School Age

Virtual Reader’s Advisory Part 2

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

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

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

OverDrive Curated Collections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Book Talks

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

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

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

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala

The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Craftily Ever After by Martha Maker

Dave the Unicorn by Pip Bird

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso

Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed

Dramatic Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith

Farah Rocks Summer Break by Susan Muaddi Darraj

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

Keep It Together Keiko Carter by Debbie Michiko Florence

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano

The Land of Cranes by Aida Salazar

The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney

Locker 37: The Rewindable Clock by Aaron Starmer

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher

Measuring Up by Lily Lamotte

Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White

Mia Mayhem is a Superhero! by Kara West

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

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Meija

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Museum by Renee Treml

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Sparkleton: The Magic Day by Calliope Glass

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

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

Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker

Zoey & Sassafras: Dragons & Marshmallows by Asia Citro

Subscription Bundles for Kids

Long before the covid pandemic, books have been a core part of library services. Getting those books into the hands of kids and families while the physical building has been closed has been a challenge. My library decided to try a service that many libraries already offer in some capacity: subscription bundles.

Subscription bundles are similar to the concept of a subscription box (except free and no box). Readers fill out an online form and library staff pull 5-8 books for them, based on age and interests, each month for three months (with the option to renew).

The concept is simple, and the reader’s advisory work can be a lot of fun too. You are limited by what is on the shelves at the time, but you aren’t rushed by a grown-up who only has a few minutes in the library. You can promote different kinds of materials a family may not always consider (or find)–graphic novels, nonfiction, and more. And there is a small benefit of sometimes being able to squeeze into a bundle an on-topic book that is a hard sell in person–but a kid might give it a try when they are looking at it on their own.

Subscription Bundle Form

Families sign-up for the subscription bundle service by filling out a Google form found on our website. The public-facing description of this service, crafted by our marketing department, is:

Spend more time reading, and less time choosing! Let your favorite Westerville librarians bundle together 5-8 books for you each month, based on your interests. For ages 0-18

You’ll receive an email when your bundle is ready to pick up at the drive-thru. (After 3 months, you’ll have the option to continue your subscription.)

Our website directs people to our Google form:

The questions on the form include:

  • Email Address
  • First and Last Name
  • Recipient’s Name (if not you)
  • Library Card Number
  • Recipient’s Age (changed from an initial grade range)
  • Tell us about 3 things the recipient is interested in. (Examples: trains, dinosaurs, fairy tales, comics, mysteries, favorite authors, series, etc.) 
  • Is there anything else you’d like us to know? (Optional: book you enjoyed recently (or didn’t), reading level, etc.)

The form has stayed the same for the last few months with a few small updates including an increased time frame of expecting your bundle to be ready in 5 days (started at 3 days) and a change to the age question. Initially, this question had been a drop down based on grade (Baby/Toddler, PreS, K-3, 4-6, Middle School, Teen). This worked for most age ranges, but the K-3 age range could be particularly tricky, since the books a Kindergartener may want to read or have read to them can be very different than the books a 3rd grader is looking for. So, we changed this to a fill-in-the-blank general age question.

Subscription Bundle Organization

This is where things can get tricky, particularly at the incredibly high volume we are operating at.

The Google form populates a spreadsheet of responses. The spreadsheet looks a bit like this. (Columns with any patron identifying information are hidden. Filter is only on to highlight bundles I’ve personally filled.)

The left part of the spreadsheet contains the rest of the columns that match the form–date the form was submitted, email address, recipient’s name, library card, etc.

We fill in the columns starting with “Bundle 1 Staff Member.” Each round of bundles has its own set of columns, including:

  • Bundle 3: Staff Name (the staff member who took the bundle)
  • Bundle 3: Date (the date the bundle is supposed to be filled)
  • Bundle 3: Books (books pulled for that bundle)
  • Done: Initials of staff member who processed the bundle and took its contents to the drive thru
  • Bundle 3: Email Sent? (labeled when an email is sent the next morning to the people whose bundles were filled)

You may have noticed that, unless you cancel or don’t pick up two bundles, families are automatically set to receive three bundles, and then they can renew for an additional three months (and so on). This makes for a very long spreadsheet.

Since part of the perk of a bundle is to make sure a child doesn’t receive the same books twice, we don’t want to delete old columns or start a new spreadsheet for renewals (since that means more places to check for titles that were shared before). And we can’t hide columns that aren’t as necessary later (such as the name of the staff member who filled the first bundle when you are filling bundle four, because, at the very bottom of the spreadsheet, new forms are being filled out–meaning some people on the spreadsheet haven’t received any bundles yet.

I do wonder if there is a way to streamline this a bit more–maybe with a tab based system? Maybe bundles could be moved to a new tab when they move on to bundle 2 or bundle 3–that might allow for some columns to be hidden for bundles farther down the renewal process, while still allowing first bundles to be added to the original tab. That would involve checking more places, but they would all still be in one spreadsheet–and we still have to scroll a ton to check each column when we are receiving a mix of bundle 1, 2, 3, and 4’s to fill each day. (Sorry if that didn’t make sense–figuring out a way to make this process flow a little smoother still flummoxes me).

Keeping Track of Bundles

There is another step here as well. The spreadsheet doesn’t auto-populate bundle 2 and bundle 3 dates, and we had quite a rush of bundle form submissions over the course of just one week in early January. Those renewals have since been spread out using our Google Calendar.

Whenever we fill a first bundle, we also create an appointment on our department’s Google Calendar. This lets us see (and print out) a list of all of the bundles to be filled on a particular day. This looks a little like the image below (much of it is blurred because of kids names).

During pandemic hours, we are closed on Sundays,
and we moved bundles off of Saturdays due to how many other responsibilities we have on those days.

Our manager works on assigning bundles to various days to spread out the workload.

For many of us, our first step for the day is adding the dates for bundles to be filled that day to the spreadsheet for easier searching. This isn’t a permanent part of the routine, but for myself and many of my coworkers, we’ve found it really useful to see those dates in the spreadsheet too instead of having to look back and forth between the calendar and the spreadsheet multiple times a day.

Cancellations, Renewals, and No Shows…Oh my.

There are many more components to this service too including:

  • keeping track of patrons who have chosen to cancel their subscription
  • keeping track of patrons who failed to pick up their bundle repeatedly
  • asking if patrons want to renew their bundle after their first three months are up

My manager has been keeping track of all of these moving parts in separate spreadsheets.

Subscription Bundle Creation

A few hundred words later, and I haven’t actually talked about making a bundle yet! Each bundle takes time–I’d estimate about 20-30 minutes each from start to finish. Sometimes more, sometimes less–more if someone has particularly nuanced requests, and you can’t select books used in the last 2-3 bundles; less if someone more generally wants “series for third graders.”

Filling a Bundle:

  1. Look at the calendar and spreadsheet for bundles assigned to that day. Type your name in the appropriate “Staff Name” column for any bundles you are claiming.
  2. Look at the reported age and interests, as well as previously selected books if this is a bundle that has been filled previously. Either use the catalog or walk the shelves to find 5-8 books that fit those interests that haven’t been given to this person before.
    *To save time, I’ve been intentionally picking bundles that are for a similar age range and interests, if possible. For example, if there are 30 bundles that day, and 6 kids say they want Dog Man readalikes, I start by claiming all of those bundles. This lets me sweep the shelves for anything that applies, divide them up by kid, and then look for more specific titles to flesh out remaining gaps. This has also helped me from “competing” with my fellow coworkers for titles–if we are all looking for the one “available” copy of the newest InvestiGATORS book, only one of us will find it, and the rest will need to find a new book to fill our bundle.
  3. Once I’ve found all of my books (and sorted them by kid), I type the titles of the books into the Google Spreadsheet column for that bundle’s books. I double check that anything I pulled wasn’t used before.
  4. At this point, if this is the first bundle, I add appointments to the Google Calendar for the next two bundles.
  5. At a service point with access to our ILS, I put the books on hold for the appropriate library card. There may be some rearranging if a book I pulled off the shelf is on hold for another patron.
  6. After putting the books on hold, I check them in, processing hold slips for each book.
  7. Books are bundled together using a H-band. Shortest in the front for easiest check out at the drive thru window.
  8. If this is a first bundle, the bundle gets a manila envelope with some goodies–a bookmark, a sticker, a library flyer, and more.
  9. Whether this is a first bundle or a later bundle, a card is added to the front of the pile with the recipient’s name.

H-Bands:

Our bundles are secured with H bands. These four-way rubber bands work well for holding big stacks of books together.

These Amazon ones are more brightly colored, but they can be a bit floppy depending the size of the stack you are filling. (See the lack of fit over the smaller, thinner first chapter books.)

These DEMCO H bands fit better to essentially any size stack of materials, but they do have a different texture that I’m not personally a fan of.

Giant rubber bands have also worked in a pinch when we run out of h bands. We don’t ask patrons to return the h bands, though they sometimes do.

Subscription Cards:

Each bundle comes with a subscription card taped to the top book. These have room for us to write the recipient’s name:

These were designed, printed, and cut by our amazing marketing department.

Bundle Contents:

What kind of books might make it into a bundle? There are some pictures above, but I’ve also pulled some title lists of bundles that I’ve created over the last few months. I aim for the same selection principles I use for my book talks — a variety of types of materials, some easier and some harder, and lots of diversity, but I’m also trying to meet each child’s needs and interests with what we have on the shelf at that moment. This can make some bundles frustrating to pull when all of my favorite books are checked out!

  • 18 months. Board books, lift the flap, really any topic.
    • Where’s the Unicorn? (Arrhenius)
    • Never Touch a Tiger
    • Where is the Very Hungry Caterpillar (Carle)
    • Baby’s Big Busy Book (Katz)
    • What Is Baby Going to Do?
    • Baby Faces Peekaboo?
    • Let’s Find the Kitten
    • Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin
  • 2nd Grade: Comics, Robots (Big Hero 6), Science
    • Baloney and Friends
    • Sadiq and the Bridge Builders
    • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot (Pilkey)
    • Big Hero 6 (graphic novel)
    • Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
    • Cat Kid Comic Club
    • Krypto the Superdog Here Comes Krypto
    • Max Axiom: Volcanoes
  • Grades 4-6. Dogman, Sports, Cars, Hilo, Minecraft. Reluctant reader.
    • Investigators Take the Plunge
    • Geronimo Stilton: Sewer Rat Stink
    • Bird and Squirrel: On the Run
    • Time Museum
    • Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker
    • Agent Moose
    • Monster Mayhem
    • Drew and Jot
  • Teen. War, Magic/Fantasy, Space.
    • Illuminae
    • Mechanica
    • The Circle
    • Scythe
    • Rebel Rose
    • Poisoned

Tips and Advice

Ah, the hardest part of this to write, buried at the bottom of an already lengthy post.

First, the pros:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During a time when people cannot or may not want to come into the library, this is a great way to get books into kids’ hands.
  • Circulation numbers are high!
  • Great books that aren’t always picked up can be sent home in bundles and given a chance at circulating.
  • I see the caregiver appeal, even outside of the pandemic. This is a great service for grown-ups-on-the-go with busy schedules, and for caregivers who simply can’t make it to the library regularly, especially bringing one or more kids in tow. There is a convenience to this service that can’t be beat.
  • The patron feedback is overwhelmingly positive. There is more positive feedback for bundles than many other services we offer.

Then, the cons:

  • Subscription bundles are very popular at my library. We have had over 500 bundles to fill in one month.
  • During this intermediary time, when the public is allowed back in the library but we are doing our best to stay away from them, pulling bundles is tough, since patrons get first use of the shelves.
  • Pulling bundles is time consuming. Selecting books for a child and all of the necessary processing can take 20-30 minutes per kid. Sometimes more (and sometimes less). In an effort to move through 30-40 bundles in a day, I sometimes find myself having to sacrifice finding the “perfect” book for a kid in place of finding something that is sort of related to their interests, simply because I don’t have enough time in a day to fill this many bundles and cover the rest of my responsibilities.
  • Long term, I wonder how this will affect weeding. We weed based on circulation numbers (and other criteria, but circulation is a big part). There are some books that I see get selected for bundles that are a bit dated and grungy looking, and that I know haven’t circulated on their own in a year or more. Will weeding stats still reflect kids’ interests if we are “forcing” (not the right word) them to check out books they wouldn’t have checked out otherwise? How will this reflect in physical space on our shelves in a few years?
  • Due to the popularity and patron feedback, subscription bundles can become what feels like the “most-important service” instead of one of many that serve different needs.

Before starting a subscription bundle service, here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you have the staffing to select, pull, and process bundles? If so, how many bundles can your staff reasonably do in a day while not detracting from other duties? If your staff doesn’t have the time to do each step of that process, is there a way to remove one or more steps to make the process easier? Do you need to set a cap on this service?
  • How does this fit in with what else you currently offer or don’t offer? There are some similarities in this service to teacher collections. Is there a way to merge the two?
  • Do you want this to be a subscription service? Do you have the long-term staffing to handle that? Do you have the current staffing to handle the additional organizational components of a subscription service–processing renewals, recording cancellations, scheduling future bundles?
  • What will your response be to families who want this service to be more frequent than your interval of choice? For example, each family gets a new bundle each month, but we have had many requests for us to pull new bundles for a family on a weekly or biweekly basis.
  • Where will people pick up their bundles? Do you have the physical space to put these bundles on holds shelves? What is the capacity of your physical space?
  • Who will handle cancellations? If your circulation staff normally processes cancelled holds, can they handle the increase in cancelled items created by this service?
  • Is there a way to make this service more accessible? For example, our service requires you to fill out a form online. You could call us, and we could fill out the form for you, but do people know that? For us, people have to pick up books at our physical location (for now anyway–schools might be an option long term). Can these bundles be picked up at other service points? Related–how easy is it for people in your community to get the library card required for sign-up?

Now, I’m going to be blunt. But, I also think you *really* have to be committed to this service to have read this far down the post, so if you have put the time in, you deserve to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Subscription bundles are great. Families love them. In small does, I love them. I love reader’s advisory, and I love picking out the perfect books for a child. More books check out than ever before. Our service are more convenient than ever before.

At the same time, my biggest pro and con for this service is what my particular library experienced: we got a little bit of social media promotion from some happy families, and we have been filling over 500 bundles a month. That means, in a month like February, we pulled at least 3000 books for patrons (estimating 6 books out of 5-8, though most bundles include 8 books). If each bundle takes 25 minutes (average) to work through all of the steps of selection and processing, we spent, as a staff, at least 200 hours pulling and processing bundles (in perspective, with four 40 hour weeks in a month, one person works about 160 hours a month).

We are lucky to have a very large staff, but with many hours work from home to accommodate social distancing, reopening to the public, desk and customer service hours, full programming schedules, and more–this has been tough. It makes work days even more exhausting, during a period of peak stress as we all adjusted to the library building being available to the public again, many personal questions about vaccines, and the reintroduction of services (or even just conversations around reintroduction of services), all on top of everything we have added to our plates since the pandemic began.

Bundles are great when everyone has time to handle the workload. Before starting something like this, really think about what you and your staff have time (and mental capacity) for. Maybe you need to set a cap–only 100 bundles at a time, with a waiting list of additional participants. Maybe you need to evaluate how to make each step of the process take less time by not getting quite this elaborate. Plan a way to back out if needed. Subscription bundles are a fantastic service–but make sure to be wary of the time and logistics before committing.

Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Jean-Michel Basquiat

As part of our virtual programming, I run 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. In March, this program featured Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Each program features 1-2 books on the famous individual (one book being their matching title from the Little People, Big Dreams book series). I also highlight music from a diverse artist and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad Ali
Rosa Parks

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

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

Watch the full storytime here:

In the event description, I included the link to the printable at home activity packet.

Storytime Outline

Intro: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

First Book: Jean-Michel Basquiat by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT /ANGLAIS: SANCHEZ VEGARA  ISABE: 9780711245792: Amazon.com: Books

Movement Break: Down Down Up Up by Kymberly Stewart

Second Book: Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe

Children's Books - Mobile Museum of Art - Mobile Museum of Art

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: Malala Yousafzai

Virtual Book Talk: Grades K-5

Book talks are one of my favorite parts of librarianship. I love going into classrooms, seeing a captive audience of students (who may or may not be excited to see me–at first), and building a feeling of mounting excitement as kids learn that their library is full of fun places to go, fun programs to participate in, and a bunch of books that are actually really cool. My booktalks are packed with energy and popular topics. And I haven’t presented one in about a year. We reached out to schools about virtual book talk options, but while some of my coworkers have had luck, every teacher I’ve reached out to never actually schedules a virtual book talk. I’ve made over 100 individual YouTube book talk videos, and while those are fun, I don’t get to talk to any kids. Finally, (finally!) about a year since I was last in a classroom, I had the chance to talk to some kids virtually.

This presentation was definitely different than in-person book talks. First, I had a collection of grades at once: K-2 and then 3-5 (30 minutes each). Second, since I was presenting virtually with a powerpoint with images, I could pick any book. I wasn’t limited by what was on our shelves. Also, unlike in-person book talks, where we are scheduled to see the same class multiple times a year, this was a one-and-done experience for the school’s literacy day. This opened up so, so many book possibilities. I’m still not sure I’m entirely happy with my choices–it was simply so hard to choose!

The school also wanted me to talk about some other services too. Specifically, they wanted a library tour, information about library cards, and details on programs and services. This was much tougher than usual because the places and services I normally highlight on a tour or during an in-person book talk still aren’t operating. Our play spaces, video game room, and homework help center are closed. Kids can come in and use the computers, but they aren’t encouraged to come game with their friends for hours like they might have done in 2019. I can and did share the different types of books we have, but I wasn’t able to highlight much beyond that.

I talked a bit about getting a library card–which is easier than it has ever been–and about some of our upcoming virtual events as well, before jumping into the books!

Just like I do for in-person visits, I included slides with big images of covers and select spreads:

For Grades K-2, I highlighted these books:

The full K-2 PowerPoint is available here:

For Grades 3-5, I featured these books:

The full 3-5 PowerPoint is available here:

I think the content presented virtually was a bit too much for the students in grades K-2, but grades 3-5 stayed with me and even asked a bunch of questions at the end about the books I discussed, other books, and the library’s history.

It felt fantastic to be able to talk to students again, especially in a way that let me hear from them too. Hopefully, maybe, we will be able to do more of these virtual visits next year in classroom settings. Even if we can’t go into the classrooms, hopefully our local schools will be on a better routine that might allow us to stop by (virtually) more often than we could this school year. There are certain core elements of librarianship that are part of why I signed up for this job in the first place–and talking to kids about books is one of them. While I know these won’t be around forever, especially if I pursue a career in management or collection development or many other future directions, I also wasn’t quite ready to let these things go yet–so for now I’m just happy to have had another opportunity to talk to a bunch of kids about books.

Don’t Let Pigeon Take Over Storytime!

Pigeon Storytime! Featuring the one and only bird from the Mo Willems books. I have my own personal secret: I hate this bird. The books and Pigeon’s general personality annoy me to no end. But…this ended up being one of my favorite storytimes.

The highlight, of course, was Pigeon’s attempted storytime coup:

Catch a glimpse of the whole experience in the video below.

This was another very popular program: over 600 virtual attendees!

Just like past virtual storytimes, I curated a PDF packet that we shared with event participants. Many of these materials are from Mo Willems’ Pigeon website, full of great resources. Download the activity packet here.

Watch the short preview video below. This isn’t like many of my other preview videos…instead Pigeon keeps popping up all over the library!

And watch the full storytime here:

The general storytime layout–in order of what I presented–is below, with videos where applicable.

Pigeon Storytime Outline

Intro Song: Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs

Pigeon Book: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!: Mo Willems, Mo Willems: 8601416094786:  Amazon.com: Books

Music: Wheels on the Bus by Jay Laga’aia

Action Song: If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It

If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it,
And you really want to show it!
If you’re a pigeon and you know it, flap your wings!

Shake your tail (shake, shake)
Eat your cookies (nom, nom)
Drive the bus (zoom, zoom)

Pigeon Takeover
After If You’re a Pigeon and You Know It, I realized–oops!–I forgot our second book! I needed to step out to get it, and while I did just that, I put on some music and needed everyone watching to keep an eye on storytime. Sure enough, Pigeon attempted a takeover!

I didn’t actually leave the room–instead I had a table on wheels to the side of the screen. When I stepped off screen, I opened and closed the door to the room before wheeling the table on screen. I tested the height ahead of time to make sure Pigeon was visible but the table wasn’t.

I had the signs piled and ready on a table off screen. The sticks were attached from the top because it is much easier to drop something from above onto the screen then for me to try to lay below the camera and get up again. If I did this again, I might try to have this situated somehow so the signs were resting on the table, and I removed one at a time. My hand was shaking quite a bit during this portion (so the signs were too).

I ran through the timing of the song and the signs beforehand and made sure I had just enough signs to last the length of the song. I came back at the end of the song with another opening and closing of the door and a loud “PIGEON!” before returning on camera to “rescue” storytime.

Pigeon Book: The Duckling Gets A Cookie?!

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (Pigeon series): Willems, Mo, Willems, Mo:  8601420609846: Amazon.com: Books

Magnet: Pigeon Playing Hide and Seek

Pigeon, Pigeon playing hide and seek
Are you behind the yummy cookie?
Let’s take a peek!

Closing Song: I Know a PIGEON (Chicken) by Laurie Berkner
We very loudly shouted PIGEON in place of Chicken throughout the song.

Extra, Extra!
I filmed a few extra Pigeon videos that were on YouTube but didn’t make it into storytime:

Two Little Pigeons:

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a hill
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Run away Jack, run away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on a cloud.
One named soft and one named loud.
Run away soft, run away loud.
Come back soft, come back loud.

Two little pigeons sittin’ on down below.
One named fast and one named slow.
Run away fast, run away slow.
Come back fast, come back slow.

Five Little Pigeons Sitting in a Tree:

Five little pigeons sitting in a tree
One flew away! How many do you see?

One, two, three four!


And finally, I attempted to write a rhyme to the tune of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, but I didn’t get it quite right. Feel free to edit and make it your own!

The happy little pigeon
Snuck onto the bus route.
Along came the driver
Who chased the pigeon out.
Along came the kids who
Jumped onto the bus.
And the happy little pigeon
Rode along with us.

Book Club in a Bag: Shuri

Take-and-make kits; craft kits; programs to go: whatever your library calls these programs in a bag that have become a staple of no-contact offerings, one thing is fairly standard: these kits are well loved, but they take time to make. I love creating materials for kits and thinking about how a family might interact with program materials at home. I’ve introduced a new pair of kits for ages 6-11 in January 2021: Book Club in a Bag. This week’s feature: Shuri by Nic Stone.

The Book Club in a Bag kits look a bit different from some of my previous kits. Instead of focusing on just one book universe, these kits each feature four characters, hopefully some old favorites as well as some new, diverse characters.

In January, these featured characters included (links provided as the bag contents are shared on Book Cart Queens):

Each bag contains some repeated resources:

  • List of kit contents
  • List of books in the featured series
  • List of readalike books
  • Discussion questions
  • Swag item (button, sticker, bookmark)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Shuri Kit

The Shuri Kit can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. Most of this kit can be re-created simply using a printer, with the addition of extra items depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Shuri Kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links below, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

Shuri General Materials

Each bag contains some of the same basic materials, and the Shuri kit is no different.

Shuri Bookmark – All Books

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing all book titles here.

Shuri Bookmark – Readalikes

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the Readalike titles here.

The Shuri readalike bookmark features these titles:

Shuri Discussion Questions

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the discussion questions here.

The Shuri Discussion Questions include:

  • Shuri has the responsibilities of a princess, even though she really wants to spend time creating fascinating new inventions. When have you had to choose between something you have to do and something you love to do?
  • When Shuri first realizes there is a problem with the Heart-Shaped Herb, the adults seem too busy to listen. How do you convince people to listen when you have something important to share?
  • Shuri meets many superheroes on her adventures. Who is your favorite superhero? If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
  • Think about K’Marah and Shuri’s relationship. Are they friends at the beginning of the novel? What about at the end? How do you know?

Shuri Swag – Activity Book

This bag also included a Shuri Superhero Activity Packet. Download a ready-to-print PDF here.

Shuri Crafts, Games, and More

This particular bag included two activities: a Create Your Own Superhero activity sheet and a pack of Superhero BINGO carts.

Download the Create Your Own Superhero Sheet here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

BINGO Cards

I also included a set of Superhero BINGO cards. I first used these for a Facebook Live event a few months ago, but I created a play at home, pre-printed set for each Shuri kit.

Download the Superhero BINGO Cards here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Reader’s Theater: Virtual Edition!

Reader’s Theater was a popular in-person program, pre-pandemic. It was actually one of the last programs I ran in person, with our regular season running each February (learn more about in-person Reader’s Theater here, though the process is pretty similar to what is outlined below).

My Reader’s Theater kids are known for their energy, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into by making this a virtual program. But, in the end, other than internet connection issues, the program was pretty seamless.

Before the Program – Script Prep!

Most of my work takes place before I see the kids the first time, and this was also the case virtually. Personally, I don’t use standard “reader’s theater scripts” that you can find on Google–they often feel forced or aren’t as fun for my 3rd-5th graders. Instead, I look for funny picture books that can be adapted to a reader’s theater style performance. I also have a stash of old Zoom Playhouse Scripts. The Zoom website is no longer available, but some of these can be transcribed from YouTube videos.

Knowing that I both had some new faces among my signups and that I wanted some familiarity, this year’s scripts included the titles below. Click on the links on the titles to download the scripts to use in your own program.

I plan for a full group of 15 kids. Not every kid is in every play. I select scripts that allow for 60 parts total (four per reader). Many picture books allow for multiple narrator roles, allowing me to tweak scripts to fit the number of parts I need to reach 60.

Once I have all of my scripts, I print them all out and highlight the appropriate lines for each part. Then, the sorting begins.

I sort scripts into folders before the first rehearsal. In person, kids then randomly select a folder without knowing what parts are inside. Virtually, I had to distribute folders out the drive thru window pickup service, so I had to pick parts for kids ahead of time. When I had a toss up for who should get a part with more lines, I tended to give it to kids who were aging out of the program this year (especially those who had been doing this a while).

To break scripts down into folders, I try to aim for the following:

  • 4 scripts per folder
  • At least 1 script that is a “lead” role (more lines)
  • Not all parts in one folder are narrator roles
  • If possible, spread scripts out based on the chosen performance order (not all scripts are at the beginning or end)

Each folder has two labels on the front with the parts of the performer and the performance order. I use three-prong folders, so scripts are hole-punched and inserted into the prongs.

Another difference: in person, kids would only get copies of the scripts for the plays they were in. Virtually, each kid got a copy of every script because I new we would have absences and drop outs, and I would need to assign those roles. In person, I handed kids the folder of the absent participant, virtually, I didn’t want to deal with sending links to virtual copies of scripts.

Some other practices to make script assignment smooth:

  • I create a master sheet for me, organized by play, labeling which scripts/performers have which parts. This helps a lot when 15 8-11-year-olds are paying zero attention to which play comes next.
  • I have a jar on hand with the names of each kid inside on a separate slip of paper. If someone is absent, I pull a name out of the jar to evenly distribute extra parts.

Reader’s Theater Virtual Program

This virtual program followed a similar schedule to in-person Reader’s Theater:

  • Week 1: Zoom Scavenger Hunt, Intro to Reader’s Theater, Practice Scripts
  • Week 2: Zoom Scavenger Hunt, Practice Scripts (continued from week 1)
  • Week 3:Zoom Scavenger Hunt, Full Rehearsal
  • Week 4: Performance for family, friends, and more

We started the first three virtual sessions with a Would You Rather question and a Zoom scavenger hunt.

Would You Rather Questions included:

  • Would you rather only be able to get around by hopping like a kangaroo or leaping like a ballerina?
  • Would you rather have ketchup randomly come out of your belly button or your nose?
  • Would you rather be able to only eat your favorite food for the rest of your life, or would you rather never be able to eat it again?

Zoom Scavenger Hunt Items included:

Week 1
1. Something you can wear on your head
2. Something with words on it
3. Something related to dinosaurs
4. Something with wings
5. Something that is meant to get wet
6. Something that makes a sound
7. One of these: rock, paper, or scissors
8. A spoon
9. Something bumpy
10. Something that makes you laugh
11. Something you really want to share
12. Your script!

Download PPT.
Week 2
1. Something you can wear on your head
2. Something related to food
3. A book
4. Something Orange
5. Something round
6. Your script!

Download PPT.
Week 3
1. Something you can wear on your head
2. Something that can hold something else
3. Something related to animals
4. Something purple
5. Your script!

Download PPT.

We only rehearsed one script at a time, so the kids who are not currently practicing are welcome to watch and give feedback, or they can explore some busywork packets–mad libs, dot-to-dots, kawaii coloring sheets, Captain Underpants Name Changer, etc. Download our busywork packet here.

On performance day, family and friends could use the same link to watch the performance. I asked them to mute and turn their cameras off (and did so for them if they did not), and gave them instructions on how to only view the performers on their screens. Everything went smoothly, with a great performance by all!

Reader’s Theater: Virtual Tips

I’ve run this program a lot in person, and I imagine everyone’s experience (virtual or in person) will be very different. Some things I discovered virtually:

  • A lot more kids came once and never returned or never came at all. This meant our final performers ended up with more parts–but it also made things a little more challenging to organize when we got to plays that had more parts than we had performers.
  • “Correcting” kids feels very different virtually. I don’t like to actively correct the kids in any setting, but in person, another kid would more often step in and try to help someone struggling with pronunciation. Sometimes, I would make sure I was seated in a spot situated near someone who needed a little more help reading (or someone who struggled to pay attention to a long script). Virtually, other than through chat, it isn’t really doable to whisper something to one kid without everyone hearing. I mainly only stepped in if someone was really having microphone issues or internet connection problems.
  • Speaking of internet connection problems: they persist, kids can’t always solve the problems on their own, and you can’t always help either. When reading scripts that rely on reading in order and moving through a lot of lines quickly, internet lags can make a 5-minute script take 15 minutes.
  • Figure out, or prepare for, microphone issues ahead of time. I’ve seen some teachers may require kids to keep their microphones on during a virtual class. I didn’t want to require that, but I debated requiring kids to keep them on during a play they were performing in to help keep things moving. I decided not to, for privacy, and that ended up being the best decision. It slowed things down, but one of our particular participants who muted between every line had a screaming baby in the background. It added a few minutes to things, but it was more enjoyable for everyone.

Book Club in a Bag: Phoebe and Her Unicorn

Take-and-make kits; craft kits; programs to go: whatever your library calls these programs in a bag that have become a staple of no-contact offerings, one thing is fairly standard: these kits are well loved, but they take time to make. I love creating materials for kits and thinking about how a family might interact with program materials at home. I’ve introduced a new pair of kits for ages 6-11 in January 2021: Book Club in a Bag. This week’s feature: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson.

The Book Club in a Bag kits look a bit different from some of my previous kits. Instead of focusing on just one book universe, these kits each feature four characters, hopefully some old favorites as well as some new, diverse characters.

In January, these featured characters included (links provided as the bag contents are shared on Book Cart Queens):

Each bag contains some repeated resources:

  • List of kit contents
  • List of books in the featured series
  • List of readalike books
  • Discussion questions
  • Swag item (button, sticker, bookmark)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Kit

The Phoebe and Her Unicorn Kit can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. Most of this kit can be re-created simply using a printer, with the addition of extra items depending on your budget.

Want to use make a Phoebe and Her Unicorn Kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links below, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn General Materials

Each bag contains some of the same basic materials, and the Phoebe and Her Unicorn kit is no different.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Bookmark – All Books

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing all book titles here.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Bookmark – Readalikes

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the Readalike titles here.

The Phoebe and Her Unicorn readalike bookmark features these titles:

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Discussion Questions

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the discussion questions here.

The Phoebe and Her Unicorn Discussion Questions include:

  • Are you more of a Phoebe or a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils?
  • Phoebe was granted a magical wish when she rescued Marigold. If you had one magical wish, what would you wish for?
  • Most of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn books are collections of comic strips. What makes this book different than other graphic novels you have read? 
  • How does the friendship between Phoebe and Marigold change and grow throughout the series? How do you see that difference in the illustrations and the text?
  • When the story starts, do you like Phoebe and Marigold equally? How does that change?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Swag – 1″ Buttons

This bag also included 5 1″ Phoebe and Her Unicorn buttons. Download a printable PDF to make them yourself here.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Crafts, Games, and More

This particular bag included three activities: a drawing guide, a unicorn bookmark craft, and a unicorn puppet craft.

The drawing guide borrowed heavily from the resources available on the Publisher website. Find more of those here.

Download the ready-to-print drawing guide here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Unicorn Crafts

We also included the supplies to make a unicorn puppet craft and a unicorn bookmark. The two crafts needed a set of instructions, glue dots, a piece of white cardstock, and shared unicorn accessories sheets. Kids were encouraged to design their own unicorn pieces, but they could choose from the included pieces if they preferred.

Download the Unicorn Accessories sheets here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Download the Unicorn Puppet Instructions here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Download the Unicorn Bookmark instructions here:

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Book Club in a Bag: New Kid Kit

Take-and-make kits; craft kits; programs to go: whatever your library calls these programs in a bag that have become a staple of no-contact offerings, one thing is fairly standard: these kits are well loved, but they take time to make. I love creating materials for kits and thinking about how a family might interact with program materials at home. I’ve introduced a new pair of kits for ages 6-11 in January 2021: Book Club in a Bag. This week’s feature: New Kid by Jerry Craft.

The Book Club in a Bag kits look a bit different from some of my previous kits. Instead of focusing on just one book universe, these kits each feature four characters, hopefully some old favorites as well as some new, diverse characters.

In January, these featured characters included (links provided as the bag contents are shared on Book Cart Queens):

Each bag contains some repeated resources:

  • List of kit contents
  • List of books in the featured series
  • List of readalike books
  • Discussion questions
  • Swag item (button, sticker, bookmark)
  • 1-3 crafts, games, activities

New Kid Kit

The New Kid Kit can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. Most of this kit can be re-created simply using a printer, with the addition of extra items depending on your budget.

Want to use make a New Kid Kit at your library? Download the PDFs at the links below, or write a comment or send an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files.

New Kid General Materials

Each bag contains some of the same basic materials, and the New Kid kit is no different.

New Kid Bookmark – All Books

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF listing all book titles here.

New Kid Bookmark – Readalikes

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the Readalike titles here.

The New Kid readalike bookmark features these titles:

New Kid Discussion Questions

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF of the discussion questions here.

The New Kid Discussion Questions include:

  • Which five words best describe New Kid?
  • Why do you think Jerry Craft drew Jordan’s sketchbook drawings completely differently than the rest of the book?
  • Have you ever been the new kid somewhere? How was your experience the same or different from Jordan’s?
  • What makes being a new kid so challenging for Jordan?
  • 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?
  • What does this book say about friendship? What makes a good friend?
  • Which character do you identify with the most? Why?

New Kid Swag – Buttons

This bag also included a 2.25″ New Kid button. Download a printable PDF to make them yourself here.

New Kid Crafts, Games, and More

This particular bag only included one activity: make your own journal. Supplies included:

  • Instruction Sheet (below)
  • 3 sets washi tape
  • 2 pieces cardstock (halves of 9 x 12 sheet, pre-punched)
  • 20 pieces of printer paper (10 full sheets in half, pre-punched)
  • 3 binder rings
  • Colored Pencils (not pictured)

Slideshare not working? Download the PDF here.

Little People Big Dreams Storytime: Muhammad Ali

As part of our virtual programming, I run 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. In February, this program featured Muhammad Ali.

Each program features 1-2 books on the famous individual (one book being their matching title from the Little People, Big Dreams book series). I also highlight music from a diverse artist and include a link to an at-home packet to continue the fun and learning.

Explore More Little People, Big Dreams Storytime Outlines:

Ella Fitzgerald
Harriet Tubman
Jean Michel Basquiat
Martin Luther King Jr.
Rosa Parks

Find additional storytime content at the links below:

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

Watch the full storytime here.

In the event description, I included the link to the printable at home activity packet.

Storytime Outline

Intro: Teddy Bear by Jazzy Ash

First Book: Muhammad Ali by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Little People Big Dreams)

Image result for little people big dreams muhammad ali

Movement Break: Banana Banana Meatball by Blazer Fresh (GoNoodle)

Second Book: Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born by Gene Baretta

Image result for muhammad ali book picture

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: Jean-Michel Basquiat

1 2 7