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Adventures in early literacy

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First Youth Services Staff Event Complete

My first big district-wide youth services gathering was today. The SRP Celebration. This event has historically occurred every year around the same time-late August or early September-to celebrate the end of SRP and for youth services staff to get some training. I love the idea of an end of summer gathering for our district because being geographically spread out across 5 counties means youth services people don’t get to see each other very often. Plus, many branch managers are the de facto youth services person in their branch so this gives them a day to focus on one of the many things they have under their responsibilities umbrella.


All this being said, right away there were some things I knew I wanted to change about the Celebration. First, no formal training. Even when it’s fun, the brain of a youth services librarian at the end of summer is basically a locked vault and no more information is getting in that sucker. You all know what I’m talking about. Your brain is anxious to unload information, talk about the problems you had during the summer, commiserate with peers, fix ALL THE THINGS. So, I decided our SRP Celebration would basically be a day of discussion and brainstorming. Get all those ideas for change out on the table. While it’s still freshly annoying, let’s talk about sign ups and program attendance and those terrible performers. And once we’ve gotten it out of our system, let’s talk about how to make it better.


We also had a celebration for a retiring librarian, an SRP software demo, a Cricut demo, “shopping” the stuff we cleaned out of storage, and lots of food. Plus, the 5 Facts game where each person sent me 5 facts about themselves which I hung up around the room with names redacted. Attendees then had to guess who each of the lists belonged to for a chance to win awesome swag. Like giant stuffed fake toast and Storytime Underground t-shirts.🙂


All in all, I think the day was a success. I’m totally exhausted, but already have some ideas for the future.



  1. No catered lunch. This was a huge undertaking, costly, and there was a ton leftover. Plus, with all the dietary issues to consider there were still people who could not eat much of what was presented. Next time we’ll do potluck or lunch on your own.
  2. Have the training at the beginning of September instead of the end of August. That way SRP is truly over for everyone but Storytimes have not yet begun.
  3. More actually planning and hands on work. This is easy because the only reason we had so much discussion this year is that because I’m new, it’s a perfect time to reevaluate SRP and make big changes. In future years it will be easier to build concrete planning into the day, in addition to idea sharing. The goal would be to accomplish a small list of action items by the end of the day. More like a meeting.
  4. Age specific breakouts. Have breakout discussion sessions specific to early learners, middle grade and teens, and elementary age. Like a guerrilla storytime, participants would share what worked and didn’t and get ideas for improving.
  5. More fun. I actually think we had a lot of fun, but I think we could still do more. There were some ideas thrown out for this year’s workshop that we didn’t end up doing because of time constraints, like tabletop game tournaments, Chocolate Olympics, and a telephone drawing game. A great way to try out activities you might actually do with kids and teens while also having a ton of fun


The best part of the day for me was coming away SO JAZZED about the future. I cannot wait to see what these amazing people do in their communities for summers (all year!) to come. Pretty pleased with how I spent my last day as a 31 year old.🙂


Here’s to next year, and to all of you summer reading warriors! Give yourselves a pat on the back, get a drink or ice cream or tacos, and rest your beautiful brains.  Cheers!


Direct Service to Support Service

It has been almost 6 months since I made the move from Children’s Librarian to Coordinator. I have no idea where the time went. It obviously wasn’t spent contributing to this blog! Now that my job no longer includes regular storytimes (OMG I am still in denial about this fact) or regular programs of any kind, my contributions to this blog may be rarer, and more focused on other kinds of work.


When I made this leap I honestly thought it was going to be no big deal. How different could it be? I’ve been working in this field long enough, how hard can it be? Let me tell you, friends. It can be real hard. Also really rewarding, but in a completely different way than storytimes and successful interactions with patrons.


Currently, these are the changes that have been the hardest:

-not talking to kids everyday

-no storytime

-being in the administrative building which means being part of what staff in every library system love to hate

-toeing the line (I’m not doing this one very successfully, to be honest) when requested

-encouraging change without being able to mandate it (not that I want to dictate anything, but sometimes change is necessary but not everyone understands that)

-balancing the needs and interests of an extremely eclectic staff in 27 very different libraries, while also guiding youth services as a whole based on current research and in a way that will ensure the success of our staff and the youth in our communities

-handling the millions of tiny requests that come in everyday. Seriously, I thought it would be the large projects that would make me a nervous wreck, but its actually the smaller things because those are the ones that make a big difference to individual staff. Dropping those balls is the absolute worst and makes me feel like poop.

Pair all of this with a bad case of impostor syndrome* and you have one stress ball librarian! Writing about it is helping. So, if these kinds of posts are not your thing, skip the next few entries.🙂

Buying Storytime Underground swag has also been helping (turn the filter off if you want shirts with swears. Shirts with swears are the best.) Plus, proceeds are going to the Spectrum Scholarship so YAY! Shopping for a good cause!

*Not looking for a pity party, I’ll get over it. Self doubt and overwhelming anxiety suck. A lot. As most of you already know.






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IECC and WLA Conferences 2016

The last couple of weeks have  included several fabulous presenting opportunities and I promised to share my slides from two of those presentations here. The two different participant groups ended up having the same slideshow (long story, don’t want to talk about it or I might break things) and I’ve embedded it below. I’ve also included the slideshow WLA participants were supposed to see.

Thanks to everyone who attended these presentations! It was a pleasure to talk with every one of you.

Feel free to view, ask questions, whatever! I always love to hear from you.

If you were at WLA, here is the slideshow you were supposed to get.

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Babies Need Words Every Day: Play!

I’m so thrilled to be joining this week’s blog tour for Babies Need Words Every Day with a focus on PLAY (my favorite!!!!). In this post you’ll read about how I incorporate PLAY into my programs and services and find resources that may be helpful for you to PLAY (yes, every one is going to be all caps because THAT’S how EXCITED I am about PLAY!) in your library.

Before you continue, if you aren’t already familiar with the Babies Need Words Every Day initiative, read up. The TL;DR is this initiative provides a low cost (FREE), attractive tool for helping us explain to caregivers the importance of reading, talking, singing, writing and playing EVERY DAY. These practices not only help bridge the 30 million word gap but help develop a whole host of skills as describe in this post and the other blog tour posts.


Definitely print those gorgeous posters and hang them all over your library.  I have them hung in the public restrooms as well as the meeting room where storytime happens.


In addition to hanging the posters, in every storytime I give caregivers a reason why PLAY, and the other practices are important. These are some of the things I might say in storytime about PLAY.

“Grown ups, when we PLAY with our children…

…they hear all kinds of new words to expand their vocabulary which will make it easier to understand what they read later on.

…we help them use their imaginations and explore and learn about the world in a natural way. This background knowledge will help them be successful readers.

…we are modeling and helping them use fine motor skills necessary for writing.

…they get to use their critical thinking skills to solve problems, analyze situations, and interact with peers and adults. These skills are vital to reading,  learning, and school readiness.

…we create lasting bonds and fabulous memories and show them the library is the COOLEST place to be!” (Yes, I really do say that because families who form a connection with the library are more likely to return often and use all the great resources we have available…like books!)



Every program for young children includes an element of PLAY. Sometimes this happens during a book (flap books, Shake It Up, Baby by Karen Katz, tickle books, etc.), sometimes it happens during a rhyme or song (any song that gets you moving is PLAY, in my opinion, you can check out my Rhymes for ideas), but it always happens after storytime when we pull out toys or another activity for open PLAY and exploration. Here are some pictures of some of my successful PLAY activities. Click here to read more about my PLAY programs.



PLAY Resources

ALSC The Importance of Play

Brooklyn Public Library’s Read, Play, Grow site

Library Makers because STEAM can also be PLAY

NAEYC Play and Children’s Learning 

Reading with Red: Brooke has tons of great PLAY ideas.

This article.

Pinterest. It’s gold for play ideas.


How are you using PLAY in your library?


Don’t forget to check out all the other fabulous posts from this week’s blog tour, each highlighting one of the 5 ECRR2 practices.


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After School Math Fun with Crazy 8s

This Fall we decided to try the Crazy 8’s Math Club. If you haven’t heard about this, read up here. Basically, the amazing people at Bedtime Math send you a ton of supplies to hold amazing math clubs after school. We probably spent about $25 on other necessary supplies. We had a lot of the required supplies laying around already.


I was skeptical that this would work, at first. It’s hard enough to get school age kids in the library after school with programs we know they like, like Legos. But, I was hopeful we could spin math to be as cool as it is. The K-2 group filled up each time, and even thought the 3-5th grade group wasn’t full, we had between 4 and 8 kids each time and we always had a blast. I’m positive they had no idea they were using math half the time.


If you have any questions, I’m happy to chat about it!


Here are some pics from a couple of the programs. Toilet Paper Olympics and Flying Marshmallows (their two favorites, for sure).



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.


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!