School Age

Winnie the Pooh Party

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

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

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

Activity stations included:

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

Pooh BINGO

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

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

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

Honey Pot Bags

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

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

Pooh & Friends Headbands

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

Pin the Tail on Eeyore

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

Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

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

Download scavenger hunt sheet below:

Download prize bookmarks below:

Catch the Heffalump Obstacle Course

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

Pooh Books & Materials

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

Book Talk – 5th Grade Reads

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

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

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

Selecting Books

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

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

Each of my book talk collections must include:

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

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

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

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

5th Grade Reads

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

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

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

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

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

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

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

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

So she does.

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

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

Make & Take Crafternoon

A few times a year, I offer a Make & Take Crafternoon program for our patrons. While this is designed for ages 6+ (some crafts with small pieces are included), this is a family event with a variety of crafting opportunities. This is also a great chance for us to clean out old supplies that have been sitting in our cabients.

While this isn’t my best attended event, it is simpler than most, involving a few stations and teen volunteer help.

At this month’s crafternoon, my activities included:

  • Button Makers (2.25″ and 1″)
  • 3Doodlers
  • Perler Beads
  • Random Craft Corner

Visitors could move between any of the stations as they liked over the 1 hour and 15 minute program. Anything they made they got to keep.

Button Makers

While our button makers are normally quite popular, they didn’t receive much use during this program. One teen volunteer managed both our 1″ and 2.25″ button makers, both from American Button Machines.

These machines have definitely been worth their relatively high cost. We use the machines as a creation station in programs, and we use the buttons we make as incentives to stop by the library during the summer, prizes for passive activities, and giveaways at large events.

I have a ton of templates with cute button images as well as blank templates that allow kids to design their own buttons. I also put out magazines for kids to find their own images in, but these have not been very popular at my last few programs.

3Doodlers

Our 3Doodlers didn’t get too much use at this event. Typically, they are the star of the show. These amazing pens print a warm plastic that can be molded into any shape before it hardens. While it isn’t recommended you draw on your skin, the pen tip and plastic are never hot enough to burn you. They are great for practicing dexterity and patience for elementary school students, and older kids can make some pretty amazing creations.

Perler Beads

Perler Beads were the most popular activity this week! I was surprised to see the interest, but almost every attendee made at least one Perler Bead creation, with many being quite elaborate, and some involving over 200 beads!

We had an adult volunteer manage the iron. Attendees were welcome to copy templates out of beadcraft books, off of internet images, or to make whatever they could imagine.

Random Craft Corner

I always like putting out random craft supplies, as this gives kids the freedom to make anything they would like. While the 3Doodlers and button makers often attract attention, many kids will gravitate towards the hodgepodge of materials to make something simple (like a bracelet) or something more elaborate, like a sock puppet with two heads. We recently had a large donation of empty Pringles cans, and those were the star of the random craft materials this time.

Make & Take Crafternoon is a fun program for me–it is simple to put together with what we have on hand, promotes family engagement, and helps clear out our craft closet. A win all around!

Pokemon Party

There is nothing quite like the Pokemon fandom. Pokemon love spans all ages–from preschoolers to grown-ups. There is a huge Pokemon following at my library, and this year’s Pokemon event was no exception, with 150 folks coming together to celebrate.

My unregistered fandom programs over the summer typically include three core elements: group trivia, group BINGO, and a variety of crafts and games that folks can participate in at anytime. The annual Pokemon Party involves a few additional items, including raffle/door prizes as well as a ton of snacks. I normally avoid food in programs, but at each Pokemon event, I have groups of kids who bring binders of trading cards and sit with other kids for the entire two hours. The snacks are meant for them but are available for everyone.

Trivia & BINGO

Trivia and BINGO are optional for whoever wants to participate. Trivia is difficult intentionally, with prizes for the Pokemon trivia experts. Everyone who participates gets a sticker, but our top three trivia masters get to pick from some nicer themed prizes (in order from highest to lowest score).

The program outline and all trivia questions are in the below powerpoint:

BINGO is for everyone. We continue to play until everyone has gotten a BINGO. For many of our youngest players, this is their first ever BINGO game! When someone gets a BINGO, they bring their board to the front of the room and get to reach into a mystery bag filled with tiny Pokemon figurines. One prize-winning BINGO per person.

I got my BINGO boards free from The Eco Friendly Family, and using the extra boards provided, created enough boards to have 50 players at once.

3Doodlers & Button Makers

I use our library tech whenever possible, especially at fandom party programs. The 3Doodler pens made an appearance, with outlines of various Pokemon to trace (Pikachu was the favorite).

Our 2.25″ button maker was also available, with a teen volunteer helping kids make as many buttons as they would like.

Pokeball Ping Pong Balls

This is my third Pokemon event, and I am always on the hunt for new crafts. One of this year’s addition was ping pong balls with sharpies and pictures of Pokeballs. Kids could color their own Pokeballs, with clear rules that they couldn’t throw their new pokeballs during the program.

Trainer Toolbelts

Another new craft for this year was trainer toolbelts. I gave kids black strips of 12″x18″ paper, string to tie to the ends, and various cardstock pokeball designs they could color and cut out. “Pokeballs” could be taped or glued onto “pokebelts” and worn around the waist.

Guess the Pokemon

Guess the Pokemon is an annual favorite game. This year, I used 20 new Pokemon silhouettes. Kids had to identify the Pokemon’s name, check their answers, and pick up a small prize.

Pin the Tail on Pikachu

Exactly what it sounds like. Kids pinned the tail on Pikachu. This was also a return game from past events.

Catch the Pokemon

I wrapped pop cans in Pokemon character faces and colors. Kids threw a stuffed pokeball at the cans in an effort to “catch” the Pokemon by knocking the cans down.

Pokemon Scavenger Hunt

Each year, to advertise my Pokemon Party, I put a Pokemon scavenger hunt around the youth department, adapted from the one created by the Ontarian Librarian. This is always a huge hit, with a few hundred kids completing the scavenger hunt.

Innovation Academy: Tech Fair

After receiving a grant for some technology items two years ago, I’ve been running registered, monthly technology programs for upper elementary school kids (roughly ages 8-12).

These were great programs, except for a few recurring issues:

  • Each program focuses on one topic or device, and I have a limited number of devices, so a limited number of kids could attend (max. of 20, sometimes as few as 10).
  • This means that these programs had to be registered. Registration often filled up within 30 minutes of it opening (two weeks before the program date), even when I was offering 2-4 sessions in a month.
  • Each program, I have a new set of kids with different abilities. Some have coding skills well beyond my own; others have never heard the word “coding” before walking through the door. This made it hard to plan anything too advanced.
  • While programs were designed for ages 8-12, I often have parents sign up their 5-7-year-olds for my programs. While I am glad they are excited about tech, it makes it even more difficult to teach basic coding to a group of kids with mixed abilities when a few of them can’t even read yet.

This summer, I decided to try something different. Instead of offering weekly registered tech programming, I offered monthly tech fairs. I put out as much technology as could fit in our space and work with the number of tablets we own. I wasn’t sure what to expect with attendance or participation, but overall the programs were a success.

Technology Used

Each month, I strategically planned out how the room was laid out to accommodate the most technology. Almost all of the technology we own was used at some point during the summer–it was a great bonus to see everything out of the cabinets and being used by the public.

Tech I used at least once over the three programs included:

Each technology item was at a different station with a loosely structured activity. As the sessions went on, I realized that structured activities really weren’t necessary. Kids explored the technology in deeper and more creative ways when they had the time to do that on their own without having to focus on specific steps in a task.

Family Engagement

An unexpected outcome of this program was the multi-generational experiences and learning that took place. During my monthly registered tech programs, sibling partners often worked together, but, with rare exceptions, adults stayed outside of the room.

Since the tech fair wasn’t structured in the same way, adults were welcomed into the tech space. Little siblings came too. Third graders showed grandparents how to build a video game with Bloxels. Parents explained to kids how Ozobots use sensors to read color patterns that tell them to complete certain actions. Five-year-olds who didn’t yet have the skills to use the Blocky app with Dash helped create an obstacle course, and an older sibling explained to them how their code worked.

Families walked out of the program with some hands on time with new technology after thinking creatively about ways to take a simple challenge or activity to a new level.

Tech fairs are simpler for me to plan than monthly programs. I am essentially pulling from our supply of tech, charging and pairing everything, and leaving the rest up to our patrons. Registration and age requirements are no longer issues. However, the simplicity in program planning is not why I want to repeat this series–the learning that came from family engagement made this series something to remember.

Dog Man to the Rescue!

This summer, we celebrated our library’s most popular book character–Dog Man! Reflecting the passion for this book series and our busy summers, 110 patrons ages 6-10 (and their parents and younger siblings) attended this 1.5 hour event.

Over the last year, all of my unregistered fan-event programs have followed a similar template: two group activities at specific times and a variety of stations that attendees can visit at their leisure. The Dog Man program was no different.


Group Activities

Trivia

Dog Man trivia allowed those kids who have read every Dog Man book ten times a chance to show off their knowledge. About fifteen minutes into the program, trivia began. Kids wrote down their guesses for all 20 questions before self-grading their trivia sheets on the honor system. Everyone who participated got a bookmark, and the top three participants got to pick, in order of highest to lowest scores, from our trivia prizes: a stuffed Dog Man, a Dog Man lunchbox, and a copy of the first Dog Man book.

All questions and answers are available in the PowerPoint below (in addition to my opening program slides). Visit my slideshare page to download the full slideshow.

BINGO

While trivia is for the Dog Man experts, BINGO is for everyone. We play BINGO until everyone has earned a BINGO, with a few rounds so that new folks have a chance to jump in. Winners reached into a brown lunch bag to pull out a random Dog Man 1″ button.

To help kids who do not know every Dog Man book and character, all images have a number beside them. I call out the number in addition to the name of the image when I pull each picture out of the jar. All images are on all boards.

Download all 51 BINGO boards here, and the BINGO jar pieces here.


Stations

Police Academy Obstacle Course

Attendees trained like Dog Man and Dog Man’s police officer friends, making sure they have the physical agility to be prepared to save the day when needed. Today’s obstacle course included:

After completing the obstacle course, attendees received a Dog Man hat.

Petey’s Invention Lab: Robot Craft

You can’t have a Dog man program without some reference to the sometimes nefarious, sometimes good, Petey the Cat. Attendees built a simple robot craft from a cardboard tube and a variety of everyday craft supplies, including construction paper, pony beads, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, and more. Tubes were spray-painted silver before the program.

Make Your Own Comic

Dog Man books are comics (made by the George and Harold of Captain Underpants fame), so kids got a chance to make their own Dog Man comic strips. The blank comic sheets I used are available as free downloads from the picklebums website.

3Doodlers: Dog Man Edition

Dog Man 3Doodler Station

We bought 3Doodler Start pens as part of a technology grant a few years ago, and I use these magic pens whenever I can. They are very simple to use–turn the pen on, wait for the green light, then push the big orange button to make plastic come out of the tip. The plastic is warm, but never so hot that it risks burning anyone. Patrons leave programs with a physical, 3D-version of whatever they drew.

I provided Dog Man outlines for patrons to use, but I don’t think too many folks had much success with those. Mostly kids made what they wanted.

Button Making

Similar to the 3Doodler pens, our department 2.25″ button maker gets a lot of use, especially at public programs. Attendees selected a 2.25″ button image, cut it into a circle, and brought it and the needed button pieces to a teen volunteer who helped them make the button.

Download the 2.25″ button images here.

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Pin the Head on Dog Man

Attendees had one last Dog Man activity to complete–a simple game of Pin the Head on Dog Man (because pinning hats or badges would be too simple). My awesome marketing department printed a large Dog Man body and three heads on our banner printer.

Participants got a sticker for completing the activity. These print on Avery 2.5″ round label sheets. Download here.