The Very Hungry Caterpillar 50th Anniversary Celebration

Today I’ve got another fabulous guest post to share! I saw Maggie’s pictures on Instagram and was hooked. Check out the The Very Hungry Caterpillar 50th Anniversary Celebration event she put on! Maggie Salisbury has worked as a Children’s Librarian at the Floyd County Public Library in Prestonsburg, Kentucky for the past four years. You can follow her blog, The Podunk Librarian, at her website, Pinterest, and on Instagram.

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. When a classic book reaches a milestone, it’s always cause for celebration at the library! Not only is it a fun and easy draw for patrons, but we’re reiterating that books are important; they have value, they’ve been around a long time and they’re not going anywhere.

The event was planned with the target age group of the book in mind. In an effort to present different activities that were both fun and educational while still celebrating The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we had six different activity stations.

Station 1. Hole Punch Practice: Here, children could practice fine motor skills while recreating illustrations from the book. This free printable at Books and Giggles allowed the kids to first color the fruit eaten by the hungry caterpillar, then punch holes in them, Eric Carle-style.

Station 2. Caterpillar Crowns: this idea came from Libraryland (there’s a template there too!). Kids could be creative and festive putting together these fun hats.

Station 3: Memory Game: this free printable from Playdough to Plato used familiar images from the story. Besides being fun, memory games are great for improving concentration, training visual memory, and increasing attention to detail. It’s also fun as a group activity!

Station 4: Ornaments: Another fun craft, and something that the older siblings in attendance got excited about as well. These magic scratch art ornaments were purchased from Oriental Trading, which always has a great selection of Eric Carle crafts and decorations.

Station 5: Butterfly Viewing Station: About three weeks before the event, we ordered an Eric Carle Butterfly Kit from Insect Lore. The cup of caterpillars were observed and discussed in Story Times leading up to the event, and children that visited the library could see the caterpillars as they grew, made cocoons, and finally became butterflies, just in time for our big event. More information about butterfly life cycles was also on display at this station.

Station 6: Caterpillar Putt-Putt: Feed the hungry caterpillar! We made this game ourselves and plan to reuse it for our Library Mini Golf. Kids usually went for this first station first!

Because events of this nature are usually heavily attended, these stations were set up as self-initiated and patrons were free to move to stations as they pleased. To include the actual reading of the story in this format, we utilized our projector. There we played a loop of The Very Hungry Caterpillar animated story and a video of Eric Carle reading the book that continued throughout the duration of the program.

To truly make the event feel like a birthday party for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we included party favors and cake. We purchased The Very Hungry Caterpillar treat boxes filled with a bouncy ball, sticker, tattoo, and bubbles from Oriental Trading. We also included some coloring pages we printed ourselves.

Whenever possible, I try to encourage photo opportunities and present “Instagrammable” aspects to programs. It’s an easy way to get patrons to tell friends about programs and indirectly advertise the library on social media. We used our poster printer to print the final image of the story, a beautiful butterfly. This doubled as a decoration and a photo op—we put out a step stool so kids could give themselves wings for a fun picture. Our other decoration was a balloon caterpillar put together with a low temp hot glue gun.

The event was well attended, and because of the timelessness of this book, the activities could easily be reused for future programs. Some could even be adapted for Story Times or school visits. Long live The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

2019 Picture Books: Bedtime Stories

The series continues! Bedtime stories beat Bodily Functions by 1%. ONE PERCENT. Follow me on Instagram to vote in my weekly polls if you want to have a say in what comes next.

If you do a pyjama storytime or an evening storytime, these books will be perfect. Some will make great read alouds, while others will make a perfect display. I encourage families to try and make reading a part of their daily routine. Bedtime is a great place to start! Here are some books to add to your nightstand about bedtime, sleeping, and the night.

Here are the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series:

Storytime alert! For all of Sandall’s books., really
Sweet dreams 🙂
Children’s librarians around the world are having their hipster moment: we liked this song way before it was cool.
Say goodnight to 12 colourful cats.
Don’t think that donut escaped my notice.
I love the close-up.
That’s what I say about books.
Baby sloths!!
Everyone has their own bedtime routine.
I guess counting them didn’t work.
Sheep and sleep go together like…zzzz
A rhythmic bedtime wish from caregiver to child.
Yes, the Timbaland you know as the music mogul.
A little girl is full of questions right before bedtime.
Fit in one more game before bedtime. Toddlers will want to read again and again and again…
Always a fan when books are involved.
A nonfiction picture book about how animals rest.
So much more than black and white.

Wingardium Leviosa!
McMullan had one last year about bathtime that is great for storytime.
Fits perfectly on my books about space list too.
If you’ve got a little one who is afraid to turn off the lights.
These illustrations are so unique and captivating.
There’s no way that dinosaur comes to life, no way.
I’m not saying caregivers would grab this one to read at bedtime, but kids probably would!
A companion to A Big Mooncake for Little Star.

Which ones are you looking forward to sharing? Any you’ve read and loved? Let me know in the comments!

Robot Obstacle Course

I’ve been meeting so many new people on Instagram lately. Annamarie Carlson is one of them! When I saw her post about a robot obstacle course, I knew it was something to blog about. So today, Annamarie has written all about how she runs her robot obstacle course for kids ages 8 – 12. Take it away, Annamarie!

At my library, combining technology and kids always results in a program win. Since receiving a state LSTA grant in 2017, I’ve run monthly introductory technology programs for ages 8-12 using Dash and Dot robots, SPRK+ robots, 3Doodlers, green screens, Bloxels, Google Cardboard, Makey Makeys, and more. These programs provide school-age kids with an opportunity to learn about something new, delve into their creative interests, and have some hands-on time with technology they may not otherwise be able to access. One of my favorite programs in my technology series is Robot Obstacle Courses, which engages attendees in technology and engineering concepts.

Supplies Needed

This program can be adapted to work with whatever robots your library has available. I used four Dash robots (by Wonder Workshop) and four SPRK+ robots (by Sphero) because those are the robots my library owns. Any robot that has a free drive or simple coding feature would work well for this program.

Materials List:

  • Space (the more room kids have to build in, the more elaborate obstacle courses can become)
  • Masking Tape
  • Robots (enough to allow for groups no larger than 2-3 people)
  • Obstacle Course Building Supplies
  • Countdown Timer

How It Worked

At Robot Obstacle Courses, 16 kids were divided into groups of 2-3, assigned a taped off area of the room, and given just 10 minutes to create any kind of obstacle course with just the materials available in their space. Each group had access to the robot that would be navigating their course, but obstacle course creators could not test out their own course during their 10-minute building time.

After 10 minutes, it was hands-off the obstacle course materials. Each group of students moved to a new station and tested a different group’s course. I distributed iPads with the appropriate robot app to each group, and they had 10 minutes to test this new course and make tweaks (or massive repairs) as needed. By having the kids test out and improve another group’s course, the attitude in the room was much more teamwork-focused than competitive.

Groups rotated through each created obstacle course, receiving shorter adjustment and testing times as they went. About 20 minutes later, kids returned to their original group and were able to see what their original course had become and how well it had worked.

Since I was using two different robots (Dash and SPRK+), groups then demolished their original obstacle course before swapping halves of the room to try again with the other robot.


This program focused on engineering and teamwork skills over coding skills. Due to the limited time frame and that I used two different robots to accommodate more participants, most groups free drove the robots through the obstacle courses instead of coding the robots to complete each course. I explained some of the basics of block-based coding during the program for my more experienced program participants, but by not requiring coding knowledge, I was able to accommodate many new participants to this program who had not used a robot before.

Kids left the program talking about angles, speed, and support structures, plus ideas for how they could combine multiple courses into one giant course at a future event. While dragging all the obstacle course supplies back to our storage area wasn’t my favorite activity, this program was a ton of fun and well-loved by our program attendees.

About Annamarie Carlson

Annamarie Carlson is a Youth Librarian at Westerville Public Library in Westerville, Ohio. She focuses on technology programs for ages 8-12, literacy and play programs for ages 0-2, and large-scale events such as the Wizards & Wands Festival that brought 2300 visitors to her library. If you’re interested in learning more about this program, please reach out at Annamarie can also be found on Instagram at 2annamarie.carlson or via her website at

Have you ever done a robot obstacle course at your library? Any questions for Annamarie about this program? Leave a comment below!

2019 Picture Books: Things That Go

First of all, this post won in my Instagram poll battle against Bodily Functions. And I never thought I’d see the day.

Anyways! We’ve got trucks. We’ve got cars. We’ve got bikes. We’ve got motorcycles. We’ve got trains. We’ve got skateboards. We’ve got boats. We’ve got construction vehicles. Your vehicle obsessed toddlers and preschoolers will thank you when they’re older.

Here are the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book Series:

I have a 7-year-old who can’t wait to read this new one from her favourite Canadian author.
100% would wear that helmet.
This makes my inner Californian very happy.
I can’t see this title and not think of the movie…
I want her glasses.
I’m very interested to see what has more than ten wheels!
Little red corvette.
Dinosaurs + Cars = Never on your shelf.
One of them is wearing a bandanna, folks, the international symbol of toughness.
A tale about how even the smallest of us can find a way to help.
Perfect for storytime.
Props for a female tow truck driver!
Will they beat the storm home?
Higgins and OHora, what a great combination!
I know nothing about this one except that apparently rabbit helmets have holes for their ears because of course they do.
Part of the Lyon series on things that move.
Look, I try not to judge celebrity picture books too hard, but sometimes it’s really hard.
Climate change is real.
This is the kind of anthropomorphized truck that kids absolutely love.
Mostly interested in the dog TBH.
So that’s where thunder comes from…
Told only in verbs, this one looks splendid.
I never thought I’d say this but…that is a cute dump truck.
You can fly, you can fly, you can fly, you can fly, you can fly.
A second truck on a leash!
This one will also be on my School Stories list.
Find out what trains do while we sleep.
Lemme guess.
Shout out for female construction workers!
I didn’t realize the orange stuff was her hair at first!
C. Ry is back.

Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Any that you’ve read and loved? Let me know in the comments!

Professional Development Books: Literacy and Language

Did you see the recent blog post on ALSC by the two ladies behind The Cardigan calling for more free professional development for children’s librarians? Hear, hear. One of the ways I try to get in my professional development is to read books relating to serving children and working in libraries.

Today I’m sharing the first of a series of blog posts on professional development books. This week is all about literacy and language – how do we learn to talk, how can we support emergent literacy, what does the newest brain research tell us? These books seek to answer these questions. Other posts in this series will include books about programming support and child development. Stay tuned!

Did I miss one of your favourite books on this topic? I’d love to learn about it in the comments!

Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age – From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between (2014) by Jason Boog
The author consults authors, librarians, publishers, and child development experts to piece together a year-by-year guide to instilling a love of reading in your children. Includes reading on a variety of technology – from books to screens.

Growing a Reader From Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy (2004) by Diane McGuinness
I think this book was my bible in my early literacy course during my MLIS degree. Go from babbling to developing vocabulary to reading print and learn the science behind what’s happening in a child’s brain. An essential read.

Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3 (2011) edited by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson
For those looking for research studies about early literacy, this is the tome for you! Studies cover brain development, language development, self-regulation, sociocultural contexts, and early intervention. I wish there were more recent volumes.

How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life (2000) by Roberta Michnick and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Written by developmental psychologists this book takes you on a chronological journey through learning language. I like their “try this” asides where they offer concrete things to do with your baby to encourage language development.

Many Languages, Building Connections: Supporting Infants and Toddlers Who Are Dual Language Learners (2012) by Karen N. Nemeth
This thin book is aimed mostly at preschools and daycares, but it includes chapters on how to welcome diverse families and engage them in your programs. Sample training worksheets are included in the back.

Proust and Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain (2007) by Maryanne Wolf
Written by a cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert, this book takes you on a journey of how the brain learns how to read. Language is natural to humans; reading is not. It’s a tough skill you have to learn, and Wolf shows why some kids will struggle with it. This one’s got an evolutionary lens I love.

Raising a Bilingual Child (2007) by Barbara Zurer Pearson
If you’ve ever been asked by a storytime caregiver if it’s okay to speak more than one language to a child, then you definitely need this book. Pearson covers the benefits of bilingualism and how to create a bilingual home environment. As a children’s librarian this book gives me the knowledge to talk about this subject with my community.

The Read-Aloud Handbook (2019) by Jim Trelease
The 8th edition of this classic comes out this year! Like Mem Fox, Trelease is interested in helping families read aloud to kids. He tells you why and how to do it, and includes an updated read aloud booklist with new diverse titles.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever (2001) by Mem Fox
Australian literary expert Fox presents an easy-to-read guide for how to read aloud to small children and why its so important for their development. I found it a little commanding in tone at times, but the three secrets of reading are not intimidating for parents.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them (2014) by Jefffrey D. Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith
Finally a book about school-age kids! Mostly geared towards schools and teachers, librarians can use the arguments in this book to push for reading for pleasure and the many educational benefits it can bring. A great choice for parents who are questioning lexile levels and other reading measurements.

Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens (2015) by Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine
These two authors are known for their research and writing on digital media and young children, and in this book they present an argument for why “we cannot allow technology to exacerbate social inequalities” (ix). They dive into a world of raising readers alongside smart phones and tablets – a critical, balanced view that urges us to do the same.

Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development (2017) by Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker
Written by a speech-language pathologist, this book covers language acquisition milestones for a typically developing child. The goal is to demystify the process of learning language for parents and caregivers, and there’s lots of great tidbits we can use as early literacy tips in storytime.

Any you’ve read and loved? Please let me know!

2019 Picture Books: Poetry Collections

April is National Poetry Month! I am a true lover of poetry. My mom says when I was little I had a fascination with certain words, especially odd sounding ones, and loved to sit in her lap and listen to poems read aloud. Do you have a favourite poem? As a kid I loved “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” by Shel Silverstein. Nowadays I devour contemporary love poems, with those by Ada Limón among my favourite. I’m sure kids will discover many future favourites in these 2019 poetry collections.

Check out the other books in my 2019 Picture Book series:

Christina Rossetti is one of my poetry patronuses.
I would love to show this to my Creative Writing group.
How do you give thanks?
Singer is well established as an author so I’m excited to read these.
Singer is having a prolific year.
Hedgehogs always look so timid and shy.
Looks perfect for reading with a child or storytime partner.
This could also be on my upcoming Bedtime books list.
This book is described as “irreverent” which makes me immediately like it.
Serious nonsense.
This one could also be on my outer space list but the title is so *poetry*
American friends, look for this one.
Anyone else sing this title a la Billy Joel?
For all your soccer fans out there.
For all your sports fans, period.
This looks like a great one to choose a poem from to read aloud in storytime.
Rosen’s other poetry and rhyme collections are perfect for storytime.
Perfect for your transportation enthusiasts.
The font on this is SUPERB.
This will be well loved by kids and librarians alike.

Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Any that you highly recommend? Let me know in the comments!

LSC Journal Club Winter 2019: Early Literacy Information on Canadian Public Library Websites

Have you heard about the Library Services for Children Journal Club? It’s a side project I started with my friend Christie to encourage anyone serving children in libraries to read and discuss relevant research. We have a local Vancouver meetup quarterly and you can find a recap of all our discussions on my Professional Development page.

This month we discussed an article written by colleague Tess Prendergast called ” Growing Readers: A Critical Analysis of Early Literacy Content for Parents on Canadian Public Library Websites.” You can get the full article here. Here’s a recap of the article and what our group discussed.

Research Questions

Prendergast sets out to examine the assumptions and beliefs underlining early literacy messages we provide on our public library websites. As our communities continue to diversify linguistically, ethnically, and developmentally, she is curious if our websites reflect these changes in both words and images. She lays out the following two research questions:

  • What messages (text and images) about early literacy aimed at parents are found on English language urban Canadian public library websites?
  • Do early literacy messages (text and images) aimed at parents on English language urban Canadian library websites reflect or acknowledge family diversity?

She examines 20 libraries across six provinces.


This research was conducted in the fall of 2012, so Tess mentioned that things have likely changed since then, and it would be interesting to see a duplicate study performed today. Have we improved?

After collecting data on the websites Prendergast looked at cultural and/or linguistic diversity, developmental inclusion, and kindergarten and reading readiness. She found that all of the libraries promote storytimes and encourage caregivers to participate and have fun. She notes the influence of the branded Parent-Child Mother Goose program in the frequent references to bonding and attachment found in storytime descriptions. While 50% of the sample websites address cultural and/or linguistic diversity, most libraries do not provide translated webpages in languages outside of English. Similarly, about 50% of storytime descriptions mention kindergarten preparedness. Lastly, and most unfortunately, one one program was found that overly suggests the program is appropriate for children with disabilities. She recommends using the phrase “all ages and stages” in storytime descriptions to signal to caregivers that children with disabilities are welcome.

When looking at information aimed at caregivers, 90% of libraries sampled included early literacy messages with most of that content coming from both editions of Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library. When looking at images on these websites, she discovered that kids are most often shown reading adult books, rather than books from the children’s section. In about 50% of the images cultural diversity is easy to discern, while only 4 out of 20 websites contain an image representing disability.


Prendergast’s first argument is that the text and images we see on public library websites aimed at caregivers “point out dominant views held by public libraries about the promotion of early literacy within their communities” (245). With an increased interest and concern about the first five years in life from multiple sectors of society (health, education, government), it’s not surprising that initiatives like Every Child Ready to Read emerged and were eagerly adopted by libraries not only to justify our programming, but also to use in conversations with community members. Her criticism, which our group spent most of the meeting discussing, is that the research used to create ECRR privileges research studies that result in quantitative test results that can be tied to education goals. She states, “ECRR tenets were developed out of cognitive, skills-based educational research (not library and information studies research) about reading readiness” (246).

So what’s the issue? Firstly, if you look at it from the end goal first it means that our view of early literacy is rooted in school readiness. ECRR aims to help parents support their children so that when they start kindergarten they have measurable skills to accomplish tasks. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – of course we want kids to succeed in school. But what Prendergast points out is that by drawing on only this type of research we exclude a more broad definition of early literacy, and one that is rooted in a library’s goals and values. With a narrow view of early literacy we are more susceptible to excluding diverse community groups who may face barriers to library access already.

Prendergast draws on research from Stooke and McKenzie (2011) that calls for a “counter-narrative” to the ECRR curriculum. I admit this part shook me. I’m actually planning on writing a whole other blog post about their article and how it made me question things. In sum, we need to be open to research that takes into account sociocultural and social and emotional learning in order to develop our own early literacy framework that places the library’s values as paramount. Understanding how diverse communities translate culture and literacy would help us support these communities and build meaningful community relationships, even if their practices are different from the tenets of ECRR.

This doesn’t mean we need to completely throw out ECRR. The second edition is broad enough that we discussed the different ways we’ve taken the 5 early literacy practices and applied them in our interactions with diverse communities. A lot of that is up to us in our one-on-one interactions with families. Overall though, this article led me to think more critically about a widely adopted curriculum which has a huge impact on our programming and our identity as children’s librarians.


Prendergast gives the following five recommendations for Canadian public library websites:

  1. Create and maintain separate parent pages on the website that are different than the information aimed at those who work with children.
  2. Translate and adapt all parents pages into common languages spoken in your community. Adding videos in multiple languages is an added bonus.
  3. Use expanded, sociocultural views of early literacy and strength-based approaches to help us write our content on our websites and to guide us in our interactions with diverse communities.
  4. Include photographic diversity of families in your community on your website and all promotional materials.
  5. Relax storytime rules to accommodate children of all ages and stages.

Did you read this quarter’s article? What were your thoughts and opinions? I’d love to discuss in the comments!

2019 Picture Books: Magical and Mythical Creatures

My Instagram peeps finally came through and voted for my favourite category! Being *a bit* of a fantasy lover, I couldn’t pass up a chance to feature new releases starring magical creatures. Unicorns, fairies, mermaids, dragons, giant fish monsters. They are all here, folks. You’ll have a hard time keeping these on your shelves.

Check out the other posts in my 2019 Picture Books series:

I lol’d at his little speech bubble. A tale to combat perfectionism.
I can confirm there is a unicorn in this book.
They look so….buff.
You get rainbow cupcakes?
Unicorn is back, ya’ll!
A nonfiction title covering the history of the legends around these mythical creatures.
See, there’s more than just unicorns.
But also more unicorns.
Clap if you believe!
She wrote Uni the Unicorn so I have high hopes for this one.
Pretty sure I wanted to be that mermaid when I was a kid.
A retelling of The Little Mermaid by Israeli author and illustrator team.
Mermaids with bobs, I dig it.
This parody follows a mermaid as she says goodnight to the creatures of the lagoon.
Is it to be…part of that world!!!
In case you missed it on my Books Featuring Babies list.
A dragon of mixed descent finds her place in the world.
As someone who was obsessed with her blankie as a child, I understand the despair hidden in this question.
They look like pretty nice dragons to me.
Awww, poor dragons.
I really hope this one works for storyime.
A retelling of the classic story behind Chinese New Year’s traditions.
A heroic girl stars in this fantasy.
Spend the summer with this unusual best friend.
Getting Game of Thrones vibes.
This one involves storytelling.
This also belongs on my Feelings and Emotions booklist.
Okay but how can something that breathes fire have a fever?!
This ogre doesn’t have stage fright, no sir.
I couldn’t not include this one.
This is not the tooth fairy I grew up with.
Bob Graham still going strong.
I’m not sure why she’s undersea, but I’ll take it!
Oh boy.
I don’t see why not.

Which ones are you looking forward to reading? Let me know in the comments!