Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the fourth in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Children’s Services Librarian at the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, writes about how they shook up their Summer Reading Club last year. Ideas and inspiration abound, let’s dive in!


About me: I am the Children’s Services Librarian at Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library in Nova Scotia. I also manage the Antigonish Branch, which is known in our community as The People’s Place Library. Managing a busy branch takes a lot of my time so I don’t get to be as hands-on with children’s programs as I would like to be therefore I had lots of fun redesigning our summer reading club last year.


In 2014 we decided that we needed to give our summer programs a big boost. Our numbers were dropping and it was getting harder to engage kids in our programs. Over the last few years, we had made some small changes to our summer reading program, including designing our own reading log and transitioning from numbers of books read to time read. But in 2014 we decided to try a new approach altogether. I must extend a big thank you to fellow Nova Scotia youth services librarian, the awesomely creative Angela Reynolds, whose ideas were a big influence on our new program.

Making slime!

Making slime!

Rather than focus just on reading, we decided to focus on learning through the concept of STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Experiences, Arts, and Math.) When children registered for the program, they received a SRC Logbook with different activities listed for each category as well as a place to keep track of their reading. Throughout the summer the children were encouraged to try the different activities, which they could then check off on their logbook. When the children had completed 15, 25, and 35 activities, they visited their local branch to enter a ballot to win prizes that are supplied courtesy of the Adopt-a-Library Literacy Program. The prizes are a good incentive for participation as well as an easy way for us to keep track of the numbers of activities that are being completed. In keeping with this, our library branches offered weekly programs that could count towards these activities. These activities included Hogwarts Hijinks, Slimy Science and Squishy Circuits, Minute to Win It, and more.

Ella Hunter gets to meet a caiman during a visit from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo

Ella Hunter gets to meet a caiman during a visit from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo

This program was not only fun but gave us the opportunity to work with other organizations. We encouraged kids to visit local museums and art galleries and we were able to work closely with the Community Access Program (C@P) on technology programs such as 3D printing, Makey Makey, LEGO Robotics, and more. Our branches are all C@P sites and, through C@P, three of these branches have 3D printers. Other items, like LEGO Mindstorm and Makey Makey kits, are shared among all of our branches. C@P also hires summer students to do programs so we encouraged our STREAM participants to take in some of the “cybercamps” that were offered for kids. Something else they could check off in their logbook!

Liam and Roslyn Smith try out the Makey Makey

Liam and Roslyn Smith try out the Makey Makey

Although some avid readers missed counting their books this new approach was a great way to encourage non-readers to visit the library. All in all, it was a big success and we hope to build on it this year.

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

We’ll Link to That: Spring 2015

Every quarter we write a column for YAACING, a youth services newsletter published by the Young Adult and Children’s Services (YAACS) arm of the British Columbia Library Association.  This spring our column is all about STEAM resources, but make sure to check out the entire Spring 2015 issue! If you’d like to catch up on our past columns you can find them here:

Summer Reading Club is right around the corner and this year’s theme is Build it!  Many of the sub-themes have a connection to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), so we thought we’d round up our Top 10 STEAM online resources. There is so much information online that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.  Well, here are 10 websites that will get you inspired to plan STEAM programs for kids ages 0-12 years old.

1. The Show Me Librarian
There is a reason why we think you should start with Amy’s page. Dubbed the STEAM Queen, Amy has created lists of science and STEAM programs she’s done with preschool and school age kids, other folks who are running STEAM programs and resources to locate non-fiction books and brush up on your science. We also love her emphasis on tapping into STEAM resources in your community. Truly a one-stop shop!

2. Abby the Librarian
But please don’t stop there. Our friend Abby has a series called Preschool Lab in which she includes all the storytime gold we’re used to like songs, rhymes, flannels and books with explanations about what makes each of them great. But that’s not all, Abby also includes stations that allow her storytimers to get their hands around different scientific and mathematical concepts. She ends with her thoughts on how it all went as well as additional ideas for caregivers to build on the ideas explored at home.

3. SimplySTEM
This is a wiki started by students from Spring 2013 ALSC course “S.T.E.M. Programs Made Easy” as a way to collect STEM resources and ideas floating around the interwebs. Check out their preschool and school age resources for lots of great tried and true ideas.

4. Robot Test Kitchen
This group of children and teen librarians blog about their failures and successes when it comes to programming with robotics in a library setting. We love their true confessions for thoughtful writing and lots of links and their reviews for learning about products we’ve only read about. In their words, two robot thumbs up!

5. Library Makers
This blog, which is connected to the Madison Public Library includes all kinds of great STEAM program ideas in the WonderWorks series. But don’t stop there, we love their Supper Club where they invite families to come eat dinner and take part in an app-based storytime, Toddler Art Class plus Craft Lab and NeedleReads for Teens.

6. Science Sparks
Though not a librarian-run blog, this website is chalk full of fun and easy science experiments broken down into age groups. They’ve got ideas for preschool science all the way up to tweens. The writers make a point to showcase activities you can do using commonly found household items. We especially love their book club posts which feature science experiments tied to popular children’s literature like The Lorax.

7. TinkerLab
Run by a mom and arts educator named Rachelle Doorley, this blog features open-ended experiments and art projects. She has one of the most user-friendly navigation bars, allowing you to easily search by art activity, science experiment, or age group. And her Resources page lists everything from what supplies she buys to books to read to her favourite blogs.

8. Little eLit
One of our favourite technology programming websites that specifically focuses on the role of libraries. Want to know what apps to use in storytime? Want to get ideas for iPad based programs? Little eLit is leading the way on innovative ideas and research on using new media in libraries with young children.

9. StarNET
StarNET provides science-technology activities and resources for libraries. Created by a coalition of groups such as ALA, the Space Science Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance, when you join their community you get access to successful STEAM programs libraries across North America have run.

10.  ALSC Blog
We’ve been following the official blog of the Association for Library Service to Children for a long time, but we just recently discovered their STEM/STEAM Tag. This tag gives you access to their archive of all STEAM ideas bloggers have shared over the years. From booklists to conference sessions to grant writing to program ideas, just spending an afternoon reading through these posts is sure to inspire and educate.

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Community-Led Children’s Librarians

We’ve had some pretty powerful posts in the past which have touched on the idea of community-led library service and I wanted to kick off a series of posts which allow me to explore this philosophy in a little more depth. So here goes: an introduction to community-led work, Children’s Librarians style! A quick definition if you please:

Excerpt from Connecting the Dots: A Guidebook for Working with Community

Excerpt from Connecting the Dots: A Guidebook for Working with Community

The excerpt from above comes from a brilliant handbook written by some great folks at the Vancouver Public Library including one of our heroes Els Kushner. You can access this guidebook, plus a lengthier exploration of the Community-Led Service Planning Model developed out of the Working Together Project here. As you might have noticed here in Vancouver we are swimming in innovative folks and have also been lucky to learn from the cross-Canada work of John Pateman who we saw at a conference last year (here’s a similar version of his presentation) and Ken Williment who blogs at Social Justice Librarian.

I am also blessed to work in a large enough library system that I have a Community Librarian right at my branch. Not to mention she is a dear friend to both Lindsey and I and taught us both Boom Chicka Boom AND There Was a Crocodile. Let’s just say she’s our favourite! But I digress, working with (and watching!) Christie has taught me some simple principles which I now do my best to remember and practice as often as I can. Continue reading

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Spring Scavenger Hunt!

Every since I used Lisa’s What Will Pumpkin Be? Halloween scavenger hunt last fall, I knew I wanted to create my own version at some point.  Spring seems like a great time for a passive program,  so I went with a spring bunnies theme. One of the library assistants at my branch contributed her amazing artistic talents and helped me design the book character costumes for each bunny. A huge shout out to Penny for making these bunnies look absolutely amazing!

So here’s what to do:

1. Download and print the book character bunnies.

2. Paste them onto a piece of construction paper and fold over one half, creating a card kids have to open to see the bunny. This part is optional.  You could just put out the bunnies.


3. Hide the bunnies around your library.

4. Make copies of the scavenger hunt sheet and leave for kids to complete. I put out a ballot box for kids to place their completed sheets.


I’m planning on leaving it out for two weeks and then drawing a few winners.  Aren’t convinced to try this out yet? Check out the bunnies!


big natecuwaldo


My favourite is Franny K. Stein.  I hope your library kids enjoy this scavenger hunt as much as mine have!

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Vancouver Public Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the third in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Jane Whittingham, Children’s Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library, talks about doing outreach in her community. *Pssst, click on Jane’s name to check out her totally awesome blog!*


“So, what exactly does a librarian do all day?” I’m sure I’m not the only librarian who fields this question on a regular basis from curious friends and relations. While traditional reference and reader’s advisory remain important aspects of my work as a children’s librarian, what really surprises people is the amount of time I spend away from the reference desk, out of the branch and within the community.

As a children’s librarian with the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, British Columbia, providing exceptional service to children and families in our community often means thinking outside the box. A brilliant example of this approach to librarianship is VPL’s Language Fun Story Time program, which was co-developed by VPL librarian Tess Prendergast and speech language pathologist Rhea Lazar. This adapted story time for children with different abilities, including children on the autism spectrum, is jointly facilitated by a librarian and a speech language pathologist, with each specialist bringing their individual expertise. Programs are delivered outside the library, in community health centers, rec centers, and other community spaces, and bring the support and benefits of library story times to families who may not feel comfortable in traditional library spaces, or who may face barriers to access that prevent them from participating in conventional library programming.

Continue reading

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Tipping My Hat to Kindergarten Teachers

One of the joys of working with school-age children is getting to interact with the teachers and teacher librarians. I recently had two separate interactions with kindergarten teachers that left me impressed and inspired.  At one, I participated in a Welcome to Kindergarten event where the kindergarten teacher spoke to parents of preschoolers about school readiness skills.  At another, I had a kindergarten class come to visit the library, and just watching the teacher interact with the kids was amazing.

So for this week’s post I thought I’d share some of the wisdom and advice I gleaned.  I think part of the reason they hit home with me is because I have a 3-year-old (almost 4!) niece who is a big part of my life, and I want to help her be ready for kindergarten as much as I can. Her name is Sophie and we are best buds.


Kindergarten Class Visit

Before I read a story to the Kindergarten class, the teacher came up and did this little mantra with them. They all knew it by heart. And I have to say that these kids were the most well behaved Kindergarten students I’ve ever met.  It goes:

Eyes watching (make glasses around eyes with your hands)
Ears listening (put hands behind ears)
Voices quiet (point to mouth)
Body still (Give yourself a hug)
Caring hearts (Make a heart with your hands)

My co-worker Miranda pointed out that the “Body still” part would be hard for kids with ADHD so she recommended changing it to “Body calm” which I also love.  I also saw a similar technique called “Give Me Five” on Not Just Cute.

Welcome to Kindergarten Parent Talk

At the parent talk, the kindergarten teacher prefaced these points with, “Your child will be most successful in kindergarten if they can…”

1.  Sit Still for 5 Minutes
When giving out instructions and directions, the teacher noted that kids absorb them better if they are still and listening. She emphasized that she never expects them to sit still longer than 5 minutes – they will always get up and do a movement activity.  But being able to give 5 minutes of attention will help children know what to do and how to do it. Reading books is a great way to build up this sitting and listening skill.

2. Finish What They Start
Has your child ever started a puzzle and then given up after a few seconds of frustration?  Take your child back to the puzzle and tell them, “This looks challenging, but I can help you figure it out.” Assist children until they are able to master a skill alone. When they finish the puzzle tell them how proud you are of their perseverance.

3. Listen to 3 Simple Directions
Put on your jacket. Gather your backpack. Line up at the door. Being able to follow 3 simple directions makes the classroom run more smoothly.  I think we can support this in storytime.  All of those wonderful children’s songs with directions are helping kids learn this skill. I’m looking at your “Jump Up, Turn Around” by Jim Gill.

4. Read 3 Stories a Day
The teacher talked about all the unique vocabulary in books, and how books help kids process and understand new situations and concepts.  She also said that it doesn’t matter if it’s the same story over and over again, and in fact, the repeated reading is helping kids learn the rhythm and structure of our language.  She also gave a shout out to the library!  Of course, she didn’t mean that kids should be reading on their own – just participating in the reading and listening experience.

5. Share and Take Turns
This is one that doesn’t apply to toddlers. But preschoolers need to know how to play cooperatively and how to be kind to each other. The teacher emphasized teaching kids the language of sharing: “May I use that when you’re finished?” “Could we trade when you’re done?”  Kids need these phrases to be able to share effectively.  We’re also teaching them how to consider other people’s feelings.

6. Entertain Themselves
The emphasis here was on creative play.  Can your child take a block and pretend it’s a piece of food? Can they imagine they are an animal and mimic the animal’s behaviour?  She said many online games have an end goal, and while that’s fine, kids also need to know how to play just for the sake of playing.   If they need an adult by their side 24/7 they may find it hard in Kindergarten where the teacher has to divide his or her attention.  This point stuck with me because Sophie is an only child and we could definitely work on independent play more at home.

7. Clean Up
The classroom is a community and one of the first things they learn is how to be respectful of the space. The teacher stressed the importance of consistency – every time your child plays at home they should clean up their toys when finished. Kids learn that things have a place, and we want to leave the space clean and tidy for the next person to use.  Using clean up songs is a great way to make this a more enjoyable activity.

8. Be Polite
This point echoes some of the others because the basic message is that we want to teach kids how to be kind and respectful of others.  The teacher gave great examples of how parents can do this at home – do they say please and thank you when receiving a meal?  Do they ask politely for help with a task?  Do they offer to help when they see someone in need?  Acknowledging the use of polite language and behaviour encourages kids to keep doing it.

9. Have a Beginning Knowledge of Letter Sounds
I found this one super interesting. The teacher said that she prefers kids to come in being able to recognize letters and their sounds over knowing how to write letters.  Kindergarten teachers have a method of teaching writing letters and sometimes they have to “un-teach” the kids who come in making the letters already. She encouraged parents to focus their efforts on pointing out print everywhere you go and connecting letters to sounds.

10. Have Healthy Habits
Kindergarteners need anywhere from 10-14 hours of sleep at night. If you send them to school on 8 hours, they won’t function as well. Avoid sugary drinks and food.  Know the difference between 2-Hour food and 4-Hour food. Carbs such as fruit and bread will only give your child brain power for 2 hours. Make sure to pair those carbs with a protein so that they can last longer. She gave them a handout with recommended snacks that combine 2-Hour and 4-Hour foods.

Thank you, kindergarten teachers, for sharing your expertise!  I’ve learned things I can apply to my job and to my home life.

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Flannel Friday Guest Post Palooza: STEAMy Flannel in Outer Space

guest post finalHappy 4th birthday, Flannel Friday!  To celebrate, we are featuring Julie Crabb as a guest blogger who is sharing the felt stories she created for a STEAM program called Story Explorers.  Julie is a Children’s Library Associate at the Olathe Indian Creek Library in Olathe, KS, and is currently working on her Masters in Library Science at Emporia State University (go, Julie, go!).

Take it away, Julie!

Inspired by the likes of Amy Koester and Abby’s Preschool Labs, I set out to create my own program series celebrating all things S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) and Story Explorers was fully realized in January! Each month (once for toddlers/preschoolers and once for Kindergarten through 2nd grade), I choose a theme, present a brief Storytime, and then let the little ones explore a room filled with hands-on activity stations. One of these stations is Flannel Board Fun!


I set out my flannel boards, some directional prompts, and rhyme signage. Not only do children simply love getting to place and pull the felt pieces (yay tactile learning!), but the caregiver/child interaction has been fantastic! The above picture is a child who, with mom’s help, created his own story that involved the Hey Diddle Diddle characters floating in space. The bunnies were on their way to rescue them!

Okay, on to the pieces:

First up, I re-used a set I had from an Outer Space Storytime. I love the rhyming text presented in Astro Bunnies by Christine Loomis, but the illustrations just didn’t work for a crowd. Guided by the Flannel Friday Facebook group, I created the following set:

Astro Bunnies (with removable blue helmets)

astro bunnies

See a star, think they’d like to go that far.
Climb aboard the rocket!

rocket ship

Once their rocket whooshes around a bit, they arrive in space.
They measure comets and meet bunnies from another place!


We also counted stars,


Hey Diddle Diddled it up,

hey diddle diddle felt

And explored the phases of the moon (having preschoolers attempt the phrase ‘waxing gibbous’ is beyond precious!)

phases of moon flannel

Thank you to Flannel Friday for creating the Guest Post-Palooza and to the wonderful Jbrary for hosting this newbie. I cannot put into proper words how much those of you who share online have inspired me this past year. I resolve to rock in 2015 and get my own blog up and running so I can contribute to the community too!

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest

Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Conception Bay South Public Library, Newfoundland

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the second in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Rebecca Stone, Library Technician II at the Conception Bay South Public Library, talks about Family Literacy Day her community!


Our Community:

Conception Bay South (CBS), Newfoundland is situated on the Northeast Avalon Peninsula, approximately 20 kilometers from St. John’s. It is one of the province’s newest Towns made up of some of Newfoundland’s oldest settlements. The Town of CBS is one of the fastest growing communities in the province with over 20,000 residents. Incorporated in 1973, Conception Bay South consists of nine communities (Topsail, Chamberlains, Manuels, Long Pond, Foxtrap, Kelligrews, Upper Gullies, Lawrence Pond and Seal Cove) all of which follow the coastline of Conception Bay.


This is our beautiful coastline community.

Continue reading

Share: Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on Pinterest