The way I see it, families bring their children to storytime to have fun, but librarians always have the motive of educating while we entertain. A Sensory Storytime crowd is no different, but the skills they are learning might be a bit different or broader than the early literacy skills we weave into our typical storytimes. For my Sensory Storytime, when choosing activities or books, I always ask myself “How can I turn this into a way for kids to practice their language skills? (both receptive and expressive) How can it help them practice social skills like eye contact or executive functioning skills?”

  • Example 1: When I read The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood, I pass out squares of colored felt. While I read the book, they need to wait for me to read the name of their color before they can come up and put it on the felt board (impulse control, receptive language, following directions…).
  • Example 2: I hand out yellow, pink, and blue egg shakers. Then we sing a song and shake our eggs.  I’ll put laminated colored ovals on my felt board that are yellow, pink, and blue and explain that while we’re singing, they can only shake their egg when they see their color on the board. (Receptive language, following directions, impulse control, motor planning…)

2) Think Like a Special Education Teacher:

When preparing materials for Sensory Storytime, I also ask myself questions like “How can I incorporate visual supports? How can I involve sensory input?” Visual supports are key for children with language challenges because it helps them know what to expect and scaffolds their language learning. You can see a picture of my visual schedule at my other post. Sensory input can come in many forms: tactile, visual, auditory, vestibular, proprioceptive… (If you’re interested in learning more, I like The Out of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz). Some kids are sensory seekers, some are sensory avoiders, and some are both, so you’ll see a range of responses to your sensory toys.

  • Example 1: When I read If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca and Ed Emberley, I put up a visual for each movement I want the kids to do. A typical child will know to watch me and try to copy my movement. For my Sensory Storytime kids, a visual can help remind them of what the movement is going to be so they can focus more attention on the motor planning aspect of actually doing the movement.
  • Example 2: When we read Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb, I hand out rhythm sticks. The kids clap their sticks together to match the rhythm of the book, as well as the tone (quiet when the animals are sleeping, loud when they wake up). The sticks give excellent sensory input (both auditory and proprioceptive). As I mentioned above, each child has a different sensory profile, so I noticed one little boy marching and beating the sticks really hard (and enjoying himself very much!) while another child seemed a bit nervous about the sound the sticks were going to make. Even the motor planning of holding the two sticks and clicking them together can be great practice for many children.

3) Be Flexible & Friendly

I’m sure this goes without saying, but go into the storytime room with way more books and activities then you’ll have time to do. Since my storytime is drop-in, I never know who I’m going to get, and I often need to switch my activities to cater to the ages and abilities in the room. The example above about matching the egg to the color on the board, for instance, may work well for kindergartners and up, but if I get a room full of young preschoolers and their toddler siblings, I won’t do it.
By being friendly and engaging, you can help create a trusting environment where parents can share more about their children. One mom shared with me that her son prefers nonfiction books, so I created visuals to go along with Who Lives Here? by Nicola Davies. And again, since my program is a drop-in, I had this book and these visuals with me and ready to go every month in case this family came to storytime.

4) Try Out Some Technology

iPads can be very motivating to all children, including those with special needs. One of my favorite apps I’ve used with this group is Cookie Doodle by Shoe the Goose. I have the children take turns coming up to interact with the app, which is based on making cookie dough, then baking, decorating, and eating cookies. Before the child gets to touch the iPad, I ask a simple question like, “What color icing will you use?” or “What shape cookie do you want?” The promise of using the iPad can be a strong motivator for kids to have a short social interaction with me!

Are you offering a Sensory Storytime or other program for children or teens with special needs?  What top tips would you offer to someone getting started?

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If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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22. ABCs and 123s

There’s never a shortage of new alphabet and counting books. When I order new alphabet and counting books (or any concept book), I look for unique presentations of very common concepts. Alphabet and counting books range from the very simple to complex and creative story lines. My recent favorites include the following:

 

Baby Bear Counts One

(image from Simon & Schuster website)

Baby Bear Counts One (and its predecessor, Baby Bear Sees Blue) stars an endearing and realistically illustrated cub who counts his fellow creatures preparing for winter.  If a hibernation/migration story time or display is in your near future, make sure you include this one. Both Baby Bear books are rarely on our shelves for very long!

 

Backseat_chronicle books

(image from Chronicle Books website)

I’ve read enough “A is for” alphabet books that new ones really need to offer something different in order for us to add it to our collection. Backseat A-B-See offers so much to many groups of young readers: those learning the alphabet and those obsessed with all things car-oriented. Teaching the alphabet through the use of road signs is a genius idea; the bold and uncluttered illustrations makes this ideal for those too young to truly learn the alphabet (I recently bought this for my newborn niece!).

count_monkeys_author site

(image from Mac Barnett website)

Books that offer opportunities for audience interaction are always hugely popular. The wacky humor in Count the Monkeys makes this a great read aloud for children who already have the basics of counting down to a science. Counting these monkeys is indeed tricky, as they are easily scared by any number of things (including lumberjacks).

z is for moose_zelinsky site

(image from Paul O. Zelinsky website)

Z is for Moose is not your basic “A is for apple” picture book. This hilarious story about a moose with its nose out of joint when “M” in the letter pageant stands for “mouse” instead of “moose” teaches lessons of cooperation and sharing without being preachy in the slightest.

 

What are your favorite unique alphabet or counting books? Share in the comments!

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23. LEGO Mindstorms for Tweens (Or How I Had to Give Myself a Crash Course in Robotics)

Mindstorms Robot 2.5At my library, LEGOs are perpetually popular. We host a LEGO Contest at least once a year with a continual level of success. Also at my library, we are currently focusing on new technology initiatives to enhance our programming. Thus, my idea to combine the two and try a LEGO Mindstorms program was born.

As I had never used LEGO Mindstorms before, I did a ton of research well in advance. I put a call out on several listservs for help and ideas, and received a plethora of valuable insight. Then, I asked my IT department to order a Mindstorms EV3 kit to try out to see if it would be doable for us. I worked closely with one of our IT technicians to tentatively make a plan: he would familiarize himself with the robots, be there to troubleshoot, and help with more advanced questions; and I would learn the very basics and come up with the program outline.

We ended up DSC00589purchasing 6 LEGO Mindstorms EV3 core kits to use and downloaded the free software from the Mindstorms website. (Note: You can purchase a site license from the LEGO Education site to get the Teacher’s Edition of the software. It’s much more expensive, but it’s supposed to come with lesson plans and such already done for you.) One day, about a month before the program, I went up to the IT office to work on the outline when I received the news: the IT technician I had been working with was leaving the next week for another job! This meant I was on my own and needed to be good enough to not only use the robots, but also teach the tweens how to use them.

I borrowed one of the robots and set to work giving myself a crash course in LEGO Mindstorms. I found The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book by Laurens Valk to be extremely helpful. I decided to break the program up into three 1-hour sessions and a final 2 hour session that would meet weekly after school. I opened up the program to tweens in grades 4 to 7 and geared it towards those with no programming or robotics experience. You can find a detailed outline of each of the sessions here, but this is basically how I broke down my program:DSC00595

Day 1: I wanted to give the tweens a good foundation for programming/coding language which would help them with the LEGO Mindstorms software, so for the entire first day we worked with the Hour of Code website. The nice thing about it was that the programming blocks on code.org looked almost identical to the programming blocks from the Mindstorms software. We went though the first hour of code together, but since I anticipated that some tweens would work faster than others, I told them where to stop (which was before the next video) and gave them extra mazes to complete if they finished early.

Day 2: I introduced the tweens to the LEGO Mindstorms software, the parts of the robot, and the steering blocks. Then I gave them some challenges to try based on what we learned, which you can find in my outline. (Note: To save time for this program, we pre-built the robots for them. We chose the Track3r bot with the claw arm as pictured at the top of this post.)

Day 3: We went over the rest of the action blocks (display, brick status, and sound) and the flow blocks. Then I gave them some more challenges based on what they learned that day, which you can find in my outline. We didn’t bother learning any of the other more complicated blocks since this was a beginner class, but I encouraged them to play around with these blocks if they felt comfortable.DSC00599

Day 4: I began with a very brief overview and asked if they had any questions. Then I gave them some time to just play around and experiment with programming their robots. With about an hour left, I gave them one final challenge using the mission pad mat that comes with the Mindstorms kit.

Here are some videos of the neat things they programmed the robots to do:

What I Learned:

  • The tweens had the most fun when they had free reign to experiment and play.
  • The final challenge that I gave them seemed to be too difficult and they got frustrated and just didn’t try. Next time I would either make up an easier version of that challenge or just forget it altogether.
  • Because we only had 6 kits, we put the tweens in groups of 2 and 3. This seemed to be a good number per kit.
  • I didn’t end up needing the full 2 hours for the last session day, so the next time I might just host four 1-hour sessions.

Tips:

  • I realize that these robot kits are expensive and not every library has the funds to purchase multiple kits. One of the suggestions from the listserv was to work with your school’s robotics team to see if they would lend you kits and/or work with you to run the classes.
  • I was the only adult in the room with 16 tweens most of the time. For one of the sessions, I had the help of an older teen who had been on his school’s robotics team. It made all the difference when it came time for the tweens to complete their challenges. If you can have a second person in the room, especially if it’s someone who has advanced robotics experience, you’ll be much less overwhelmed.
  • For any challenge you give the tweens, have an answer key ready in case they get truly stumped so you can give them hints. I made up answers to my challenges, which you can find here and here. They helped me immensely, though please note that they aren’t the only possible answers and I am still not a robotics expert by any means.
  • I also tried this as a standalone 2 hour program. I geared it towards kids in grades 4 to 7 who had a basic understanding of programming or Mindstorms. I ended up getting a mix of beginners and non-beginners. The outline of this session was 30 minutes of software and robot overview followed by 90 minutes of challenges. Because I wasn’t sure about the experience level of this group, I gave them options for each challenge: an easy option and a more challenging one (make your robot move in a square or make your robot move in a triangle). This worked out really well!
  • If you don’t want to use the mission pad that comes with the kits, you can also download and create your own challenge maps here.

Other Helpful Links:

Beyond Legos: Coding for Kids (ALSC Blog)
Build Better Robots with LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 (The Digital Shift)
Tinker Group
Getting Giggles
Robotics for the Rest of Us (YALSA Blog)

Have you hosted a LEGO Mindstorms program at your library? If so, any other tips/tricks?

Kim Castle-Alberts is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is also a Youth Services/Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, or at kim.alberts@hudson.lib.oh.us. 

All photos are courtesy of the Hudson Librar & Historical Society.

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24. Middle Grade and Young Adult: An Author(s) Interview

It’s a holiday weekend, hooray! I hope everyone has had a most excellent Thanksgiving. I thought for a holiday weekend treat, we’d do something fun here today, so I asked a couple of authors to participate in an interview just for ALSC and YALSA blog readers!

The two authors I asked to participate have something in common: they write both middle grade and young adult books. As a librarian who works with all ages, and especially with the “tween” ages (where ALSC and YALSA’s services overlap!), I find myself needing to be familiar with both types of books.

The exact definitions of Middle Grade and Young Adult are subjective and amorphous. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just say that the intended audience for middle grade is slightly younger than the intended audience of YA, but both can be enjoyed by all ages.

Our authors:

Alison Cherry

Books:
Red (2013), Young Adult
For Real (2014), Young Adult
Look Both Ways (2016), Young Adult
Grandma Jo’s Guide to Prim and Proper Pilfering (2016), Middle Grade

Claire Legrand

Books:
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls (2012), Middle Grade
The Year of Shadows (2013), Middle Grade
The Cabinet of Curiosities (coauthor) (short stories) (2013), Middle Grade
Summerfall (2014) (prequel novella), Young Adult
Winterspell (2014), Young Adult

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ALLY: Are you in a different mindset when writing MG and YA? How do you think differently about your audience?

Claire: Regardless of genre or age category, I approach writing all my books the same way: How do I write the best story I can, in a way that shows I respect my audience and their intelligence? Beyond that, any differences between writing YA and MG are primarily stylistic. For me, it’s all about voice and language. YA is generally more introspective than MG. YA characters process experiences internally and think a lot about their emotions, whereas MG characters are still externally focused, looking outward for examples and understanding. MG characters are distilled, pure–not innocent, but rather mutable and unfinished. There’s a rawness to MG characters, a lack of sophistication, that lends itself to a certain straightforward, unfettered voice. It’s not that MG characters don’t feel a complexity of emotion; they simply aren’t as adept at understanding and expressing it as their YA counterparts. So, with this in mind, I strive to craft my MG voice using careful language that feels true to the spirit of this emotional purity and inexperience.

Alison: This might sound callous, but once I’ve chosen the subject matter for my books, I rarely think about my readers at all! As I see it, my job as a writer is to tell the truth through the medium of an engaging, well crafted story, and that’s the case whether I’m writing for twelve-year-olds or eighty-year-olds. I think readers of all ages want basically the same thing: a plot that hooks them right away and continues to surprise them throughout the story, and characters who feel three-dimensional, relatable, and flawed. I certainly consider whether or not a sixth grader would know a certain word or a specific cultural reference, but those are minor details, and the important parts of storytelling are way more universal. I’m not writing for kids and teens, specifically. I’m writing for anyone who wants to read stories about kids and teens.

ALLY: Do you think you will continue to write both YA and MG? What’s next up?

Claire: I hope to continue writing both, yes. I certainly have ideas for more of each! Currently I’m ensconced in three different MG projects, so those will probably surface first. Unfortunately I can’t talk about any of them yet!

Alison: Absolutely! I love the variety that comes from switching back and forth between them. Right now I’m working on a new MG that involves a prank war at a sleepaway camp. My YA work-in-progress, which comes out in 2016, is about musical theater and the fine line between obsessive, platonic female friendship and romantic love.

ALLY: Claire, you started in publishing with MG. What was it like to make the transition to YA, both in your writing, and in terms of the way your book was received by the kidlit community? Did it feel very different?

Claire: From a craft perspective, making the transition was a bit challenging. The MG voice comes more naturally to me, so refining my YA voice required a lot of work (especially since my YA debut, Winterspell, is high fantasy-esque, and that’s a tricky voice to get just right). However, since joining Twitter back in 2009, I’ve made many friends with bloggers, authors, and readers in both the YA and MG communities. There’s a lot of overlap between the two. So in that way, I felt like I already had many supporters in the YA world before my YA debut even released, for which I’m incredibly grateful!

ALLY: Alison, your MG hasn’t been published yet. Do you anticipate major differences in the entire experience?

Alison: I do! First of all, I anticipate having a lot more contact with actual young people this time around! Although I do get to chat with my teen readers sometimes, tons of adults read YA, and nearly everyone who has contacted me about my books so far has been a grownup. I’m excited for this experience to be a little more kid-centric! Relatedly, I’ll have to change my publicity strategy; for YA books, most promotion can be done online through Twitter and blog tours and such, but those tactics won’t get my books into the hands of the fifth graders I want to reach this time around. Honestly, the thing I’m most excited about is that the cover for Grandma Jo’s Guide to Prim and Proper Pilfering will feature an illustration instead of a stock photo. My editor has already asked me for character descriptions so she can start looking for the right artist, and I’m bouncing in my chair just thinking about it!

***

Y’alllll, aren’t they great?!

Claire’s latest book, a YA fantasy retelling of the Nutcracker (perfect for Christmas!) is out now, And Alison’s latest, a fun YA sister story about a reality show trip around the world will be out December 9:

      

You can find them on twitter at @alison_cherry and @clairelegrand!

 

Are you interested in reading more tween-related posts?  The YALSA Blog and the ALSC Blog both offer information of interest to librarians who work with tweens.

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Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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25. Texting Early Literacy Tips

Nearly forty years ago when I was an elementary education major, my language arts professor took my fellow classmates on a nature walk around the campus to point out all the hidden treasures we might find to enhance our lessons. Shiny berries and dew-dropped pine cones were only the start. There were treasures to be found inside too, from empty thread spools to magazine pictures. I quickly learned to look everywhere, and never miss an opportunity to utilize what I found to share with your students.

It has been many, many years since I took that nature walk, but as a Youth Service Librarian, I am still continually watchful for ideas to enhance the experience of the many families who visit the Patrick Heath Public Library. Recently I came across a most intriguing article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times on November 15. According to the author, a new study demonstrated that mobile technology, specifically texting, is an inexpensive and effective way to help low-income parents develop and enhance their child’s early literacy development. Brief messages such as “Sing the Alphabet Song with your child today,” proved easy to follow, yet tremendously valuable in enhancing early literacy.

Here was a treasure as wondrous as those shiny berries from so long ago. Why not have our library provide patrons with timely early literacy tips via texting? So many of our parents of young children utilize mobile devices—parents of all economic levels—and were therefore an audience waiting to be addressed. I shared my idea with our library director, Kelly Skovberg, who very much supported my proposal. Next came the nuts and bolts of adjusting our website to give patrons an option to sign up for a weekly early literacy text tip. My wonderful and tech-savvy assistant Sarah Doss dove right in and trained on how to implement the new feature, working through several online tutorials and making phone calls to get everything just right.

Patrons can now go to our website at www.boernelibrary.org and click on a Notify Me option that will allow them to subscribe to “Miss Constance’s Text Tips”—a simple process of entering an email and selecting the text option. Patrons will then get a weekly early literacy tip via text. I will be drawing upon all the invaluable tips found in my Every Child Read to Read @ Your Library resources that is a project of ALSC and PLA.

When I shared this news with my storytime mothers, they were very receptive to the idea. I eagerly await their feedback as our new venture takes flight. Texting is so often portrayed negatively in the press as something that alienates people. However, I believe that when used sensibly this technology can be yet another tool to enhance early literacy.

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Constance-150x150

Photo courtesy Patrick Heath Public Library

Our guest blogger today is Constance Keremes. Constance is a Youth Services Librarian at the Patrick Heath Public Library in Boerne, Texas.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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