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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!*

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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)

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

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

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We also counted stars,

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Hey Diddle Diddled it up,

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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This is our beautiful coastline community.

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Tween Book Club Extension Activities

This post is so long overdue! I’ve written once about the Tween Book Club I run at my library, but I really should take more time to share the books and activities we do each month. I’ve got a solid group of 12 kids who show up to every meeting, and we’ve been having a great time.  I think I’ll make this a blog series and write up posts on icebreaker activities, how to encourage discussion, and places you can find other resources.  For now, I thought for  I’d share some quick and easy meeting ideas.

The first 20-25 minutes of each meeting is the same. We do an icebreaker activity and then we discuss the book.  I will write more about each of these activities in my future posts, I promise!

For the second half of the book club, we do some sort of extension activity that is thematically related to the book. I try to vary the type of activity because the tweens all have their own personalities and preferences, and I also aim for fun and laid back options.  Here’s a list of the books we’ve read and the matching extension activities.

jinx sage blackwoodJinx by Sage Blackwood
We did two activities for this book.  First, because there is lots of magic in the story, I showed the kids three different card tricks and they had to work together to see if they could solve them.  Then two kids demonstrated card tricks of their own.  Secondly, we did a window decorating craft.  I loved the setting of this book, a magical forest called the Urwald.  Using large pieces of black construction paper, we cut out trees and creatures that reminded us of the book. Then we taped them to the library’s windows creating a shadow display. Here’s a Halloween example of what the final result looked like.

amulet Amulet: The Stonekeeper (Book One) by Kazu Kibuishi
As I was reading this book I kept thinking about the theme, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” So for our first activity I printed off a bunch of funny pictures (the ones I chose were all tween appropriate), and had the kids discuss what was really happening. Much laughter ensued and this led us back to talking about the book. Next, we played an Amulet themed version of “Would You Rather?” I had about 10 pre-written scenarios, and the kids each wrote down two of their own. Again, lots and lots of giggles.

word nerdWord Nerd by Susin Nielsen
This book takes place in Vancouver so I knew I wanted to do something about neighbourhoods and maps. I printed some maps of the Kitsilano and Granville Island areas and we marked off the places that Ambrose visits. And then of course we played a team round of Scrabble which the kids loved so much they asked me if we could play it every month!

rules Rules by Cynthia Lord
We talked a lot about autism and disabilities during the discussion part of our meeting today, so for the activity I brought out Pictionary. A character named Jason in the book communicates via picture cards, and I thought this game would be an interesting way for the kids to see what that would be like.

better nate than everBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
I have a pretty outgoing group of kids so I knew I could get away with doing a bunch of theatre games.  The main character, a kid named Nate, tries out for the Broadway musical version of E.T. and he’s asked to show off a special skill. So we started from there! After that I pulled 4-5 games from different online resources I found and we all channeled our inner Nate.  This works even better if you can scrounge up some props for the kids to use.

Ttom gateshe Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
This book takes place in England, so the characters say lots of British sayings that my tweens were unfamiliar with. Thankfully, the author includes a glossary at the end with definitions of the words.  I created a quiz based on her list and the tweens tried to remember what each word or phrase meant. The tween with the most correct answers won a free book. Usually I try to stay away from “school-like” activities, but this was more of a contest and the kids loved the competition aspect.  Next, I found this fun drawing activity on the author’s Tom Gates blog: grab some bananas and some pens! I took pictures of their drawings and hung them up in our meeting room.

BoneBone: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
If you hadn’t already noticed, my tweens are obsessed with graphic novels.  For our first activity, I printed out pictures of every single character in the book and hung them up around the room. Then I gave kids about 5 minutes to go around and write down one word that best describes each character next to their picture. We had a lot of fun with this activity and I had each tween present one of the characters when we were done.  Next we spent time trying to create our own graphic novel panels.  I knew some of the kids would struggle with a blank slate, so I brought out lots of magazines and discarded books. Anyone who didn’t want to draw their own could cut out pictures and assemble them instead.

zita the spacegirlSpace Adventure Graphic Novels
I tried something different this month and pulled three different graphic novels/manga that take place in space or on another planet. They are Zita the Spacegirl by Bet Hatke, Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman and Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma.  I hadn’t done a craft activity in awhile so I collected a bunch of small cardboard boxes and we made these alien creatures and placed them on top of the science section in the juvenile non-fiction collection.  Any time our activity leads to decorating the library in some way, the kids get really into it!

So that’s what I’ve been up to in my Tween Book Club.  Do you run a Tween Book Club? I’d love to hear about the books you read and the activities you do at your meetings!

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Storytime Transitions

Overlooked and undervalued, transitions are the secret superhero of any great storytime. Or heck, anytime you’re trying to help kidlets move from one activity to the next! I for one had no idea how important transitions were until I started doing Toddler Storytimes on the regular and now I collect and admire them like gemstones. Think I’m crazy? You only need one koala or kid to give you this look before you wise up to the ways of the transition song, rhyme or activity.

Upset Koala

So let’s jump right in, first I’d like to share some of my favourite songs and rhymes which can be used when transitioning between parts of your storytime. Many of these have been picked up from other librarians, early childhood educators, and daycare workers. In case you’ve never noticed, anyone who deals with toddlers and preschoolers on a daily basis basically becomes a professional transitionalist. For an example of this check out Teaching Mama’s awesome list of ideas! Continue reading

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Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Bighorn Library, Alberta

Last month we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the first in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Our guest blogger is Rose Reid, library manager of Bighorn Library in Bighorn, Alberta.  Take it away, Rose!

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Bighorn Library serves the MD of Bighorn in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Alberta.  We are situated in the hamlet of Exshaw, population 417.  Our library has been a member of the Marigold Library System for 34 years.  I’ve been the librarian for the last 20. One of my favourite parts of the job is serving children; look us up on YouTube to see some of our favourite ideas!

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Our closest neighbor, Exshaw School, is only a couple of blocks from our library and teaches grades kindergarten through eight.  About 90% of the student body are First Nations children and it was these young library members who inspired us to create Bonnybooks.

My assistant was volunteering at the school as a literacy coach and she told the 7-year-old she was working with to be sure and practise reading at home that weekend.  He looked at her like she was crazy and said, “I ain’t got no books at home.”  It turned out that there were no books in many of the homes on the Morley reserve and we started looking for a way to remedy that.  It began with the books we weeded from our library shelves.  We would rescue any that were still usable and when there were enough for every child in a class we would go to the school and give them to the students to take home.  I don’t think it is possible to describe how excited those children were to own books.  It was so much fun, the more we did it, the more we wanted to do it again.

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