Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Nova Scotia

Welcome to the 9th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series! If you’re just joining us, we’re highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries in the field of youth services. This week our post comes from our fairy godmother Angela Reynolds who works at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library in Nova Scotia.  Read on to learn about StoryKits, Baby Boxes, and Be Fit Kits!

jbrary-flagKits and bags and boxes, oh my.

As Head of Youth Services for a rural library system, I have the great pleasure of providing resources and training for our library staff. We are a small system with around 60 employees total. We have 11 branches and a bookmobile, and many of our branches are single staffed, or perhaps have 2 people working at the same time. My goal is to make it easier for staff to provide quality programs and storytimes with limited funds and limited time to plan and prepare

Enter the StoryKit! In my previous job at WCCLS we had a huge store of these kits, which is where I got the idea. I like to think of these as a “Storytime in a Box” – open it up and add kids, and you have yourself a storytime! Currently, we have 11 kits for staff use. I try to add one or two each year, to keep things interesting.  Each kit is stored in a Rubbermaid tub, and labeled with eh kit name and number on the outside. They are delivered along with books to our branches. The kits contain books, felt stories, active play items, puppets, and a resource notebook that contains craft ideas, fingerplays and songs, and early literacy information.  Each kit is themed. . I always suggest that those who are new to storytime use these kits for their first session of storytimes, just to get a feel for the types of books and activities are in a good storytime. The kits all have an ECRR focus, and contain Early Literacy tips for the presenters.

To give you a better idea of what is in a kit, here are the contents of our “Song & Dance” kit, which gets used a lot!


  • Animal Music – Harriet Ziefert
  • Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming
  • Cha Cha Chimps- Julia Durango
  • Doing the Animal Bop – Jan Ormerod (with CD)
  • Drumheller Dinosaur Dance – Robert Heidbreder
  • How Can you Dance? – Rick Walton
  • In the Fiddle is a Song- Durga Bernhard
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance – Giles Andreae
  • Tanka Tanka Skunk – Steve Webb


  • Rhythm Sticks Rock- CD
  • Egg shakers (12)
  • Polka Dot Maracas (4)
  • Dance ribbons & CD (12 ribbons)
  • Brementown Musicians felt story
  • Hey Diddle Diddle felt rhyme
  • Singing English kit
  • Resource Notebook

I recently created Baby Boxes for baby & toddler storytimes. These are boxes that stay at the branch while they are doing Baby Storytime, and they include new board books, scarves, resources,  and a hand puppet. We also have a large puppet collection that branches can borrow. I try to buy quality puppets from FolkManis, but we also have some nice puppets that have been donated. We keep these kits and puppets at our Headquarters location, and branches schedule them as they need them. This cuts down on branch storage issues, and allows us to do some resource sharing.

baby boxpuppets
We also have kits for public use. I know that parents are often looking for information on a subject or for books of a certain type, and so we’ve made it easy to grab and go! Our most popular are the Potty Kits – again, an idea I stole from my previous job. The Potty Kits contain – Everyone poops by Gomi – No more diapers for ducky by Ford – Potty Power DVD – Potty Time by Paterson – The Potty Training Answer Book by Deerwester – Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Tot (with CD) – and Too Big for diapers by Barrett.

wellused pottyWe also have “Little Reader Bags” – leveled early readers in a bag. These were so popular that we created them in French as well as English. Another kit that we have for adults is our Breastfeeding kits. These were created in partnership with the local La Leche League. Many of the kits for the public have been created with grant funding, and we update them with our own book budget when needed.

Our most recent kit is the Be Fit Kit.  We’ve partnered with Sport Nova Scotia and Department of Health & Wellness,  Active Living Branch to create kits that you can take home and play with! Each kit contains fun items such as balls, juggling scarves, activity dice, frisbees, skipping ropes, and more! There’s an activity booklet included in each one that guides you in ways to use the items included. We’ve even included 4 picture books that will get you moving as you read together. The kits are designed to increase physical literacy and to make it easy for you to be active. Our kits are modeled on kits that were originally developed in Kingston, ON.

While the kits can sometimes be a lot of work in the background for staff, for patrons they are really convenient and helpful.  And our StoryKits are the same for staff—takes a bit of time to create them (but I love doing it!) and they are a big help to our storytime presenters.

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We’ll Link to That: Summer 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 summer our column is all about innovate summer reading club programs, but make sure to check out the entire Summer 2015 issue! If you’d like to catch up on our past columns you can find them here:

It’s Summer Reading Club time!  We hope everyone’s having a great time with the Build It! theme this year.  Though we are already in the thick of it, we thought we’d highlight innovative ideas children’s librarians across North America are implementing.  Ever thought about ditching prizes? Want to get the kids more involved and active in SRC?  Look no further than our 10 favourite Summer Reading Club blog posts.

1. Tiny Tips for Library Fun : In this six post series Marge pushes us to think past the “narrow lines of expected service.” She not only provides research and evidence, she also asks the tough questions about going prizeless, preventing staff burnout, and reaching the kids who aren’t participating. This series made us think deeper about the why behind SRC. Don’t forget to check out her Summer Reading Revolution Pinterest board as well.

2. Abby the Librarian: Are you sick of giving kids cheap plastic toys for SRC prizes?  Then this is a must read post!  Abby takes us through how she stopped giving away prizes and instead offered super cool Science Activity Packets. A balloon rocket? Check. An exploding stick bomb? Check. The learning and fun shouldn’t stop at the library, and Abby demonstrates just how to make that happen. The best part is the kids loved it.

3. Jean Little Library: You want to make changes to SRC but how do you get everyone on board?  Read Jennifer’s detailed summer proposal. She includes excellent reasons for going prizeless, why to offer something for the little ones, and what other people are doing to simplify SRC. Her plan is aimed at making it more accessible for each family.

4. Library Bonanza: Kelsey rebranded her summer reading club to the Summer Library Club. Kids are rewarded just for visiting the library! We love how this makes the library a destination for families and extends beyond books and reading. Books are used as giveaways and volunteers are heavily utilized to make this program an increasingly popular summer activity.

5. Hafubuti: Rebecca created wonderful summer reading club booklets as a way to get the kids in her community active. The booklets combine coupons to local businesses with a thematically related literacy activity on the opposite page. She also made bright, eye catching signs for businesses to put up that say “This Business Proudly Supports the Library.”  Another great example of a library going prizeless and working with community members to provide a literacy rich summer for families.

6. Kids Library Program Mojo: Our guru Marge Loch-Wouters teaches a Power Children’s Programming course and her students came up big with ideas all about achieving a zen state during SRC. Impossible you say? Read on for simple tips about staffing, engaging with the community and prizes (or lack thereof.) Marge writes passionately about that fine balance between maintaining your sanity and providing quality service to families and we love her for it.

7. Thrive After Three: Reading logs or reading records can start to feel a little old, especially for older kids. For this reason we absolutely love Lisa’s Summer Reading bingo cards which feature challenges or activities involving books, holidays or library programs. Feedback from families was extremely positive and getting a new bingo card each week kept them coming back all summer long! Pssst, Lisa also links to her Lend a Friend program which we’re dying to try.

8. Growing Wisconsin Readers: We all know SRC is a time to focus and program for school age children, but what about your younger crowd? In this post Abby writes about her Early Literacy Summer Library Program for children birth to four and their caregivers. Inspired by Marge (who we can’t talk enough about!) Abby created simple logs for families to record early literacy activities like pointing out print or playing a rhyming game.

9. ALSC Blog: This post talks about the latest trend in SRC programming: camps! Detailing a very successful Geek Girl Camp, this post not only has lots of ideas for an awesome STEAM focused camp but also makes an argument for why this model is so successful.

10. Bryce Don’t Play: As her library moved away from prizes Bryce was tasked with developing Summer Reading Game Cards and we’re so glad she was! In this post she writes about the activities on the card and how and why they develop literacy skills. We saved this one for last as a hilarious treat, enjoy!

Do you have a favourite summer reading club idea that we missed? We’d love to hear about it, give us a shout at

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YouTube: A User’s Guide to Creating Storytime Videos

There are lots of things we get asked: can I link to your content? What are your storytime tips for someone just getting started? Who are Glasses and Dimples?! But the one question we get asked which is near and dear to our hearts is how do I get started on YouTube. As two freshly pressed Children’s Librarians we set out on the rocky seas of online videos without any navigational training. Now, over two years of creating and posting content under our belts we thought it was high time to share our best practices.

Check out our first blooper reel for maximum appreciation of how much time has passed! Then vow never to watch another one of our blooper reels.

Setting up your channel and making things findable

  • You don’t need all the gizmos and gadgets: YouTube’s Creator Studio has easy to navigate tabs which help you manage your videos and grow your channel. When it comes to uploading, YouTube Help has useful FAQ’s and there’s even a video editor within the Creator Studio to make it that much easier!
  • Make and maintain playlists: Many of us work in libraries and like being able to find stuff, right? Well the same goes for your YouTube channel (and blog too!) Creating and maintaining playlists allows people to easily browse your content which becomes more important with each new video you add. These serve as access points for older content and are super useful for us busy-multi-tasking-letmejustthrowthiscrafttogether-types who like to have videos playing while they do other things.
  • Include as much information as possible: Not to sound like a broken wheel but we library folk know that the more information you can include in a record the easier it will be to find. So, include the words to the song or rhyme in the video, include who taught you the song or where it comes from, include a link to your blog, include EVERYTHING! Not only does this mean a higher quality video for your viewer, because you’ve included the words but you’ve also just increased the video’s searchability. Yay!  This goes for your “About” section as well. Remember that people from all over the world will be viewing your channel, not just your local patrons, so include the province or state you’re in or heck even the country. Can you be found on other social media platforms? Include those too- make it easy! Ok, rant over.

sepiaMe asking my Lindsey if we really need to add the words to every video. Her laughing at me.

Being a Responsible YouTube Citizen

  • Update content regularly: Remember library school when you had to do an assignment on libraries and social media? It was all the rage! The trouble is many folks get off to a great start on YouTube and upload a truckload (say it ten times fast!) of videos and then find it difficult to keep up. When you’re getting set up add a solid handful and then have an honest conversation with your Lindsey (oh, I’m the only one with a Lindsey?!) or yourself about how often you’ll be able to create. We film 10-20 videos every couple of months and then upload a new one each week. This means our channel always has new content without either of us feeling overwhelmed.
  • Be respectful of copyright and content: Because we deal in children’s music (most of which is in the public domain) and have cultivated relationships with other professionals in the field we’ve never gotten in any serious copyright trouble. As long as you do your absolute best to credit the song and/or share who you learned it from this should be sufficient when it comes to songs for children. We’ve had artists claim songs we’ve done and we simply ask their permission, add that information to the box below the video and thank them profusely. If someone asked us to take down a song we absolutely would. YouTube is a very participative space and while it lacks the formal, written copyright rules we might be used to in print following these best practices has been successful for us thus far. We swear this post is not sponsored by Youtube (in fact it was inspired by a question about copyright!) but their Copyright Centre is a great place to start if you’re recording music which is not your own and for information specific to Canadian copyright and materials within the public domain we found UBC’s Copyright Centre to be quite helpful.
  • Subscribe, show love! The strength in our professional community is in our numbers: the more people using this medium to share video content, the better we all get. And even if you’re not ready to start uploading just yet challenge yourself to check out new channels, give the old thumbs up to videos you like and share, share, share.
  • For some examples of folks we love on YouTube scroll all the way down to Other People Making Videos.

We’re looking forward to a post in the Fall from Belleville Public Library all about their newly minted library YouTube channel and the lessons they’ve learned, so as they say in the business STAY TUNED! In the meantime please leave questions, your own best practices or resources you’ve found helpful when it comes to creating and sharing video content in the comment box below.

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Baby Storytime: Favourite Lap Bounces

For the third post in our baby storytime series, I’m sharing my favourite lap bounces. Make sure to check out the rest of the posts in the series!

I do a few lap bounces every baby time. Usually in the middle, after we’ve sung our hello song and done a few fingerplays and tickles. Here are some of the early literacy tips I give for lap bounces:

  • If you’re baby is up for it, try turning them so they face you as they bounce. This allows them to watch your mouth as you sing so they can see how you form the sounds and words that make up your language.
  • Bounces are a great way for children to feel the beat with their entire body in addition to hearing the rhymes.  A steady beat is reminiscent of their mother’s heartbeat, a sound that provided them comfort in the womb.
  • Walking, running, and dancing all require the body’s ability to keep a steady beat. So by doing lap bounces with your baby you are getting them ready for this later developmental stage.
  • Lap bounces allow us to be close to our babies by holding them on our laps and giving them hugs and cuddles. This is a great chance to build a positive, loving relationship with your baby which is the foundation for learning.

And here are some of my favourites!

This one is so simple – perfect for when you have a group of new babytimers. When my niece was 2-years-old she always used to say, “bumpy road!” whenever we went over a part of the road that jostled her in her stroller. Proof that this one works!

To the tune of “Shortnin’ Bread” this one is catchy. I sing it three times through – pants, shirt, and hat. I always encourage caregivers to sing this one daily to establish a getting dressed routine. The best is when I hear them singing it on their own when they are packing up baby to leave the library.

This one is so fun! The caregivers love it and sometimes we do it multiple times throughout the babytime.  A lot of people in Vancouver take transit, so I encourage them to sing it while riding the bus.

A classic! There’s a second verse I started doing where you tip babies to the side and sing, “One wheel’s off and the axle’s broken, one wheel’s off and the axle’s broken, one wheel’s off and the axle’s broken, won’t you be my darling?” We also have a winter version of this song and a space version too!

It’s fun to take an old classic and adapt it for babies. Most of the caregivers know the words and tune to this one – we just made it more fun!

If I’ve got a group of particularly active or rambunctious babies, I always do The Grand Old Duke of York.  Sometimes bouncing just isn’t enough and the babies want to be lifted.  For younger babies, I recommend just moving their arms or legs up and down.

This one also combines bouncing and lifting, but it is less well known than the Grand Old Duke. I still think it’s lots of fun and a great one to introduce to babytime groups who are ready for some new material.

Want more lap bounces? Check out our YouTube playlist or our Pinterest board.

What are your favourite lap bounces for baby storytime? Let us know in the comments!

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Prince George Public Library

It’s our 8th post in our Canadian Libraries Spotlight series! We are so happy to feature our fellow British Columbian today, blogging from the beuatiful Prince George Public Library.  Our guest blogger is Michael J. Cruickshank, a Reader’s Advisory/Teen Programer.  Read on to find out how Prince George Public Library is supporting LGBTQ youth.


Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) are typically found in middle or high schools, and are essentially friendship clubs based around supporting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Two-Spirited, Queer or Questioning  (LGBTQ) youth, teens with LGBTQ families, and their supporters, friends and allies. When teens at the library were asked if they saw the need for more youth-oriented LGBTQ safe spaces outside of schools, we heard an absolute and resounding ‘Yes!’ The response was the same when we spoke with existing GSA facilitators. There was a dire need for more LGBTQ inclusive spaces within our community, specifically for youth. One issue that came up time and again with GSAs in schools was inconsistency of the program’s availability.

prince george picture

We knew that if the library was to provide a  GSA program, we would be able to offer it with consistency. We have made the decision to run the Library GSA throughout the year because we recognize that teens find themselves without a safe, supportive place during times when school isn’t in session. Our Library GSA program has city-wide catchment, so teens from all over the city are able to participate. This also allows teens that might not have access to a school GSA, those who are home-schooled, are in alt-ed, or who do not attend school to participate in a GSA.

Our first meeting was held to help guide us in finding out exactly how the GSA at the library would work. We wanted the program to be a reflection of the teens that would use it, so we asked them to generate two lists; first, the ‘Terms of Agreement’ that outlined the general behavior expectations and rules of the program, as well as second list of ‘GSA Goals’ to establish the purpose of the group. The lists were simple, only  4-5 points, but they established the tone of the program.  Most importantly was that these guidelines were established by the teens themselves. When ever in doubt as to if something is appropriate for the GSA, simply consult these lists and make sure it fits. It is also important that it is known  these ‘rules’ are not set in stone, and any GSA participant can challenge any of the rules, can add rules, or suggest changes to existing rules, upon consensus of the group members.

When I’m asked what we ‘do’ at the GSA, I generally say that we do the same things that any other teen group might do. Teens are teens, and LGBTQ teens are no different. Take any program that you have run in your library for teens, and it will work. Crafts and painting are huge winners with our group. We have also partnered up with many community groups to offer workshops on issues like gender and sexuality, suicide awareness and prevention, LGBTQ History and opportunities to speak to prominent community members who identify as LGBTQ. One of my favorite GSA programs was Queer Story Time. I took as many children’s books from our shelves as I could muster that had an LGBTQ theme, and we took turns reading them aloud to the group. Who doesn’t love children’s books?

GSA pic2GSA pic

We have been especially fortunate to have secured a MyPG Social Grant three years in a row from the City of Prince George. This funding has helped turn the GSA into an extra-ordinary program. We have managed a few off-site activities (movie theater, the local YMCA, swimming) and give us an ability to host special events made possible by then money from the grant.

Our biggest and most successful GSA event has been our MasQueerade dance.  We have run this event twice, and plan on a third incarnation this fall. It is an afterhours party in the library. We hire a DJ complete with light show,  set up a photo booth, provide food,  a pop-bar, gave away door prizes, and encourage  the teens to have a blast – all totally free for the participants. We encourage the teens to show up ‘as you are, or as who you want to be’ and let their creativity take it from there. Some of them dress up in costume to match the theme;  last fall our theme was “Through the Looking Glass” and the most creative costume by far was of Alice Cooper;  Alice in Wonderland.  Get it? Those clever teens!! We also had a Cheshire Cat and a very cool Steam Punk Lady Mad Hatter.

masquerade dancedance

GSA events like the Masqueerade help to change the teen’s perception of the library; from a stuffy place to warehouse books to an amazing social space, a place to have a good time. The GSA connects a group of teens that may otherwise never have the opportunity to meet, to spark creativity and expression and to find a place where they can feel safe just being themselves.

I simply cannot say enough good things about my experience running the GSA. The connections I’ve made with teens, and seeing how important the program has become to them is remarkable. I’m blown away by how brave and incredible these teens are, they inspire me in every way to make sure they are coming up into a world that will value them. The library should be a place they can go and find the support they need, and I’m so incredibly proud of the Prince George Public Library for making this program available to the community.

I recently did a presentation on GSA in Public Libraries at both the Alberta Library Conference and Beyond Hope Library Conference. If you are interested in seeing my presentation, you can find it here.  At the suggestion of community members, we recently re-branded the GSA to a Queer Straight Alliance, in effort to make it more inclusive, and this change has been a slight, but positive one that we feel better represents the group.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you and have a chance to further discuss this amazing program.

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Summer Reading Club 2015: Build It!

Our Summer Reading Club theme this year is Build It and we could not be more excited! A little tired and stressed yes, but mainly excited. What will we be building, creating and imagining? What does Summer Reading Club look like around Vancouver? We’re glad you asked!

BRIT Rocket

SRC rocket made by staff at the Britannia Branch of the Vancouver Public Library!

First up check out these sites for ideas and inspiration:

Next up, let’s get into the programs and activities that have us all geared up! (#sorrynotsorry)

Build a Story Contest

This was a Lindsey-and-Dana-over-sushi original. Coming off of last year’s Battle of the Funny Books which Lindsey developed we knew our system wide book battle had to measure up. Feeling restrained by our theme we were worried that simply gathering building books wouldn’t have the same spark. So, we decided that we wouldn’t vote for whole books but elements of a story instead such that Vancouver kids would Build a Story! Ta-da! Starting next week kids will vote (from lists we’ve created) for their favourite character, then their favourite villain, favourite setting and finally their choice ending. With these elements chosen it turns into a writing/drawing/graphic novel’ing contest where kids submit a story and stand to win a prize or have their work added to our collection. Feel free to check out our library’s website and stay tuned for more details!

Family Fort Night

There are lots of neat things going on this summer but a few we’re reeeeally pumped about. We’ve been reading about Family Fort Nights (thanks Amy and Laura) long enough to know that they’re pure awesome so when I found out our theme I swore I’d make it happen and lo and behold I will hold an after-hours Family Fort Night at my (new!) branch next week. Here’s how I’m hoping it goes: we will close the branch down and reopen for an hour on Friday night to families and kids only. Each group will choose a story to read, grab fort supplies and start building. My co-worker has a night light and sound machine which I cannot wait to try!

Paper Minecrafts

Paper Minecraft, meet the Three Little Pigs! Kids listen to contemporary versions of this favourite story, cut out and glue paper Minecraft pigs and wolves, and work together to build the pigs’ houses. Will the creeper come to help the wolf? The kids have been going nuts over this one!

paper minecrafts

Make Your Own Lego Movie

We’re going to create spectacular short films using Lego, iPads and a stop animation app. Kids will work in a team to build a great story and then strategically set up their Lego pieces to create a fantastic film. We’re providing the iPads.

We are proud to say these are just a brief smattering of the programs we’ll be involved with this summer. Please let us know what you’ll be getting up to in the comments below!

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Early Literacy Messages in Action: Blog Post Round Up

This week on Jbrary we’re talking about how and why we incorporate early literacy messages in storytime.  I wrote all about my methods earlier this week, but the extra special part of this conversation is that it is happening on many other youth services blogs!  I have been so moved by everyone’s willingness to share about this topic (I may or may not have been crying while reading these posts), and I already know from comments we’ve received that this type of practical information is needed by storytime practitioners.  Please check out all these other amazing posts – it’s the Early Literacy Messages in Action Round Up!

Early Literacy Messaging Graphic

Kendra at Read Sing Play writes about how conveying early literacy messages starts right when caregivers arrive. She shares an excellent example of weaving an aside into a song transition. Main message: Be enthusiastic and engaging!

Erin at erinisinire traces her storytime planning journey over the course of the past three years. By ditching themes and focusing on the early literacy messages, her process changed dramatically. She shares examples of what she says to caregivers and links to some awesome resources.

Katie at Storytime Katie directly addresses common concerns people have about incorporating early literacy messages. She shows you how to take a formal aside and turn it into a conversational transition.  The feedback from her storytimers is testament to her genius!

Mary at Miss Mary Liberry highlights the importance of catering your early literacy messages to your audience and community.  She shares her best tips – use humour, be positive, demonstrate your genuine fascination – that help her convey these early literacy “reminders.”

Kelly at Practice Makes Perfect shows you how to “keep it simple.” She explains how after attending a workshop by guru Saroj Ghoting, she took the idea of an “empower aside” and worked it into her storytime transitions.

Lisa at Libraryland knows from being a library manager how early literacy messages in storytime factor into larger library initiatives.  By practicing her messages in her low-key baby play time, she gained the confidence to naturally weave them into storytime.

Kim at Literary Commentary shares her “stealth” method of incorporating early literacy messages and provides examples of library brochures and handouts she gives out to caregivers at storytime. She’s also got a stellar list of websites to visit for more early literacy information.

Kelly at Ms. Kelly at the Library not only created our awesome logo, but also wrote a post about the why and how she incorporates early literacy messages. She’s got some awesome examples and links to where to find more.

Brooke at Reading with Red created a Top 5 list of things she wished she knew about early literacy when she first became a librarian. Her list is the perfect combination of encouragement and practical advice for getting started with early literacy messaging.

Laura at Literacious covers the three major ways she tries to talk to her caregivers – storytime, parent/child workshops, and through their 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program. A great reminder of how we can include these early literacy goodies in all sorts of library programs.

Melody at Storytime Bandit gives four tips on how to make storytime more than entertainment by incorporating early literacy messages. Read til the end for links to favourite websites.

Mel at Mel’s Desk shares her favourite part – the message template she created! It not only tells caregivers why we do things but also how it contributes to their child’s reading development. Don’t miss the video clip of Mel in action!

Katy at That’s So Juvenile lays out her three guiding principals for using early literacy messages in babytime. She had me at her Harry Potter reference!

If you’re thinking , “I’d love to share what I do!” well it’s not too late to join! Write a post (or ask about writing a guest post!) about how or why you include early literacy messages in storytime and leave a comment with a link to your blog post. I’ll be sure to add it to this round-up.

Thank you to everyone who has participated so far!  This series is a testament to our profession.  I am so dang proud.

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Early Literacy Messages in Action

Understanding and advocating for early literacy is one of the most important aspects of my job.  One of the most frequent places I can talk to caregivers about early literacy is storytime.

We often get asked where we find our early literacy messages and how we incorporate them into a storytime setting.  So this week, along with many other youth services bloggers, we will be sharing our advice and experience incorporating early literacy messages into storytime.  We bring you the Early Literacy Messages in Action Blog Tour!

Early Literacy Messaging GraphicWe’ll be posting a round-up on Friday of everyone who shares a post on this topic.  We’ll be sharing our posts on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #EarlyLitInAction.

Incorporating Early Literacy Messages Into Storytime

I don’t believe there is one right way to do this. Just like we all have our own storytime style, we all have different ways of talking to our community members. In general, my style is very relaxed, conversational, and informal.  Some people may be afraid to sound preachy or condescending, but I’ve found that when I keep the asides simple and casual this doesn’t happen. Also, if I can make the early literacy tips personal by sharing stories about my nieces and nephews that goes a step a further by helping me develop relationships with my storytimers. Here are three ways I incorporate early literacy messages in storytime.

1. In My Welcome Message

The main point I try to get across to caregivers in my welcome message is that storytime is a chance for them to bond with their child and develop a positive, loving relationship. So when they sing with their child, help them with the rhymes, and sit with them during the stories, they are making their child feel safe and loved.  When kids feel safe and loved, their brains are more open to learning.  This early literacy message works doubly to encourage caregivers to participate during storytime rather than sit on the sidelines.

2. Before or After Singing, Reading, or Rhyming

Connecting an early literacy tip to a rhyme, song, or book helps me remember to say it. I’ll often write the message down on my storytime planning sheet too.  Saroj Ghoting has a blog with a plethora of early literacy asides for specific songs and books called Storytime Share.  I try to work in at least one tip per storytime, but if I’ve got a really calm group I can often fit in more. But I’m cautious of over-burdening the caregivers with information, especially if they are new to storytime.

Here are three examples of  how I actually say early literacy tips to caregivers.

“We’re going to sing a song now about fruits and vegetables. This song has lots of great action words in it like peel, mash, shuck, pop, slice, and squeeze.  Today when you eat lunch or dinner, try using these words again or introducing new words about the foods you’re eating with your child.”

“Can everybody make their hand into a fist?  We’re going to pretend our hand is a beehive today. We’re also going to practice counting to five. Who here can count to five? Okay, here we go (say rhyme two times).  I love doing this rhyme because it helps kids develop their finger muscles which they’ll need when they learn to write. Any rhyme or song that encourages your child to separate their fingers is great for this development.”


“We’re going to read a book called Breathe by Scott Magoon.  Before we read, let’s all practice taking a big breathe (practice breathing in and out).  How do you feel when you take a deep breathe? It makes me feel calm and happy. This book is a great way to teach kids how to calm themselves when they feel upset which we can model by breathing deeply.”

3. In 1-1 Conversations with Parents

If it feels uncomfortable to make these kind of statements in storytime, take advantage of the 15 minutes before and after storytime to interact with caregivers and kids 1-on-1. During this informal time, I’ve told many parents of toddlers that it’s okay if their child can’t sit still for an entire book – just read what you can and then move on but keep the experience positive. My messages can be more specific based on the child and sometimes the concerns of the parent.  When delivering early literacy messages becomes tied to developing relationships with my community members, it’s a double win!

Early Literacy Messages Resources

Here’s where you can find early literacy messages to use in storytime.

General Early Literacy and Childhood Development Books

  • So Much More than ABCs: The Early Phases of Reading and Writing (2013) by Judith A. Shickedanz and Molly F. Collins
  • Language Development in Early Childhood (2013) by Beverly Otto
  • Handbook of Early Literacy Research: Volume 3 (2011) Edited by Dickinson and Neuman
  • NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children (2011) by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  • Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It (2010) by Lise Eliot
  • The Philosophical Baby (2010) by Alison Gopnik
  • Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (2010) by Ellen Galinsky
  • Proust and the Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain (2008) by Maryann Wolff
  • From Lullabies to Literature: Stories in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers (2008) by Jennifer Birckmayer and Anne Kennedy 
  • Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy (2004) by Diane McGuinness
  • Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy (2003) Edited by Hall, Larson, and Marsh
  • From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2002) edited by Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips

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