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

Would you like to join us in blogging about early literacy messages in action?  Feel free to use the blog title and logo in your post, and leave us a comment letting us know about it!

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: PEI Public Library Service

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 seventh in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. We’re going to turn it right over to our fabulous guest blogger Roseanne to introduce herself and tell you all about her Books to Go program!


The Librarian

Hi! My name is Roseanne Gauthier, and I’m the Youth Services Librarian for the PEI Public Library Service. I’ve only been in this position for a few months – previously I was the Children’s Librarian at the Confederation Centre Library in downtown Charlottetown. I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island and consider myself unbelievably lucky to be working in my home province.


The Library System

There are 26 public libraries across Prince Edward Island, serving a population of 145, 000. The largest branch, the Confederation Centre Public Library, is located in the capital city of Charlottetown, while the other branches reach from Souris (near the Island’s eastern tip) to Tignish (near the Island’s northwestern tip). Most branches are rural libraries staffed by one person, and Confederation Centre is the only library with a full-time, dedicated children’s librarian. Traditionally, PEI was made up of small farming and fishing communities; however, increasingly Islanders are moving to areas in and around Charlottetown, and the province’s other major municipality, Summerside.

Books to Go Cornwall

The Program

A common comment from our patrons with young families is that they are too busy to spend time browsing the libraries’ shelves to find the best books to read with their children. These patrons understand the importance of reading and books, but they struggle with fitting the library into their day-to-day lives.

Mulling over this challenge, the PLS’ Literacy and Public Services Librarian, Rebecca Boulter, remembered a program she had seen at a few other libraries, including the Cape Breton Regional Library Service – picture books in a bag that could be checked out together. What if parents could rush into a library, grab a bag of high-quality picture books, check them all out in one quick transaction, and head back out the door? The PLS could save patrons time and maybe encourage them to make a few more visits to the library than they would otherwise.

Rebecca worked closely with the former Youth Services Librarian, as well as our French Services Coordinator, to come up with a list of titles, and Books to Go!/ Livres sur le pouce! was born. The program launched as a pilot project in October 2014 with 20 bags of books available at our four busiest English branches and 20 bags of books one of our French branches. Each bag contains 5 carefully selected picture books.

After a bit of slow start, Books to Go! started to take off – getting the book bags out from behind the circulation desk so patrons could help themselves was key. And although the original intent was to save parents time, it’s been fun to learn about other ways the bags are being used. Grandparents who aren’t always familiar with what’s new in children’s literature borrow them when their grandchildren are coming to visit. Families borrow them to amuse their children during errands, long waits in doctor’s offices, a sibling’s hockey practice, or on road trips. Some kids even get excited to visit the library and pick a new “surprise” bag – “I’ll try #3 this week, please!”

Although right now there are no plans to expand the Books to Go! program, it’s certainly been a great addition to our services for children. We’d recommend it to any libraries struggling to find solutions for time-strapped families on the go!

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5 Tips for Youth Services Bloggers

Welcome to the world of youth services blogging.  There’s kind of a lot of us! Dana and I have been blogging here at Jbrary for over two years now, and I finally feel knowledgeable enough to write this post.  Though not the most glamorous topic, I wanted to spend some time talking about our website – how we’ve organized it, features we’ve added, what we blog about, and why we’ve made those decisions.

Blogging can be very personal, and this post is in no way meant to be a “One blog to rule them all” type of thing. We all make choices based on the reasons we blog and our personal aesthetics.  And there is certainly more than one way to do things effectively as a blogger. This post will simply explain Jbrary.

Here are five things we do in an effort to make Jbrary the best blog it can be.

1. Make it Findable

As librarians, we feel especially responsible for making our content findable.  What happens to a blog post after it’s been published? Can people still easily find it a year later? Here’s what we’ve done to make our content findable:

  • Navigation Bar: We created different tabs in our navigation bar that organize our content. These tabs have definitely changed over the past two years, but that’s just part of being a new blog and figuring your shit out.  We tried to think about the different people who use our blog and what they might want to find. One of the bigger decisions we made was to separate out our “storytime” and “school-age” programs.
    naivagtion bar 2If you click on either of these links you will see ALL of our posts for each category even further organized by age group or topic. We hope this makes it easy to browse our content and find what you’re looking for (or perhaps stumble upon something you didn’t even know you were looking for!).
  • Categories or Tags: For a long time we had a tag cloud in the sidebar, but after looking at our analytics we changed it to a list called “Categories.”  Whenever we write a post, we classify it as one of the categories on the list. These categories are the same as the ones on the actual pages you can get to using our navigation bar, we’re just providing another way in. We put it on our sidebar so that people see it when they scroll down to read our blog posts. Here’s a zoomed out view of our website with a big red arrow pointing to our Categories feature.


  • Search Bar: We may be one of the few blogs left that still features a search bar, but we think it’s worth it to have in case someone doesn’t use the navigation bar and wants to find a specific post. If you have a blog and provide no other content organization, I highly recommend having a search bar!

2. Make it Connected

Blogging is only one of the social media platforms we use, and we want people to be able to easily link our social media accounts together. That’s why we feature our “Stay Connected” buttons at the top right of our sidebar.

connectedWe also link to our blog and our YouTube channel on our Twitter account where we’re most active. Again, just trying to make it easy for people to find us and connect all our different resources.

twitterLastly, we want Jbrary connected to all the other wonderful youth services folks blogging so we created a Blogroll featuring all of the active youth services blogs we know about.  Sometimes when we add a blog it sends an email to the blog owner and they learn about us too.

3. Make it Shareable

We need to give a huge shout out to Ingrid at The Magpie Librarian because she encouraged us to install a plugin that allows people to share individual posts.  Our plugin allows people to share via email, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook. This feature makes it so much easier for other people to publicize our posts, and we try to return the favour as often as we can! Here’s what it looks like:

share buttons

4. Make it Personal

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to identify themselves and where they work, so we count ourselves lucky in that regard. We love having an “About Us” page that features pictures and a short description of who we each are. This also allows people to find our individual Twitter handles.  Whenever I find new blogs, the “About Page” is one of the first places I go to (maybe I’m just nosy!) – But I love learning the blogger’s name, what city they live in, and what their job is like. And for us in particular, we are among the few children’s librarians in Canada who blog so we want to highlight that fact and make it easy for others to find us. Lastly, we included a “Contact Us” feature here so people can email us with any questions.

5. Make it Interesting

When we first started to blog, we mainly posted thematic storytime outlines. And that was great – I don’t think there is anything wrong with just posting storytime outlines. Often it can serve as an organizational tool for the blogger in his or her own professional life. But we just found ourselves wanting to write about other stuff – like what it’s like to be an auxiliary librarian or why we think it’s okay to do holiday programming.  We also love doing series and really exploring a topic in depth. I think the variety you get on our blog is one of its strengths, and its something I look for in other blogs too.

So those are the five principals that have guided the creation and development of Jbrary as a website and blog. What advice would you give to library folks looking to start a blog? Is there something you do that we didn’t mention?  Leave us a comment and let’s discuss!

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Baby Storytime: Favourite Fingerplays and Tickles

Crazy about all the little babies? We are too! In fact, we get asked about running baby storytimes or babytimes (as we call them here in Vancouver) ALL THE TIME. For this reason Lindsey wrote her Baby Storytime Beginner’s Guide. But she didn’t stop there, a couple weeks ago Lindsey kicked off a series all about baby storytime! It’s our hope that this series will explore:

  • Welcoming Activities at Babytime
  • Favourite Lap Bounces
  • Favourite Dancing Songs
  • Favourite Books for Baby Storytime
  • Using Scarves and Egg Shakers with Babies
  • Using Felt Stories and Puppets with Babies
  • Using a Parachute with Babies

Before we begin, a quick word on fingerplays and tickles. What are they? And when do we use them? I like to think of fingerplays as a chance to encourage baby to play with their hands and fingers and for adults to model some neat-o things they’ll be able to do with them real soon. Tickles on the other hand (I went there!) are a special type of fingerplay which allow caregivers to engage in play with even the smallest infant as they touch and show affection and get sweet, sweet giggles and smiles in return. I use them throughout baby storytime, usually at the beginning to let parents know I mean business when I say this program is a time for them to play and connect with their child. I will use them again about halfway through to re-focus and re-engage caregivers which I explore more in this post. Now that you’ve all had your duckie kisses (stop and read Lindsey’s post if that went over your head) let’s get into our favourite fingerplays and tickles to use at baby storytime!


Counting rhymes and songs are often the easiest way to start incorporating fingerplays. We love this one because it’s a little more involved with a pop at the end and then feel free to try our Two Little Blackbirds rhyme and 1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Fingers for more counting goodness. One fingerplay which doesn’t really involve counting but we think fits this category is Come ‘a’ Look ‘a’ See. Use each finger to name a family member, sweet as can be! With these rhymes you can remind families that no matter what type of learner their child is, counting on their fingers catches their interest and employs both visual and kinetic learning.

We cannot get enough of this rhyme because it absolutely demands interaction between adults and their children. For others similar to this you could try classics Pat a Cake or Eensy Weensy Spider. We love Kristen B’s Early Literacy Reminder on the CLEL site when sharing these rhymes: “Building fine and gross motor skills is essential in your child’s development, and will eventually help them hold a pen or pencil when they learn to write. We do lots of movement rhymes and fingerplays in storytime to help build these motor skills. So let’s do ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ one more time!”

This tune will surely get stuck in your head and is our favourite in the category I like to think of as pointing things out. For another one like this we also love Where Oh Where Are Baby’s Fingers. When you’re teaching this one to caregivers it’s a perfect time to mention that touch and actions help babies make meaning of the words you’re singing, yet another reason why fingerplays are so important! Saroj Ghoting and Betsy Diamant Cohen also taught us this lovely early literacy tip: “Babies love to look at faces. In fact, they will focus their attention on faces longer than they will focus on anything else. By 4 or 5 months old they are able to distinguish between different expressions on faces – anger, boredom, happiness. Helping children see similarities and differences in facial expressions will help them later to interpret how people are feeling.”

The final type of fingerplay and possibly the most serious business your hands can be involved with: playing peek-a-boo! This one is fun to do with scarves or just with hands but it’s always a hit. Another weather themed peek-a-boo to try is Rain is Falling Down. The early literacy tip which we like to share when playing peek-a-boo is that infants have not yet learned the concept of object permanence so when something “disappears” it’s truly gone for them, making their smile that much bigger when you return!  NPR also wrote a great article on why surprising your baby can lead to learning.


This is an awesome tickle for so many reasons: we love the counting and shrieking (gently of course…) THEY’RE ALIVE! While this might feel like a long rhyme for an infant we like to tell parents that when they do it at home their child will start to remember the rhyme and look forward to the tickle at the end. This ability to recognize and predict sets them up to be strong readers down the road.

This is a lovely hands-on rhyme, ending with a tickle in the armpit or under the chin. Another perfect opportunity to tell parents that children learn in different ways and feeling their touch slowly and then quickly helps to reinforce these concepts.  You can also sneak in an early literacy tip about phonological awareness – when we say the word”slowly” our voices change pitch, making it easier for babies to hear the sounds that make up our language.

We learned this one at our Guerrilla Storytime and have not looked back since. It’s both a diaper changing song and a tickle, making it indispensable to all parents!

This is a lovely tickle which parents can learn when their child is an infant and continue as they get older, making it more and more elaborate.

We’ve collected these songs and rhymes (and more!) in our Fingerplays and Tickles playlist but we’d love to hear more about your favourites. Which ones do you use? Please leave us comments below and stay tuned for the next post in our baby storytime series.

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Canmore 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 sixth 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 Mastromattei, Library Clerk at Canmore Public Library describes her journey from Storytime Quiverer to Storytime Queen! For honest writing and useful tips, read on Dear Reader…


Canmore, Alberta has been described as a “special town” to me by more than one person who lives here. We are nestled in a valley, surrounded by towering mountains on either side; our town is particularly transient, especially being so close to Banff. The thing that strikes me the most about Canmore is the community. I see a few new faces occasionally at our storytime programs but mostly there is a core group that attends each week. They come and meet up with fellow moms and dads and kids because this time is ingrained into their schedules and when someone doesn’t come for a few weeks you are usually given a long apology and explanation as to why we didn’t see them. You begin to look forward to certain kids or parents and you miss them in a weird sort of way when they are suddenly gone. The library has recently moved from a much smaller facility to Elevation Place, a sort of all in one rec centre in town. The library shares this space with an art studio, a pool, climbing wall, gym and rooms that are rented out for everything from exercise classes, to business meetings, to children’s birthday parties. This has made the library a meet up place for people, a safe haven for some or even just a warm spot to sit and read on a dreary day. Since moving into Elevation Place the library went from a frequented establishment to a staple in the community.

Canmore Public Library

I’ve worked at this library for almost two years now and it is my first job out of school where I received my diploma in Library and Information Technology. I run the Preschool Storytime at the Canmore Public Library and this is the second storytime that I have ever been in charge of. My first stab at running a children’s storytime was Wiggletime, a program for kids who are just beginning to walk and their caregivers. I cannot even begin to explain how humiliating this experience was but in an effort to support other storytimers, I’m going to try. We run our programs for about 30 minutes and my first session was twelve minutes long. Twelve minutes!! I took over the program from another staff member who really needed a break from this age group (something I am sure many of you can relate to) which meant she really wasn’t too interested in talking logistics with me. When I spoke to other storytime leaders they all had very polarizing opinions on how to run my first storytime; to say I was nervous on my first day would be a huge understatement. My Assistant Director came into the storytime with me to sit and watch, when I left I heard her thanking everyone for their patience with me as I was just learning and promising that next week would be better. I cried as I cleaned the bubbles out of the bubble gun that day. But then I made myself go back into that room with the moms still in there and I chatted with them as I cleaned up the program. They were kind to me (as I probably had tears and bubble stains on my dress) and I decided to learn from the experience and move on. I wasn’t going to let this one storytime get the better of me.

The next week I began practicing the entire program with my Assistant Director (she very kindly let me do this for several weeks!) We would practice songs and their actions together, the stories I was going to read, even the little things I would say in-between songs and stories. I learned that, for me, this was what I had to do to be comfortable before Wiggletime. But I was still finding it tough; I was 22 and obviously much younger than the parents coming to my storytime (if not in age, then definitely in maturity- I was just out of school and do not have children of my own) and I could not get or keep the caregiver’s attention! I would ask them to stand up and they would sit and stare at me, they would chat over top of my program and they would complain to me if they felt I had gone too short. It became so uncomfortable; another parent came up to me and told me it was time to do something because it was starting to affect her experience. That was upsetting to hear because I thought only I noticed that I was floundering but to have a participant tell me I had to figure out a way to earn their respect made me feel less crazy, but mostly it just made me feel like a failure. I couldn’t even keep the attention of people who had chosen to come to the program. I enlisted the help of another co-worker who has done several of her own storytimes over the years to help me; she came to a program and when we were done she said to me “I’ve never seen it so bad before.” A part of me felt relief, while the other part was screaming into a pillow. I had been looking forward to having my own storytime all the way through school, I finally had one and I was trying to figure out how to get out of it! My co-worker continued to attend storytime for the rest of the session: she watched how I was performing and gave me incredible tips, she showed me how to stand, sit and speak in a way that showed everyone (including myself) that I was in control of the room and she helped me by speaking to the pesky chatters directly. What helped me the most was she showed me that what was happening wasn’t my fault.

CPL Storytime CPL Parachute Storytime

After the session ended I still asked to be taken off of Wiggletime but I wasn’t so desperate to stop storytimes altogether. My wonderful Assistant Director gave me the age group I desperately wanted: preschoolers and I took what I had learned from my Wiggletime fiasco (the only time ‘fiasco’ and the word ‘wiggle’ will be seen together) and I applied it to this new age group. I started to see why Wiggletime hadn’t worked for me and in large part it was my comfort and capability with younger kids. Although I originally went into libraries to work with children I found I didn’t know how best to interact with the much younger lot, something that I am seeing can only be truly learned with practice, which now I am getting a lot of.

Preschool Storytime has been incredible! I don’t dread storytime days anymore, I don’t have to practice everything I’m going to say anymore, I’ve learned more about the right and wrong ways to talk with kids and I have learned about “magic listening dust” which has been a lifesaver with kids and adults alike. Quick aside: you just tell them “it looks like we need some of our magic listening dust! Dig deep deeeeep into your pockets and sprinkle it on your head! Good job! Now make sure you scoop it up for later!” Its success rate is kind of crazy! I have now learned how to go with the flow so I can quickly opt out of a jumping song I had planned if I see they aren’t in the mood and replace it with something more appropriate. A lot of this comfort and flexibility came from creating a repertoire of songs and stories that I knew and liked, which we have to remind ourselves can take time. I can speak up now and say “I need you to stop talking please” with a lot more confidence (to the children, parents are my next battle to conquer) and I have learned how to have fun in a storytime in the way I always dreamed of when I was in school.

So despite the stress and sweat stains Wiggletime gave me, it also taught me a lot about programming, children, performing and most of all myself. I now look back on that time with a touch of relief it’s over but also a fondness because I have come so far since those early days of practicing my anecdotes in the mirror.

What I Learned:

1. Asking for help does not mean you don’t know how to do something

2. Find the best method that works for your prep and do that until it doesn’t work anymore. Like I said for me it was over preparing and a big part of that was sitting on the Jbrary site and YouTube page and singing the songs along with them.

3. Find your storytime voice! You are in charge in that room and you are the one dictating the next 30 minutes

4. Sometimes you get a group that challenges you to use a new set of skills; whether it’s speaking louder, having difficult conversations with people or literally just teaching you how to smile and get through the next few weeks of your program. Take this for what it is: a learning tool, you might not understand the purpose of this challenge now but one day you will be grateful for what you’ve learned and how you let it help you grow instead of letting it knock you down.

5. If you’re new to storytimes and a little nervous maybe request an older age group

6. If you are finding it tough I say talk it out with someone you are comfortable with (perhaps someone whose storytime style you admire) but stick with it. If you let it get the better of you, it will and you will never come to see what a hoot it really can be! OR ask someone to sit in on your storytime with you, it is always WAY more fun to be singing and playing with someone else and it’s a really simple way to get a bit of confidence without being the centre of attention for the entire program. I sat in on other people’s storytimes and I really attribute that to me finding my “storytime voice.”

7. Ultimately, have fun! The kids do NOT care if you mess up, the parents do NOT care if you forget the words to a song, they are there to have a good time and you should be too!


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