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Adventures in early literacy

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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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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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Explore! Fizz, Boom, Pop! STEM For All Ages

In the past I’ve held STEM programs for preschoolers but these programs can easily be modified for all ages. I decided to go for it over the summer. I planned 3 programs-1 Slime and Goo and 2 Fizz, Boom, Pop (one in each of the two branches I do programs in). This one is Fizz Boom Pop.

There are kind of a lot of supplies involved, but the good news is they’re cheap supplies.

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And, of course, books to check out AND recipes to take home (I truly do not know I am sometimes unable to take a clear picture). I read Bubble Bubble by Mercer Mayer in one program and Stretch by Doreen Cronin in the other (younger kids in the second program).


Fizzy Trays

Plates with drops of liquid watercolor covered up with baking soda. Eye droppers and cups of vinegar. Kids use fine motor skills squeezing the vinegar out of the cups and onto the baking soda plates. They get a fizzy reaction and as the baking soda gets soggier, the colors mix and we can start guessing which colors were originally under the soda. There are always a few who get it right and a few who see purple and think purple was under the soda-this gets to be a magic learning moment for those kids. They really think its magic that there was blue and red and together they made purple.


Mini Explosions

In one session we did mini explosions together after they had exhausted the fizzy trays because there were 150 in that session. In the second session it was a station all by itself. I knew the attendance would be smaller at the second location.

Cups about half full of vinegar, scoop a tablespoon of baking soda into the cup and watch it explode. Add some color for extra fun.

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Fizzy Painting

This one I only did at the first location because it works pretty well with a large group. They could all share the fizzy paint that we made together and can share the spray bottles filled with vinegar.

2 heaping teaspoons of baking soda, 1 heaping teaspoon of corn starch, some liquid watercolor, add liquid until it’s the right consistency. Kids paint with it and after they are finished with their picture, spritz the painting lightly with vinegar and it will fizz!



In the first session each kid (really each family) made a tub of bubbles with dish soap and water. They were encourage to guess how many teaspoons of soap would be required for the best bubbles. After they had the consistency they wanted, they got to play.

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They also got to make their own bubble wands out of pipe cleaners. The second group didn’t make wands because the room was much too small for an additional station, but they DID get to play with the cool, Steve Spangler bubbles, which I feel totally made up for the lack of wand making.

Rocket Balloons

This one came out in the second session and was by far the most popular activity, which is why I’m super glad I didn’t pull them out until AFTER they had started cycling through the other stations. These come from Steve Spangler. The noise is incredible, especially when they pop, which many will. But, hey, science. What will happen if I put even more air into this balloon that looks pretty full already?

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Super fun, sciency times!

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Play, Baby, Play! Parachute Fun with Friends

Play Baby

One of the highlights of my summer so far was being visited by some of my closest friends and their kids. They attended storytime, devoured pancakes, sticky-fied my house in the best possible way, read me books, braved the coldest waters and piled rocks on the beach. It was the best. Thanks, friends, for giving me permission to use the awesome pics you took on this trip.

parachute storytime

If any of you ever get the chance to have personal friends attend storytime, do it. Sometimes as librarians we get used to talking about early literacy to people who are basically strangers, but then forget to share what we do with those closest to us. Now, all my friends have heard me talk about this for years, but it was still super rewarding for me to host them in my element.

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Then I skipped out of work for the rest of the day and we hit the beach before they went home. And snacked. Duh.


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Self Care Sundays: Physical and Mental

One of the things I haven’t always been great about is taking care of my body. As a kid and teenager I was so active it never occurred to me to watch what I ate- I stayed skinny and healthy as far as any of my physical test results were concerned. Well, as happens to so many of us, age changes things. I gained more than 30 pounds from age 19 to age 25. Seriously. When we left Vegas we decided to leave our unhealthy lifestyle behind as well. That was in 2008. Change was hard for us but now, a little more than 7 years later both myself and my spousal unit feel the best we have in our adult lives. We eat about 95% organic foods, small portions, lots of veggies and fruit, and drink tons of water (I’m doing better than the spouse in that department, but I’m working on him). It helps that Kev is an amazing cook.

Tilapia, salsa, and low fat potato salad. And this was one of my fattier meals lately.

Tilapia, salsa, and low fat potato salad. And this was one of my fattier meals lately.

Despite this, my stomach started giving me trouble almost a year ago. Long story short, I have gallstones. Though for various reasons I’m not convinced they are the sole cause of my tummy troubles. My diet for the last 2 weeks has consisted of fruit, vegetables, rice, coffee, coconut almond horchata, kashi grape nuts, and these puffed rice snack rolls. And while it really hasn’t helped the pain, it has helped with my weight loss and healthy body goals.


A while ago one of my besties suggested we try this weight loss challenge. Normally, I don’t get into these but this one was so simple and totally doable-basically, drink water, exercise, eat fruit and veggies every day. You get points for doing these things. The first eight weeks I lost 9 pounds. And totally got in the habit of going on a walk or jog every morning with the dog-good for us both!


We decided to do it again after the first 8 week session ended and roped in some other friends for more fun. At my last weigh in (almost a week ago) I was at my lowest weight in a long time. The last time I weighed this little I was 21. And more importantly, I FEEL good. I’m more comfortable all the time and have a lot more energy during the day. Anyone interested in jumping on this bandwagon should check it out but know that we made some modifications to the rules. You should get points for every day you exercise and go without sweets. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be rewarded for exercising 7 days a week. The point is getting into a healthy lifestyle habit.


However, since a diet change hasn’t done anything for my stomach pain I’m force to acknowledge that my mental health could be playing a part. The past year has been one of the busiest of my life as I struggle to balance my desires professionally with what I can physically accomplish being just one person. Plus, starting a new job with my “down with status quo!” personality equals lots of stress!


So, self care Sunday today was to take a brisk walk with the dog, chat with my besties, and then de-stress on the couch with my feet up, good music playing, catching up on a bunch of professional things. Kev is upstairs gaming with friends and it is quite lovely to be working downstairs knowing he is just a flight of stairs away in case I need a kiss. 😀


Happy Sunday to you all!

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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.

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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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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