It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We participate in the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (4/5/2021-4/11/2021).

Annamarie’s Reading

Board Books, Picture Books, and Readers:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: Fewer book read this week–a combination of less holds coming in from my library, wrapping up or moving forward with various projects, and starting to slow down my planned reading. My second vaccine dose is coming soon, and I have a long list of things I want to do when my two weeks of post-vaccine time are up. I’m anticipating more audiobook listening but less reading of physical books.

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 15 Books Read This Week
    • 11 Books with Main Characters of Diverse Backgrounds (73%)
    • 9 Books by Authors of Diverse Backgrounds (60%)
    • 8 Books by Own Voices Authors (53%)

Favorites of the Week:

Storytime: Why I Don’t Use Themes

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I don’t theme my regular weekly storytimes. I do theme Saturday Special Storytimes, often around a popular book or television character–but you aren’t often going to find a unifying theme during my regular weekly programs.

I get asked about this fairly frequently–it is the question I receive most often via email after wanting editable program files. How do I plan without a theme to ground the program? Why don’t I theme? My thoughts are below.

Storytime History

Everyone has a different storytime back story. Some great storytime bloggers and amazing librarians have been creating storytimes for much longer than I’ve been working in librarians. Themes work for many of them, and themes may work for you too–this isn’t a lesson in why you shouldn’t theme, just an explanation of what works for me.

To give some perspective on my point of view, pre-covid, I almost exclusively presented baby storytimes for ages 0-2. Many long-time storytime presenters will admit that theming baby storytimes is particularly tough. There are a limited number of books for that age range that work in a storytime setting, especially when I had large crowds that made board books impossible. There also aren’t too many songs that limit motions in a way that work for babies that may not yet be walking (while anything can be adapted, turning around, jumping, and running are actions often used in songs that aren’t traditionally motions babies can do, even with lots of adult help). Babies don’t have the attention span for many flannels. Repetition is key, and these storytimes are filled with bounces and tickles. For my in-person baby storytimes, I focused on repetition and structure instead of themes.

Also pre-covid, I filled in for other storytimes on occasion, picking up an outreach visit or substituting for a toddler or preschool storytime only once every few months. I started theming these–I had quite elaborate outreach visits planned often themed around an animal species. These were okay, but I quickly saw that my participants responded best to stuff they knew or stuff they could easily follow. Particularly when substituting, kids were already a little uncomfortable because I wasn’t their regular storytime presenter. Soon, I started to curate the material that received the best participant response, that I genuinely enjoyed, and that connected to early literacy skills appropriate for that age range. That core set of material didn’t necessarily go together–a book about dinosaurs followed by a retelling with a dog and puppet animals and a song about shaking in between. There was no overall message, but I could use this storytime at a 15-minute notice if needed, and I knew it would work well.

Enter covid times: suddenly I’m presenting storytime for all ages (virtually) once, twice, or on the very rare occasion, three times in one week. I could have used this time to create a core collection of themes for different ages with a list of content for each theme–but I chose to prioritize my time differently. While I started out with that content that was familiar to me and our patrons, I used this time to expand my storytime repertoire while also focusing on finding materials that worked well virtually, that I genuinely enjoyed, and that developed those early literacy skills that I knew would start to drop off during these very unusual times. For me, focusing my time on early literacy skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and diversity in content was more important than focusing on teaching (or forcing) a unified theme.

Why I Find Themes Limiting

There are plenty of great articles on this topic already, and I want to highlight a few of those first:

There are plenty of great reasons to theme your storytimes. Vocabulary development is a big one that I have to consciously think about adding into my not-themed storytimes, as it doesn’t flow into the conversation quite as well.

Another perk can be limiting the amount of content out there and helping you organize your plans as a presenter, though I am not a fan of using this as a reason to stay with themes. If you are on a cycle where you have the same kids week to week, it can be helpful to call back to something the week prior to make a connection rather than spending one week on dogs and the next on turtles. But, I’d also suggest thinking about narrowing down the large amount of storytime content differently. Rather than limiting the amount of content in the universe by selecting a theme, look at the content and yourself as a presenter. Do you flourish when you do a puppet activity? Does the group respond really well when you bring out a flannel set? Or do you secretly, absolutely, hate flannels? (That is okay too!)

I’m not trying to convince you to stop theming your storytimes, but I would like to convince every one of you to stop doing storytime activities that you genuinely don’t enjoy. It shows. If you hate flannels, that is fine. It doesn’t make you a bad librarian; in fact, you will be a stronger librarian for recognizing that and finding other ways to share that kind of content. If you aren’t comfortable with something, it shows. If you aren’t enjoying something, it shows. Even if your demeanor is just as chipper, your body language will reflect your frustration, and kids are experts at picking up at social cues. They will notice that their presenter isn’t fully engaged and doesn’t like the program, and they won’t want to come back.

A big exception that I want to note: generally, pick activities you are comfortable presenting. However, there are some topics that need to be discussed that may make you uncomfortable, but you need to discuss them anyway. Talk about topics like race in your storytimes. Be an example for caregivers about how they can talk to their kids about subjects that might make caregivers uncomfortable. Some great resources to get you started are Jessica Bratt’s Guest Post: Talking to Kids About Race in Storytime and the Let’s Talk About Race Toolkit and the toolkit itself. There are certain topics you need to be discussing in your programs, and that may mean pushing beyond your own personal “comfort zone.” Save your energy for the really important things instead of memorizing a three-page rhyme about a traffic light that can’t stop changing colors just because your theme of the week is traffic.

Back when I initially started theming my storytimes, music was my biggest enemy. I quickly gave up on the idea of having every single part of my storytime (except the opening and closing song) connect to my theme. I am not a person who enjoys free dancing or making up my own motions. Personally, I like having clear instructions to follow, and I like how following instructions teaches toddlers and preschoolers important skills. Some themes work better than others, but if I themed everything, all the time, when would I use Jump With Me by Bobs and Lolo again? Can I only use The Goldfish Song by Laurie Berkner twice a year, when I present a fish or ocean themed storytime?

Recently, I’ve been making an effort to diversity my storytime playlist. Promoting the voices of artists from marginalized communities is a higher priority for me than having my movement song connect to the book that I just read.

That word–“priority”–is the key to how you should plan your storytimes. Look at all of the different factors that you consider when creating your storytimes and prioritize them. You can keep your decisions personal but make a choice. Everything isn’t equal in storytime planning because every time you pick one thing over another, you are prioritizing the activity you chose. Some things that might be important to your storytime plans include:

  • Overall theme
  • Structure (what stays the same week to week)
  • Sharing voices from marginalized communities
  • Developmental appropriateness of content
  • Early literacy skills
  • Meeting state standards for early childhood development
  • Concept learning, such as a focus on the alphabet
  • Ready for Kindergarten skills
  • Audience enjoyment and engagement
  • What works best for your crowd size (very large, very small)
  • What works best with Your supplies
  • What works best virtually
  • What you have time to prep for
  • What you genuinely enjoy presenting
  • …what other factors affect your storytime planning?

Storytime Structure, Skills, Literacy Tips, and More

So how do I plan my storytimes? Well, my first step is a consistent structure. Generally, my storytime structure looks something like this:

This stays fairly consistent virtually when I am not getting participant feedback. In person, there is a bit more flexibility than this chart implies. Even with that flexibility, the core structure of my storytime is the same week to week, without fail. Virtual Toddler Storytime almost always looks like:

  • Welcome, Announcements
  • Opening Song
  • Early Literacy Conversation
  • Book
  • Movement Song
  • Rhyme or Fingerplay (most likely activity to drop)
  • Book Retelling with Props
  • Action Rhyme
  • Flannel
  • Closing Song

There is some variance, but that more often depends on the length of time those activities take up, or I will trade out an activity for a full month (instead of a flannel, we will end with a manipulative each week).

Storytime themers, I hear you! You can definitely theme and have a consistent structure each week. But, personally, I find this a little more difficult. I like that my storytime is that much more accessible by keeping this structure fairly rigid. Families know what kind of activity is coming next. If their child doesn’t like book retellings, turn the computer off after that week’s song. If they enter storytime late and we are dancing, today’s book was already read. It builds structure into the program that can be harder to stick with if I am trying to make a theme work. Maybe this theme has a particularly great flannel activity, but this month I am focusing on manipulatives instead of flannels. Or what if I just can’t come up with a great book to retell for my theme of choice? Sure, I can change my structure but that can throw off families who rely on that consistency. So, for me, consistent structure is a priority over theme.

But how do I sort my programming ideas? Enter my powerpoint. In person, I projected my storytime content onto slides behind me. Virtually, I don’t do that, but I have continued to make a powerpoint for each program so that I can keep track of what I did in a storytime and what I would like to share in the future.

My powerpoint for this week’s toddler storytime looks like this:

And my Toddler Storytime powerpoint that holds all of my content looks like this:

Slides are sorted by storytime element (early literacy tip, book, song, etc.). Each slide has the dates it was last used in the notes field (visible on the Bark George slide two images up).

Since we currently rotate storytime presenters each month, I start planning storytimes about 2-3 weeks before the new month begins. Typically this starts with a book for each week, since I make an effort to try new books at each program. Then, I start to look at what we cover in the books I selected. Are we identifying body parts? Practicing animal sounds? Completing certain large or small motions? What is already included and what hasn’t been covered yet in a particular program or in a full month?

Once I have an idea of what I want to add to my program–new fingerplays that don’t focus on counting to 5 or 10? a retelling featuring animal sounds? rhymes that focus on moving our upper body?–I look around the internet for new content, most often (lately) by watching random virtual storytime videos from other libraries. I use a combination of new material and old favorites depending what my commitments for each week look like (how much time I can dedicate to learning something new). I always focus on content that I genuinely enjoy using and learning. Do I find this rhyme fun? Then I’ll use it. Do I keep tripping over the words because I can’t get the rhythm right? Leave it behind.

Once I’ve laid out my storytimes for the month, I go back and look at each week and ask myself a few questions:

  • Does my storytime include elements of read, write, sing, talk, and play?
  • How many early literacy skills are included? (Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Narrative Skills)
  • Have I included at least one voice from a marginalized community via a book character, book author, book illustrator, or musician?
  • Are we moving our whole bodies and practicing gross motor development?
  • What about fine motor skills? Do we practice small motions?
  • Is at least one other kindergarten readiness skill covered somewhere?

I don’t end up with a perfect storytime every week, and I’m not trying to check off every box on some large checklist. I give myself flexibility week of and day of too–I may have planned for a certain book, but morning of I really need something with a different tone. That may mean I’m not going to have the vocabulary development I was hoping for that week, but that is okay–don’t think of any of this as a reason to be hard on yourself for not covering everything in every storytime.

So, for me, the final product is a storytime where we shake our sillies out, read a book about monsters, jump with The Wiggles, identify animals eaten by one silly dog, and then roll down a hill with penguins. I’m not planning to start theming my storytimes soon–though I know many people love and thrive with themed programs. What is your preference? To theme or not to theme? Let me know in the comments below!

Dragon Egg Craft

Dragon eggs are a simple craft that can work well as an element of magical décor during a program or as an easy take home or in-person craft program. In preparation for our annual Wizards & Wands Festival, library staff are taking home baskets of egg-making supplies to craft some new décor pieces during their work from home hours.

While we are using these as decor for a large library event, this could be turned into a fun craft program for all ages. Cost will vary based on egg size (as will time needed to complete the craft), but the final product is quite pretty and a lot of fun for fantasy fans.

Dragon Egg Craft Supplies:

Dragon Egg Craft Instructions:

Start in the center of the bottom of the egg. Push thumbtack in firmly.

Create a ring of thumbtacks around the one you first placed. Make sure they overlap slightly, so that no Styrofoam shows, but they don’t need to overlap a lot—you have a limited number of thumbtacks.

Continue around and around the egg until it is entirely covered.

Optional: After egg is covered with thumbtacks, use spray paint to create a shiny colorful sheen!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 1

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program last week. These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

This post will focus on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. Check back for Part 2, focusing on our online component run through ReadSquared.

And before this gets buried in all the upcoming text, a big shout out to my library’s marketing department who designed the physical book and put up with all of my edit requests.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds parent knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

How long will this take?

Parents may be daunted by the large number, but, by just reading one book a day, a child should finish the program in less than three years. Some possible program lengths:

  • 1 book a day = 1,000 books in 3 years
  • 2 books a day = 1,000 books in 1.5 years
  • 3 books a day = 1,000 books in 1 year
  • 5 books a day = 1,000 books in 6 months

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program Specifics

Before starting your program, there are some specifics you need to figure out. These include:

  • How will participants log their reading?
  • What are the incentives?
  • How will you fund the program?
  • Answers to Participant FAQs

How will participants log their reading?

We give participants two options: a physical, spiral-bound workbook (more info below) and an online system managed through ReadSquared (more on that in a future post).

What are the incentives?

Our incentives include:

  • Sign up = workbook & pencil
  • 100 books read = 1 sticker for every 100 books read (10 total)
  • 500 books read = free book
  • 1,000 books read = free book, backpack, graduation certificate & invitation to annual graduation ceremony  

I’ll share pictures of some of these below, but the timeline for purchasing some of these items depends on reaching certain program milestones (such as registering our first 50 kids). So, while I know what I would like to order, specific prize books have not been officially selected yet. For each prize book earned, families will have a choice between three prize book options.

How will you fund the program?

Our program is sponsored by our library’s Foundation. (Those incentives aren’t cheap!) I wanted to make this a program that would really engage our community and keep them participating over the years it will take them to finish, so we chose incentives that will hopefully encourage people to keep participating.

Answers to Participant FAQs

Your library’s answers to these questions might differ, but some of our FAQ include:

What if someone else reads to my child?
Count all reading! Books read by caregivers, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, librarians, and more all count. Watch a storytime and count those books, too.

What if we read the same book more than once?
Every time you read a book, count it in your reading log! Repetition is wonderful for reading development. Your child will notice new details during each reread. If you read Pete the Cat ten times in one day, that counts as ten books read!

We finished! Can we keep reading?
Of course! While you can only receive prizes once, we encourage you to keep going. Stop by the library anytime for book recommendations.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Workbook

At sign-up, each reader gets their own physical workbook and a pencil to log their reading. I love our 64-page workbook filled with many pages to log your reading, early literacy tips and book recommendations, advertisements for various library services, and more.

Our workbook begins with a page to label your workbook in case it is lost and to track how long the program took you to complete.

The next spread focuses on how the program works and those frequently asked questions we highlighted above.

Moving on to a spread with a reminder to log online if you would like (more on that in Part 2) and the first of two All About Me pages. This page should be filled out at the beginning of the program, with the second, similar page being filled out after you’ve read 1000 Books.

Next come the early literacy spreads! I love how these turned out. Four age ranges are featured: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, and 3-5. Each spread has an early literacy tip for read, sing, talk, play and write, as well as 12 book recommendations.

Listing books in a printing of this volume (we purchased 1000 of these logbooks at once!) was quite an endeavor. While we still ended up publishing pages filled with many of my favorite books, some of these were round two or round three suggestions. I worked with our collection development team to find books that we could bulk up on copies of now and that we would hopefully still be able to purchase (or would still own) in 3-5 years, since these log books will be sticking around a while.

Next we have lots and lots of book logging pages. Each page contains 25 images. Each image represents one book. Families can color or check off each image for each book read.

Pages marking 100-book intervals have a special spot for a sticker that participants can pick up at the library. Our marketing department designed and printed our stickers in house on label paper:

But what if a family really wants to write down the names of the books they read? There are a few pages to record up to 30 favorite titles in the workbook, and the online system encourages writing out each title.

Wrapping up the workbook, we have our second All About Me page and advertisements for some of our other library programs and services.

Learn more about our program on our website, and come back next week for more information about our online ReadSquared page!

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

Ana & Andrew by Christine Platt (first chapter books)
Gr. 2-3. Some great new additions to this fantastic own voices beginning reader/first chapter book series featuring an African American family living in Washington, D.C.

Home Run: Ana and Andrew each pick out a team sport this year. Just as Ana’s basketball season wraps up, it is time for Andrew to try out for the baseball team! Before his first game, Andrew gets nervous, and his family reminds him of an amazing baseball player who was probably also a bit nervous before his first game–Jackie Robinson.

Honoring Heroes: Ana and Andrew’s parents are going to take them to someplace they have never been before in Washington, D.C. — the African American Civil War Memorial. On the way, they learn about their ancestor, a soldier honored at the memorial.

Martin’s Dream: Ana and Andrew are excited to learn about a Black historical figure for Black History Month. They are assigned Martin Luther King, Jr. They already know a bit about him–but there is plenty more to learn. Their parents help them expand their learning through a family trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C.

Planting Peanuts: Ana and Andrew are excited to select a plant to grow. After selecting peanuts, they learn about the history of the peanut and its connection to cotton.

A Walk in Harlem: Papa takes Ana and Andrew on a surprise trip, all the way from Washington, D.C. to Harlem. In addition to getting some great slices of pizza, they learn about the Harlem Renaissance and get inspired to make their own creations based on what they saw and did in New York City.

Ballet Bunnies by Swapna Reddy (first chapter books)
Gr. 2-3. This was fun! It doesn’t flow quite as well as I would like, but it will be well loved by young dancers and the bunnies help it earn so many cute points.

1. The New Class: Millie absolutely cannot wait for her first ballet class! But when she arrives, she realizes that most of her classmates have been dancing for years. They know the steps, and Millie doesn’t. And classmate Amber is determined to make sure Millie knows she doesn’t belong.

Just as Millie is about to quit, she discovers something a little magical about her ballet studio: it is the home to four tiny, talking bunnies that love ballet just as much as the students. The ballet bunnies will help Millie learn her dance steps–but she has to make sure to keep their secret.

2. Let’s Dance: The Ballet Bunnies helped Millie learn the basics of ballet, but now Millie has a lot more to learn as she and the other young dancers prepare for the upcoming performance in front of a full theater of people. Can Millie learn to dance with a prop? She will practice and practice until she gets her steps perfect–but what happens when everything still goes wrong on performance day?

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Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz (biography)
Gr. 4-7. Learn about picture book creator Uri Shulevitz’s childhood fleeing Nazi-inhabited Poland for the Soviet Union. His family survived impossible and terrifying circumstances that are relayed in an almost matter-of-fact manner in this biography. Large print text and scattered illustrations keep the book moving, even as it sometimes drags as Shulevitz delves into favorite books and movies that he remembers from the time.

This is an important story, though I’m not 100% sure the audience for it. For classroom use, this could be a good addition to balance the more commonly used concentration-camp-focused holocaust survival stories. (And preferably also paired with something highlighting the Jewish experience that is a bit more modern–similar to how so many African American stories are regulated to slavery, so many Jewish stories are regulated to the holocaust. Both are important, but modern Jewish Joy and Black Joy books are extremely important too.)

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Shaking Up the House by Yamile Saied Méndez
Gr. 4-6. Ingrid and Winnie Lopez are about to leave the White House. Their father is ending his second term as President of the United States, and it is time to make way for the next first family. Typically, the new family doesn’t move in until inauguration day, but that would mean that new first daughters, Skyler and Zora Williams, wouldn’t be settled in before their new school year begins. So, for the first time in history, President Lopez invites incoming President-Elect Williams (and her family) to move into the White House early.

Two first families–and four first daughters–means that the house feels a little more cramped than usual. The Lopez sisters decide to welcome the Williams twins with a White House tradition: a friendly prank to help them let go of their nerves.

But friendly pranks are one thing when the prank-creators have moved out before their pranks play out, and a whole other thing when the prank’s victims have a chance to seek revenge. The Williams twins don’t appreciate the Lopez girls’ joke–and soon an all-out prank war ensues (all kept a secret from their parents, of course).

But soon, pranks are no longer light fun as a ferret and later people start to get hurt. Can the girls learn to rekindle their old friendship–or will they all go down in history for their destructive pranks?

I liked this–I enjoy political stories and the White House backdrop was nice–but the pranks did seem to take a mean and expensive turn fairly quickly. And they were quite elaborate–did these girls ever go to school? How did they have so much time to come up with and execute these plans? And was it really that simple to get pranking supplies? I would imagine that, while pretty much anything is available to them, they would still have to ask someone for it (they can’t just run to the store for a massive batch of glitter or powder to make green Jello–and requesting either of those things would raise suspicion). I wish their friendship had been examined a bit more–I kept feeling like we would get a touch of character depth before we were swept off into the repercussions of another elaborate prank. Overall, this will have plenty of audience appeal, and I love the representation, but I think it could have benefited from a slight shift in direction.

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Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake (first chapter book)
Gr. 3. Badger absolutely does not want a roommate–he has important rock work to do. But since he is staying in his aunt’s brownstone rent free, he doesn’t really have a choice when she invites Skunk to live with him. After some awkward roommate relations, Badger realizes that his life can be more than what it is if he just lets Skunk (and friendship) in.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book, but I really don’t think it was for me. It was fine, but it didn’t have the Hundred Acre Woods whimsy of Our Friend Hedgehog or the appealing humor of Mercy Watson. I’m really not sure who I would give this book to–the illustrations are fun and the audiobook is cute, but the story feels a bit lofty and sly for lower elementary readers and yet too simple to interest older readers.

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Someone Builds the Dream by Lisa Wheeler (picture book)
Gr. K-2. Highlights all the hard work done by the people not often highlighted–the people who build the dream houses, the bridges, the architectural marvels–even the people who make the physical books.

After a year of reading many picture book biographies highlighting the dreamers, this is a refreshing look and reminder that while an architect and an engineer may design a bridge, there are hundreds and thousands of people who pour the concrete, drive the rucks, and contribute to the actual building of all of the incredible things we have in the world. Even a book is touched by many more hands than just the named author and illustrator.

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Super Detectives by Cale Atkinson (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Simon and Chester are best friends, even though Simon is a ghost that haunts Chester’s grandmother. Chester is just SO BORED, and after digging through his grandmother’s old belongings, he discovers some clothing that inspires Simon and Chester to become a team of crime-fighting detectives!

Soon a case falls right into their lap–a mysterious pug appears in the kitchen! How did it get there? (WAS IT ALIENS?) Who does it belong to? (ROYALTY?) The two friends are soon on the case, ready to discover the secret of the lost dog.

This was adorable, and just so much fun. Chester and Simon have a great dynamic and the illustrations are cute enough to appeal to even younger readers (making this a good family read aloud too). Looking forward to more!

We Are Little Feminists by Little Feminist (board books)
Gr. 2-3. Such an amazing book series!

Families: The text is simple–reflecting the joy of family and the support a family can bring–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. The photos depict all kinds of representation–families with two moms, two dads, gender creative kids, and a pregnant transgender man. Very well done.

Hair: The text is simple–reflecting the joy of different hairstyles–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. The photos depict all kinds of families and kids from a variety of backgrounds with all kinds of hairstyles–and sometimes even hair in more unexpected places. Very well done.

On-the-Go: The text is simple–reflecting the actions taking place on each page–but these stand above and beyond so many other board books because of the diversity depicted in the photography. This might be the only board book that I have seen that has real photos of kids with walkers, crutches, and artificial limbs–and the book isn’t about those disabilities–it is about moving. Very well done.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We participate in the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (3/29/2021-4/5/2021).

Annamarie’s Reading

Board Books:

Picture Books and Readers:

Everything Else:

Rambling Thoughts: More books, as always. I’m trying my best to wrap up at least a few projects on my never-ending to-do list. Some of that is finally trickling to blog posts–I’m going to start a two or three part series on our 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program this week! Back in reading news, I read a lot this week, though there wasn’t anything (except the We Are Little Feminists board books) that I was overly excited about. I’m hoping one of my upcoming audiobooks is as engaging as City of the Plague God or Amari and the Night Brothers.

Reading by the Numbers:

  • 40 Books Read This Week
    • 25 Books with Main Characters of Diverse Backgrounds (63%)
    • 16 Books by Authors of Diverse Backgrounds (40%)
    • 13 Books by Own Voices Authors (33%)

Favorites of the Week:

Virtual Baby Storytime: Week 22

Bye again babies! I’m back to toddlers next week, and I am pulling out some of my favorite content in April. We aren’t sure what summer storytimes will bring yet–fewer virtual storytimes? Outdoor storytimes? No more mask requirements from the state? My question of the week: can you require social distancing in a program if your library no longer requires it overall? Or does social distancing in a program just turn into a suggestion that is encouraged by limiting attendance? What is your library doing as you consider returning to in-person programs and events?

More Baby Storytime Content:

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

Storytime Resources (includes all storytime outlines)
Virtual Toddler Storytimes
Virtual Baby Storytimes
Virtual Preschool Storytimes
Virtual Family Storytimes (including themed special events)
All Virtual Storytime Outlines

Baby Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme – Wake Up Toes & We Clap and Sing Hello

Early Literacy Tip: Check out our new 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program!

Book Recommendation: Leo Loves Daddy by Anna McQuinn

Leo Loves Daddy: McQuinn, Anna, Hearson, Ruth: 9781623542412: Amazon.com:  Books

Song: Clap Your Hands by Old Town School of Folk Music

Action Rhyme: These Little Fingers

These little fingers go
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
These little fingers go
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle
And now they’re on my…HEAD!

Continue with: tummy, feet

Bounce: A Bouncing We Will Go

A bouncing we will go,
A bouncing we will go,
Hi ho the derry o,
A bouncing we will go.

Continue with: rocking, tickling

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Bounce/Movement: Rocking Horse

Rocking horse, rocking horse, to and fro,
Side to side and away we go,
Rocking horse, rocking horse, front and back,
Don’t fall off just like that.

Woah!

— Find more Baby Bounces in this post. —

Song: Tickle Time by Moey’s Music Party

Puppets/Animal Sounds: Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon

— Find more Book Retellings in this post. —

Manipulative: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes by Super Simple Songs

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It by Old Town School of Folk Music

Day in the Life: A Tuesday Work from Home

What does a day in the life of a post-pandemic children’s librarian look like? I provided a glimpse into an in-the-library day last week, and now I’m going to cover what a work from home day looks like.

Just like library days, each work from home day is a bit different, though I really appreciate the control I have over these days. I have eight hours to move through projects at a speed that I simply can’t accomplish while in the library, where desk hours, in-the-moment projects, and various distractions are guaranteed to pop up throughout the day. As we have more and more days back in the building I’ve been trying to let go of projects because it simply isn’t possible to get done what I’ve been doing at home during multiple 8 hours days of uninterrupted work while working in the physical library and covering desk hours and the like.

I’m also able to set my own schedule. For example I hate waking up early (for me, early means anything before 9 am and definitely anything before 8 am). Something I’ve also always suspected but could never test until the last year–my ideal breakfast/lunch time is actually around 10-10:30 am. And finally, the joy of not having a commute is immeasurable. The lack of traffic since the pandemic began has shrunk my commute time, but being done with work and immediately able to do other things brings joy to my days.

But what do I do all day? I keep busy, that’s for sure. One Tuesday work from home day, coming up!

8:30-8:45 am: Roll out of bed. (Kidding but not. Again, I am not a morning person). Stumble around doing morning things and waking up.

9 am: It’s time to make sure everything is ready for Baby Storytime! When I’m at home, my “studio” is essentially always set up, though I do have to make some height adjustments for Baby Storytime since I have a stuffed animal in my lap. Plus, I always run a tech check–you never know when something will decide to act up. (I use the black desk chair as a storage spot for my book, puppets, and any other physical materials that I’ll need.)

9:30 am: It’s time for Baby Storytime! I’m live on Facebook today with lots of book and animal fun. Storytime runs for about 30 minutes.

10 am: Storytime clean up! Again, when I am at home this is really quick, essentially just dropping anything I need to take back to work into my work bag, and making sure my greeter (who monitored the comments on Facebook) was able to send me the viewing stats for our live program. View this storytime outline here.

10:10-11:10 am: Breakfast/Lunch. This is really nice time on storytime days because this doubles as a post-storytime break.

11:15 am: Zoom meeting with our library’s Equity & Diversity Specialist. I’ve been a part of many sub-committees related to various projects, and during this meeting we reviewed our suggestions for policy and procedure changes that are part of our efforts to create a library-wide de-escalation training (you can’t train staff or expect them to enforce policies the same way when procedures aren’t written down or are vastly different from department-to-department). We also talked about some upcoming Juneteenth program kits that I am excited to be working on with members of the Westerville community.

12 pm: It’s a filming day, and I am filming book talk videos this week. I love our video book talks on YouTube, but this is one of those projects that I know will need to wrap up soon (I rarely have more than an hour at a time off desk or out of a meeting when at work, so finding time to film and edit these is going to become much harder). With that in mind, with the videos I filmed today, I have enough video book talks to schedule one a week through the end of May. I like to think these will continue after May, but realistically my time is going to be pulled elsewhere. I just film all of the snippets today; I’ll leave editing and uploading for tomorrow.

1:30 pm: First comes email (which is always a beast of its own), with a particular focus on confirming dates for the graphic novel virtual author visits funded by a LSTA grant.

2 pm: By around 2 pm, I’m ready to dive into another project that I managed to start at work the day before: storytime planning for the month of April. I have four toddler storytimes next month, and it is much easier for me to plan and coordinate content all at once. And, as we storytime librarians know, planning a storytime takes so much more time than the public (and even some of our non-youth-department coworkers) may think.

For toddler storytime prep, I take a look at what content I have used in the last few months and what new content I would like to mix together. Pre-covid, I mostly presented Baby Storytimes in person. We displayed words to activities on a PowerPoint during the program. To make the planning process simpler, I kept a “master powerpoint” with all the slides I’ve ever used, organized by type of activity, with the last date it was used in the notes field. After a few weeks into the pandemic, I had a feeling we were in this for the long haul, and I started the same process for all of my virtual storytimes too.

This process adds more time to virtual prep, but it also means that I am really ready, content-wise, for in-person programs to return, with more core storytime materials prepared than I have ever had previously. this bank of content is also incredibly useful when planning storytimes. I don’t theme, but instead I follow the same structure each week. Sorting the slides by type of content (early literacy tip, book, song, fingerplay, retelling) lets me easily see what is in my repertoire and when I used it last.

And finally, outlining a month’s worth of programs at once lets me see what I am covering overall. I can look at the kind of early literacy and fine motor skills I am incorporating, but also see what I am missing and figure out a way to add it in. Everything is so carefully selected during our programs–we are trying to meet so many different sets of standards while keeping to a familiar routine and also making sure storytime is fun and engaging. All of that mixed with finding materials we are comfortable and excited to present (and that work virtually!) can sometimes make storytime planning a challenge–it is never quite so simple as grabbing a book and picking a song or two.

This structure also makes it really easy to share my materials with my colleagues when needed–just email the powerpoint file.

4 pm: By 4 pm, storytime prep work is done, and I have an ALSC Education meeting. Lots of conversations about promotion of the ALSC Competencies (which we worked on updating last year) and discussion of past webinars that we have reviewed. This meeting is always fairly quick, and by about 4:30 pm, I am back to library work.

4:30 pm: It’s time for Wizards & Wands planning. This is the project I really wish I had more time to dedicate to while working from home because balancing the rest of my job and an annual event for 3000 people with a $18,000+ budget can be a lot. But, since the pandemic isn’t over, we still just don’t know if there will be an event this fall, so there is only so much work I can do.

However, “only so much work” does not mean “no work”, and even with no clear answers about whether the event will only be a month of decorations or an all-in-one magical evening, there is a lot of prep work that needs to take place to create the level of immersion we are used to. I finalize the agenda for this week’s full committee meeting, update the list of past presenters to include those we contacted and cancelled in 2020, talked to our Decorations Lead about projects she can work on and projects she can bring to the group, booked meeting rooms for the end of September so we have a space to prep our décor before we hang it up at the beginning of the month, and prepare an assignment form with all the tasks delegated to the new Prize Drawings Lead committee role that I will be creating at Friday’s meeting.

I haven’t talked about this program much on the blog–it feels like a challenge just to figure out how to structure a series of blog posts about this event. But maybe someday? In the meantime, catch a glimpse of what this event looked like in 2019 in this video (moving forward, we have made the decision to keep the magic, but remove anything directly related to Harry Potter).

6 pm: Done for the day! As much as I dislike mornings, it feels great to have a full evening to myself (especially when a work from home day follows another work from home day, and I don’t have to go to bed super early because I don’t have to wake up super early).

Work from home days have the benefit of large blocks of time that mean I can concentrate on a project and get it done in one sitting instead of having to return to it in 15-minute chunks of time over multiple days. My time work from home has helped me see the argument for the problem with multitasking–because in-library days are filled with multitasking as we help patrons, answer phones, pull bundles, respond to emails, talk to coworkers, and work on everything else on our list. I’m especially wondering how make-and-take programs will work with full in-building hours–those are ever popular, but for me, all work on those has been regulated to at-home time.

I’ve never been bored during work from home days, that’s for sure. I’ve been a bit jealous of people who have been able to power through their backlog of webinars and professional development. I have been able to watch a decent amount of content over the last year (maybe 1-2 a month), but I have really had to prioritize it. More often than not, a great webinar is added to my running to-do list, and a few months later it drops off the list again because I know I won’t get to it.

What do you work from home days look like? Share in the comments below.

Virtual Reader’s Advisory Part 2

A lot can change in a few months! I last blogged about Virtual Reader’s Advisory and my video book talks in September. Since then, we’ve tried other methods of virtual reader’s advisory, including the Virtual Book Displays I shared a few months back and even a few Virtual Book Talks directly to classrooms.

But the biggest change since any of those previous posts is that–like many of you I imagine–my library is now open to the public! Real displays are once again a regular part of our service, and it feels like our patrons want them more than ever before, with displays quickly being emptied and a few requests last week for more face out picture book options.

However, many people still aren’t coming into the library, so we are continuing to look for ways to virtually promote books. Read on for some information on Overdrive Curated Collections and new video book talks.

OverDrive Curated Collections

Our OverDrive system (part of the larger Ohio Digital Library collection) lets us create collections of books to highlight on the Libby app and Overdrive website.

The backend looks a little drab, and the process for adding books to the list isn’t my favorite:

To add books to your list, you need to search for them one at a time in Overdrive Marketplace (or search for subject headings and filter).

Adding to the frustration of that system, many kids books, especially picture books, aren’t available as ebooks (or we don’t own them, and since I am not in charge of purchasing, I can’t add them).

But even with those struggles, I had a lot of fun making lists for this service. I use Libby a lot personally, and it feels great to see something I created front and center on a service like this.

From what I can tell, you should be able to see these collections through the links below, even without an account at my library. The exact books you see will be randomized, with available titles showing up first. Check out some of the collections I’ve made:

Video Book Talks

And of course, video book talks continue on our YouTube channel. I’ve streamlined this process a bit, but these still have a similar vibe to the ones shared in my original video book talk post as well as my virtual reader’s advisory post.

Find some of my newest highlighted titles below (and subscribe to my library’s YouTube channel for at least one additional video book talk each week!).

13th Street: Battle of the Bad Breath Bats by David Bowles

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Craftily Ever After by Martha Maker

Dave the Unicorn by Pip Bird

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso

Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed

Dramatic Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith

Farah Rocks Summer Break by Susan Muaddi Darraj

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Keep It Together Keiko Carter by Debbie Michiko Florence

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano

The Land of Cranes by Aida Salazar

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

Locker 37: The Rewindable Clock by Aaron Starmer

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher

Measuring Up by Lily Lamotte

Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White

Mia Mayhem is a Superhero! by Kara West

Not Your All-American Girl by Wendy Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Meija

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Museum by Renee Treml

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Sparkleton: The Magic Day by Calliope Glass

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom by Kelly Starling Lyons

Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zoey & Sassafras: Dragons & Marshmallows by Asia Citro

Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

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Agent 9: Flood-A-Geddon! by James Burks (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-3. Agent 9 has been put on probation for some reckless choices while on missions for the Super-Secret Spy Service (completing a mission probably shouldn’t come at the price of an avalanche that destroys a town). But when the rest of the Spy Service team is taken hostage, Nine is the only one left to battle the evil King Crab and stop his plans to take over the world.

Lots of fun, fast-paced action, and laughs. This will be perfect for fans of Dog Man and InvestiGATORS, feeling ideal for those 2nd-3rd graders. Looking forward to more.

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Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-5. Maggie is so, so excited for a puppy to call her own. Her parents have the new baby to worry about, and her twin brothers always have each other. It’s Maggie’s birthday, the shelter has the perfect puppy, and Maggie is about to bring it home–when she passes out.

Turns out, Maggie is allergic to everything with fur and feathers. While she can get allergy shots to help long term, she will never be able to own her own dog. Terribly disappointed, Maggie creates a list of pets she could have, determined to find the perfect one for her. But pet after pet simply doesn’t work out, and soon her allergies start to affect other parts of her life too. Her new class at her new school has a pet guinea pig that they have to give to another room because of Maggie’s allergies. No one wants to be friends with the new girl who cost them a class pet, and Maggie is feeling lonelier than ever. Can she find the perfect pet and also make a friend or two?

Sweet, fun, and a little heart wrenching, this is sure to be a winner with all readers looking for readalikes to Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, Baby-Sitters Club, and the other assortment of realistic fiction friendship and family graphic novels. Perhaps because this is based on the author’s own experiences, this feels a little deeper and more nuanced than some other recent additions to the realistic fiction graphic novel genre, managing to still be funny while also balancing real feelings of sadness, frustration, and loneliness. This will be hard to keep on the shelves.

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Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Gr. 4-7. Amari Peters just wants to find her brother. Quinton Peters was the favorite child of their local community, with perfect grades, involved in all the right clubs, and he even ran a local tutoring group for younger kids. When he vanishes, the police don’t seem to really care. No one is looking hard enough. Everyone is out of leads…until Amari discovers a briefcase left for her in her brother’s closet.

The briefcase opens Amari’s eyes to a magical world she never knew existed. Amari’s brother nominated her for a special summer training program for the secret Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is swept into a world filled with all kinds of amazing and incredible things, but she also knows that this place has to hold the secret of what happened to her brother.

So, in between getting to know her weredragon roommate (and best friend), studying for her training exams, and dodging the racist and classist remarks of the “legacy” kids whose rich families have always been a part of the supernatural crime fighting force, Amari does everything she can to find information about her brother’s last case before he disappeared. That isn’t particularly easy when she is revealed to be a magician–an illegal type of supernatural being that is known for harming and killing Bureau agents–including Amari’s own brother.

THIS BOOK THIS BOOK THIS BOOK! This is going to be my go-to fantasy series recommendation from now on. The world building is fantastic, with so much here to explore that many series could easily be spun off of this one title. The plot is fast-paced, giving the reader just enough time to get comfortable before moving on to the next twist–but not in a way that feels overwhelming or too unrealistic. And of course there is Amari–spunky, cunning, sarcastic, amazing Amari. Where is the sequel? The movie adaptation? Add this to your library, throw it at every child, and someone buy the film or TV rights to this series now because this is going to be big.

(This is going to get compared heavily to Harry Potter–as any magical school book does–but I think this book deserves better. If you must compare it to something, Lockwood and Company has the fast-paced supernatural mystery and Rick Riordan’s mythology worlds have the summer-experience and the talking inanimate objects. But really–let this shine on its own.)

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InvestiGators: Off the Hook by John Patrick Green (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Gators Mango and Brash are on another crime-fighting spree. This time they are determined to track down the missing snake-armed-plumber all while trying to figure out who could have robbed a local bank. Costume changes, travel by sewer, and fantastic spy tech help our heroes prevail. But when it comes to saving their partner or capturing the villain–which will the InvetiGATORS choose?

More InvetGATORs fun. This series continues to be ideal for Dog Man fans, capturing the humor, puns, and sometimes non-sensical combination of mystery, adventure, and action. I appreciate how even the villains show character development through the Dog Man series; that hasn’t happened yet here, but I hope it does soon so these books don’t begin to feel too repetitive.

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The Leak by Kate Reed Petty (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Ruth Keller might be twelve, but she is already a passionate journalist, running her own email newsletter sharing fun rumors and stories about her community. When she runs into something very real–and very strange–at the local lake, she knows she has a story to find. This shiny black slime surely doesn’t belong here (and really it probably isn’t from aliens, as she first assumed). After she tells some adults about it, she finds a mysterious clean-up crew at the lake removing all traces of the strange sludge.

Ruth’s mind jumps to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, but surely nothing like that could happen here. Her endless cavities might be a mystery (since Ruth brushes AND flosses every single day), but this water issue can’t be related…right? Soon Ruth is forced to take matters into her own hands when the adults around her try to bury any controversy and avoid her questions. Ruth is on the brink of something big–she just needs to find the evidence to make everyone believe her.

This was good–really good. The mystery leaves clues in the words and the illustrations, with the reader spotting clues along with the main character. The comparison to the Flint water crisis (and the cover up) was on point. And I love a strong, smart heroine who isn’t about to let anyone bully her into silence. Really well done!

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Quincredible Vol. 1: Quest to Be the Best! by Rodney Barnes (graphic novel)
Gr. 5-8. Meet Quin. After a meteor shower, he (and many other people in New Orleans) were given special powers–the powers of superheroes. Quin is invulnerable–but that doesn’t feel very useful when you can’t run fast or throw a punch (it just means you can take a lot of punches from a lot of bullies and get back up again afterwards).

But after catching the eye of another local superhero, Quin decides he wants to use his super talent and his brains to try to be an actual hero. But where there are heroes, there are always villains, and Quin finds himself trying to keep his identity hidden while figuring out who the real villains are as racial tensions mount after more and more disasters strike his hometown.

This doesn’t hold up quite as strongly as some other recent superhero comics, but it feels like a realistic origin story that makes me want to dig more into this character. I want to read Vol. 2–I feel like this story has created a setup that gives it plenty of room to develop and stand on its own as more issues are released.

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Welcome to Wagmire by Melody Mews (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Itty is so excited to visit her friend Prince Pip in his kingdom of Wagmire! Itty wants to spend time with her friend, but things sure are different in Wagmire: there are dog toys everywhere, a giant castle that touches the sky, and everyone travels by dragon (instead of cloud). When Itty and her new friends get stuck in a treehouse, can Itty figure out a way to help them get down?

Another cute Itty Bitty adventure! This series is sure to please with its friendship-filled stories, messages about kindness, and kitty, unicorn, fairy, and glitter-filled illustrations. Lots of puppy love in the newest addition!

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