Library Programs

Virtual Program: How to Train Your Dragon Kits

We’ve been exploring different ways to provide virtual programming to our patrons. Many libraries have been providing make-and-take kits, but, unfortunately, due to our library’s curbside setup and our patron demand, that isn’t an option for us. A few week’s ago, I shared my Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits, and my Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits (Percy Jackson). These How to Train Your Dragon Kits follow a similar style.

Why dragons? As part of our annual Wizards & Wands Festival, we have a 30-foot, smoke-breathing dragon on our library roof. While our large event is not taking place in 2020, Hilda has returned, and we have a few events throughout the month with a magical feel.

Why send kits in the mail? Especially kits that focus more on fun than a specific learning concept? Read my thoughts in this post.

Looking for more Mail-To-You Kit Ideas? Check out:

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits
Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits
Teen Bubble Tea Kits

How to Train Your Dragon Kits: Contents

I had a lot of fun with these! Lots of dragon and viking magic will be found within. I focused on making sure each bag contained a tangible activity (not just something to read, no matter how cool that reading might be).

Downloads for most items can be found in the downloads section below. All files are PDFs, though you can email me (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) or post in the comments if you are interested in the originals for editing.

Each child received their own envelope, even if there were multiple kids in the same house registered. This made it more individual–not just that the oldest or youngest got to open the package from the library.

Each kit contained a general welcome kit, in a document envelope, as well as seven individual bags. Four bags focused on a different element of dragon training, two were related to Viking apparel, and one contained tools that were parts of multiple included crafts.

The general welcome kit included:

  • Personalized welcome letter from Hiccup and Toothless
  • Dragon Trainer ID Card
  • How to Train Your Dragon Activity Guide
  • Readalike Book Recommendations
  • Swag: Bookmarks, Buttons, Trivia Sheet, Viking Name Generator, Map of Berk

The kits contained two Viking bags to create Viking apparel, so dragons would be more comfortable in our young trainer’s presence. The first kit focused on Viking Helmets:

The second focused on Viking shields:

Our first dragon training bag focused on Identifying Dragons. These included a dragon identification guide as well as a BINGO game to help young trainers master their new dragon IDing skills.

Learn how to bond with your own dragon by getting to know Hiccup’s best friend, Toothless, through a paper bag craft.

Design your dream dragon by making an adorable paper plate craft dragon from Pink Stripey Socks.

Finally, train your dragon with the best training tool in all of Berk–sheep! Discover different ways to play with your sheep in the included training guide.

Each kit also contained a tools bag, which contained supplies needed to complete many of the included crafts, such as crayons, glue dots, and gem stickers. Scissors were also needed for most crafts, though those were not included.

Each kit’s Dragon Trainer Welcome Letter was personalized.

Downloads

Everything should be downloadable from the links below. All files are PDFs, though you can email me (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) or post in the comments if you are interested in the originals for editing. They are all Publisher files, and as usual, I used a lot of fonts.

Pete the Cat Storytime

Another themed Saturday storytime special! This was a little different for me because I was not a Pete the Cat fan before this storytime–but I have been won over! Pete the Cat Storytime was a ton of fun, though a little more low key than some of my past virtual Saturday storytime specials.

I made another “commercial” for this program, which you can view below:

I’m not sure how much these videos contribute to the audience for these programs, but I am looking forward to some in-person marketing when our library reopens for browsing next week. This may give some new life to all of our virtual storytimes.

To help continue the Pete the Cat fun at home, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here.

The general storytime layout is below, with videos where applicable. This was a bit more chill for me, with me reading two books and retelling one more. No color-changing unicorns or flattened dinosaurs this time!

Backdrop Setup: Pete the Cat pennant banners, posters, and images. I’m happy to share these printable files if anyone is interested–just let me know in those comments or send us an email.

Pete the Cat Intro: Instead of my regular storytime intro song (Shake Your Sillies Out), we started with something a little more cool and grooving–Clap Your Hands by They Might be Giants.

Book: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin
*I read this book, but I am including a previous video of this story being retold in flannel form below.

Song: Go Pete Go!

Book Retelling: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Action Rhyme: Cool Cat Boogie
(During storytime, we did not include the music for sake of time and so that I could include music in our last read aloud.)

Magnet Activity: Pete the Cat Playing Hide and Seek

Book: Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes
I synced up the music for this book so that I read the sentences, and we all sang along with the music each time Pete sang a song.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes - Naturally Curious Kids

Closing Song: Pete the Cat Theme Song

Teen Craft Kit: Bubble Tea

Oh my goodness, can it be????? Michala has actually written a blog post?! 

I have! And it is for a socially distanced Covid time craft that had full attendance and gotten positive reviews from teenagers….via their parent’s emailing me. 😊 

My teens have gotten seriously burnt out of computer time for all the things. And in July or August I tried a grab and go craft program that could be picked up through our drive-up window. (I’ll make another blog post on this one soon – I’m on a roll!) And because it had 16 teens sign up, pick up, and do the crafts I knew I hit the jackpot on programming during this weird time. 

On Monday, September 14, the next teen craft kit went out to registrants; this time they had option of being picked up at the drive-up window or being mailed to registrants. And allowing for mailing is really the way to go! Out of 25 teens that signed up 21 requested the supplies be mailed to them which means I was able to get a fun afternoon project to kids that may not otherwise have been able to get the supplies. (Thank you, USPS, please continue surviving so I can keep this going.)

Looking for more Mail-To-You Kit Ideas? Check out:

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits
Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits

This magical Teen Craft Kit for September that had 25 teen registrants?

Bubble Tea!

GIPHY

It was really a simple and cost-effective kit to put together too. Each kit wound up being a little under $1 as I was able to buy my supplies off Amazon. (And while they not my favorite supplier, it is my fastest and most reliable option at the moment.)  

I bought a multipack of milky tea sachets: Prince of Peace 3 in 1 Hong Kong Style Tea Latte (30 Sachets) 

Amazon

And a combo pack of boba pearls and hygienically wrapped boba straws: BOBA Black Tapioca Pearl Bubble Tea, 2 Pack (Each 8.8 OZ) + 1 Pack of 50 BOBA Straws (Variety Color) 

Amazon

I then raided our coffee station and took Splenda packets that we had on hand, grabbed some of our tiny weird shaped baggies, and a bunch of DVD cases to start packing things up. 

Every kit got 1 tea sachet, 1 Splenda packet, 1 ½ T of tapioca pearls, and a straw. I also placed my business card in the kit in case of any questions. 

Upcycling DVD cases as packaging, meant that I got to be creative in the design for directions (making sure to include ingredients/allergen information) while also ensuring that no matter which delivery option they chose (mailing or drive-up) the contents would remain secure. 

And for only about $1 per person, we had a simple snacky craft, which reinforced basic cooking skills, following directions, and patience…and the teens loved it! 

Virtual Program: Superhero BINGO

Superhero BINGO! One of my coworkers and I planned a series of after school livestream programs on Facebook Live in September. The first, Disney Trivia, received a decent audience, but after that program, attendance trickled down to just a handful of players.

Superhero BINGO was the last program in that series, and, unfortunately, I was sick on the day of the program. My coworker, Alexx, graciously presented it for me. Make sure to check out Alexx’s full superhero fun in the event video below.

Find more BINGO boards in these posts:

Book Character BINGO
Dog Man BINGO
Pokémon BINGO

Superhero BINGO Content

Alexx played three rounds of BINGO, two where we aimed for five in a row and a final coverall game.

Watch Alexx’s amazing performance (costume and all!) here.

All of the BINGO cards have the same 24 characters on them (plus the free space). I include a number beside each character image to help kids and grown-ups quickly find characters they are unfamiliar with.

Download the BINGO cards and pull slips here:

I also curated an at-home fun packet. Download here:

And, of course, a Superhero BINGO printable certificate:

Little People Big Dreams: Ella Fitzgerald

As part of our virtual programming, I began a monthly school age storytime, designed for ages 6-8. This program highlights a different diverse individual from the Little People Big Dreams book series.

Like all of our virtual live storytimes, this program took place on Facebook. I didn’t expect an audience here, and, as I expected, I was very much presenting a storytime to no one, but we are leaving these programs up a little longer than regular storytimes due to the content. We have had a slight increase in views over time, and I’m thinking about ways to make this more accessible (such as uploading storytimes to YouTube).

Watch the full storytime here:

In the event description, I included links to:

Storytime Outline

Intro: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

First Book: Ella Fitzgerald by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

Ella Fitzgerald: 11 (Little People, Big Dreams): Amazon.co.uk: Sanchez  Vegara, Isabel, Alca, Bàrbara: Books

Music Break: A Tisket, A Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald (with shakers)

Second Book: Making Their Voices Heard : The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and  Marilyn Monroe: Kirkfield, Vivian, Harris, Alleanna: 9781499809152:  Amazon.com: Books

Closing Rhyme: See You Later, Alligator

See you later, alligator
In a while, crocodile
Give a hug, ladybug
Blow a kiss, jellyfish
See you soon, big baboon
Out the door, dinosaur
Take care, polar bear
Wave goodbye, butterfly!

Next Time

In October, I’m planning to focus on athlete Pele. I think the storytime outline is going to stay the same, though not all famous people are going to lend themselves to a specific song like Ella Fitzgerald does. I’d like to continue to always use diverse musicians for my music though, no matter who that month’s famous individual is. I’m hoping interest in this series grows over time.

Doc McStuffins Storytime

Doc McStuffins Storytime

Another themed Saturday storytime special, this time celebrating the one and only Doc McStuffins! I didn’t have much knowledge about the young toy doctor before my deep dive for Doc McStuffins Storytime, but I genuinely enjoyed the episodes I watched. I’m surprised she isn’t more of a focal point in pandemic times, as she has a series of songs that align perfectly for kids and current times–songs about handwashing, playing outside, and even one about not being able to hug your friends right now so you don’t spread germs.

Check out other virtual storytime outlines:

Doc McStuffins Storytime Preview

I made another “commercial” for this program, which you can view below:

To help continue the Doc McStuffins fun at home, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Download it here.

Doc McStuffins Storytime Video

Unlike past storytimes, I didn’t create individual YouTube videos portionsof of this storytime. Most of the storytime included a lot of Doc McStuffins music, and the internet does not need more videos of me dancing along to music without clear motions.

I am going to risk the wrath of the copyright overlords and share a video of the complete storytime. This may be removed in a few weeks, but I am particularly proud of how this storytime came together, and I think it will make more sense in its full effect:

*The storytime starts about 5 minutes into the video. We start our livestreams early to allow viewers time to login and make sure technology is working.

Doc McStuffins Storytime Outline

Little ones were encouraged to bring their own stuffed animal to storytime.

Doc McStuffins Theme Song Intro: We got ready for storytime by dancing to the original Doc McStuffins theme song.

Book: Guess Who, Doc!

Disney Doc McStuffins Guess Who, Doc! (1): Disney Doc McStuffins:  9780794430054: Amazon.com: Books

First Patient: Stuffy

After a quick explanation of how our program was going to work, I accidentally knocked down Doc’s Big Book of Boo Boos and Doc’s stuffed dragon, Stuffy. Poor Stuffy was instantly flattened, and we had to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it.

(How to do: Stuffed Stuffy was on the bookcase. Paper Stuffy was on the floor since before storytime began. I “accidentally” knocked stuffed Stuffy onto the floor with the Big Book of Boo Boos. When I bent down, I picked up paper Stuffy. We talked through our activity and song, and then put Stuffy down so he could stomp his own feet. After the song, we picked stuffed Stuffy back up.

Doc McStuffins Storytime: Stuffy's Flat!

During Stuffy’s turn as a patient, we:

  • Gave Stuffy a checkup with our Time for Your Check Up Song.
  • Diagnosed him with Squished Flat-a-tosis.
  • Cured Stuffy by moving and grooving to shake out his stuffiness by dancing along to Doc McStuffin’s Dinosaur Stomp.

Second Patient: Gustav the Gator

Now that Stuffy was all better, we checked into our waiting room and discovered Hallie Hippo had a patient for us: Gustav the Gator! Gustav has been warned in the past by Doc about eating the right foods for him, and we had to talk to him again about foods he should sometimes eat versus foods he should always eat.

Doc McStuffins Storytime: Gustav's Getting a Check-Up!

During Gustav’s turn as a patient, we:

  • Gave Gustav a checkup with our Time for Your Check Up Song.
  • Talked to Gustav about what he ate that morning.
  • Diagnosed him with Stuffedfulliosis.
  • Taught Gustav about foods he can always eat and foods he should just eat sometimes as a special treat.

For our Always vs. Sometimes activity, I divided a magnetic cookie sheet in half, and we sorted chocolate chip cookies, apples, french fries, bananas, carrots, and ice cream (doughnuts and water were cut for time).

Doc McStuffins Storytime: Sometimes vs. Always Foods

Third Patient: Lambie

Now that Gustav was feeling a bit better, we let him rest. We were about to check in on our waiting room again, when we started to smell something odd. Lambie was covered in mud! We needed to give Lambie a bath to get her nice and clean, and then we also practiced washing our own hands.

Doc McStuffins Storytime: Lambie Needs a Bath!

During Lambie’s turn as a patient, we:

  • Gave Lambie a checkup with our Time for Your Check Up Song.
  • Diagnosed Lambie with Filthy Icky Sticky Disease.
  • Gave Lambie a bath with the song “This Is the Way We Wash Our Legs.”
  • Practiced washing our own hands to the Doc McStuffin’s Wash Your Hands song.

We sang “This Is the Way We Wash Our Legs” to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

This Is The Way We Wash Our Legs
This is the way we wash our legs,
Wash our legs, wash our legs.
This is the way we wash our legs,
Wash our legs, wash our legs,
When we are nice and dirty!

We continued with our arms, bellies, and heads.

Fourth Patient: Chilly

We realized that we were missing one of Doc’s friends! We hadn’t seen Chilly all morning. Doc left us a clue with a guessing game activity. We found a picture of Chilly behind a picture of a white bear, and we found the real Chilly behind the real stuffed bear in our waiting room. Chilly was a bit nervous about seeing so many people for storytime, but we helped him get over his nerves by finding ways to say hello virtually.

Doc McStuffins Storytime: We Found Chilly!

During Chilly’s turn as a patient, we:

  • Played “Chilly, Chilly, Where Do You Hide?” to find Chilly.
  • Found stuffed Chilly behind our white bear.
  • Diagnosed Chilly with a case of The Shy Guys.
  • Said “hello!” three different ways with the song “We Wave and Sing Hello!”

We played our own version of the storytime classic, Little Mouse, Little Mouse, by checking behind various toys to see where Chilly might be hiding. We used the words:

Chilly, Chilly, where do you hide?
Are you behind the _______________? Let’s look inside!

After we found Chilly, we taught him different ways to say hello:

We Wave and Sing Hello
We wave and sing hello!
We wave and sing hello!
With all our friends at storytime,
We wave and sing hello!

We continued with: Sign and Sing Hello, Smile and Sing Hello

Fifth Patient: Hallie

All this time, we had left poor Hallie in the waiting room, but we realized that she hadn’t been talking much. We found out she was very tired today, even though she slept a lot last night, and we realized she might need some exercise to get some new energy.

Doc McStuffins Storytime: Hallie Needs a Check Up!

During Hallie’s turn as a patient, we:

  • Gave Hallie a checkup with our Time for Your Check Up Song.
  • Diagnosed her with No-Talk-A-Tosis.
  • Cured Hallie by doing some exercise with the Doc McStuffin’s Ready for Action song.
  • Showed off Hallie’s talking skills (she is a squeeze and talk stuffed animal).

Closing

We wrapped things up by reviewing everyone we helped today, talking about our Doc McStuffins School of Medicine Certificates (in those Doc McStuffins At Home Packets), and dancing along to the Doc McStuffins Theme Song – Toy Hospital Edition.

I wasn’t sure about attendance at this program, as the Doc McStuffins tv show ended in April, but this was my second highest Saturday Special attendance yet (after Baby Shark). Lots of Doc love, and now that I’ve spent some time with the character, I see why.

Virtual Program: Disney Trivia

I am a Disney fan. I worked at Disney for about a year though the Disney College Program, we grew up growing to the parks and watching the movies, in non-pandemic days I vacation there fairly regularly. So hosting Disney Trivia was a bit of its own dream come true.

We didn’t have a big audience for this – about 45 people (this was no Dog Man Trivia). I think the questions might have been a bit too hard for the intended age range (6-11), though for the players who stuck through to the end, everyone had near perfect scores.

Content

I shared the questions via screensharing a PowerPoint on Facebook Live (details below under Logistics). Twenty questions, followed by going back through the twenty questions faster to review the answers.

Watch the full video here:

*The video cuts off at the very end. I think the internet went out.

View and Download the PowerPoint below. The fonts I used (that didn’t seem to copy over) were Century Gothic and Grobold:

More links:

Disney At Home Fun Printable Packet

Disney Trivia Music Playlist

Reserve Disney Book

Disney Trivia Printable Answer Sheet

Disney Trivia Master Certificate

Disney Trivia Logistics

Like many of our school age programs, trivia took place on Facebook Live, though this could easily be translated to whatever platform your library is using for virtual events.

There are many great tools out there for trivia. Kahoot is a particularly popular tool that I’ve seen used frequently. That tool asks participants to play along on their phone or another device while watching the livestream, and the system times the questions and ranks participants. While I like that concept for an adult or maybe teen trivia, when there are no prizes involved, I don’t like that system for kids. Plus, it involves a second piece of technology, and for families playing along, it may be especially difficult to have each kid play individually.

I added the questions to PowerPoint, shared to Facebook using their livestreaming screenshare technology. Some detailed tips for those interested in trying a program this way:

  • Make your slides “widescreen” so they fill up the viewers full computer, phone, or TV screen. Do this by going to Design – Slide Size in Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • I don’t like the clunkiness of viewers seeing me open my powerpoint after going live. To always just have the powerpoint as the center of your screen:
    • In PowerPoint, start the “Slide Show” mode, making your PowerPoint full screen.
    • Use the Windows key (not ESC) to exit the Slide Show presentation view. This key leaves it open in the background.
    • Start your Facebook Livestream. Instead of sharing your entire screen, just share one application — the Slide Show view of PowerPoint.
    • Return to the Slide Show view to change slides for your participants. Always use the Windows key to exit. If you use the ESC key, you won’t be able to restart the slideshow without creating a new livestream.
  • Using the steps above, you cannot easily see the comments during the presentation. I have my phone nearby with the livestream running, allowing me to see questions and comments as they come in. A coworker posts links and types responses to the comments, and I respond verbally as I can.

These are supposed to be 30 minutes, but I talk too much, and this, like previous similar programs was closer to 45 minutes.

This is part of a weekly livestream “after school” series on Tuesdays at 4:30 pm in September. I’m not sure if our audience will stick around, but I sure hope we keep up a following with this style event at a consistent weekly time.

Virtual Reader’s Advisory

Our library is closed to the public, including for browsing. Our county COVID numbers just dipped low enough for us to allow for appointment based services, but, sorry to all of the school districts that decided to start the school year with blended learning at the last minute, but I do the same math the governor’s team does every day, and our county numbers are increasing. Again. The reason any of that is relevant to this post is that the public will not be browsing our shelves anytime soon…meaning reader’s advisory is not the same experience.

And browsing is something we hear about frequently. Kids in particular often don’t know what they want to read (or they know EXACTLY what they want to read and will take nothing else). Parents are trying to homeschool or supplement in-person schooling, and they are eager for beginning reading books in particular. How can we recreate the browsing and reader’s advisory experience for our users?

New & Awesome Books to Reserve

These short clips are designed to be Instagram posts or Instagram stories (identical, vertical versions are used on that platform, all under 15 seconds to accommodate Instagram story rules). There seems to be a positive response to these reader’s advisory tools–the first Instagram post got a lot of happy feedback (I think people missed seeing inside the library). The most recent Instagram story (first chapter books) got more click-through response than other stories I had created in the past.

I really wish there was a way around the 15-seconds, or a way to make it easier for viewers to see titles and immediately put them on hold. I recognize the books in the video, but I can’t imagine many parents do without having to put in the effort to watch multiple times and pause a clip.

New & Overflow Books (July 2020) (this was a first attempt and this video is longer than most)

New Books (August 2020)

Beginning Readers

First Chapter Books

Parent Teacher Collection Titles

Virtual Reader’s Advisory

These reader’s advisory videos have a few purposes:

  • Reader’s advisory tool to supplement the lack of browsing
  • Possible substitute for in-person book talks that take place in local classrooms

We’ve had an okay response to these reader’s advisory YouTube videos. I hope that these are useful to teachers and students, especially as the school year progresses (and post-COVID too!).

My book talk video filming tips:

  • Film in Short Clips. My filming structure involves me talking for 1-2 sentences before cutting to a new clip. I find this really valuable when I am trying to get my words exactly right (especially important when sharing books that talk about racism, neglect, or aspects of a culture that isn’t my own). I don’t memorize what I’m going to say, but this quick structure makes it a lot easier for me to redo a clip as needed. Refilming something 20-30 seconds long is easier, and it is much less frustrating than getting to the end of the clip and messing up a pronunciation.
  • Add visual interest. Add images from the book whenever possible. Some books are chapter books without images where this doesn’t make sense, but whenever I can, I add images and change them regularly. An adult has about an 8-second attention span in non-COVID times. Watching me sit and talk at a screen for even just a minute is boring. Images help.
  • Talk about books you like. Always. I only book talk books I’ve read, enjoy, and can vouch for. I’m not this strict when I’ve got an in-person reader’s advisory experience, with a patron in front of me asking for Wonder readalikes, but when I’m only able to take a handful of books to a classroom, or in this case, select what books I want to put my time and effort behind highlighting, I want to make sure they are books I genuinely enjoyed and think kids will enjoy too.
  • Recommend diverse books. Following the last tip, this means you need to be reading diverse books. Hopefully you are. I don’t care how white your community is–even if your community is made entirely of clones of one Christian, straight, physically and mentally able white boy–there is a whole world out there that those kids need to be aware of and empathetic toward. (Also, if you are living in a community filled with cloned children, I would suggest you stop reading now and run. Fast.)
  • Look up those pronunciations. Author names, illustrator names, character names, settings. Look up them all. Don’t be the Annamarie of three years ago who mispronounced Amina’s name repeatedly in a book talk video for Amina’s Voice that still makes me cringe every time I see it on YouTube.
  • Of course, all the regular technical things:
    • Film with the highest quality camera you can access
    • Good lighting (don’t sit in front a window, avoid shadows)
    • Good sound
    • Consistent feel/intro/conclusion
    • Easy access for a viewer to put the book on hold in your catalog

I’ve made a lot of videos, and this post is already long, so I’m going to try to highlight grade level playlists and list links to specific titles underneath. Many books appear on multiple grade levels because they appeal to multiple ages.

Book Talks: Preschool
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: Kindergarten
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: 1st Grade
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: 2nd Grade

Book Talks: 3rd Grade

Book Talks: 4th Grade

Book Talks: 5th Grade

Book Talks: 6th Grade

Collection Videos
These videos cover more than one title connected by a common theme. These seem to be getting slightly more views, but, be warned, they take a lot longer to make. A 10 Readalikes Video is essentially the equivalent of making 10 individual book talk videos–a lot of effort for what feels like less of a result. I’m going to keep chipping away at these, but they are exhausting, so I don’t make them as frequently. Maybe I’ll focus on these more when I feel like I am slowing down on a regular pool of titles to book talk individually.

12 New Graphic Novels (published in the first half of 2020)

10 Baby-Sitters Club Readalikes

10 Dog Man Readalikes

Virtual Program: Graphic Novel Book Club

I am not a book club person. I read a lot, and I love to talk about books–but I don’t enjoy book clubs. So why did I start a virtual Graphic Novel Book Club this summer? The short version is that I like graphic novels, and a few years back I had this vision of a book club event culminating in a Skype visit with Raina Telgemeier where the kids who attended the club could ask questions but anyone could come. That program didn’t happen then, and that isn’t what happened here either.

Overall, I would say this went okay. I had 2-4 consistent kids who were excited and talked most weeks. There were also a lot of barriers here due to this being virtual, particularly with this being a new club. My library hasn’t really had a standing book club for kids in at least three years, so there wasn’t a following or just a transfer of format like Michala’s teen advisory board meetings.

We didn’t really have any of those “ah-ha” moments or meaningful conversations that I’ve heard happen at other book clubs–but, I would also say, that everyone is feeling the stress right now, and kids don’t really want to talk about their feelings or the meaning of this color palette right about now. They want to talk about drawing Pokemon and the cheetah cubs Diana (Wonder Woman) takes care of in one throwaway panel. If they want to talk at all. And that’s cool too.

Graphic Novel Book Club Details & Program Outline

For nine weeks in June and July, I met virtually with 4-10 kids, ages 8-14, for about an hour. Graphic Novel Book Club was advertised for ages 8-11, though I had three older kids sign up (though only one of them came more than once). The program registration was capped at 15 kids, registration only ever reached 13, and I only ever had at most 10 kids at a time, with an average of 5-6 kids each week.

Our library uses GoToMeeting for online meetings, and I used that for Graphic Novel Book Club as well. Other than some issues with my personal computer overheating, I had no problems with the platform (and the kids didn’t seem to have any problems either).

We only read graphic novels available on Hoopla, which worked fine for the summer but is quite limiting long term. This service is ideal for book club titles, however, because everyone can download each book at a time most convenient for them (no waiting or holds lists) and everyone can check out the same title at once (unlike Overdrive or Cloud Library). A few kids did have physical copies of some of the books, purchased by their parents (this wasn’t encouraged; it just happened).

Our Graphic Novel Book Club reading list included:

Hoopla works well while we are stuck in a virtual world, though it has its frustrations. Of course, it doesn’t have every graphic novel, and it is very, very short on diverse graphic novels. There are so few own voices kids graphic novels in the first place, and Hoopla is particularly lacking. If this book club continues, I’m going to work on coming up with an alternative way to get books to kids.

My kids are avid readers and would actively admit (1) that they had already read these books (more often) or (2) that they didn’t finish a book (less often). Some of them became frustrated toward the end of Graphic Novel Book Club because they had read all of the remaining book club books weeks in advance or before book club had occurred. These kids really wanted the newest graphic novels (and 17 of those new books at a time), which left me especially frustrated with the limitations of Hoopla.

Book Clubbing Virtually

So getting back to my struggles with book clubs, which were exacerbated by being virtual. I had some personal technical issues, but those situations are often specific to your tech and can happen no matter how well you plan. Other unique elements of book clubbing virtually:

  • Kids can and will turn their cameras on and off.
  • Kids can and will get distracted by pets, home life, etc.
  • Kids can and will say nothing for the entire meeting (or the entire meeting for all seven weeks they show up).

I have strategies to encourage conversation in person that simply don’t translate online. I also don’t want to force kids to talk in any situation. As I said to the kids sometimes, THIS ISN’T SCHOOL. Graphic Novel Book Club, or any library program, isn’t a punishment, it isn’t an assignment, and while I want to encourage learning, you are not going to be quizzed at the end of this meeting about the book, your understanding of shading in the panel, or your drawing ability.

With an effort to respect kids’ decisions on how much they want to participate, I was often left feeling alone and sort of like I was putting on a show. When I ask “who was your favorite character?”, and all six cameras immediately turn off, and we sit in silence for three minutes, I’m left having to crack a joke, give my own response, and try to shift gears. Repeatedly, for an hour, week after week. It is exhausting and makes me respect teachers even more.

Now, some of this behavior is probably due to my choices with how I want to run Graphic Novel Book Club. I could have required kids to talk, pulled names out of jar, made everyone fill out a character analysis worksheet each week, forced everyone to sit in silence until someone shared a discussion question. But, again, my mentality toward librarianship, especially during current times, is that we are trying to create a love of learning and reading. Forcing kids to do assignments or activities or even forcing participation goes against that. I will stop ranting now and get on to the important things you are reading this for.

Graphic Novel Book Club Weekly Schedule

Kids were asked to bring blank paper and a pencil to each meeting.

Each week we followed this approximate schedule:

  • Introduced Myself (Librarian) (1 min.)
  • Explain/Review How GoToMeeting Works (1 min.)
    • How to mute and unmute
    • How to turn off your camera
    • Chat feature
    • How to see everyone instead of just person talking
    • Librarian can share her screen
  • Library Updates (3 min.)
    • Summer Reading Program
    • Upcoming Programs
    • Reminder to doodle as you like!
  • Introductions (5 min.)
    • Share your name
    • Share anything you’ve been writing or drawing
    • Answer this week’s Would You Rather Question
    • *Answers could occur verbally or in chat. Not everyone participated each week.
  • Warm-Up Game (10 min.)
  • How Book Club Works (5 min.)
    • Review weekly schedule
    • Decided guidelines as a group and reviewed them each week:
      • Be kind and respectful.
      • Everyone gets a turn to talk without being interrupted.
      • You can raise your hand if you want to talk. You can also just talk as long as you aren’t interrupting someone else.
      • You only have to talk if you want to.
      • Have fun!
  • Discussion (10-15 min., intended to be 15-30 min.)
    • Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down Book Vote
    • Tell me what the book is about (10 words or less)
    • Kids offer questions (never happened but always asked)
    • I ask about 3-5 questions, steering conversation where it makes sense.
  • Let’s Talk Comics/Drawing Activity and Sharing (15-20 min.)
  • Wrap Up (2-3 min.)
    • Next week’s title
    • Reminder about programs

Would You Rather Questions

The kids really seemed to enjoy the Would You Rather questions. Sometimes these connected to the book of the week, sometimes they didn’t. Questions we used included:

  • Would you rather have edible spaghetti hair that regrows every night or sweat maple syrup?
  • Would you rather be a superhero or a wizard?
  • Would you rather have a unicorn or dragon as a best friend?
  • Would you rather have super speed or super strength?
  • Would you rather live sometime in the past (you get to choose when and where) or sometime in the future (except you don’t know what the future looks like)?
  •  Would you rather have awesome super powers—but have to live in secret on an island with no other kids—or would you rather have a normal life (but have no superpowers)?
  • Would you rather have to fight 100 pigeon sized zebras or one zebra sized pigeon?
  • Would you rather have a horse’s tail or a unicorn horn?
  • Would you rather have a hamster-sized elephant or an elephant-sized hamster for a pet?

Weekly Warm-Up Games

Each week, we played a different warm-up game as a group. Some of these games included:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Guess that Character: Identify the popular character from their silhouette.

Mad Libs: Asked kids to write down a series of words and then read the words in the Mad Lib aloud. (*Not very popular. Only two kids participated.)

Name that Tune: Guess the song from just a few seconds of music. Used this playlist.

Pixelated Book Covers: Identify the blurry book cover.

Scavenger Hunt: Find items around your house that fit certain categories like “something that is orange” or “something that starts with the letter M.”

Two Truths and a Lie: Share three piece of information, two true and one a lie. Everyone has to guess. (*Not very popular. Few kids participated, though they enjoyed guessing.)

Zoomed In Images: Guess the item or cover from the zoomed in image.

Discussion Questions

I learned pretty quickly that deep discussion questions weren’t going to go anywhere, so the longer the series went on, the less I worried about these, and the more light I kept things. I chose 3-5 questions to focus on each week and let things go where they wanted.

General Graphic Novel Questions:

  1. Is reading a graphic novel different than reading a text novel? How?
  2. Would this book have been better or worse without pictures?
  3. How does the art make you feel and why?
  4. What did the creator show? What wasn’t shown that your brain filled in?
  5. What does the story or character remind you of?
  6. What surprised you most?
  7. What would you change about the setting or characters if you were writing this book?
  8. What is something you don’t want to forget from this book?
  9. Which character most reminds you of yourself?
  10. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask them? (I sent these to the authors via Twitter each week, and some of them actually responded!)

Anti/Hero:

  1. Sloan vs Piper – who did you like better? Who do you think you are the most like?
  2. Page 16 – Compare Sloan and Piper’s lives. What do you learn from the images?
  3. Who would you want to switch bodies with?
  4. If you did switch bodies, what would you do?

Diana Princess of the Amazons:

  1. Before reading this book, what did you know about Wonder Woman?
  2. Themyscira is a pretty cool place. What would you like most about living there? Least?
  3. When Diana is bored, she says “It seems like I’m either too old or too young for everything. Stuck in the middle.” Do you ever feel like that? When?
  4. Mona convinces Diana to do some things Diana knows are wrong—like steal food and make fun of other people and skip class. Have you had a friend like that?
  5. Quick Sketch: Draw the scariest monster to come out of Doom’s Doorway!
  6. Diana grows up to become a superhero! Who is your favorite superhero and why?

El Deafo: (*Most robust discussion!)

  1. The title of the book is Cece’s superhero name. What would your superhero name be?
  2. This is a memoir. What does that mean?
  3. Why do you think Cece Bell made the characters rabbits?
  4. Our world is designed for those capable of hearing. What are ways you notice that the world is hard for people who are deaf?
  5. Cece’s first best friend Laura is kind of mean. Cece dreams about ending the friendship, but she doesn’t because being friends with Laura is better than her “bubble of loneliness.” Do you agree?
  6. Cece doesn’t want to learn sign language. Why do you think that is?

The Lightning Thief (graphic novel):

  1. Who has read the chapter book? How did these two compare?
  2. What do you have to think about when adapting a chapter book into a graphic novel?
  3. Who is your favorite character?
  4. You all had some great things you loved about Themyscara. What would you like most about Camp Half Blood? What would you like least?
  5. What magical powers or elements would you like to control? If you could be related to one mythical Greek god, who would it be?

Lumberjanes Vol. 1:

  1. Look at the Lumberjanes cover. What do you think the book would be about based on the cover? Should people judge a book by its cover?
  2. Who is your favorite Lumberjane? Why?
  3. Why do you think they included so many snippets from the Lumberjanes manual and information about Lumberjanes badges?
  4. Let’s talk about characters. How do their names “fit” or “not fit”? How do their names influence our perceptions of the characters? (April, Molly, Ripley, Jo, Mal, Jen)
  5. In the “Message from the Lumberjane High Council” in Volume 1 it says: “…Whether you are a dancer or a misfit, career girl or a social elite, you have a place at this camp — no matter how different you feel.” How does the story and the characters reflect this?
  6. There are 13 Lumberjanes Volumes and nearly 80 issues, spin off books, chapter books—what do you think happens next?

My Video Game Ate My Homework:

  1. What does this story remind you of?
  2. What do you think of the artwork, especially how the characters are drawn?
  3. If you got a magical video game superpower – what would you want it to be? (page 28)
  4. What would you have in your own clubhouse? (page 19)
  5. What video game or imaginary world would you like to enter? What world would you never want to enter?
  6. Dewey has dyslexia, which makes it hard for him to read. We all have things that make some things harder for us than others. If you want to share, what is something that is harder for you?

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

  1. How does this feel different than other graphic novels we have read?
  2. Did this feel preachy or did you not notice you were learning something?
  3. Would you want to read a book like this in school?
  4. What school topics would you like to learn about as comics?
  5. Is this book funny? How?
  6. What do you think of this book’s coloring?

New Kid: (We didn’t really get to any of these, as this book seemed to be a bit too old for the kids who attended that week, who all admitted to not finishing it.)

  1. Which five words best describe New Kid?
  2. Why do you think Jerry Craft drew Jordan’s sketchbook drawings completely differently than the rest of the book?
  3. What makes being a new kid so challenging for Jordan?
  4. Have you ever been the new kid somewhere? How was your experience the same or different from Jordan’s?
  5. Jordan’s Tips for Taking the Bus (pages 56-57): Why does his behavior change—how he looks and dresses as he moves around? What is different in each panel?
  6. What does this book say about friendship? What makes a good friend?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn:

  1. Are you more of a Phoebe or a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils?
  2. If you had one magical wish, what would it be?
  3. These are collections of comic strips. What makes this book different than the graphic novels we have read before? 
  4. Think about how Phoebe and Marigold met. What stands out about that scene?
  5. How does the friendship between Phoebe and Marigold change and grow throughout the story? How do you see that difference in the illustrations and the text?
  6. When the story starts, do you like Phoebe and Marigold equally? How does that change?
  7. Page 111: Is there anything more embarrassing than parents?

Let’s Talk Comics

This is the part of Graphic Novel Book Club I feel like I bungled the most. I didn’t come in with a clear week-to-week plan, and this ended up being the part of the program the kids were the most excited about.

About three weeks into the program, I found these resources, which I highly recommend using to frame your own series:

My weeks were much more haphazard, with essentially a random drawing challenge each week. These included:

  • Random Creature and Action
  • Random Setting
  • Story of meeting your magical creature best friend (4 panels)
  • First Day at a New School (include dialogue and more than one panel)
  • Egg Challenge (draw what comes out of this egg)
  • Combine animal + food = Character!
  • Drawing Motion (guest artist – fellow librarian)
  • Think about your favorite character from a book, show, or movie. Choose to adapt or expand their story in at least three panels.
  • Dog Man Challenge: Draw 5 creatures. Take the head of one and the body of the other and merge them.

I did include a few more detailed activities/”lessons” some weeks, including:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Adaptations vs Universe Expansions

Characters (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novel and Comic Overview (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novels You Should Read

Virtual Program: Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits

We’ve been exploring different ways to provide virtual programming to our patrons. Many libraries have been providing make-and-take kits, but, unfortunately, due to our library’s curbside setup and our patron demand, that isn’t an option for us. A few week’s ago, I shared my Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits, and these Percy Jackson, Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits follow a similar style.

I worked with one of my fantastic coworkers on this kit, so while it shares a similar feel to my Baby-Sitters Club kits, this has some of their flair as well. I also applied some of the lessons I learned in those baby-sitters club kits–less personalization, less letters that need to be folded, and more activities (rather than more passive information sheets).

Why send kits in the mail? Especially kits that focus more on fun than a specific learning concept? Read my thoughts in this post.

Looking for more Mail-To-You Kit Ideas? Check out:

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits
Teen Bubble Tea Kits

Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits: Contents

We probably went overboard for these too, but I want to do what we can to give kids those moments of joy right now, so I made do with what I had. At some point I will hit a wall with this because I have been stretching old program leftovers to keep these within budget, and that isn’t always going to be feasible.

Downloads for most items can be found in the downloads section below.

Each child received their own envelope, even if there were multiple kids in the same house registered. This made it more individual–not just that the oldest or youngest got to open the package from the library.

Each kit contained a general welcome kit, in a document envelope, as well as five individual bags from Chiron, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Clarisse.

The general welcome kit included:

  • Personalized welcome letter from Camp Half-Blood
  • ID Card
  • Camp Survival Guide
  • Readalike Book Recommendations
  • Swag: Bookmarks, Buttons, Camp Pennant, Trivia Sheet, Who’s Your Godly Parent Quiz, Camp Map

Chiron’s bag included a letter and materials to create your own Greek god pennant flag for your cabin.

Percy’s bag included a letter, your own Riptide pen, and some water fun.

Annabeth’s bag focused on one of the most important camp traditions: your bead necklace.

Grover’s bag included his letter and a prophecy “puzzle” packet to practice stretching your brain in preparation for your quests and prophecies to come.

Clarisse’s bag included your own Capture the Flag kit (with ideas for ways to make this a more individual scavenger hunt game instead of requiring a large group).

Each kit’s Camp Welcome Letter was personalized.

Downloads

Everything should be downloadable from the links below. All files are PDFs, though you can email me or post in the comments if you are interested in the originals for editing. They are all Publisher files, and as usual, I used a lot of different fonts.

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