Posted in story times

These are a few of my favorite (FOODS!) Story time

What’s your favorite food? Every kid I’ve ever met loves to answer this question. My preschool group talked about their favorite fruits and veggies,  a nice surprise, considering most people assume kids hate to eat healthy.

Opening song: If you’re ready for a story take a seat ( to the tune of: If you’re happy and you know it)
If you’re ready for a story take a seat. If you’re ready for a story take a seat. If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands and stomp your feet. If you’re ready for a story take a seat. 
If the kids are antsy, I get them to settle in on the carpet with this song. If they are ready for stories, I skip right to our opening hello song!

Hello song: Bread & butter 
I learned this song 5 years ago from my very first children’s librarianship mentor at the Free Library! I use it for the opening of all my preschool & toddler story times.

Action game: COLORS-  If you’re wearing (color) do (action). This helps the kids get their sillies out before we start reading and also helps reinforce their color knowledge.

Book: Hi, Pizza Man! – Virginia Walter
I skipped this book with the toddler group because their vibe was extremely high energy so we jumped right into Orange Pear Apple Bear. The idea of a Pizza Dinosaur was hilarious to our preschoolers. Admittedly, I was hoping for a Pizza Dinosaur, too!

IMG_6396Feltboard: Build a pizza – inspired by Abby the Librarian’s feltboard. We talked about our favorite pizza toppings and then rolled out the pizza “dough”. I handed out pineapple (yellow felt rectangles), cheese (white triangles), mushrooms (brown dots), green peppers (long skinny green rectangles), tomatoes (bright red circles), pepperoni (dark red circles), to the kids who wanted to help make the pizza. One by one, I called each shape and those children came up to place their felt pieces on the board. After all the toppings were assembled, I turned the felt board around to hide the pizza, telling them it’s in the oven baking! We checked on it at the end of story time to see if it was “done”. Despite being very simple, the kids had a fun interacting with this felt board! Inevitably, one of the preschoolers asked why we didn’t just go to the kitchen and make a real pizza. If only it were that simple!

Book:  Orange Pear Apple Bear – Emily Gravett
I attended a lovely PA One Book Every Young Child training with Will Hillenbrand and Julie Dietzel-Glair, who introduced her “Books in Motion” active story time approach to books. The idea of getting kids moving during story time is one of my main goals, so I tried her method with Orange Pear Apple Bear and it was a hit!  I was going to introduce just one action with everyone’s favorite fruit, apple, but my preschool group was so ambitious, they wanted to do the all the actions. Each time I said Orange we clapped, for Pear we SPUN, for Apple we  JUMPED, and lastly for Bear we Grr’ed. I love the illustrations in this story but I always wondered how to make it more interactive for story time. My toddler group just jumped for apple, which was great fun, too!

I like to bring my toddlers back to the carpet with a deep breath, arms stretched out and down (a yoga move, really). The preschoolers requested the much-loved banana song instead.

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
Reading this book is very relaxing for me, most likely because I often read it as a bedtime story to my son. Both the toddler & preschool groups got excited about this one, it being one of the most popular kids’ books ever, so they crowded into the front row for optimum viewing. We told the story together, since most of them knew the story by heart.

Goodbye song: The preschoolers sing  If you’re happy and you know it wave good bye and the toddlers Kick with two feet!


Posted in book reviews

Picturebook review – Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith



booksniffer1The story is one that most school-aged children with siblings and grown ups can relate to: one person is trying to relax in peace & quiet and another (smaller/younger?) person won’t leave them be because they have no idea they are bothering the other. This would be a great one-on-one read with someone who is perhaps learning to play with others who are different, entering school, or a dealing younger sibling.

I am a sucker for these vintage style tri-color illustrations in picture books. The book, end papers, gutters, and all, are well designed and Frith’s lush illustrations have an eye catching appeal and are evocative of a kinetic jungle environment. The nighttime scene is particularly effective with its teals, greys, and pinks.

The only question I have is- why does the bear, Hector, have a proper name while Hummingbird does not? Most children know what a bear is but hummingbirds are a big more obscure, could that be it?

Posted in story times

Let’s get messy story time

When I first started at my current library branch a few months ago, I wanted to follow my predecessor’s footsteps and continue with preschool story time. I drafted elaborate story time plans with very specific themes and was very matchy-matchy about each selection and then I realized most of the kids coming to our preschool story time, which is focused on kids aged 3-5, were mostly in the toddler age range, and so I had to change gears and make story time less formal and more toddler-appropriate. This storytime was the result of that change.


Pete the cat – I love my white shoes by Dean and Litwin
This is the quintessential getting messy & being okay with it book. The kids love it, and I enjoy it, though I am nonplussed by all the various new iterations of Pete the Cat.

Dog’s colorful day by Emma Dodd – with flannel board!
I started using this book for sensory story times with school aged kids, and then later discovered how much fun it was for toddlers, especially when read in tandem with the felt board. Kids of all ages love helping to splash dog with various colored dots and “giving him a bath” at the end when we pretend to scrub him clean.

Pigeon needs a bath by Mo Willems


I made a Pigeon puppet out of a wooden spoon and felt and combined it with what Pigeon sounds like in my head: a cranky old man. It goes over very well!

Ain’t gonna paint no more by Karen Beaumont
I sing this one. Beaumont’s illustrations are full of wonderful kinetic energy but I think the book may be better suited for a pre-k group.


My eyes are made for seeing

Popcorn kernels scarf song by Jbrary
I use this scarf song for baby story time but I’m learning that the toddlers love the scarves, too! This song ended with many games of peek-a-boo.

This is the way we wash our hands
I like to sing this one towards the end of story time after we’re done getting messy.


Posted in story times

Ten in the bed for PJ story time- Flannel Friday


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I made this Ten in a Bed flannel (credit: Making Learning Fun) board a couple weeks ago for a bear-themed preschool story time and realized it would be perfect for my first PJ story time at the new branch. I used the traditional lyrics with one added change– colors!

“There were ten in the bed and the little blue one said, ‘Roll over, roll over.’
So they all rolled over and the white one fell out.” And so on until the little blue one sighed, “alone at last!”

Between the Sleepy Bears, Each Peach Pear Plum, and Cabrera’s Twinkle, Twinkle, my group started yawning, stretching, and drowsily kicking with two feet as story time came to a close. Sleep is one of the major things parents with young children struggle with, so I hope my story time helped the kids get some zzz’s.

This post is part of the Flannel Friday Roundup over at What is Bridget Reading?

Posted in book reviews

Book review: The Rosemary Spell by Virginia Zimmerman

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love,
, Act 4, scene 5.

What if Shakespeare created a magical codex that gave power to rhyme? Two teenagers in a small Pennsylvanian town come across such a book and accidentally end up using it to disastrous ends. In order to fix their wrong doings, solve the mystery of the codex, and complete their poetry assignment, Rosemary and Adam turn to library research and an elderly poet whose memory was ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Rosemary even employs the use of a concordance in her research (upon her mother’s suggestion, who also happens to be a Shakespearean scholar), an aspect of the story which is sure to please librarians and English researchers alike. It seems unlikely that most teens get excited about library research, but Rosemary does out of desperation. It also helps that the author is an English professor at Bucknell University, a small liberal arts college in Lewisburg, PA. She’s writing what she knows.

Having lived in small-town Pennsylvania, I can tell you that the story paints a very realistic setting that ironically, considering the theme of memory that is present in the novel, conjures strong memories of my past. When one lives somewhere rather uneventful, oftentimes boredom or curiosity will compel a normally well behaved child to become involved in a situation more dangerous than they can handle, which Zimmerman convincingly portrays in first person through the main character, Rosemary. The idea of a magic codex that causes terrible things to happen seems quite like the kind of story a child or a young teen would compose in response to a major tragedy in his or her life. Actual magic is very minimal in the text, just a touch to make it land in the magical realism genre rather than full-blown fantasy. Will tweens be able to relate to Rosemary and Adam? I’m confident fans of Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, and Seven-Day Magic, titles Zimmerman actually references in the story, will enjoy The Rosemary Spell.


I read this novel as a part of YES WE CRAB reading challenge. I plan to read 10 books (of all sizes!) and blog once a week during the month of February!


Posted in early childhood literacy, story times

Baby story time 1/22/16

We resumed baby story time today after the holiday/ALA Midwinter hiatus! Philly is expecting a snowmaggedon, but we still had small yet engaged group of older babies pop by for story time. Our pig puppet kissed each baby to welcome them while I introduced the parents to how our baby story time works and what to expect. My baby story times are very low key. We have lots of toys and manipulatives on the floor, so I explained that babies were  welcome to enjoy the story time in their caregiver’s lap or crawl around and/or engage with the toys! Being babies, they have very short attention spans, so I don’t want the parents to get worried if their kid wasn’t playing attention to the book, they are still absorbing the language skills we put out there. I also provide handout (here’s the template) for practice at home, but it’s also a good way to plug some early literacy and media mentoring tips!

We start with the same song and book for every baby story time:

Welcome song: Clap and say hello

Book 1: A-hunting we will go by John Langstaff (we sing this one!)197466

Scarf song: Popcorn kernels! (They especially loved this song, thanks Anna!)

Bounce: This is the way the ladies ride

Diaper changing rhymes: Charlie Chaplin went to France & There was a little man (I love you, Jbrary!)

Book 2: Ten tiny tickles by Karen Katz (the babies weren’t so crazy about this one)

Scarf song: London Bridges

Bounce: Did you ever see a baby


Goodbye song: Open shut them (from the Storytime Secrets blog, one of my favorite resources)

I used to drive myself crazy trying to come up with themes for baby story time and then one day I realized that neither the babies nor the parents seemed care about themes. Do you use themes in baby story time? Why or why not?

Enjoy the snowpocolypse, fellow East Coasters!



Posted in conferences, early childhood literacy

Preschool discussion group at ALA Midwinter 2016

I attended a heated, yet needed, preschool discussion group at ALA Midwinter that focused on electronic media and young children. Whether or not screen time is healthy for kids is not a new debate, but it has become a hot button topic once again due to the recent questioning of the ‘no screen time before age 2’ guideline by members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) due to the ubiquity of electronic devices.  A few points came out of the discussion that I’d like to highlight:

David Hill, spokesman for the AAP, stated in an interview with NPR, “While we acknowledged that mobile and interactive screens have become ubiquitous in children’s lives, we did not advocate for their wholesale adoption. I suspect that when they do come out, the statements will be highly conservative, reinforcing much of what we have said in the past about the known effects of electronic media use on child health and development.”  As it stands now, the AAP hasn’t actually come to a complete consensus on the topic, they are simply reconsidering their position. Attempting to ignore children’s interaction with electronic media is Sisyphean task at this point and the AAP wants to remain relevant.

Several attendees expressed alarm at the lack of longitudinal studies on the affects of media on the health of young children and were outraged that the recommendations are being changed without such studies. One attendee asked that ALSC use its clout to demand the AAP conduct more thorough investigation into longitudinal studies. Some were concerned with the rise of cancers and behavior disorders associated with too much screen time. Others pointed out that electronic media can help neurodiverse kids with communication skills and to cope with sensory issues.

Some participants in the discussion recommended thinking about electronic sources (apps, ebooks, and streaming media) as just another part of the media diet. ALSC and the AAP recommend creating a family media plan (aka media diet) to help curb the overuse of electronic media, which does have significant risks.

What does this mean for librarians/media mentors– using iPads and ebooks in story time? Counseling families on media diets and plans? One of my colleagues uses Powerpoint to project large versions of book illustrations during story time for children with cerebral palsy and it works out great in that scenario.

As a parent, I find the screen time thing is a very sensitive subject among other parents, so I prefer to be more subtle. I’ll still use iPads to instruct tweens on how to navigate the library’s various databases, with homework help, and in our storytelling/sequential art programs. When it comes to the younger crowd, I’m going to begin offering tips for positive media engagement on our story time hand outs and hopefully that spurs some discussion with the adults. I think most caregivers appreciate our low tech story times due to the omnipresent nature of screens during the day to day, therefore I’m going to continue using my felt boards, books, and other manipulatives.

Sue McCleaf Nespeca and Linda L. Ernst, co-conveners of the Preschool Services Discussion Group, complied a fantastic list of resources for librarians and caregivers. Here are a few that I didn’t link to previously:

Children’s Hospital Boston – Orienting response.

Common Sense Media — “Common Sense is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology.  We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.” (from its mission statement). It is interesting to note that Common Sense has not reviewed media for children under age 2.

Fred Rogers Center – What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know When Choosing Tech For Young Children

Guerney, Lisa. Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Education software-Affects Your Young Child, with a new epilogue. Basic Books, 2007. Originally published as Into the Minds of Babes.

Guernsey, Lisa and Michael H. Levine. Tap, Click, Read. Growing Readers in a world of screens. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, 2015.

Institute for Learning and Brain Science – University of Washington. Search using “screen time” or other topics.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Screen time use in children under 3 years old: a systematic review of the correlates. Helena Duch, Elisa M. Fisher, Ipek Ensari, and Alison Harrington.

LittleELit – Young children, new media, and libraries. A guide for incorporating new media into library collections, services, and programs for families and children ages 0-5. Amy Koester, ed., LittleELit, 2015.

Pediatrics – October 2001, Volume 128 / Issue 4. The Immediate Impact of Different Types of Television on Young Children’s Executive Function. Angeline S. Lillard, Jennifer Peterson.

TEDxRainrier – Simitri Christakis, MD, MPh. Professor of Pediatrics at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital Research Institute – Media and Children – topics of pacing of media and effects.




Posted in conferences

Reflection on the 2016 Morris Seminar

I missed out on ALA Annual and Midwinter last year because of being pregnant and giving birth to my son, so I was ready to jump back into the saddle and embrace ALA Midwinter for everything it had to offer. I may have been a little overeager yet anxious about socializing with a large group of people but I think I did okay. Having an adorable 9 month old baby in tow really helps break the ice!

The Morris Seminar (aka Librarian Summer camp, even though it’s in the winter)  was the missing puzzle piece my brain needed to wrap my head around book reviewing and discussion. My graduate work at Drexel suffered a distinct lack of reviewing instruction and I’ve been hungry to learn what I missed. KT Horning (subbing for Martha Parravano), Thom Barthelmess, Junko Yokota, and many others, presented the very best practices for book reviewing and how to, well, SURVIVE being on a book award committee.

Read and evaluate beyond a personal response.
Know your biases and favorites, this makes it easier to view the book with a professional mind while reading something you don’t personally prefer.

Always assume the best about a book.
Don’t look for flaws. Make a list of outstanding points so each book rises to its potential.

“Approach the book with a questioning mind.”
Ask yourself questions: Who’s reading the book? How does the book function in the real world– is it reflective of the diversity in which we live?

Educate yourself if you don’t know anything about the topic.
Read other books on the subject and contact experts for more information.

Read the books with adults & children to gain a different perspective.

Select distinguished books: 1st novels, translated books, books by people of color.

Find a place where a comment becomes a real question.
The group doesn’t have time for passive aggression or snarky comments. Find a way to make your comment into a real question that benefits the group.

Make the physical, emotional, and mental space for the amount of books to be read.
Use databases to keep track of your notes and/or corresponding pictures of book illustrations. Clear space in your office and your life so that you may focus on reviewing for a book award committee.

Remember, the group is smarter as a whole than individuals.
Every person comes from a distinct place with a different set of experiences that add something unique to the discussion.

Engage the subjective and objective while reading, as well as the adult mind and the child-like mind.
Professional book reviewing can be contradictory. It’s a fine balance.

“Every book is a clean slate!”
Give every book a chance.

“It’s just you and the book.”
Take it one step at a time, one book at a time.

And most importantly:

Learn something you may not have noticed about the about the book from a colleague.
Personally, I’ve always fancied myself a decent listener, but when it comes to books like most librarians and other book people, I can’t wait to state my opinion. American culture as a whole isn’t great at facilitating or nurturing listening skills, as most of us just listen long enough to form our own retort. There is no time during book award committee meetings for side bars, personal stories, or even agreements. Active listening during discussion, without ego, without self, is key. To listen without ego is almost a Vulcan task and the needs of the many certainly out weigh the needs of the few. Yep, I just outed myself as a Trekkie. Woo!

Lisa Nowlain, a fellow Seminarian, did a great visual wrap up of the Morris Seminar on the ALSC blog. Check it out!