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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?


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!


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.



  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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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!

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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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Superhero Training Camp and Obstacle Course

As I am a solo children’s librarian in my very busy branch, I’m always looking for ways to pull off super cool programs with as little prep as possible. Now, I’m also super lucky to work in a system where the other children’s librarians are extremely helpful and collaborative. AND, my branch got a summer reading intern who is beyond fabulous and was SO much help. Biggest props go to Michelle for making the awesome duct tape weights, bowling set, and rings of fire. She used the props in several programs throughout the summer, as well, giving them lots of mileage!

For the Obstacle Course we had these stations (75 in attendance):

Make a Superhero Bookmark


Strike Out the Villains

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Jump Through the Rings of Fire


Leap Over Buildings in a Single Bound


Laser Maze

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Crawl through the Cavern of Doom

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Photo Op and Weight Lifting

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That’s it. They did it over, and over, and over, and over. It was hilarious.

The next month we held Superhero Training Camp with these stations (98 in attendance):

Make a Shield

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Make a Cape (the lame L one is mine, the S one is by our intern-props to Nicole for the idea!)

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Rings of Fire


Spiderweb Maze

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Attack the Villains

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Leap Over Buildings in a Single Bound (repeat)


Photo Op (including the “boulder” that crushed some buildings before)


Certificate and Prize! They become official superheroes, all planning to use their powers for good. (Thanks to Nicole for the Superhero Certificate template!) We had a bunch of stickers and things from those 8×8 paperbacks so each kid got to choose something from the table.


Books on Display, Of Course! All but two were snapped up.


These were both awesome programs. And having some repeat stations made it super easy to pull them both off.