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Adventures in early literacy


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Visionary Service Award

Last week, I was honored to accept the Visionary Service Award from my state library association’s youth division. It’s such a big deal to me that I’m going to break my blog hiatus to celebrate myself. And, because without those of you still reading this, following me on social media, chatting with me every day on hangouts, and texting me messages of support and love, I wouldn’t have gotten this award. I’m sharing my acceptance speech (not quite verbatim but close) and words from the committee chair in case you’d like to read more about how amazing I am (please know I died a little typing those words).

This is also further proof as to why you should participate in the ALSC Mentor program. Karlyn, my nominator (pictured below, thanks to Heather @lopielovesbooks), was my mentee and is now not only my employee, but a great friend. Not that every mentor/mentee pair should end in a job, but I know from experience that they can lead to great relationships. Who wouldn’t want that?

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Statement from Sarah Walsh, former CAYAS Board Member:

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the conference!

The Visionary Award committee, consisting of myself and last year’s co-winners, Mary-Ellen Braks and Gwendolyn Haley, were quick to decide on Kendra as the winner of this award. The nominations we received were inspiring, humbling, and made it clear how much our work as youth services librarians matters. It matters, it makes a difference, and we were delighted to have the opportunity of recognizing the nominees as exemplars of library services to youth.

Kendra’s nominator made a point of emphasizing that in just a year and half, Kendra has, quote, “transformed the Youth Services Department of the Timberland Regional Library District.” The list of her accomplishments in such a short time is truly mind-boggling: for the first time, the system was able to give away free books as prizes for Summer Reading finishers; she enhanced the STEM/STEAM programming by soliciting funding and purchasing all kinds of tools, kits and technology for the TRL system; she implemented a Storytime Training and mentoring program for TRL staff; and she increased the library’s involvement in the community by creating a new Outreach Youth Services Librarian position at the District level.

But what set Kendra’s nomination apart, and truly makes her a visionary, was that in addition to her dedication to improving access, resources and literacy support for TRL’s children and teens, she embodies what we’ve termed “librarianship as a lifestyle choice.” She spends considerable personal time advocating for and increasing awareness of the value of libraries and the critical role libraries play in today’s ever-changing social and political landscape. I think my favorite side note from her nomination was that her big ideas and proposed changes were sometimes a little tough to swallow! But her enthusiasm, confidence, and leadership have proven to be the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, and the results speak for themselves.

Kendra does our profession proud, and we are confident that she will continue to do so, in ways even she hasn’t dreamed up yet. Congratulations, Kendra!

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Acceptance Speech

I’m so flattered and honored to receive this award. When I was notified I had been nominated, I was shocked. I was on the committee to choose the winner. First committee I’ve ever been kicked off. Then, I was chosen for the award. Obviously. And I was really shocked. What had I done to deserve this award? Does being hard headed and overly sarcastic count? Fortunately for me, others see more in me. One of those people is Karlyn Spevacek, all around incredible human, who I am lucky enough to supervise, and also count as a friend. She’ll be up here someday, mark my words. She said in her nomination:

“In the short span of a year and a half, Kendra has transformed the Youth Services Department of the Timberland Regional Library…she is the most passionate Librarian I have ever met and I believe she is a true mover and shaker in this profession.”

The committee chair then added that the committee was “especially wowed by the amount of free time I spend serving on committees and task forces focused on diversity and literacy.”

I wanted to note this because if any of you are like me you are sitting out there thinking “I want to be up there someday.” If so, you should know that several hours every week for the past 10 years has been spent after work and on weekends on mostly unpaid activities to contribute to our profession. The good news is I am not in this profession alone.

As any of you who knows me understands, I am a huge believer in working together and supporting each other. This is the foundation on which we created Storytime Underground. Supporting each other, across districts, libraries, departments, and even states, is essential. Great things happen in libraryland when we work together. So, I’m telling you right now, when you have a great idea, share it, even if it’s a wild one. Especially if it’s a wild one. When you hear a great idea, support it, even if it’s a wild one. Especially if it’s a wild one. Work hard to make great things happen for your community. Be passionate and don’t be shy about that! Be a squeaky wheel when you need to be. Stretch yourself to do things that are uncomfortable; insert yourself into meetings you want to attend even when you aren’t invited.  Get involved!!! Run for the CAYAS board or volunteer for an ALSC committee. I hear there are openings! Ask for help. Find a mentor. Find your people- your cheerleaders, your personal learning network, your team. Keep them close and keep the door open for more. We can always use more friends. And pay it all forward.

So, now I’m going to thank basically the whole library profession. Feel free to tune out for like 20 seconds. Thanks to my colleagues and best friends in Nevada who were there when I was just a babybrarian in library school, the many fabulous librarians in Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties in Oregon for taking a chance on a noob librarian and hiring me right out of library school and then encouraging me to do awesome stuff, all the rock stars from Fort Vancouver including my former supervisor Ruth, who taught me more about compassionate librarianship than anyone else, the Joint Chiefs and other cofounders of Storytime Underground for making me stretch my brain to understand perspectives outside my echo chamber, to my personal learning network and friends for knowing the answers to all my questions and not judging the volume or content of those questions, and for joining me in my quest to make sure every library provides equitable, inclusive services to the ALL the kids in our communities. Thanks to all of you who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from and teaching-many of you in this room- and to the staff at Timberland for being flexible and embracing the changes I suggest. Steering the Youth Services ship would be a lot harder if they were being pulled behind the ship instead of grabbing an oar.  If not for all these people, and my incredibly supportive and patient husband who is quite thrilled to cook me dinner every night so I can get work done, I would not have been able to do all the things I’ve done. So, thanks to my entire support network, and thank you all for doing the work you do every day. You are all incredible.

Now, go kick some ass. And let me know if you need any help.

 

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Day of Giving and Blog Hiatus

On this day of giving, I’m giving myself a break.

 

Obviously, I haven’t been very active here lately. I’ll spare you the details. In short, I’ve been busy. Busier than  I should have allowed myself to become. And, if it’s one thing I’ve learned the last couple of years, it’s that if I want to be a good manager I have to start with myself.

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Ok, but seriously, after months of triage and damage control, something has to give. My current professional commitment load is out of control and it is starting to affect my productivity at work. My head isn’t as clear  as  it needs to be and I’m far less organized than is comfortable or appropriate.

 

So, the first thing to go is this blog. I won’t be abandoning it completely, but plan to be on  hiatus, at least, until May 2017. Feel free to continue to read older posts, ask questions, email me about past early literacy projects, and share new ideas. Just don’t expect anything new here for a while.

 

There are other things I’ve taken off my plate during these first 9 months of a new position, and then additional duties to that new position (I’m now supervising 2 branch managers!), but this is the hardest to let go in many ways. Writing is an outlet for me, but the things I am moved to write about in recent times are related to our country’s current state of affairs. At this point I need to spend more time doing something about those affairs than writing about them.

Therefore, you will continue to see me active in ALSC as Co-Chair of the Diversity within ALSC Task Force and ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee, whose work I hope will help effect great change in our professional organization and the library services to youth nationwide. Plus, I will still be running my mouth on Storytime Underground.

 

Thanks to all of you. My personal learning network is incredibly rich because of each of you. I am forever grateful.

 


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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.

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  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!


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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).