Author Archives for Annamarie Carlson

Baby Play: Squiqz

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

In most of my baby play posts, I talk about items that are easy and relatively cheap to replicate, often with items found around the house or at Dollar Tree. I love using play items like cereal boxes and straws and taped toys because they provide parents with ideas that they can easily recreate on their own and remind everyone that baby toys don’t have to be super expensive.

However, if a library has the budget, it can also be nice to provide some items that cost money too. For more affluent parents, you are providing them an opportunity to test out some baby items before making the decision to purchase something. For those families with less funds, you are giving their little ones an opportunity to interact with a type of toy they may not be able to experience at home.

One of my coworkers came across Squiqz when visiting family. These “fun little suckers” (the actual slogan) are essentially flexible, brightly colored building tools with suction cups. A standard collection comes with eight different designs, most of which involve at least two suction cups. They stick to each other and most surfaces, including windows, mirrors, and cookie sheets, never leaving a residue behind.

These tools are a fascinating texture for little hands (and mouths). Made of BPA-free, latex-free silicone, they easily survive the chewing that always takes place during baby play time. The smallest babies just love exploring their shapes with their hands and mouths. Slightly older babies (8-18 months) are developing the fine motor skills to be able to stick these individually to a flat surface and to pull them off afterwards (often more challenging). Older toddlers can start to build structures by sticking them together, as their finger muscles get stronger.

Recommended Purchases

Fat Brain Toys Original Squigz Deluxe 50 Piece Set – Suction Construction Bath Toys for Ages 3 to 8

Price: $50 for 50 piece set (more price and size options available)

Available At: Amazon, Target, Walmart

Items to Extend Play:

  • Cookie Sheets (Dollar Tree)
  • Baby-Safe Mirrors

Possible Future Purchases:

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • What does it feel like?
  • What color is the Squig?
  • Can you make it stick to the window?
  • How many do you have?
  • What can you do to get the Squigz off the cookie sheet?
  • What happens if the Squigz get wet?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Adhere
Bendy
Build
Flexible
Glue

Peel
Press
Pressure
Pull
Stick

Stretch
Suckers
Suction
Unsteady
Wobbly

Winnie the Pooh Party

I love hosting popular character parties, and in January 2019 I was able to celebrate one of my favorite characters of all time–Winnie the Pooh.

I planned to begin the program by reading a Winnie the Pooh book, but as I looked through the titles we owned, none were really great for a read aloud for preschoolers. After bouncing like Tiggers and talking about Winnie the Pooh, I sent attendees to complete activities.

We regrouped about 20 minutes into the program to play Winnie the Pooh BINGO.

Activity stations included:

  • Craft: Pooh and Friends Headbands
  • Game: Pin the Tail on Eeyore
  • Scavenger Hunt: Count the Bees
  • Obstacle Course: Catch the Heffalump

Pooh BINGO

About 20 minutes into the program, we all played Winnie the Pooh BINGO. We play a few rounds until everyone wins.

Since most of our audience was younger (ages 2-4), these boards only require four in a row to earn a BINGO. BINGO boards can be downloaded above.

BINGO winners received a Winnie the Pooh Activity book, downloadable below. These were printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper to create a foldable booklet.

Honey Pot Bags

At many of my party programs, kids create or earn a variety of small trinkets. I learned early on that this turns into parents having a variety of items to carry around and kids leaving items they made all over the place (possibly resulting in tears or arguments later). To help with this, I provide a bag for each child.

These bags, while adorable, were way too much work to make. The dripping honey was cut by hand out of yellow cardstock, and the letters were printed on yellow vinyl by our Cricut. The other side of the bag included a white label with space for kids (or parents) to write their name.

Pooh & Friends Headbands

Kids could make a headband to wear based on their preferred character–Pooh, Piglet, or Tigger. Attendees practiced scissor skills and built finger muscles cutting out ears, and parents and teen volunteers assisted with stapling headbands together.

Pin the Tail on Eeyore

Just like it sounds–kids played Pin the Tail on Eeyore. Eeyore and tails were printed on our library banner printer by our marketing department. After winning, they received a Winnie the Pooh sticker (bought off Amazon).

Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

Thirty-two bumblebees were hidden around our meeting rooms. Kids went on a hunt to find as many bees as they could. If they counted a number 25 or higher, they received a Winnie the Pooh bookmark.

Download scavenger hunt sheet below:

Download prize bookmarks below:

Catch the Heffalump Obstacle Course

Participants could complete an age-appropriate “Catch the Heffalump” obstacle course. Kids crossed Pooh Stick’s bridge, crawled into Rabbit’s House (tunnel), dug through Eeyore’s Gloomy Place to find his tail, bounced with Tigger, and completed exercises with Pooh.

Pooh Books & Materials

As always at programs, I included a variety of appropriate library materials. Kids and parents sat and read Winnie the Pooh books. During the event (except during BINGO), the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh played on the large screen. Many families took Pooh materials home.

Baby Play: Pool Noodle Abacus

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

The pool noodle abacus helps the littlest children practice fine motor skills and older toddlers and preschool practice basic math. While a true abacus requires more than two strings, this creates a similar effect for young learners, while also providing a cool activity to experiment with how the pool noodle pieces move back and forth and how much pressure the yarn can withstand.

I tied the string between two chairs, though I would suggest something more sturdy if you have that available. Many children moved the chairs or manged to remove one end of the string (the top piece was taped on instead of tied on). Also consider whether you want the string closer to a wall or further away–having the lower string further from the wall encouraged climbing between the strings. This can be a great way to practice gross motor skills, or it can also be seen as a tripping hazard.

How to Make

Materials: yarn, pool noodles, knife, scissors

Steps:

  • Use the knife to cut 1-2 pool noodles into roughly 1-3″ pieces.
  • Tie one end of a piece of thick yarn to a sturdy surface, like a chair.
  • String about 20 pool noodle pieces onto the string (or whatever amount fits in the space you have).
  • Cut the other end of the string, leaving at least 1-2 feet of empty string so pieces can be moved easily.
  • Securely tie the other end of the string to another sturdy surface.
  • Repeat for however many rows of strings you would like to create.

Cost: $0-5

  • 2 Pool Noodles (Dollar Tree)
  • Yarn

Time to Make: 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: To expand this activity, try cutting a vertical slit in one side of a pool noodle piece so the pool noodle piece can also be removed from the string. Little ones can explore how to add or remove pool noodle pieces from the abacus.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • How many red pool noodle pieces are on the rope?
  • Can you find a blue pool noodle?
  • How many pool noodle pieces are on the rope total?
  • Can you push five pieces to one side of the rope?
  • How do the pool noodles feel?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Add
Count
Guess
Hang
Itchy
Light

Move
Prickly
Rope
Scoot
Scratchy
Shift

Squeeze
String
Subtract
Tally
Total
Yarn

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 (11/4/19-11/10/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Michala’s top titles include:

Note: After several weeks of failing to read I am back on the reading rainbow! Lavar Burton would be proud.

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2019

Graphic novels are one of my favorite mediums to read. I try to keep up with what my patrons are reading, so I make an effort to pick up the newest or most talked about series. Some of them I love–I will forever be a Dog Man fan–and some of them I am fine letting go after the first book (sorry Plants vs. Zombies).

I never read graphic novels or comics growing up. In fact, I don’t think I read my first graphic novel until library school, when a few “classic” kid titles were required reading for my children’s literature classes. I fell in love with the format. I always associated graphic novels with comics and comics with white superheros and never-ending violent fight scenes. Graphic novels (and comics) offer so much more than that, with a modern young reader being able to find essentially any genre in graphic novel format. The blend of words and illustrations also makes it easier for a reader to try something new–while those older superhero comics are still not my preference, some of the newer imagingings of those characters and stories are my favorite series.

Each year, a brand new selection of amazing graphic novels is released. Some of my favorites published this year are featured below.

All of these titles represent the physical book, not any audiobook adaptation that has been or will be produced in the future.

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Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir
This sassy mash up imagines a world where three girls from various “classic” fantasy novels live in the same universe and end up at the same boarding school, a place designed to help them learn how to harness their world-crossing powers. Wendy, Alice, and Dorothy are all tired of being told what to do and what to think and are quickly dashing between magical universes, leaving havoc in their wake.

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The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This graphic adaptation of the Newbery winning novel delivers, capturing the emotions, spirit, and rhythm of the original story while adding an entirely new dimension through its beautiful illustrations.

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Guts by Raina Telgemeier
How can you have a list of great graphic novels and not include the reigning queen? While Raina’s popularity as an author is unquestioned, this book lives up to the hype. Raina expertly depicts what it is like to deal with the everyday ups and downs of middle school, while also introducing to young readers a very real struggle with anxiety.

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Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki
I am not a traditional comics reader, and I didn’t know anything about Harley Quinn before this graphic novel. Surprising to me, I quickly found myself immersed in this world and rooting for the antihero Harley becomes as she is forced to stand on her own two feet after both of her parents abandon her.

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Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Hatke combines his two most popular universes–those of Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack–in his newest book. Friends and enemies from both series clash as Jack, Lilly, and Zita must learn how to work together to save their home planet.

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Narwhal’s Otter Friend by Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly’s adventures continue, this time introducing a new friend–and a new emotion–to their otherwise joyful friendship. This continues to be a go to series for ages 6-8.

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New Kid by Jerry Craft
One of my new favorites for book talks. Jordan loves to draw, but instead of sending him to art school, his parents send him to a prestigious private school. Jordan immediately feels uncomfortable–he is attending on a scholarship, and he is one of the only black kids in the entire school. Jordan tries to make new friends as he learns to balance the two worlds that divide his attention.

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The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The back matter describes this as a combination of Roller Girl and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and I don’t think I can come up with a better summary. Middle schooler Moth discovers that her family is caught up in the center of century-old drama in her small Massachusetts town–they are the remaining descendants of some of the most famous witches from history. There is a lot more to figure out than just how to control her new powers, as Moth quickly becomes torn between family members, friends, and the new world she is excited to discover.

Princess, Volume 9: Love Yourself by Jeremy Whitley
The spectacular Princeless graphic novel series is coming to an end. This penultimate volume begins wrapping up many storylines, not the least of which involves Princess Adrienne confronting her father’s misogyny. An excellent volume that just leaves me even more excited for the end of the series.

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The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Traditional fairy tales have never been my favorite types of stories. While I am always interested in a fractured retellings, the traditional versions never rang true for me–I was always reading a version that was too sweet or too grim, and both styles felt like they were just trying to beat a lesson into my head. This collection of “new” fairy tales adds humor to stories that feel like they have been around for a few generations, often without the needed “lessons” feeling quite so harshly delivered at the end.

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Stargazing by Jen Wang
Christine becomes unlikely friends with her new, strange neighbor, Moon. As the girls become closer, they both reveal some of their most precious secrets. After disaster strikes, can Christine find the courage to be the friend that Moon deserves?

Baby Play: Card Slot Drop

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

Similar to the cereal boxes and straws activity, the card slot drop’s popularity always surprises me. This very simple DIY activity involves cutting a card-sized hole into a container–in this case a bulk-sized Oatmeal container–and providing cards for babies to drop inside of the opening.

I have coworkers who regularly donate these cylindrical oatmeal containers, so they become a great, free resource for these kinds of activities. I particularly like how easy the lid is to remove. Parents can easily dump out the contents of a container if it gets full, and older toddlers can manage to open the container themselves, growing finger muscles and providing a sense of accomplishment.

Babies enjoy putting smaller objects into bins, but this activity is particularly beneficial because of the small card-sized hole in the lid. In addition to fine motor skills, it takes practiced dexterity and hand eye coordination for little ones to be able to fit the card into the slot.

How to Make

Materials: pack of playing cards, empty oatmeal container (alternatively could be a box or other sturdy container on hand), duct tape, x-acto knife

Steps:

  • Use the knife to cut a slot in the lid of the oatmeal container (or box) that is about a 0.25″ x 3″ (wide enough for a playing card to fit through).
  • As necessary, cover any ripped or jagged edges with pieces of duct tape.
  • Put lid onto container.
  • Put out container and pack of opened playing cards.

Cost: $0-5

  • Playing Cards (Dollar Tree)
  • Empty Oatmeal Container or Box

Time to Make: 10 minutes

Pro-Tip: I’ve had more success cutting the slot into the lid of the oatmeal container while the lid was on the empty container. This may just be due to my lack of skills with cutting implements.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you put the card inside the container?
  • How many cards can you fit in at one time?
  • What does the card feel like?
  • Shake the container. What does it sound like?
  • How can you get the cards back out?
  • Play pretend. What else could the playing cards be?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Bounce
Dexterity
Drop
Dump
Empty
Fall

Full
Hide
Into
Jolt
Open
Rattle

Release
Slide
Slip
Slit
Smooth
Within

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 (10/28/19-11/3/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

I read a lot this week, and I am planning to get back to regular blog posts this week or next. Stay tuned!

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Note: Between the Wizards & Wands Festival and my mom visiting from Chicago this week I have read no books. I have read some blogs and fanfiction stories, but we aren’t really counting those right now. Next on my TBR list is a book fanfiction inspired book:

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 (10/21/19-10/27/19).

Annamarie’s Reading

Annamarie’s top titles include:

Note: Annamarie serves as chair of the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. Due to her position, she listens to and evaluates many audiobooks for children and teens. Annamarie never includes any of the audiobooks she listens to in her “What Are You Reading?” posts.

Michala’s Reading

Note: Between the Wizards & Wands Festival and my mom visiting from Chicago this week I have read no books. I have read some blogs and fanfiction stories, but we aren’t really counting those right now. Next on my TBR list is a book fanfiction inspired book:

Also I’ll be headed to YALSA on Friday, if you are headed there to let me know in the comments!

Book Talk – 5th Grade Reads

My library has a fantastic relationship with our local school district. We regularly partner with teachers, principals, and entire school buildings in variety of ways, from daily public library delivery and end of year summer reading assemblies to quarterly book talk and storytime visits.

I love book talking in classrooms–it gives me an opportunity to talk to a captive room of kids about the library, but it also provides me with a chance to talk to students about what they want to see their library offer and about the kind of books they really like. It also gives me a chance to show that yes I have read the newest Dog Man, and I can discuss the evolution of Petey’s character throughout the series. No, librarians don’t just say shush and only read the “classics” you are forced to read in school, thank you very much random Westerville third grader.

Our book talks vary from school to school and classroom to classroom, but on average we talk to 50-100 kids at a time, typically all of the students in one grade at that school, for about 30 minutes. I bring along a PowerPoint that includes visuals to help students see the books that I am holding up (especially in those rooms with 100+ kids). We all bring bookmarks for each student with the cover of the books we are highlighting as well as information about library services and upcoming programs.

Selecting Books

My powerpoint for this week’s fifth grade presentation is displayed above. A lot of these books overlap books I would recommend to fourth graders, as we are still at the beginning of the school year.

I am very particular about how I curate the collection of books I select for a particular book talk. Our marketing team recently revamped the bookmarks we distribute at these visits, so we have to present either 6 or 9 books. My ideal 30 minute book talk is 7-8 books, but I am settling into book talking 9 titles each time I visit.

Each of my book talk collections must include:

  • Fiction and nonfiction (typically 5 fiction and 4 nonfiction)
  • At least 2 graphic novels, preferably at least 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction
  • At least 1 book with a male main character
  • At least 1 book with a female main character
  • At least 2 books with diverse main characters (preferably more)
  • At least 1 school story/realistic fiction title
  • At least 1 fantasy/science-fiction title
  • I have to have read every title.

I also like to include at least one creepy book, one book with cute things (often animals), and, for grades 2-3, one book about poop or farts. These requirements are more personal preference than standards I hold myself to.

Some books can overlap many of these categories–for example, The New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of my favorite book talkers, and that book has a diverse male main character, is a graphic novel, and is a school story.

I focus on selecting books that are good but that are also books kids will like. The Gamer Squad series is definitely not going to win any awards, but Pokemon Go is still quite popular where I live, and the kids respond positively to that series. I want to see kids reading, and I want to connect them with a book that actually sounds appealing to them. In my experience, kids pick up fun, new books with situations they can relate to than books that are beating the reader over the head with “important topics” or books that I remember from my childhood (which are often outdated and sometimes filled with problematic plots–Maniac Magee, anyone?).

5th Grade Reads

This particular book talk was designed for 85 5th Graders during their first quarter in school. After talking about library services and upcoming programs, I book talked the following nine titles:

I’m not going to type my book talk blurb for all of these (because this post is already pretty long), but my spiel for my favorite is below. This is also a great book to promote in October in general.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

If there was ever a perfect book talk title, this is it. It is the perfect combination of horror and mystery, with an excellent cliffhanger to leave students wanting more.

Ollie is riding her bike home from school, when she finds a strange woman yelling by a river. The woman is holding a book and threatening to throw it into the river. Ollie likes books and manages to distract the woman long enough to rescue the book and ride away. When she gets home, she discovers the book is a little strange–it is called “Small Spaces” and appears to be a diary about two brothers from a long time ago who loved the same woman. One of the brothers dies, and the other brother makes a deal with a smiling man to bring him back to life.

Ollie shrugs the creepy story and goes to school the next day. Her class is going on a field trip to a local farm. Things start to get strange. Ollie discovers that the woman who runs the farm is the same woman she saw by the river. While wandering on the property, Ollie discovers three hidden gravestones, with the same names as the two brothers and the woman from the book she rescued. Even stranger yet, their substitute bus driver is very odd–he just keeps repeating “avoid large spaces, stick to small.” Over and over and over again.

Ollie is relieved to leave the farm with her class, but as they drive away, their bus starts to slow down and eventually breaks down. It is getting darker, and no one’s cell phones have a signal. Their teacher decides to walk back to the farm to get help. It keeps getting darker and foggier, and the bus driver just keeps saying “avoid large spaces, stick to small.”

Ollie is very nervous now. She glances down at her digital watch. This watch is very important to her–her mom was wearing it when she died a year ago, and Ollie has been wearing it ever since. The kids on the bus are being loud–their teacher is gone after all–and no else seems to notice that it is much too dark and much too foggy for early evening. Ollie looks down at the cracked screen of her digital watch, and instead of numbers, it shows one word: RUN.

So she does.

(Insert gasps from the entire classroom here, followed by groans as I tell them to pick up the book.)

Book talking is a great way to help alert students and teachers to awesome new titles they might be interested in (I’ve had two teachers use Small Spaces as a classroom read after my book talk). It is also a fun way to show kids that libraries are more than books and librarians don’t just read the stuffy books kids associate with classroom assignments–we read the fun stuff too, and we enjoy them (I am the first hold on every new Dog Man release). It is extremely rewarding for everyone when a kid stops by the library specifically to ask for books a librarian brought to their classroom, and then sees that same librarian while they are visiting. They can chat about all kinds of awesome books and programs and topics–and, hopefully, that kid leaves thinking of the library as a welcoming place filled with interesting books and people.

Baby Play: Tugging Boxes

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

While not the prettiest of my replicate-at-home baby play items, tugging boxes help little ones explore cause and effect (STEM) while also experiencing different textures (sensory play) and building fine motor skills by wrapping their fingers around small items and developing muscles by pulling.

I haven’t found the perfect combination to make these boxes sturdy but physically attractive so that more little ones and parents gravitate toward them during playtime. I’ve considered wrapping the boxes, but I think the babies would then focus on trying to tear off the paper. If you have any ideas on making these more visually appealing, please comment below!

Overall, this is a great item that requires some time to make but no setup before storytime. I use a pencil to punch 3 holes in each side of the box and then weave various types of string, rope, lace, thick yarn, etc. from one side of the box to the other. After tying off both ends of the string (making a knot large enough so that the material cannot be pulled back into the box can be difficult), little ones can pull on one end of the string and see what happens to the other side of the string.

How to Make

Materials: empty box, pencil, various types of thick string/yarn/rope, shipping tape

Steps:

  • Poke 3 holes with a pencil in each side of an open, empty box.
  • Weave string or rope through two holes, so each end of a string comes out of a different side of the box. Tie large knots to each end of the rope so that neither end of the rope can re-enter the box when the other side is pulled on.
  • Repeat the second step until all holes have string or textured yarn in them.
  • Use shipping tape to secure box seams and to tape the box closed.

Cost: $0-10

  • Variety of thick yarns, ropes, lace, etc.

Time to Make: 15 minutes

Pro-Tip: Consider using a tool smaller than a pencil to poke the hole in the box. Also, it may be valuable to tape the yarn or rope you are trying to weave through the box holes to a paperclip or pipe cleaner to help thicker materials move through smaller holes.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you pull the string all the way through?
  • Which string is the widest?
  • Which string is the softest?
  • How does the string feel?
  • What happens if you pull the ribbon?
  • How long can you make the ribbon?
  • What color is the ribbon?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:

Broad
Bumpy
Flat
Knot
Long
Narrow

Prickly
Pull
Push
Sheer
Short
Small

Smooth
Soft
Straight
Thin
Through
Twisted

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