Author Archives for Annamarie Carlson

Play & Learn at Home

Last summer, a coworker and I ran a very successful baby and toddler play program. Each week, about 80-100 parents and little ones joined us for a variety of interactive activities.

Six months ago, when we were planning for May-August 2020, we were thrilled to be able to offer Play & Learn again this summer, plus an additional four weeks in May.

Then COVID happened.

Obviously we weren’t expecting a pandemic, but luckily we were able to shift our plans to adapt this program virtually for the month of May.

Each week, Lisa (my coworker) and I emailed registered caregivers a video and instruction sheet for two DIY play activities, made from objects commonly found around the house.

My share of the content can be found below:

Cereal Boxes and Straws

Cereal Boxes & Straws Instruction Sheet

Tissue Box Play

Tissue Box Play Instruction Sheet

Tape Play

Tape Play Instruction Sheet

Card Slot Drop

Card Slot Drop Instruction Sheet

Make sure to check out Lisa’s great content as well. Check out the links below about how to make:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (5/18/20-5/24/20).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Graphic Novels:

Everything Else:

Note: Some part of my brain decided that this was the perfect weekend for cleaning, creating real storage solutions (instead of hodgepodge-ing what I own), and going through my Disney pin collection. About twelve hours into all of that, my brain wanted to know why I thought this was a good idea. Too late now.

Reading Highlights:

  • So You Want to Be an Owl – Great non-fiction picture book that sneakily teaches fun facts about birds with a great approach. I hope this becomes a series.
  • Slow Samson – I’m always up for a sloth picture book, even if I’m not as obsessed as Michala, and this is a solid read with a good plot about friendship and embracing differences.
  • The Weirn Books – This is my second stand-out fantasy graphic novel in the last two weeks (Beetle & the Hollowbones was last week’s). There are going to be a ton of great titles out there by the end of the year for fans of Amulet and Snapdragon.
  • Sasha & Puck (Elixir Fixers) – I love this first chapter series, and I really hope more books are published. It is a great mixture of a spunky and intelligent female main character, a sprinkle of scientific thinking, and a touch of magic. Plus diverse main character. I want more.
  • **Note about Iggy Peck and the Mysterious Mansion – I feel bad for this title–if it had been published in an alternate universe, I wouldn’t feel like I would need to write something. However, we are living in a pandemic-filled world. The book digs into a mystery connected to the Spanish Flu, specifically the (dead) daughter of a mansion owner. There is a part, small as it is, that essentially says (not exact words, I was listening to the audio)–“The Spanish Flu was scary and millions of people died, but don’t worry, we have doctors and great medicine now, so that will never happen again.” This may not be the best title to hand to a child at the current moment.

Michala’s Reading

Note: Happy Memorial Day! Plant some geraniums, thank a veteran, wear your masks, and wash your hands!

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 4

My fourth (and final) virtual toddler storytime this week! Next week we are on to preschool!

I had quite a bit of fun with this age range. My baby storytimes tend to focus on the 12-24 month crowd because of their size and tendency to dominate the program, so this was just a small nudge up that allowed me to use slightly longer books and activities with more motions. I’m bouncing all over the place age-wise now that we are sticking with virtual programs for a bit, moving into semi-regular preschool storytimes and a return to baby storytime in June.

These virtual storytimes have been really helpful for my storytime repertoire–I came into libraries as the only youth librarian in a large department who wasn’t presenting a regular weekly storytime. I filled in and did outreach, but there is so much more to learn week-to-week. I was suddenly tossed into baby storytime knowing nothing other than that babies have large heads and don’t respond when asked a question, but I was able to get my footing with that age range and figure out a program structure that worked well for me and that the parents (and littles) enjoyed. Being able to dig into some of the older age ranges consistently is letting me explore and discover new (to me) content in a great way.

Background: While my library is closed during the COVID pandemic, we are hosting five virtual storytimes a week, livestreamed through our Facebook page. While those livestreams are deleted soon after they are complete, we are also making YouTube clips of select elements of our storytimes that our patrons can view anytime they would like–and that I can share with all of you!

Find additional content at the links below:

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip & Book Recommendation: Crunch the Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap

Song: Can You? by the Wiggles

Fingerplay: Here is the Beehive

Retelling: White Rabbit’s Color Book

Manipulative: Stuffed Animal Play

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Virtual School Age: Virtual and Augmented Reality

I’ve been part of my library’s virtual storytime team for the last few months (and into the summer). Last week, I had a chance to dive into school age programming again.

This was my second foray into a virtual Innovation Academy program. I received zero feedback from the first program or from this program, so I have essentially no idea what patrons thought of either event, or if they even opened the documents I sent. So it goes with virtual programming.

Read more about the how, why, and pros and cons for this particular program series in my last post on this topic: Virtual School Age: Coding.

Some details on how this series works:

  • Program materials are designed and curated for ages 6-11.
  • Attendees register via Evanced (our regular event registration software).
  • On the day of the event, the program presenter emails attendees a video introduction as well as a PDF with resources, content, and activities to do at home.


The challenge with tech programs at home is coming up with tech ideas that only use technology the average family is likely to own–essentially, a computer and a smartphone. Coding was an easy choice, but so many of my regular in-library programs rely on physical technology (3D pens, 3D printer, Bloxels, various robots, etc.).

Augmented Reality just involves a smartphone–something that many people may already own (or at least those people who are signing up virtually for a virtual event).

I wanted to make this program a bit more focused with activities that build based on your knowledge and age–starting with defining the concept, moving on to exploring the concept, and finally creating something on your own.

This was a great plan until I spent way too many hours trying to find a tool that allows kids to create their own Augmented Reality apps or games. This feels like it should exist, and it does in a few forms, but most of those forms involve (1) apps that are outdated/don’t work with the newest Android/Apple updates, (2) software that costs money, or (3) apps that are in development by Princeton and will be SO COOL in three years.

To allow for that “create” portion of the program, I expanded the program topic to “Augmented and Virtual Reality.” While you can’t explore virtual reality without a headset, you can create some cool virtual reality tours with Google that can be made and shared without needing a headset. Is it as cool without a headset? No. Does it still get the point across? Yes.

Just like last time, I provided an instruction video for participants:

Participants can watch the video, or they can move straight to the packet, included below. It covers the concepts reviewed in the video, and also provides a written explanation of the resources and tutorial shown in the video.

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 3

My third virtual toddler storytime this week!

Some new materials for me in this storytime–this is my first time reading Spunky Little Monkey in a storytime. I also decided to use some of the materials that I didn’t have time for last week–they fit a bit better than some of the new rhymes I was planning to try this week.

Weird question for the wide world of virtual storytime presenters: if you have a team presenting virtual storytimes, do you coordinate with them? Choose the same intro/closing songs? Talk about what you each have planned for a particular week?

For example, one of my coworkers did the scarf activity I was planning to do with toddlers this week–adapted for babies–at Baby Storytime last week. Generally, at in-person storytimes, I don’t know about or care about this kind of overlap, as we mostly have different audiences for each storytime. However, these virtual storytimes feel different. Yes, I’m preparing an activity for toddlers–and that activity can really work for babies and preschoolers too–but a decent portion of our audience is the same at every storytime. Is it weird to do the same larger activity–not talking about opening/closing songs and more intentional week-to-week repetition–at two storytimes in the same week when the audience is the same? Am I overthinking this? (Answer: yes.)

Background: While my library is closed during the COVID pandemic, we are hosting five virtual storytimes a week, livestreamed through our Facebook page. While those livestreams are deleted soon after they are complete, we are also making YouTube clips of select elements of our storytimes that our patrons can view anytime they would like–and that I can share with all of you!

Find additional content at the links below:

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Settle Down Rhyme: This is Big

Early Literacy Tip & Book Recommendation: Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr.

Song: Walk and You Walk and You Walk and You Stop by Rainbow Songs

Action Rhyme: Bubble Bubble Pop

Flannel: Five Little Penguins

Action Rhyme: The Elevator Song

Manipulative: Shaker Time!

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Extra, Extra:

No video for this, but I was planning to read Snip-Snap Pop-Up Fun, but I cut it due to time.

Summer Reading Promo

Like so many libraries, we are re-examining our Summer Reading Program through a virtual lens. At the end of 2019, we moved our reading program from software designed and managed in-house to the ReadSquared platform, kicking off using that service with our first Winter Reading Program in December. Personally, I can’t say I love ReadSquared, but it gets the job done.

We don’t have answers to many of the questions that I see being asked in Facebook Groups every day–how are you distributing prizes? Will any part of the program be available in person? What about people without Internet?

My library doesn’t have all of those answers, and I surely don’t, but I did get tasked with making a video to replace our annual school assemblies. A few years ago, we were able to start visiting 15+ elementary schools in our service area during May for assembly-style presentations where we got kids excited about summer reading. In Ohio, the kids didn’t go back to school after mid-March, so those assemblies obviously were not going to happen. However, we did want to send the schools something to supplement those visits.

Enter the summer reading video.

This took me a few full days worth of work to make, with the bulk of the work taking about 8 hours (filming, editing, screaming at my computer, etc.). Finished product is below:

…and the how-I-did-it follows.


General Idea

I knew I wanted to create a video that mimicked the general style of YouTubers–short quick cuts, lots of humor. That seemed like a safe, approachable direction that should appeal to elementary students, and it also meant that I wouldn’t have to (1) memorize really long chunks of text or (2) read from a script (a pet peeve of mine–it is always obvious you are reading, and it always pulls me out of whatever I am watching).

During my storytime videos I just talk freely, but I wanted to make sure I got my words exactly right in this video because so much of our program is up in the air, and people remember what we say. I don’t want to talk about how the kids get to choose their own prize books (a normal staple of our program) when that may not happen this year. We just don’t know.

I was a bit lost for direction on this until a coworker sent me a lovely video made by a school librarian advertising their book fair. I think her humor and silly motions gave me a much better idea of what I was aiming for (and an answer to the dreaded “how do I start?”).


Storyboard Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

Back in the days when I made videos more frequently, I got into the habit of storyboarding. I knew I was going to need some sort of direction for this video, as I was planning for a lot of short clips/scenes to keep the video moving.

I didn’t draw out a full storyboard, but I did write out a simple word document breaking the film into clips including my general ideas for props, background, and more:

Some of this changed before the final run through–I couldn’t find free green screen software quickly, so I dropped the space bit. The Spongebob rainbow imagination hands didn’t translate when filming either. However, this gave me a place to start.

PPT Text

I transferred big chunks of text to PPT slides, broken into the small bits that were going to take place in one cut. I was going to use this as a script behind the camera to read from, though, as mentioned before, I hate reading from a script, so I ended up just using this to help practice before saying whatever came out of my mouth on film.

Props & Supplies

Mostly, I didn’t need too many props…except for the bits where I attempt to be funny near the beginning middle. (Yes, that is supposed to be a tiger king joke. No, I don’t think it hits home.)

I worked with what I have on hand. For example, the book fair video started with that school librarian playing a trumpet and using a toy megaphone. I have neither. I made a paper megaphone and leaned into the awkward by writing MEGAPHONE on the side.

After the experience I had filming this, I would suggest less props. I think I started to lose my mind when I started swapping out all of the props on the storage unit behind me for each of the “funny” bits (tiger king, Harry Potter, Frozen). This took much more time than it was worth (maybe 10 seconds of camera time for 20-30 minutes of setup and destroying my house).



I don’t really have a house that is setup for filming anything. The easiest room for me to film in is a spare bedroom, which was essentially a storage space before this. To avoid the mugshot effect (filming against a bare wall), I hiked upstairs the best piece of furniture I could stage–a 3×3 cube unit (that had once been holding craft supplies…that are now all over my house). For storytimes, keeping this unit on the floor works well–it isn’t very tall, but I was trying to focus on the rhymes and my stuffed bear “baby.”

For this video, I wanted my background to be more engaging. So, suddenly, the cube unit is precariously on top of a trunk, and I am rearranging the items on the unit to appeal a bit more to the 6-11 year old crowd instead of the 2-3 year old audience I normally have.

I also had to figure out placement. For storytimes, I am typically a bit further away from the camera–for baby storytime, I want my lap to be in the shot to show when I am touching my baby’s feet or bouncing; for toddler storytime I need to have enough space around me to hold up a flannel board or book. None of that mattered here–it was all about me being engaging, and, following the pattern of YouTubers everywhere, that meant making myself more of a central part of the frame. Figuring out how to position myself with roughly my shoulders and head filling the frame with a background that was engaging but not overpowering took more time than I would like to admit.


The particular equipment I use included:

For my particular device, I think the audio in the smartphone is sufficient (no need for an external mike). I have a few issues with lighting on particularly gloomy days, but 90% of the time, natural lighting is the best option when filming. Just make sure your window isn’t directly behind you.

Being on Camera

I read about the struggles of being on camera for many librarians, and, unfortunately for any readers out there, I don’t have too much to add to that conversation. I think I’m actually a little more comfortable in front of the camera at this point than I often am in front of patrons.

My tips for getting comfortable:

  • Don’t watch yourself while filming. If you tend to overthink everything you do, turn your phone around and film with that much higher-quality camera on the back of your device. I started doing this for live storytimes because, on an Android device, you can’t flip a livestream so that the words in a book are facing the right way for the audience on your front-facing camera. And it is freeing. I stare at that little circle on my phone and release any tension–I can’t see comments, I can’t see my weird hand gestures, I can’t see anything–and it is all out of my control now. Embrace the chaos. It let me stop overthinking every motion.
  • Picture that one storytime kid. You know the one. The one that comes to all of your storytimes, and hopefully appears at some virtual ones too. I know that Miss Julia is always watching–and she is who I am presenting too. If no one else comes, I know Julia had a blast–and that is all I need.
  • Get silly. I am always, always, so self-aware in storytimes. I can move past some of it, especially with a bigger crowd, but when I have just a few adults and kids staring at me, it makes me very aware of my every motion and every time a story, song, or joke doesn’t connect. I am always looking for reactions–and here, I have to give that up because there are no reactions (at least that I can see while presenting). It is just me. So, mentally, I tell myself that every single thing hit home. There is nothing to tell me otherwise–so gosh darn it I am going to believe that the viewers LOVED every second of it. This lets me get sillier than usual. There isn’t a mom in the corner silently judging me (more likely spacing out completely out of exhaustion, but our brains tell us we are the center of the universe so…). It is just me dancing like no one is watching.


Oh, editing.

Your success and frustration with editing is largely going to depend on your computer. Do you have a high-powered computer? Preferably a Mac? The fastest, best internet humanly possible? You should be set.

Oh, you are like the rest of us mortals, and you don’t have all those things?

Join the club.

I have a decent-ish (Windows) computer now, but it was still a struggle at many points in the editing process. I don’t suggest you buy a new computer for this, so use what you have.

I used OpenShot video editior. This is free software that gets the job done. It is not very intuitive–not nearly as intuitive as, say, iMovie (available for free on a Mac)–but it has the bells and whistles if you know where to find them. I had to do a lot of Google searches to figure out how to do most tasks, but there are many really accessible tutorials out there. Just be ready for the time commitment and learning curve, especially the first time you use it.


I didn’t worry too much about music being copyrighted, except for whether YouTube would demonetize a video vs. block it entirely. Most popular songs lead to demonetization, which as a public library not making any ad revenue anyway, this really isn’t a big deal. (Some songs do lead to a Youtube video being blocked in most countries, which is depressing after all of the effort you put in to make it.)

I was able to download both songs I used for free from Freegal using my library card. I also regularly pull Royalty Free Music from for introductions and such.

So many of us are filming our own videos now…what are you doing? What questions do you have? Virtual programming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon–how are you making it work for you?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (5/4/20-5/10/20).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

Everything Else:

Note: And my reading picked up again. It may keep increase for a bit as many of my favorite TV shows are wrapping up. I think I got a bit caught up in eARCs, and I’m not sure that trend is over yet. I want to try to focus more on books that I’m more personally engaged in than the “all the books” mentality I’ve been in lately.

This week’s highlights:

  • Party Problems (Emma Every Day) – Everyday-adventures reader series starring a young deaf girl. Her and her friends use sign language throughout.
  • Act – This is a great graphic novel series, and you see more of the main character’s character development here. Hoping the end of the real book is less abrupt than where the eARC ends.
  • Fox & Rabbit – This is a great beginning reader graphic novel series that will appeal to fans of Elephant & Piggie or Narwhal.

Michala’s Reading

Note: I am feeling the people isolation very very hard this week. Most of my reading focused on graphic novels this week, because it was the only stuff really keeping me engaged.

Virtual Toddler Storytime: Week 2

My second virtual toddler storytime this week (and my first in my new set for the month of May!).

I’m mixing up my routine a little bit with this age range, including adding some new types of materials. I think attention-span-wise I am pushing preschool with some of this material, but from what I can tell in the Facebook Live comments, most of our audience is preschool age, so I think that’s okay. Next week leans more toddler.

I’m also working on getting to that 30 minute mark–I have a clock now that I can see while presenting, which really helps. I’ve also figured out my setup so that I can see myself–I can’t read comments, but I can tell if I disappear off screen, which is a little more likely since I am mixing up my activities.

For sake of time, I dropped the intro bits from my videos…it saves me a few minutes a video, and I’m looking for ways to make this take less time, since our audience does seem to watch them. I did realize that now I don’t introduce myself, so I’ll adjust for that next week.

Background: While my library is closed during the COVID pandemic, we are hosting five virtual storytimes a week, livestreamed through our Facebook page. While those livestreams are deleted soon after they are complete, we are also making YouTube clips of select elements of our storytimes that our patrons can view anytime they would like–and that I can share with all of you!

Find additional content at the links below:

Toddler Storytime Intro Song & Rhyme

Early Literacy Tip & Book Recommendation: There’s a Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher

Song: Hot Potato by the Wiggles

Action Rhyme: Roll Roll Sugar Babies

Book Retelling: Bark George

Action Rhyme: Bananas Unite

Flannel: Little Mouse

Closing Song: The Popcorn Song by Laura Doherty

Extra, Extra:

Virtual Baby Shark Storytime!

This has been a crazy past week of storytimes, but I kicked off May family storytime Saturdays with Baby Shark Storytime!

I ran this program in person back in January to a whopping 185 people! While that was just a few months ago, it feels closer to three years, and it was also something easy enough for me to replicate virtually that has a strong following.

We had a 30 minute storytime followed by about 10 minutes of Baby Shark bubbles and dancing. Videos of most content can be found below–as usual, there are a few more videos than I actually had time for during the storytime.

I also made a PDF for families filled with Baby Shark activities to do at home. See and download below:

We had about 63 live viewers, with 100 one-minute views by the end of the live recording. Not a bad turnout for one of our slowest virtual storytime days of the week.

Background: While my library is closed during the COVID pandemic, we are hosting five virtual storytimes a week, livestreamed through our Facebook page. While those livestreams are deleted soon after they are complete, we are also making YouTube clips of select elements of our storytimes that our patrons can view anytime they would like–and that I can share with all of you!

Find additional content at the links below:

Introduction Song

We sung and danced along to Shake Your Sillies Out. I can’t upload a YouTube video of this one because of copyright.


Apparently I never uploaded the video of the fingerplay we did to get ourselves settled for our first story.

We did Two Little Sharks:

Two little sharks in the deep blue sea,
One named Luna and one named Lee,
Swim away Luna, swim away Lee!
Come back Luna, come back Lee!

Continued with: Swimming on a wave…Dorothy and Dave

Book: Baby Shark

Baby Shark: Bajet, John John: 9781338556056: Books

Song: The Goldfish Song by Laurie Berkner

Puppets: Slippery Fish

Magnet: 5 Sharks in the Bathtub

Book: Shark in the Park

Shark In The Park: Nick Sharratt: 9780857534781: Books

Closing Song: Baby Shark


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (4/27/20-5/3/20).

Annamarie’s Reading

Note: As I expected, my reading slowed down this week. Even having back my normal two hours commuting a day, I can’t keep up that reading pace. I had a couple great ones this week–Once Upon an Eid and June’s Wild Flight. I also really enjoyed Science Comics: Crows–this series is really touch and go on readability of particular titles, but I flew right through this one.

Michala’s Reading

Note: I had my first Virtual Quaran-teen Advisory Board this week and might actually pull my act together and make a blog post about the awesome awkwardness that is teenagers on GoToMeeting!

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