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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. Lots of Laughs: National Humor Month

We all know that April is National Poetry Month, so I’m sure many of us have special poetry displays, booklists, and programs. But did you know that April is also National Humor Month?

Books that tickle young readers’ and listeners’ funny bones are ideal for many reasons. Many parents (and fellow librarians) are often asked to be visiting readers at elementary schools.  When parents tell me that they are scheduled to read aloud at their children’s school, I usually recommend picture books that are surefire humor hits. Funny books are also fantastic for reluctant and/or readers who are new to chapter books. Everyone likes to laugh, even if they’re not so sure about reading.  If you tell a young reader that the book is hilarious, it’s a great hook to get him/her interested in the book.

Of course, humor is very subjective! What’s amusing to one person is deadly dull to another. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite funny picture books:


Chicks and Salsa

(image taken from Scholastic)

Wouldn’t you get tired of eating chicken feed day in and day out? The chickens at Nuthatcher Farm long for something with a kick and a crunch….like chips and salsa! Pretty soon, their taste for southwestern treats spreads to guacamole and nachos, until Mr. and Mrs. Nuthatcher get a little too interested in the spicy snacks. Lots of snarky humor and asides to get the attention of a wide range of ages. The “follow up”, Buffalo Wings, is just as hilarious. If you do football/Super Bowl programming, you need to include these books!



(image taken from Jan Thornhill’s website)

With its similarity to Chicken Little, this Indian folktale of animals frantically spreading the word that the world is breaking up is a funny and dramatic tale perfect for folktale comparisons and multicultural bibliographies. A hare is convinced that the world is about to end when he hears a startling crash; he manages to alarm the other hares, the deer, the boars, and the tigers, who join him in alerting the lion….who is not at all amused.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Another fun and funny book to use for folktale comparisons is this takeoff on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. The three Grubb sisters are skipping across the bridge on their way to school; underneath the bridge lies Ugly-Boy Bobby. Ugly-Boy Bobby is placated by the promise of enormous quantities of doughnuts from the biggest Grubb sister…but her demand sends him running off to school to be a model students for all his days. This is one of my top favorite read alouds for elementary school; witty and a delight to share.



(image taken from Scholastic website)

Kate Lum’s tall tale of a rather peculiar (yet extremely resourceful) granny is a rollicking read aloud. Patrick and Granny are pumped for his first-ever sleepover at her house…until he realizes that he has no bed. Or pillow. Or even a teddy bear. Never mind–Granny sews and hammers everything into place. But there’s a consequence to all this frantic activity! (I won’t spoil the ending–it’s too great.)


I could go on and on (I didn’t even cover chapter books), but I want to know about your favorite funny stories for young readers. Picture books, easy readers, chapter books, joke books–let’s dish!



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2. ALSC Blog Photo Contest: Deadline Tomorrow!

ALSC Blog Photo Contest

Photos courtesy of ALSC

A reminder to ALSC members to submit their photos by tomorrow for the ALSC Blog Photo Contest. Give us your best photo of your library space, program, display, book, craft or something else that you think relates to children’s librarianship. May the best photo win!

Participants must be ALSC members to enter. Anyone, members and non-members, can vote in the final round. Be sure to visit the ALSC Blog to vote for your favorite library photo beginning April 25, 2014. Prizes include tickets to the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet and $50 gift certificates to Barnes & Noble. Entries must be submitted by 8 am Central Time, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. For rules and entry form, see the ALSC Blog Photo Contest site.

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3. Tis the Season . . . For Spring Cleaning

Spring can mean many things to different people: warmer weather, flowers in bloom, and spring cleaning. While these first two thoughts are a reason for me to anticipate the end of winter, the thought of spring cleaning can fill me with dread. How can we maximize our space by minimizing the hassle?

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock.com

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

At our community branch library, space is at a premium. We have to regularly sort and review whether we need items because we simply don’t have the space to keep it all. Is there a way we can minimize the huge burden of spring cleaning?  How do we ensure the materials we need stay at our libraries and the clutter stays out?

A Little Goes a Long Way

One tip I have tried is to spend just 15 minutes organizing during each work day. This has worked best for me as one of the last minute tasks I complete at the end of my shift. Of course, other situations could end up taking priority, and organizing may fall to the wayside.  However, when it’s feasible to incorporate a little organization into my daily time at work, it’s an opportunity to clean up these final projects and to focus on a plan for the tasks that need to be accomplished tomorrow. Trying to put this tip into practice can go a long way toward minimizing the overall clutter within the library.

Think Outside the Box

Sometimes storage space is simply what is needed most at our location. Whether it is finding room for craft supplies, programming books, or puppets, it may be that we have de-cluttered as much as we can and simply need to find a space at our work for housing the items we use most frequently. This may cause us to re-envision the function of the spaces we have within the library. At our community branch library, we had a significant need for storage, but our kitchenette was not frequently used. We changed our kitchenette into a staff closet and now use this space for holding programming materials.

Scheduling is Key

While each staff person ensures his or her desk space is organized, we also have staffers responsible for reviewing the storage needs for our shared office space. While this responsibility may alternate between team members, it helps that one employee is responsible for ensuring the staff closet remains organized and stocked with the items staffers need. When we maintain a schedule for organizing these shared spaces, we ensure that major spring cleaning projects are not as overwhelming as staffers work to keep these areas free from clutter on a frequent basis.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock.com

(Image provided by Thinkstockphotos.com)

With a shared, and often small, working space, it’s a necessity that our libraries are as organized as possible.  By keeping up on de-cluttering throughout the year instead of just during this season of spring cleaning, we can take away some of the overwhelmed feeling often associated with these projects. We could all use help when considering how to best maximize the use of our work space. What tips and techniques have been effective for you and your co-workers as you work to organize your libraries? Please share your ideas in the comments below!


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4. The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children

Importance of Diversity

Download a copy of the new white paper today! (image courtesy of ALSC)

The Association for Library Service to Children is thrilled to release a new white paper titled, The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. This paper was written for ALSC by Jamie Campbell Naidoo, PhD, and adopted by the ALSC Board of Directors on April 5, 2014.

The white paper explores the critical role libraries play in helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society. It states:

By including diversity in its programs and collections, the library has the potential for helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop the skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society.

As this paper calls for libraries to include diversity in programming and materials for children as an important piece in meeting the informational and recreational needs of their community, ALSC encourage you to take action in your own library and community. The paper is available online at: http://www.ala.org/alsc/importance-diversity. Hard copies can be requested by emailing Joanna Ison at jison@ala.org.

The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children, and its message, has the endorsement of ALSC, the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children.

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5. Free tickets to see Andrea Davis Pinkney!

2014 Arbuthnot Lecturer Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney (image courtesy of Scholastic)

ALSC and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Children’s Literature Research Collections (CLRC) would like to remind the public that tickets for the 2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture featuring Andrea Davis Pinkney are available.

The lecture, entitled “Rejoice the Legacy!,” will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at Willey Hall on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. A reception and signing will follow the event. Required tickets are free for the lecture and must be obtained through the University of Minnesota website. To learn more about acquiring tickets, please visit the 2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture website.

The May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture is sponsored by ALSC. The lecture title honors May Hill Arbuthnot, distinguished writer, editor and children’s literature scholar. Each year, an author, artist, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children’s literature is selected to prepare a paper considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature.

* * *

2014 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture With Andrea Davis Pinkney
University of Minnesota Libraries, Children’s Literature Research Collections
Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CDT)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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6. Participate in the next ALSC Community Forum

ALSC Blogger Starr LaTronica

ALSC President Starr LaTronica will present the next ALSC Community Forum (photo courtesy Starr LaTronica)

The ALSC Board of Directors and ALSC President Starr LaTronica will be hosting two ALSC Community Forum live chats on the topic of the topic of adding STEAM to your Summer Reading Program.

The forum will include live audio from ALSC President Starr LaTronica followed by a discussion led by the School Age Programs and Services Committee. ALSC members are invited to attend to discuss these topics and what their libraries are doing to meet these needs.

Your two opportunities to join in the discussion are:

  • Monday, April 28 at 11 am EST
  • Wednesday, April 30 at 3 pm EST

ALSC Community Forums take place on Adobe Connect. Later this week, ALSC members will receive an email with a URL link to the forum.

Visit the ALSC website for more information about using Adobe Connect. There are also links to previous ALSC Community Forums chats. Questions? Contact Dan Bostrom or by phone, 800-545-2433 ext 2164.

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7. Together We Can Make a Difference

Imagine the impact if all of us who care about children and libraries arrived together in Washington urging our legislators to support the crucial work we do! Can’t make it to Washington? Neither can I. But you and I and children’s librarians everywhere can participate in Virtual Library Legislative Day (VLLD). Every one of us can let our Senators and representatives in Congress know how important we are to our communities and to our nation’s literacy. VLLD this year is May 6. No time on May 6 to write a note? Any day from May 5-9 will do. But let’s do it together on these days so our voices will be heard.

The ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee and ALSC’s Everyday Advocacy web site are supporting our members so that we can all participate in VLLD 2014. Find contact information for your Senators and Representatives at http://www.contactingthecongress.org/. Then, think about the issues that are most important to you. In the coming days, the Advocacy and Legislation Committee will be providing you with talking points on such issues as Library funding through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS); libraries, early learning, and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program; and support for school libraries in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Now, check our Everyday Advocacy VLLD page at http://www.ala.org/everyday-advocacy/take-action-vlld-14 for a growing wealth of resources.

Do your Senators and Representatives know that LSTA funds provide libraries with databases that are essential for students doing their homework and to citizens looking for help in writing resumes and finding jobs? Do they know that the IAL program is vital to students learning to function in the digital age? Will they support an ESEA bill that will maintain dedicated federal funding for school libraries and move us toward school libraries with state-certified school librarians in every public school? Do they know the work you are doing to prepare children for entering school and to foster literacy as they grow into lifelong learners?

Do your librarian colleagues know about VLLD? Perhaps not, but you can help spread the word to friends and fellow librarians. Through local listservs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media, you can help us swell the call for library support. The goal is to contact legislators between May 5 and May 9.

As funding for libraries is threatened, who among us cannot find five or ten minutes to let legislators know that our work is crucial to our country’s future? Participate in VLLD 2014. You’ll feel good about your participation. Together we can make a difference.


Rita Auerbach, member of the ALSC Board and of the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award Committee, and the Co-Chair of the Pura Belpré 20th Anniversary Task Force, wrote this post on behalf of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee.


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8. Celebrate 404 Day!

On April 4, 2014, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) teamed up to celebrate 404 Day- the day that honors this little message that pops up when there’s an error and you can’t access a webpage. The OIF and EFF took this opportunity talk about the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Enacted in 2000, CIPA was written to address concerns about the exposure of children to pornography and other explicit content, through the implementation of browser filters.  Additionally, public and school libraries that adhere to CIPA and apply to filters to at least the internet devices in their children’s department, are eligible for government funding.  More information on CIPA can be found at the FCC website and the OIF website as well.

Through a Google+ Hangout streamed on YouTube, Intellectual Freedom buffs Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Sarah Houghton, and Chris Petersen talked about what CIPA really means for libraries, how to cope with CIPA, and how to get your board to reconsider CIPA.

Since the Hangout is available for you to watch here, I won’t rehash the whole thing, but I will share some important points:

  • Many people think they understand CIPA fully, but they actually don’t.  If you don’t understand ask questions!
  • Filters are mainly English-centric.  If you have access to a translator page or spell some of the search terms wrong, you will most likely be able to bypass the filter.
  • Only lighter skin tones are recognized as skin tones.  Therefore, a filter might block any variation of this.
  • When asked the best way to start a library board to reconsider their filters and compliance with CIPA, Sarah recommended moving the conversation from a conversation about morality to a cost benefit analysis.  For example, how well are the filters doing their job?  Do things get blocked by the filter, that shouldn’t be? How much does it cost to have these filters in both time and money?

Also, Deborah shared that the OIF will be releasing a new white paper at the end of the month on the topic of CIPA and its role in your library.

Remember, the ALSC IF Committee is always here for you if you have questions about intellectual freedom issues or if you are facing a challenge (it doesn’t have to make the news!).  We’re here to help, so feel free to reach out via ALA Connect or email.

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9. Meeting with lions

Obi, the African Lion. Photo by Angela Reynolds

Obi, the African Lion. Photo by Angela Reynolds

I’m changing Summer Reading this year. When I was in Chicago for ALA last summer I saw their Summer of Learning and was duly impressed. I am going to try something similar this summer, using STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Experience, Arts, and Math. The Common Core is not a Thing here in Canada (yet) but I love the idea of experience-based Summer Reading Program. Yes, Reading is still a big part of it, the main focus even, but I wanted to offer some experiences rather than Pieces of Plastic as incentives. So I contacted the local zoo. Oaklawn Farm Zoo is small and owned by a couple that are known in our area as generous and kind folks. I had a meeting in their farm house to talk about offering 2 Library Days this summer– 18 and under get in free if they show their library card (and can earn a badge if we get that part figured out).  We sat at the table over tea, muffins, and homemade jam to discuss the details. They liked the idea as much as we did– we’ll be offering storytime and needle felting demos (using zoo-animal fur collected by the keepers). We’ll also take our portable StoryWalk and our Bookmobile for a total library/zoo day! Fun!

So, we have at least one great experience to offer for our Summer STREAM. And for me, the experience was even more amazing because when we first arrived, we heard ,”Oh, here comes the lion. Put your boots on top of the fridge.” Yes, that’s right. LION. For the winter, a lion cub lived in their house. Obi, the 6-month old African lion strolled in, rolled over on the floor, and allowed us to pet his belly. Library Days at the Zoo — YEAH! Plus, I got to pet a lion. I love my job.

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10. ALSC Member of the Month — Meagan Albright

Each month, an ALSC member is profiled and we learn a little about their professional life and a bit about their not-so-serious side. Using just a few questions, we try to keep the profiles fun while highlighting the variety of members in our organization. So, without further ado, welcome to our ALSC profile, ten questions with ALSC member, Meagan Albright. 

1.  What do you do, and how long have you been doing it?


Courtesy photo from Meagan Albright

I’m a Youth Services Librarian at the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. My library is joint-use, it serves the residents of Broward County and the students, faculty and staff at NSU; I’ve been here for 7 years.

2.  Why did you join ALSC?

At my very first ALA conference (New Orleans, 2006) I kind of crashed the Early Childhood Programs and Services table at the ALSC All Committee Meeting. They were so friendly in inviting me to join their discussion, so when they needed someone to take notes on the program they were presenting I promptly volunteered, and I’ve been saying yes to every opportunity that’s been offered to me to serve ALSC ever since.

3.  When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A super hero! I read a lot of comics and was a huge fan of the X-Men animated series. Sadly, my only superpower so far is the ability to read really fast.

4.  E-books or Print?

Both, as often as possible. My rule for purses is that they must be large enough to hold both my iPad and a paperback book so that I’m never caught without something to read.

5.  Bonfire or Campfire?

Anything that you can make s’mores over is fine by me! I’m a former Girl Scout, and therefore in charge of managing the fire pit at our Teen Volunteer After Hours Party at the library. Some of the teens have never had real s’mores!

6.  Do you have a “guilty pleasure” TV show?

I know some people are over the “modern fairytales with a twist” trend, but Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Grimm, and the upcoming Queen of Everything are all on my must-watch list.

7.  How many books do you own?

I’m always lending out, giving away, and acquiring more books, so it’s nearly impossible to know the total. Let’s just say the bookshelves at home are always full!

8.  Favorite part of being a Children’s Librarian?

Getting paid in high-fives and hugs from the storytime crowd.

9.  Candyland or Chess?

I would love to play an edible version of Candyland! Sour Patch Kid gamepieces, a Licorice Castle made of Twizzlers, home-baked Mama Gingersnap  and an ooey, gooey, delicious Molasses Swamp.

10.  What do you love about your work?

Finding new favorite books (for myself and for my patrons),  connecting with passionate, dedicated librarians, and seeing the positive impact that libraries have on children and families every day.


Thanks, Meagan! What a fun continuation to our monthly profile feature! (Meagan can be reached at ameagan@nova.edu.)

Do you know someone who would be a good candidate for our ALSC Monthly Profile? Are YOU brave enough to answer our ten questions? Send your name and email address to alscblog@gmail.com; we’ll see what we can do.

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11. Breakfast for Bill at ALSC Institute in Oakland, CA in September

One of the most anticipated events at the ALSC Institute in Oakland this September is the Breakfast for Bill, which all attendees are welcomed to as part of their registration (no separate tickets need to be purchased).  The event honors the late Bill Morris, who was head of library marketing at HarperCollins for many years.

WilliamsFederleRyanYangThis year’s Breakfast for Bill will feature a panel of four authors of tween novels: Rita Williams-Garcia, Tim Federle, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Gene Yang.

The emcee for the panel discussion will be Jamie Campbell Naidoo, professor at the School of Library & Information Studies at the University of Alabama, and author of Rainbow Family Collections (Libraries Unlimited, 2012). Naidoo

I will helping to run the event as part of the ALSC Institute planning committee, and had an online conversation with Jamie about our focus on authors of tween literature. Here is some of what we discussed:

What about tween literature appeals to you?

Jamie: While all children are influenced by the literature that they read, tweens are in their formative years at the beginning of adolescence trying to figure out who they are, their place in the world, and how this meshes with larger society, but particularly their family’s views. Literature for tweens can really shape their understanding of the world. Good tween literature can be the impetus for change in their lives and encourage them to be social activists for their peers around the world.

What is your take on the current state of diversity in tween novels?

Like all areas of children’s literature there is not enough diversity in books for tweens. I would even go as far as to say that there is probably less diversity in tween literature than picture books for children and young adult novels. There is a critical need for tweens in their critical stages of development to make connections with characters that are like themselves but to also make larger global connections with peer characters from other cultures.

Is there any trend in tween lit that you are excited about, or any trend that you wish was over?

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I so wish the crush and gushy tween BFF romance trend was over. I realize tweens are beginning to figure out who they are and who they might like (or not). But, I think they deserve a little more emotional depth and sophistication than these types of books provide.

Is there any voice or group that you don’t see represented in tween lit?

Where do I begin! There are so many voices that I don’t see represented in tween lit. Where are the tweens from low socioeconomic households? Where are the tweens from mixed race or bicultural families? Where are the LGBTQ tweens? Where are the homeless tweens? Where are the tweens that are differently able? Where are the tweens that are ethnically diverse? Sure you can probably find 3 or more tween titles representing these groups but are they really good titles? Are they recent and relevant?

What are you looking forward to hear about from our four featured authors?

I’d like to hear from each of them about the stories they liked to read as tweens and what features of those stories are present in their own works. I’d also like to learn what they think about the current state of diversity in tween literature and how we can fix it. On the fun side, what is their most embarrassing tween moment and has that ever featured in their books? Finally, their top 5 favorite tween books (either currently written or yet to come).

Did you ever get the chance to meet Bill Morris, the late editor with HarperCollins that this event honors?

Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Bill. I really regret that as I have heard from many that he was such an awesome man!

Penny: I was lucky enough to meet him at an ALA conference and to sit by him at lunch. He was hilarious! He loved to dish the dirt on the who’s who of children’s books, but not in a mean-spirited way. He was a delightful conversationalist, and could have held his own on a talk show!

Anything else about the William Morris Breakfast event that folks should look forward to at the ALSC Institute?

It is a breakfast. I don’t do mornings. There will definitely be some surprises to help me (and all those other night owls) wake up. I just have to think of what we can do to make folks squirt orange juice out their noses. :)

Penny:  I totally agree! I am “nocturnal” myself, but I am looking forward to this wonderful event!  We have lots of surprises planned for the attendees, including some local children’s authors coming to sit with the attendees at breakfast, as well as some fun games and prizes planned!

ALSC Institute

If you have not yet registered for the ALSC Institute, there is still time!

Go to:  www.ala.org/alsc/institute

Special thanks to Jamie Campbell Naidoo for his time – and I hope to see many ALSC members at this wonderful event!  

Penny Peck, author of Readers’ Advisory for Children and Tweens (Libraries Unlimited, 2010).

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12. Reminder: Submit Your Photo in the ALSC Blog Photo Contest by 4/23

ALSC Blog Photo Contest

Photos courtesy of ALSC

Show off your creativity! We’re giving you a reminder about the ALSC Blog Photo Contest. Send us your great photos related to children’s librarianship. We’ll even give you some ideas:

  • Library spaces
  • Programs
  • Displays
  • Crafts
  • Books
  • Children’s technology
  • Reading

May the best photo win!

Participants must be ALSC members to enter. Anyone, members and non-members, can vote in the final round. Be sure to visit the ALSC Blog to vote for your favorite library photo beginning April 25, 2014.

Prizes include tickets to the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet and $50 gift certificates to Barnes & Noble. Entries must be submitted by 8 am Central Time, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. For rules and entry form, see the ALSC Blog Photo Contest site.

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13. “How Do I Get On an Award Committee?”

ALSC announced that it will hold a live New Member Forum on Wednesday, April 23 at 3pm Eastern. This hour-long event is free and open to members and non-members. Registration is now open.

As part of the forum, ALSC Membership Committee Chair Amanda Roberson will examine ways of getting involved in with the division. Attendees are invited to discuss these topics and their experiences as members. The forum will take place on Adobe Connect. A recorded webcast of the event will be available following the live session.

ALSC encourages current members to participate in the forum as well. There will be time provided for questions and discussion. The event is free, but registration is required.

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14. Get Ready for Día!

What celebration are children’s librarians across the United State getting ready for on April 30th that involves families, fun, food and of course, books? Although every day is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of reading, El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora, “Día” is a wonderful way for libraries to reach out to their community and emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds. In addition, Día connects them to different cultures through books, craft activities and recipes.

 Your celebration can be as small as promotingDía at a storytime with a bookmark making craft or as large as an evening event with a special guest such as an author or storyteller. To get started with some excellent ideas, check out the Día Facebook page or the Día Pinterest account.Register your program on the Día Registry and receive special bookmarks, stickers, and posters. Don’t forget about the wonderful Día Family Book Club Toolkit available for free download! A special bonus offered this month only to help you prepare and incorporate Día into your library programming are the four free webinars offered through ALSC. What are you planning for Día?


Debra S. Gold is blogging on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee and has been a Children’s Librarian for Cuyahoga County Public Library (Cleveland, Ohio)  for the past thirty years.  She served on the Newbery Committee in 1996, the Caldecott Committee in 2004, and the Coretta Scott Book Award Committee in 2011 and 2012.

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15. Making without a Makerspace

What?! Makerspaces again?! No, not really. Though makerspaces in libraries has been a seemingly ubiquitous topic of conversation and debate the past several years, building one at your library is for another post on another day. Still, you’ve probably heard of all sorts of program-based maker ideas being implemented at libraries across the country, or maybe designed a few programs yourself (see Andrea Vernola’s recent post on Exploring Tech with Kids, which is full of great links and program ideas). But these programs can be expensive to run, the technology can become obsolete quickly, and the staff effort involved can be significantly greater than with other kinds of programs.

So is making, especially high-tech making like you see featured in all those library publications, out of reach for your financially-strapped or short-staffed library? Not necessarily. By reaching out to nearby private makerspaces and maker organizations, libraries who would like to try out a maker program or who cannot afford to offer access to more expensive maker equipment on their own can start to participate in this movement.

For instance, in the Baltimore and D.C. area a special company has popped up to provide kid-centric maker programs and activities to local libraries, schools, and other organizations. FutureMakers, founded in 2010, provides a wide assortment of maker projects and exposure to advanced tech equipment for kids ranging from first grade through early high school. My library system has had FutureMaker coaches come with 3D printers, vinyl cutters, MaKey MaKeys, miniature robot electronics, sewing machines, laptops, LEDs, electric drills for hacking Legos…they’ll bring pretty much anything that you can think of that involves making and can be transported in a van. The focus is on allowing the kids access to these great tools and giving them the creative space they need to make something uniquely their own.

FutureMakers logo

FutureMakers logo, attributed to https://kidsmakethingsbetter.com/

A few years ago, FutureMakers had been primarily working with local schools to bring the maker philosophy and technology into the classroom. By reaching out to them, our library was able to tap a ready-to-go resource that made maker programs almost instantly available to us for a per-program fee, which was not too much more than other performers we contract with regularly. Library staff who are supervising the programs are also encouraged to learn and even participate with the kids, which has been an easy and informal way for staff to learn more about making and about using maker tools and technology.

Collaborating with FutureMakers has been a great experience for my library, but not every community has a company like it to draw from. Other collaborators could be nearby private makerspaces or local vocational schools looking for a way to reach out. Those avenues might require a bit more effort, but could become valuable partnerships that could relieve some of the administrative and cost burden from library staff and library budgets.

Do you have tech or maker programs at your library resulting from collaboration with a local business or organization? How did that work out for your library? Any lessons learned or best practices? List them in the comments!

Rachael Medina is a Programming Coordinator at Baltimore County Public Library. She is a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee.

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16. Getting Our Kids Ready for Kindergarten – Book Based Programming

At our library we have started to offer “Book Based Programming” to help our youngest customers be ready for kindergarten.*


Jenny, guest blogger, on left sharing book based literacy tips with mother of a preschooler

We offer our parent/caregiver customers a “mini program” (often one-on-one) on how to read a book with their child. When approaching a parent we might say something like:

“Today, at our library, we are talking to parents about how to read a book with their children. We already know that we read books by reading the words on the pages.  So, we are talking with parents about ways to bring important literacy skills “out of a book” while reading with a child.  We have learned that, while reading, it is important to talk about rhyming words, point out alphabet letters, ask questions about what we read, and learn the meaning of new words.  By focusing on these important literacy and language skills, you can help your child become a reader and have success in life!”

The next step involves sitting with the parents and sharing a picture book. We talk with the parents about what to do before, during and after reading a story.  Here are some examples of what we share:

Before reading the story:

  • Talk with your child about the cover.  Ask “What do you see on the cover?” and “What do you think might happen in this story?”
  • Slide your finger under the words of the title, author, and illustrator as you read and explain those words.

While reading the story:

  • Follow the words you read with your finger
  • Pause and talk about the pictures and the words.
    • Ask questions about the pictures.  Ask “How many babies are there?” and “How does the crocodile feel?”
    • Ask your child “Where are the words on this page?” Point to a word and name the letters that make up that word.  Clap the syllables in the word.
    • Ask your child “On this page, do you see any letters that are in your name?
    • Point out any rhyming words – make up new rhyming words
    • Explain the meanings of new words
  • Make connections to something familiar to your child.  Ask “Have you been to a zoo?  What did you see at the zoo?

After reading the story:

  • Ask your child, “Who are the characters in the story?” Write a list.
  • Ask your child, “What might happen next?

Book based programming is a simple and easy concept.   All you need is a book and a parent!

However, you want to be prepared!  Read the book before sharing it with a parent.  You want to know what literacy aspects to focus on.

Book based programming allows us to have very meaningful conversations with our families.   After one program, a mother said, “I never knew there was so much I could do with a book!”

Are you doing something similar at your library?

*this type of programming is adapted from http://www.myreaditagain.com/ and The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy


Jenny Oney is an Information Services Specialist at Main Children’s /Columbus Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio where she loves to talk about early literacy to anyone who will listen!  She can be reached at joney@columbuslibrary.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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17. Librarians in Literature

I love reading about librarians in books. Sometimes they are annoyingly stereotypical-the bun-wearning shushing types. But other times they are more true to the librarians I know-creative, energetic, and maybe with some secret powers!

I got excited when I saw an upcoming release, The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swan Downey. (Sourcebooks, April 2014) The book is  ”Just a little story about your average sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-fighting ninja librarians.” (from Goodreads) It got me thinking about a few of my other favorite librarians in literature.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

-Alcatraz must save the world from the most evil villain there is-librarians! They’re plotting to take over the world and Alcatraz must stop them.

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner, illusrated by Michael Emberly

-Miss Brooks is a great librarian who won’t give up on reader’s advisory-even when she’s faced with the toughest critic.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

-Mr. Lemoncello isn’t a librarian, but he builds an amazing library and employs some great librarians-who happen to be inspired by real life librarians.

Who are your favorite fictional librarians?

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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18. Unconventional Preparations for Storytime

Okay, fellow storytime librarians — you all know the lengthy preparations we take to ensure that our patrons attend the very best storytimes we can offer them. We choose books, songs, rhymes, and fingerplays. We make flannelboards and props. We create handouts and take-home information packets. We practice those literacy tips in the mirror until they sound natural and just roll off of our tongues.

Those are the expected practices.

But it’s time to talk about the unexpected preparations. The things you find yourself doing in the weeks, days, or minutes before your patrons get your undivided attention in your programming space. The untold stories of storytime prep.

The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials! [Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

The passenger seat of my car this past fall, full of storytime materials!

[Photo courtesy of the author, originally posted on Instagram.]

Like planning your storytime wardrobe the night before and singing your opening song in front of the mirror so you can make sure that your clothes will move in an appropriate manner.

Or keeping a new storytime CD in your car and switching to it the minute a commercial break hits the radio waves. And letting your fellow travelers watch your awesome hand motions while stopped at a train crossing or a red light.

And packing an extra sweater to change into once “the storytime sweat” hits you. Which is always around thirty minutes after your performance is over and you’ve finished your clean-up routine.

Or running to Michael’s and being the first customer in line because you read an amazing last-minute idea the night before and you just KNOW it’s going to make your storytime ever better.

And giving up your front passenger seat for storytime outreach. And the immediate apology to guests in your car, “Hang on, let me move all my things. Sorry about the portable flannelboard.”

Or testing out new action songs for your sister’s dog. If he wags his tail and tries to jump in, surely it will work for the toddlers, right?

So, let it out! This past week, I demonstrated my storytime outfit dance for my storytime moms and not only did it make them laugh, I also think it made them realize the care and thought that I put into storytime. It made the program all the more special.

What are your unconventional storytime preparations? Do you also schedule a bathroom break ten minutes before you get started? Let me know in the comments!

- Katie Salo
Early Literacy Librarian
Indian Prairie Public Library

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19. ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee welcomes suggestions

Each year a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) identifies the best of the best in children’s books for inclusion on the Notable Children’s Books list. According to the Notables Criteria, “notable” is defined as: “Worthy of note or notice, important, distinguished, outstanding.” Books intended for children, birth though age 14, that have been published in the United States in 2014 are eligible for consideration.

The ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee welcomes suggestions for books to be considered.  Please send your title suggestions to chair Edith Ching at ec.notables15@verizon.net

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20. Spring Fever!

Image from freefoto.com

Image from freefoto.com

I don’t know about you all, but the kids in my library are feeling SPRING FEVER!  There are quite a few ways to capitalize on this and harness it rather than just stare at in wonder.

One of the first things I like to do it take the kids outside.  Even though our school is firmly planted in an urban environment, right outside of our front door is a collection of city benches where I can bring the kids for independent reading or for a story time.  There is quite a bit of noise out there so I try to make sure any read aloud is short and boisterous.

A less weather dependent way of adding some spring to the library, is simply reading some books that are spring themed or related in some way.  Some of my favorites are:

clementine2Clementine and the Spring Trip, by Sara Pennypacker





CuriousGardenThe Curious Garden, by Peter Brown






and then it’s spring, by Julie Fogliano






In for Winter, Out for Spring, by Arnold Adoff





What are some of your favorite books to read aloud to welcome Spring?


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21. Counting & Measuring: A Preschool Math & Science Program

I’ve been branching beyond straight preschool science programs lately to incorporate more of the overlap between all the STEM areas. My latest endeavor focused on counting and measuring–both math skills that are important in many science activities.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Doing simple tasks like counting and measuring in a storytime setting shows caregivers that they do not need to be scientists or mathematicians to be able to engage with their kids in science and math activities. We can all handle preschool-level activities in these areas, and our recent program illustrated that fact.

First, we read a story. I knew I wanted to use books with cooking in them to illustrate counting and measuring, and I ended up using one of my favorites, Pizza at Sally’s by Monica Wellington. There are lots of interesting things going on in the illustrations, giving the children and me plenty of openings to include counting, color matching, and cooking vocabulary into our reading. If you want to replicate this program, you can use any sort of cooking story you prefer.


Photo by Amy Koester.

Next, we “told” the story of how pizzas are made. I created a felt set for making a pizza. It includes images of the common ingredients, like flour, tomatoes, and cheese. We told the story of our pizza from the bottom up. First we pretended to measure flour, salt, yeast, and oil to make our dough. We used our new cooking vocabulary as we talked about kneading, stretching, and tossing our dough to get to a pizza shape. We talked about and mimed making sauce, then grating the cheese. Finally, we talked about the types of toppings we wanted on our pizza, then counted them as we distributed them over the top. We ended up counting slices of green peppers, onions, and pepperoni.

We got hands-on with measuring by making no-cook play dough. Each child had a plastic cup and spoon, which they brought up to the measuring station. Our no-cook play dough recipe was very simple:

  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c salt
  • 1/4 c water

I had plastic measuring cups on hand for the children to measure out their ingredients. Note that the recipe isn’t always super precise, so we added extra tablespoons of water or flour as the consistency of the play dough required.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

And then we counted and measured as we played with the play dough. I set out a number of random cutting and stamping tools for use with the play dough. Some of the children pretended to make their own pizzas; others created designs in their dough; and others cut their dough into lots of pieces and then counted the pieces. I purposely didn’t give specific instructions for playing with the dough aside from encouraging counting and talking about what kids were doing–I wanted the caregivers to see how math and vocabulary flow naturally in so much of the play that preschool-age children do. When kids were done with their dough, they put it in baggies to take home.

Everyone got to take something home to encourage more counting and measuring. I set out a number of our counting and measuring books–both fiction and nonfiction–and I also created a half-sheet handout that included ideas for counting and measuring together, as well as a recipe for making pizza at home. I heard lots of chatter about how families would be making pizza together over the weekend following our program. Our program definitely inspired at-home conversations and hands-on activities around counting and measuring!

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22. Mandatory Reporting

As librarians we know that April is ‘National Poetry Month’ but did you know that it’s ‘Stress Awareness Month’ or ‘National Donate Life Month’? With so many monthly designations it’s hard to keep up. We become saturated with “awareness” and can overlook educational opportunities that are important in our profession.

April is ‘National Child Abuse Prevention Month’, a time to be aware that we all play a part in the emotional and physical well-being of the children around us. As librarians many of us are considered employed in “positions of trust” and are subjected to background checks and periodic drug screenings. But as our relationships with our communities expand we should always be aware of our expanded responsibilities. Do you meet regularly with your law enforcement agencies? Do you have a clear process for incident reporting and follow up? Can you recognize the signs of abuse in children and families? Do your local health departments offer training in this area? Are you a mandated reporter? These are things that you should be asking yourself and your administration.

Mandatory reporting efforts began as early as the 1960’s when the U.S. Children’s Bureau sponsored a conference aimed at the growing concerns around the effects of child abuse. Between 1963 and 1967 every state and the District of Columbia passed a child abuse reporting law. But as awareness and conditions expanded so did policies and statutes and by 1987 almost every state included sexual assault as part of the abuse, as well as mental and emotional abuse as well as neglect. (1)

Mandatory Reporting is becoming a hot topic in light of recent high profile abuse cases. Here in the District of Columbia, where I am a librarian, city council legislation passed in 2012 requires any adult who knows – or has reason to believe – that a child age 16 or younger is being abused is required to report the incident to the police or the city’s Child and Family Services Agency. This is a change from mandatory reporters being strictly “positions of trust”. In the wake of the Penn State scandal, More than 100 bills on the process of reporting of child abuse or neglect were introduced in 30 states and the District, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with 18 states instituting a universal reporting law. (2)

Take time this month to be proactive, make yourself aware of the laws and statutes of your state. Below are some valuable resources that can help inform you and your staff, as well as spark conversation between your library and other service agencies.

Resources to consider:

The Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more. Make sure to click on their “state specific resource” link. They also produce valuable fact sheets and handouts.

Founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp® is a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect.

The Child Abuse Prevention Center is a national and international training, education, research and resource center dedicated to protecting children and building healthy families.

Family Resource Information, Education and Network Development Services (FRIENDS), the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP), provides training and technical assistance to Federally funded CBCAP Programs. This site serves as a resource to those programs and to the rest of the Child Abuse Prevention community.

Don’t forget to reach out to your local Health Department and Child Services Agencies, they will have the most recent and local information for your community.

(1) Hutchison, E. D. (1993). Mandatory reporting laws: child protective case finding gone awry?. Social Work, 38 56-63

(2) Craig, T. (2012, Nov 16). Council advances bill expanding rules for reporting child sex abuse. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1152062603?accountid=46320

Lesley Mason, ALA ALSC Committee Member, Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers and Children’s Librarian at DC Public Library

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23. The ALSC Board—active throughout the year

The ALSC Board of Directors conducts open meetings at Annual Conference and during the Midwinter Meeting, but the Board also attends to business between those occasions.

The members of the ALSC Board communicate with one another and conduct association business on the ALSC Board Electronic Discussion List, ALSCBOARD. I invite all interested individuals to stay current with ALSC issues and business proceedings by subscribing to ALSCBOAD at http://lists.ala.org/sympa/info/alscboard. Subscribers receive all posts to the list, (but cannot post messages themselves), including notices of online meetings which can be followed by members via ALA Connect.  The results of any actions taken by the Board in these online sessions are also posted the ALSCBOARD.

Archives of discussions on ALSCBOARD may be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/alsc20/alscdisclist/edlarchives.

Please join me and my fellow board members in examining the issues that shape our organization. And be sure to check out the other ALSC electronic discussion lists at http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/alsc20/alscdisclist.  There are online communities dedicated to storytelling, preschool services, legislative issues, Día and more.  Remember, the more we get together, the happier we’ll be!

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24. Nominate the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecturer!

The 2016 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee seeks nominations for individuals of distinction to present the 2016 Arbuthnot Lecture. The lecturer, who will be announced at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, may be an author, illustrator, publisher, critic, librarian, historian, or teacher of children’s literature, of any country, who shall prepare a paper that will make a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature. Additional Information about the lecture can be found at http://www.ala.org/alsc/arbuthnot.

Nominations should include the following:

  • Name of nominee
  • Professional title/occupation
  • Biographical sketch
  • Justification for consideration
  • Major publications

The committee recommends that the body of the nomination be 2-3 pages with a separate bibliography. Nominations should be submitted as an attached document to committee chair Julie Corsaro at juliealsc@gmail.com. The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

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25. Series Collecting: How do you know?

Unless your library exists in the digital world rather than the physical one, everyone has experienced the limitations of shelf space at one point or another. With 3,000+ titles published each year for children, weeding is a way of life for the children’s librarian, lest our shelves begin to look like a particularly literary episode of hoarders! Older books and series that no longer have an audience have to make way for exciting new books and series that will become a whole new generation’s favorite books.

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures - and they're always checked out!

We still have about 12 of each of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s adventures – and they’re always checked out!

So my query today, fellow collectors of books for children, is this: how do you decide to take the plunge on a new series? There are some obvious indicators, like a rave review for the first title or a first printing size that indicates the publisher believes the book has legs. I place some of my trust in the selectors at Baker & Taylor, and ask to see all titles in my carts which my warehouse (South) has purchased 400 or more copies of.

Beyond that, deciding to purchase a new series that has decent but not astounding reviews becomes a puzzle with many pieces – do we have kids that read this type of fiction? Do we have similar series already? Does that series have any distinguishing factors, either character or plot, that will make it stand out for the pack? I admit that we have become very wary of purchasing new fantasy series without stellar reviews, as their popularity (at least in our library) seems to be on a slow decline.

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Coco Simon knows what girls like to read!

Our most recent series decision was a long time coming. We didn’t purchased those pink-and-purple, absolutely adorable Cupcake Diaries for the first 6 months of their lives, for a few reasons. The series was publishing at a fast rate, which meant we would have to devote ever-increasing amount of shelf space to it each month. Additionally, our library already had several multi-book series about girls, cooking, and cupcakes. Demand for the series rose and we made the decision to weed a few of the older cupcake/cooking series to make room for Katie and her friends. Of course, the series circ’d like hotcakes and I was kicking myself for not snapping them up immediately!

How do you know when to purchase? How do you know when to let a series go?

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