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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Puppet Shows at Storytime

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

The basic format is as follows:

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

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

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

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

(Pictures courtesy guest blogger)

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Abby Johnson

Photo by Abby Johnson

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

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

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

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3. Checklist for a Successful Skype with an Author

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

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

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

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

BEFORE THE SKYPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DURING THE SKYPE

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

AFTER THE SKYPE

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

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

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

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mary library portrait nj email

Photo credit: Ivan Amato

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


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

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

 

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

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Learned:

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

Tips:

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

Other Helpful Links:

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

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

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

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

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6. Music and Movement at the Library

This past summer, the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) offered several new early literacy programs targeted at improving family health and nutrition. Perhaps the most popular of these were our “Music and Movement” programs for infants through preschoolers. We know that music and movement are important at every stage of a child’s development, and can be made applicable for children who are at different stages. We were especially interested in creating new ways to engage families with babies and toddlers, and this series provided a fun, dynamic way to do that. In fact, libraries are well positioned to provide access to music and movement opportunities for children. As children’s librarians we already sing, clap, and engage in dramatic play through action rhymes in our storytimes. And while there might be other businesses that offer these types of programs, we found that they are often expensive and cost prohibitive to some families. I don’t claim to be a music educator, but I do think that, as librarians, we can instill in children a love of music in much the same way that we encourage a love of reading.

So why is it important to offer a music and movement program? Research shows that “movement education is basic physical education that emphasizes fundamental motor skills and concepts such as body and spatial awareness, but that it is also a philosophy of physical education in that it is success-oriented, child-centered, and non-competitive”  (Pica, emphasis mine). We also know that childhood obesity rates in American are at an all time high. Music and movement programs not only aid a child’s physical development, they help children “feel good about their movement abilities, [thus] they are more likely to make physical activity part of their lives” (Pica). An active lifestyle is essential for a child’s overall physical fitness and health.

Benefits to Movement

  • There are many obvious physical benefits to movement, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
  • Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight (letsmove.gov).
  • Movement also has social and emotional benefits, as it helps children unleash creativity through physical expression like dance. Certain games and activities can also teach them cooperation and help them work together with peers and adults.
  • Finally, movement also helps children develop cognitively; “studies have proven that they especially acquire knowledge experientially–through play, experimentation, exploration, and discovery.  Though a developmentally appropriate movement program, instructors can help nurture the bodily/kinesthetic intelligence possessed in varying degrees, by all children” (Pica).

Benefits of Music

  • Music is vital to the development of language and listening skills. We know from Every Child Read to Read that singing is an important early literacy practice, and is a key way children learn about language.
  • Music’s melody and rhythmic patterns help develop memory, which is why it’s easier to remember song lyrics than prose text. This is why we learn our ABC’s in a song.
  • Music engages the brain, stimulating neural pathways that are associated with higher forms of intelligence such as empathy and mathematics. (National Association for Music Education)
  • Music and language arts both consist of symbols and ideas; when the two are used in combination, abstract concepts become more concrete and are therefore easier for children to grasp. (National Association for Music Education)

Program Plan

MusicMovementblurred2Hopefully, now you’re convinced and wondering how to implement a Music and Movement program of your own. Chances are you already have most of the ingredients! I used a combination of acapella singing and children’s CDs for the music. I then broke the 30-45 minute program down into different activities and skills, for example, exploring up and down/ stretching and jumping; clapping and rhythm; clapping/singing and tempo; etc. Many of the songs and rhymes I used to correspond to these activities are familiar and beloved: “Pop Goes the Weasel” for jumping, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” for clapping, “Row Your Boat” for rhythm. For each song we sang as a group, I also played a song from the CDs. Other favorites included stop and go, or statue games. Children dance and move until the music stops and then have to freeze in place! Playing “statue” develops listening skills and helps children distinguish between sound and silence. It also helps them practice self control, starting, and stopping. “Stop and Go” by Greg & Steve and “Bodies 1-2-3” by Peter & Ellen Allard are perfect songs for this activity, but you can really use any song and then manually stop the music unexpectedly!  

In the second half of the program, we explore an instrument. Shakers and bells are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and rhythm sticks are fun for older groups. There are tons of great shaking songs, including “Shake Your Sillies Out” by Raffi, “Shake, Rattle & Rock” by Greg & Steve, “Shaky, Shaky” by the Wiggles. “Frere Jacques” is a classic if you’re using bells. If you can’t afford a large set of instruments, you can also make your own and explore the sounds of common household items. I sometimes intersperse this half MusicMovementBlurredof the program with movement activities like jumping jacks and toe touches. Finally, we end with the parachute activities. We bought a 12’ parachute for $25-30 and a smaller 6’ one for use with the babies and toddlers. Not only are the parachutes endlessly entertain to children of all ages, they have a myriad of uses and promote teamwork and coordination. If you have bean bags, small balls, or a beach ball to add, even better.

Our Music and Movement Program at the Fayetteville Free Library was wildly successful with 40-50 attendees at each session. It was the perfect way for us to reach families with young children of all ages and support family health and an active lifestyle at the same time. Do you offer a music and movement program at your library? Tell us about it in the comments!

Resources for Music and Movement Education

  1. Pica, R., & Pica, R. (2010). Experiences in movement & music: Birth to age 8. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  2. Early Childhood Music and Movement Association
  3. LetsMove.gov
  4. National Association for Music Education

(Photos courtesy guest blogger)

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Stephanie Prato is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in NY. If you have any questions, email her at sprato@fflib.org.

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7. Come Write In: a Family Creative Writing Program

November is nearly upon us. That means fall leaves, wooly sweaters, gluttonous behavior on the fourth Thursday of the month, and, of course, National Novel Writing Month.

Inaugurated in 1999 by the intrepid Chris Baty and a group of friends, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has become an international movement to inspire average joes like you and me to get off our duffs and write that novel we’ve always dreamed of penning. One month. One novel. It’s as simple as that.

According to NaNoWriMo, 310,000 adults participated in the writing frenzy in 2013, and 89,500 youth participated in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. Personally, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, and the experience has been so deeply fulfilling I decided that I, as a children’s librarian, needed to get on this Young Writers thing.

What’s really grand about NaNoWriMo is that this non-profit organization provides you everything you need to make hosting a Young Writers program easy as pie. Just take a gander at these lesson plans and activities. If you’re a teacher, everything aligns to the Common Core. If you’re a public librarian, you can pick and choose a variety of activities to do with your young peeps.

I have some ridiculously talented people on board, too. I’m working with poet Hannah Jane Chambers, YA author Bethany Hagen, and YA writer Jennifer Mendez to make the magic happen.

At our library, Hannah Jane, Bethany, and I had an idea of creating a series of Come Write In events for the entire family which we hope we’ll be able to implement next year. Parents and kids could come to the library on Saturdays throughout the month of October to start planning their NaNoWriMo projects. On November 1, we could celebrate our hard work with a party / write-in where participants can get cracking on their novels. Jennifer Mendez will be hosting Intergenerational Come Write In events at her branch throughout the month of November replete with paper, pens, and plenty of outlets for the BYO-Laptop types.

What better way to get kids and teens engaged in literature than to have them write it themselves? And, hey, why not model that behavior? November is just a few days away. It’s not too late to sign up and write a novel of your very own.

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Our guest blogger today is Megan Bannen. Megan is an Assistant Branch Manager for Johnson County Library in Kansas (although the children’s librarian in her will never die).

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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8. Thinking about STEAM as Pop-Up Programs

One of my goals for programming at my new library is to increase the frequency of pop-up programs in the youth area. We offer a great range of formal, specific-place/specific-time programs every quarter, but I’ve been thinking about whom these types of programs engage. I’m still learning the demographics of youth and families at my new job, but I do have the feeling that the Venn diagram circles of kids who come to the library and kids who come to programs are not wholly overlapping. Why not provide pop-up programs, then, that can take place in the open, without registration restrictions or time requirements, on days and at times when lots of kids are in the space? And why not structure these pop-ups around STEAM activities, which kids are hugely enjoying?

Here are five potential pop-up programs, one for each STEAM content area. These pop-ups would be facilitated and supervised by a staff member.

Science – Candy Chromatography, à la Steve Spangler

Stock up at post-holiday candy sales, grab some coffee filters and a cup of water, and you’re ready to see the true colors of kids’ favorite candies. Dunk a candy–preferably something that obviously has dye, like jelly beans, Skittles, and really dark candies–in the water for a few seconds, then set it on the coffee filter. Over the course of the next ten minutes, the dyes from the candy will separate and create something like colorful tree rings on the filter. Note: you can also do this with different types of ink pens to see the colors that actually make up black and blue ink.

Technology – MaKey MaKey!

Break out a fully-charged laptop and a MaKey MaKey kit so that kids can figure out how it works. Let them work collaboratively to figure out how to hook everything up (with plenty of options for conductive materials, like paper clips, dough, and even bananas), then play a game or two from the MaKey MaKey website with their homemade controller before letting another kid have a chance.

Engineering – The Perfect Paper Airplane

Offer all the supplies to make a wide range of paper airplanes: paper in different weights, paper clips, straws, tape, scissors, etc. Don’t forget to include books and/or print-out instructions for paper airplane designs to give kids a starting-off point. Mark out a flying course on the floor/ground (masking tape if inside, chalk if outside) so you can see how far planes fly. Encourage kids to modify their designs to produce longer flight distances.

Art – Friendship Bracelets

Set out different colors of embroidery floss, some masking tape and scissors, and a few books on bracelet designs and let kids spend some time making the designs of their choosing. This may seem like a pretty standard craft, not necessarily a STEAM arts activity; but in actuality, there’s a ton of math involved in figuring out how to weave and create patterns. Bonus of this activity: once kids have the basics of their design, they can socialize as they work, potentially building a camaraderie between kids who tend to be at the library at the same times but never really interact.

Math – Tangrams

Allow kids to engage in some visual problem-solving by setting out tangrams and designs for them to replicate using the shape pieces. You can offer plastic tangram pieces, or print out a tangram template so that kids can cut out and keep their pieces. For kids who get really into solving these puzzles, you can even have speed races to see how quickly kids can figure out different designs.

One of the great things about these types of pop-up programs is that they can translate to lots of different settings. Since they involve limited designated space and few materials, these activities can be “packed up,” so to speak, to accompany a library staffer on outreach, or to bookmobile stops frequented by families with children. When it comes down to it, STEAM pop-ups allow us to provide access to engaging activities and interesting ideas in a context that may be much more viable for many of the families who use our libraries, but never step through the program room door.

Do you offer pop-up programming at your library?

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9. Mind Your Manners: Teaching Life Skills in the Library

A few weeks ago, a special education teacher approached our Youth Department, asking if a librarian might be able to plan a visit for her life skills class of high school students. Her class made regular visits to our library once a month to read and check out books. They were already comfortable visiting the Youth Department, since the materials that they were most interested in were housed in our part of the library. As much as she and her class enjoyed these visits, she wanted to explore the possibility of making the visit richer with learning and interaction, involving a librarian to lead 30 minutes of stories activities. Her goals for the visit were relatively simple: read books which demonstrate using manners in social situations, incorporate sensory and movement activities into the visit, and provide opportunities for her students to practice using manners in real life situations. Her students had been practicing using their manners in the classroom, in the lunchroom, and had plans to make a few field trips outside the school to extend the learning. We, of course, just had to say yes!

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51mudiN6ZZL.jpgA great tip for collaborating on a school visit is to ask questions and plan ahead. Ask if there is a particular reading level that works best for readalouds. As the teacher and I discussed the visit, I learned that picture books and easy non-fiction materials would work best for her class as readalouds. So, I selected several books to read—both fiction and non-fiction—that would be both informative and entertaining for the audience.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-bY_zPzSWXIo/TiN3vAyilHI/AAAAAAAAAYA/nUK76JhyEAo/s1600/symbol4.jpgAnother helpful tip is to ask what type of accommodations would work best for her students. For example, would creating a visual schedule of the visit’s activities help alleviate anxiety for her students? I also learned that her students would benefit greatly from the use of visual supports, as a way for them to see what was coming next. So, I put together a large group schedule, using Boardmaker images to coincide with the various activities. Each 8 1/2″  x 11” piece of paper included a large graphic as well as simple, easy to decode text. For example, I put together one sign that included the text “Play a Game” and displayed an image of a large, multicolored parachute.

You may also want to ask the teacher if her students have any specific triggers that might be helpful for you to know about in advance. For example, does music cause discomfort or distress in some of her students? If so, you may want to reconsider using a music CD and decide just to sign a song aloud using your own voice. The teacher did happen to mention that one of her students has the tendency to run when that student gets frustrated or upset. This was useful information for me to know, as I wouldn’t be caught off-guard in case this happened during the visit.

Here is an outline of the program that we implemented with her students:

  • Review Visual Schedule: As a way to let the students know what we would be doing, I reviewed the visual schedule by going over each activity individually using clear and specific “First… Then…” language.
  • Hello Activity: I began the storytime by introducing myself as “Miss Renee.” I then invited each students and teachers to introduce themselves to the classroom by saying “Hi, my name is…” Then, the group replied “Hello, [student’s name]” as a way to practice good manners by greeting others.
  • Read a Book: How do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen
  • Read a Book: Suppose You Meet a Dinosaur: A First Book of Manners by Judy Sierra
  • Play a Game with a Ball: I pulled out four different sized sensory balls and invited the group to move into a circle. The object of this activity was to have each student to ask another student or teacher if they could pass them the ball using their most polite manners. For example, “Daniel, would you please roll me that purple, spiky ball?” We passed, rolled, bounced, and threw the balls twice around the circle, allowing each student the chance to participate a few times.
  • Read a Book: Manners in the Lunch Room (Way to Be: Manners! Series) by Amanda Tourville
  • Play a Game with a Parachute: I brought out the parachute, and asked if everyone would stand up. This time, we went around the circle and each student was encouraged to dictate to the group (using their manners) what they wanted to do with the parachute. For instance, Jean would say “Could we please wave the wave the parachute up and down really fast?” Each student was allowed a chance to have the group play with the parachute in their own way.
  • Read a Book: Manners in the Library (Way to Be: Manners! Series) by Carrie Finn
  • Sing a Song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (with ASL): We sung the first verse of this traditional song, but then incorporated ASL signs that aligned with our theme in the additional verses. For example “If you’re polite and you know it, just say “please.” (ASL sign for please) and “If you’re grateful and you know it, just say “thank you.” (ASL sign for thank you). Check out Jbrary’s great post about Using American Sign Language in Storytime for more ideas about how to utilize ASL in programs.
  • Library Activity: The teacher instructed the students to write note cards in advance with questions they wanted to ask librarians. The students took turns going to the desk and asking their questions, and the librarians took them to the shelves to help them find books that they liked based on their interests. After they practiced asking their questions and using their manners, librarians gave each student a small incentive (a sticker) for visiting to the library.

Overall, it was a fantastic success–so much so that the teacher asked if we could make this a regular part of their monthly visits.  And again, how could we say no?

Partnering with your local special education district is a great way to provide students with disabilities opportunities for learning outside the classroom. By giving students the chance to practice life skills in a library environment, librarians can help prepare them to be successful in their daily lives. It’s important that all library staff at all levels are aware and prepared to provide excellent, inclusive library service. Children’s, Tween, and Teen Librarians can work together to lead this type of programming. So, the next time that you are approached by a local special education teacher, think about getting your tween or teen librarians on board, too.

For more great ideas about lesson planning for tweens and young adults with special needs, check out this fantastic post written by Sarah Okner from the Vernon Area Public Library about her experience Visiting High School Special Education Classrooms.

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10. Día Planning Starts Now!

The National Program Registry opens for Día on November 1st, so make sure to mark your calendars! The registry serves two purposes. First, your library will be recognized as participating in the El día de los niños/El día de los libros events on April 30, 2015. Additionally, by joining the registry, your library’s program will be part of a national searchable database in which other librarians can peruse your program ideas, get inspired, and hopefully design their own programs around diversity in literature. As a bonus, the registry also increases your library’s publicity and gives you some bragging rights.

I regularly check ALA’s Día website for program ideas, book lists, book club kit ideas, and free downloads. It’s where you can register your 2015 program and become part of the growing Día community. The Día booklist this year will have a STEAM focus, providing enticing possibilities of integrating STEAM content into your programs, displays, or book clubs. The booklist will be out in December, and I’m already anticipating it. I have in mind several STEAM-related programs or displays, including a scientist display honoring minorities in the field; a program on using technology to discover your own unique background and heritage (genealogy); and a program using blown-up prints of various engineering feats for children to guess which counties or persons designed them. The possibilities are endless!

Build STEAM with Día Mini-Grants

Build STEAM with Día Mini-Grants (image courtesy ALSC)

Don’t forget that there are mini-grants available this year. You can check out more information on how to apply for one, and the approaching deadline, via the Día website or the Día Facebook Page. In previous years, libraries across the country have hosted everything from poetry readings, border dances, festivals and food tastings as Día events. We can’t wait to see what you all come up with for 2015! Start thinking about Día now. Remember to put your program in the database so we can all be amazed at what you’re doing for your diverse and dynamic communities!

Reminder! ALSC is now accepting mini-grant applications for libraries through the Día initiative. Mini-grants will be used to initiate a Building STEAM with Día program in libraries. Up to 20 mini-grants will be awarded at $1,500 each. Applications are due Friday, October 17 at 5pm Central.

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Emily Scherrer is the Library Administrator for Sierra Vista Public Library, Arizona and is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. As a librarian living and working in a “border town,” she is a big advocate for diverse programming and collections.  You can contact her at mlescherrer@gmail.com

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11. Yoga as a Bridge for Serving a Cross Section of Your Library Population

Serving a diverse community can be difficult, especially when you are dealing with diversity across the physical, mental, and emotional spectrum. Often the social aspect of the library can be off putting for children, and parents of children with developmental disabilities. For children on the Autism spectrum, the child’s inability to regulate behavior can be problematic in a highly structured setting (such as a library program). Children with physical disabilities may feel that they are limited in how they can participate in library programs. But often the simplest programs can be the most effective and by offering a new or unique opportunity the library becomes a safe place to engage in something outside their preconceived limitations.

Do you have a pre-set program time for children with disabilities? Do you have a pre-set time for family programs? Consider a family program featuring beginner and child friendly yoga. No matter how you incorporate it, I encourage you to use yoga as a way to bring all your patrons together. If offers the opportunity for all children to interact in a safe social environment.

Children enjoy the same benefits of yoga as adults: increased body awareness, strength and flexibility, as well as stress relief and relaxation. Yoga encourages self-acceptance, compassion, kindness, and discipline. All of this while celebrating creative expression, individual differences, and their place in the community. All of these are extremely important in the life of a child dealing with developmental delays or physical restrictions. Anecdotal reports describe success in reducing obesity and discipline problems, decreasing anger and panic attacks, and enhancing concentration and academic performance. Health problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, constipation, back pain, and colds or sinus problems, are reportedly improved with a yoga practice. (1) A certified yoga instructor can lead and demonstrate proper technique and offer advice and tips. Activities in this program can include age-appropriate poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, and partner poses between parent and child. Even a child with physical limitations can participate in the regulated and guided breathing exercises that accompany yoga practice.

While the research on the effects of yoga in children is lengthy, a tertiary literature review only uncovered a few empirical studies on yoga and the disabled. But using the early literacy principle of “play” and its importance in early childhood development, if you use yoga as an inclusive game, the possibilities for reaching children expands.

A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Yoga examined the positive combined effect of inclusive games and yogic relaxation on selected domestic skills among physically challenged boys. (2)

Since 2001, in a north London hospital, Jo Manuel has been providing yoga therapy sessions for children with a variety of special needs, from autism to cerebral palsy. Manuel and her 12 colleagues see around 500 children per week, and while some children do have physical restrictions the simple act of rhythmic breathing can bring a sense of calm and relaxation to both the children and their caregivers. (3)

Consider adding these titles  in order to make your program reflective of your collection.

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You are a Lion:and other fun yoga poses is a fun interactive title that invites children to pretend to be different animals as they do various child friendly poses.

(Image from Pipin Properties)

 

 

 

 

my-daddy-is-a-pretzel_uspb_w

My Daddy is a Pretzel: yoga for parents and kids is a great story time title. With it’s whimsical look at yoga practice, it offers great introductions for adults and children.

(Image from Barefoot Books)

 

 

 

 

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Sleepy Little Yoga is a wonderful title that introduces nine poses perfect for preparing your toddler for bedtime.

(Image from Macmillan)
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1. White, Laura Santangelo. “Yoga for children.” Pediatric Nursing Sept.-Oct. 2009: 277+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
2. Duraisami, V., K. Jaiganesh, and S. Parthasarathy. “Combined effect of inclusive games and yogic relaxation on the selected domestic skills among physically challenged boys.” International Journal of Yoga 4.2 (2011): 100. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
3. Cooper, Catherine. “A calming influence: a yoga centre helping children with special needs has been achieving some impressively positive results.” Nursing Standard 24.50 (2010): 24+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.

Lesley Mason is a children’s librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library. She earned her Master’s Degree in Library Science from Clarion University. She specializes in Early Literacy and can be reached at lesley.mason@dc.gov

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12. Program in a Post: Playdough!

With this post, $25 of pantry items and some junk, you can host a delightful Petite Picasso (preschool) program with playdough!

Supplies:

  • Pantry items (flour, salt, etc., see recipe) ($25)
  • Plastic bags or containers for storing the dough ($0-$5)
  • Various junk (cookie cutters, receipt rolls, rulers, craft sticks, etc.)

Use the playdough recipe in MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers & Twos to turn flour, water, food coloring and a few other items into pliable, shapeable, squeezable, colorful dough before your program.

Room setup: Tables (with the legs folded up, just put the tabletop directly on the floor) each with a variety of junk and one color of dough.

Format: Petite Picasso one hour long open house.

Preschoolers and their grown ups had a great time rolling out, cutting up and building with the brightly colored dough. There was a fair amount of prep work involved to make the stove top dough, but the consistency of the finished product was fantastic. Try this program for some squishy, squashy fun!

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13. Camps: The New Trend in Summer Reading

geek girl logo

This summer at the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, NY we piloted our first ever week long summer camp during Summer Reading. The Fayetteville Free Library Geek Girl Camp is a camp for girls in grades 3 through 5 introducing them to hands on STEM skills and to female role models. Months of work went into planning this camp fulfilling a need in our greater community.  According to the Girl Scout Research Institute,  “Research shows that girls start losing interest in math and science during middle school. Girls are typically more interested in careers where they can help others (e.g., teaching, child care, working with animals) and make the world a better place. Recent surveys have shown that girls and young women are much less interested than boys and young men in math and science.”[1]

We had 44 girls attend the FFL Geek Girl Camp from all over the greater Syracuse, NY area. We had over 10 girls on the waiting list and charged $25.00 for the camp to supplement the cost of food, t-shirts and supplies. We also offered four scholarship opportunities for those who might not be able to afford the cost of the camp. In addition to the 44 girls who came to the camp we had 9 speakers from across the country join us in person or via Skype. Speakers included students from Virginia Commonwealth University, Cornell University, Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Other speakers included women who worked for Facebook, the Air Force, a pharmaceutical research facility, and from national organizations, Girls in Tech and Girl Develop IT. Each day we heard from one or more speakers who talked about what they do at their jobs or in school and how important it is to have women working in these fields! They all made sure to relate to the girls in attendance and campers had great questions afterwards.

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Throughout the week we had a great array of activities. We rented a cement mixer and made an oobleck pool for kids to run across after learning about density and viscosity, shot off model rockets, chucked books, apples and water balloons with a trebuchet after learning about projectiles, force, gravity and more.  Girls learned about fractals, made mini catapults, 3D printed, used littlebits kits, Snap Circuits and computer programmed with Scratch and much more.

The camp was a huge success that the parents of those who attended were above and beyond appreciative and wanted to already sign up for next year. We learned from this particular camp that we created something valuable for our community and that we need to transition into this camp model for future Summer Reading programs. We were asked, “When are you having a camp for boys”? We will not only have camp for boys and girls but of different ages as well. Planning FFL Geek Girl Camp did take a lot of time; however the outcome of the camp was far beyond what we expected and worth the time spent planning for the impact it had on our community. Camps offer children an opportunity to learn more and make stronger relationships over a short period of time.  Like camp as a kid it was a place to learn new things and meet new friends and create memories that last a lifetime.

CaptureThe first day of FFL Geek Girl, the campers were a little shy but after just the second day the girls couldn’t stop talking and working together. We run bimonthly programs where kids come in every other week to work on projects but having children in the library everyday for a week gives you an opportunity to teach kids a skill and not have to worry about rushing or not being able to complete the task, plus you have an opportunity to do projects or lessons that take longer and are more complex. Camps also give us a great opportunity to get to know our patrons. Girls come in and out of the library now looking for their camp counselors to say hi! Cost is also a huge factor in running a camp at a library versus a different venue. We had materials donated to the camp and used many of the resources we already owned including our own staff to run and plan the program. Most science camps can range in price anywhere from $75-$600. We decided that $25 was not only affordable but fit into our budget for the camp as well to make it run successfully.

CaptureWe think that camps are the future of Summer Reading. It gives us and the community an opportunity to focus on important topics like STEAM and produce content that is beneficial and influential. At the end of the week our campers said they wanted to be inventors, work at Google, become web developers and physicists. If it wasn’t for the atmosphere we created at the library and the week long camp we would have never saw these results and impact on our community.

Please check out our website for more information about the FFL Geek Girl Camp, our Flickr page and hashtag #geekgirl14 on Twitter and Instagram.

[1]Modi, K. (2012). “Generation STEM: What girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” Girl Scout Research Institute. http://www.girlscouts.org/research/pdf/generation_stem_full_report.pdf

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Meredith Levine is the Director of Family Engagement at the Fayetteville Free Library. Meredith is a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Find out more at www.fflib.org or email Meredith at mlevine@fflib.org

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14. Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me.  This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time.  If I’m being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth.  If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open.  This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

S S IMG_0214

It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse).  The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

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

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15. Could a Child With a Disability Use Your MakerSpace?

There’s a wonderful article in the March 10, 2014 issue of People magazine called “A Helping Hand for a Friend” http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20795392,00.html.

It’s the story of a 17-year-old boy who used plans for a Robohand from www.thingiverse.com and the 3-D printer at his local library to make a prosthetic hand for Matthew Shields, a nine-year-old family friend who was born without fingers on his right hand.  Awesome and heartwarming, and way beyond what most librarians think of when they introduce this technology.

boy_makerspace(The original story, picked up by People, was covered by KCTV in Kansas City http://www.kctv5.com/story/24717704/teen-uses-3-d-printer-to-make-hand-for-boy. This photograph of Matthew Shields using his hand is reprinted with permission from KCTV.)

I loved the article, and it got me thinking…with or without a prosthetic hand, would someone like Matthew be able to use the library’s 3-D printer?  What if he were blind, or if he had ADHD or autism instead of a physical disability?  I would guess that few librarians who are now providing 3-D printers or offering MakerSpaces are asking those questions and making sure that the answers are “yes”.

Right now, MakerSpaces are all the rage in the library world. They are a wonderful way to introduce new technologies and to provide a new outlet for creativity, learning and community engagement.  But they are not for everyone, even in the libraries where they exist, though they can serve more community residents if accessibility becomes one of the considerations when designing MakerSpaces and Maker programs or when introducing new technologies like 3-D printing.

A couple of libraries are taking the lead in bringing Making to people with disabilities in their communities. One is the public library in Washington, DC. For example, in 2013 four students supervised by assistant professor Mega M. Subramaniam from the University of Maryland, collaborated with a team from FutureMakers (www.kidsmakethingsbetter.com) on a MakerSpace event for individuals with cognitive disabilities and visual impairments at a branch of the library. They introduced a number of accessible MakerSpace projects, including building and testing flying machines made from craft materials and designing tracks for a marble run. The students who worked on this project were so enthusiastic about it that they’ve written and are trying to publish a guide for librarians who want to design similar accessible MakerSpace projects.

Another library that has entered the arena is Brooklyn Public. They have offered robotics, CAD (computer aided design) graphic novels and Legos MakerSpace programs for tweens and teens and made sure that kids with disabilities could participate.

kids_makerspace(Brooklyn Public Library makes STEAM programming accessible for tweens with and without disabilities. This photo is used with permission from librarian John Huth, The Child’s Place for Children With Special Needs, Brooklyn Public Library.)

When librarians think about accessibility, what usually comes to mind is a person using a wheelchair who may need wide aisles between book stacks and a ramp to reach the library door. But that is a limited view. Several years ago, I participated in a disability awareness workshop called “It Takes More Than a Ramp”, and this has never been truer than in this age of MakerSpaces and advanced technology.  It does take more than a ramp to serve those in our communities with learning differences or physical challenges.  It takes a little thought and a little conversation with them or their caregivers, and a little ingenuity to see how things can be tweaked to make them work for everyone.  But, the extra time and effort is worth it. After all, just think about what the Matthew Shieldses of the world will be able to accomplish with the help, not only of a talented neighbor, but also of a friendly and accessibility-conscious librarian.

Barbara Klipper is a youth services librarian, consultant and advocate for library services for children and teens with disabilities. She is also a former chair of the ALSC Library Service for Special Population Children and Their Caregivers committee. ALA Editions published her 2014 book, Programming for Children and Teens With Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 Look for a version of this post, including additional resources for programming in the Fall 2014 issue of Children and Libraries.

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16. Excellent Explosions! Chemical Reactions for Preschoolers

Mine is one of the myriad libraries celebrating science this summer through our “Fizz, Boom, Read” summer reading program. Much to the delight of my STEAM-loving heart, all branches across my library system have hosted a ton of science programs this summer for every age. Some were led by outside groups like the St. Louis Science Center (always tap your local STEM resources!), and others have been led by in-house staff. They’ve all been a huge hit with kids and their families. One of my most successful in-house preschool programs this summer was a recent program titled “Excellent Explosions.” Here’s what we did.

Excellent Explosions: A Preschool Science Program

Experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. Photo by Amy Koester.While I did have plenty of materials on hand for attendees to check out, this wasn’t a storytime program, per se. That is, I didn’t share a book at the beginning of the program as I usually do in my Preschool Science programs. Instead, I started the event by talking with the group about physical vs. chemical reactions, and how when chemicals react, interesting things happen–like explosions.

After talking about reactions and answering any kiddo questions, we proceeded to the main event: four very exciting chemical reactions.

Reaction 1: Mentos & Diet Coke

I had three 1-litre bottles of Diet Coke and two sleeves of Mentos on hand for this reaction demonstration, which we did out on the library’s patio (warning: very messy). Before dropping any Mentos into the first bottle, I had the kids hypothesize what would happen. Hypotheses ranged from “Nothing will happen” to “It’s gonna EXPLODE!” From there, I dropped about three Mentos into the first bottle, with a decent-sized fizz geyser as the result.

Having seen what happens when three Mentos were added to a bottle, we made hypotheses regarding what would happen when we dropped in seven Mentos. That demonstration resulted in a slightly quicker, noticeably higher geyser reaction.

Then, with a pause for dramatic effect, I announced we would put a whole sleeve of Mentos in the last bottle. There may have been a few delighted shrieks of anticipation from the crowd. Friends, that last set of conditions resulted in a very quick, quite large geyser–one that was so quick and forceful, it pushed about five of the Mentos out of the bottle before they even had a chance to react with the Diet Coke. These three reactions gave us plenty of fodder to talk about how the amounts of ingredients that interact affect the reaction.

Reaction 2: Baking Soda & Vinegar

We stepped back into the program room for the rest of our program, which consisted next of a hands-on experiment. I had set out three long tables with paper plates, recycled prescription containers of baking soda, pipettes, and some vinegar for every child. I gave a brief introduction of the materials we were using (including introducing the word “pipette”), then encouraged the children to use their pipettes to drip some vinegar on the baking soda to see what type of reaction resulted. I moved about the room, asking questions about whether the amount of vinegar used has an impact on the fizzing reaction. A few kids dumped their baking soda on their paper plates and experimented there, while others dripped vinegar directly into the prescription bottles. I encouraged caregivers to ask their children to describe the reactions for them.

Using pipettes to mix water and Alka-Seltzer. Photo by Amy Koester.Reaction 3: Alka-Seltzer & Water

After all of the baking soda had exhausted its fizz, I had the children move to another set of three long tables. Each of these stations had a paper plate, pipette, and cup of water, with two children sharing a packet of two Alka-Seltzer tablets between them. I talked about what Alka-Seltzer is and what it is used for, and I posed some questions about why bubbles might help when you have a stomach ache. After our discussion, I had the kids put their tablet of Alka-Seltzer on their plate and use the pipettes to drop water on the tablet. Once again, I encouraged experimentation with the amount of water. Because the tablet will completely dissolve, we had the opportunity to discuss what that word means, too.

Reaction 4: Elephant Toothpaste

Our last reaction took the form, once again, of a demonstration. I introduced our demonstration by announcing we’d be making Elephant’s Toothpaste, and the kids and I came up with a silly story about a zookeeper who needed to brush his elephant’s teeth.

After we had completed our story, I discussed with the kids the ingredients we would be using in this reaction: hydrogen peroxide, yeast, dish soap, and food coloring. I also named all of our tools: the now-empty Diet Coke bottles from our first reaction; a funnel; a measuring cup; and a tub to contain any mess.

I used Steve Spangler’s basic recipe for Elephant Toothpaste, but in the interest of experimentation, the kids and I used different amounts of activated yeast in each of our three iterations of the experiment. Even though the resultant eruptions were not very different in size, the fact that kids got to see the reaction happen three different times was a huge delight to them. The looks of amazement, surprise, and excitement on their faces were outstanding.

That’s the note on which I ended our Excellent Explosions program, and what better note to end on? It is my goal in Preschool Science programs not only to introduce basic science concepts, like chemical reactions, but to instill a love of science in children as well. If their joyful faces and telling the checkout desk staff about the explosions were any indication, this program was particularly successful.

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17. Sharing iDías : Diverse Programming at Your Library

One great initiative that the Public Awareness Committee works to promote is El día de los niños/ El día de los libros (Children’s Day/ Book Day), which was founded in 1996 by Latino children’s author Pat Mora. Día is a special way for libraries to emphasize the importance of advocating literacy to children of all backgrounds while also encouraging Dia_Hi_Colorfamilies and children to connect with multicultural books, cultures and languages. Exposure to diversity on a regular basis is very important for children and the public library is poised as the perfect space to provide diverse encounters. You can read more about why nurturing cultural diversity in your library is important by reading Jamie Campbell Naidoo’s wonderful ALSC white paper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children.

At the recent ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Naidoo and Debby Gold of the Cuyahoga County Public Library presented a poster session titled “How Do You Día?”on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. They invited all who visited the poster session to submit and share their own Día success stories into their iDía jar.

Seven awesome iDías were submitted and here they are!

* A public library donates a book for every child to celebrate Día and partners with other organizations to donate goods for diverse programming.

* At the Salt Lake County Public Library four people demonstrated science experiments in four difference languages to introduce diversity into the community.

* Dallas Public Library offers bilingual Día storytimes and crafts.

* A library shares Spanish language uses for materials and provides multicultural book talks.

* Each New Orleans Public Library branch hosts a yearly program geared towards Día  programming. Themes may focus on different countries and their cultures, such as Africa, China, India and Italy. Local authors are also brought in.

* A libraDia bookmarks, etc.ry in Commerce, CA invited author Antonio Sacre to read during a storytime program.

* A library holds multicultural craft events, including creating Native American dream catchers, basket weaving and Egyptian vases. They also invited an Indian dance troupe to perform.

What stellar iDías! I especially love the iDía to hold a science program in various languages. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the poster session and shared their success stories! Do you have an iDía that you would like to share? Tell us! Better yet, show us! Share photos from your diverse library program by posting on the Día Facebook page.

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

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18. Keep the Conversation Going – Services and Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays.  I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.

Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources.  Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs.  If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants.  This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.

One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals.  Communication with parents can be twofold.  It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community.  Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own.  Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.

I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs.  One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities.  I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned.  This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library.  You will learn more as you do more.  You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know.  Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.

Professional Development:

Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities

https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=55

Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)

http://www.cmlibrary.org/Programs/Special_Needs/

Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility – What you need to know

http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaprotools/accessibilitytipsheets

SNAILS – Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services

http://snailsgroup.blogspot.com/

Resources and Examples:

Brooklyn Public Library – The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.

http://www.bklynlibrary.org/only-bpl/childs-place

Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children

http://www.skokielibrary.info/s_kids/kd_COI/COI_bib.pdf

Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time

http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/pg_tier2.php

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Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries – Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada.  She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.

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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19. Serving the Underserved: Lunch at the Library

hunger-in-america1-300x300There are many ways for us to serve the underserved in our library communities.  Whether we provide outreach in local preschools or daycares, visit incarcerated youth, or serve children with disabilities, outreach is a crucial part of inclusive library service.  This summer, we at the Glen Ellyn Public Library served–quite literally–children with a different type of need.

Food for Thought

Here’s a brief look at some statistics and information about hunger in our  communities.  The numbers might surprise you.

  • According to the USDA in a 2013 study, 49 million people in the US live in homes that are “food insecure” – meaning that they do not always have access to adequate amounts of food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.
  • 1 in 8 Americans rely on help from food banks each year.
  • 20% of households with children and 9% of elderly people living alone are food insecure.
  • In 2012, 16.1 million or approximately 22 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.
  • Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for a child’s future physical and mental health, academic achievement, and economic productivity.  In other words, healthy bodies mean healthy minds.

Summer Reading, Summer Eating

Last summer, our library launched their 2013 Summer Reading Program entitled Read to Feed.  Children of all ages were encouraged to keep track of the number of hours they read during the summer.  Not only did they read to accomplish an individual goal, but a community wide goal was set, challenging all of the kids to read 70,000 hours throughout the course of the summer. In response to the community’s commitment to reach their reading goal, the local Rotary Club committed to making a donation to the local food pantry, providing funding to feed 500 local individuals.  This year, when the idea came up of having the library participate in the Summer Meals program, sponsored by the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB), we felt that this would naturally coincide and continue with the mission of last year’s summer reading program.

After evaluating our school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics, we realized that we qualified to offer free summer meals in our library community.  The NIFB made a site visit in preparation for the summer meals program, providing the required training for staff that would supervise the program.  In addition, our School Liaison shared the news with various community contacts, making sure that the word got out to the families that needed the most.  And so, for several weeks throughout the summer on Mondays through Fridays from 12 – 1 pm, the library was an open site, serving free boxed lunches to children 18 and younger.

Hungry for Connection

The main focus of this program was to provide healthy, well-balanced lunches to children free of charge.  However, soon after we launched the program, we noticed something else significant happen.  Our library has a group of kids who use our building as a safe haven during the summer months.  They may have working parents that are not home, so often times, they stay for hours on end utilizing our collections and our services.  In some cases, these children might not have anywhere else to go.  And once the Summer Meals program began, we observed a change  in some of those kids.  Some of these kids began to open up to us even more than usual, interacting with staff and starting conversation.  In some cases, even our rapport with the children’s caregivers grew as well.  We were able to connect with new families that have never utilized the library before, promoting the library and all of its services.  We also served some of the families that already were regular library users.  It may have been the summer lunches that initially drew families to the library, but I do think that it was the personal connection with staff that kept them coming back.

In A Nutshell

Think about how this program fits in with your library’s mission.  What might be the added value of a program like this in your library community?  The first step would be to determine and evaluate your school district’s free and reduced lunch statistics.  If your community qualifies, reach out to a local food pantry or food bank to see if there is a comparable program in your area.

You may also want to consider the cost and the impact of a program like this.  The main cost to the library is not the cost of food; boxed lunches are delivered daily free from the food bank.  The primary cost is staff time.  Staff would be needed to be available to set up and clean up the room, monitor the room during the hour-long program, communicate with the food bank about delivery times and number of lunches delivered, and make sure that the proper documentation is in place.  Once that is taken care of, the program runs quite smoothly.  The impact, though, can be much greater.  While many of us promote reading programs during the summer, the fact is that food insecurity could be inhibiting some children from being able to primed for learning and reading.  A child that does not have access to quality and well-balanced meals may not be as mentally equipped or motivated to read.  And with a program like summer meals, the library can help serve that need.

 

If you are heading to Oakland next month for the 2014 ALSC Institute and want to learn more about how to implement a summer lunch program at your library, be sure to check out Summer Lunch at the Library  presented by the California Summer Meal Coalition, the California Library Association, and the amazing staff from the Sacramento, Fresno County, Oakland, and Los Angeles Public Libraries.  For more information about the upcoming 2014 ALSC Institute, click here!

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20. Chain Reaction Challenge

We’ve all seen Rube Goldberg machines: overly complicated machines that use everything from dominoes, to motors, to squirrels in order to complete a simple task. But have you ever thought about hosting a Rube Goldberg competition at your library?

Back in July, I hosted the Chain Reaction Challenge: an event where families were given supplies and two hours to construct a Rube Goldberg machine. I admit that I had my doubts about the program initially – especially since our target age was grades K– 5. However, I found that this is a great family program that emphasizes teamwork, critical thinking, and STEM!
CRC 1Interested in hosting your own Rube Goldberg program? Here are a few components you might consider:

Theme/Objective:

Our theme was Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’, and the objective was to have a golf ball roll from one side of the machine to the other and trigger the next machine (creating the chain reaction). While having a theme is pretty optional, it’s imperative to have an objective so that the teams know what they’re working toward. I felt that the golf balls were an excellent choice for this age group, but there are other objectives you could do, such as:

  • Machines must have dominoes
  • Machines must incorporate gravity in some way
  • Machines must involve matchbox cars
  • Machines must start and end with catapults
  • Machines must start and end with a string being pulled
  • Machines must involve trained squirrels (okay, I’m joking on that one)

Supplies:

While many Rube Goldberg machines require motors and technical aspects, we wanted this to be a simple, age-appropriate program. We told families that they were welcome to bring supplies from home, but we also provided a lot of simple, everyday items:

  • CRC 3Paper towel and toilet paper tubes
  • Small cardboard boxes (such as tissue boxes, frozen dinner boxes, etc.)
  • Lots of duct tape
  • String, yarn, wire, pipe cleaners
  • Legos, tinker toys, blocks
  • Various other toys
  • Things that make noise (bells, chimes, buzzers)
  • Things that roll (cars, cylinders, balls)
  • Wooden dowels
  • Balloons
  • Rulers, crayons, markers, scissors
  • Just about anything you can find

CRC 2

Maker Know-How

I was lucky enough to partner with a local nonprofit organization http://tekventure.org/ that specializes in the maker movement. Therefore, we had engineers on hand to mentor the teams and give them some ideas and suggestions for how to build their machines.

But you do not need engineers to run this program! You can just as easily start the program with a slideshow to demonstrate some simple machines (such as ramps, pendulums, etc.). Or even have handouts with suggestions on it. As a matter of fact, the teams that participated in this program came up with most of the ideas themselves, and many of them had zero maker experience prior to the program!

Awards

We had awards for ten different categories, such as: tallest machine, most colorful, most musical, etc. This worked well for us because we had five teams that participated, so each team was able to get two awards! However, the biggest reward was watching the finished machines run. There was a great sense of accomplishment for both kids and adults to see that they created a simple, working machine.

(all photos courtesy Guest Blogger)

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Erin WarzalaErin Warzala is a Children’s Librarian at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  She is passionate about early literacy, STEM/STEAM programming, books of all genres, and tea.  She blogs somewhat regularly at http://fallingflannelboards.wordpress.com/ and can be followed on Twitter at @fallingflannel.

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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21. Andrew in Asia

Andrew Medlar getting ready for his trip to the Philippines

Andrew is reading Pedro and the Monkey by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Michael Hays (Morrow Junior Books, 1996) at the Dr. José Rizal sculpture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Dr. Rizal (1861-1896) “is the Philippine national hero, the ‘father of his country,’ the founder of its modern literature, the inspirer of its educational system” (Reines, Bernard. A People’s Hero: Rizal of the Philippines. New York, Praeger Publishers, 1971.).

The National Library of the Philippines is sponsoring an International Conference of Children’s Librarianship in Tagaytay City next month and I’m very excited to be attending to represent ALSC! The theme of the conference is “Connecting and Linking of Information through Transformed Children’s Libraries to the Digital Era,” and I’ll be giving a presentation on the first evening, October 13,  on the topic of “Envisioning a 21st Century Children’s Library.”

This topic is right up ALSC’s alley as our core purpose is creating a better future for children through libraries, and I’m looking forward to reaching out and sharing how we’re moving together into our association’s envisioned future in which “libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them.”

I would love your help in telling this story! What is your vision of a 21st Century Children’s Library for your community? We’re talking collections, technology, programming, spaces—and anything else you can think of. What innovations in library service to children can you imagine developing in the 85 years still to come in this century, and what traditions and proven tactics will we be carrying forward?

Please share your ideas you’d like me to spread around the world by September 16 in the comments section below or by clicking and submitting them here. If you have a picture of something special you’re doing now that you feel represents the future and you’d be willing for me to include it in the conference presentation, please e-mail them to me at andrewalsc@outlook.com. You can also tweet pictures and any other thoughts using #21stkidlib.

And please follow me on Twitter (@ammlib) where I’ll be gearing up for the trip by exploring Filipino folklore (find my reading list here), practicing ordering coffee in Filipino (Higit kape mangyaring), and warming up my taste buds at some of Chicago’s delicious Filipino restaurants. And throughout the trip (October 10-16) I’ll be sharing my experiences and the amazing ideas of our colleagues across the globe using #andrewinasia.

Thanks!

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Andrew Medlar is the 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect and the Assistant Chief, Technology, Content, & Innovation, at Chicago Public Library.

 

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22. Sometimes things don’t work out…

As a result of my work with ALSC committee, Liaisons with National Orgs Serving Youth, I’d had high hopes that this year’s Dia Day celebrations would be well attended by Big Brothers Big Sisters “Bigs” and “Littles” across the country. I’d worked with my liaison at the org in the months and weeks leading up to Dia, our anticipation building, getting more and more excited as April wound slowly towards the end of the month.  I’d even anticipated writing a blog post for ALSC featuring happy photos of Bigs and Littles participating in joyful parties celebrating multicultural books.

Please note the absence of aforementioned photos in this blog post.

While it’s possible that some Bigs might have taken their Littles to a Dia Day event, it definitely didn’t happen on the scale I’d imagined possible.

Bummer.

So, why did I choose to write about the experience of working towards a partnership initiative that essentially flopped? Because I think it’s important for us to reflect when programs fail, when kids don’t show up, or when the perfect book you picked for storytime turns out to be a dud with the audience. Go ahead and be bummed out, but don’t dwell on it, and don’t let it discourage you from trying again. More importantly, try to figure out what went wrong, and what you might do differently in the future.

In trying to identify why this flopped, here’s what I came up with:

  • I’d counted on most public libraries holding Dia Day events, and registering them with the Dia Day Event finder.  They didn’t.
  • Dia Day events were scheduled for a variety of dates over a two-three week period, making it challenging to message (nationally) where/when events were scheduled (locally).

I definitely want to try again to get Bigs to take their Littles to Dia events in future years, and I think with some effort it’s possible that it can happen.

We spend a lot of time celebrating our successes – Let’s remember that we can celebrate our failures, too, as long as we learn from them!

What have you learned from programs or initiatives that didn’t go off quite as planned or expected? Did you revamp and try again? Please share in the comments!

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Sylvie Shaffer is the Middle and Upper School Librarian at Maret School in Washington DC. In addition to her work with ALSC’s Liaisons with National Organizations Serving Youth, she is also a member of DC area notable book selection committee Capitol Choices and has enjoyed serving in its 10-14 reading group since 2009.

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23. Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter?

Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language.

Poet Janet Wong said that it’s easy–and vital–to create science literacy moments in the classroom and at the library. The key is to be bold. “Science and technology are accessible to people if they’re not afraid.” As gatekeepers of information, teachers and librarians should embrace the responsibility to expose kids to all subjects. Linking language and science may be a key way to make science more approachable. It doesn’t even have to be an elaborate lesson: just a few science literacy moments a week will have a lasting impact on children’s lives.

Check out these great resources:

Jill’s post about Thursday’s edition of “The Science of Poetry”

Presenter Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children blog

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s blog and book, The Poetry Friday Anthology.

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24. Setting Program Attendance Limits?: She Said/ She Said

Does your library limit attendance to children’s programs, requiring some sort of advance registration? Or are all programs planned with an eye toward accommodating any size group?

In a nod to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, children’s librarians Lori Faust and Kendra Jones debate the pros and cons:

LF: Well, Kendra, I will begin with a very obvious “pro” in favor of pre-registration to a set limit: if staff knows how many people to expect at a program, it is much easier to plan, prepare and purchase supplies without over-buying and wasting those limited budgets.

KJ: True, but limiting attendance can create more work for staff as they will have to take registration, follow up, pass out tickets, etc., plus there is the unpleasant task of informing interested patrons that a program is full.

If we allow walk-ins, we are more apt to have kids attend whose parents do not want to/cannot commit ahead of time and those who do not know the great things the library has to offer until they drop in one day. To then be unable to attend a program is not great customer service.

LF: That’s a good point, Kendra, and we always want to make sure we have some programs that are open to all. I’ve worked at libraries that run things both ways. One did not like us to limit attendance; we had fabulous turn-outs, but because we always had to expect 100+ kids (on a very small budget), we could only offer inexpensive programs that accommodated huge groups. And I found that kind of limiting creatively.

In response to your point that turning people away isn’t good customer service, I’d argue that for some libraries, with limited space perhaps, keeping the crowd to a manageable size can make the experience better for those in attendance. I’ve had complaints from patrons when programs have been very crowded, too!

KJ: I understand how that can be challenging, however, there are other options for programming for large crowds of people. Identical programs can be held back to back, for example. Only one program has to be planned and is then repeated. Not only does this offer patrons more choice in time but allows more patrons to partake in a library program.

LF: That would be a great option, IF…Well, there are several “ifs” depending on an individual library’s situation – can the youth services staff book the space for double the time? Is there enough staff to cover the department and run multiple programs? Is there enough money to cover twice the program? I want to mention, too, that requiring registration for programs doesn’t necessarily mean that patrons get turned away. Often, a program doesn’t “fill up,” but having a good idea of how many kids will attend helps the staff prepare for (and sometimes tweak) the program.

KJ: So true, Lori, that some libraries do not have the resources to do a double header. However, if a program is not getting filled up, perhaps registration is acting as a barrier to one of our most prized resources.

When I worked in a system where registration was required, even with reminder phone calls, patrons did not come for the program. And since they were under the impression that registration was required, there were no drop-in patrons to attend the program, meaning supplies went unused and the program was smaller than intended. Which may not bode well with statistics loving stakeholders who often provide funding for youth programs.

Now we have had our say, but we know there is so much more to this issue! It is your turn to make some arguments for, or against, program attendance limits. Add your thoughts in the comments.

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Our guest bloggers today are Lori Faust and Kendra Jones, who wrote this piece as members of the Managing Children’s Services Committee

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

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25. The Science of Slimy Things

A few months ago, one of my frequent program-goers made a request: Would I please be able to offer a program that includes slugs, one of his favorite animals? I was inclined to agree to the challenge, even before said child had his mother email me a photo of him with his three pet slugs. How’s a librarian to say “no” to that?

I gave some thought to how I could meet the “slug” challenge while also closing out a season of many science-themed programs. I decided to return to a favorite concept with school-agers—slime—and explore it from two different perspectives: animal biology and physics. Thus “The Science of Slimy Things” was born.

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

A Slug Science information slide, slide and photo by Amy Koester

The program was divided roughly into two parts, the first considerably less messy than the second. We opened with an exploration of slugs—pictures, how they move, their scientific names, how they differ from snails, and the purpose of their slime. Happily, the non-fiction stacks had plenty of resources to support this exploration.

Then we got hands-on with slug slime. No, not real slug slime, as I don’t have regular access to the potionmaster’s storecupboard. Instead, I had prepared some gelatinous, fibrous slime (recipe below) the morning of the program and brought it with me to the library. It sat in the staff fridge with a note saying “NOT Jello—Do NOT eat!” until program time. Once we had talked about slugs, I doled out scoops of the orange goo on paper plates for each of the attendees. I provided them with popsicle sticks and index cards to use to explore and manipulate the slime, but many of them opted just to use their hands. I’m sure none of us are surprised.

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

When everyone felt that, having tested its viscous properties, they had had a good play with the slug slime, we scooped it all back up into the plastic container. After a brief stop in the restroom to wash hands, we all trooped outside to the library’s patio for the really messy activity of the program.

Our second exploration of slime was oobleck, that substance owing its name to Dr. Seuss. I had some sample oobleck to accompany the intro to this type of slime. We discussed how oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid—that is, it has properties of both a solid and a liquid depending upon the force being exerted upon it. To demonstrate, I set a toy farm animal on top of a pool of water (it sank) and then on top of the pool of oobleck (it sank, albeit more slowly). With a minimal amount of pressure acting against the oobleck, it acts like a liquid. To demonstrate how it acts like a solid, I used a mallet as my tool. First, I slammed the mallet into the pool of water; it splashed magnificently. When I raised the mallet to slam it onto the pool of oobleck, many of the kids leaned backward in expectation of a colossal oobleck splatter. Instead, there was none; the sudden strong force of mallet against oobleck caused the oobleck to act like a solid. Cue the pronouncements of “How cool!”

After making sure the kids had retained the term “non-Newtonian fluid,” I split everyone into groups to make their own oobleck. It was a messy, experimental process, as kids had to fiddle with the balance of ingredients in their slime (recipe below). Once they all had slime, the patio was a mess of kids scooping up oobleck, rolling it into a ball in their hands, and then letting it drip through their fingers. (I am happy to report that it rained a LOT the day after the oobleck project, which had left the outdoor patio quite covered in dried slime.)

When kids had had enough of the messy oobleck, I handed out empty prescription containers so that kids could take a bit of slime home with them. Kids bottled it up, then went their merry way to wash hands.

My program-goer who requested the slug aspect of the program said he was very happy with how the program had turned out—he liked getting to play with slug slime, and the oobleck was a great surprise as well. Talk about enjoying the finer things in life.

The Recipe for Slug Slime:

  • 7 cups water
  • 10 tsp Metamucil powder

Pour the water into a stovetop-safe saucepan, then stir in the Metamucil until dissolved. When the mixture is dissolved, turn on the burner to medium-high heat. Heat the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until it reaches your desired consistency. The mixture will be gelatinous and gloopy. Let cool before handling.

The Recipe for Oobleck:

  • 1 to 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup water

Pour 1 cup of the cornstarch into a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the water, gently stirring with a spoon or with hands. Keep adding water until the oobleck starts to thicken; you’ll know it’s ready when you tap on it and it hardens. If the oobleck is too runny, add more cornstarch; if too thick, add more water.

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