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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Programming Ideas, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 274
1. 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Update

In last month’s post I shared my library’s experiences during the planning phases of our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten reading initiative for preschoolers. This month we launched the program, and I have some updates to share with you.

Our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program launched the day we started our first 2016   session. Since last Monday we have been registering children in person and on our website. If caregivers sign up online, we e-mail them the reading log for the first 100 books. To receive prizes and subsequent logs, they must visit the library in person.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author. Bulletin board created by Melody Perez.  Yes, the leaves on the tree are books!

We publicized the start of our new program in several ways:  we inserted a PowerPoint slide at the beginning of every story time presentation, our bulletin board artist, created a colorful display showing a tree with books for leaves, and we included a blurb about it in our January youth events flyer.

In the past nine days, 141 children have registered for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and one child already even returned the first reading log and has moved on to their next 100 books!

We are still preparing the prize pack that we will distribute for children who reach the half-way point (500 books) and complete the program. Allison Chao, the Youth Services Librarian who has been overseeing this project, has been creating the Apples and Ants booklets (originally created by Nancy Stewart) and the felt-piece sets. We’ve found that children might be half-way done sooner than we anticipated!

I will keep you updated on when our first young patron reaches 500 and 1,000 books. So far thing are going very well!

The post 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Update appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Get ready to celebrate wonderful women

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Do you know which president got the ball rolling for National Women’s History Month? It was Jimmy Carter who did (although it started as only one week) by saying that while both men and women worked together to build America, “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed.”  President Carter called on “libraries, schools and community organizations” to focus their observances on leaders who struggled for equality.

So in that spirit, I’m sharing several interesting resources to find material for your activities in March.

Amelia Bloomer resources: 
When I start planning programs and book talks for Women’s History Month, the first thing I think about is The Amelia Bloomer Project.  Born in 1818, she was a women’s rights advocate, a writer and she even invented “bloomers” or loose pants that were controversial in their day.  A project of the ALA’s Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table, this group creates an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18.

This website if filled with information for celebrating women, creating amazing book lists and sharing educational ideas. I review their suggested criteria and questions with the books I’m planning on using for book talks and programs.   For example, when considering a book for their list they ask, “Do females blaze new trails for themselves and those who follow them?”

Lists from 2002-2016 are available online. They are organized from Early Readers-Fiction, Early Readers Non-Fiction, Middle Grade-Fiction, Middle Grade-Non-Fiction, Young Adult-Fiction to Young Adult-Non-Fiction.

More Amelia Bloomer resources:

Have you been to the Girl Museum online? 
“Girl Museum is the first and only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating girls and girlhood. Established in March 2009, we believe girls are the key to a brighter, better future and that girls deserve to have a museum of their own.”

Explore past blog posts, book lists, and resources which include “How to Handle Bullying” and ”empower girls” organizations. My favorite section is under “Learn” where the reader can join a girl’s book club, take a girl quiz and use amazing educational resources.

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

ALSC Notable Children’s Books:  The 2016 ALSC Notable Children’s Books Committee discussed over 200 books at ALA Midwinter in Boston and ALA Annual in San Francisco. The nominee list included many women in history children’s books:
Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story by Emily Arnold McCully
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and The Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul
Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans
The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone
My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner
Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History…and Our Future! by Kate Schatz

The ALSC Notable Children’s Books complete list.

More Women’s History Month Links:

My favorite non-fiction books before 2015: 
• Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan
• My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter
• Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
• Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery
• When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Rya

Amazing Women in History riffle book list.

What are your favorite books to talk about during Women’s History Month?  Please share in the comments below.

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.

The post Get ready to celebrate wonderful women appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Professional Resources for Learning About Inclusive Play

So much learning happens through play. Play can help children practice language, motor skills, problem-solving skills and social skills. Many of our libraries may already include free play as part of our storytime programs for young children to support this growth. We may not realize it, though, but there are many barriers to play that exist for children with special needs.  Some of the kids in our communities may not be equipped with the skills to play without accommodations or support. So it’s important that we develop strategies to be inclusive and enable access to play for all.

Coming up with accessible and inclusive play-based activities and games for storytime programs can be a challenge if you do not have a background in occupational therapy or special education. Thankfully, there are a variety of up to date and valuable resources at our disposal to help us learn about inclusive play-based programs.  Check out this professional literature–or interlibrary loan it from your nearest library–to learn more!

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514xCQvodNL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEarly Intervention Games: Fun, Joyful Ways to Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders by Barbara Sher




Including Families of Children with Special Needs by Carrie Banks




http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51osu68LY4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSocial Skills Activities for Special Children by Darlene Mannix




http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Y6UmRVPTL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Kranowitz




http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41vNc1frGYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgPlaying, Laughing, and Learning with Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Practical Resource of Play Ideas for Parents and Carers by Julia Moor





Inclusive Play: Practical Strategies for Children from Birth to Eight by Theresa Casey



http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oqchZwxnL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg101 Games and Activities for Children with Autism, Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorders by Tara Delaney




Renee Grassi, LSSPCC Committee Member

The post Professional Resources for Learning About Inclusive Play appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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4. Keeping it simple

Sometimes it can be simple! I already did a comic this month, so here’s a recent easy project I created in our library: The Darien Alphabet!

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to do a project that brings together early literacy, open-ended art activities, community-building, and library created book-making. I had a million complicated ideas and then one simple one. And simple ideas can work too!

I put out an accordion folder with an alphabet on it, sheets of paper that said “A is for…” etc that had blank spaces on them for drawing, a map of the town, colored pencils, directions, and pictures from around town. We left the table up in the corner of the Children’s Library for a couple months, and then I scanned in the responses we got back and created Photoshop mosaics of the work.

L-library_paige copysm

An example of a filled out sheet

I got some great responses (and some really funny ones – R is for Rat?)! See below. And now, we’re printing up a book (photo books from Staples or Shutterfly are around $30) for the collection, helping foster the idea that kids can be authors too!

Y is for YMCA pool-sm I is for interstate 95-sm L is for Library-sm

The post Keeping it simple appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Tricycle Music Fest at the San Mateo County Library and the San Francisco Public Library

The San Francisco Public Libraries and the San Mateo County Libraries held the seventh annual Tricycle Music Fest in October! Frances England, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, The Not-It’s!, and Aaron Nigel Smith played sixteen concerts at libraries and parks throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

I had the opportunity to coordinate all of the concerts at the San Mateo County Libraries this year. Kahla Gubanich already wrote a wonderful blog post about planning a children’s concert at the library, which includes all of the most important details about putting together a large scale concert program. However, I wanted to share the work our amazing Youth Services staff did at our recent concerts. 

Each location put together Family Engagement activities for patrons to participate in before, during or after the concerts.  Check out some of the exciting activities our staff facilitated:

  • Play
    • Blocks
    • Waterbeads
    • Bubbles
    • Imagination Playground
    • Legos & Megablox
    • Playdough
    • Water Tables
  • Arts and Crafts
    • Chalk Masterpieces
    • Animal Crafts, followed by a Pet Adoption Fair

If you’re planning to host a family concert at your library, consider adding on one of the above activities for even more fun!


Stephanie Saba is the Senior Librarian at the Brisbane Library in California and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

The post Tricycle Music Fest at the San Mateo County Library and the San Francisco Public Library appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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6. 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten


mom reads 1” by popofatticus is licensed under CC by 2.0

I am happy to announce that my public library will be rolling out our 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program in January 2016! Allison, one of our Youth Services Librarians, has been hard at work this fall planning the details and creating print pieces for our upcoming soft launch.

Have you heard of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program? It’s a program in which preschool children (with their caregivers) register either in a library or online to attempt to read at least 1,000 books before the child enters Kindergarten. The caregivers keep track of the books they read with the child, and at certain milestones the child earns prizes. Once the child has read 1,000 books, they’ve completed the program and receive great accolades, in addition to all the benefits of being exposed to a variety of children’s literature. Of course it doesn’t necessarily have to be 1,000 different books; we all know that children enjoy reading the same books over and over.

This program goes hand-in-hand with reading aloud 15 minutes per day and supports both Every Child Ready to Read and Babies Need Words Every Day. There’s no best or correct way to implement the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program; it can be customized to fit any budget, for unlimited number of participants, and can go on indefinitely.

Upon first hearing about the program, the number 1,000 may seem quite large. How can children possibly read 1,000 books before Kindergarten? It’s actually quite simple. If a child reads 1 book each day, the 1,000-book goal can be met in less than three years. Increasing the reading to three books per day would mean that the child completes the 1,000 books in less than a year. While it seems daunting, the goal is attainable. Any reading counts, including books shared in story times.

Ready to learn more about this program? Here are some resources that you might find useful in deciding whether or not this is a good fit for your library and your community.

What do you think about this kind of program? Have you tried it at your library? Are there any last minute tips you want to share before we launch our program next month?

The post 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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7. Bookmark this Calendar! 2016 in Library Observances

It happens to the best of us: you’re going about your business, running programs as usual, when all of a sudden you hear about a library holiday or observance that you didn’t even have on your radar. How could you have missed National Something-Something Day?!? There are so many observance-worthy months and days each year, but it can be hard to keep track of them all, especially with enough lead time to plan something for your library. Never fear! We at the Public Awareness Committee want you to be aware of all the celebrations and commemorative dates coming in 2016. So bookmark this calendar, check out some of the links for information and ideas, and get prepared for your most festive year yet.


International Creativity Month
• Visit the National Gallery’s NGAkids Art Zone at http://tinyurl.com/ngakidz

National Soup Month

Get Organized Month
• Use the Dewey Decimal Spinner (http://tinyurl.com/q8zunt4) to review the Dewey Decimal System

January Observances
• January 18 – Martin Luther King Day
• January 24 – Belly Laugh Day
• January 28 – Fun at Work Day


Library Lovers’ Month

Black History Month

American Heart Month

National Bird Feeding Month

February Observances
• February 1-7 – Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week
• February 7 – Give Kids a Smile Day
• February 8 – Chinese New Year
• February 8-12 – Random Acts of Kindness Week
• February 15 – Presidents Day
• February 17 – Digital Learning Day
• February 24 – World Read Aloud Day


American Red Cross Month

Irish-American Heritage Month

National Women’s History Month

Youth Art Month

March Observances
• March 2 – Read Across America Day
• March 9 – No Smoking Day
• March 13 – Daylight Savings Time Begins
• March 16 – Freedom of Information Day
• March 23-29 – Arthritis Awareness Week


D.E.A.R. Drop Everything and Read Month
• A national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. Programs have been held nationwide on April 12. http://www.dropeverythingandread.com/

El día de los niños/El día de los libros
• (Children’s Day/Book Day), commonly known as Día, is a nationally recognized initiative that emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds. It is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. Visit http://dia.ala.org for more information on celebrating this day. The celebration is intended to be year-round, culminating on April 30.

Math Awareness Month

National Humor Month

National Library Week – April 10-16, 2016

National Poetry Month

School Library Month
• Visit www.ala.org./aasl/slm for ideas to celebrate and promote school libraries.

April Observances
• April 10-16 – National Library Week
• April 12 – National Library Workers Day
• April 13 – National Bookmobile Day
• April 21 – Poem in Your Pocket Day
• April 23-30 – Money Smart Week


Jewish American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

National Foster Care Month

Children’s Book Week – May 2-8, 2016

May Observances
• May 1-7 – Choose Privacy Week
• May 2-3 – National Library Legislative Day
• May 8 – Mother’s Day
• May 30 – Memorial Day


National GLBT Book Month

Audiobook Month
• Display award-winning and favorite children’s audiobooks.
• Get the list of ALA’s Odyssey award winners at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/odysseyaward

June Observances
• June 5 – World Environment Day
• June 14 – Flag Day
• June 19 – Father’s Day
• June 19 – Juneteenth


National Parks & Recreation Month

Family Golf Month
• Take a swing at STEM to find out why golf balls have dimples:

July Observances
• July 4 – Independence Day
• July 30 – World Friendship Day


National Inventor’s Month
• Set up a tinkering station to encourage your young inventors: http://amomwithalessonplan.com/tinkering-station

National Back to School Month

August Observances
• August 7 – National Kids Day
• August 9 – World Indigenous Peoples’ Day
• August 12 – International Youth Day
• August 26 – Women’s Equality Day


Library Card Sign-up Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15)

September Observances
• September 5 – Labor Day
• September 6 – Read a Book Day
• September 11 – National Grandparents Day
• September 15 – International Dot Day
• September 21 – International Day of Peace
• September 25 – Comic Book Day
• September 26-October 1 – Banned Books Week


Computer Learning Month
• Visit PBS Kids “Get Your Web License” at http://pbskids.org/old_license an online game that teaches Internet safety.

Arts and Humanities Month

Go on a Field Trip Month
• Take a panoramic virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History at www.mnh.si.edu/panoramas

October Observances
• October 4 – World Animal Day
• October 16 – World Food Day
• October 22 – Make a Difference Day
• October 29 – Cat Day


Picture Book Month
• Check http://picturebookmonth.com every morning to read inspiring essays about why picture books are important

National Adoption Month

Aviation History Month
• Visit the National Museum of the US Air Force at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil

Families Stories Month

Native American Heritage Month
• The Library of Congress created a Pinterest board to share resources from their collection. http://tinyurl.com/pfuvqbk

November Observances
• November 8 – Election Day
• November 11 – Origami Day
• November 19 – International Games Day


Safe Toys and Gifts Month

December Observances
• December 5 – International Volunteer Day
• December 5-12 – Computer Science Education Week
• December 10 – Human Rights Day

Debbie Bond is a Children’s Librarian at the Norwood Branch Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio, and she is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at Deborah.Bond@CincinnatiLibrary.org.

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8. Back to Basics

My branch manager has challenged us over the next few months to get back to basics. Things like picking up messes, straightening books, push in  chairs, roving the department. So often when we get caught up in programs and other things, we forget these basic tasks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this can work in Youth Services as far as programming. I always struggle with providing programming for everyone and having options during the day as well as evening and weekends. Yet no matter what we try, we don’t get an audience for evening and weekend programs unless it’s something really big (Star Wars Reads Day, Meet Pete the Cat). I’ve tried Saturday morning storytimes out in the department for the past year and while it’s nice to offer, the crowds are small and the people that come aren’t at the Library for storytime,  but stop by because they are already here. After brainstorming some ideas with my staff, we’ve come up with a few ways we’re going to get back to basics in  our programming:

  • More Impromptu Storytimes-We want to offer storytimes for as many people as we can and we want to reach those patrons who can’t attend our daytime stortyimes. So we’ve decided to host more impromptu storytimes. When the department is busy and we notice lots of families hanging out and we have a quick moment to step away from the desk, we’re going to try impromptu storytimes. These will be in the department, we’ll use our early literacy toys as activities, and whatever passive activity we have out as a craft if possible. We’ve done this a bit in the past and we think it will be a fun way to engage families and let them know about what we offer and tell them about other programs that are happening.
  • Surprise Saturdays-This is another old program we’ve decided to bring back. It doesn’t seem to matter what we offer on weekends, we just don’t draw a large crowd. And the people that do come are mostly people who just happen to be in the department and are happy to have something to do. Surprise Saturday is a drop in program where we put out games,  puzzles, crafts, and activities-you never know what it will be! But if you stop by on a Surprise Saturday, you know there will be something happening at the library just for kids.
  • More Passive Activities in Department-Our passive activities this year have gone over very well. So we’ve decided to keep these up and do more.  A lot of times we have kids coming in to study and do homework, so they don’t have time to attend a long program, but they have time to stop and take a quick break to make an origami dog, build Lego letters, write a letter for the mailbox, look in the magnifying glass at pictures, or play with Tangrams. We’re already planning on our passive activities for next year and planning things for our younger patrons as well as our tweens to engage them while they’re visiting the library. We’re also planning on hosting programs that are easy to run like Scavenger Hunt Day-we set up scavenger hunts all around the branch for the kids to complete. We’ve also brainstormed having more games out-simple games that we can teach if we need to in five minutes that the kids can then play on their own. Things like Checkers, Connect Four, Uno and Sushi Go are great for this.
  • Work on Large Event Programming-Large events and programs are what are bringing our patrons in. They like brands, popular characters, and names. The most success we have with programs is when we tie it with something they recognize and have a large event. We’re hoping to host more costume characters, have giant sized storytimes (read big books, use the projector to show iPad stories on the big screen), “drive in” movies, family dance parties.

I’m hoping that by offering programs that are fun for patrons and easy for staff to implement will help us take a step back and look at what we really want to provide. I also think by spending a lot of our time and effort on large programs once a program period (every three months) we won’t be wearing ourselves thin with programming.

How do you program? Any ideas for getting back to basics?

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9. Surrounded by Art

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Pablo Picasso was prolific – creating art for over 75 years.  Imagine his divergent styles in painting to sculpture. While teachers, parents or librarians might focus on Picasso’s “Cubism” style, his sculptures are also the perfect medium to share with children.  I felt joy seeing his works at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). “Picasso Sculpture” is now on view with over 100 of his sculptures until February 7, 2016.

My quick 48-hour trip to New York City included author events, a High Line garden walk, Whitney, poetry projects, The Author’s Voice and Vocabulary in Picture Books at the Society of Illustrators and more.

The city was filled with energy and surprising warmth for November.  When I arrived at MoMA, I smiled and thought of Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka.  I loved walking through the museum.  I visited a few old friends (favorite paintings by Magritte and Monet).  But most of my time was spent really seeing each of Picasso’s sculptures up close and discovering what materials he used.  What an amazing exhibit! Every time I walk through a museum, I start planning, creating and picturing art programs in the library.

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

My favorite Picasso book to share is Oooh Picasso by Mil Nielpold.  Ready? Everyone together say, Oooh.  Each page has a photograph of one part of a sculpture with the question, “What is this?”  Then I add, What do you see? After going through each part everyone guesses what it is says at the same time, “Oooh! I am a bull” I also talk about what found objects Picasso might have used.

More Picasso books on rifflebooks.

Pablo Picasso program ideas to do at your library:

  • Picasso used found objects to create his sculptures. Bring in a huge box of assorted items made from different materials-junk.  Have children create something new.
  • Clay figures:  Use colorful clay or blue, to remember Picasso’s blue period, and make a collection of clay animals.  Name each animal.  If you have a clay Pop-Up program by the end of the day, your clay might look like this.

    Goat with clay. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery. Pablo Picasso by Darice Bailer

    Goat with clay. photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery. Book: Pablo Picasso by Darice Bailer

  • Art postcards -Using card stock or blank postcards, write a letter to Pablo Picasso.  What would you ask Picasso today?  Tell him about your favorite sculpture or draw a picture of your favorite sculpture.
  • Guitar-Play guitar music and discuss Picasso’s guitar sculptures. Watch or listen to MoMA video.
  • Did you know Picasso’s Bull’s Head is made from a bicycle seat and handle
    bars? Discuss what other materials you might use to make Bull’s Head.
  • Build a huge goat or any animal out of recycled cereal boxes, paper towel roll
    and other cardboard materials.

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Pablo Picasso Resources:
Check out and print out the MoMA Activity Cards.

Picasso Guitars and a selection of Picasso information videos.

MoMA educational and family resources.

New York Historical Society Children’s Museum

Picasso Museum

Picasso Art Projects for Kids by Deep Space Sparkle on Pinterest

Winter break is right around the corner.  What programs are you offering at your library?

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.

The post Surrounded by Art appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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10. Rochester Reading Champions: Literacy Tutoring for Every Community

RRC logoIn 2013, Rochester Public Library (MN) met with local organizations and community groups to figure out a way to work together to increase literacy rates. From these meetings a unique and sustainable program, called Rochester Reading Champions (RRC), was created.

This tutoring program reduces financial, transportation, and other barriers by training volunteers to offer free and targeted one-on-one Orton Gillingham tutoring to underserved individuals who are struggling to read. Orton Gillingham is a proven tutoring method requiring intensive training.

Through a partnership with The Reading Center/Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota, we currently  have 13 volunteers actively working with students. Through September 2015, these highly trained volunteers provided 450 free tutoring sessions. To date, 18 youth and adult students have participated in RRC.  Interim assessment results from 2015 show that students in RRC, who attended between 10-50 sessions made average gains of 20% in vowel sounds, 17% in consonant comprehension, and 32% in phonogram comprehension. This early RRC progress is very exciting!

Four innovative elements contribute to the success of RRC. First, Rochester Public Library worked with key partners to identify gaps, barriers, and local resources. Partnerships were created with local organizations committing staff time and other in-kind support. Second,  RRC relies on volunteers willing to commit to the intensive training and two years of tutoring. By investing in training for 8-10 new volunteers each year, RRC increases the number of tutors to meet the needs of our expanding community. Third, to reduce financial, transportation, and other access barriers for the students, RRC provides unduplicated and free tutoring to underserved struggling readers at the sites they already visit. Fourth, RRC students receive individualized lesson plans, twice per week for 45 minute sessions. With a standard intervention plan of 80-100 tutoring sessions, this intensive strategy produces at least a 20% improvement of skills.

Partners developed RRC to be sustainable within five years. Any community with strong civic involvement can provide a similar system by adapting RRC’s methodology (i.e. volunteer recruitment form, student in-take criteria, parent questionnaire, partnership agreement, assessment process, and evaluation plan). RRC is designed to be scalable and replicable for any community!

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11. Kitty Café

Youth service librarians live and breathe the ALA marketing campaign of Libraries Transform. Childhood is the most epically transformative time for human beings. However, none of these thoughts were in my mind when the Nebraska Humane Society agreed to be part of a Cat Café event at our library. Instead, I was focused on how incredibly fun this community partnership would be.

It wasn’t until during the event, when I went into the room to get some video footage, that I fully comprehended that lives were going to change that day. This realization was triggered by seeing a woman sitting on the floor playing with one of the kittens while inquiring about the adoption process. I became emotional because families were going to be created or enlarged at this event.

Later, while looking through social media I came across an update to the Nebraska Humane Society’s Facebook post about the program. Christina Kadlec, the woman whom I had observed earlier, shared that she had adopted two of the kittens from that morning’s Kitty Café event; what she wrote had me in tears. I reached out to Christina and asked her to more fully tell her story, and she graciously agreed.

Over the past two years I lost both of my best friends: Bearcat who was with me for 17 years, and then 18 year-old Marbles. To say I was heartbroken would be a gross understatement. My cats had been comforting me through almost all of life’s challenges. Coming home to an empty apartment was a very hollow feeling.

The morning of the Kitty Café, I had been battling with myself as to whether or not I would visit the Humane Society that day. I saw the post for the event on Facebook and I was captivated by the fuzzy dilute tortie in the pictures. I decided I would head out to Gretna, if for no other reason, to play with the kittens and enjoy their antics.

Upon arriving at the Kitty Café, I hung back and let the kids enjoy the kittens for the most part. However, it so happened that the fuzzy gray tortie and I ended up playing together quite a bit. Her sister, a gray tabby, also made me smile with her outgoing, fearless sense of adventure. I talked to NHS staff at the event about adoptions and arranged to come see “the girls” after the event.

Needless to say, when I visited them later that day, it was love. We completed the adoption process late that afternoon.

I’m so happy to come home to my playful, lively kittens! They cannot replace my previous cat friends, but they provide a needed salve for the cracks of my broken heart. Every day we learn a little more about each other and everyday they become more a part of my home. I am so grateful to Nebraska Humane Society & Gretna Public Library for giving me the opportunity to find my girls, Abigail & Zoe.

Click to view slideshow.

Photos courtesy of Christina Kadlec

After reading about the impact that this event has had on the lives of one woman and two kittens, please seriously consider creating your own Cat Café at your library. It’s a magical event that can transform the lives of both people and animals in your community.


Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Photo credit: Jennifer Lockwood

Today’s guest blogger is Rebecca McCorkindale. Rebecca is Gretna Public Library’s Assistant Director/Creative Director, oversees the daily operations of the Children’s Library, and serves as the 2016 Chair of the School, Children’s, and Young People’s section of the Nebraska Library Association. For more information about Rebecca and her work, visit her blog hafuboti.com or email her at hafuboti@gmail.com.

Please note 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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12. An A-Maze-ing Library Experience

Sometimes you get a big idea. And sometimes you get to make that idea a reality. This year my department was given funds to create big family programming, and I got the chance to build my idea: a giant cardboard maze that would encourage caregiver-child interaction and create a memorable library experience for customers of all ages.

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

The Event

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

A families-only Harry Potter-themed after-hours party kicked off the maze, which measured 75’ long, 15’ wide, and 6’ tall, and sat smack-dab in the middle of the main hall of Denver Public Library’s Central Library. Customers lined up out the door to wait for their turn to explore the maze. A staff member at the maze entrance spaced out families in two minute intervals to avoid traffic jams. We also hid the four Hogwarts house crests inside the maze. Kids were given maze passports, and when they found a crest there was a staff member dressed as a Harry Potter character waiting to stamp their passport. This allowed us to have staff in the maze in case of emergency.

Other party activities included pin the sock on Dobby, magic wand decorating, and, of course, tasty themed snacks. Having a theme for the maze wasn’t necessary, but it did make the event easier to promote. Plus, it meant lots of kids came dressed as their favorite Harry Potter character.

After the party we left the maze up in our main hall for a week so customers of all ages could explore the maze. In addition to walking through the maze, customers could look down from the 2nd and 3rd floors to plan their route or watch others go through the maze.

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich

DPL staff putting the maze together. Photo credit: Kahla Gubanich



Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Children’s librarian, Warren Shanks, showing off a stack of newly purchased cardboard. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

I’d seen pictures of cardboard mazes online (thanks, Pinterest!), but I couldn’t find anything tall enough for adults. My goal was to create something that children and their caregivers could explore together. I wasn’t able to find any instructions online, so I decided to figure it out on my own. This process included lots of brainstorming and several mini-maze mock-ups. Here’s a list of things to consider, based on my experience.

  • Safety and Space. Measure your space and learn about your library’s safety rules and regulations. I met with the security, custodial, and facilities departments to get their input. From this meeting it was decided that we would have a minimum of 5’ of space on all sides of the maze. We also decided to include a third side entrance/exit to the maze in case of emergency.
  • Design the Maze. I had never designed a maze before so I was grateful to find some wonderful online resources. Jo Edkins has great info about maze layout and design and the tips on avoiding bottlenecks on Amazeing Art were useful. I found it helpful to first determine the entrances/exits and then divide the space into three “mini mazes.”
  • Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Shelvers Sarah Cosoer and Sallie King take a break from cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

    Planning and Paperwork. Make sure your plans are written down so others can understand them. This is the kind of project that requires teamwork and delegation, so it’s important that your paperwork is detailed and clear. Here’s a copy of the maze layout.

  • Purchase Materials. I purchased my materials from the following companies:
  • Purchasing Considerations.
    • Some companies require a minimum number of a particular item per order.
    • Freight shipping can add a significant amount to the cost of materials.
    • Height of your loading dock. Ours is very low, so this impacted delivery.
    • Talk to a representative. I was able to get more accurate quotes and ultimately a
      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      Warren uses a template to measure and cut a cardboard sheet. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

      lower price by emailing and talking on the phone with a representative.

  • Prep as much of your maze ahead of time as possible. Call in your volunteers, friends, and family! Cutting and labeling our boxes required approximately 20 hours of prep time.
  • Putting It Together. It took us approximately 10 hours with 5 people working steadily to put the maze together with the prepped materials. This includes the 5 hours we used to construct 45 maze units the day before the event and stored them in our storytime room. The day of the event we had another 5 hours to assemble the other units and zip-tie them all together. Check out the step-by-step Maze Construction Instructions.
Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Templates used for cardboard prep. Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester


Yes, this maze took a ton of planning and staff labor, but it was worth it. From a numbers point of view, it was gratifying to have 300+ people come to the after-hours party. But it was even more satisfying to see the smiles, hear the laughter, and watch our customers find joy in exploring the maze. The maze was also an entry point for staff-customer interaction and encouraged customers to visit our 2nd and 3rd floors to look down on the maze. In short, it was an unforgettable library experience!

Photo credit: Will Forrester

Photo credit: Will Forrester


Amy Uke

Photo Credit: Sherry Spitsnagle, Denver Public Library

Our guest blogger today is Amy Seto Forrester. Amy  is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library and has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.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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13. Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Starting Points for Success

SPLC Committee WordleAs a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation, I’ve had the pleasure of discussing and sharing ideas with other dedicated librarians on how we can all work together to benefit the kids and teens with whom we work.

We’ve created the following list for both school and public librarians to use in sparking their own creative ideas for helping all youth become information literate.

Why not give some of these a try?

  1. Look for grant-funding opportunities specifically for school library-public library partnerships.
  2. Set aside time to visit with your public librarian to discuss your school’s curriculum and any big projects your teachers have planned.
  3. Schedule a few hours to shadow the public librarian and invite him or her to do the same. This will help you build mutual understanding about what the other’s job entails.
  4. Have a library card sign-up event at the school during Library Card Sign-Up Month (September). Make a special day of it or have an evening of gaming. Be sure to include the public librarian in the planning, promotion, and supervising the event. If an event isn’t possible, see if the public librarian can come to the school to hand out library card forms at lunchtime. This would work especially well in middle or high school.
  5. Create book lists and resource guides in cooperation with your public librarians. You might focus on materials that support reading in the content areas, science and social studies topics in particular. Include materials from both the public and school library collections.
  6. Co-host nonfiction book clubs for students and for teachers.
  7. Invite the public librarian to make a presentation to the teachers at your school during the school’s teacher in-service day about public library resources that support Common Core State Standards.
  8. Host a joint meeting with the public librarians and your fellow school district librarians to discuss Common Core, 21st Century Standards and state/local curriculum expectations and the public library’s role in student learning.
  9. Talk about early literacy programming in the public library and how it connects to the school librarian’s work with K-2 students.
  10. Use the public library as a facility for after-school tutoring for students, especially in reading. The public librarian and school librarian can collaborate to recruit volunteers.
  11. Coordinate joint activities that integrate the public library’s summer reading program with the school’s summer programming.

As you can see, there are many ways school and public librarians can work in cooperation. You may already be using some of these suggestions, but if not, what’s stopping you?

When we all work together, it’s a win-win situation for everyone!

Linda Weatherspoon serves on the AASL Board of Directors and is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

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14. Name that Person!

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

A Pilot! A Voice! An Artist! An Explorer! 
Turn your library school visits into a game show or host a “Name that Person” event at your school library during lunch time.  Meet a room full of amazing people through books.

Set-up:  Display children’s biography books on one table.  Arrange strange, silly and fun items that match up with the book on another table.  Two chairs/stools facing each other with a buzzer in the middle (or have your two volunteers stand up with a buzzer on a stool between them.)  Use a variety of new and favorite children’s biographies about people from all over the world or focus on biographies on a specific subject.  For example: poets, presidents, authors, musicians, explorers.

Name that Person!
Use two volunteers with a buzzer between them or have your whole group ready to guess.  Place an object in front of them or share a few important facts about that person.  The first person to ring the buzzer guesses.  If no one knows the answer, let your whole group guess by raising their hands and when you’re done sharing the information, everyone yells out the name of the person.  (Use your television game show voice.)

Fun objects-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Fun objects-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Strange and Fun Objects: 
Airplane puppet
Monkey puppet or Barrel of Monkeys
Campbell’s Tomato Soup
Paint brush
Map of the world or globe
Top hat
Guitar or toy stuffed guitar
Sunday’s comics
Bunny ears
Ocean creatures (water toys)
Cooking items (spatula, measuring cups, etc.)

Do you know the person that matches up to each object above?

A list of new and favorite children’s biographies! https://read.rifflebooks.com/list/185569

Are you ready?  Name that Person! 
Who made the first flight in Australia on March 16, 1910? (Airplane puppet)

Houdini-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Houdini-photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Answer: Houdini!    Did you say Amelia Earhart or the Wright Brothers.  This is a great way to introduce Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.  (Or picture book biographies about Amelia Earhart, the Wright Brothers and Houdini)

Name that author! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Name that author! photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

A few other options:

  • Display a collection of fiction books that match up with biographies about that author.  Make sure to cover up the author’s name on the cover.  Ready? Name that author!
  • Pull out different puppets or objects from a big cloth bag and have your audience name the person that matches up with each puppet or object.  Then share the biography-fun illustrations or a unique fact about that person.
  • Speed round-Name that President! (by number-#3,#16, #35, and #44)

Through children’s biographies discover someone new!

One of my favorite ways to share biographies with children is “Name that Person!” What are some of your favorite ways to share children’s biographies?  Please share in the comments below.

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.  



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15. Planning Children’s Concerts: A Guide

In early 2015, the Denver Central Children’s Library received an unexpected chunk of money, with only one parameter: spend it on big, destination programs. We chose to host 2 summer concerts. Both events went off relatively smoothly, and I want to share some tips I picked up along the way!

Get Organized

The first step is obvious: choose a musician. Our first event, a family concert by Jim Gill, was a hit with our preschoolers.

(Photo from http://www.jimgill.com/about.html)

(Photo from http://www.jimgill.com/about.html)

To bring in school-aged kids, we booked Grammy-winning Denver natives, The Okee Dokee Brothers. Next, decide when and where they will perform.

  • Date & Time:
    • Don’t forget about naptime! Morning concerts are better-attended than afternoon shows.
    • Check for any concurrent events. Even after doing our research, we still faced unanticipated street closures from a bicycle race!
  • Venue:
    • Find out how many your space accommodates, and plan how you’ll deal with a crowd that exceeds capacity. If you book an outside show, have an indoor backup plan. We planned indoor shows to minimize distractions and project footage from The Okee Dokee Brothers’ videos.
(Photo from http://www.okeedokee.org/press/#mediakit)

(Photo from http://www.okeedokee.org/press/#mediakit)

Plan Ahead

There will be unexpected obstacles, but these are a few issues to anticipate.

  • Budget:
    • Will you require registration, or will the show be first-come/first-served?
    • What sound equipment does the performer require?
    • If your library doesn’t own the necessary equipment, will you borrow or rent it? Will you hire someone to set up and run it? Reach out to colleagues for rental recommendations.
  • Promotion:
    • What social media will you use, and when? (Leave enough time for folks to rework their schedules, but not so much time that they forget!)
    • Play the musician’s albums before and after storyime. If you play an instrument, try learning one of their songs. (You can even post it on Facebook!)
    • Do you need posters, flyers, or directional signage? Plan ahead so your signage arrives on time.
  • Day-of:
    • Plan where you’ll need extra staff or volunteers: directing traffic, crowd control, merchandise table.
    • Have activities for families while they wait for doors to open. We had cardboard photo props and word searches from the band’s website.

Photo courtesy Guest Blogger


There can’t be enough communication with your Library colleagues, the musicians and their agents, and sound engineers.

  • Speak with the musicians directly early on.
  • For every meeting, make sure you send an email recap immediately after. This creates a written record of all agreements and minimizes miscommunication.

Have Fun!

This is the most important part! Even if nothing goes as planned, remember the goal is for kids and families to have fun together at the library.


In the aftermath, take a deep breath and celebrate your success!

  • Send a thank you note to the musicians.
  • Share stats and anecdotes with library stakeholders.
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues–try writing a blog post!


Kahla Close Up

Photo credit: Amy Seto Forrester

Our guest blogger today is Kahla Gubanich. Kahla is a children’s librarian at Denver Public Library. She received her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and her Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College, and has a background in fine arts. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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

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

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16. Partnering with Homeless Serving Organizations

Located in an urban area, my library has a large population of people experiencing homelessness. All of the schools in the area are Title 1 funded schools, which also indicates a high level of need for transitional housing and other services for families.   Although we regularly see homeless populations in the library, I wondered why we don’t see more and what we could do to make these potential patrons feel welcome and aware of not only our warm building in winter months but also our wealth of resources and programming for families.

I developed a loose plan to visit the shelters and homes that serve families, provide a storytime, talk about resources and distribute library cards. I honestly thought it would be a cinch to get the shelters on board. But I was setting myself up for difficulties. I had an elevator pitch that largely skipped why this might be a useful service. When it comes to populations that need food and shelter, the library may be pretty low on the priority list. Honing our elevator pitch to include the ‘why’ is especially important when developing new partnerships.

It was very difficult getting a hold of anyone at any of the handful of organizations I contacted.

I didn’t take it to heart and continued to call and leave messages.  What I neglected to do in those messages was to also offer myself up for whatever they might need.  Maybe they did not have the time or space for a storytime. Maybe parents really wanted information about our drop-in job hunting courses. Maybe they needed something else.   Instead of asking them what they need from the library, I unloaded my assumption of what I thought they needed.

After a few months of calls and email exchanges, one temporary housing organization said they did not have enough staff for my program and they were concerned about their populations’ privacy. That was eye opening because I had approached the partnership entirely from my perspective rather than theirs.   

Another transitional housing organization said yes and we were able to schedule visits.  Although it was wonderful to provide a storytime, I felt I had much more impact after the storytime when I talked casually with parents and children about the different things the library offers while distributing library cards.  In the end the partnership has been successful and we will continue to offer this service once a month at multiple homes.

What have you learned from difficult to cement partnerships?

Arwen Ungar is the Early Learning Librarian at the Vancouver Community Library in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  She is passionate about puppies and early literacy, not necessarily in that order.  You can reach her at aungar@fvrl.org.

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17. Fall programming for kindergarteners to tweens!

Building a Mystery (not the Sarah McLachlan song)

Have you ever attended one of those murder mystery programs for adults? Now you can make one for your tweens and teens at the library.

To run a good murder mystery program at your library you need to put your creative librarian hat on and let your imagination run wild. It is easy to spend money on a pre made mystery kit, but if you have the time, make your own. Create the mystery setting in your library, have a librarian go missing and set the crime scene. Caution tape and a duct tape outline of the body make for great props. Perhaps the librarian was found under a crack in the floor, or downstairs under a stack of books. Make sure evidence is planted and there is an estimate time of death. Identify what staff member will be the victim and the culprit and then the fun starts. Come up with a motive for each staff member involved. Write a short paragraph for each staff member including where they were the night of the crime and an alibi. Here is an example:

I left work around 2:30pm that day, I had a doctor’s appointment right in town and then I went home to make dinner and go to my kid’s school pageant. I would never do anything like that to Mary; she was one of my favorite people to work with. I really hope you figure out who did this”

 Write alibi’s for as many staff members as you can get to participate. Use these alibis to identify their time and location when the crime happened. These alibis will be recorded on video (use a video camera or your cell phone). Have each staff member read their alibi on camera, have some staff members look right into the camera, others not looking at all, tapping their feet and so on. When you show kids these videos have them look for different behavior that might make them look guilty or innocent.

Matching up with the times noted in each staff members alibi, make a fake schedule for all staff members, this will be used as a piece of evidence. Next write an email that has some back and forth between the victim and a potential suspect. Create fingerprints, using photos from online or dip your fingertips in pencil led and rub it on a piece of paper. Create writing samples of a note that was found with the victim. This is always the last clue, as the older kids will easily identify the matching handwriting.

It is always best to start with examining the crime scene, if you have the money in your budget go to the dollar store and purchase the mini composition notebooks that come in a pack of three. Kids will write their thoughts in here and feel like a real detective. After examining the crime scene, hand out the schedules to each kid, once the kids have those, show the videos and explain what an alibi is and what interrogation tactics are. Pass out the remaining clues one at a time and discuss. It always helps to have a large piece of paper with notes for each suspect hung up on the wall. Take a screenshot of the alibi movies and use that as the mugshot for each suspect. After kids have pieced all the evidence together and agree on a culprit, go ahead and make the arrest!

This program not only raises critical thinking skills, but also increases vocabulary and introduces children to careers.

Have fun!

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 3.39.08 PMMeredith Levine is Head of Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee. She is a member of the School Age Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at mlevine@lib.chattanooga.gov and follow on Twitter @schmoopie517


Grossed-out and fractured Halloween

Several years ago, I attended an excellent children’s librarian skill share on using how to add props to story time. One of my colleagues introduced me to Bone Soup by Cambria Evans, a Halloween fractured fairy tale based on the “clever man” fable, Stone Soup.bone soup My colleague poignantly noted that most kids love to be grossed out and recommended Bone Soup as the perfect grossed-out fairy tale.

Finnigin, a wandering ghoul, is shunned by the local townspeople due to his infamous appetite.  Through his wits and a little kindness from a tiny werewolf, he manages to trick the others into contributing their ingredients to soup made from a “magic” bone, as well as gooey eyeballs, leathery bat wings and all. Bone Soup is guaranteed to delight a wide range of children but if you want to gild the lily a tad, the story is even more outrageous and fun when accompanied by a theatrical production of making the bone soup along with the story. I went to my local witches’ supply store, also known as the dollar store, to purchase the ingredients: mouse droppings
(brown rice), spider eggs (cotton balls painted with black dots), fake centipedes, plastic eyeballs, glow-in-the-dark bat wings, fingernails (fake nails), a large cauldron, and of course, a magic (plastic) bone.

I usually make the soup as I tell the story, stirring the mixture along with Finnigin and his reluctant friends; though, if I have a very patient group willing to share duties, I let the children concoct the magic soup themselves. Of course, I pretend to slurp the soup at the very end and the kids always demand to see the final product. Many of the young patrons at my old library branch did not celebrate Halloween officially, but they always demanded Bone Soup when All Hallows Eve rolled around.

witchat“Interactive” Bone Soup is a great and an easy, if not foul, way to add props to your Halloween storytelling! Pairing this version of the story with another version of Stone Soup (I recommend Jon Muth’s retelling) should invoke an interesting comparative folklore discussion!
Kate Eckert is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at eckertk@freelibrary.org.

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18. Trying something new

playing with sensory balls

Playing with sensory balls

A few months back I saw a photo from Hennepin County Library on Instagram. It showed how much fun they had at their Sensitive Family Time — a time for families living with autism to explore the library. As I was looking for a way to partner with our local Autism Centre, I jumped on this fantastic idea. After a few phone calls and emails, we had a date. We opened one of our branches for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon, just for these families. The families had signed up in advance with the Autism Centre, so we knew who to expect. Staff from their centre attended, and welcomed the families. Our staff were on had to show them around the library, read some stories, and get them signed up for library cards.

We had some toys out (I had these already from storytime), and just let the kids roam around. They played, I read a few books, they enjoyed themselves. Many of the families had never taken their child to the library before– they feared disruptive behavior and did not want to cause a scene. The kids were great — once they found out that the library was a safe, welcoming place, they had a grand time. And so did I. I tried something outside my comfort zone, something I really knew nothing about other than I knew there were families that wanted to use the library but maybe felt uncomfortable doing so.

Program room is set up

Program room is set up

We’ve got another one in the works, and I look forward to it. It was such a simple idea, such an easy way to reach out. I have to thank Hennepin County Library for their great program, and for graciously allowing me to borrow their idea and run with it. Try something new. It just might be worth it.

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19. Visit the Science Playground

Last month during our students’ Fall Break, I offered a STEM program that was easy to prep, easy to staff, and cost us nothing! We held a drop-in Science Playground where I put out all kinds of science materials and allowed families to explore at their own pace.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Setup for Science Playground. Photo by Abby Johnson.

** This is the caveat where I tell you that the reason that this program was absolutely free to us is that we have been collecting science tools and kits for several years for our summer Science Explorer table. Worry not, I have some ideas in case you do NOT have science tools at the ready!**

I scheduled the program for an afternoon during Fall Break. It was drop-in and open to all ages, although the materials we had were mostly geared towards the early elementary crowd (and that’s the audience we ended up attracting). I set up tables in our meeting room and placed our science kits and activities out, as well as a large display of science books that families could check out. I put on some background music and opened the doors. As families came in, I let them know that they were welcome to explore all our stations and check out any books they liked. I kept a tally for attendance and the program pretty much ran itself.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Science Viewers. Photo by Abby Johnson.

I set out the following stations:

  • Student microscopes with slides
  • Science Discovery Kits on magnets, motion, and magnification
  • Magnet wands with pipe cleaner “hair”
  • Color paddles and materials to draw
  • Bug sorting set
  • Science viewers
  • Wooden blocks
  • Plastic jungle animal toys
  • Soft vinyl shape toys
Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Toys on the carpet for little learners. Photo by Abby Johnson.

We’ve purchased most of these materials from Lakeshore Learning.

Families explored most of the stations I set out. The microscopes were a little difficult because they really needed more one-on-one instruction on how to use them. If we do this program again, I would probably forgo the microscopes and put out more different materials to look at under magnifying glasses.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Magnification station. Photo by Abby Johnson.

Although most of our crowd was in that early elementary age, older kids were eager to show the tricks they knew to younger kids or to the adults in  the room. They knew how to make the magnets do cool things or how to mix the colors with the color paddles and showed that to the other kids. Grownups browsed the display books (especially if I mentioned the display to them directly), but not many kids did browsing on their own.

The station materials did NOT stay neatly where I placed them, but that was no big deal. If a station had a quiet moment, I would go over and quietly group things back into their proper kits. I could have probably utilized a teen volunteer or two to help keep things organized and for set-up and clean-up, but it wasn’t a big deal for me to do these things myself.

We were in a fairly small room, so it did get pretty loud in there occasionally with all the great conversations going on, kids making animal sounds, etc. I knew this would probably happen, so I avoided stations that had to do with sound since I knew it would be difficult to hear.

Now, if you don’t happen to have all this great science stuff laying around, you could still totally do this program (and you could keep it pretty cheap, as well). Here are some ideas (which I might use next time!):

  • Building with cardboard boxes instead of blocks (ask your coworkers to save boxes of all types: cake mixes, cereal boxes, egg cartons all make great, free building material).
  • Challenge kids to construct a boat that will float or a tower that reaches so many inches using whatever materials you have handy (aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, yarn, spaghetti, etc.).
  • Sensory bins using dry beans and containers made of different materials to pour them with.
  • Put out realia to explore. You could put out leaves and/or rocks and accompanying field guides to try to identify them or just collect sticks, seeds, grasses, flowers, etc. and let kids explore them.
  • Sink and float station. Put out a tub of water and various materials. Encourage kids to guess beforehand and then test their hypothesis to see if they were right.
  • Any of these shadow activities that Amy Koester posted about on the ALSC Blog.

What other fun science activities would make good stations for a self-directed program like this?

— Abby Johnson, Youth Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN

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20. And a Sock Hop Got Me Thinking…

Each department at my library has been asked to take on the responsibility of raising money. This was a new assignment for me and one that I’m oddly excited about. For some reason, it allowed (forced?) me to take a different approach than I normally do when planning programs. I started thinking of opportunities our area families don’t normally get. And to do that, I started looking around at various community organizations and their services and fundraisers. I would hate to repeat another non-profit’s big idea. And while I’m still learning about this slightly rural-area of my county (I’m all city, baby!) I decided on a Sock Hop! Of course, I turned instantly to Pinterest where I was not disappointed in the myriad ideas: from music selection to DIY costumes and decorations. I happen to love 50s music (despite its inherent ridiculousness and rampant sexism) so this is right up my alley. Let the planning begin!


Photo Credit: Flickr User  Creative Commons License

The whole process got me thinking about how I plan other special programs. This might be old news to some of you, but investigating this sock hop idea was a good reminder for me to think about filling the gaps as I plan activities. As well, it was a reminder to see how my library can partner with these organizations in their own efforts to provide services to the community. Some places to consider when planning programs and fundraisers:

  • Parks and Recreation
  • Schools
  • Girl and Boy Scouts
  • Churches
  • Community Centers
  • Homeschool Groups
  • Animal shelters
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Goodwill
  • Junior League
  • Kiwannis
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Planned Parenthood
  • YMCA
  • YWCA
  • United Way

In looking around at these organizations, I found several fundraising events with which I would have hated to compete and a number of services our library could either promote or ride their coattails.  I also am considering contacting a few of these places to see about partnering in a fundraising event.  Anyone out there work with other non-profits in a fundraising capacity?


Our guest blogger today is Kelley Beeson. Kelley is the Youth Services Department Head at the Western Allegheny Community Library. She’s been working in libraries since high school and her favorite book is Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

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. What Is Your Hot Topic for #ALAAC16?

Submit Your Hot Topic Program Proposal for the 2016 ALA Annual ConferenceDo you see a trend in youth services that needs to be addressed? Have an idea for a great program proposal?

The ALSC Program Coordinating Committee has opened a call for two Hot Topic Programs to be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, June 23-26, 2016.

Participants attending ALSC programs are seeking valuable educational experiences and are critical of presenters or sessions that are self-promotional. Presentations should advance the educational process and provide a valuable learning experience. The Program Coordinating Committee will not select a program session that suggests commercial sales or self-promotion.

Further information and the online application are available on the link above. All proposals must be submitted by Sunday, December 13, 2015.

Image courtesy of ALA

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22. Best Practices for a Streaming Author Visit

This article will focus on using Google Hangouts on Air.

We’d all love to have our favorite author fly out and visit us in person, but the cost and logistics can be daunting. Streaming visits allow authors to connect with more readers and are easier on your budget- sometimes your author will even speak for free! Here are a few tips that will help ensure your event is a success.

Why Google Hangouts on Air?
Setting up a YouTube channel to associate your Hangout with will automatically archive your event to YouTube.  No problem that you weren’t able to get all the kids in one room at a time, they can watch later. See the King County Library System’s Hangout page for examples of past events.  Creating a new YouTube channel will automatically create your Google+ page for you. Alternatively, if you have a channel you can associate it with a Google+ page. You will need to verify your channel through SMS.

Technical Run Through
Set up a practice session with you author at least a week prior. Send them the link to Google Hangouts so they have the most current version installed. This also gives you a chance to chat with the author and figure out the flow of your event.

Equipment Set Up
You’ll need a webcam so the author can see who they are talking to, possibly a tripod to set it up on, a microphone for questions, and speakers so everyone can hear. For streaming events this is where you may incur some costs, but you only need to purchase these items once!

Hangout Settings
Hover at the top of the page to access your settings. Check that your microphone and speakers are selected and test your sound. You may need to change your main preferences through your Control Panel.

Inviting Participants
We’ve found the least stressful method is to click the person + icon at the top of the page.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.50 PM

Copy the permanent link and email the link to your author. Please note that if you send the invite through email your author will need to login to Gmail or Hangouts to see the invitation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 3.51.58 PM

Starting the Hangout
After you invite your participants you aren’t broadcasting yet. To get your archived video you need to click the Start Broadcast button. When you are finished (yay!) click End Broadcast. YouTube will need to finish processing your event, but it should be finished in a few hours.

Final Tips
Don’t panic if people look reversed during the Hangout. During the processing everything will be flipped and anyone watching remotely will see everything correctly.

Concerned about recording student faces? Make your videos Unlisted and only share the URL with staff and parents.

Help Resources
How to Dominate Google+ Hangouts on Air
Hangouts On Air common questions

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23. Building STEAM with Día in 2016!

Día: Diversity in ActionALSC is accepting proposals for the 2016 Building STEAM with Día mini-grants. To launch the yearlong celebration of Día turning 20, ALSC will award up to ten (10) libraries $2,000 each to implement a Building STEAM with Día program in their community. The project year for this grant is January 2016 through May 2016. This mini-grant opportunity is funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation through the Everyone Reads @ your library grant awarded to ALSC. For more information and to apply for the mini-grant, please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/diaturns20.

ALSC President Andrew Medlar can attest to the importance of a culturally inclusive approach to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming, so he is “excited that ALSC is able to provide a second round of funding that will help libraries incorporate diversity into their STEAM efforts.”

Celebrating Día

The Building STEAM with Día program is part of the El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) initiative, commonly known as Día. This nationally recognized initiative emphasizes the importance of literacy for all children from all backgrounds, and 2016 marks the 20th year of its observance. Día is a daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures. This is the first of two funding opportunities that ALSC will offer this year to help libraries celebrate Día all year. ALSC also manages the National Día Program Registry to help libraries and community partners share information about their Día programs throughout the year.

The common goals of all Día programming are to: celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries; recognize and respect culture, heritage and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities; nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture; and to introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies. For more information, visit http://dia.ala.org/.

Image courtesy of ALSC

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24. Taking the Lead in Helping Kids Become Good Digital Citizens

Digital citizenship. It’s a complex subject that I’ve thought a lot about in recent years- and one that I’ve been figuring out how best to address in my role as a public librarian. For our kids to be contributing participants in the Digital Age, they need to be informed about a whole host of issues such as internet safety, privacy and security, cyber bullying, digital footprints, information literacy, copyright and creative credit, and more!

So when Mariah Cheng, one of my regular patrons who also happens to be an elementary school teacher, approached me about teaching a series of digital citizenship workshops at the library for children and parents I jumped at the opportunity to partner with her. Mariah had recently become a Certified Educator through Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Initiative which offers training and curriculum for free to K-12 educators so that they can teach their students and families how to be smart, safe and responsible online. 

During our planning stages I reached out to the Vice Principal of one of my local schools to see what topics she thought were most important for her students to learn and what ages would be best to target the classes towards. She and I had previously discussed how difficult it was for her teachers to find the time to address digital literacy with their students and how the library might be able to partner with the school to teach these topics. Unfortunately, whether she was overwhelmed with the start of a new school year or otherwise, I never heard back from her and moved forward with planning the classes along with Mariah and my Children’s Department staff.

Mariah and I decided to hold a series of three classes: one for parents, one for kindergarteners through 2nd graders, and one for 3rd through 5th graders. We capped registration at 16 attendees for each class, the capacity of the library’s computer lab. Ultimately we ended up cancelling K-2 session due to low interest, and we expanded the 3rd-5th Grades session to include older students after many inquiries by parents. For the Parents session Mariah addressed how to help their children use social media responsibly, how to address cyber bullying, and how to talk to their kids about their online activities. I especially loved that Mariah’s lessons were pragmatic. It’s a fact of life that adolescents are online and using social media already. Instead of being alarmist or didactic Mariah gave parents the tools they need to set reasonable limits on their children’s screen time and to help their kids be safe and healthy while doing so. She introduced parents to a variety of tools they could use to limit or monitor computer time and gave them some great resources for evaluating websites, apps and other media. For the Student session, Mariah talked with kids about their online activities and what to do if you see or are the target of cyber bullying. She also talked about “digital footprints” and reminded participants that and nothing is truly “private” or “erasable” online. The kids wrapped up the session by playing Common Sense Media’s Digital Passport, a collection of free computer games that teach kids about respect, safety and community online.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Mariah Cheng teaches digital citizenship to a class of 4th -8th graders at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

Students sorted unique and shared characteristics of bullying and cyber-bullying. Photo by Diana Garcia.

These programs were a great way to start the conversation about digital citizenship with kids and parents and we definitely plan to hold more to address subjects like information literacy, copyright and creative credit. I would encourage anyone who is interested in holding digital citizenship programs to take a look at the wealth of resources available from Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum. There are ready made lesson plans, toolkits, online games and assessments, activities, videos and downloadable materials all free for librarians and teachers to use with students. There is even a list of Certified Educators on the website. You may have one working in your school or district already!

Have you offered digital literacy classes at your library? Did you work with local teachers or have you used Common Sense Media’s resources? Share your experiences and let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!

Diana Garcia is the Children’s Librarian at the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library in California where she has the privilege of serving a diverse community through storytimes, creative programming and tutoring. Her afterschool literacy program for English Language Learners won the PLA Innovations in Literacy award in 2013. Diana is currently serving on the ALSC Liaison to National Organizations Committee. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Children’s Literature Council of Southern California and serves on their Awards Committee. 

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25. Sensory Storytime On the Road

Over the past few months, my library has partnered with a local resource center that provides early intervention and lifelong support to individuals with a variety of developmental disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.  The resource center originally reached out to us looking for a librarian to read a few stories to their clients. I knew a sensory storytime would be a great fit, but in their experience, visits to offsite locations were rarely successful.  Any activity we planned would have to take place at their location.  So I took my sensory storytime on the road, and got a chance to really put my skills to the test.

I’m fairly new to sensory storytimes.  Before this, I had incorporated concepts into my regular programming, and made real efforts to make those programs universally designed, but I certainly wasn’t actively promoting this. Partnering with the resource center gave me the opportunity to refine my skills and try new activities.  My first visit wasn’t without hiccups. For example, sign-up sheets and library card applications became problematic due to HIPAA and patient privacy concerns.  We also ended up with a lot more kids in attendance than we were expecting. But in the end, like Pete the Cat taught us in our story that day, “it’s all good.”

In taking these special programs out into the community, we’ve found that children and their caregivers can have a library experience in an environment that is comfortable for them, surrounded by people they trust. Plus, our partner organization has developed a better understanding of what we can offer.  It has inspired other collaborations, with new programs and training for children’s librarians in the works.

There is a lot of information on the ALSC Blog to help you prepare sensory and special needs storytimes. I found Ashley’s Waring’s Sensory Storytime Tips and Jill Hutchison’s overview of Renee Grassi’s Beyond Sensory Storytime presentation to be particularly useful posts for providing information and talking points for communicating with the center’s directors and staff.  In addition, an ALSC course I took this spring taught by Kate Todd, Children with Disabilities in the Library, was an amazing resource, and I recommend it for anyone interested in creating more inclusive library programs, or reaching out to children with disabilities in clinical settings.

Brooke Sheets is a Children’s Librarian at Los Angeles Public Library’s Children’s Literature Department and is writing this post for the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee.

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