Tag Archives: passive program

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 2

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program! These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

Part 1 focused on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. In this post, I’ll focus on our online component run through ReadSquared.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds caregiver knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten: ReadSquared Program

ReadSquared is one of a handful of online reading program management tools your library can purchase. Using a system like ReadSquared for your online reading program management takes away some of the freedom you would have by creating your own in-house summer reading management website, but, in exchange for unlimited customizability, you get a website that is hosted offsite with a great tech team that is always available to help you fix glitches and change the design of your page.

There are a lot of pros and cons to various online reading program management tools. This isn’t a post about that, but my quick feelings about ReadSquared are that (on the positive side) you do have a lot of customization options compared to its top competitor, Beanstack, and (on the negative side) the core layout of the website isn’t really negotiable, it looks a bit dated overall, and the back side is a bit of an organizational mess. Make sure someone on your team is familiar with basic HTML and has the time and patience to dig through many menus to find the exact editing tool you are looking for.

My library uses ReadSquared for our set-your-own-goal summer reading program and our BINGO-style winter reading program. 1000 Books is our first attempt at a year-round program, and I’m really happy with where we ended up. All the programs are supposed to be able to run smoothly at the same time, though we haven’t tested that out in full quite yet.

See my library’s ReadSquared login page here.

Signing Up

Every 1000 Books reader needs a ReadSquared account. They don’t have to use it for recording, but they do need an account so that library staff can keep track of their prizes.

If a family already has an account from a previous summer or winter reading program, they can log in with that account to sign up for this program. Kids can all be linked to the same account, making for easy book logging for the caregiver.

I’m not going to screenshot every element of this process, but to make an online account, we require that participants provide their first and last name, their email address, and a username and password.

Once they login or register, they will be taken to the home page:

Home Page

Families can immediately record their reading on the home page or they can use the various navigation menus to access other features. The home page also includes:

  • Progress Bar
  • Sponsor Information
  • Most Popular Books (books recorded by other participants recently)
  • FAQs

One important note for libraries considering ReadSquared for a 1000 Books program: at the moment, ReadSquared does not allow for public users to log more than one book at a time. So if a family read 20 books in one day, they do need to add 20 individual books. However, library staff, using the admin side of ReadSquared, can add any number of books at once with one click. So, if a caregiver does not want to type in 100 book titles, they can just stop by or call the library and ask library staff to record the reading for them.

Logging a Book

Families can log a book from the Home Page or the Logging page. When they select “Log Reading” they will be asked to add some information about the book (title, author, review). All of this information is optional–they could just push “Submit” and the system will log one book read.

Logging History

The Logging History page lets families see how many books they have logged (and which titles, if they provided that information).

Badges

That is all the technical content, what about the fun stuff? For our program, readers earn virtual badges whenever they receive an equivalent in-person prize (one for getting started (when they get their workbook) and another badge for every 100 books read). These match the sticker images that they will earn for their workbooks.

Missions

Our physical workbook contains a bunch of early literacy tips for different age ranges, and we wanted to convert that information to our online format (while also promoting other library services and programs). These turned into Missions. Missions don’t earn participants physical prizes, but they do earn a virtual badge.

Our missions and activities include:

Read Together: From birth, your baby can start to learn about reading, like how to sound out words and what direction to hold a book.

  • Ages 0-2 – Read together…even if just a few pages: Choose a time when your baby is relaxed and happy. Read for as long as your baby is interested. Just a page or two is fine! Try one of these
  • Ages 0-2 – Join us for baby storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.
  • Ages 0-3 – Read a board book: Show your baby a board book. (A board book is made of thick cardboard pages.) Let them explore on their own, even if that means books get chewed on or thrown.
  • Ages 0-3 – Show babies other babies: Babies love to see other babies! Check out books featuring large, bright photographs of other babies from this list.
  • Ages 0-5 – Take a picture walk: You don’t have to read the words on the page! Talk or sing about the pictures instead. Identify the animals or colors or make up your own story–time spent with a book helps your child learn how books work. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Sign up for free books: Fill your home library with books! Mailed to your child monthly until their 5th birthday, each book is a free gift for your child to keep. This service is made possible by the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a storytime video: Explore book retelling videos by your favorite librarians. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Take a book; leave a book: A wooden box filled with books, a Little Free Library is a mini collection you can browse any time of day. Take home whatever catches your fancy and if you want, bring back one of your own to share with others. No library card required. No fines. No need to return what you borrow. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a nonfiction book: Read a nonfiction book together. Nonfiction books help babies and toddlers attach words to everyday objects and help preschoolers realize that words represent other things. Try one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Point out the words: Run your fingers under the words on the page as you read them. Little ones will begin to understand that those shapes on the page mean something. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Make books part of your daily routine: Make books part of everyday experiences. Place a bag of books in the car or near the table for meals, or read a book each day for a week before naptime, bedtime, or bath time.
  • Ages 2-3 – Join us for toddler storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.
  • Ages 2-5 – Read…and repeat!: Read the same books over and over again. Pause before a predictable word and ask your toddler or preschooler to guess the next word. Or ask what happens next in their favorite story.
  • Ages 3-5 – Read…upside down!: When reading, hold a book upside down until your preschooler notices. Show them how to hold a book. Talk about the book’s parts, like the cover, pages, title, and author.
  • Ages 3-5 – Join us for preschool storytime: For a schedule of live storytimes, visit the library’s events calendar. Or watch on demand whenever is convenient for you with pre-recorded storytimes on our YouTube channel.

Sing Together: When you sing, you slow down words. This helps your child hear the smaller sounds, learn syllables, and develop vocabulary. Singing also helps develop listening and memory skills. Singing together is a fun bonding experience – whether you’re a good singer or not!

  • Ages 0-5 – Dance together: Dance to music that you and your little one enjoy. Try these dance party favorites, free to stream or download with your Westerville Library card. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Listen to your favorite (grown-up) music: Listen to your favorite music – your baby may recognize your grown-up tunes. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Sing together: Sing a tune or nursery rhyme together. For a new song every day, visit daybydayoh.org.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a singing book!: Some books have a natural rhythm or rhyme that are great for singing. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Bounce to the rhythm or try out one of these favorite storytimes songs. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Make up a song together: Create songs about everyday activities, such as changing a diaper or putting on clothes. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Adapt a tune: Adapt the tune “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” to “This Is the Way We…” (put on our pants, wash our hands, etc.).
  • Ages 0-5 – Clap your name: Clap or tap your child’s name. Focus on each syllable. Encourage your toddler or preschooler to try this too–you’ll be surprised how quickly they can find the syllables themselves.
  • Ages 1-5 – Shake!: Shake to the beat of a familiar rhyme or tune. Grab an item that your baby can grasp, or make a shaker out of an empty water bottle filled with baby-safe items.
  • Ages 1-5 – Clap to the beat: Clap the syllables of words as you sing. Breaking down words into smaller parts is a useful skill when your child starts reading. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Sing fast and slow: Sing the same song at different speeds to help your little one get used to rhythm and tempo. Try singing familiar tunes faster and faster, then slower and slower.
  • Ages 2-5 – Freeze dance: Freeze songs are a great way for your child to practice self-control, focus, and listening skills. Turn a favorite song into a freeze dance by starting and stopping the music at random.
  • Ages 2-5 – Pause: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water….spout!” Pause while singing to allow toddlers and preschoolers to fill in the missing words. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Create silly songs: Create silly songs by making up your own words for familiar tunes. Let your child choose unique animals for “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and unique actions for “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
  • Ages 3-5 – Print the lyrics: Help your little one recognize that songs are made up of words. Print out the lyrics to your favorite song, then run your fingers under the words on the page as you sing them together.

Play Together: Playing encourages your child to put their thoughts into words, tell stories, problem-solve and imagine. All of these skills will help them become better readers and writers when they start school.

  • Ages 0-2 – Play peek-a-boo: Play peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo helps babies understand that just because they can’t see something, that object still exists.
  • Ages 0-5 – Visit the story trail: Enjoy the fresh air, a stroll…and a story. This literacy adventure builds reading skills and creates memories, from start to finish. For all ages. Visit again and again; you may find a different story waiting for you. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Looking for playtime ideas? Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with mirrors: Play in front of a mirror and point to your little one’s body parts.
  • Ages 0-5 – Borrow a learning kit: Play, sing, write, read, talk and have fun with your favorite little ones while using tip cards to practice early literary skills. Learn more.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a playing book!: Some books include games or other interactive elements that are great for encouraging play. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Visit the imagination station: Located in the kids department at the library, this interactive display is regularly transformed into a themed exhibit intended to actively engage, entertain and educate young visitors of all ages.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play and learn around the house: Running out of ideas? Try these easy activities you can do together with common household objects. Watch now.
  • Ages 0-5 – Play…and repeat!: Repeat the same game or activity over and over again. You might feel bored, but your little one feels reassurance and builds important connections through repetition. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with music: Dance to an action song like “The Hokey Pokey.” Songs that name body parts build physical awareness. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Play with words: When playing, use big words and small words. Use as many words as you can! The more words your child hears, the easier it will be to identify those words when they start reading. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Moo, honk, beep!: Make noises for different toys, like trucks, baby dolls, or animals. Hearing different sounds and experiencing pitches, tones, and volumes helps your little one develop the basics of language.
  • Ages 2-5 – Play on the go: Play wherever you are! Play “I Spy” on a long car ride or in the grocery store. Introduce new vocabulary each time you play.
  • Ages 3-5 – Make open-ended art: Explore open-ended activities. Encourage imagination and problem-solving with art supplies for the sake of play, not to make a specific craft.
  • Ages 3-5 – Go on a letter hunt: Pick a letter and find five items around the house that start with that letter. Try a new letter each day!

Talk Together: When you talk to your child about different events and ideas, it helps them learn new vocabulary and to use words they know.

  • Ages 0-3 – Say my name: Babies focus on the word spoken immediately after their name. Instead of saying, “Julia, would you like to read a book?” Try saying: “Julia, book! Would you like to read a book?”
  • Ages 0-3 – Talk with sign language: Babies understand more than they can say. Using gestures, including American Sign Language, is a great way to communicate with your child. Practice words like more, stop, and no. Learn more with these books.
  • Ages 0-5 – Narrate your day: Talk to your baby all the time, even if they can’t respond quite yet. The more words your baby hears, the larger their vocabulary will grow. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a talking book!: Some books encourage talking. Read one of these.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Try some of these games and activities to encourage asking questions. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Pause for 10 seconds.: Pause. Toddlers and preschoolers need 7-10 seconds to process what you asked and create a response. Give them plenty of time to think before moving on to another question. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Ask open-ended questions: When playing, ask your child open-ended questions, such as: 
    • What do you think will happen if…
    • Can you think of another way to…
    • What else can you build…
      Give them plenty of time to respond. Some responses might not be verbal. 
  • Ages 0-5 – Notice excitement: Your child will let you know what interests them by using actions, facial expressions, and speech. When they point out a window or give you a questioning look, put their action into words: “Yes! That’s a squirrel. Look at him running along the fence.”
  • Ages 0-5 – Talk with your eyes: When talking to your little one, actively make eye contact. Babies and toddlers learn to recognize emotions from facial expressions. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Dial a story: Hear a story read aloud by your Westerville librarians. A great way to entertain kids at bedtime, in waiting rooms, or on rainy days. Available via phone 24/7. Call 614-665-9696. Learn more.
  • Ages 2-5 – Oops!: Make mistakes on purpose when singing familiar songs or completing familiar activities. Let your toddler or preschooler correct you. Make sure your little one is very familiar with your activity before trying this – you don’t want to confuse them. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Talk about books: Look at a book together. What direction do you hold a book? Identify the parts of a book like the cover, title, author, and illustrator. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Tell a story: Work together to tell a story. Put a series of events in order, tell a familiar story from the pictures, or make up a story using just your imagination. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Talk about new words: Preschoolers learn new words best in context. When you discover some new vocabulary, discuss it at that moment. Try relating the word to a word they already know. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Follow directions: Encourage listening with games that include clear directions, like Simon Says. 

Write Together: Giving children opportunities to write, even if it is just scribbles, helps children understand that print can represent spoken words. It can also help children develop eye-hand coordination and the fine motor control they need to hold a pencil.

  • Ages 0-3 – Pick up sticks: Practice activities that build finger muscles, such as picking up Cheerios and grasping toys.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a book about shapes: Learning shapes helps children more easily recognize letters when the time comes. Read a book about shapes.
  • Ages 0-5 – Watch a video: Practice a fingerplay to build the muscles needed to hold a pencil. Watch one of these videos.
  • Ages 0-5 – Read a writing book!: Some books encourage writing. Read one of these.
  • Ages 1-3 – Crumple paper: Practice activities that build finger muscles, such as crumpling paper and grasping small objects like shakers, straws, spoons, and more.
  • Ages 1-5 – Explore shapes: Explore shapes. Letters are made of shapes, so identifying shapes is a first step towards recognizing letters. Go on a shape scavenger hunt, finding three squares, three circles, and three triangles around your house. 
  • Ages 1-5 – Color and scribble: Encourage your little one to color and scribble. You don’t need a coloring page–coloring outside the lines is just as beneficial as coloring inside them. Grasping a crayon helps build the muscles needed to hold a pencil in school.
  • Ages 1-5 – Play with letters: Build finger muscles and learn to recognize letters by playing with them! Make letters out of playdough or explore letter magnets. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Complete a puzzle: Challenge your toddler or preschooler with a simple puzzle with shape cutouts. Looking for something homemade? Create a DIY puzzle out of baby-safe around-the-house objects.
  • Ages 2-5 – Write while playing: Incorporate writing into play activities. Write a pretend grocery list. Help your child pretend to take your order at a restaurant. Sign pretend receipts when you play store. 
  • Ages 2-5 – Play with tweezers: Make pick-up games more challenging with a pair of toddler or preschool sized tweezers (plastic child-safe kitchen tongs might work too). Use the tweezers to sort pom poms, cereal, dice, or other small items. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Write about your art: Ask your preschooler to write about their drawing. Even if they aren’t writing letters, this helps them recognize that written words stand for spoken words.
  • Ages 3-5 – Use scissors: Build writing muscles by practicing an important kindergarten skill: using scissors. Consider one of these activities or make up your own:
    • Cut lines in the top of a paper towel tube to create silly hair (don’t forget to draw a face too).
    • Cut along the lines separating paint chips.
    • Cut through rolled strips of playdough.
  • Ages 3-5 – Make dots with glue: Create a sheet of paper filled with evenly spaced tiny dots, about the size of the tip of a pencil. Give your child a bottle of liquid glue with a squeeze-top, and challenge them to limit the amount of glue they use–just enough to cover a single dot. 
  • Ages 3-5 – Write together: Keep a journal for you and your child. Encourage them to draw a picture of something they did that day or something they are excited about. Ask them to tell you about their drawing, and write down what they say underneath. Read their words back to them, drawing your finger underneath the words as you say them.

Reading Lists

Our last bonus feature on our ReadSquared page is our 1000 Books Reading Lists. Approximately 40 Reading Lists are filled with book suggestions to help families keep reading. Topics include:

  • Animals & Pets
  • Baby Faces
  • Baby Favorites
  • Bedtime & Bathtime
  • Beginning to Read
  • Being Kind
  • Change the World
  • Dinosaurs
  • Early Literacy: Play Together
  • Early Literacy: Read Together
  • Early Literacy: Sing Together
  • Early Literacy: Talk Togeter
  • Early Literacy: Write Together
  • Explore Outdoors
  • Family Love
  • Family Read Alouds
  • Favorite Characters
  • Getting Dressed
  • Growing Up
  • Holidays & Celebrations
  • Kids Like Me
  • Laugh Out Loud
  • Learn Colors
  • Learn Shapes
  • Learn the ABCs
  • Learn to Count
  • Lift-the-Flap & Pop-Up
  • Nonfiction Fun
  • Potty Training
  • Preschool Favorites
  • Real Stories: Biographies
  • Seasons
  • Siblings
  • Starting School
  • Talk About Race
  • Things That Go
  • Time to Eat
  • Toddler Favorites
  • Unicorns, Fairies, and Everything Magic

Access those lists and more here (without logging in).

…and that is it! All of the different parts of our ReadSquared 1000 Books website. What kind of recording do you use for your library’s 1000 Books program? Share in the comments!

Learn more about our program on our website and via the first post in this series that focuses on the physical workbook.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten, Part 1

After over a year of planning, I finally launched my library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program last week. These blog posts often focus more on day-to-day or week-to-week library activities, like reading, programs, and storytimes, but on any random day, I’m also working on a lot of large behind-the-scenes projects too. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share one of those projects with you.

This post will focus on the logistics of the program as well as our physical workbook. Check back for Part 2, focusing on our online component run through ReadSquared.

And before this gets buried in all the upcoming text, a big shout out to my library’s marketing department who designed the physical book and put up with all of my edit requests.

What is 1000 Books?

1000 Books Before Kindergarten is a nationwide initiative, adapted by many libraries and educational institutions, to promote reading and encourage child/caregiver bonding through reading.

The goal is simple and pretty self explanatory: read 1000 books together before your child starts kindergarten.

Why run a 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program?

A child is more successful in school when an adult actively read, spoke, and engaged with them during the 0-5 years. The more words children hear at young ages, the larger their vocabulary, and the more prepared they will be to learn to read. Setting a high goal with a concrete reward system—like reading 1000 books before starting kindergarten—encourages adults to actively and continuously engage with their children. Children who start out ahead typically end up ahead. Studies show that these early language needs are even higher in lower socioeconomic households.

Other benefits to a 1000 Books program:

  • Brings a sense of ownership and pride to reading. After completing this program, kids know they accomplished something big.
  • Builds parent knowledge and interest about their role in school readiness.
  • From a library statistics perspective, 1000 Books programs boost circulation numbers.

How long will this take?

Parents may be daunted by the large number, but, by just reading one book a day, a child should finish the program in less than three years. Some possible program lengths:

  • 1 book a day = 1,000 books in 3 years
  • 2 books a day = 1,000 books in 1.5 years
  • 3 books a day = 1,000 books in 1 year
  • 5 books a day = 1,000 books in 6 months

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program Specifics

Before starting your program, there are some specifics you need to figure out. These include:

  • How will participants log their reading?
  • What are the incentives?
  • How will you fund the program?
  • Answers to Participant FAQs

How will participants log their reading?

We give participants two options: a physical, spiral-bound workbook (more info below) and an online system managed through ReadSquared (more on that in a future post).

What are the incentives?

Our incentives include:

  • Sign up = workbook & pencil
  • 100 books read = 1 sticker for every 100 books read (10 total)
  • 500 books read = free book
  • 1,000 books read = free book, backpack, graduation certificate & invitation to annual graduation ceremony  

I’ll share pictures of some of these below, but the timeline for purchasing some of these items depends on reaching certain program milestones (such as registering our first 50 kids). So, while I know what I would like to order, specific prize books have not been officially selected yet. For each prize book earned, families will have a choice between three prize book options.

How will you fund the program?

Our program is sponsored by our library’s Foundation. (Those incentives aren’t cheap!) I wanted to make this a program that would really engage our community and keep them participating over the years it will take them to finish, so we chose incentives that will hopefully encourage people to keep participating.

Answers to Participant FAQs

Your library’s answers to these questions might differ, but some of our FAQ include:

What if someone else reads to my child?
Count all reading! Books read by caregivers, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, librarians, and more all count. Watch a storytime and count those books, too.

What if we read the same book more than once?
Every time you read a book, count it in your reading log! Repetition is wonderful for reading development. Your child will notice new details during each reread. If you read Pete the Cat ten times in one day, that counts as ten books read!

We finished! Can we keep reading?
Of course! While you can only receive prizes once, we encourage you to keep going. Stop by the library anytime for book recommendations.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Workbook

At sign-up, each reader gets their own physical workbook and a pencil to log their reading. I love our 64-page workbook filled with many pages to log your reading, early literacy tips and book recommendations, advertisements for various library services, and more.

Our workbook begins with a page to label your workbook in case it is lost and to track how long the program took you to complete.

The next spread focuses on how the program works and those frequently asked questions we highlighted above.

Moving on to a spread with a reminder to log online if you would like (more on that in Part 2) and the first of two All About Me pages. This page should be filled out at the beginning of the program, with the second, similar page being filled out after you’ve read 1000 Books.

Next come the early literacy spreads! I love how these turned out. Four age ranges are featured: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, and 3-5. Each spread has an early literacy tip for read, sing, talk, play and write, as well as 12 book recommendations.

Listing books in a printing of this volume (we purchased 1000 of these logbooks at once!) was quite an endeavor. While we still ended up publishing pages filled with many of my favorite books, some of these were round two or round three suggestions. I worked with our collection development team to find books that we could bulk up on copies of now and that we would hopefully still be able to purchase (or would still own) in 3-5 years, since these log books will be sticking around a while.

Next we have lots and lots of book logging pages. Each page contains 25 images. Each image represents one book. Families can color or check off each image for each book read.

Pages marking 100-book intervals have a special spot for a sticker that participants can pick up at the library. Our marketing department designed and printed our stickers in house on label paper:

But what if a family really wants to write down the names of the books they read? There are a few pages to record up to 30 favorite titles in the workbook, and the online system encourages writing out each title.

Wrapping up the workbook, we have our second All About Me page and advertisements for some of our other library programs and services.

Learn more about our program on our website, and come back next week for more information about our online ReadSquared page!

Rainworks: Dragon Footprints!

Many libraries are still closed across the country due to COVID. We have just opened our doors to allow limited browsing opportunities, but, as is the case in most parts of the country, in-person programming is a thing of the distant future. I’m thrilled to highlight a tool that might be perfect for engaging your patrons outdoors: Rainworks!

This post is not sponsored–I just really appreciate this product. The easiest explanation:

  1. Create or purchase a stencil.
  2. Find a surface likely to get wet when it rains.
  3. Secure your stencil to the surface while it is dry.
  4. Spray your surface, following their directions.
  5. Wait 24 hours, dump water on the area you sprayed the day before and BOOM:

Make sure to follow their directions, spray lightly, and thoroughly cover the surrounding potential “overspray” areas. I had a lot going on while I was installing these, so I was more impatient than I should have been, and you can see some of my overspray spots (though, really, I don’t think it hurts the affect).

We’ve only had these installed for about two weeks, but they can last for up to three months! When the ground is dry, you can’t see any difference, but whenever the ground gets wet, your Rainworks shapes appear.

Rainworks Expenses

Nothing is free, however, with limited in-library offerings, I can see a lot of potential for this product over the coming months, especially as things get wet and rainy as we enter winter. Our chosen stencils were connected to our visiting dragon (more on that below), but some creative librarian types could make obstacle courses, hopscotch boards, book recommendations, and more.

The biggest (and required) expense is the spray. I definitely over-sprayed in places, but with about half of a 16 oz. bottle, I created nine 2 foot dragon footprints and three words on our steps. That bottle costs about $130.

Your other potential expense is your own stencils. Rainworks provides an extensive explanation on how to make your own stencils that, for a crafty librarian, might be easy enough to do:

However, time isn’t always on our side, so I took a look at the premade Rainworks stencils in their shop, available for purchase. There aren’t too many options, but they range from about $7-10 each.

Options are limited, however, so I decided to test my luck on a limited budget and ask about pricing for custom stencils. I was so happy with the pricing–all three words for “Kindness is Magic” were a combined $30 and the dragon footprint was just $18 (think about how long it would take you to make stencils by hand and how much you get paid by the hour, and this may really work out in your favor).

Back Up. Why Do You Have a Dragon on the Roof?

Hilda, our 30-foot roaring and smoke breathing dragon, is part of our annual Wizards & Wands Festival event. While I haven’t been too involved in Hilda’s creation or execution, I did chair this event in 2018-2019, creating something pretty cool. Last year, we had 3,000 people over four hours explore our library for one magical evening:

The 2020 Festival was supposed to be my last attempt at shaping this event, with my co-blogger Michala taking over in 2021. For pandemic reasons, there was no event this year. Assuming pandemic resolutions, I’m going to give this one last run in 2021 while relying much more heavily on Michala than I might have in 2020, especially with some exciting plans to keep the magic but move away from all things Harry Potter.

So instead of 3,000 visitors and a ton of magic, we have some footrprints and the return of a dragon whose roars echo through our quiet post-pandemic children’s space. Though that is still pretty cool, right?

Kids Passive Program: Book Tournament

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

Read about some of my other passive programs at the links below:

One of my favorite passives is our Book Tournament voting bracket. I select 16 titles that have appeal to ages 6-12 (generally our most popularly requested titles), and match them against one another.

Visitors of all ages can vote about once a week for their favorite titles. Over a month, our titles are whittled down to our final match-up, which has now twice resulted in Harry Potter vs. Dog Man (but a different outcome each time).

Voting sheets and a voting box are displayed at the youth desk and beside our large bracket poster.

For 2020, our first round match-ups included (winners in bold):

  • Dog Man vs. Magic Tree House
  • Land of Stories vs. Amulet
  • I Survived vs. Wimpy Kid
  • Big Nate vs. Smile
  • Harry Potter vs. Last Kids
  • Bad Guys vs. Captain Underpants (by one vote!)
  • Who Would Win vs. Percy Jackson
  • Wings of Fire vs. Baby Sitter’s Club

Our rounds continued until we were eventually whittled down to the same match-up as 2018: Dog Man vs. Harry Potter. In 2018, Harry Potter won by a landslide. In 2020, however, Dog Man took the trophy by a single-vote victory.

Many patrons came in each week to check on–and sometimes attempt to contest–who had won the previous week. I’m excited to bring this back again next year and to see if we have a different outcome. 

Kids Passive Program: Scavenger Hunts

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

Learn about other passive program ideas including:

There is nothing quite as appealing to kids of all ages as a scavenger hunt. These are particularly great passives, as the intended audience of school age children complete them, but younger siblings can too and therefore don’t feel left out.

We have made a ton of scavenger hunts at my library, and a few of my favorites are available to download below. Most scavenger hunts involve a sticker, 1″ button, or bookmark as the prize, typically made by department staff.

Dinovember Scavenger Hunt

I couldn’t help but use Land Before Time characters for the November 2019 Dinovember scavenger hunt.

Mother Bruce Scavenger Hunt

This was made for a Mother Bruce program, but I have used it a few times since. Little ones practice their counting skills by finding all 10 numbered geese.

Pokemon Scavenger Hunt

This scavenger hunt design is adapted from the amazing Ontarian Librarian blog. It makes an appearance in the week before my annual summer Pokemon Party.

Pooh Count the Bees Scavenger Hunt

The Winnie the Pooh Count the Bees scavenger hunt has a different concept behind it–instead of finding six specific pictures, participants count how many bees they could find around the room. I believe I hid around 30, and anyone who gave an answer over 28 received the prize. 

Superhero Scavenger Hunt

My very first Imagination Station was superhero themed, and I created a superhero logo hunt around the youth department.

Where’s Waldo Scavenger Hunt

Definitely a fan favorite at our library, patrons loved this real-life Where’s Waldo game. 

Kids Passive Program: I Spy

A few year’s ago, one of my personal work goals was to start a monthly kids passive program. At the time, our library offered a monthly Imagination Station, a pretend play space for approximately ages 2-6, and a monthly teen passive, for students in grades 6-12. Children in the middle often ended up trying to participate in the activities designed for younger or older kids.

Explore other kids passive programs:

I Spy Passive Program Poster

My very first kids passive involved a passive game of I Spy, playing off of the format of the well-loved book series. Our fantastic marketing department printed a massive I Spy poster I designed in Microsoft Publisher. The print took up the bulk of our passive wall at 84″ long by 36″ tall.

Luckily for you, I like to share. The full poster is available to download as a PDF below:

Each week, I put up a different I Spy Riddle that families used to interact with the wall.

In addition to playing using pre-written riddles, kids had the opportunity to write their own I Spy riddles, which we added to the wall for further interaction.

While I have done many kids passive programs since (look forward to future posts!), this is still one of my favorites. The size of the I Spy print thrilled many young visitors, and even with the hours it took to design the Publisher file, that process was still much less time consuming than cutting out and taping up each item individually (plus, the file can easily be reprinted!).

Teen Passive Program: Coloring

Kids have always been afforded coloring sheets, and then adults realized that “hey this is really relaxing” and the adult coloring book craze began…but somehow teens were, for the most part, left out in the coloring cold. When I inherited my teen department it actually came with a a few coloring books for use in house, but they were not really utilized by our teens.

Our current selection of coloring books in the Teen Room

I could tell there was a want, as many times the books would be looked at, but I think they were tired of the books we had and wanted things that were less intricate to color in. So came my quest for some new fun coloring books!

I started trolling Amazon looking for simple pictures, pop culture references, and random odd things. (This can sometimes be harder than it sounds as when the pictures get simplified they can begin to look very juvenile.) However, once you fall down the rabbit hole you can find an amazing plethora of coloring books such as:

Every other week I do wind up going through the coloring books looking for any inappropriate additions to the books, or as I call “my sweep for Ds and Fs”. Any swear words, social media handles, or genitalia drawn in gets pulled from the books. I also will pull any overly scribbled on pages because when there is a lot of scibblage no one will continue to color on that page. I don’t pull all additions from the book though and sometimes you wind up with some greatness.

Occasionally, I will also have a large coloring sheet printed out and I will tape it to a coffee table that I have in the teen room for some “allowed vandalism”. It stays on the table until it is either colored in, has lost the battle to swear words, penises, and “follow me @s”, or my favorite death, having every square inch covered in Old Town Road lyrics and a rainbow of a million “YEETS”. (Does that make it Yeeted to death? Yoted?)

And sometimes you wind up with some gorgeous, collaborative art.

Teen Passive: Concentrate on Charms

Every month I host a passive activity in the teen room. Sometimes they are repeat styles of something like Coloring, Book-in-a-Bottle or Book Emoji Storylines where the shredded or emoji explained book will change, but the concept stays the same: identify the title. But in October, something magical happens at the Westerville Public Library…the whole building turns into a school for witches and wizards of all ages and we showcase the magic of the library during the Wizards & Wands Festival.

2018 was the first installment of this festival and the outpouring from the community was enormous! This year with one magical festival under our belt the Wizards & Wands Festival has grown even larger and features all kinds of fun activities around the building leading up to the night of festivities. One of those activities is my October Teen Passive: Concentrate on Charms.

All across the largest wall of my Teen Room are different wand movements for spells from the Harry Potter Universe, each one labeled with it’s name for identification purposes, as we can’t all be Hermione and recognize each swish and flick or the different spells/charms.(Thank you Potterhead superfans and Wizards Unite! game for the wand movements) Anyone wishing to participate can snag an answer sheet from the Teen Desk and wander through the stacks to the bright green wall in the hopes of finding the correct spells and drawing out the wand movements necessary to successfully cast it.


Searching the wall for the correct spells can take a bit of time as I only ask for 9 spells to be identified and there are 30 gracing the wall.


Each person can participate once per day and when their answers are returned to the Teen Desk they are awarded one prize ticket that can be turned in for a raffle style drawing during the Wizards & Wands event. While most of my passive activities are limited to teens only, the W&W Themed passive for October is open to all ages. The Wizards & Wands event will be this Friday (October 25, 2019 5-9pm), but Concentrate on Charms will remain up through the end of the month.

This passive activity has already had over 250 answer sheets returned to the Teen Desk and there are still 8 more days to play (2 more days if you are collecting those prize tickets!)

Imagination Station: Movie Theater

Westerville Library’s youth department includes a pretend play area–our Imagination Station. Each month, a different youth librarian picks a theme and plans a play area designed for ages 3-6.

There are no strict guidelines for this space, but generally we try to:

  • Pick a theme that appeals to children
  • Keep all activities safe for all ages
  • Make clean-up and maintenance manageable for staff
  • Create materials and activities that are durable
  • Incorporate early literacy activities

In August 2018, I took over the Imagination Station, creating a play space I had been looking forward to for over a year: a movie theater.

Explore another Imagination Station – Mission Control themed – in this post.

Pretend Play: Movie Theater

While some of my Imagination Stations include a ton of obvious early literacy activities, this one focused almost entirely on pretend play. This appealed to all ages, with evening staff occasionally having to distract our older teens from playing at the Imagination Station so some of the younger toddlers could still enjoy the space. Pretend play has a ton of benefits for all ages, including social-emotional skills, language development, vocabulary building, problem solving skills, and more.

To create the “movie theater” experience, my Imagination Station had a few key areas:

  • Ticket Booth
  • Concession Stand (with popcorn machine)
  • Movie Posters
  • Showtime Board

Ticket Booth

The ticket booth included our department cash register, stocked with fake money. There was also a bin of tickets with space for cashiers to write down the name of the movie and a “tear-off” side so the tickets could be redeemed to see a movie. We had 3D glasses too–you have to be prepared for those special (and more expensive) movie showings!

Concession Stand

The concession stand included all of the classic movie theater favorites including:

  • Nachos (yellow felt circles — purchased pre-cut from Etsy for less than $5)
  • “Cheese” cups (condiment cups with yellow circles hot glued to the bottom
  • Drink Cups
  • Candy (purchased at Dollar Tree, emptied of candy, stuffed with stuffing, and wrapped in packing tape)
  • Popcorn

The popcorn machine was the favorite item of our visitors, but the least favorite item of staff. The popcorn box was a Donatos pizza delivery box from a past lock-in (when we had 20+ pizzas delivered). Holes were cut in each side, and the largest three holes were covered in clear cellophane. Popcorn could be scooped out of the front.

The individual popcorn kernels were crumpled squares of roughly 2″ x 2″ tissue paper. The kids loved the texture and enjoyed unraveling and re-rolling popcorn kernels.

Staff did not enjoy the clean up. I am still apologizing for the popcorn of 2018.

Movie Posters

The movie posters were one of my personal favorite spaces in this Imagination Station. Our awesome marketing department printed the larger “Coming Soon” and “Now Playing” signs on our library banner printer. I laminated those and attached 11″ x 17″ page protectors with a ton of packing tape, leaving the top of the sleeve open.

I printed about 20 kids movie posters that were a little smaller than the sleeves (so that pages dropped in easily). Kids loved swapping the posters out to show what was playing in their theater.

Showtime Board

The last element of my Imagination Station was the “Showtimes” board. This included a collection of showtimes and movie titles (that matched the names on the movie posters) that kids could swap out on our department magnet board.

I love creating these pretend play areas, but this theme was definitely one of my favorites. The kids loved it, asking where the popcorn went months later.

One of my favorite stories was when a child took her dad into our homework help center (during the early afternoon, when it wasn’t in use), turned off the lights, and started the movie, which they “watched” together while eating popcorn in the dark space. Pretend play for the win!

Imagination Station: Mission Control

Westerville Library’s youth department includes a pretend play area–our Imagination Station. Each month, a different youth librarian picks a theme and plans a play area designed for ages 3-6.

There are no strict guidelines for this space, but generally we try to:

  • Pick a theme that appeals to children
  • Keep all activities safe for all ages
  • Make clean-up and maintenance manageable for staff
  • Create materials and activities that are durable
  • Incorporate early literacy activities

In June 2019, I took over the Imagination Station, connecting it to our Summer Reading theme, Read and Blast Off.

Explore another Imagination Station – Movie Theater themed – in this post.

Pretend Play: Mission Control

The star of the space themed Imagination Station was our mission control board. I can’t provide much information on how this board was made–our amazing maintenance team took this project on.

Underneath the panel, a battery was attached with some wiring that made the lights turn on and numbers to change when kids flipped the switches. The best feature? The two phones actually talked to one another–if you held one phone to your ear, you could hear a person whispering into the other phone. So cool!

In addition to the amazing mission control board, we provided some simple dress up clothes to encourage pretend play. These included:

One of my favorite pretend play items were the jetpacks. These were not the most durable items. I had to remake an entire set halfway through the month. There are many instructions for these on Pinterest, but my steps are outlined below.

How to Make Jetpacks:

Materials (per jetpack):

  • 2 2-Liter Bottles (empty, without lids)
  • Thick Cardboard
  • Silver spray Paint
  • 2″ Thick Silver Ribbon
  • Silver Duct Tape
  • Hot Glue
  • Orange, Yellow, or Red Felt

Steps:

  • Cut cardboard so it is a little wider than the two pop bottles pressed together and just shorter than the height of the bottles.
  • Use spray paint to paint 2-Liter bottles and thick cardboard piece silver on all sides. Wait to dry.
  • Measure the silver ribbon to 18-24″ long. Use duct tape to secure to one side of the cardboard, creating a loop for a child to fit their arm. Repeat to create a second arm strap.
  • Flip the cardboard over and tape the two pop bottles to it. The more tape used here, the better. Wrap tape around all sides of the cardboard and use multiple layers, especially if the jetpack will receive a lot of use.
  • Cut felt to form flame shapes with a very narrow tip at the opposite end from the flames.
  • Squirt hot glue into the end of pop bottle and attach the flame pieces.

We also included a pretend play rocket tent for kids to explore.

Fine Motor Skills: Rocket Building

We purchased an additional pack of magnetiles to add to our regular storytime play collection. Kids built elaborate rockets and structures out of them.

Letter Recognition: Mission Codes

To incorporate early literacy, I created a mission codes matching activity. Kids had a bin of capital letters to sort through. They slid the capital letters into the 5″ x 7″ page protectors underneath the matching lowercase letters. The space words changed each week.

Writing: Trace Paths & Checklists

We included blank flight plan tracing sheets (from this Teachers Pay Teachers pack) to help build fine motor skills.

Flop: Moon Rock Exploration

I was really looking forward to this activity. Kids were supposed to explore tin foil balls–“moon rocks”–of different sizes with a magnifying glass, magnet, tweezers, and more. Instead, kids managed to rip off the gloves (which were hot glued, rubber banded, and sealed with shipping tape, plus duct tape later), take the foil balls out of the box, and pull them into tiny pieces.

This box didn’t last a full week–and we confirmed that nothing is kid proof.