Read Sing Play

Adventures in early literacy


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.








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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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.



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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You Must Be Joking! Literacy through Laughter

A couple weeks ago I talked about my idea for getting kids into the library by asking them to visit and tell me a joke in exchange for a sticker. I honestly had no idea how well it would work out, but so many have been taking me up on the offer.

More than once this has been the exchange:

Kid: There she is!!

Adult: The library lady you were talking about?

Kid: Yeah, we have to go sign up!

Adult: Ok, but what is it?

Me: I’ll tell you all about it.

Kid: WAIT! I have a joke for you!!

Me: Ok, I’m ready!

Adult: Oh my gosh, this is why he’s been practicing jokes all day.

Me: Yay! I’m so glad you remembered to come tell me a joke!

Kid: *tells amazing joke and gets sticker*

So, not only has this proven to be effective in getting kids in the library, talking about the library with their caregivers, and creating a relationship between me and the joke teller, but it also helps with literacy development. Now, I haven’t found any research on jokes specifically but I put them in the narrative skills category. In order to tell a joke you have to understand humor and dialogue and story. A joke has a beginning (the joke), a middle (a I don’t know, what?) and an end (the punchline). If you do not understand the basic structure of a story, you will have a hard time telling a joke. A joke should be humorous (ok, that’s generous, but they should at least warrant an eye roll) and humor is not something everyone is born understanding. To realize a joke is funny you have to understand puns, know a little something about the joke’s subject matter, or be able to understand the riddle if it’s that kind of joke. All of this means you have to have, at least, a basic grasp of whatever language you are joking in. THIS is why I encourage kids to tell jokes. It helps them build their language skills and THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW IT. Obviously, lots of kids just memorize them without truly understanding them which is why I like telling them jokes, as well. That way we can talk about it to make sure they get it and aren’t just laughing to be polite. Doing that is almost as fun as hearing their jokes in the first place.

This is usually me:

A lot of times these exchanges happen in the stacks and I forget to write down the jokes, but I’ve included the ones I did get written down here. You will recognize many of them. Just remember, it’s the first time they’ve ever heard the joke. Some just don’t even make sense. Even when I asked for them to explain they still didn’t make sense. Making things up, FTW!

What do you call a funny owl? A hoot

What do you eat while watching a scary movie? Ice cream

What has a bottom at the top? A leg (Took me almost a day to realize she said LEG not LAKE-boy was I confused.)

What is the tallest building in the city? The library. It has the most stories.

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana? (mind you, this was the only joke he told so he had not already told the banana one)

Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine ten. (from a young man age 6)

Knock knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting cow… MOOOO! (I swear if another kids tell me this one…)

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the nail salon. (I don’t know. She said cuz they have nails. Which is true. Kind of.)

Knock Knock. Who’s there? Cash. Cash who? I prefer peanuts, thanks.

Why did the turkey cross the road? To prove he wasn’t chicken. (Heard this one twice.)

Why did the fish blush? Because it saw the boat’s butt.

Why did the skeleton cross the road? To get to the body shop. (I legit LOL’d on this one)

Why did the turkey cross the road? The chicken was out of town

What time does a duck wake up? At the quack of dawn!

What is brown and sticky? A stick (heard this one 3 times!)

What did the nut say when he finished his prayers? Almond

What did the umpire say to the batter? You have foul breathe

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April Display: Poet-tree!


For National Poetry Month I put up this interactive display using brown packaging from shipments to the library and green paper leaves. I posted a few “how to” information sheets for haiku, acrostic, and rhyme. Patrons were invited to write a poem on a green leaf OR write the name of their favorite poet or poem on a leaf and give the leaf to a staff person to hang up. The tree was fairly bare most of April, but once we got a few up there, more and more have been trickling in. Poetry books are displayed below the tree.

How did you celebrate April?

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Ring in the Noon Year Party

It’s 2015! This post is late, but will be a good reminder of what went down for next year. This was a super fun event!


We started at 11:15 with the room set up with 3 sort of stations and space for a short storytime. As the kids arrived they decorated and wrote their names on a party hat. Once everyone was mostly settled we sang Hello Bubbles and Hands Are Clapping and I shared Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. We talked a little about how different countries and cultures and even households celebrate the New Year in different ways and for different reasons. A few of the older kids were really interested in the idea that Chinese New Year happens at a different time than our New Year. After all questions were answered we did some egg shaking and I explained the stations.

OMG learn how to take a non-blurry picture!

OMG learn how to take a non-blurry picture!


Station #1: bubble wrap popping. Self explanatory. Most loved activity.

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Station #2: scratch art glasses. Because you need bling to ring in the new year.

There were a ton of these glasses in the closet at my new job. This seemed like the perfect time to use some of them. And kids love scratch art! Honestly, if you are going to get scratch art, I don’t recommend getting them from Oriental Trading-these glasses left a lot of residue and were a little too easy to scratch, I think. I’ve used things from Discount School Supply with success in the past.

Station #3: pipecleaner firework rings and 2015 pipecleaner tiaras and/or glasses. Because see above.

Got the idea for this from this site and this site via Pinterest, thanks to Elizabeth (@libraryeliza -she claims to not care about kids stuff but then somehow always finds the best ideas…)

They had about 20 minutes to explore the stations and there were shakers, scarves and dancing ribbons in the center of the room and music going for those who preferred a dance party to the activities on the tables.

As we approached noon I passed out blowers to everyone in the room. Then, as we counted down I put down some more bubble wrap and got ready to pull open the bags of balloons for a BALLoon drop.

Then it was total chaos as everyone shook shakers, blew on noisemakers, popped bubble wrap (and balloons) and played with balloons and their bling. There were 85 people in the room. So yeah.








Songs and Lyrics, Oh My!

By now, you should all know I love to sing, even if it’s not always so great. The majority of every one of my storytimes is singing. I can’t help it, it just has to happen that way for storytime to work. I feel good, grown ups feel good, the kids definitely feel good so it’s a total win situation.

Anyway, I’ve had some requests for tunes and lyrics to various songs used in storytime. May I humbly direct you to my Rhymes page? There I have written out the words to more than 60 rhymes and songs and have recorded myself singing several of them.  I’m working really hard to get them all recorded but for now I’ve picked the ones with the trickiest tunes.

The newest members of the recorded song family are:

Hi, Hello, and How Are You?

The Elevator Song (Jbrary has also done this one)

Wake Up! Quiet and Loud song. This probably has a real name, but I call it the wake up song. VERY popular in storytime.

Hello and Goodbye Bubbles 

Wake Up Toes

Bouncing, Bouncing

Let me know if you need the tunes to anything else and I’ll get on it, asap. In the meantime, check out Jbrary and KCLS Tell Me a Story for visuals to go with the sound (I’m too lazy to get out of my pjs to do a video, sorry).

And just because. Yes, yes, I do.


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Play, Baby, Play: Ignite Session at ALA 2014

This year at ALA I was fortunate enough to be on the presenting side of things twice. Once for a Conversation Starter with the other Joint Chiefs of Storytime Underground (Amy’s write up is so good I’m just going to link to it and leave it at that). The other was an Ignite I co-presented with Brooke, who, I swear, is the best co-presenter EVER. No, really.

Mostly, the pictures speak for themselves but also we quickly (because you only get 5 minutes-each slide advancing automatically every 15 seconds) talked about why it’s important to play (motor skills, thinking symbolically, language learning, and because it’s fun, dammit!) and that babies are NOT too young for super awesome play activities in the library.

Here’s the only photo I know of that was taken. Thanks to JP for snapping it. He must have been too busy laughing (cuz, we’re hilarious, y’all) to get a non-blurry picture. Or, as Brooke said, it’s just our crazy energy!


Brooke also wrote about our Ignite, as well as the the Storytime Underground Conversation Starter: Storytime: Not Just Reading Out Loud so go over there for even more details. She clearly has her life more together than I do.

We’re both totally addicted to this kind of presentation so you can bet your bottoms we’ll be applying to do more in the future. Maybe on our collective obsession with snacks?

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Guerrilla Storytime @ Washington Library Association

This was promised a month ago. My apologies for being so late.  Part of the trouble is that I did nto take very good notes so I was trying to track down some of the things I could remember but didn’t write down. I still missed a ton of stuff. So, IF YOU WERE IN THIS SESSION AT WLA, HELP ME OUT! Please add anything I missed in the comments.  Or heck, even if you weren’t there feel free to add stuff.

There were two Guerrilla Storytime sessions at WLA so I just combined both sessions. Pretty sure Washington Youth Librarians (and Librarians to be) are all geniuses. Pretty much how I felt through both sessions:


-Singing “Weeeelllll…” to catch their attention and then go into the song

-This is Big

-if you listen and you hear me go like this-cuz you’re standing really near me

Favorite songs, rhymes, openers/closers, get the wiggles out:

-Hand out lyrics sheets to parents to get more involvement

Bubblegum song

Have a seat on the floor (KCLS)

-Wind your watch to the tune of Frere Jacques (lyrics unknown!)

-If you’re happy and you know it

The more we read together
-cuz your book are my books
-do actions like “the more we dance together”, etc.
-use as an opener or closer
-use with names

-Storytime is over now (Mary had a little lamb)
-Good-bye sweethearts (instead of good night sweetheart)

Up down turn around

Keep your felt pieces from disappearing:
-pizza box flannel boards
-give them things to hold on to-spiders, pom poms
-make the kids your volunteers
-give them individual felt board (pizza boxes, embroidery hoops with flannel stretched, eg.)
-hide them or put them up higher

Favorite felt/prop songs:
Feet felt:-put your toes to your nose song- every kid gets a felt foot
Balloon Song (Ericka-on facebook)

Moms talking:
-ask them to stop
-make before storytime announcements
-rules displayed
-talk to them before or after storytime

-Rain is falling w/ scarves
-we’re going to kentucky-with bells
-we’re tapping-bells
-shake my sillies out

-mother and father and uncle john
-elevator song

Phone rings in ST:
-get volunteers in the room to help with crowd control issues like this
-sing to it if it’s a good tune
-hope parents hear it
-storytime guidelines that address the issue
-treasure hunt-hey kids, let’s find the phone!

-use books that have a song you can sing
-pair a book to a song- Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda with three little pigs
-Old MacDonald with an animal book
When animals get up in the morning
Nancy Stewart and Jbrary are great resources

Kids punching each other:
-play a hand game that kids them doing something positive with their hands (open shut them)
-hands on your lap, hands on your ears, hands on your lap, eyes up here

-nametags every time, not where they write it at the beginning of storytime session and then find it each week from the pile
-make comments on everything they write-encouragement
-alphabet themes-letter of the day
-trace letters in the air
-weekly nametags-they spell it out for you if the can’t write it
-finger paint with shaving cream, whipped cream, pudding
-make shaving cream rain (uses eye droppers)
-write names on crafts/take homes

Other things that came up:

-Use CD’s instead of rhymes

-What if the group only wants stories and doesn’t want to do rhymes/wigglers? We basically told her to go with the group and just read if that’s all they want but be ready with the wigglers, just in case. We think she may have a group of children from outer space.

-Talk all the time-kids will be more verbal kids that way