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What’s in a Name?

2 Nov

When I was born, my parents named me Katie. Well, okay, technically  they named me Mary (that’s what’s on my birth certificate) but always intended to call me Katie. That was back in the days when lots of girls were named Mary Chris, Mary Pat, Mary This, Mary That… but weren’t actually called Mary. So, until I was 5, everyone called me Katie.

Then Kindergarten happened. And my 5-year-old self informed the teacher that my name was Mary and I was to be called that. I then proceeded to make everyone else I knew begin calling me Mary instead of Katie. Why did I decide to change my name? I have no idea what was going on in my young brain, but as an adult I’ve speculated that it’s because we’d recently moved to Denver and lived almost next door to a family with two twin girls – one of whom was named Katie. Strangely enough, her real name was also Mary Something.

I’ve been Mary ever since. Kudos to my family for going along with my self-inflicted name change.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because it kind of relates to why one of my katyfavorite books growing up was Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Oh, how I loved the story of Katy, the bulldozer/snow plow who did her work in the City of Geopolis and saved the day one particularly snowy winter. I adored the detailed illustrations with maps of the town so that I could follow Katy’s route as she made it safe for the mail carrier to continue his route and the doctor to get his patient to the hospital. But most of all, I loved that Katy and I shared the same name (albeit a slightly different spelling).

lolaFinding yourself (or even just your name) in a children’s book is a powerful thing.  Each year, I am fortunate enough to be able to gift each child whom I visit in my preschool outreach a brand new book. As the kids in one class were making their selections, one young lady saw Anna Quinn’s Lola at the Library. The book features an adorable, smiling African-American child as she makes her regular visit to the library. The young lady pointed at the book, eyes wide, and said “I want THAT one.” What made this encounter so powerful? The girl who chose the book looked EXACTLY like Lola in the story. Right down to the pigtails.

Children need to feel like they are important and have worth, and seeing yourself and your story reflected in a book provides some measure of that. Just as I was proud to share a name with hero snowplow Katy, my young book selector probably was proud to see that she, or a child that looked like her, could be the star of her own story.

What story are YOU the star of? Are there any books that made you think “hey, that’s me!”?

And Now for Something Completely Different (but totally related)

29 Mar

I’m not going to have a Flannel Friday post this week. I’m actually hanging out for a few days in a small town a few hours from Denver, getting a little R & R, and doing a lot of reading and thinking. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot, and am trying to get started this week, is a second blog – one that focuses exclusively on early literacy: What it is, and how we, as librarians, caregivers, teachers, parents, and those generally interested in creating a literate society, can do to support children as they’re developing the tools to learn to read. I want to share book ideas, activities, research, information, and inspiration. Early literacy learning is something I’ve become super passionate about over the past several years as I’ve discovered how easy it is be to get children aged 0 to 5 prepared to learn to read and how important it is that we do so.  I know I share a lot of early literacy information in this blog, but it’s centered around my storytime work and there’s lots of cool stuff I DON’T share here.

I gave a speech about this very topic several years ago, and I called it “A Read Aloud Revolution.”

So, I’m ready to start this blog, but I need a name. Read Aloud Revolution is the obvious choice, but it’s taken (and a wonderful

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

blog in its own right, about continuing to read aloud to children as they grow into their tweens and teens – almost an extension of what I’m hoping to do). So, as that’s not an option, and I don’t want to step on the toes of this fine family’s mission. Help me out, people – what should I name the blog? I want something related to the idea that reading aloud to children can change the world. I’ve saved the name “Revolution Read Aloud”, so it could be that. “Reading Aloud is Revolutionary” seems to long for a blog address. So, let me have ‘em – your best ideas, and I’ll be sure to give you credit.

All those who enjoy my Flannel Friday, storytime, and preschooler antics posts (thank you!) fear not, I do intend to keep this blog going as home to my librarian-centered stuff. The second blog will relate, but will not be focused so much on my library job. I hope it will be informative to lots of different folks.

Thanks in advance for helping a girl out!


Flannel Friday: The Mitten by Jan Brett

9 Dec

I’m pretty sure most of us know and have shared Jan Brett’s wonderful book The Mitten with our storytime kids. It really is a delightful winter tale, with opportunities for prediction and detailed illustrations. It is the details in the illustrations that may make it difficult to share this Ukranian folktale with a large group (they won’t be able to see the details well or focus on the important stuff), so why not turn the story into a flannelboard? Jan Brett herself makes this easy as she provides pdf drawings of both a large mitten and the animals in the story, so that kids can help you fill the mitten. Here’s mine:

Mitten! 2 layers of sparkly, snow-white felt.


And finally, the mitten, brimming with animals (okay, not really. You could make multiples of the animals for a larger group and they would fit. It’s a BIG mitten!

This would also make a great take-home craft after sharing the book in storytime; kids could re-tell the story from memory, which is a great early literacy booster!

Other versions of The Mitten folktale: by Jim Aylesworth (illustrated by Barbara McClintock) and by Alvin Tresselt.

Please visit Mrs. D. at Putting Smiles on Faces for the full Flannel Friday Roundup!  And click the icon to the right to visit our Pinterest boards and see all the flannels in one fell swoop!

I like the phrase “one fell swoop.” It’s fun to say. Why don’t I say it more often?

Eek! Squeak! A Mouse Storytime

7 Nov

There are certain animals that really lend themselves to picture book stories. Have you noticed? Ducks, mice, and sheep seem to appear an awful lot. Cats, too. Camels? Not so much.

So given the wealth of books available for me to choose from, I decided to do a mouse-themed storytime. The fact that I already had 2 flannelboards all ready to go didn’t hurt either…

Mouse storytime started with Herbert, my dapperly dressed puppet. He explains that he always dresses his best when he’s going to meet new people. We also talk about the shape of his button (cheese/triangle), and what he’s got in his pocket (a clock). Then, as Herbert checks his watch and says it’s time for stories, we get started!

  • One is a Feast for a Mouse by Judy Cox. A Thanksgiving story – Mouse creeps out of his hidey spot after dinner is done and finds one pea, small and toothsome. One is a feast for a mouse, but when he sees the rest of the leftovers, he gets a little greedy.
  • Hide and Squeak by Heather Vogel Frederick. A newer book, in which little mouse hides from his dad at bedtime. Nice repeated phrases and big illustrations!
  • Flannelboard: Little Mouse, Little Mouse. We hide a little mouse behind a house and try to guess which colored house he’s behind: “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the red house?” If there are lots of kids in the group, and we don’t have time to let everyone guess, we use my color spinner to choose the colors. Everyone LOVES this one and there are repeated requests to “do it again!” If we find the mouse too quickly, we always DO.
  • Mouse Count or Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Again, more classics. And I have the following…
  • Flannelboard: Mouse Count. So yeah, makes more sense if we read the book first.
  • Miss You Mouse by Greg Foley. Mouse finds a note from his friend bear, saying “I miss you, Mouse.” Mouse then sets off to find Bear, with something very important to tell him. We lift flaps to find other animals, but bear is a little elusive.
More mouse books:
  • Little Bitty Mousie by Jim Aylesworth. An alphabet book, with absolutely lovely illustrations of little bitty, in her pretty blue dress.
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. A classic! The kids love it, and so do I.
  • Mouse Was Mad by Jackie Urban. Mouse is hopping mad, but Rabbit criticizes the way he hops, which makes Mouse stomping mad. But Bear is better at stomping, and so on… until Mouse finds something he can do best of all.
  • Molly Who Flew Away by Valeri Gorbachev. Molly and her friends visit the fair, and Molly has a little pocket money to use to buy treats for her friends. She decides on balloons, but you know what happens when a mouse takes too many…
Here’s fingerplay rhyme I included on the parent handout I give to my schools:
“Five Little Mice” (play on your 5 fingers)
5 little mice on the pantry floor,
This little mouse peeked behind the door,
This little mouse nibbled at the cake,
This little mouse not a sound did make.
This little mouse heard the kitten sneeze.
“Ah choo!” sneezed the kitten,
And “squeak” they all cried,
And they found a hole and ran inside.

Sesame Street does Glee to help kids learn about the letter G! You’re Welcome.

22 Sep

Sesame Street does a spot-on spoof of the TV show Glee, all in the name of helping kids learn the sound that the letter G makes. Letter knowledge at its finest! Early literacy learning FTW! What kid isn’t going to go away from this knowing that G can make two different sounds?

Sign up to Read for the Record! This year featuring a little llama in red pajamas

18 Sep

Pledge to read to kids and support early childhood education!

Once again, Jumpstart is organizing a “Read for the Record” event, which asks adults to pledge to read to the children in their life on October 6, 2011. Whether you read to your own children or someone else’s (as I will do, reading to my preschool classes), we can together demonstrate that reading aloud to children is powerful and important! By pledging to read, you’re showing the world that you believe that early childhood education matters!

This year, we’re pledging to read Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama which is a storytime staple around here. In fact, I was already planning to use my bedtime stories theme in early October, which of COURSE little llama is a part of. Red Pajama is a delightful rhyming story which accurately reflects a child’s bedtime anxieties. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy getting to read the words “llama drama?”

Join me and take the pledge to read on Oct. 6!

Chomp! Happy Shark Week!

4 Aug

Honestly, I’ve never actually watched any of the gore/mayhem that comes with Shark Week. But then I only  got cable a couple of years ago, and it was basic BASIC cable. But, in honor of the phenomenon, here are some great shark books to share during the commercials.

  • Shea, Bob. I’m a Shark!Shark is pretty proud of his scary-making

    Shark says "hey!"

    skills. But don’t tell him if a spider’s nearby.

  • Geist, Ken. The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark. Will shark chomp through the house made of seaweed? You betcha. The house made of coral? Of course. But the sunken ship house? Hmmm…
  • Peck, Jan. Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea. The kids joined in on the “swim away” refrain. Lots of sea creatures, but the shark really gets noticed!
  • Schwarz, Viviane. Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure. Not really a storytime share, because of the cartoon-panel illustrations, but super funny and a good one-on-one book. What scares shark? Besides spiders, I mean. Tigers, of course!
  • Barton, Chris. Shark vs. Train. A picture-book version of “anything you can do, I can do better.” But really, they’re both good at stuff.
  • Arnosky, Jim. Gobble It Up! a fun song about eating. What would you eat if you were a shark? It may seem gross to you, but if you were a shark, well, you’d gobble it up! (Also includes whales, raccoons, pandas, and others…).

What are your sharkey favorites, for storytime or otherwise? We’ll eat ‘em up!

An elephant goes like this and that…: Big, Grey Animals Storytime

13 Jun

You could probably do an entire storytime about elephants. There are plenty of great books out there, and elephants are great, benign, friendly characters. But I not only have an awesome elephant puppet (with trunk controllable from inside) but also a rhinoceros, so I expanded storytime to include rhinos and hippos too. Why not?

Edward the Elephant and Roger the Rhino introduce themselves first. Edward shows off his trunk and all the great things he can do with it, like spraying water on his back and using it like a straw to put water in his mouth. Roger shows us his horns and we talk about horns vs. trunks. Then, on to the stories!

  • Wilson, Karma. Hilda Must Be Dancing. A fun rhyming story with tons of dance vocabulary included. Hilda makes quite a ruckus with her dancing, and while the other animals are bothered, they never berate her or tell her to stop – they just help her find a quieter hobby.
  • Na, Il Sung. Thingamabob. When elephant finds a thingamabob, he is unsure what to do with it, until it rains. The young listeners, of course, knew immediately that the thingamabob was an umbrella.
  • Flannelboard: 1 Elephant Went Out to Play (aka last week’s Flannel Friday!)
  • Willems, Mo. I Am Going! Really, any Elephant and Piggie book would work. This just happens to be one I haven’t read to my groups yet. Gerald (aka Elephant) gets very upset when he finds out Piggie is going. Couldn’t Piggie go tomorrow? Or next week? Actually, no, since Piggie is only going to lunch.
  • It’s fun to say this chanting rhyme a few times, and then practice talking with a “squished” face. Pretty silly!

(we clap or tap out a beat):

A hip, a hip, a hippopotamus,

Got on, got on, got on a city bus,

And all, and all, and all the people said…

“You’re squishing me!” (squish cheeks together with hands)

  • Shea, Bob. Oh, Daddy! Little Hippo has to show his Daddy how to to lots of things, like eat carrots, get dressed, and give hugs. Where would Daddy be without him?

Other great grey animal titles:

  • Rubinger, Ami. I Dream of an Elephant. Color rhymes!
  • Dunbar, Polly. Where’s Tumpty? Tumpty the elephant is not the best at hiding his bulk. But he tries. And finally, succeeds.
  • Newman, Jeff. Hippo! No, Rhino! Confusion reigns at the zoo.
  • Polacco, Patricia. Emma Kate. Who’s imaginary?
  • Bunting, Eve. Tweak Tweak. Little elephant learns what he can do.
  • Arnold, Katya. Elephants Can Paint Too. Elephants and boys and girls take an art class (and paint remarkably similar things!). A true story!
  • Chivers, Natalie. Rhino’s Great Big Itch. The smallest animal may be the best one to help Rhino get rid of his BIG itch.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ride a bus. I hope no hippos try and get on.

New* Books we (the preschoolers and I) love

24 May

Each year around this time I round up all the awesome new* books I can find, and do a storytime with them. I am lucky enough, through my outreach program, to be able to give all almost 1400 kids I visit each month a brand new book (to keep!) in May, so I do only a short storytime before we get to handing out the books. These are the books we are sharing and loving this month:

*And by “new”, I mean “new to me.” Apparently some of these are more than a year old! But so what, I just found them!

  • Schmid, Paul. A Pet for Petunia. Petunia wants, WANTS, WANTS a pet skunk. But when her parents say no, she goes on a rant that librarians like me (i.e. extra goofy) LOVE to perform. “Stink? I’ll show you stink!”
  • Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta. Chicks Run Wild. Apparently one group of preschoolers loved this so much they were still talking about it long after storytime. After mama puts the chicks to bed, and closes the door, they get up again and RUN WILD! But Mama finally figures out that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and manages to wear them out in the process!
  • Beaumont, Karen. No Sleep for Sheep! Continuing the sleep theme, sheep is trying to get some sleep. But various farm animals keep coming into the barn, making noise, and waking him up! Lots of repitition, and the illustrations of the extra-fluffy, and super-harried, sheep are wonderful.
  • Kemp, Anna. Dogs Don’t Do Ballet. Biff the bulldog dreams of his name in lights. But his person’s father says “Dogs Don’t Do  Ballet.” Biff has other plans, and they involve putting on his person’s tutu and following her to a performance of the Royal Ballet.
  • Dewdney, Anna. Roly Poly Pangolin.  “Roly Poly, very small, doesn’t like new things at all.” Not bugs for dinner, not monkeys who want to be friends. But Roly Poly finally discovers that not every new thing is scary.
  • Vere, Ed. Banana! A simple, but expressive book with only 2 words in it: Banana and please. A great narrative skills developer, as kids can help tell the story.
  • Foley, Greg. I Miss You, Mouse. A lovely new addition to the Bear books. Now with flaps to lift!
  • Gormley, Greg. Dog In Boots. After reading Puss in Boots, Dog decides he wants some boots as marvelous as those worn in the story. But the first pair he gets, while wonderful, are no good for digging. He goes back to the store several times trying to find the perfect pair of shoes in which to do ALL of his doggie activities. We especially loved the picture of dog in high heels, perfect for scratching!
  • Nesbitt, Kenn. More Bears! Hilariously meta. And the preschoolers had learned who an author and illustrator were, so were able to understand that concept (mostly). I pointed out the words “More Bears!” on each page and let the kids say them.”
  • Hillenbrand, Will Spring Is Here! Mole wakes up and discovers spring has arrived. He tries to wake bear, to no avail. What will he have to do?
  • Sayre, April Pulley. If You’re Hoppy and You Know It. A play on the song, offering words like “hoppy”, “sloppy”, “growly”, and “flappy” and the corresponding animals.

I’m looking forward to sharing (I have an ARC but not a hard copy yet):

  • Foley, Greg (geez, this guy’s talented!). Purple Little Bird Bird works very hard making his purple house perfect. But something’s missing. He travels around the world, meeting animals of every color, looking for the perfect place.

What are your new favorites?

Flannel Friday! Little Peter Rabbit Song/Word Game

8 Apr

Last week, while looking for rabbit storytime ideas, I found this song on the Kididdles site:

Little Peter Rabbit

[sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (you can hear it on the Kididdles page)]

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear,

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear,

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his ear,

And he flicked it ’til it flew away…

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his _______. etc…

Little Peter Rabbit had a ____ upon his ___. etc…

Little Peter ____ had a ____ upon his ____. etc…

Little ____ ____ had a ____ upon his ____. etc…

Now, I like the song all on its own, without removing any words. I can see adding all kinds of motions like bunny ears and a buzzing fly with your fingers. You can shoo the fly away from your ear. The song is also very rhythmic, so you can slap your thighs or clap along. Or march! For toddlers or babies I would go one of these routes.

However, for my audience, preschoolers, I decided to turn this into a flannelboard to build up the kids’ print awareness. I put the words on pieces of felt with a few picture clues, using red for the words that we removed:

We say, and then sing, the song, while I underline each of the words.  Then we start removing words, beginning with ear:

This time, as we sing, we substitute a clap for the missing word (like bingo). We work our way through, removing one by one each of the red words (the kids keep wanting me to make it “harder!”), until we have this:

Hardly any words, and all claps! Finally, we put the words back (they help me “read” them) and we sing one last time the “right” way.  While the kids couldn’t always manage both singing and clapping, they enjoyed this very much and wanted to do it AGAIN! I think it’s a fun way to reinforce print recognition and the idea that words/letters have meaning. Also, I run my fingers under them periodically to remind them that print runs left to right (in English).

One of my classes wanted to put the words in the wrong place, so we mixed up “rabbit” “ear” and “fly” to make some silly sentences. What fun! It’s really been a blast to perform with the kids and they’ve had a good time (as have I). The possibilities, I think, are endless!



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