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Adventures in early literacy

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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


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!