PROUD.

24 Aug

I wanted to give a shoutout to a couple of amazing organizations/groups I have the good fortune to be involved with. They are both, in different ways, working to help grow children into successful, literate adults.

eie

Earlier is Easier is a Denver collaborative working to build awareness around the importance of the first 3 years of a child’s life. Right now our advocacy consists of informative websites in English and in Spanish, as well as parent tip cards that we distribute through our partner agencies. We’re diligently working on other ways to get our message out, including a possible media campaign and partnerships with faith-based and other community groups. It all depends on funding, of course. But we’re making it happen! Check out the websites, and please share! They have great, easy activities for parents to do with their young children, divided by age groups.

su

Storytime Underground! I’m super-duper excited to have been recently chosen to be a joint-chief of this amazing group. SU is dedicated to  supporting, training, and advocating for youth services librarians throughout the country (nay – the world!). We believe that “literacy is not a luxury” and the work that we do in libraries around early literacy is important and necessary. I will blogging especially about advocacy – helping us understand the “why” behind what we do do in storytime and in youth services and how we can best advocate for our work in our libraries and in our communities.

I am happy and grateful to be able to work with both of these groups. Together, we ARE changing the world.

Ukulele in Storytime: 5 Green and Speckled Frogs

9 Aug

Like most people, I think I sound weird when listening to or watching myself. But maybe it won’t sound weird to you. The latest, seriously overdue, edition of ukulele in storytime features “5 Green and Speckled Frogs” which is, in my world, a storytime staple. So get out your ukes, friends, and learn the D chord with me if you don’t already know it!

Early Literacy Messages in Action

16 Jun

Fellow Early Literacy Evangelists (may I call you evangelists?),

Yesterday I did my first baby storytime in… well, years, and I had the opportunity to slip in a few early literacy messages that Early Literacy Messaging Graphicreally resonate with me. And I was super excited to do so. But I know that’s not always the case.

I am a 44-year-old childless librarian who ostensibly tells parents how to raise their kids without having any experience of my own. I know, awkward, right? I suppose it could be. I could be saying to myself: “Self, who are you to tell these parents that they should talk to their kids all the time to give the kids a big vocabulary? How do you know they aren’t already doing that and you’re just going to make them defensive? Aren’t they going to look at you and think ‘Don’t you tell me what to do!’

But I don’t, and here’s why: I, myself, am AMAZED by what I’ve learned about early literacy and brain development. I find it incredible that by simply talking and singing with babies, we can set them on a path for learning that will last their whole lives. I’m fascinated by the brain science – it takes a toddler 5 to 7 seconds to respond to a question because there are 4 different parts of the brain involved in hearing, processing, and speaking? Wow! Babies brains grow from 25% developed to 75% developed in the first year of life? Holy cow!

This is powerful, life-alerting (literally) stuff, and I just want everyone to know how easy it is to give young children the best future possible.

I work with parents who are both affluent and highly educated and those who are less so. Personally, I think everyone can learn something new about their child. I haven’t yet heard of a child born into this world with an owner’s manual, so I think lots of parents are just figuring things out. But the universal thread is that they ALL love their children and want the best for them, and simply by bringing them to the library for storytime, or to an outreach event for a parent presentation or play and learn group, they’re demonstrating that.

But I get that it’s challenging to feel like the “expert” in many situations where you DON’T know what parents already know. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think tailoring your message to your audience helps a lot. If you’ve got parents whom you suspect already know about phonological awareness and rhyming games, maybe focus a little more on the brain science – they’re less likely to know all of that (heck, I have a master’s degree – and I didn’t know ANY of that until I started working as a librarian!). If you think your audience is parents who are simply struggling to get through the day, maybe offer a little praise for the good things they are doing (like bringing their kids to storytime) and encourage the simple activities, like singing in the car or talking while making dinner.

Here’s how I might (and do) share early literacy messages with parents who may or may not already know what I’m telling them:

  • I like to call the little one-or-two-sentence bits of information “early literacy reminders” instead of tips. That assumes that the parent already knows what you’re telling them – but don’t we all need to be reminded of things every now and then?
  • I try to present my “reminders” in such a way that demonstrates my genuine fascination with the information.
  • I’m always positive and never accusing or “YOU MUST DO THIS” in tone. I prefer to focus on what they already are doing and recognize it. Doesn’t everyone need a little praise, even for the little things?
  • I often tie my “reminder” into something I’m doing – a song, fingerplay, book, etc. For me, it helps me remember what I want to say AND makes it more specific.
  • I try and use humor if possible. I play on what I didn’t know before. If I didn’t know it, I’m pretty sure some of the parents don’t know and can’t we all discover together?
  • I rarely use more than one or two sentences. And never more than 2 “reminders” per storytime.
  • Avoid using the phrases “you should” or “you need to.” I know hearing those things really make me defensive, so why would I say them to other adults?
  • Transitions are a great time to slip in a “reminder.” We’re standing up; we’re passing out scarves; let’s talk about why movement is fun and important!
    • “Grown ups: fingerplays help little guys strengthen their fingers so that later they can hold a pencil and write. Isn’t that cool?
    • “Thank you for bringing your little ones to storytime today! We’re growing brains and when you share books at home you’re doing that too!”
    • “I love seeing how happy the babies are sharing songs with their grownups. Isn’t it neat that happy babies are better learners? You’re helping your baby learn right now!
    • (Before starting a new book): “This is one of my all-time favorite books. I bet your kids have their favorites too and want to hear them all the time! I know it’s not so much fun for grownups to repeat the same book, but it’s great for building literacy skills!
    • “I love to sing and it was so exciting for me to learn that singing helps with learning to read! Singing slows down words so that we can hear all the little sounds. That’s pretty neat!”
    • “Grownups: did you hear the word “insufferable” in that book? We’re growing our kids’ vocabularies when we share books!”

I know that adding early literacy reminders to storytime is a challenging task and can feel unnatural at first. But with practice, it WILL become easier. Trust me. REALLY. I swear. And it’s perfectly okay to plan your reminders in advance and write them on a sticky note or piece of paper. Practice with a colleague if you want some feedback on how something sounds.

In the long run, you’re doing SO MUCH GOOD by sharing this information with families. Even if one parent is bothered that you’ve stopped reading a book for 30 seconds to offer two sentences of brain development goodness, the majority, whether they already know what you’re saying or not, appreciate it.

This is a topic that resonates with a lot of us, so visit the Jbrary blog on Friday, June 19 for a roundup of ALL the “Early Literacy Messages in Action” posts that are happening this week! On twitter you can catch all the posts by following #EarlyLitInAction. You’ll find lots of great suggestions and “reminders” that you can use right away! And please – share your own “best practices” in the comments. I’m sure you’ve got ’em!

Now, GO FORTH AND BE AWESOME, you world-changers, you!

Don’t (DO!) be such a drama queen! Best picture books for a DRAMATIC storytime

8 Jun

I admit it. I am a giant ham. I LOVE playing for laughs in storytime. There’s nothing better than making a child (or a parent!) giggle so hard they can’t stop. I am proud to say I made a preschool teacher laugh so hard at my performance of I Want My Hat Back that she cried.  What more could a storytime provider want?

hat

Anyone else read the bear as completely deadpan?

To that end, a colleague and I are presenting a short program to our fellow storytime presenters on integrating drama into your storytime. My co-presenter is a former drama teacher, so she’s going to talk more about drama games and other activities beyond the book, but I’m focusing on making picture book readings more dramatic.

We’ve narrowed dramatic readings down to two categories:

  1. “Playing the dummy,” i.e. pretending like you don’t know what’s going to happen (and asking obvious questions of the listener) and being very surprised/confused/angry/happy when the story resolves, or
  2. Using the text and/or illustrations for clues on how to read the story. For example, if a character looks like he’s crying, read the text in a sad voice. If the text is bolded, obviously that’s a word or phrase you need to emphasize. Use your body to mimic what the character is feeling or saying!

Here’s the list of books that really lend themselves to dramatic readings. I’m sure there are many, many more. Please share your favorites in the comments!

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

There’s a Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone

Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak

The Doghouse by Jan Thomas

A Splendid Friend Indeed by Suzanne Bloom

Harry Hungry by Stephen Salerno

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dykeman

Interrupting Chicken by David Stein

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London

Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker

Mortimer by Robert Munsch

Moo by David Larochelle

Banana! by Ed Vere

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

An update y una invitación a bailar!

24 Apr

Wow. It’s been…like, 6 months since I last blogged, and I apologize for that. I’m a little over 1 year into a new job with more responsibility, more supervising, and fewer storytimes, and that has meant a lot of learning and doing and figuring out. I’m definitely feeling settled now and enjoying my work as an early literacy department head, but still don’t find as many opportunities to blog. I do miss it. I will try harder (famous last words, I know).

Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you something I learned about this week. A former co-worker from my old library put me on to this Boulder, CO-based band: Basho & Friends. Talk about FUN music! It’ll get you moving and dancing and maybe even learning some new words – in Spanish, French, or Chinese! I do some Spanish-language and bilingual storytimes and I think some of these songs would be PERFECT movement activities. I especially like this one and intend to use it soon!:

¡Baila y disfruta!

¡El Pollo!; aka, the most fun movement activity en español EVER.

10 Sep

Some of the best storytime activities are the simplest. This is one of them. It basically names the parts of the chicken, rhythmically. I tried it out with my new class of Spanish-only kiddos and they LOVED it. LOVED.

I learned it from my colleague Alberto, and here’s a video of him performing it:

This is the text:

El pollo! (clap hands together)

El pollo con una pata (step one foot forward)

El pollo con la otra pata (step other foot forward)

El pollo con su piquito (hand in front of mouth like beak)

El pollo con sus alitas (move arms like wings)

El pollo con su colita (turn around and shake tail)

The rhyme doesn’t work as well in English, but it can be done. Here’s Alberto again:

And the words:

The chicken! (clap hands together)

The chicken with one leg (step one foot forward)

The chicken with the other leg (step other foot forward)

The chicken with his beak (hand in front of mouth like beak)

The chicken with his wings (move arms like wings)

The chicken shakes his tail (turn around and shake tail)

You can do it again faster, slower, and without words. It’s a good time! ¡Que disfruten!

Puppets! An Early Literacy Tool.

3 Aug

I love puppets. I am fortunate enough to have a nice collection of puppets to use in my children’s librarian work, and the kids I get to share them with really enjoy interacting with them. Puppets are a GREAT early literacy skills builder:

  • In my experience, children often interact with puppets in a different way than they do with adults. They seem to
    puppets

    Puppets and friends.

    more readily talk to them – and sort of look on them as a peer.  By sharing with a puppet, children use and build their language skills.

  • Children can play with puppets and use them to tell stories. Again, this develops language and vocabulary. Children also learn about story structure – that stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. Adults playing with a child can help by elaborating on what a child says and using a variety of words.
  • Have the puppets sing a song or, if you’ve got 5 little monkey puppets, help chant a rhyme! This develops phonological awareness skills (breaking words up in to smaller sounds) which helps later with sounding out words.
  • Children can use puppets to re-tell a story, demonstrating skills like sequencing (what happens next?) and comprehension.
  • Children playing with puppets are growing their imaginations.

Here’s a great article from School Library Journal about using puppets in library storytimes and the early literacy skills kids are developing.

But puppets like some of the lovely ones I have at the library are EXPENSIVE! What can you do if you don’t have the funds to grow a great puppet collection? Here are a few ideas that don’t require lots of money OR great sewing/crafting skills:

  • Envelope puppets! Seal an envelope, cut it in half, draw a face on the plain side, and stick your hand in! Voilá! Instant puppet (see pig puppet in pic above). Dr. Jean has an example with a cool echo poem you can recite with them.  And I originally got this idea from No Time For Flashcard’s post.
  • Stick puppets! Collect all those popsicle sticks from summer and wash ‘em off. Cut out a picture from a magazine, print a picture off the internet, or draw your own and stick it on the…uh…stick. Done! Here are some printable images to use for a stick puppet retelling of the Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle.
  • Sock puppets! Now THERE’S something you can do with all of those lonesome socks that have lost their mates. Draw on some eyes and a nose, or glue on some bits of felt or paper, and you’ve got a character.
  • Pipe cleaner puppets! Curl a pipe cleaner around your finger, stick a pom-pom on top, add some googly eyes, and you’re done! See my piggy in the picture above for my quickly-made example.  PS: I found pom-poms and googly
    QUACK! QUACK QUACK!

    QUACK! QUACK QUACK!

    eyes at the dollar store. So this CAN be a very inexpensive puppet project.

  • Who says puppets have to actually be puppets? If your child has a stuffed animal or six, make them talk! Ask your child to give his favorite stuffed friend a voice, and ask that friend questions! What does Theodore Bear like to eat? Where is his favorite place to eat it? Can Theodore Bear tell you the story of his family?

There are LOTS more ideas for creating inexpensive puppets that I’ll be sharing in future posts. Do YOU have any great puppet ideas (either for using them with kids or making them) you’d like to share? Please do! I’m all ears!

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