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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Reenergize Your Teen Advisory Group #alaac14

It’s tough thinking of things to do every month with your TAG. I know that’s why I ended my TAG 2 years ago. But I’ve been inspired to give it a second go after visiting the Harry Potter Alliance booth in the exhibit hall.

The HP Alliance provides community service opportunities for teens through  book donations (Accio Books), voting campaigns, civil rights, hunger, and much more.

You can start a chapter at your school or library and if your teens are not into Harry Potter, your group can campaign under the Hunger Games or other groups.

For more info on The Harry Potter Alliance, visit www.thehpalliance.org

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2. Research and Re-Thinking at ALA Annual 2014

I attended two jam-packed sessions this Saturday morning at #alaac14.

The first session was Every Child Ready to Read 2–Does it Really Work?  Once attendees found the session room location at the end of the South Hall maze, we were rewarded with some cheese.  Cheese in the form of proven RESEARCH that shows that yes, what libraries do during early childhood storytimes makes a difference!  Two researchers from the University of Washington’s Project VIEWS2, led by the late Eliza Dresang, gave an overview of the multi-year project investigating the work of librarians and the effect on children.  Unsurprising to those in the library community, the verdict is in–we are doing great work!  Suprising to me was the fact that this was the first formal research of its kind to show that “purposeful focus on early literacy principles makes a difference in programs and in children’s early literacy behaviors.”  More insights and hard facts are in production from the Project VIEWS2 folks, including a white paper and website with practical tips and videos.  Handouts from this session (and a previous presentation at PLA) are available on the conference websites.

The second morning session I attended was What No Tchotskes?: Creating an Experience Based Summer Program.  If the reward of the first session was the proof in the pudding, the reward of this session was that PRIZES ARE NOT NECESSARY in summer reading programs.  Three Illinois librarians presented ways in which they have completely re-thought their summer library programs.  Oh wait, I mean summer learning challenges!  The librarians emphasized experienced-based activities such as group art projects, cards with challenge suggestions to try at home or at the library, curiousity kits/stations, and a host of other ways to get kids doing/trying/thinking rather than counting/earning/winning.  “Make the incentive coming to the library versus soming to the library for an incentive,” was my favorite quote of the session.  Research shows that if we want kids to love reading, they need to develop intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. The Illinois trio were happily surprised there were no major complaints about the lack of plastic toy prizes or other accountability rewards.  Instead, kids and their families were engaged and engrossed in the experience itself, rather than the structure, theme, or incentive.  Lastly, the panel recommended taking small steps toward radical change by stating that it’s ok to fall, as long as you fall forward.

Bottom line: youth librarians are boss and we’ve got data and experience to prove it.

Tessa Michaelson Schmidt
Public Library Youth & Special Services Consultant
Madison, Wisconsin

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3. Online Course Registration Deadline is July 14

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education

Whether you’re going to Las Vegas or not, ALSC has great professional development opportunities for you. This summer ALSc is offering three online courses focusing on red-hot topics that you can take back to your library.

Each courses will run between four and six weeks and will be taught in an online learning community using Moodle. All courses are offered asynchronously (self-directed) meaning you won’t need to logon at a specific time. Courses start Monday, July 14, 2014.

Children’s Graphic Novels 101: Selection, Evaluation and Programming for Children
6 weeks, July 14 – August 22, 2014

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytime Tools
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

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

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4. Passive DIY Programming for Tweens

I’m always on the lookout for hands-on passive programming that will keep my tween audience engaged during the summer. Simple paper crafts, scavenger hunts, and guessing jars are great for the younger folk, but this age group is savvier and has a penchant for a more “sophisticated” activities.

To satisfy their need to design and create, our library has developed DIY projects that are low cost and easy to put together. Our program is set up to be self-serving, meaning we leave out the supplies and directions for the project and let the tweens help themselves. The supplies themselves are close to the staff desk, so if a tween does need a little help getting started, they can easily find someone to assist them. Each project is available for roughly a month and we try to stick to a budget of $50 for supplies.

Here are two of my favorite DIY projects we are offering this summer:

Hula-Hoop Weaving Hula Hoop Weaving

Weaving can be such a calming yet fulfilling activity for anyone. The repetitive action of moving the weft back and forth can be very relaxing. The supplies for this project are easy to gather. All one needs is hula hoops and old donated t-shirts that will be cut into strips.

Normally the tweens are able to take home the projects they have created, but with this project we decided to do something a little different. The finished weavings are staying in the hula-hoops for summer and being hung in the children’s department as part of our SRP’s decorations. After the summer these weavings will be turned into rugs and used by our youngest customers as storytime mats.

Miniature Terrariums Terrarium

Summer is a great time to introduce gardening to tweens, but with their overbooked schedules, we recognize they most likely do not have the time to actually tend a garden. Our solution, offer them an opportunity to make miniature terrariums.

These cute tiny gardens are fun to create and accessorize. To cut costs, try to work with a local gardening center to negotiate prices on succulents and air plants. Ask staff to bring in small sealable glass jars to also help defray the cost. Consider providing small plastic figures for the tweens to include in their gardens, so they can create environments for these figures to live in.

Offering these types of self-directed DIY activities has been very popular with the tweens at my library. As I noted at the beginning of this post, I am always looking for new ideas for these projects, to keep the tweens coming back. If you have a project that work in this type of format, please share in the comments. Ideas are wonderful things!


Amber Creger is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL.

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5. Program in a Post: Art Links

With this post and $0, you can inspire community members to create a gorgeous piece of collaborative art.

Assuming you have some paper, staplers, a printer, and markers on hand, you won’t need to buy a thing.Art Links Sign


  • White paper cut into 2″ x 11″ strips
  • Markers or crayons
  • Stapler
  • A sign (optional)

Room set up: This is a perfect outreach event activity, minimal prep, minimal mess and a fun visual statement. We took this to a booth at a community art fair last month. It would also work well as a tabletop activity in your youth services area. If you wanted to make it a program, you just need to set up tables and chairs.

Art Links2Quite simply, staff invited community members passing by the booth to stop and decorate a paper strip with markers. The strips were then added to the paper chain hanging from our booth. After the event, we put the Art Links up on display in the library for everyone to enjoy.

Art Links

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6. Magnets and Magnetism: A Preschool Science Program

Our latest adventures in preschool science have proved rather attractive. (Get it? That’s magnet humor!)

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

I’ve seen a number of my colleagues (Katie and Abby, for example) offer some great preschool science programs on the topic of magnets, and I figured it was high time I offered something on the topic, too. Here’s what I did:

First, we shared a story that provided an introduction to the concept of magnets. I opted for Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, a whimsical story about a young boy whose kite becomes stuck in a tree. He tries throwing increasingly more ridiculous items up in the tree to try to dislodge the kite, but everything seems to get stuck. Quite an amusing story.


Photo by Amy Koester.

Next, we retold the story of Stuck using magnet props, and we talked about how magnets stick together. Kids helped me stick the various objects onto our tree on the magnet board, and they experimented with things that the magnet props would and would not stick to.

We did hands-on activities to further explore how magnets work. I always set up stations with some brief instructions, which allows children and their caregivers to move from activity to activity at their own pace. I then wander the room providing support and modeling scientific questions to attendees. I had four activity stations set up for this program:

  • What’s Magnetic? – I cut egg cartons in half, resulting in cartons with six sections each. I put small objects in each of these six sections: plastic beads, washers, paper clips, pipe cleaners, pom pons, etc. The goal of this activity was to use a magnet on each of the six objects to determine which were magnetic. Then, after sorting into magnetic and non-magnetic piles, they could try to determine what make an object magnetic.
  • Photo by Amy Koester.

    Photo by Amy Koester.

    Can You Make a Magnet Chain? – This activity illustrates that a magnet’s force can be conducted through magnetic objects, thereby creating a chain of objects connected by magnetism. I had a variety of different strength magnets, as well as paper clips and screws (no sharp edges, of course!) for children to try to make the longest chains they could.

  • Magnet Hair Salon – I cut chenille sticks in various colors into pieces about an inch long, and I drew faces on magnetic wands. The activity was to use magnetism to style the magnet wand creatures’ hair out of chenille sticks.
  • Writing with Magnets – I set out several of the library’s magnetic writing boards to invite children to practice their shapes and letters. I also supplied some questions for caregivers to ask their kids while writing, such as how the magnet pen worked to draw on the screen and how the screen eraser worked.

Everyone got to take something home to continue learning about magnets. My take-home activity sheet provided simple instructions for families to create their own magnetic treasure hunts. I also set out a variety of the library’s materials about magnetism, from fiction and nonfiction books to DVDs. Everyone went home happy and a little more knowledgeable about magnets.

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

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7. ALSC @ Annual Conference #alaac14

2014 ALA Annual Conference

Learn more about ALSC events at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference (image courtesy ALA)

In three weeks, librarians from across the country will be landing in sunny Las Vegas for the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. ALSC has a great lineup of events.

And just a reminder, if you’re headed to Las Vegas, the ALSC Local Arrangements Committee has put together some great travel tips. We also encourage you to check out the ALA Conference Scheduler. Here’s just a free ALSC events that you won’t want to miss:

Leadership & ALSC

On Saturday, June 28, 8:30-11:30am as the Caesars Palace Roman I & III, join ALSC members for Leadership & ALSC. This year’s presentation, entitled Biting Into the Core: How Public Librarians Support Student Success, will provide a great forum for members to network and learn new skills.

ALSC 101

If you’re new to ALSC or if this is your first conference as a children’s librarian, then ALSC 101 for you! We’ll provide you with information about the perks of ALSC membership, tips on how to get involved in the organization, and tricks of the trade for navigating Annual Conference. This event takes place on Saturday, June 28 at 4:30-5:30pm in the Flamingo Hotel – Laughlin II.

ALSC Awards Presentation

Celebrate the best in children’s literature and media at the annual presentation of the Batchelder, Carnegie, Geisel and Sibert Awards! The 2014 ALSC Awards Presentation takes place on Monday, June 30 at 8:00am in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N255/257. There will be a continental breakfast and a chance to mingle with your favorite authors and illustrators. The awards presentation will promptly start at 8:30am and is open to all registered attendees.

ALSC Membership Meeting

Make plans to attend the ALSC Membership Meeting on Monday 6/30, 10:30-11:30am. in Room N252 of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is the perfect opportunity to meet up with friends and become acquainted with new colleagues. Even if you can’t participate, we invite you to submit your questions via Twitter using the hashtag #alscmm14.

Charlemae Rollins President’s Program

At the 2014 ALSC President’s Program, entitled The Ripple Effect: Library Partnerships that Positively Impact Children, Families, Communities, and Beyond, get inspired to create meaningful partnerships in your libraries! Learn how library and community collaborations can be the nexus of support for children and families. Hear from authors Amy Dickinson, Anna McQuinn, and a panel of librarians from across the country. This event takes place on Monday, June 30 at 1pm in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N254.

…And So Much More!

The Annual Conference is jam-packed with things to do. For a full list of ALSC events at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, please visit the ALSC website or keep an eye out for future communication from the ALSC office.

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8. Serving Military Families in the Public Library

Have you ever presented a program and learned something unexpected about your library users? At Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia we ran a storytime focusing on military families and two nonagenarians saw the event listed in the local paper and attended, complete with walkers! They decided not to stay for picture books and songs, but first they regaled us with tales of traveling with their soldier husbands to ravaged, post-World War II Germany.

What did we learn? Firstly that “All Ages” in the local paper may be interpreted literally. Secondly, that there is plenty of community interest in military family lifestyles.

You may think services to military families are not relevant to your library, but consider that over two million American children have had a parent deployed since 9/11, and current military families total over five million people. If you include veterans, military retirees, Department of Defense civilians, grown military children, and parents of military members, interested people can live anywhere and be served by any library, including yours.

Military families lead varied lives, but are likely to experience the stressors of constant relocations and school or job changes, prolonged military member absence, knowledge of family member’s danger, distance from extended family, and living on a military base or overseas. Other children may experience these stressors, for example, the child of a long distance truck driver will experience prolonged parental absence, but the combined stressors add up to a definite military lifestyle.

Over two thirds of children with an Active Duty military parent are under 11 so the first program we offered was our all-ages storytime that focused on 3-7 year olds. Book selection is challenging because the books often touch on war which may be controversial. On the other hand songs involving marching are always fun! Our Saturday morning program was well attended and several parents said that they were pleased and touched to see military families featured at the library. They were also enthusiastic about displays, especially of picture books. You can see from the photos that real camouflage is effective, and if you don’t know someone in the military for old clothes, then try a thrift store.

StorytimePoster TeenDisplay2 TeenDisplay1 TeenPosterDisplay ChildrensDisplay ChildrensDisplay2

For people who can’t come into our library I used a military family theme for several posts in our two widely-read review blogs, Blogging for a Good Book and Pied Pipers Pics The posts didn’t get a huge number of ‘likes” but received many comments and we heard from two of the authors.

These successful programs confirmed that military family life is a topic that doesn’t affect everyone, but the people who are affected are appreciative, so we are planning more storytimes, displays, reviews and I will keep adding to my long-term project of an annotated list of books featuring children with parents in the U.S. military Books for Military Children. If you have never considered featuring programs for military families in your library I urge you to reach out to this often overlooked group.


Our guest blogger today is Jan Marry. In her twenty-one years as an Active Duty military spouse, she raised four children while living in six countries and four states. She works at the Williamsburg Regional Library where you can contact her at jmarry@wrl.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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9. Library as Art Gallery

It’s a sad but well-known fact that when school budgets are tight, art is one of the subjects that’s first to go. Fortunately, there’s nonprofit organizations like Art in Action, who bring high-quality, curriculum-based art education into schools that need it most. Students in the program learn about great works by masters and then produce their own artwork inspired by their studies. How can libraries get involved in this wonderful program? By turning the library into an art gallery!


In our town, Half Moon Bay, the library is one of the communitysites that display works by Art in Action participants. Each month, parent volunteers come to the library armed with bundles of nicely mounted and labeled artwork. They eye the walls in our children’s area then climb tall ladders and expertly mount the work.

The effect is immediate and visceral: the young artists’ creativity is boundless, surprising, and sometimes literally jumps off the canvas (in some cases, art is a full-on multimedia experience). In the Half Moon Bay Library, the majority of art is displayed above our picture books, which contributes to the building’s lovely, vibrant atmosphere. While I’m all for READ posters,  decorating our space with works by  young artists in our very own community is immensely satisfying. Needless to say, visitors both familiar with the young artists or simple art lovers marvel at the ever changing displays.

The library has connected Art in Action with our homeschooling community by offering a daytime class suited to their schedule, age range, and focus of study. The program is offered nationwide and may be a suitable resource for homeschooling groups interested in art education curriculums.

At the end of each school year, we partner with Art in Action to celebrate the end of a creative year. A public reception is hosted at the library, where artists are presented with certificates and are free to enjoy light refreshments and mingle with guests–fellow students, friends, and family. The audience is made up of both library users and infrequent users, making it a perfect time to highlight art books and do sign ups for the summer reading program, which always features arts and crafts activities. Families are delighted with the knowledge that they can continue their art exploration during summer months, while looking forward to the next round of Art in Action in the fall. It’s a win-win partnership, and an easy way to inject a bit more STEAM into your library programming.

Karen Choy is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Half Moon Bay Library in California. She blogs for kidsteens, and adults at the San Mateo County Library Web site.

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10. Reminder: #alsc14 Scholarship Applications Due May 30

Friends of ALSC

The Friends of ALSC are offering two scholarships to the 2014 ALSC National Institute (image courtesy of the Friends of ALSC)

In an effort to support ALSC’s goal of continuing education for children’s librarians, the Friends of ALSC are offering two scholarships to the ALSC National Institute Sept. 18 – 20, 2014 in Oakland, Calif. Scholarship recipients must be ALSC members who work directly with children in a library setting. The scholarships will include Institute registration (at the early bird rate) and a $1,000 travel stipend to cover airfare and hotel lodging.

The ALSC National Institute, devoted solely to children’s and youth library services, offers a small, intimate setting for participating in programming and getting to know colleagues. Programs will delve into some of the most important topics in library service to children such as using technology in programming, what’s hot in children’s spaces, working with underserved populations and using local partnerships to improve programming. Participants are sure to go home feeling reinvigorated about the profession and more connected to others in the field.

The online application must be submitted before midnight on Friday, May 30, 2014. Prior to submitting the application, seek permission from current supervisor for time off to attend the Institute. Winners will be notified by Friday, June 13, 2014. For more information on the Institute scholarship including requirements and a link to the application form, please see the ALSC National Institute site.

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11. Using Apps in Programs for Older Kids

Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with using apps in programs for kids in grades K-5, with great success! Sometimes I plan a program entirely around an app (like using LongExpo to do light painting and Stop Motion Studio to make stop motion animation movies). Other times I come across an app that I think would enhance a program I have already planned. Below are three examples of how I’ve incorporated an app into an otherwise tech-free program.

Screen shot of the Little Things Forever app, taken by the author.

Screen shot of the Little Things Forever app, taken by the author.

Little Things Forever by KlickTock (App Store: $2.99, Google Play: free)
In this app, you try to find hidden objects in a large collage-style image. On some levels, you race to find everything before time runs out.

Over spring break, a coworker and I did an I Spy program for kids in grades 3-5. The kids assembled their own I Spy-style collages using paper and small objects. They wrote a list of the objects to find and we photographed the results. The kids finished their collages at different times so it was the perfect opportunity to use this app, because kids could easily join in as they finished. I projected it onto a large screen and manipulated the image on the iPad while the kids gathered around the screen and pointed out the objects as they found them. I had been uncertain about how this would play out in a group setting, but the kids worked cooperatively and were quite enthusiastic about it.

My First Tangrams Lite by Alexandre Minard (App Store: free/full version is $1.99)
Tangrams are ancient Chinese puzzles that use seven specific shapes (five triangles of different sizes, a square and a parallelogram) to create images, such as a cat or boat. This app has kids assemble the images by dragging pieces into the right spot on the screen and includes pieces with different shapes (rectangle, semi-circle) than a traditional tangram.

As part of a series of STEM programs for kids in grades K-2, I did a program on tangrams. I read a story aloud, the kids put together various tangrams, and they did a craft. At the end, I passed out four iPads and the kids worked on the app in pairs. Even the kids who had a hard time with the actual tangram pieces understood the app and had fun with it. I think it builds different skills than actually holding puzzle pieces in your hand, but it was a nice complement to the rest of the program.

Underground Kingdom by Visual Baker (App Store: $2.99)
This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book turned into an app, about a person who falls into a seemingly bottomless crevasse in Greenland and finds a secret underground world. This style of story lends itself quite well to the app format.

Ok, I admit that I haven’t actually used this one in a program. I planned to use it last summer in a read-aloud program for kids in grades 2-4. It was an informal program in which we read funny picture books and chapters of longer books, and I was looking for activities to break up the reading. I ended up scrapping the app at the last minute for time reasons. But I think it would be great to do with a group; every time you run into a decision that has to be made you could have the kids vote and go with the majority. If you try this, let me know how it goes!

Liz Fraser is Children’s Librarian/Technology Coordinator at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, IL and serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee. She writes about library programs for kids at Getting Giggles and can be found on Twitter as @lizfraserlib.

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12. Minecraft Programming for Tweens

Has your library ventured into the realm of Minecraft?  Are you looking for new ideas to serve your tween patrons?  I encourage you to consider investing in a Minecraftedu account.  This digital environment offers your tweens and the librarians serving them a wealth of programming options.

Why spend money for an edu account? As a school librarian the edu account gives me control over the Minecraft experiences I offer my students (including the “freeze students” feature). It allows me to custom build what will happen in this space.  If you’re ready to step into the role of digital media mentor this is a prime opportunity to do so.  Tweens will come to Minecraft programming (you will have a waiting list!).  Many of them will bring a wealth of previous experiences. Others will come with little to no knowledge of how to get around. As a librarian using a Minecraftedu account you can offer this wide range of kids a similar enriching experience.


Minecraftedu teacher & librarian control panel (http://www.graphite.org/game/minecraftedu)

One of the things I enjoy about this space is the collaborative potential.

The first group expedition is through a tutorial world. The entire class enters this space (using their real names) and begins to explore. We challenge them to help each other navigate through the world using only the text chat  (improving keyboarding skills has never been this fun!). Tweens’ willingness to share their expertise with each other is limitless.

tutorial world Our options for programming also seem boundless. The next adventure for 5th graders will be a building project.  They have researched the architecture of ancient civilizations in social studies and will build Minecraft models of these structures. This is more than a fancy diorama. Tweens will assume the identity of an ancient citizen and provide tours to classmates. Could your public library offer this opportunity in collaboration with local schools?

When we greet new classes in the fall this will become a team building space. Games like capture the flag can make a digital migration. Book clubs could construct a story scape based on a book they have read.  Fan fiction can be acted out in 3D and recorded for sharing.  Tweens are using digital media of all kinds. Their creative potential is at the ready. Librarians can be valuable mentors if we take the leap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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14. A Gaming Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a moment I wanted to share.

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

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

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

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15. Passive Programming in a School Library



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

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

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

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

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16. Marshmallow Engineering: A School-Age STEAM Program

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

Figuring Out Structure Shapes

Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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

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

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17. Storytime Lab

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

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18. Program in a Post: Torn Paper Landscapes

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

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


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

Photo courtesy of the author.

Format: One hour long open house.

Room setup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Gruffalo, released by N Circle Entertainment (2011)

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

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

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

Here is a run down of our program details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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22. When it’s Time for a Program Makeover

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons License.

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

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

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

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

Some ideas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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


Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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

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

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

Photo by Amy Koester.

Photo by Amy Koester.

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

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

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24. Get Ready for Día!

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

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


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

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25. Program in a Post: Build Your Own Belching Arena!

With this blog post and $30 you can have kids in your library belching, farting, making poop and all of the other totally disgusting things that adults are usually asking them to please stop doing.

Room setup: Open house style with stations for each of the activities:

  • Belching Arena: We used stanchions (chairs and ribbon would work) to block off a corner of the room and put up “Belching Arena” signs. In the middle we placed a table with a supply of dixie cups and root beer. Surprisingly, this was the most popular event in the room and we had some real world class belchers show their stuff. ($5)
  • Fart Zone: This area was also created with stanchions and “Fart Zone” signs. One kid asked, “Fart Zone? What are we supposed to do over there? Oh! I know!” and then he ran over to get started. Another very popular, though stinky, attraction. ($0)
  • Poop Making: With a few common pantry items we created beautiful examples of excrement. While everything we used was edible, these were not meant to be treats, but mere artifacts. Many a kid left the program proudly carrying fake feces on a plate. The recipe is not mine to share, but you can find it in Hands On Grossology by Sylvia Branzei. ($11)
  • Gross Out: Hidden under paper grocery bags with holes cut in the bottom were six  disgusting tubs of stuff for kids to feel: vomit (1/2 can of beefaroni, 2 containers of butterscotch pudding, 1/2 can creamed corn), scabs (slivered almonds), maggots & flies (rice and raisins), brains (cooked fettuccine), and bloody guts (fettuccine & maraschino cherries). We also had hand wipes at this station for cleaning the vomit off ($10).
  • Identify the Poop: Here we had the classic baby shower game of melted candy bars in diapers for kids to try to identify. ($4 for candy bars. If you don’t have diapers handy, you can just melt the candy bars on a paper plate and add a clump of toilet paper for a classy touch.)
  • Color the Vomit: We put out coloring sheets, a sign that said “What did HE eat? Color in the vomit with your favorite foods” and crayons. ($0 if you have a printer and crayons on hand.)

We also put a selection of gross books on display, so the kids could take home more repulsive fun.

Sixty kids and grown ups came to the hour long open house to belch, color, create, squeal, laugh and have a good time. Our program supplies were $30, but as you can see from the list above, it is a scalable program and there are plenty of fun things you can do for $0-$10. I am happy to share the signs I created with you if you would like try any of these activities.

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