Guest Post: Using Mirrors in Storytime

Did you know we have an open invitation to write a guest post? Well we do! Today I am delighted to feature a guest post by Katherine Hickey, a Children’s Librarian with the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City.  She also wrote about Art Making for Earliest Learners awhile back and folks, let me tell you, she needs a blog of her own! Now she’s here to teach us how to use mirrors (squee!) in storytime.  Take it away, Katherine!


Mirrors are often present in early childhood play areas as they help support important developmental milestones.  French psychiatrist Jacques Lacan even named an entire developmental stage associated with the use of mirrors, called “the Mirror Stage.” In this stage, infants and toddlers learn to recognize their reflection which is a crucial step to later being able to identify themselves as “I.” Even though the Mirror Stage has been replaced and renamed in other more popular Child Development theories, reflection and recognition remain essential.

My library has handheld mirrors for children to play with during our playtimes which are always wildly popular.  This got me ruminating on ways to use them during storytime to build early literacy skills, and so I bought a box of 24 mirrors and did some experimentation.  They have been a fun alternative to the traditional props like bells and scarves, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so far! All of these activities can be modified for a baby, toddler, or preschool audience.

Here are a few logistical considerations and suggestions:

  1. Hand the mirrors to the caregivers, not the child, for safety reasons. The caregiver can then decide if they want to hold it or allow their child to hold it.
  2. Clearly communicate the “ground rules:” if a mirror gets broken bring it to the librarian and we will hand you another one, be gentle with your mirror, when you are not using the mirror, keep it next to you.
  3. Decide when you are going to gather up the mirrors (at the end of the program, at the end of the activity, etc.) and communicate this to the group so that the children can anticipate when they will have to hand them back.

Developmental Tips to Share with Parents:

  1. Children begin to develop self awareness (e.g. recognizing self in a mirror) between 15 and 24 months[1].
  2. Using mirrors with infants is a great practice, even if they are not yet developmentally able to recognize themselves. Mirrors provide sensory exploration and encourage curiosity. They are also great for bonding between caregiver and baby, which helps form a secure relationship to later learn how to read. [2]
  3. Self-awareness can take a while to develop.  It’s normal for children to be inconsistent in their self-awareness. Sometimes they’ll recognize themselves in a mirror or picture, sometimes they won’t. [3]
  4. After the age of two, this self awareness leads to the development of “self consciousness.” They are becoming aware of how they are perceived by others. [4]
  5. Having your child grip the mirror will help them strengthen their motor skills and hands.  This is important for them to learn how to hold a book and turn a page, and later learn how to write.[5]

Mirror Activities:

  1. Exploration before storytime.  Handing out mirrors to children as they enter the storytime space gives them something to explore and fidget with while waiting for the program to begin.
  2. Learning facial features.  Have the grownup hold the mirror up to their child’s face and point to their facial features while singing songs like “This is the Way we Wash our Face,” “Eye Winker,” or “Here Are My Knees.” This helps reinforce vocabulary.
  3. Looking at clouds. Take the group outside and have them set the mirrors on the ground and look at the reflection of the sky.
  4. Looking at scarves. Put the mirror on the ground and have the child float a scarf above it to see its reflection.
  5. Peek-a-boo. Have the child play peek-a-boo with themselves while looking in the mirror. You can pair this with the song “Peek-a-boo.”
  6. Mirrors to see behind you.  Have the caregiver hold up the mirror above the child’s head, slightly tilted forward. The child should be able to look in the mirror and see what’s behind them. You can use this as a prompt to learn directional words, like “in front of” “behind” “to the side,” etc.
  7. Counting.  Hand every other caregiver some kind of plastic toy (a ball, a block, in this case, a little frog). Have two caregivers pair up and put their mirrors together, with the toy on the ground. Have the children count how many frogs their see.

Book Pairings:

  1. Eye Color: Brown, Blue, Green, and Other Hues by Jennifer Boothroyd. Talk about different eye color and have the children try to identify their own eye color by looking in the mirror.
  2. Find a Face by Francois Robert.  This simple book is all about finding faces in every day objects.   There are few words on each page so it’s great for a baby or toddler audience.
  3. Fiona’s Feelings by Dr. John Hutton. Caregivers can hold the mirror up to their baby’s face and try to replicate Fiona’s facial expressions. This is also a great prompt to talk about feelings!
  4. What I Like About Me! By Allia Zobel Nolan and Miki Sakamoto. Each page of the book celebrates a body part. Have the children point to the corresponding body part while looking in the mirror as you read.  This rhyming book is a little text-heavy for babies and toddlers so I usually just read a few of the words on each page. You can also have the child look at themselves in the mirror and say what they like about themselves.

I’ve just started scratching the surface of all of the early literacy activities that can be done with mirrors, so please feel free to comment with your own ideas!

References:
[1] http://www.parentingcounts.org/information/timeline/baby-begins-to-develop-self-awareness-15-24-months/
[2] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10862960109548129
[3] Courage, M., Edison, S., & Howe, M. (2004). Variability in the early development of visual self-recognition. Infant Behavior and Development, 27(4), 509-532.
[4] Vyt, A. (2001). Processes of visual self-recognition in infants: experimental induction of ‘mirror’ experience via video self-image presentation. Infant & Child Development, 10(4), 173
[5] Julius, M., Meir, R., Schechter-Nissim, Z., & Adi-Japha, E. (2016). Children’s ability to learn a motor skill is related to handwriting and reading proficiency. Learning and Individual Differences, 51, 265-272.

We’ll Link to That: Fall 2018

We are so lucky to have a provincial newsletter written by youth services staff in British Columbia. Every quarter we contribute a column called We’ll Link to That! where we share our favourite resources. The Fall 2018 edition is here! Be sure to read the whole thing for some excellent youth services ideas. Want to catch up on our column? Browse through the We’ll Link to That category on our Professional Development page.

We’re kicking it old school this time around with a link round-up of some amazing ideas we’ve seen floating around the web. Need some fall inspiration? We’ve got you covered.

Over on our Jbrary blog we’ve been fortunate to have some amazing guest bloggers contribute to our Talking to Kids About Race series. Use a curated list of racially diverse storytime books and learn how to give early literacy tips around the topic of race. Following the social justice topic, we also wanted to share an inspiring post by Hi Miss Julie about Outreach in a Time of Uprising where she addresses how to be vulnerable in our work and how to pay attention to the needs of a community. And you know how strongly we feel about community outreach!

Looking for new ideas to serve your early years community? Short on funds? Check out these Homemade Interactive Play Stations intended to foster creative and imaginative play without costing a fortune. If you’re looking to build up your STEM programming for preschoolers, this Computational Thinking in Storytime with Robots blog post shows you the books, songs, felt activities, and extension activities that blend early literacy and technology seamlessly. Over on the ALSC blog we found these visual schedules a great first step in making storytimes inclusive for all families. We are so excited Miss Meg is back blogging and were wowed by her Fairy Tale Ball that capitalizes on the lasting power of folk and fairy tales for a wide age range. Lastly, we had heart eye emojis for this Mini Masters of Library Science program that is sure to inspire a new generation of youth services librarians!

Summer Reading Club is officially over (thank GOODNESS!) but how are you going to keep those eager readers plugged into the library? We got you. LibraryLaura and her coworker Jen reminded us that book character parties are a blast any time of the year. Their Elephant and Piggie Party is full of fun ideas for budding readers and could honestly be a monthly program. For more book character program ideas, check out our round-up post. Another Mo Willems inspired program (but you could use your favourite rhyming read) celebrates Nanette’s Baguette and its glorious rhymes. We love how Allison the Lightsome Librarian focuses on the importance of rhyme beyond the early years crowd and includes an awesome BINGO template in her School-Age Storytime. You might be all slimed out but Karissa the Ontarian Librarian shares some brilliant new stations for a slime program and also why libraries are the perfect place for slime. Finally, if you’ve been itching to try an escape room this post if for you! We love how Jennifer Johnson breaks down her process, shares resources and makes this Battle of the Bands Escape Room for Tweens and Teens seem downright doable.

The Fall is a wonderful time not only for new books but to start checking out what’s coming out next year too. Mile High Reading has not one, not two, but three glorious posts (so far!) featuring 2019 picture books to feast your eyes upon. And finally, we leave you with an absolute gift of a post by Abby the Librarian. Abby is new to her collection development role and her post on Building a Collection Development Toolkit is incredibly helpful if you purchase for all ages, but even her strategy of subscribing to a blog or weekly email would be helpful for youth services folks.

Have you seen any amazing program or collection resources out there? Send us an email at jbrary@gmail.com to tell us all about it!

Bilingual Storytime Resources

Over the years we’ve received many emails inquiring about bilingual, specifically Spanish language, storytime resources.  Though I grew up in California and took over four years of Spanish in high school I don’t program in Spanish in my current job. But that doesn’t stop the librarian in me from wanting to do the research! I’ve compiled all of the websites, books, and songs I could find on this topic.  If you know of something I missed, please leave a comment so I can add it in!  I view this post as a living document that will constantly be updated as new resources become available.
Looking for languages other than Spanish?  Dana wrote a guide to Multilingual Storytimes.

Courses

Professional Development Books

Webinars

All of the webinars listed here are free.

Songs and Rhyme Videos

Websites

Blog Posts

Please feel free to leave a comment with advice, tips, or resources related to running a bilingual storytime program! If you know of resources for bilingual storytimes in languages other than Spanish and English let me know and I’ll create a separate section at the end of the post for those.

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

Why hello there. It’s been a minute.  I decided mid-way through the summer to give myself a break from blogging.  Mostly so I could soak up the sun that makes a rare appearance in Vancouver and partly because my brain needed a break from writing and planning.  It’s been a struggle to get back into blogging if I’m honest.  Partly because I’m still trying to be outside as much as possible before the weather turns and partly because my brain feels overloaded with other things.

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling.  When I first started blogging in 2013 there were tons of children’s librarians blogging regularly about storytime and beyond. I mean just look at our blogroll. Nowadays the number of people who post regularly are few and far between (major fist pumps to you all who do it!).  And I get it.  There is a lot happening in the world that demands our energy and attention, and the platform of blogging has been replaced in part by Facebook groups where you can ask a question or share an idea easily and get instant responses. Which is great! But I’d be sad if blogging went away entirely.

One of the main reasons I still prefer blogging is that the posts are findable and searchable on search engines like Google.  If someone doesn’t know about groups embedded in social media platforms or how to effectively search those groups, they don’t have access to the information shared there.  Blog posts are also easy to organize which is helpful when referring people with questions about services to the early years.  All this to say I still value blogging as a way to share, connect, and help others who serve children and I’m going to try my best to consistently post throughout the fall.

Which brings me to my next question. What should I blog about?  I’ve got lots of ideas floating around in my mind, but I would love to hear from you about what types of posts you enjoy.  Here’s what I’m considering:

  • New to Storytime Series: My toddler storytime series are among our most popular blog posts and we get a lot of email questions from people who have never done storytime before. I’d like to do another series where I get even more basic. Things like how to choose books for storytime, choosing rhymes and songs, preparing your storytime space, using a simple outline to plan effectively, etc. I might even create a landing page of some sort with external resources as well for storytime beginners.
  • Storytime Booklists: I want to continue doing my yearly favourites list but I’ve also got a non-fiction storytime booklist in the works. And I really need to update my favourite babytime read alouds.
  • Cool New Resources: I feel like I’m always bookmarking journal articles, blog posts, websites, webinars, etc. that have caught my eye. I’d like to start occasionally posting round-ups of these resources for others to learn from too.
  • Round-Ups: Okay what I mean by this is when I dig up a whole bunch of resources around a certain topic and share it in list form. Examples are my babytime beginner’s guide and my book character parties blog post. I definitely want to do one multilingual storytimes as I get emails about that one a lot.
  • Community Work Strategies: I would love to write about how I do community work and the different tools that support me. I’m big into Google maps.
  • School-Age Programming: I run an Early Readers Book Club program and a Creative Writing program right now. I’m considering sharing the activities we do in each.
  • Reflection Pieces: The way I do my work and the way I program has evolved over the past five years. I would like to spend some time writing about what’s changed and why. Where do I place the most value and importance nowadays? I love reading these sort of posts by other children’s librarians.
  • Guest Posts: We are still accepting guest posts! In fact, I have an awesome one coming your way very soon about how to use mirrors in babytime. If you’d ever like to submit a guest post for publication here, just shoot us an email.

Welcome back, friends.

We’ll Link to That: Summer 2018

The Summer 2018 edition of the YAACING newsletter is here! Be sure to read the whole thing for some excellent youth services ideas. Here’s our column, We’ll Link to That!, where we shared 10 upcoming Canadian titles we can’t wait to read. Want to catch up our column? Browse through the We’ll Link to That category on our Professional Development page.


There are so many great Canadian books for kids coming out this year! We thought we’d take some time to share some of the titles we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Red Sky at Night by Elly Mackay
Mackay’s beautiful paper illustrations have stunned us before and this one looks to be a stunner too. A grandfather takes his grandchildren on a fishing trip that is filled with weather sayings. Sounds like the language will be beautiful too!

Good Night, Good Night by Dennis Lee

Dennis Lee’s poetry is timeless and seeing its resurgence in board book format does our verse-loving hearts good! Pair Lee’s language with one of our favourite illustrators, Qin Leng, and this nighttime themed title is sure to be a gem.

Forest Baby by Laurie Elmquist; illustrated by Shantala Robinson

This board book was made for B.C. families! Victoria, B.C. author Elmquist writes of a little one who hitches a ride in a backpack as they go on a hike through a forest. A great way to promote the outdoors.

Wallpaper by Thao Lam

I think we’ve got ourselves a new Canadian wordless picture book superstar. Lam is back with another wordless adventure featuring a shy girl who peels back the wallpaper in her new house to reveal an imaginary land.

Rooster Summer by Robert Heidbreder

Ok, ok another poetry book – but bear with us! Usually Heidbreder’s work is combined with goofier illustrations but the more sophisticated images by Madeline Kloepper give this book a more serious tone and wider appeal. The story is based on Heidbreder’s experiences growing up on a farm and all written in verse, making it a perfect way to introduce poetry to pre-readers.

Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies; illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

The author came to Canada in 1979 as a refugee from Vietnam and it was this experience that informed this book. A mother urges her young daughter to leave their village to explore the greater world. This looks like a beautiful depiction of a mother-daughter relationship from an own voices author.

Tinkle, Tinkle, Little Star by Chris Tougas

Finally a gender neutral book on potty training! This one looks funny and it can be sung to the tune of the classic nursery rhyme. An oft-requested topic by parents, this one is sure to fly off the shelves.

Poetree by Caroline Pignat

It’s not our fault there are so many poetry based picture books being published- so let’s just embrace it, ok? This gorgeous lifecycle book has many levels of word-play on each page that will engage the attention of independent readers, or keep pre-readers coming back for more. Rich verse about the lifecycle of a tree all beautifully illuminated by François Thisdale.

On My Swim by Kari-Lynn Winter

Finding books for babies and toddlers can be challenging – when On My Walk came out it was a welcome storytime addition. Now, author Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrator Christina Leist are continuing the series with On My Swim, On My Bike and On My Skis and we could not be more pleased! These books feature a nice mix of urban and wild environments all seen from a little one’s perspective plus a healthy dose of playful language.

Swimming with Seals by Maggie de Vries

If you’ve read anything by Maggie de Vries or heard her speak you know her work is thoughtful, imaginative and real. This book portrays a girl who does not live with her mother, but does get to spend time with her, which can be both happy and painful. Though Swimming with Seals deals with a difficult topic it is lovingly rendered, accessible for young readers, and accompanied by lucious watercolour illustrations. A perfect, quiet read.

What 2018 Canadian books for kids are you looking forward to? Give us a shout on Twitter at @Jbrary.

 

LSC Journal Club: June 2018 Recap: Co-Designing the Library

The Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club is still going strong! We had our June meeting a few weeks ago and talked about co-designing the library with community members and barriers some community members face when accessing the library. You all know how much I care about community outreach, so this topic was right up my ally.  Here’s what we got up to.

First we reviewed the 2-page article by John Pateman on developing community-led systems. The community-led library model was developed in Canada and the U.K. and I’m always surprised how few American libraries know of it or implement it.  Pateman starts with the premise that we do a great job of serving people who need us the least. These would be the active users of the library. But there are also passive users (lapsed or ex-users) and non-users of the library. How are we reaching and serving these groups? He notes four barriers to access:

  1. Insitutional
    • requiring an ID to get a library card
    • requiring proof of residence to use online library services
    • Charging fines
  2. Personal and Social
    • family and cultural history with government institutions
    • poverty
    • language barrier
    • time
  3. Perception and Awareness
    • the library as a quiet place
    • fear of judgment based on child’s behaviour
    • demographics of those who attend programs
    • nothing there for them
  4. Environmental
    • hours of operation
    • time of programs
    • location
    • cleanliness

Keeping these four barriers in mind we then turned to the article by Virve Miettinen which documents  three ways the Helsinki Public Library engaged users to help co-design their library space. These three projects were part of  the building of a new library in the capital city for the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence. Their goals were to provide better customer service, empower citizens, and designate the library as a 3rd space in the community with a meaningful social infrastructure. Using the co-design process they sought to raise design awareness among both community members and staff members.  We broke into groups and each analyzed one of the projects. We asked:

  1. What was the strategy?
  2. What were the outcomes?
  3. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this strategy?
  4. Who is included? Who is excluded? What barriers are there to participation?
  5. How can we apply a similar strategy to our work with children and teens?

The three projects were: Participator Budgeting, Central Library’s Friends, and the Dream On! Campaign.  I took pictures of our large flipchart notes but they don’t translate well to a blog post. Email if interested and I can send them to you! Overall we were impressed with the level of involvement from the community in these projects though we questioned how much effort was put into recruiting members from a diverse array of backgrounds. The author didn’t really touch on this topic so it is hard to know. Some of the projects had a dual impact in that they helped the library achieve a goal and they gave community members skills they could take with them into their personal and work lives. We came away with inspiration on how to get kids and teens more involved in the planning and development of our library programs. Personally, my biggest take-away was to gather feedback with a purpose. Know what you’re going to do with the feedback before you design and administer a survey.

We’ll be taking a break over the summer but plan to be back in September with another article. Check out the Library Services for Children Journal Club website to stay up-to-date!

Community Outreach and the Devaluation of Children’s Librarians

I’m one of those people who excitedly awaits their copy of the American Libraries magazine every two months so I can read up on all the cool stuff people are doing in our field. In the May 2018 issue there is an excellent article by Meredith Farkas called Get Out of the Library: Embedding Librarians in Our Communities. Coming from an academic library stand point, Farkas talks about the concept of embedded librarianship which situates librarians within their communities so that patrons don’t necessarily need to come to the physical library to get help.  She gives a few examples of how this model works in different types of libraries; for example, public library staff attend local community events to share books and answer questions.  She states that “embedded librarianship is about building strong relationships within the communities libraries serve and requires a deep understanding of the needs and habits of our patrons.” I wholeheartedly agree.

What Farkas calls embedded librarianship I’ve known under the phrase community-led librarianship. The model and philosophy is similar. I highly recommend reading The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit for concrete strategies on how this model works.  Being a community-led library means investigating barriers to library service, especially for socially excluded communities, and finding ways to empower those communities to be involved in the planning of future library services. It requires library staff to be embedded in the community as relationship building is crucial. It is slow, sometimes difficult work, but absolutely necessary in helping the library be a force for social justice. At my library we have community librarians whose major job responsibility is to be out in the community, but children’s librarians are also expected to do community-led work. At its best, this model involves all level of staff in community outreach efforts.

A few weeks after reading the articles by Farkas, I came upon another article on the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) blog about community outreach. This one is titled  Getting Creative: Utilizing Volunteers in Early Literacy Outreach.  The title alone gave me pause, but reading it through filled me with many questions and concerns. It sat in stark contrast to the first article I read where outreach is seen as a key and critical role of our job as library staff. I wanted to take some time to dive into the post and the broader problem I see with regards to children’s librarianship specifically and outreach.

In the blog post, the author begins by noting that her library is  “working with too few staff and is receiving more requests for outreach visits.”  It’s an unfortunate reality that many public libraries are understaffed. This library’s solution was to enlist volunteers to fulfill these requests for outreach visits. The author notes that they worked with their Human Resources department to “determine that providing outreach storytimes was an acceptable task for a specifically trained volunteer because it is not an essential service and it is an expansion of services initiated and managed by the library staff.” [bold text added by me]. And that folks is where all my questions begin.

In the very next paragraph the author says the volunteers are managed by the Youth Services & Outreach Librarian. How is outreach not an essential service if it is literally in the name of one of the jobs at this library? Is this not what the Youth Services & Outreach Librarian spends a huge chunk of time doing in her paid position?  Even the fact that an “expansion of services” can be done by volunteers is worrying to me. Why would the library ever need to hire more youth services librarians when all that extra work is now done by volunteers?  It doesn’t even matter if the volunteers are already knowledgeable about early literacy. Sure, that will make the visits more successful for the kids. But it does nothing to advocate for our unique positions as paid library staff members who bring value to our community. We are outsourcing our jobs for free and we’re somehow excited about it.

A part of me wonders if library outreach volunteers are more common for things like storytime because working with children continues to be a devalued service.  Which is the case for any job dominated by women. You’re just reading to kids, right?  You just sing a few songs, right? Storytime does not hold the same prestige or value as the embedded work in academic libraries Farkas describes in her article.  As much as we tirelessly advocate for how important the first three years of life are for setting up brain development for the rest of life, it is still not seen as something that should be fully funded and protected. We advocate for how the work we do as youth services professionals contributes to a self-regulating, literate population that is able to keep using the library in all it’s different forms.  But sometimes it feels like someone hears us singing “Roly Poly” and our credibility goes out the door. All we have to do is look to the U.K. to see the hollowing out of children’s public library services which this research article shows is “coupled with a rise in closures, community run and outsourced libraries, and volunteering.”

Another thing that worries me about the use of volunteers for library outreach is the move away from relationship building, the key component of community-led libraries, towards a system of “wine and dine them” for preschools and daycares. When I visit preschools and daycares I am doing much more than just a storytime. I am investigating the level of need among their kids and their space. Do these kids have regular access to books? What library resources can I further connect them to to continue to support their literacy after my visit? What is their neighbourhood like and what resources are nearby? Is there potential for another sort of partnership between the library and this group?  What training is needed or wanted by the preschool teachers themselves? These are the in-depth questions we ask when we do outreach as part of our job. I’m sure a volunteer could be trained to ask some of these questions, but they will miss the bigger picture of how this visit fits into an overall strategy of serving a distinct library user group.  Sending volunteers also assumes a one-sided relationship between the library and the centre (i.e. the library has something to offer and the centre is there to consume). These relationships are shallow, often short-lived, and do not help build community relationships to the same degree.

So we’re in high demand. So we’re understaffed. What can we do instead of implementing volunteers who do outreach for us? How can we maintain our value to the library itself and to the community? Here’s what I’ve got:

Bringing in volunteers to do the paid work of a youth services staff member isn’t creative. It’s scary.  I believe embedding ourselves in the community is part of our jobs. How can we creatively make this happen without devaluing our profession?

Guest Post: Art Making for Earliest Learners

I am super excited to share this guest post all about art for babies and toddlers. Offering a diverse array of programs for our under 5 crowd is something I’d like to work towards at my own library and this post gave me so many ideas. Thank you to Katherine Hickey and Heather White for sharing your brilliance! Katherine Hickey is a Children’s Librarian with the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City. Heather White is an art educator in Oklahoma City. She leads workshops for the Metropolitan Library System and works as a museum educator at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

————————————————————————————–

Art-making and art instruction are staples of library programming. Most libraries offer some kind of art program on a regular basis targeted towards adults or children. At the Belle Isle Library (Metropolitan Library System) in Oklahoma City, staff had offered a “Waffles and Watercolor” class, as well as “Make and Take” craft programs for kids, and regular art activities integrated into existing Teen programs. The success of these programs reflects a high interest in art from our community. In fact, the art sections of our collections are some of the highest circulating! However, there were no art classes for those that make up a majority of the attendance at our children’s programs: babies and toddlers. In response to this need, we – Katherine, Children’s Librarian and Heather, a local art and museum educator – created a monthly art program specifically for children 18 months to 4 years old called “Little Hands Art Camp” (LHAC).

Little Hands Art Camp

LHAC occurs every Thursday at 10 AM and lasts 45 minutes. Heather selects the art project, and two age-appropriate books related to the theme for the day. Heather starts off by reading a picture book to the group, then introduces the project and materials for the morning and does a short demonstration. She then asks adult caregivers to find a spot at the table and lead their child in art making, one-on-one. Families work for 20-25 minutes, after they are finished, they are invited back to the storytime mat for a final book reading while their projects dry. The program ends with a final song (“I Had a Little Turtle”), bubbles, and handing out “I Visited the Library” stickers. The format of LHAC has undergone several iterations. We settled on its current format, with two books, a song, and bubbles, in addition to the actual art-making to elongate the program to 45 minutes.

Outcomes

The program gained a surprising momentum, at one point reaching 70 (including parents) in attendance. As a result, the program was changed to registration only. LHAC now averages 40 to 50. There are several factors attributed to the program’s success:

Positive Perception of the Library:

We found that parents at our libraries did not intuitively assume library programs could be offered for very young children. Even upon learning of our baby storytime, they often say “I didn’t know you could do storytime for babies!” This program has helped parents view the library as a place that welcomes babies and supports their growth. After the program, parents will often move to the children’s area to play with the available toys and look at books.

Developmental Growth

Art programs strengthen fine and gross motor skills, eye tracking, color awareness, vocabulary, and sensory processing. These are all skills that support early literacy. This is particularly important as researchers have noted that more children are lacking the necessary fine motor skills to succeed in school.

Materials Exploration

LHAC gives participants, both children and adults, the opportunity to explore many types of art making materials. Children have the opportunity to play with materials in a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes, and adults learn about unfamiliar age appropriate art making materials they can use at home, such as liquid watercolors, paint sticks, glitter glue, etc..

Creativity

Heather designs open-ended art making projects to encourage personal expression and freedom. These open-ended projects set LHAC apart in that participants are not tracing their hand or all making the same “snowman” or “rainbow.” Rather, children create expressive, abstract works of art that are often beautiful and surprising. Caregivers have often commented that they find the open-ended format refreshing.

Strengthened Caregiver-Child Bond

Caregivers lead their child in the activity, not the instructor. Not only does this encourage direct engagement between caregiver and child, it also provides hands-on training for parents on how to repeat the project of the day, or use the materials of the day, at home on their own.

Additionally, the name of the program has lent itself well to branding and various extension programs. The library system’s marketing department designed a button logo for the program, and each participant receives a button for attending. During the summer of 2017, we hosted a “Little Hands Art Camp: Summer Edition” which led to a collaborative mural project around the art of Eric Carle, and we have brainstormed for a program called “Tiny Hands Art Camp” for a 3 month to 18 month-old program.

Projects

Descriptions and materials for past projects can be found on Heather’s blog, Play Free and Create.

Conclusion

Art for babies and toddlers might seem particularly messy, or difficult to implement, but it is not any more work or planning than what you probably already do for a baby storytime or lapsit. With a good format and unique art projects, you have everything necessary to start a successful early childhood art program at your library!