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Adventures in early literacy

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Passive Program for May: Fortune Teller Reader’s Advisory

In April, I set out another “Book in a Jar” for teens to guess. It was a LOT harder than the first, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jar, but three teens still guessed the correct book.  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I wanted to do something different for May, and also more interactive. I went hunting around Pinterest and found this blog and love her fortune teller reader’s advisory idea, so I stole it!


The best part is I can use this in both the teen and juvenile sections.

There were supplies and instructions for making a fortune teller on the Children’s Desk. A few kids did and I saw people using the fortune tellers in the stacks-hooray!

Planning to re-use in the fall sometime.


Self Care Sundays: Epic Road Trip 2015

I’ve been self caring a little too much on Sundays and haven’t even had time to blog about them!

In April I spent a weekend planning an awesome adventure into Oregon. Over the 4th of July weekend we took that trip. It was AMAZING.

Because pictures speak volumes and all that, here’s the photo tour. The one sentence summary: 13 McMenamins in 3 days, a day at Crater Lake, a night in a Florence campground, a night in a Roseburg hotel, and a tired dog.


Crossing into Oregon/Portland


View from McMinnville McMenamins -our first stop


One of the things we had to do for a passport stamp


So many gorgeous ocean and beach pics. We just pulled off the 101 pretty much every chance we got between Lincoln City and Florence.

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Our breakfast on the road to Crater Lake after camping.

The gorgeous Umpqua River!

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Almost to Crater Lake. Now, stop taking pictures and drive, Mom!


Crater Lake- gorgeous but a huge tourist trap so we probably don’t ever need to go back. Plus, VERY dog unfriendly. You can’t walk dogs on any of the trails. GRRRR.

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Some gorgeous falls on the way to Roseburg from the lake.

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And… the beer. And the gorgeous river front McMenamins in Eugene. This is just a sampling of what was consumed. Surprisingly, Sierra had none.

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Early Literacy Messages in Action: Be Enthusiastic and Engaging

This post is part of a blog tour discussing the use of early literacy messages in storytime and other early literacy programs. Each stop on the tour will include practical information for ways to include messages and why we feel it is important to do so. The tour round up can be found on on Friday, June 19th.

Early Literacy Messaging Graphic


I’m going to start with the why. For many of us, and for many caregivers, reading, talking, singing and playing with children is natural. Why wouldn’t we do those things? Not everyone gets it. They understand their child will need to learn how to read and write. Which might include the alphabet and numbers and learning how to sit still. This knowledge might have brought them to your storytime. Where they believe all the learning about reading and writing will happen for their child.

We know better. What a child sees and hears in a storytime will not make them readers alone. It will help, sure, but to truly develop all the skills they will need for learning to read and write in school, they will need their caregivers to continue reading, singing, talking, playing, and writing with them outside the library. Some caregivers already know this and their knowledge and actions will be affirmed when we talk about early literacy in storytime. Those who don’t might hear just the thing to spur them into sharing an extra book this week and singing a song at the bus stop next week and talking about all the things they see in the grocery store the week after that. Maybe not. But wouldn’t it be better to share our knowledge? Because it could be just what they needed.


I often hear concerns that sharing messages will sound preachy or like a lecture. It really doesn’t have to, and in my opinion, it shouldn’t. If it feels like school you’re doing it wrong. The key to success for me (everyone has their own style hence the blog tour!) is being enthusiastic and conversational.

From the moment a patron walks into the storytime room I engage with them. “Hello! How are you today? Please give yourselves nametags (these are for caregivers AND children) and then you can join me on the storytime rug with all these books!” Every participant gets basically the same welcome. Even if I’m in the middle of an enthralling board book on colors, I look up long enough to welcome them to the room.

This creates a welcoming, comfortable environment. Newcomers and old timers alike hopefully feel as though they belong the moment they set foot in the room. They like this feeling, and in turn, they like me for making sure they never had a chance to feel awkward (oh my goodness, what do I do, do we get a nametag, do we go sit down, where do we sit, ACK).

When I first began delivering messages in storytime I would write notes to myself on a sticky note and stick it to the back of a book. For example, if I was singing a book that day my note might say “Song books for short attention span, helps break up and slow language so easier to hear parts of words, vocab, calming, rhyming, quit when not interested or keep singing.” I would not address all the parts of this but the note helped me remember some key talking points so that when I was at a good place to give a message I didn’t have to think so hard about what to say.  That message might come out as “When you share song books like this one at home you are helping expand your child’s vocabulary. So many synonyms for “twinkle!” Plus, song books are great for toddlers because when they wander away from you you can just keep singing, or ditch the book completely without interrupting a story.” 

Now that I am more familiar with early literacy principles I don’t write notes and my messages are a little more conversational and don’t always happen during a book. I especially love talking to caregivers during transitions. That way I don’t lose them if I turn around to grab something AND I can explain what is so great about the next activity in regards to early literacy. It might look like this:

“Ok, it’s time to sing Twinkle Twinkle! Now, I’m going to play on the ukulele so I am going to need you all to twinkle your fingers, like this, since I won’t be able to. Grownups, we do fingerplays and other activities with fingers with our kids because it helps build the muscles necessary for writing later on. *play and sing a verse* Ok, now who knows another word for “twinkle?” Flicker! Yes! You remembered from the book we shared last week! Ok, now let’s flicker our fingers. Flicker extra for me while I play. Great! Grownups, you can change lots of songs to include new and interesting words to help build your child’s vocabulary. You might even learn some new words yourself!”

This gets me lots more head nods and feedback than the old way ever did. Not only do they trust me and like me because I have been nothing but welcoming from the start, but I’m including them in the entire experience rather than being the talking head at the front of the class. They are having fun when I talk to them about early literacy so they are more likely to remember what I’m saying. After storytime a few weeks ago a mother asked “Do you have any suggestions for songs that would be good for changing the words to?” So, she heard the message! And we developed a deeper relationship.

Moral of the story: know your stuff, be open and welcoming from the beginning, and HAVE FUN! Relationships and trust will develop quickly. Enthusiasm is contagious so be excited to share what you know!


Summer Reading Visits: What’s My Name?

Summer Reading visits are right up there with storytimes for my favorite part of my job. The kids are always so excited to talk about books and see someone from the library. Books and reading are so cool and fun! And even though they always love hearing about the Summer Reading Club, and swear they want to sign up, we all know that not all of them do. Now, there are lots and lots of reasons keeping kids from signing up for the program, but I vowed long ago that I would not be one of those reasons. I want them to want to come in the library SO bad they beg their caregivers to take them. But how?

Our collection is cool, but it isn’t always cool enough to get them in. I need more. Ok, the prizes are cool, too. But what kids really love is knowing someone important and feeling important themselves. In my library, I am the only children’s librarian. And I’m not always on desk. So if kids come in they would need to ask for me if they wanted to talk, etc. This occurred to me half way through a class presentation last week. So, at the end of the presentation when I did my pop quiz about dates and other things related to SRC, I also asked “What is my name?” They were stumped! I always introduce myself, but they hadn’t thought to listen for that detail. After many guesses, and the teacher winning the pencil at stake, they ALL knew my name.

But that’s not good enough. How do I make them USE my name to get me to talk to them in the library? Without being Heisenberg.

I’m placing my bet on jokes! Kids love telling jokes probably more than they love food. Ok, maybe not that much, but a lot. I always end my presentation with a bad joke. And they always want to tell me theirs. So today I said this: “Come into the library, ask for me (what’s my name? KENDRA!!!!!! they scream), tell me a joke, and I’ll give you a sticker.” They’re already making plans with their friends about which joke they are going to tell me after school today. I’ll be ready for them, so fingers crossed I get to give away LOTS of stickers this summer!

And, of course, while they’re here, they can get signed up for Summer Reading.

What are you doing to get kids jazzed about coming into the library?

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Self Care Sundays: Outside Adventures

I’m so behind on my posts for this topic so this is from a few weeks ago. We took advantage of a rare sunny day in April and took a lovely walk at the Tacoma Nature Center. We got some decent pictures (and went home and immediately purchased a real camera) and treated ourselves to hot dogs after. It was a great dose of forest and sunshine!


Lots of flowers!

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You can’t really see, but a mama duck and her babies! Plus, turtles sunning!

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The Big Kahuna from The Red Hot. Oh YUM!

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Play, Baby, Play! No Paper? No Problem! Bodies as Canvas

Play Baby

Brooke and I have both written about this activity before, but I just can’t get enough! This time, we did this activity in all storytimes: Preschool, Baby, Preschool again, and Family. Surprisingly to me at the time (though on reflection I guess not) the squirmiest, seemingly uninterested in any books or songs, group was the one that really got into this activity the most. Wonder if you can guess which one that was? 🙂

For the older kids this is great writing practice and for the younger wonderful modeling. Plus, vocabulary and community building!

Supplies: In the past I have used Crayola washable markers this time when I tested them they did not wash off well AT ALL. So I ended up using Rose Art and Mr. Doodle markers. They both washed off super well. Face paint crayons and oil pastel crayons work REALLY well. I haven’t tried it but another librarian suggested tub crayons. It is SUCH a blast!

Preschool and BabyStorytimes

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Preschool Storytime #2

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This is my arm. Apparently, just drawing on mom and herself was not enough for one participant.

Family Storytime


This guy had several faces throughout the morning, this was the only one I could catch.

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This mom was drawn on by more than the toddler in her lap. Such a good sport!

My favorite part was how many people talked about wanting to do this at home or for a birthday party. It’s a cheap, easy activity with a huge reward!

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Play, Baby, Play! Boxes

Last year during ALA Annual 2014, Brooke (from Reading with Red) and I presented an Ignite session all about playing with babies at the library. It is one of our favorite presentations (together or separate), to this day. After talking about it for months, we decided to start blogging about all of our crazy ideas for babies! We can’t really figure out how we weren’t doing this all along. We’re calling this new series, “Play, Baby, Play!”

Play Baby

This week I’m writing about using boxes for a post storytime free play and art activity. Box play encourages imaginative play, narrative skills, and vocabulary building. When children have an opportunity to pretend using ordinary objects like boxes they use symbolism, which is an important pre-literacy skill, showing how one thing can stand for another. They make up stories about the box, possibly engaging in dialogue, and explore words to describe their play to participating adults.  Even babies and toddlers who are not yet talking are hearing so many new words and developing engineering skills, fine motor skills, social-emotional skills, and more! All these literacy skills from just a few boxes! Plus! Re-using! Recycling!

For another idea for using boxes check out this post from Annie about a Toddler Drive-In.

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All you need is a big pile of boxes and some markers (for decorating boxes if they so desire).


And they will take care of the rest!  You will notice some kids decided to get in the box and decorate while others opted for outside of the box play. Everyone was moving around so much it was difficult to grab a good picture, but take my word that there was lots of cooperative play and stacking throughout the 20 minutes or so they played.

Even though I’m not normally into themes, some of my favorite books are box themed. For this storytime we read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and Meeow and the Big Box by Sebastien Braun.  I also love The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli but I skipped it this go around.

Happy playing!!


Self Care Sundays: Friends Are Soul Food

Last weekend my good friend had a birthday. To celebrate another good friend and I decided to visit her and spend Sunday being tourists in Seattle, where the birthday girl lives. As a surprise, another friend showed up for the day, as well. We were missing two of our core group of “girls” from high school, who have remained close friends over the past 13 years (!), but they were there in spirit and I’m sure we’ll all be together soon.

In any case, there’s really nothing like being with people who know you so well you can, literally, do anything and they are not surprised or weirded out. These are the kinds of friends who are family. I love them unconditionally and I’m pretty sure they feel the same way. Here’s a photo tour of our day (renamed to “Selfie Sunday). Hope you had an awesome birthday, Rosarita! I know I enjoyed it.


The first selfie of the day. She looks terrified, but she was really excited. I’m almost 100% sure.


After about 50 selfies I asked them how much they love selfies.


Get that baby to the bathroom!! But don’t hold it to close!


What? You don’t take selfies of your friends in bathroom stalls? I thought everyone did that.


Waiting for E to get picked up. It was like a paparazzi moment or something. It was so crazy and phones were ringing and cars were flashing by and OMG!!!


What do pirates say?


Ferris wheel fun!!! Not scary at all!!


Only we know what we were saying. Good times. Big pigs.


Play, Baby, Play! Parachute with Shredded Paper

Play Baby

In my last library we did this activity after reading an article about the Brooklyn Library inviting kids to play in shredded newspaper. Since my coworker had just shredded a ton of paper for a treasure hunting activity we decided to reuse it for an after storytime activity. I chose to use the parachute during storytime, ending with the chute on the ground, so I could throw the paper on top of the chute in hopes of maximum fun and a easier clean up. Well, one of those things definitely happened. 😉


This is not an activity for a day when you are super short on clean up time. No way around it- you will spend time cleaning up the paper. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

For the photos in this post I used shredded hold slips and other paper our library shreds for privacy purposes. It was actually better than the newspaper-it left a lot less residue. Newspaper leaves a lot of dust which was not only harder to clean up but made me sneeze.

Why do this? Because play is a natural way to learn about the world. Through play kids will experience new words, new emotions, learn how to function in a group environment, use their imaginations, and their fine and gross motor skills. I heard “It’s snowing!” and “It’s like a bath!” (both symbolism) and caregivers using words like throw, toss, grab, pinch, gather, stuff, plop, and sprinkle. Kids were instructed by their caregivers to be careful, pay attention to where they were throwing paper, and to be gentle and generally aware of their surroundings. These kids practiced self regulation, as well as developing their vocabulary and motor skills. Plus, they think the library is pretty much the best place in the world. And that’s good enough for me.


As you can see, this was a huge hit. Everyone had a great time and took away something from the experience. Literally. There was a paper trail down the hall and out the door.

The magical breadcrumbs leading to storytime. If you try this let me know how it goes! I’d love to see more joyful kids!


Self Care Sundays: Planning Epic Adventures

The past several years we have been so broke the only times we took trips was with our parents (on their dime–we LOVE our generous parents!) or by charging things (never ever again! debt free, ftw!). Now, we are financially stable, I think for the first time in our lives, and we aren’t going to sit around missing out on all the great places we want to visit.

We have declared this summer “The Summer of Adventures.” Today we planned just one, of hopefully many, such adventures, using our McMenamin’s passport to help guide us. That, and the fact that we are ashamed to say we have never been to Crater Lake. And I won’t even have to use vacation time! Woot!


The first stop will be the Hotel Oregon in McMinville for lunch and passport stamps. Then we’ll head to Lincoln City for a beach walk and more McMenamins before traveling to Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park to camp for the night. Site is already reserved! The next morning we’ll eat and break camp and head right to Crater Lake National Park for a day of hiking and exploring. We’ll then head back to Roseburg to stay the night and have more McMenamins. The next day, Monday, we’ll jet up I-5, hitting every McMenamins on the way to get our passport book filled up. We’ll arrive home late that night exhausted and, no doubt, full (and hopefully with a growler of Ruby).

I’m SO excited to have something like this to look forward to! It’s my carrot for finishing the race (which in this case might be SRP, which will be about 50% over by then!).

What is your carrot?