Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy


Self Care Sunday: YOU MUST STOP

The last couple of months have been a blur of activity both at work, professionally outside of work, and in my own brain on non library stuff. I’ve been able to squeeze in some relaxing days watching movies with a bestie who lives not too far away (thanks for that, Rose!), visiting with friends in Portland, and spending time with family. However, those moments have been few and far between and always filled with other people. With all the presentations, writing assignments, committee work, Storytime Underground (thank the gods for amazing Joint Chiefs who have not threatened to kill me for totally slacking there), and life decisions what I really need is time alone. I have been feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out it has been difficult to focus long enough to complete simple tasks or find the motivation to try new things or enjoy projects I’ve love in the past. Things have to change, but where is the time?


Friday night I went to bed with a very painful throat and woke up Saturday morning hardly able to talk and hurting everywhere (hello, fever). My body had had enough and simply forced me to stop. I had to call in sick, despite the guilt I felt about having to cancel a very popular storytime. I spent the entire day on the couch with a cat on my lap and Jessica Jones on Netflix. I did nothing but think, watch, sleep, drink, repeat. Not only do I feel SO much better cold-wise today (fevers are the devil) but my load feels lighter having made some decisions during my couch time and thinking through some life stuff that was nagging at me. The tea my wonderful husband kept bringing me probably didn’t hurt.


Do I have it all figured out? Not even close. Am I still over committed? Yes. But taking a day to think of some strategies for getting through the next month (after which my commitments will be much lighter) has done wonders for my stress levels.  And I’ve figured a few things out and that’s a start. I’m only sorry my health had to take a hit for me to get to this point.


Don’t be me. This time of year can be a little crazy for many of us. YOU MUST STOP and take time out for you. Take care of yourselves.

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My Favorite Storytime Jams

This post has been sitting in my Drafts since 2013. So, I guess it’s time to finish it! Library patrons frequently ask me about the music I play before, during and after storytime. It is great for our CD circulation and if you have a database like Freegal, it can help boost usage there, too.

You’ll notice I play a lot of kid friendly adult music. There are three reasons for this: 1) Music is a universal language and doesn’t fit into “age groups.” All ages can enjoy all music (obviously, I don’t play stuff with the swears but if it’s clean, it passes), 2) I like to think of music the way I think of books for kids. The best ones treat kids with the respect they are due. Music is the same way. Kids know when music isn’t great. They know when it’s being dumbed down for them. Give them great music with complex rhythms. It will help them develop a love for different kinds of music! and 3) Caregivers respond really well when you tell them they can play any kind of music with their kids. The point is to sing and dance together. To experience music together. Singing and listening to music builds early literacy skills, so let’s get them involved in that any way possible.

Probably, most of this is not new to you, but maybe you’ll discover a new gem. What are your favorite songs and artists?

During Storytime:

Barenaked Ladies: Their Snacktime album is amazing. I love playing Popcorn (from the Snacktime Trilogy) while jumping and playing with scarves.

Eric Litwin and the Learning Groove: all their albums are fabulous! I LOVE Shake With You.

Laurie Berkner: We Are the Dinosaurs is a participant favorite, though The Goldfish is totally my favorite.

Caspar Babypants: YES! He’s on Freegal!! OMG, the only thing that might make me happier is if Jim Gill were on there, too! Run, Baby Run, is by far the most loved song for a storytime activity. It is toddler crack.

The Wiggles: Shimmie Shake is a current storytime favorite, though my husband is a big fan of Hot Poppin’ Popcorn (he’s so weird)

Imagination Movers: Shakeable You is great for preschool storytime

Jim Gill: Alabama, Mississippi; List of Dances; Hands Are Clapping; oh just everything! Who doesn’t love Jim Gill?!

Kathy Reid-Naiman: I use We’re Tapping a LOT in toddler storytime. They LOVE it. She has fabulous stuff for baby storytime, as well.

Neil Sedaka‘s Waking Up is Hard to Do album (LOVE LOVE LOVE this-perfect for Dancing and there are books to accompany some of the songs-Dinosaur Pet is my favorite)

Raffi. Duh.

Bobby Darin: I play Splish, Splash and blow bubbles at the end of every storytime. Everyone in the room starts wiggling and moving with the music. It’s pretty awesome.

Before and After Storytime (AKA Mood Music):

Hot Peas ‘n Butter: Bilingual and some really great, upbeat rhythms perfect for Dance Party. Campo and Baile are two favorites.

Peter, Paul, and Mary: Peter, Paul and Mommy albums. Puff the Magic Dragon is a great one because most caregivers know it. This goes a long way in helping them feel comfortable in the space.

Recess Monkey: really anything

For the Kids album

Elizabeth Mitchell: Blue Clouds album is lovely

Los Lobos: I actually really like their Disney stuff.

Paul Simon: Graceland and You Can Call Me Al are great

Dogs on Fleas: They have some really interesting stuff. I love Cranberry Sauce Flotilla.

Milkshake: From their Great Day album, Shake it Up is awesome. You can also play it during storytime with shakers but mostly I use it for mood music.

Rockin’ Robin, Hound Dog, ABC, Footloose and other oldies but goodies are great for Dance Parties as well as storytime mood music.

Daddy a Go-Go: I love Rock of Ages.

Pharell Williams: Happy. Everyone LOVES hearing this one.

Smash Mouth: I’m a Believer. No really, I am. But it’s also a great song.

They Might Be Giants: I love all their albums, really. Such great vocab and the music is ROCKIN’! My favorite song right now is Why Does the Sun Shine?

Wham!: Play Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and just see if no one notices. You’ll see the smiles.

Who Let the Dogs Out is always a hit.

Movie Soundtracks with lots of instrumental stuff, like Star Wars, are SUPER fun during school age programs, or after storytime. A former co-worker turned me on to this and the kids love it.

Other 80’s jams like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Get On Your Feet are always fun.

Ok, what else should be on my list? Share, share, share!



Meet the Art! Jackson Pollock

This was the second and last of the Meet the Art programs (the first one was all about Matisse and cut paper art-SUPER simple if you need an easy, very cheap program that families will LOVE) for the summer and definitely a highlight of my summer programs. There’s pretty much nothing I like more than letting kids be as artistic and messy as they like. We focused on Jackson Pollock this time. I read Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and then kids got to make paintings in a similar style to Pollock using three different methods. These are all official method names (not at all, I am not a professional artist).

Had lots of books on display and all but 2 were checked out- wahoo!

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Method 1: Yarn Drip Painting

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Method 2: Balls in Box Painting



Method 3: Brush Drip and Spatter Painting.

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Even our intern got into it! Thanks, Andrea for having such a good time. I did not mind them getting their hands and feet in it since Jackson himself added hand prints to his art work. I wanted to emphasize that art is created an enjoyed in many ways so encouraged them to do what moved them.


Afterwards, we hung the large art piece on the wall. The paper was from a roll so it was already in strips when I put it on the floor for painting on, and made it super easy to pick up and hang. The other finished artwork hung out to dry while artists checked out books. They picked them up before they left or the next day.

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Upcoming Presentation Excitement!

September is going to be one of the busiest months of my life. And October is shaping up to be about the same. But, I’m super excited because it’s all because I’m doing lots of my favorite thing: presenting! And I hope you’re like this cat after you attend. But mostly I just thought this cat meme was funny.

I’m hoping to see many of you virtually in one of two upcoming webinars and some of you in real life at the Weave a Tale Preconference in Kansas City, MO. Details below!

Storytime Underground: A Peer-Created Community, co-presenting with Cory Eckert and Soraya Silverman, Tuesday, September 15th at 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern, will be archived

Successful Programming for Babies and Toddlers, co-presenting with the fabulous Brooke Newberry, Tuesday, September 22nd at 12pm Pacific, FREE, will be archived

Weave a Tale Storytelling Preconference: Fabulous Early Literacy Programs for Infants and Toddlers, KLA/MLA Joint Conference, Wednesday, September 30th from 8:30-11:30am

I wouldn’t be doing my job as Joint Chief of Storytime Underground if I didn’t remind you that if you attend any of these you can earn a badge!!


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Summer Reading Club Displays

My goal was to make the displays as interactive as possible. Thank goodness for Pinterest-about an hour trolling there gave me all the inspiration I needed. The rest was all about image finding, font decisions, and cutting things out (because I’m so not an artist, though I did draw the burst). Showing before and afters for the interactive displays.

Who is Your Hero?


Superhero Height Post

Blue side: they measure their own height and write down what their super power is. Hard to see, but at least 100 names on that post!


Red sides: feature heights of well-known, and some lesser known, heroes so kids can see if they are as tall as a superhero! Kudos to my coworker for suggesting a Smurf-we can measure height in apples, too!

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City Skyline in the Window: Every kids who completed the summer reading program got to put their name in a building window. They LOVED this. Maybe more than the goody bag. Kudos to another coworker for securing this backdrop.


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Meet the Music!

What seems like an eternity ago, Angie had this fabulous idea to hold a program called Meet the Music. It would be a chance to share some of those gorgeous picture book biographies that so often are forgotten in the black hole that is the biography section. I just loved the idea SO much as a huge music and picture book biography lover so I just stole that idea right away. Angie has a fabulous post about this and rather than duplicate what she has done there, I’m just going to share what I did and a little about some things I’d change next time.


I did three programs over the summer. I really wanted to have local musicians come in and talk to the kids and show off their instruments but this proved much harder to do than I imagined. In Vancouver there was never a shortage of community members anxious to visit storytimes or whatever. Not the case here so far. I contacted the local college and university music departments and was not only told that they couldn’t help me but was almost rudely told so. In a “you really think our students would want to do that over the summer?” way. Again, this is a first for me. Our local community band was super helpful and the director asked band members this spring and again closer to the summer once my dates were firm. I had one person respond. Which YAY!! And then she flaked out and didn’t show up. Despite an email reminder to which she replied, saying she was looking forward to it. Anyway, though a little deflated about all this, all in all, I call all three programs a success. Patrons left with books and instruments and lots of conversation. I hope they will be inspired to listen to some music they might not have previously. I tried to make it easy by packaging books with a CD. Most the books went, but they left most of the CDs behind.


Highlight of the series: A mom thanked me after the second program for putting these on, especially as a mom of daughters. She found them to be inspiring for her and her girls and appreciated my emphasis on “girl power.”




Program 1: Percussion

Read: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López. Such an inspiring story and the kids were amazed that a girl would not be allowed to play drums. One girl said “But girls can do everything boys can.” Yes, indeed, my friend (and props to her parents!), but not everyone feels that way still and they certainly did not a long time ago.


Song: Ram Sam Sam. Our bodies can be instruments, too!


Listen and Watch: Video clips of great drummers Tony Williams, Phil Collins and Chester Thompson duet, Buddy Rich, Clyde Stubblefield, and Sheila Escovedo. Clips all found here. I left the laptop up with specific videos up on tabs so they could watch after we broke for the activity.


Activity: Make a drum (or drum set!), or a shaker. #librarianfail I did not get pictures of this. One girl made an entire drum set. Everyone had a blast with this and spent way more time than I imagined they would. They were only given recycled materials, beans and rice for shaker filler, stickers and markers for decorating, rubber bands and tape for creating kits and sealing lids.


Activity: play with drums. I set out a few small drums and drum tambourines, plus other objects that make great drums: large boxes, bins, large tin cans. They went to town.



Program 2: Winds


Read: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russel-Brown, Illustrated by Frank Morrison. This book was too long for the young crowd in attendance so I clipped some pages together and stopped just as Melba is beginning to be discouraged as an adult. They would just have to keep reading to find out whether she kept it up. And they did! In fact, there was a little squabble over it!

Read and Listen: What a Wonderful World, Illustrated by Tim Hopgood, as sung by Louis Armstrong. For this I played Louis singing the song while I turned the pages and sang along. I encouraged everyone else to sing a long to if they knew the song (most did) and it was lovely.

Listen and Watch: We don’town any Melba Liston music in my library so I turned to YouTube. It worked out well, actually because they all really liked seeing what she looked like in real life.


Discussion: What is a wind instrument? What does wind sound like? Can you whistle? That’s making sound with your wind! What are some other wind instruments? One girl guessed flute right away, good for her!


Activity: Make a straw flute. Cut straws different lengths and tap them together to create a pipe flute. They really enjoyed experimenting with making different pitches with the different lengths of straws.



Program 3: Strings

Read: Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum by Robert Andrew Parker. Again, this one is a little longer so I didn’t read the whole thing. The great thing about this story, though, is it lends itself well to paraphrasing and interaction-he played in a bar when he was a kid?! Lol, the things that amaze them.


Listen and Watch: Art Tatum was playing in the background as they came in and continued during the activity. I showed them a clip of Lindsey Stirling from America’s Got Talent and talked about how playing an instrument like piano or fiddle or whatever does not mean you have to play classical music.


Activity: Make a Guitar. Recycled materials, rubber bands, tape, scissors, and stickers for decorating.

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Activity: Mini instrument petting zoo. I brought in my keyboard and ukulele and a coworker generously loaned her guitar for the program. They LOVED this part, of course. My keyboard has so many random songs recorded on it now. So awesome.

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Explore! Fizz, Boom, Pop! STEM For All Ages

In the past I’ve held STEM programs for preschoolers but these programs can easily be modified for all ages. I decided to go for it over the summer. I planned 3 programs-1 Slime and Goo and 2 Fizz, Boom, Pop (one in each of the two branches I do programs in). This one is Fizz Boom Pop.

There are kind of a lot of supplies involved, but the good news is they’re cheap supplies.

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And, of course, books to check out AND recipes to take home (I truly do not know I am sometimes unable to take a clear picture). I read Bubble Bubble by Mercer Mayer in one program and Stretch by Doreen Cronin in the other (younger kids in the second program).


Fizzy Trays

Plates with drops of liquid watercolor covered up with baking soda. Eye droppers and cups of vinegar. Kids use fine motor skills squeezing the vinegar out of the cups and onto the baking soda plates. They get a fizzy reaction and as the baking soda gets soggier, the colors mix and we can start guessing which colors were originally under the soda. There are always a few who get it right and a few who see purple and think purple was under the soda-this gets to be a magic learning moment for those kids. They really think its magic that there was blue and red and together they made purple.


Mini Explosions

In one session we did mini explosions together after they had exhausted the fizzy trays because there were 150 in that session. In the second session it was a station all by itself. I knew the attendance would be smaller at the second location.

Cups about half full of vinegar, scoop a tablespoon of baking soda into the cup and watch it explode. Add some color for extra fun.

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Fizzy Painting

This one I only did at the first location because it works pretty well with a large group. They could all share the fizzy paint that we made together and can share the spray bottles filled with vinegar.

2 heaping teaspoons of baking soda, 1 heaping teaspoon of corn starch, some liquid watercolor, add liquid until it’s the right consistency. Kids paint with it and after they are finished with their picture, spritz the painting lightly with vinegar and it will fizz!



In the first session each kid (really each family) made a tub of bubbles with dish soap and water. They were encourage to guess how many teaspoons of soap would be required for the best bubbles. After they had the consistency they wanted, they got to play.

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They also got to make their own bubble wands out of pipe cleaners. The second group didn’t make wands because the room was much too small for an additional station, but they DID get to play with the cool, Steve Spangler bubbles, which I feel totally made up for the lack of wand making.

Rocket Balloons

This one came out in the second session and was by far the most popular activity, which is why I’m super glad I didn’t pull them out until AFTER they had started cycling through the other stations. These come from Steve Spangler. The noise is incredible, especially when they pop, which many will. But, hey, science. What will happen if I put even more air into this balloon that looks pretty full already?

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Super fun, sciency times!