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.

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.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (8/10/2020-8/16/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books & Readers:

First Chapter:

Everything Else:

Note: More books with diverse main characters, but fewer overall books by own voices authors. I have a good pile of own voices chapter books in my to-be-read stack, but I haven’t had the energy to push into them right now. This weekend, I made a good dent in the shorter books checked out to me–but I do have a rapidly growing eARCs stack that I have abandoned. So. Many. Books.

Stats for the Week:

  • 46 Books Read This Week
    • 31 Books with Diverse Main Character (67%)
    • 20 Books by Diverse Authors (43%)
    • 10 Books by Own Voices Authors (22%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: I know that I am reading, I know that I am still consuming literature and that I still do reader’s advisory (however few and far between it is now), but because of the weird time vacuum we are in I feel like I have read nothing and it is all for naught. I really miss my teens.

Pinkalicious Storytime

Another themed Saturday storytime special! I first thought about having a Pinkalicious Party over a year ago after having two different moms ask me for Pinkalicious readers for their sons. Previously, I had felt that a program on this book and tv series was a little too close to conforming to gender norms for my taste, but I was convinced otherwise by the number of young boys expressing interest in the books. While it was never my intention for this program to be virtual, I see a distinct advantage to it–there were many young boys in my virtual audience, and we didn’t have any of the parent comments that could have occurred in person or the social stigma that could have kept a parent from bringing their son to a program celebrating all things pink. (Another way virtual programming can open doors for patrons!)

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

To help continue the Pinkalicious 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.

Backdrop Setup: Pennant banners and Pinkalicious book covers and images helped make my backdrop more on-theme to increase the Pinkalicious excitement (and it helps that my wall is pink!):

Pinkalicious Intro: We got ready for storytime with Shake Your Sillies Out by Rainbow Songs, my go-to intro song.

Book: Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

Amazon.com: Pinkalicious (8580001052694): Victoria Kann, Elizabeth ...

Song: Dance All Day by Bari Kori
Pinkalicious is fairly long, so I wanted to get some wiggles out with a movement-heavy song after the book.

Fingerplay: I Have One, I Have Two Little Mermaids (celebrating Aqua from Aqualicious)

Puppets: Down Around the Corner starring Pink Animals

Song: Pink by Pancake Manor (freeze dance!)

Action Rhyme: Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious Turn Around (skipped in storytime)

Magnet: Pinkalicious, Pinkalicious Where Do You Hide?

Magic Wish: Make our unicorn light up with our wishing powers! (only repeated twice in the actual storytime)

Closing Song: Pinkalicious Theme Song

Virtual Program: Dog Man BINGO

Dog Man BINGO! There is so much Dog Man love in the universe. This program was pulled from my Dog Man to the Rescue! in-person 2019 Dog Man event, with some minor tweaks to work as a virtual event.

This had a bit more interest than Book Character BINGO a few weeks ago, though I don’t think BINGO draws excitement the same way trivia does. We are experimenting with a weekly live after school trivia/BINGO style event in September, and I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

Looking for more Dog Man?

Check out Virtual Dog Man Trivia and Dog Man to the Rescue!

And discover other virtual school age programs:

Content

We played three rounds of BINGO, two where we aimed for five in a row, and a final coverall game, allowing everyone to get a BINGO.

Watch the video 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 or book covers they are unfamiliar with.

Download the BINGO cards here:

I also curated an at-home fun packet, featuring an activity page for each of our book characters. Download here.

And, of course, a Dog Man BINGO printable certificate:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (8/3/2020-8/9/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books:

Everything Else:

Note: 40 books does not equal a reading drought, but I definitely felt a bit of reading burnout this week. I just didn’t have any interest in reading before bed, even knowing that I had a big stack of graphic novels I had been eagerly anticipating waiting for me. I’m back in the library an extra day next week with a return to more “normal hours”, and I expect my reading to return to normal levels, mostly because I have to try to shift back to waking up around 6-7 am to get to work on time. I get it from the patron perspective, but…commute. Mornings. Why, why, why. I really don’t want to see the sunrise.

Stats for the Week:

  • 41 Books Read This Week
    • 25 Books with Diverse Main Character (61%)
    • 19 Books by Diverse Authors (46%)
    • 9 Books by Own Voices Authors (22%) (to the best of my knowledge)

This week’s reading highlights:

Michala’s Reading

Note: Reading more again. Feeling it more. Quarantine kills my spirit though.

Storytime: Book Retellings

We are on a brief live storytime hiatus as we re-adjust for whatever the fall will bring, so I thought I would highlight one of my favorite storytelling tools: Book Retellings!

Book retellings were a part of my storytimes well before COVID and the move to virtual programs, though I’ve been happy to dig into them more since I am presenting more storytimes for toddlers and preschoolers. I sometimes use a book retelling element for babies with puppets, but mostly any “story” element is for the caregivers, with me focusing on and emphasizing the puppet reveal and animal sound for the babies.

Book Retellings Pros and Cons

Book retellings allow you to:

  • appeal to visual or action-based learners and listeners (so, most toddlers)
  • make things larger–puppets are often bigger than the pictures on a page, especially when presenting to a large in-person crowd (this distinction isn’t such a big deal behind a camera)
  • include more repetition – a book you read earlier in storytime or the week before could be used as a flannel or puppet activity
  • give caregivers ideas for ways to get excited about familiar stories that might be read over and over and over again at home
  • include props, puppets, and other manipulatives in your program

On the other hand, book retellings put more pressure on you as a presenter. Reading the words on a page with the proper inflection, emotion, timing, and engagement is a challenge on its own. Pulling that off without exact words to guide you can be more challenging. However, I also like to think of book retellings as more freeing–viewers can’t see the words, so if I mix up an animal or two, or intentionally skip an entire portion of the story or rearrange something to make more sense visually, as long as I keep my cool, the audience doesn’t have to know. (I think there is a better word than “audience” here. Storytimes are presentations, in a way, but there is a back and forth–what is the word for an engaged, participating audience? Is that still audience? I’m digressing.)

To Memorize or Not To Memorize

I’m going to say something here that may make some library folks cringe–yell in the comments. Please. I know this is my opinion, and it isn’t a popular one, but I still feel strongly about it, so: it is better if you memorize.

Yes, we aren’t actors. Yes, our caregivers know this. No, most kids don’t really notice if we read. But there are kids that do, and there are adults who also notice, and…well I was that totally judge-y preschooler who really didn’t know any better, and compared you (rightfully or not) to Barney and Sesame Street and the Wiggles, and those real people aren’t reading off of a page or constantly glancing off screen to read their next line.

Yes, there will be mistakes, and no, you shouldn’t refilm a 30-minute pre-recorded storytime 17 times because of one error toward the end. Have a cheat sheet somewhere but don’t make it a script and don’t rely on it. I normally put a list of key words taped either directly below my camera on my tripod or right beside the location where I am hiding the puppets or flannel pieces. If I decide to do a dramatic reveal and look back and forth a few times with fun facial expressions–I’m probably re-reading the next line.

I know this isn’t the way most librarians view or encourage this type of storytime experience, especially because it can make it harder or scarier to jump into something like this. But…I do, personally, feel like it makes it a little better. The storytelling experience is stronger and less stilted. But if you need that script, try it with the script. With time and repetition, you’ll know the story so well that you may be able to stop relying on the piece of paper. (End of Annamarie being rude and judge-y. Please berate me in the comments.)

How to Make Props and Flannels

I steal. I am not as creative as some of my coworkers. Do not be fooled by awesome flannel sets in videos. Some of these things are made by them. Other things are designed based off of me seeing someone else’s work online and remaking piece by piece. Other selections are my personally owned purchased sets, made by awesomely talented people who are not me.

I am not going to continue rambling here because my skills are not great or varied. My one tip, which is obvious to regular crafters but not to those of us new to this domain: get. scissors. just. for. felt. Use for nothing else. The world is a much, much more magical place.

Book Retellings Examples

There are so many great ways to retell stories, but now that I’ve made so many videos for our patrons to watch online, I decided to collect some of my favorites below, in alphabetical order by book title.

Bark George by Jules Feiffer (prop & puppets)
Learn about how I made George in this blog post.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (puppets)
Change to whatever animals you have on hand. I tried to select stuffed animals that were different colors to continue the color emphasis from the physical book.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (flannel)
Abbreviated because you don’t realize how long this book is, and how many letters there really are, until you are halfway through.

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell (puppets)
Such a great and easy story, made for retelling with props or flannel pieces.

Do Crocs Kiss? by Salina Yoon (puppets)

Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (flannel)
I’ve also seen this done as a really cool dry-erase marker activity. I was going to do this on a physical stuffed dog with flannel dots, but my velcro dots didn’t work the way I imagined. Still curious about doing this with a stuffed animal though!

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London (flannel)
Filming this was the worst because socks kept falling off the flannel board. Something to keep in mind during creation or execution–so many small parts.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (flannel)
I re-wrote part of the story to create the all-items-enter and all-items-exit effect.

I Went Walking by Sue Williams (puppets)
Change out the animals to whatever you have on hand. I focused on having animals of different colors.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (flannel)

Jump! by Scott Fischer (puppets)

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean (flannel)

Tickle Monster by Edouard Manceau (flannel)
If you just want to try retelling, this is the story for you. The set is super easy to make, and the order of body parts really isn’t that important. Caregivers can tickle little ones throughout.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (flannel)
This is a great example of a story where you don’t need to memorize or have a script–just have your flannel pieces in the order you need them. The words are essentially the foods that you are adding to your board.

White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker (props)
I wish I had claim to any of this, but I do not. Someday I will make my own personal set, probably when I can get to a Target or craft store again and get buckets that are these sizes but solid colors.

I am always, always looking for more books to retell, especially stories that are about diverse characters or by diverse authors. This video list is very white, and and in storytimes I try to balance that, at least a little, with diversity in my physical book for the week. What are some of your favorite stories to retell?

Virtual Program: Baby-Sitters Club Membership 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. It really isn’t possible to add anything larger than a piece of paper to our already cramped holds area. Mail-to-you programs were born, and Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits were a wonderful way to get patrons engaged.

Mailing things to patrons wasn’t my idea, but I happily stole the concept after my coworkers had some success with their amazing Unicorn Rescue Society Program. Luckily for us, at this point anyway, the postage cost for these type of activities doesn’t come from our youth budget.

I loved making the Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits, I am quite proud of the final product, and the patron response was amazing. With that said, I went overboard. This is probably the real reason I shouldn’t be left alone too long.

Looking for more Mail-To-You Kit Ideas?

Check out our Camp Half Blood Welcome Kits.

Why Mail? Why Baby-Sitters Club?

Mail is convenient, though costly. It lets us reach our patrons who can’t come into the physical building, but it also lets us reach patrons who can’t come to the library, period. There are still limitations here: you need access to a phone or internet to register for the program, and access to the internet to be aware of the program in the first place, but it still opens up a lot of possibilities.

I am especially happy with Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits because this was one of my first programs that was truly born from COVID and thinking about what virtual programming can do. This wasn’t an adaptation of a planned in-person program–it was very much a last minute calendar addition after the release date for the Netflix series was announced and seeing the excitement my Graphic Novel Book Club kids had for the books and upcoming TV series. This was something that would have been fine in person, but I think worked better as mailed packages. This wasn’t a substitute for an in-person event–it felt like something entirely its own.

I loved this kit because it was about joy, passion, and fun; not school. Yes, I know that kids are struggling and will continue to struggle with school, kindergarten skills, learning to read. All of those things are important, and there are ways we can help. But. But getting an email from a mom about how her child screamed with pure joy when she got her envelope in the mail–kids need that joy right now. Even if there is no school this fall or for the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year–we will figure it out. The world will.

Kids are being super strong right now, while they watch their grown-ups fray at the seams. Kids are dealing with no friends, no trips, no regular activities, honestly better than many grown-ups seem to be. Kids will, soon enough if not already, be buried in school work and education and people desperately trying to teach them through a computer. I’m not a teacher; I’m not a preschool educator. I can try to help, but my skills only go so far. But, if I can bring those kids joy and fun, if I can make them think their favorite book and TV characters created a kit just for them, filled with activities that could keep them busy for a few days, even if that excitement lasts for just one afternoon–well. That’s my contribution to all of this. That’s what I can do.

Oh and why Baby-Sitters Club? There is the obvious release of the Netflix series, but is there a series–other than the one by that author we don’t talk about anymore–that has transcended generations in such a way? These kids’ parent’s remember reading these books, and they will find their own joy in this packet. Right now, a nostalgia trip isn’t such a bad thing. And this series manages, especially in the Netflix series that I can’t stop talking about, to be wholesome while also confronting and discussing real issues. It never gets as hard as it could–as hard as it might get as the series expands and those babysitters finally age–but it feels real. It feels legitimate and relatable and all of those things that kids look for in good stories.

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits: Content

As I mentioned earlier, I went overboard. And I’m not sorry. (I was when I was making them but that falls under “logistics.”) Do I suggest you do this much? No. But here we are.

Downloads for most items can be found in the downloads section. Post a comment below or send us an email (bookcartqueens@gmail.com) for editable files. I’m happy to share!

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. I considered more envelope decorations and doodles, but that didn’t happen due to time.

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits contained a general membership kit, in a document envelope, as well as five individual bags, one from each babysitter.

The general membership kit included:

  • Personalized welcome letter from the Baby-Sitters Club
  • Personalized Membership Card
  • Guide to Babysitting (borrowed liberally from the Red Cross Guide)
  • Readalike Books (listen to me talk about these titles in this YouTube video)
  • Swag: Bookmarks, Flyer, Trivia Sheet, Which Baby-Sitter Are You Quiz, Membership Profile

Kristy’s Bag focused on leadership and included:

  • Letter from Kristy
  • Leadership Packet

Claudia’s bag (the most fun, obviously) included:

  • Letter from Claudia
  • Mini sketchbook and glitter pens (leftovers from previous programs, but could easily be printed yourself)
  • Friendship bracelet materials and instructions
  • Art Project Ideas for Babysitting (double as activities great to do with supplies you may have at home)

Mary Anne’s bag focused on organization:

  • Letter from Mary Anne
  • “Pocket” Calendar (This is a bit bigger than pocket size.)
  • Musical Recommendations (with book recs on the back)
  • Dry Erase Calendar (not pictured, only in select kits due to expanded registration)

Stacey’s bag included:

  • Letter from Stacey
  • MASH Instructions
  • Cootie Catcher Instructions and 2 sheets
  • Healthy Snack Suggestions (cook book recommendations on the back)

Dawn’s bag included:

  • Letter from Dawn
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt
  • ECO-BINGO

Dawn’s kit was meant to include an environmentally friendly craft, ucycled craft, or craft to be donated, but I was out of funds, time, and envelope space.

Each kit (up to a certain number of days before sign-up) was personalized. Imagine the child’s name where the word “Babysitter” is in most of these pictures.

All activities were meant to also be able to be completed by the program participant at home. So, you could go on a nature scavenger hunt with someone you are babysitting, but you could also do this with your family during COVID times.

Baby-Sitters Club Membership Kits: Logistics

Obviously, these bags contained a lot. Part of this would have been significantly easier if I had been in the physical library regularly. I have a printer at home that I will use in a pinch, but not for this kind of quantity and ink. This meant that a lot of designing happened at home, but essentially all assembly had to happen in one very long work day.

As I mentioned earlier, I would repeat most of this program, but one thing in particular I wanted to highlight was the organization method. The feedback from caregivers was very positive, especially praising the organization and that everything could fit in the document envelope. They really appreciated not receiving a bunch of lose odds and ends.

Now, things I would do differently:

  • Personalization: So much happiness came from these kits being personalized, but wow, sorting and stuffing took so much longer because of it. Due to necessity, for future, similar events, I may just personalize a membership card and general letter, not each and every piece.
  • Folding the letters: There was no reason for this, which just took extra time between double-sided printing and folding. I realized halfway through folding that I could have easily called them stationary and not folded. But by that point they were printed with names on the back, and I was halfway done.
  • Get a long paper stapler that works: I lost hours restapling. HOURS. There was anger. So much. I’m not sure exactly what was wrong, and I was hesitant about asking to use the basement machine because of COVID and germs. But goodness. The amount of staples I had to remove because they were sticking out? I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

Downloads

This is what you are here for right? You found the gold. Everything should be downloadable from the links below. All files are PDFs, though please 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 I used a lot of unique fonts.

Response

Patron response to this program was absolutely lovely. Some of my favorite quotes and feedback are below.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

We are joining the blog trend of Monday posts about what we have read during the last week (7/27/2020-8/2/2020).

Annamarie’s Reading

Picture Books: