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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 163
1. 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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2. 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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3. When it’s Time for a Program Makeover

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

Children’s librarians offer tons of awesome and successful programs every day. But what about the programs that are not so successful? When is it time to make changes or pull the cord on something?

A “successful” program means something different to every librarian. It might be a program that has a large draw, bringing many families into your library to check out materials and use library resources. It may be a program that results in a few kids or parents gaining valuable skills. The first step to figuring out whether your programs are succeeding is to think about what you want them to do.

And then be honest with yourself. Is this program doing what you want? Is preparing and implementing this program a valuable use of your staff time and programming funds? Are there ways that the program could be changed to maximize impact?

If you’re not getting what you want out of your programs, it’s time to rethink! This is okay. This is not a failure on anyone’s part, but it’s an opportunity to grow and change and serve your population and staff better.

Some ideas?

* Is attendance down in storytime? Miss Julie had success with changing up her marketing. Try calling it a “class” instead of “storytime”. Maybe it’s time to try out digital elements in storytime or STEM storytimes. Or take a break from storytimes and try some different types of preschool programs.

* Are your large programs taking up more staff time than they’re really worth? Give unprogramming a try.

* Did a program you were excited about turn out to have low attendance or unanticipated problems? Librarians get free do-overs. Try it again and tweak what didn’t work.

* Is an annual or recurring program getting out of control? Angie explains how she saved her program by throwing out everything she thought she knew and starting over.

* Having trouble attracting the afterschool crowd (or any other population you’re trying to reach)? Start with some outreach. Take the library to them and make valuable connections.

* Is your Summer Reading Program driving you crazy? Find ways to make it easier for staff and patrons. Not everyone is in love with Summer Reading, I promise.

It’s part of our jobs to take stock of what we’re doing and make sure that it’s working. What experiences have you had with revamping programs that were not working?

– Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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4. Put on a Screen-Free Activity at Your Library

Just in case you’ve never heard of Screen-Free Week, May 5 – 11, here’s my favorite explanation of what it is:

Screen-Free Week (formerly TV-Turnoff) is an annual celebration where children, families, schools and communities turn off screens and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Screen-Free Week isn’t just about snubbing screens for seven days: it’s a springboard for important lifestyle changes that will improve well-being and quality of life all year round.

Sounds like where we live, huh? S-F Week offers many resources for parents and teachers eager to participate. For librarians? Not so much, and I don’t know why, because reading, daydreaming, and exploring are things we librarians love to incorporate in our programs.

The first difficulty we librarians face in considering Screen-Free Week is the obvious one that what we do at our libraries is to provide access to information resources for our patrons. It’s not for us to suddenly decide to turn off the screens. That’s a parental decision.

But we can act as a resource for parents looking for screen-free activities. Here are some ideas:

  • Remembering that Mother’s Day is that Sunday, I’ll organize some fun crafts that even boys would do if the result is a present for Mom. Or I’ll organize a tea party for kids and their moms. How about this for a fantastic idea: A book giveaway FOR MOMS!  I’ll cull the donated paperbacks and pick out a wide variety of nice looking copies and GIVE THEM TO THE MOMS while their kids make bookmarks.
  • Remembering that the school reading contest booklists will be released around that time, I’ll move heaven and earth to have a few copies of the most exciting titles as giveaways.
  • Remembering that the summer reading program will begin in the next month, I’ll start the sign ups, the e-mail collecting, and in general build up a little momentum.  I’ll give a taste of library fun with some great activity I’m eager to try that I couldn’t sandwich into my summer schedule.
  • Remembering those excellent words of Jana Fine, Florida Youth Services Consultant, I’ll recycle whatever program I’ve used in the past that was a hit.

I’m sure my fellow librarians will think up a lot of great stuff. Will I have difficulty observing Screen Free Week? You betcha. I’m addicted to Pinterest and Word Whomp.  But maybe it’s about time I took a walk on the beach.


Our guest blogger today is Travis Sherman. Travis is the youth services librarian at Gulf Beaches Public Library in Madeira Beach, Florida.  As her niece once put it after watching her mouse storytime, “And they pay you to do that?”  It’s still hard for her to believe, the mix of books and people she gets to enjoy every day.

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. Sensory-Friendly Films: Family Programming for Autism Awareness Month

The Gruffalo, released by N Circle Entertainment (2011)

Our Children’s Department is trying something new this April for Autism Awareness Month.  As a way to continue our outreach efforts to children with special needs into the library, we will be hosting our first ever inclusive family film program entitled Sensory-Friendly Family Film.

Our idea of a family film program designed especially for children with special needs is modeled after AMC Theatre’s own series of  Sensory-Friendly Films.  In partnership with the Autism Society, AMC’s Sensory-Friendly Films were first developed in 2007 as recreational opportunities for individuals with autism.  These special movie showings welcome people of all abilities to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment.  The theaters themselves offer a different kind of moviegoing experience, with lights that are turned on and sound that is turned down.  Audience members are even invited to move about the room as they please.  As explained by the Autism Society, “Being able to relax and enjoy quality family time without worrying if someone will complain or be disturbed by noise of movement is a wonderful experience. It’s a great opportunity for families to meet, siblings of children with autism to get to know other kids, and anyone to enjoy a movie in a climate of acceptance and understanding.”  Children with autism spectrum disorder often need a different adaption or a slightly altered environment to feel comfortable.  Sensory-Friendly Films offer that supportive environment.

There were many reasons why we decided to host a Sensory-Friendly Film program at the library.  Our Children’s Department has an ongoing series of Sensory Storytime programs for children with special needs, so we already have a core group of families who visit the library to attend these programs.  So, we wanted to build on our first program’s success.  We wanted to provide more opportunities for those families to feel comfortable visiting the library in a program that is still as welcoming and inclusive as Sensory Storytime.  Another goal of ours was to develop more programs that are family-oriented and welcoming for parents, caregivers, and siblings.  That way, families are able to make visits to the library together, with everyone able to enjoy the movie experience regardless of their age or ability.  We also wanted to bring attention to our selection of movies that are based on picture books.  There are many production companies, such as Weston Woods, Dreamscape, and Scholastic Storybook Treasures, that create quality audiovisual adaptations of picture book texts.  By showing one of these movies, we hope to bring more awareness to this mini collection of DVDs, while introducing kids with new characters and connecting them with new stories.

Here is a run down of our program details:

  • Title: Sensory Friendly Family Film–The Gruffalo
  • Date and Time: Saturday, April 5 at 11 am
  • Target Audience: Children of all ages and abilities with parent or caregiver
  • Program Description: Join us for our first sensory-friendly movie showing of “The Gruffalo.” The room will be lighter, the volume will be lower, and audience members will be welcome to move around, talk, and sing.  The intended audience is children with special needs accompanied by siblings and caregivers, although everyone is welcome.  Noise cancelling headphones and fidgets will be available to use.  No registration required–just drop in!
  • Room setup: TV monitor at the front of the room with chairs arranged in auditorium style seating; large aisles and walkways in between rows of chairs and along the edge of the room for accessibility; table arranged at the back of the room displaying copies of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and collection of fidgets and other manipulatives for children to use during the program
  • Fidgets and manipulatives made available: 4 pairs of noise cancelling headphones; 6 tangle toys4 giant sensory tubes; sensory balls; stress balls; puzzles

Here’s another quick tip.  If your library wants to host a family movie program, be sure to first acquire the rights to show the movie in your library.  Check out Movie Licensing USA or the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation for more information.

To find out more about the history of Sensory Friendly Films and to learn about the one family who made it all happen, click here.  For a list of participating theaters in your area, check out AMC Theatre’s website.  And to learn about more autism-friendly library programming strategies that work, check out the Libraries and Autism website.  Does your library offer Sensory-Friendly Film programming? If so, share your tips and ideas below!

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6. The Rainbow (Loom) Connection: a Small Scale Maker Program

Rainbow Loom is the latest fad sweeping across American classrooms. With the help of a plastic loom and a crochet hook, kids can weave, twist, and loop tiny rubber bands into anything from bracelets and lanyards to hats and charms. It’s popular, it appeals to boys and girls, it’s good for fine motor development…and it’s perfect for a maker program.

Pre-program setup Some samples for the program Some of our loomers brought their own supplies Looming away!

Interested in trying this out at your library? Here are a few tips and tricks:

Step 1: Learn to Loom
Even if you are neither artsy nor craftsy, you can learn how to use the Rainbow Loom successfully. There are a number of wonderful beginner tutorials on the official website. YouTube also has entire channels devoted to the Rainbow Loom—JustinsToys, Made by Mommy, PG’s Loomacy, and TutorialsbyA are a few that I used to prepare for our program.

Step 2: …But Do It Off Desk
Rainbow Loom has a learning curve that can lead you to some frustrating places. A single missed step can result in your creation merrily disintegrating into a pile of rubber bands, leading you to suddenly understand what Sisyphus felt like watching that boulder roll all the way back down the hill. Find a quiet place where you can really concentrate and aim for proficiency rather than total mastery.

Step 3: Know Your Experts
I wanted this program to be an opportunity for kids to create and collaborate with each other—less like a class and more like a quilting circle. To facilitate that, we asked kids at registration if they were advanced or beginning loomers. During the program, color-coded nametags helped us group some of our expert loomers with our beginners.

 Step 4: Know Your Supplies
The amount of bands you will need depends on the pattern—more complex patterns generally require more rubber bands. If you’re planning on buying some looms, the starter kits come with approximately 600 bands and 20 C-clips. I’d estimated that in a 90-minute program, each kid could make three 50-band bracelets. This turned out to be a little high, so we had enough left over for another session.

Step 5: Use Your Resources
We started off the program with a YouTube tutorial, which was a nice segue into the less structured section. Our brand new rubber band jewelry book was a big help for the loomers who weren’t sure what to make next.

Step 6: Keep Calm and Loom On!
I’ve learned that at any given moment during a craft program, the number of children shouting, “Miss Martha! I NEED HELP!” will always be at least four times greater than the number of Miss Marthas in the room. Make sure that you have another staff member on hand, or possibly a teen or middle school age volunteer. This is also a great opportunity for your experts to shine. We were lucky to have one guru who knew just about everything there was to know about Rainbow Loom, and had all kinds of great tips and tricks.

Step 7: Have Fun!
Being a beginning loomer myself, I was a little nervous about leading this program. The neat thing about maker programs is that they can turn barriers into opportunities for learning—even if you are leading the program. That’s exactly what ended up happening with our program—we had fun learning from each other. Keep that in mind as your prepare for your program.


Martha Cordeniz O’Hara is a Children’s Services Associate at the Glencoe Public Library in Glencoe, Illinois. When she is not at the Glencoe Public Library, you can sometimes find her working at the Lake Bluff Public Library or attending class through the LEEP Program at the University of Illinois. She lives in Highland Park with her husband and their two opinionated cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @marthacohara, especially if you are interested in pictures of the aforementioned cats.

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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7. Program in a Post: Torn Paper Landscapes

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

With this blog post and less than $15 (or $0 if you have the supplies on hand) you can present a fun, easy & creative art program for families and children of all ages.


  • glue sticks ($)
  • cardboard/cardstock cut into a variety of sizes. We used old magazine covers, pieces of cardboard boxes and old file folders.
  • construction paper ($)
  • photos from magazines or calendars (optional)
Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Format: One hour long open house.

Room setup:

  • Tables & chairs for attendees.
  • Projector to run a PowerPoint presentation of landscape photographs or print outs of landscape photographs taped up near the supply table.
  • Supply table at the front of the room with cardboard/cardstock, construction paper & magazine/calendar pictures (optional). Label the supplies (collage bases, colored paper, pictures)
  • Glue sticks on each table.
  • Display sign with simple instructions and a definition of landscape and collage.
  • Music.
  • On display: Non-fiction books about collage, picture books with collage illustrations and CDs (by the band/artist you are playing during the program).

When I ran this program a few weeks ago I greeted customers at the door and provided them with a simple explanation of what was happening. “We’re making torn paper landscapes today. Stop & pick up supplies. You’ll need a collage base and some colored paper and/or pictures to tear up. Glue is on the tables and there is a slideshow of landscapes running.” If I was occupied elsewhere, the sign near the supply table provided them with enough information to get started.

The youngest child in attendance was 6 months old and the eldest was 12. Some families stayed for 10 minutes, others for 40.

If you are interested, I would be happy to share the landscape PowerPoint/photos, just comment here.

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8. Storytime Lab

Because I keep seeing so many amazing storytime ideas from blogs I read, I am feeling the itch to do Storytime. My position as Head of Youth Services means that I do a lot coordinating, consulting, book ordering, book recommending, grant writing, program development, and training. Which means I am in an office based in a Headquarters location that is not a public library. Which means: I don’t have a regular storytime. For many storytime labyears, this has been ok with me. I was actually kind of tired of doing storytime, and was happy to compile booklists and make storykits and show staff, child care providers, and parents how to interact with kids around books. But how I can recommend all this new fun stuff if I don’t test-drive it first? Enter Storytime Lab. Once a month, I will be heading over to my local library to test out new songs, fingerplays, flannel stories, activities,  and books on the willing “Guinea Pigs” that come through the doors. Not only do I get to test out new ideas, but I have also invited our staff that do storytimes, plus local agencies that do storytime activities, to come and observe as a training session. They get to see a storytime modeled, and see how the kids react. The children and families that attend get to experience the newest books, songs, puppet stories, and flannelboards that I can find. Plus, it is only once a month. That fits in just right with my schedule. Now, I just need a lab coat….

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9. Marshmallow Engineering: A School-Age STEAM Program

You may have come to expect a full science program from my monthly posts here on the ALSC Blog. Today I’m going to share something a bit different, because my overall goal is to share STEAM programs–and science is just one facet of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). I want to focus today on a recent school-age STEAM program we did at my library: Marshmallow Towers. It combined engineering and the creative aspects of arts and crafts. Here’s what we did:

Figuring Out Structure Shapes

Photo by Amy Koester.

The Opener: Talking about building. What sorts of things do architects and construction workers have to take into account when they think about building? We talked about design and knowing the materials you’re working with. I also made available lots of the library’s non-fiction titles that give a sneak peak into buildings and construction. Heavily illustrated books like those from David Macaulay and DK Eyewitness were attendees’ favorites, and many of the kids grabbed a book to take with them to the construction tables as inspiration.

The Challenge: Build marshmallow towers using mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Or, if the idea of a tower wasn’t sufficiently inspiring, kids could build whatever they wanted. In addition to mini marshmallows and toothpicks, I also made available paper and writing utensils in case kids wanted to sketch or plan their towers before building.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

The Process: The bulk of the program was spent with children at tables building, and I spent my time moving from table to table and talking to the kids as they worked. These conversations are the prime opportunity to make any program’s STEAM connections explicit. All of the kids who were building were doing engineering, but they might not think of it that way without a bit of prompting. I like to point out how engineering is all about figuring out how to build something to the specifications you want. It’s about creative problem-solving, and building with marshmallows certainly offers instances of problem-solving.

When kids were occasionally struggling with their towers, I tried to make connections back to our non-fiction inspiration texts. “Structure falling down? Maybe it’s time to consider the types of shapes you’re making. Let’s look at some of these pictures of bridges. What shapes do you see in the construction of the bridge? How could you use those shapes in your building?” I like to set an example that, when we have a problem or question, we can usually turn to a book to find some possible answers.

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

The Result: First and foremost, the children who participated in this program had fun. They said they really liked getting to “play” with a food like marshmallows.

Beyond just the element of fun, however, kids got to truly engage in this program. They got to exercise creativity–envision a tower–as well as building and problem-solving–figuring out how to produce a desired result, making modifications as obstacles arose. That’s engaging the whole brain and demonstrating that neither engineering nor art are mutually exclusive. I think it’s very important for children (and their caregivers in the program with them) to experience the fact that all the STEAM areas are connected, and they are all interesting and enjoyable.

I have observed that there are far too many kids who come out of school and extracurricular activities thinking that they “aren’t good at art” or “aren’t good at science/math/etc.” all because of a standalone assignment or activity. In the real world, it’s all intertwined. And if kids get to experience that interconnectedness first hand, they’ll be more empowered to realize their own potential. They’ll also be able to engage in all the interesting things the world has to offer them, better understanding the world and thus enjoying it more deeply. If the library can facilitate some of those experiences? Well, that’s even better.

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10. Passive Programming in a School Library



One of the things that I miss the most about working in the public library is the programming.  I know, I know…when I was in the public libraries, programming could be overwhelming as I worked in large branches with loads of kids.  I took to twitter to muse about missing crafting, and got some suggestions from my PLN that morphed into our “Maker Mondays”.

For a variety of reasons, I decided to make this pretty much a passive program. Because of our active after school program, I decided to make it happen before school when there are usually quite a few kids hanging out.  Since I like crafting so much, that is the genesis of the idea of “making”.

I have chosen basic crafts to start (thank you pinterest!).  Our first week, we simply cut out paper snowflakes and wrote some hopes and wishes for the New Year on them to hang in the students’ windows.  The second craft (seen above) is a simple book mark using paint strips, construction paper, and ribbon.

So far we have had a variety of students ranging from 2nd graders to 7th graders take part.  The program takes minimal planning, and induces many smiles.  I’m so happy I tried it!

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11. A Gaming Connection

“You play Minecraft at work?” Sometimes my friends get jealous, so I explain: “Yeah, I play Minecraft at work, but I’m usually running around the lab helping people, and there’s more to it than just playing the game – it’s about building community.” Playing Minecraft at the library is a way to get kids in the door and create connections. That I’m a fan of Minecraft outside of work serves as another layer of common ground.

I’ve been playing Minecraft in our computer lab with groups of kids and teens for about two years now. We’ve done a lot of different things with the game: free play, adventure maps, working together to survive, player vs. player battles, redstone circuits, pixel art. At times we’ve played every other week, sometimes once a month, sometimes once over the summer. I’ve gotten to know my Minecraft kids pretty well. I know that they are creative and knowledgeable about the details of the game. I know who loves to explore, who is a fearless monster fighter, who can give me a porkchop when my food meter is low, and who knows how to build a shelter where no zombie will ever find us. And they know me this way as well. They know I probably have a secret shelter hidden somewhere, that if they need a place to hide they can come in, and that my avatar is probably standing there doing nothing because I left myself logged in while I got up to help someone at their computer.

By providing a space for kids to play, we have explored building communities in the game, and we have created a community outside the game based on our shared interest.

I hear a lot of talk about how Minecraft can be used educationally to teach STEAM skills, executive functioning skills and social skills like sharing and cooperation. I agree that all of these opportunities are available with the game, but the truth is that sometimes in the middle of a program, things can get pretty chaotic. Sometimes I’m just running around the lab trying to help kids learn crafting recipes, or mediating between disputes. I knew I had strong connections with a lot of kids because I know them from Minecraft, but I wasn’t thinking about the way that these connections might go beyond the computer lab until recently.

The other day a couple of my regulars, twin brothers, came in to the Children’s room. I marveled at how tall they were getting. They signed up for the next Minecraft program, next month, near their birthday. They will be 11. I have known them for over a year. In addition to wondering when the next Minecraft program was, they were also looking for books for school. They had reports to write. The topics: roller coasters and locksmiths. We looked for books and I walked them back to the stacks to show them how Dewey Decimal call numbers work. We found some books, but we had to put others on hold from libraries in our consortium. I explained that with a little notice, we could get books that they could use for their projects from libraries across the state. Then, I showed them around the databases.

It turns out roller coaster is two words and locksmith is one. This is something I wasn’t entirely sure about when I went to type in search terms and it gave me a concrete example to show that database searching is specific and you need to try rephrasing your terms when you aren’t finding the information you’re looking for.

I explained how they could access the databases from home and told them they could always call the Children’s Room or send me an email to if they needed more help.

This ten or fifteen minute interaction had a lot of positive outcomes: The twins got the resources they need for their projects as well as an in-depth reference interview from a librarian they know cares about them. I got to see two enthusiastic Minecraft adventurers in the context of fifth grade students. I also got a feeling of satisfaction along the lines of that quote from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Connections made by gaming translated into a connection to the more traditional resources the library has to offer. So, not only do these two kids know I’ve got their backs when there’s a zombie, they know that the library will support their information needs for school projects with a variety of resources.

It was a moment I wanted to share.

Do you have an anecdote about making connections in your library? Share it in the comments!

YALSA Blogger Erin Daly works with babies, teens and every kid in between as the Youth Services Coordinator at the Chicopee Public Library in Western Massachusetts. You can follow her tales of library life and the occasional cat picture on Twitter @ErinCerulean

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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12. A Beautiful Mess: Baby Rembrandts at Your Library!

What do kids love more than making a huge, awesome mess? Nothing! Unfortunately, most kids aren’t allowed to dig in to paint, glitter, and glue at home on a regular basis. Thankfully, we have a library for that! With this in mind, I created a “Baby Rembrandts” art program for children ages 1-5 and their parents.

I set up everything in the room before kids and their parents began to arrive. The program lasted around one hour and had four art stations. I covered all the tables with plastic table cloth, pre-poured paint onto small plates, and placed all the materials on the tables. I kept all the paint on a high counter until we started to prevent eager artists from digging right in.

As parents and children arrived, I gave them a paper leaf to write their name on and tape to their shirt. This made it easier for me to address people I didn’t already know from storytime. After they made their leaves, everyone came to sit on the carpet and we read Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood.

After the story, I broke the group up into four smaller groups to go to the stations. I had 24 kids in attendance, and I kept friends and family members together.  I told everyone at the start of the program that I would alert the group after 15 minutes had passed so that everyone could make it to every station, but nobody was forced to move if they weren’t finished.  Then, I let them go to town!

The four stations I included were: Finger painted leaves and Indian corn (pictures of Indian corn and leaves on card stock) Pumpkin Sun Catchers (two pieces of contact paper with a pumpkin shaped outline and tissue paper pressed between) Movable Scarecrows (a scarecrow shape with arms and legs detached. They added arms and legs with paper fasteners so that they moved, and decorated) and a Library Mural (Large pieces of butcher paper taped to the table for everyone to collaborate on with paint. I changed this paper one time so that there was enough room for everyone to contribute.)

While I did alert the group every 15 minutes or so, most groups moved around at their own pace. I had baby wipes available to wipe off messy hands, and I had a bunch of oversized shirts that were available as smocks. Only a few kids wanted smocks, though, because I was sure to put in the program description that we would be getting messy. We also have a sink in our program room, which allowed little ones to wash their hands.

Overall, Baby Rembrandts was a huge success. This program had all fall themed crafts (it was held October 25) but it can easily be adapted for any season or no season at all. It was a great time, and I highly recommend it!


Our guest blogger today is Ellen Norton. Ellen is a children’s librarian at the White Oak Library District in Crest Hill, IL. When she’s not making messes with little ones, she likes going on outdoor adventures, cooking, and reading of course! Ellen can be reached at enorton@whiteoaklibrary.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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13. Imagine, Design, Build- Block Play!

Why Blocks?

Constructive Play is a valuable experience for child development and for the acquisition of early literacy skills.  When children play with blocks they are engaged in the use of fine and gross motor skills, developing problem solving skills, hand eye coordination and download (1)visual/spatial awareness. Beyond these developmental skills needed for growth and school success block play also allow children to develop social/ emotional skills.  Children can learn conflict resolution, build self-confidence and engage in open ended play with free expression.  By creating new worlds, designing imaginary stories, engaging in identifying shapes and relationships between them while playing with blocks, children are developing early literacy skills.

Block come in all shapes and sizes!

LEGOS download (2)

Wooden Blocks

Foam Blocks

Cardboard Blocks


Including Blocks in your Library

  1. Select the blocks that work for your branch. Think about the space you have to allocate and the noise level you prefer to keep.
  2. Plan a way for blocks to be stored.  Will you use a block cabinet, baskets, bins or shelves? Whatever you choose make sure you have a plan in place for your customers to know where to put away the blocks when their play time is over. This keeps your blocks nice as well as saves on staff time.
  3. Encourage Customers to put away their blocks after playing. When kids clean up blocks and put them into your planed storage system they have to sort them which is a math skill! Offer a stamp or sticker for kids who clean up their mess.  We post signs around some of our more messy centers that encourage kids to clean up. After they clean up what they played with they can show the Librarian and get a stamp.  Most children will do anything for a stamp or sticker. They are low cost and will save you and your staff a lot of cleaning.
  4. Sanitize Your Blocks! All you need to sanitize these items is water, bleach and a spray bottle. Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water and fill the spray bottle.  This mixture is good enough to kill germs but will not damage items, clothes, carpet or furniture.  Spray your items liberally at night and leave them to dry overnight.
  5. Know that all children will play with blocks differently depending on their developmental stages.
  • Carrying (blocks carried, not used for construction; young children around age 2)
  • Stacking (horizontal or vertical stacking; beginning around age 3)
  • Bridging (children create a bridge using two blocks to support a third; also around age 3)
  • Enclosure (blocks enclose a space; around age 4)
  • Patterns and Symmetry (balanced structures, decorative or symmetrical patterns; ages 4 & 5)
  • Early Representational (name structure during or after construction; age 4 ½)
  • Later Representational (announce name before building begins, often use props for dramatic play;age 5download
  1. Watch the Magic Happen! Observe the great creations and learning opportunities happen before your very eyes!

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14. Too Many Choices! Books to Read During Sensory Storytimes

How do you select the right picture book to read to an audience of children with special needs?  A few years ago, I blogged about tips and strategies for those of us selecting books for special needs storytimes.  While I still use this criteria today, now I’ve come across a slight problem.  I will admit, it’s not exactly a problem…  With all the fabulous picture books published every year, how do you even begin to choose what to use for storytime?  This list is just one place to start.  So, whether your library hosts its own Sensory Storytime program, you’re just searching for books to read to an inclusive audience, or you’re just looking for a great readaloud, this list is for you!


  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  • Dog’s Noisy Day by Emma Dodd
  • Jump! by Scott Fisher
  • Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira
  • Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin
  • Stick! by Andy Pritchett
  • I Went Walking by Sue Williams


  • Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
  • Wow! Said the Owl by Tim Hopgood
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
  • Cleo’s Color Book by Caroline Mockford
  • What Makes a Rainbow by Betty Schwartz
  • Knock! Knock! By Anna-Clara Tidholm
  • The Deep Blue Sea: A Book of Colors by Audrey Wood

Rhymes & Songs

  • Itsy Bitsy Spider by Richard Egielski
  • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines
  • Five Little Ducks by Annie Kubler
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  • Down by the Station by Jennifer Vetter
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It by James Warhola
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Paul Zelinsky


Renee’s Favorites

  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
  • A Closer Look by Mary McCarthy
  • If You Give A Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
  • Wave Goodbye by Rob Reid
  • Press Here by Herve Tullet
  • Banana! by Ed Vere


What are some of your favorites?  Share them below! :)

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15. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s a Superhero Training Academy!

Superheroes are everywhere, from the blockbuster movies we see to the ever-popular Halloween costumes for both children and adults. There are even dedicated days to these comic book crusaders, such as Free Comic Book Day and San Diego Comic Con. Superheroes can inspire us to be greater; to be the do-gooders in the world.

With this in mind, I wanted to try a Superhero Training Academy for grades K to 5 this past summer. After asking for advice on the listservs and perusing some library blogs I decided to do self-directed stations. This would allow kids to spend as much or as little time as they wanted at each station. I was also inspired by the Unprogramming Conversation Starter that I attended at ALA Annual in Chicago.

My hero!

I dressed up as Batgirl, which seemed the most obvious being that she too is a librarian.

As the kids arrived, they received a checklist of superhero tasks that they needed to complete. I explained that they could spend as much time as they wanted at each station, but only when they completed all of them could they come up to me to receive their graduation certificate and become an official member of the Justice League. I purchased a really cool PDF template from Etsy to use for the certificate, but you could also just make one of your own on Publisher.

These are the superhero tasks that I chose:

1. Make Your Own Mask/Superhero Identity: I found a mask template on Google and printed it off onto cardstock. Every superhero needs a secret identity, so I printed “My identity is secret. Please call me…” onto white address labels. I also set out some yarn and markers to let them color their masks and write their names. Voila! Super easy.

The Cape Station

And because no superhero is complete without a cape, I found this handy tutorial online. I purchased red plastic table covers from my local party store and white elastic. I then found a shield template on Google. I enlarged the template 400% and printed them off onto 11″ x 17″ paper, which made them the perfect size for a cape.



Mighty Muscles

2. Mighty Muscles: Each child was tasked with lifting a boulder and a barbell 5 times each. I made a barbell with a wooden dowel, 2 foam balls, and foam spray paint that I bought at my local craft store. For the “boulder” I simply used a black bean bag.

3. Tunnel Crawl: I set out our play tunnel and told the superheroes-in-training that they needed to prove their agility by crawling through the tunnel and back.

Spiderman’s Web

Strike Out the Villain

4. Spiderman’s Web: We had a spider web decoration for Halloween, so I just covered that with masking tape facing out. The kids had to stand behind the line and make 3 large pom-poms stick to the web. You could also just put the masking tape in an open doorway so that it looks like a spider web.


Rescue Mission


5. Strike Out the Villain: I covered empty soda cans with pictures of (in)famous villains and set out plastic play balls. The children had to test their aim by knocking every villain down.




Kryptonite Disposal

6. Rescue Mission: My very handy husband built me a balance beam for this activity. I made a “lava pit” out of red paper. The object of this task was to walk across the lava pit without falling, pick up the baby doll at the end, and then carry it back.




7. Kryptonite Disposal: I found some green plastic balls in our toy area to use as Kryptonite. Using plastic spoons, kids had to carry 3 of the balls to the disposal area (a.k.a. a clean garbage can).

8. Brain Power: I put some jelly beans in a jar and the children had to guess how many there were by using their superhuman brain powers. The child who had the closest guess won the entire jar.

9. Super Refueling Station: Because even the best superheroes need to refuel after a long day of training, I set out Avengers fruit snacks, Spiderman graham crackers, and green Hawaiian Punch for a snack.

10. Photo-Op Corner: I found a roll of cityscape backdrop to hang up where the superheroes could take photos. I had a cutout of Iron Man to pose with as well.

All in all, the party was a huge success! The kids had a lot of fun showing off their super skills.

Have you ever planned a Superhero Party at your library? What activities did you do?

For more programming ideas, please visit the full Kickstart List available online.

All program photos courtesy of the Hudson Library.

Kimberly Castle-Alberts is a Children’s/YA Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Hudson, OH and is writing this post for the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. You can follow her adventures as a youth services librarian at http://literarylibrariankim.blogspot.com. She can be reached at kim.alberts@hudson.lib.oh.us.

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16. Passive Programs for Tweens

The library I work in is on a very busy side of town. Our tweens tend to become very involved in after school activities and homework during the school year. While they still use the library, they tend to be here for tutoring, homework help, or just running in quickly to grab a book. Sometimes our programming for tweens can be hit or miss. But one thing that has become a popular hit with our school age group are passive programs. We put out passive programs several times a year and these are great for tweens on the go who only have a few minutes to spend with a program. A few of our recent ideas:


This has become a holiday tradition for both Halloween and Christmas. Many years ago the library received a Madeline dollhouse that my staff transform into a large I Spy House. The interior changes every year with new items to find. Sometimes it’s a list of items, sometimes it’s a puzzle with rhyming text, but no matter what the tweens love searching for all the times and seeing how fast they can find everything. Here’s a peek at what our Halloween house looks like this year:

I Spy House


Our tweens love scavenger hunts. They would do them all day if we had enough! We tie scavenger hunts into a lot of our programs because of their popularity. I’ve used them for our Hobbit Birthday celebration (find the hidden Hobbits around the library) or to kick off summer reading program (find the pyramids using various clues).

What I love about scavenger hunts is that it’s a tricky way to teach the tweens about the library. We recently made a scavenger hunt modeled after Upstart’s Duck Duck Dewey Game. We took pictures of each of the subject themed ducks and hide them on the shelf in each of the dewey locations. We then created a sheet that showed a variety of book covers they might find in each subject and the picture of the duck that matched with a short description about what that duck liked to read about. Tweens had to then write down what Dewey number they found the books. So many of our patrons commented that they loved this scavenger hunt because it helped them learn where to find books.

Passive programs work well for our tween audience and the tweens get really excited about discovering what’s new at the library. What are some of your favorite passive programs for tweens?


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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17. Making Every Day a Día Day on Wed., Oct. 23

Celebrate Dia in 2014Día season is right around the corner and it’s time to start your preparations! Learn how to make Día (El día de los niños/El día de los libros–Children’s Day/Book Day) a part of your library programming throughout the year!

On Wednesday, October 23 at 2pm Central, ALSC offers Making Every Day a Día Day: Incorporating Día into Current Youth Programming with instructor, Jeanette Larson. An effective way to really make Día (El día de los niños/El día de los libros–Children’s Day/Book Day) a part of library programming throughout the year is to introduce multicultural literature and bilingual literacy into any and all programs and events at the library where it might apply. Learn more about these programs in this one-hour webinar.

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18. Chemistry Science for Preschoolers

IMG_1017What happens when we mix two things together? That’s a fundamental question that every preschooler encounters with astounding frequency. What happens when I put water in the sandbox? What happens when I mix the foods on my plate? What happens when I drop non-bathtub things in the bathtub? Mixing things together–chemistry–is a common occurrence in everyday life, and giving children a vocabulary for talking about these fun experiments better equips them for understanding what happens in the world around them. Thus Chemistry Science for preschoolers. Steal this program!

IMG_1023Welcome everyone with a name game. I decided to open up this program with a name game that has been successful and shared by at least two great librarians: Carissa in Wisconsin and Kendra in Washington. To set up for this name game, put a piece of masking tap on individual building blocks. As children enter the program, give each a block with his or her name on it. Then, one by one, say hello to a child and invite him or her to add the block to a central building area. As more children’s names are called, the bigger and more interesting the block creation becomes.

book cover from karmawilson.com

book cover from karmawilson.com

To introduce the concept of chemistry, we shared a story. Most children experience kitchen chemistry on a daily basis as they see a grownup make the food they will eat. That’s why I chose a baking story to introduce the concept of chemistry. Karma Wilson and Will Hillenbrand’s Whopper Cake is a terrific choice due to its large illustrations, lyrical rhyming text, and humorous premise. We talked about all the ingredients we saw going into the cake as we read the story.

Next, we retold the story of baking a cake. I used Google images to create a baking felt board set with real images of all the ingredients one would need to make a chocolate cake. We talked about how all the different ingredients get mixed together and how they change. We talked about physical changes using the idea of mixing flour and sugar together–they stay the same despite being mixed. We also talked about chemical changes with baking the cake as an example. To help solidify the concepts of physical and chemical changes, the kids and I talked about different foods that they like to eat, how they are made, and what happens when they get mixed with other things.

IMG_1021We did hands-on activities to reinforce chemistry and physical and chemical changes. I shared some brief verbal instructions with the caregivers in the room to explain our three activity stations. I set up multiple stations so that children can engage with our science topic at their own pace. Some children only stay engaged for a few minutes per activity, but others get really into the experiments and spend upwards of 10 minutes replicating each. Our three chemistry activities were:

  • Streamers of Color — Based on an activity from Janice VanCleave’s Chemistry for Every Kid, this activity invites children to see what happens as a fine powder is slowly added to a liquid. We used water in clear cups and powdered juice drink to see how mixing the two items changes them.
  • Fireworks in a Glass — With a clear water bottle, some cooking oil, and liquid food coloring, children can make their own lovely fireworks in a glass–and, in the process, explore how some materials will mix together while others will not. Kids got really into this activity, and after their fireworks had “fizzled out,” they still had plenty of fun mixing different colors together.
  • Chemical “Explosions” — Children seem eternally fascinated and excited by the mixture of baking soda with vinegar, and that reaction can be a perfect introduction to basic chemistry. I set out plates of baking soda and small thimble-size cups of both water and vinegar for the experiment. Children were encouraged to first pour the water on the baking soda to see what happened, then to try the vinegar and compare the two reactions.

Everyone got to take something home to reinforce our STEM topic. In addition to a variety of preschool-appropriate books about chemistry and easy experiments, I set out take-home activity sheets for families to bring home. Each handout contained instructions for two activities to continue exploring chemistry at home: invisible ink and cleaning pennies with a solution. I set extra handouts at the check-out desk after the program so interested families can take one home as they please.

Have you introduced the topic of chemistry in a program for preschoolers? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out the other Preschool Science programs I’ve shared here on the ALSC Blog: Gravity ScienceWater ScienceBody ScienceColor ScienceWeather Science, and Strength and Materials Science.

*program photos property of the author

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19. Digital Scavenger Hunt

Who doesn’t like a scavenger hunt? For years children’s librarians have been incorporating them into activities to help kids navigate the collection or teach them the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System.

During our tech series last year I decided to add my affinity for scavenger hunts to the mix. To celebrate the end of the iKids program, a weekly tech class for tweens, I transferred the activities to the touch screen. Since it was a small class each child had their own iPad to use for the challenge, but one could always have kids work in teams.

For the summer season bring your scavenger hunt outdoors.

For the summer season bring your scavenger hunt outdoors.

Using an array of apps that we had previously recommended for both preschoolers and school-age children, I also wanted to borrow some adult selections from the library’s adult Appy Hour events. This would make the activity a bit more comprehensive, not to mention more of a challenge.

Before the big hunt I handed out the iPads and explained that some of the tasks would be answered within the app itself, while others required using the app to perform other tasks like taking photos or manipulating images. I felt this would allow for a variety of tech skills to be used, specifically what we had been exploring throughout the rest of the session. I limited the number of questions to ten which lasted about 45 minutes with time afterwards for discussion. Below are some of the selected apps and their matched questions.

Hickory Dickory Dock by Mind Shapes Limited

Hickory Dickory Dock App by Mindshapes Limited

Hickory Dickory Dock App by Mindshapes Limited

Question – What did the mouse do when the clock struck four?

Google Translate by Google, Inc.

Question – Use this app to translate the phrase my name is … in four different languages. Make sure you use Afrikaans as one of the languages.

Mars Globe by Midnight Martian

Question – Open this app and explore the red planet. Find the dark area that is known as Syrtis Major Planum. What was the year of its discovery? Please list the coordinates for its position.

Photogene by Omer Shoor

Question – Use Photogene to take a photo of the librarians at each desk: Children’s, Welcome, and Tech Lab. Use the collage option to make a collage of all the librarians. Make sure they do not see you – it’s top secret!

Toca Band by Toca Boca AB

Question – Open this app and see which musician plays the guitar. What color is their hat?

Some of the questions required promptings from the librarians. When all the kids were finished we regrouped to share answers and discuss challenges. There were also prizes, of course!

This activity was a great way to introduce kids to new apps while also allowing them to use their creativity in a timed challenge format. As you begin to develop your own list of digital scavenger hunt questions, simply use the apps you have already purchased or tested in previous programs. Much of the fun was spent in composing the list and searching within the apps for hidden possibilities.

Claire Moore is a member of ALSC’s Digital Content Task Force. She is also the Assistant Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library. Contact Claire at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

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20. Tools for Advocacy

Hows does the Public Awareness Committee help to promote library services and cultural diversity in programs to children? As youth services librarians, we are busy with the day to day task of providing wonderful reference service, homework help, book recommendations, and planning early literacy programs. At time we all feel overwhelmed and think, “How can we ever juggle one more responsibility?”. This is where the PAC come in with lots of ready-made ideas that an individual can evaluate and curtail to their unique library and community needs. Several of the tools shared below will be great jumping off points that are very accessible and will get your creative juices flowing!

One main initiative that PAC extends support for is the celebrating of El Día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Book Day, which is traditionally celebrated on April 30. Founded by the children’s book author Pat Mora in 1996, Día honors the power and pleasure of books and reading all year long by promoting programs that honor multiculturalism, often culminating in a spring fiesta! As an expansion of this, libraries have an opportunity to participate in the Día Family Book Club. Up to 15 mini-grants of $2000 will be awarded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to public libraries who demonstrate a need to better address diversity within their community. For more information and the application form, visit our grant page here. The deadline for grant applications is November 30, 2013.

Whether you plan a big community extravaganza or just a small branch program, Día involves beginning somewhere! Here are a few places to look that would be most helpful in getting started. The very detailed ALSC Día website provides a wonderful booklist and lots of other great resources for programming.  The PAC is maintaining a great Pinterest presence with various boards categorized by country which provide suggestions for wonderful cultural crafts and cooking activities. Follow our pins on the Día: Diversity in Action page. Día also has a Facebook page which promotes multicultural book titles, extension activities and author interviews. Be sure to like us on Facebook here! Now all you have to do is get started!


Debby Gold is a Librarian at the Parma Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. She is also the Public Awareness Commitee Chair. You can reach her at dgold@cuyahogalibrary.org.


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21. Teaching the Teacher

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Although my uncle taught me how to fish when I was a child, I have yet to pass on that lesson to anyone else.  Instead, I love sharing my enthusiasm for a variety of other topics with the wonderful teachers in our local preschools.  These staff in-services have been another way for the library to strengthen our presence in the community, while exposing teachers to our collection and Internet resources.



Over the years, I have presented a variety of in-services: “Poetry for Preschoolers,” “Why? Science for Preschoolers,” “Math for Munchkins,” “Uniquely You”, and “Early Literacy 2.0” (ECRR 2).  Although the topics so far have represented my personal interests and comfort zone, I try to create in-services that appeal to the teachers, while at the same time highlighting the resources of the library. As I continue to offer these in-services, the topics will expand into other areas of our collection.


One of my primary goals is to expose the teachers to books, books and more books!  Of course I feature picture books, but I also include early readers, juvenile easy non-fiction and biographies.  A typical in-service bibliography will include about forty titles.  I want the teachers to have many choices when they delve into a particular topic, no matter the age of the preschoolers they teach.  Another goal is to give teachers activities and practical ideas for use in their classrooms.  I utilize my own years as a teacher as well as lessons found online in order to meet this goal.  A goal is for them to come away from each in-service with new or renewed excitement for these topics.


Each in-service begins with an interactive, fun activity.  Whether it’s having teachers try to cut an index card in such a way that they can walk through it (for “Math for Munchkins”) or create something out of a shoebox before reading them Not a Box by Antoinette Portis (the practice of play in Every Child Ready to Read 2), these opening activities encourage laughter and relaxed dialogue!  Scattered throughout are many other times for the teachers to be more than just passive recipients.  During “Uniquely You,” they dance to Jim Gill’s “Knuckles Knees” – think singing, laughter, and body awareness for kids and adults!  In that same in-service, I teach them how to play the “Face Game” to enhance vocabulary and self-awareness:  7 brave teachers draw slips with various emotions and then make faces, while the other teachers have to guess the emotion.  During the science in-service, teachers put their hands into a rubber glove and then into a bucket of ice; we time how long they can stand it!  Then they put their hands into a glove surrounded by polar bear blubber (aka Crisco) and we repeat the experiment.  Together we’ve created poetry, clapped out the syllables in our names, and made silly alliterative sentences.  I create a PowerPoint that runs while I present books to use, activities to do, and the ways in which our library can support teachers in the classroom.  The presentations last about 90 minutes and include time to ask questions, peruse the books and have fun. We really do have a blast together!  At the end, teachers get a certificate of completion and fill out an evaluation of the presentation.  I get a great sense of the ways in which they are truly on the front lines of early literacy, the struggles they face and the joys they encounter.


The time I spend teaching the teachers is invaluable in strengthening our connection to the preschool community, and the effort dovetails nicely with our preschool outreach storytimes.  I would love to hear of ways that you work with preschool teachers!  Please join the conversation in the comments below.


Personal picture supplied by Kary Henry

Personal picture supplied by Kary Henry

Our guest blogger today is Kary Henry.  Kary loves her job as Youth Services Associate and Preschool Outreach Coordinator at Deerfield (IL) Public Library.  Leading the 4-5 year old early literacy storytime is one of the highlights of her week, but every day is an adventure!  Kary can be reached at khenry@deerfieldlibrary.org and @MissKaryReads on Twitter. 

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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22. ALSC Mentoring Project

One of the benefits of technology is the ability to meet and collaborate with other library professionals from across the United States (even the world!). This fall, ALSC began its first mentoring program matching professionals interested in library service to children together to foster collaboration, communication, and education.

I was paired with JoAnna Schofield from the Akron-Summit County Public Library system.   I’m a Youth Services librarian for Broward County Library in South Florida.  JoAnna and I immediately discovered we had a few things in common.  She has three kids, and I have four.  Both of us knew what it was like to try and balance work and family.  Even more compelling, both of us have been touched by autism.  For JoAnna, it was her sister.  For me, my son. Because we both have an interest in autism, we decided to create goals for our mentorship experience that concentrated on library programs for autistic children and their families. My library in South Florida recently began planning a program for preschoolers with autism as part of a grant by Autism Speaks.  This grant by Autism Speaks is a part of their project “Making Public Libraries Accessible for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”.   JoAnna’s library is exploring library services to children with special needs, and they will be conducting in-service training on the topic in the spring of 2014.

After talking about potential goals, we came up with three to focus on.  Our first goal is to put together a resource list that would be beneficial for a library structuring services for children with Autism.  This resource could contain books that would be useful in a storytime as well as parental resources.  Our second goal is to create plans for social skills story times by choosing books that focused on specific life skills. For example stories could include “Going to the library and what to expect”, “How to make a friend”, “Taking turns”, etc.  Lastly, our third goal is to explore the development of a program for the siblings of children with special needs so they also can experience a positive library experience and connect with other children in similar situations. This is important since it can be very difficult to deal with the challenges of having a sibling on the autistic spectrum or other disabilities not to mention the difficulties of watching your parent(s) juggle their time between you and the various therapy visits that they need to do for their sibling.

By writing blog posts over the course of our mentorship, it is our hope to be able to dispel some of the fears and concerns that go with starting a storytime for children on the autistic spectrum.  It is normal for people who have not worked with children with disabilities to feel a little unsure or uncomfortable initially.  I’m hoping as we share this experience during the year, more may explore library programs and services for children with disabilities and their families. Please feel free to comment and share what your library is doing to reach and serve this community!


Our guest bloggers today are Susan Ostrof and JoAnna Schofield who wrote this article together. For simplicity’s sake, they wrote the article as if it was from Susan’s perspective to avoid pronoun confusion.


Picture of “Sue and Sue” at the Field Museum in Chicago courtesy of blogger’s daughter, Caitlin Ostroff

Susan is  a Youth Services librarian for Broward County Library.   She  enjoys coming up with interesting program ideas and teaching others how to use databases. One of her goals is to develop more programs in the library for children and their families with special needs. She is married and the mom to four kids, two Labrador Retrievers and two pet Dumbo rats.  In her spare time, you will find her partaking in her photography hobby and occasionally some cake decorating.  Her photos can be seen at http://www.susanostroff.com/  Her library can be visited at http://www.broward.org/library/

Courtesy photo from guest blogger

Courtesy photo from guest blogger

JoAnna is a children’s librarian at the Akron-Summit County Public Library in downtown Akron, Ohio. She passionately enjoys her toddler, preschool, and school age outreach, baby time series, and school age science and technology programs. She is eagerly awaiting the start of 2014 and her new Tech Tuesdays school age programs. Along with her participation in the ALSC Mentoring Program, she has recently accepted appointment on the 2015 (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Book Award Committee. Her inspiration comes from her three beautiful children: Jackson (3), Parker (2), and Amelia Jane (8 months). She can be reached at jschofield@akronlibrary.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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23. Geyser Science for the School-Age Crowd

Explosions are almost always a hit with the school-age crowd. When my library offered a Volcano Science program last year, the excitement in the room was palpable as we erupted individual volcanoes; there’s just something about witnessing a destructive force that connects with kids. If that’s what it takes to get school-age library visitors interested in STEAM concepts, well, hook me up with the (child-safe) explosives. Geyser Science is just the thing.

Photo by Amy Koester

Photo by Amy Koester

First, we talked about the science. I had planned to use some terrific geyser resources from the National Park Service, but my program took place during the government shutdown and so these resources were largely inaccessible. Luckily, one Park Service video was still on YouTube. After watching the video, I pulled out a paper model of a geyser that I had made. Using the pieces of the model, we talked about the geological processes that create a geyser and its eruptions. We spent a few minutes on questions and fun facts shared by kids who had visited Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.

Next, we explored the science behind geysers through a series of hands-on activities. One of the main scientific elements in geysers is pressure, so our experiments largely focused on how pressure works and its affects on objects.

  • Pressure of water in a bottle – This activity required a tub, a clear 2-liter bottle with the label removed, a thumb tack, a funnel, and a pitcher of water. I used the thumb tack to poke a small hole in the 2-liter bottle. With the children watching, I removed the thumb tack from the bottle and poured water from the pitcher directly into the bottle. When the water level in the bottle rose above the small hole, a slight trickle of water escaped the bottle into the tub. We next placed the funnel atop the bottle, then quickly poured more water through the funnel. This time, the water escaped through the hole in a shooting stream. We talked about how the funnel wouldn’t let any air escape while the water entered the bottle, causing pressure to build and push more water out through the tiny hole.
  • “Breathing” balloon – This activity used an empty plastic water bottle and a balloon. After placing the balloon completely over the opening of the bottle, kids took turn squeezing the bottle and causing the balloon to stand straight. This activity demonstrated that, when the bottle was squeezed, the pressure caused the air in the bottle to move to the only available space: an expandable balloon.
  • Blowing up a balloon in an enclosed space – This activity used two empty plastic water bottles, two balloons, and scissors. This time, the balloons were placed completely over the bottles’ openings with the balloon oriented inside the bottle. One plastic bottle had a hole cut out of it, and the other was pristine. First, I had a child try to blow up the balloon in the bottle with a hole; the child had no problem doing so. Then, I had another child attempt to blow up the balloon in the pristine bottle. Too difficult! (I prepped a few extra no-hole bottles so multiple children could try blowing up the balloons, all to no avail.) We talked about displacement and how, without something like a hole through which air could escape, more air couldn’t easily be added to an enclosed space.
  • Paper bag explosions – We moved outside for this and the next activity, which required paper lunch bags and baking soda (or flour, or cornstarch, etc.). I put a bit of baking soda in each child’s bag, and I demonstrated how to blow up the bag like a balloon. The children next popped their bags and observed what happened to the baking soda. Because the force that causes the bag to pop pushes against the air in the bag, the explosion causes the bag’s contents (air and baking soda) to fly from the explosion in all directions.
  • Mentos & Diet Coke geysers – This activity requires a 2-liter of Diet Coke, a sleeve of Mentos mints, and a safety zone around the blast radius. It is a demonstration of how a chemical reaction can cause a buildup of pressure, and it’s a magnificent demonstration at that. Carefully drop all the Mentos into the Diet Coke bottle and watch a huge geyser spray out. Cheers usually abound.
Photo by Amy Koester

Photo by Amy Koester

We ended with science in action as we created and tested our own geysers. We were back inside for this final series of activities, and each child had a filled water bottle, several tablets of Alka-Seltzer, and space over a tub to catch splash. I first demonstrated an Alka-Seltzer geyser eruption by crushing up two tablets, quickly dumping them into a water bottle, and holding my hand completely over the bottle’s opening to allow pressure to build up. After counting to five, I moved my hand and a modest geyser explosion occurred. From there, the children experimented with geysers on their own. They used as variables the size of the bottle, the number of Alka-Seltzer tablets, and the length of time of pressure buildup to try to determine what combination of factors creates the most impressive geysers. We even have a child put her crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets in a balloon, cover the mouth of the bottle with the balloon, and then allow the Alka-Seltzer to fall into the water to see if the balloon would expand (it did, slightly). The children drew their own conclusions about making their own geysers before the program room turned into a bit of a splash zone, at which point I wrapped things up.

There were a variety of geyser and pressure resources, both books and DVDs, available for the attendees to check out. What I most enjoyed about the end of the program was hearing the children’s plans for continuing their optimum-geyser experiments at home. Any time a library program inspires interest and a desire to pursue a topic further, I consider it a success.

What sorts of eruptions have you hosted in your library in the name of science?

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24. Brewing Up Book Club Magic!

Display Books - Adventure

Display Books – Adventure

This summer my library offered a unique book club called READ Quest for the third year.  READ Quest is for entering 3rd and 4th graders and focuses on genres–Fantasy, Mystery, Humor and Adventure in Fact & Fiction.  The program encourages kids to read for the fun of it, discovering the enormous benefits of reading for pleasure.  The children who participate don’t all read the same book, but choose a book for themselves from each week’s genre.  In this way we are able to accommodate a wide variety of reading levels and interests.  Kids can sign up for any one or more of the genres.

We decided to target 3rd and 4th graders because it is such a critical time in children’s development as readers–when they shift from learning to read to reading to learn.  Focusing on genre and series fiction and non-fiction, providing reading choice and presenting a physically active program also helped encourage boys to participate.  And they did–we sometimes had almost twice as many boys as girls!  This format also makes the program attractive to both reluctant and enthusiastic readers.

This year we were awarded an $8,200 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to expand the program, increasing the dates offered from 4 to 8, adding a community event, and buying additional copies of titles from our recommended reading lists.  We also added one adult volunteer and 14 teen volunteers, both male and female, to act as reading role models.  The inclusion of these volunteers turned out to have pretty magical results!

Fun with Books

  • The group (~ 25 kids, ~ 5 volunteers, 1 librarian–myself) met
    Readers Theater

    Readers Theater

    once a week for 75 minutes.  Kids registered ahead of time.  Booklists with suggested reading were on our website.  I sent an instructive email to parents to help the kids prepare.

  • We encouraged kids to read a book from the featured genre before the program so they had the opportunity to book talk it in a small group.  Some created a project ahead of time (book review, drawing, sculpture, short film, etc.) which was shared with the group and displayed in the library all summer.
  • The weekly programs looked like this:
    • I read aloud from the featured genre (picture book or single chapter).  This was enlivened by puppets, live music, and other techniques to add what Jim Trelease calls a “third dimension“.
    • Brief discussion of the reading.
    • Lively activity such as a drama game to explore the reading’s characters, plot or theme.
    • Small  breakout groups, led by myself and the teens.  Kids and teens book talk what they’ve read.
    • I book talk from the genre.
    • Kids descend on the books set out on tables–many kids check out a stack of books they’ve just discovered from all of the book talking!

+ Kids

Kids enjoying read aloud

Kids enjoying read aloud

To determine the program’s effectiveness we administered 2 surveys to the children who participated and their parents–one before the program and one soon after, with a 3rd to come at the end of the school year.  Parents and children reported that:

  • Entertaining and active elements of the program really engaged the children.
  • Teen helpers inspired the kids to read.
  • Exposure to a variety of genres broadened the children’s reading interests.
  • Children fell in love with new series and read more during the summer as a result.

Besides this, I noticed that children returning week after week became increasingly comfortable in the library and felt a stronger connection to it.  I believe that this was a result of being known by name (they wore name tags), having a great time and the opportunity to talk and listen and get to know each other, as well as the teen helpers and their librarians.

+ Teens

Teens greet participants

Teens greet participants

In our community we have a program called Project Cornerstone which promotes children’s and teen’s healthy development through the Search Institute’s developmental assets approach.  One of the reasons I became so excited to work with the teens was that I realized, as the program progressed, just how beneficial the inclusion of the teen volunteers was for the children, and how much the teens were gaining as well.  The teens were reading right along with the children and were eager to share with the kids what they had read.  And they loved talking with the children about favorite books they had read when they were younger, and recommending stories they had great affection for.

A few of the developmental assets that READ Quest cultivates in teen volunteers are:

  • Community Values Youth:  Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  • Youth as Resources:  Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  • Caring:  Young person places high value on helping other people.
  • Reading for Pleasure:  Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.

= Magic!

One of my favorite pieces of feedback from our after-program survey was from a 7-year-old who had just arrived from another country:

“I liked that you got to take some books and share what you read.  I liked that you had big kids helping and they were really kind.  There were fun stories and games.”

Much of what we do in the library promotes kindness, but inviting teens to contribute in a significant way to a valuable program draws the best from our teens, and has a marvelous impact on the children.  The teens’ sense of self-worth and leadership skills increase as they experience being role models and small group leaders.  And for the children, reading’s cool factor grows as they hear the teens’ enthusiasm for books–a benefit that’s hard to overstate.

Seeing wonderful outcomes, such as what resulted from the magical mix of fun with books + kids + teens, keeps my job continually fresh and gratifying.

– All photos courtesy of blogger


Our guest blogger today is Sharon McClintock. Sharon is a Children’s Librarian at the City of Mountain View Public Library in Mountain View, CA. Sharon can be reached at sharon.mcclintock@mountainview.gov.

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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25. ‘Tis the Season for Winter Reading


Photo taken by Abby Johnson, NAFCPL

My library is offering its first Winter Reading Club for teens and kids this winter! We borrowed heavily from Angie Manfredi’s Winter Reading program at the Los Alamos County Library System and we’re really excited to try it out!

For us, Winter Reading differs significantly from the Summer Reading Club because, where in summer we’re truly trying to REACH ALL THE CHILDREN! and GET EVERYONE TO READ!, in winter our goal is to get people to visit the library and discover the resources we have for them here. In summer, we’re trying to help bridge that gap and help kids keep up their reading skills. In winter, they’ll be in school most of the time our program is going on, so we’re trying to give them something interesting to do during those cold winter months, and we’re inviting them to explore their library.

What we really liked about the program Angie developed is that it helps us showcase some of the wonderful books that patrons may not know we have. Picture book biographies! Award winners! And on each BINGO card, they can fill a square by getting a suggestion from a librarian (come use us for reader’s advisory!).

We are really keeping it simple this first year. Kids get a BINGO sheet (like in Angie’s program – really, go check it out). For their first BINGO, they get their choice of scratch and sniff bookmark (we have candy canes, popcorn, and cookies) and they get to put their name on a mitten and add it to our bulletin board. If they want to keep going, they can earn another bookmark by filling in all the squares. Kids and teens can also earn “fine bucks” for participating in the Winter Reading Club so they can unblock cards if they’ve not been able to use them because of fines.

I really want to emphasize to families that the actual “prize” is having something to do and getting to know your library. We’ll see how it goes. If we feel that we need to add additional incentives next year, we can. Our teen program (developed by our teen librarian) is also a BINGO sheet, but has some additional prize drawings to help get those busy teens in the door.


Photo taken by Abby Johnson, NAFCPL

To help folks find some of the categories on our BINGO sheet, we’ve created some displays like the shelves under our bulletin board, which feature Coretta Scott King winners and honor books and Pura Belpré winners and honor books.

Do you offer a Winter Reading Club? Any tips for this Winter Reading newbie?

– Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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