Professional Development Books: Program Planning

This post is Part 2 of my Professional Development Books series. Part 1 features my top choices for books about language and literacy. This week I’m sharing books that I’ve used and others have found helpful when it comes to planning library programs. Most of them focus on storytime and the early years.

Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments! I’m especially on the look-out for books about serving school-age kids outside of a school environment.

Artsy Toddler Storytimes: A Year’s Worth of Ready-to-Go Programming (2013) by Carol Garnett Hopkins
If you provide craft or extension activities after storytime or if you need STEAM storytime ideas, this is the book for you. The author provides 52 thematic storytime programs with additional art experiences and templates attached to each one.

Baby Storytime Magic: Active Early Literacy Through Bounces, Rhymes, Tickles, and More (2014) by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker
An excellent introduction to the logistics of babytime for beginners. Includes ideas for how to engage caregivers as well as sample program outlines and information on early literacy. See also: Baby Storytime: A Beginner’s Guide.

Books in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Books Through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props (2013) by Julie Dietzel-Glair
Written specifically for storytime providers, this annotated bibliography gives you 500 titles with suggested extension activities categorized by the type listed in the title above. Easy to browse. Includes lots of ideas to shake up storytime while you are reading a book. See the companion nonfiction book below.

Cooking Up a Storytime: Mix-and-Match Menus for Easy Programming (2014) by Susan Anderson-Newham
Using a cooking metaphor, the librarian author outlines the necessary ingredients for a successful storytime. Includes brief information about early literacy, language development, and Every Child Ready to Read. The chapters on incorporating math, science, and poetry are the most unique.

Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (2014) by Jamie Campbell Naidoo
This book defines cultural competence and provides a guide for planning culturally competent programs that avoid stereotypes. Also covers research on digital media and children with examples of how libraries implement digital storytimes and more. Some of the apps may be dated at this point, but it includes an annotated list of digital media that promotes cultural competence.

Folktales Aloud: Practical Advice for Playful Storytelling (2014) by Janice M. Del Negro
Provides a range of oral stories broken down by age group that can be used in storytelling programs. Includes tips for how to add dramatic elements and how to cater to different groups. Highly recommended if you want to up your oral storytelling game. Includes a list of folktales to check out.

Including Families of Children with Special Needs (2014) by Carrie Scott Banks
This book is not just about program prep but addresses making your entire library accessible and friendly to people of all ages and stages. American in context, it covers the history of inclusion, staff training resources, library design, and program content. Lots of discussion around policies and attitudes which can shape your space in a positive way.

Let’s Start the Music: Programming for Primary Grades (2014) by Amy Brown
Ready-to-go program templates for the musically motivated. Aimed at grades K – 3, I think most of these can be adapted for preschoolers too. Really useful when you’re searching for songs to play in programs and books that keep a beat.

More Storytime Magic (2016) by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker
If you are just beginning as a storytime presenter and don’t know where to start, any of the books by this duo are good to check out. They provide thematic storytime plans with book, song, and flannel story suggestions. Also see their original book, Storytime Magic, and their follow-up Multicultural Storytime Magic for more ideas.

Nonfiction in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Nonfiction Books through Movement (2016) by Julie Dietzel-Glair
This slim volume is an annotated bibliography of 200 nonfiction picture books with suggested movement activities that tie into the five early literacy practices identified in Every Child Ready to Read, second edition. Books are grouped into five larger themes to make browsing easier.

The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page (2019) by Maria Walther
A new favourite! Though written by a teacher for teachers, this book gives 101 picture books aimed at school-age kids and how to read them in a way that connects to larger concepts such as understanding feelings, developing a growth mindset, and considering point of view. A great resource for school-age visits.

Reading Pictures Books With Children: How to Shake Yo Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See (2015) by Megan Dowd Lambert
I already wrote an entire blog post about why this book is so great and why every children’s librarian should read it and own it. It changed the way I view picture books and how I read them with kids of all ages. Can’t recommend enough!

Read! Move! Learn! Active Stories for Active Learning (2007) by Carol Totsky Hammett and Nicki Collins Geigeert
A short introduction to why movement is connected to literacy gives way to an annotated list of over 70 picture books with suggested motor skill activities. Each spread shares literacy tips, related games, and vocabulary and concept connections. Although the titles are older, a great starting point for anyone developing music and movement programs.

Roots and Wings: Affirming Culture and Preventing Bias in Early Childhood (2016) by Stacey York
Though aimed at teachers and early childhood educators, this book provides a great overview of the psychology of prejudice and racial awareness through childhood. Lots of good tidbits we can apply to our storytime programming especially when it comes to talking to kids about race.

STEP Into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds (2014) by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Kathy Fling Klatt
Child development meets storytime in this well researched guide to planning and developing storytimes. Learn how to be intentional in your choices, how to scaffold material to different ages, and how to plan mixed-age storytimes. Sample storytime outlines included.

Stories, Songs, and Stretches! Creating Playful Storytimes with Yoga and Movement (2017) by Katie Scherrer
This slim volume guides you through planning and preparing a yoga storytime for preschoolers. In addition to teaching some basic yoga moves, it includes 12 thematic storytime outlines you can print and use.

Storytimes for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy (2013) by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Pamela Martin – Diaz
This book expertly explains the transition from the six skills presented in Every Child Ready to Read to the five practices presented in the second edition, and how storytime providers can incorporate those five practices. Learn how to incorporate an early literacy aside (explain, example, empower). Includes many sample storytimes for the 0 – 5 crowd that are a good jumping off point for planning your own. Also check out this duo’s 2006 book Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library for even more ideas.

Supercharged Storytimes: An Early literacy Planning and Assessment Guide (2016) by Kathleen Campana, J. Elizabeth Mills, and Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting
Research based! Coming from the VIEWS2 research out of the iSchool at the University of Washington, this book provides you with a planning tool to help you craft interactive and intentional storytimes that serve your community. I love the focus on reflection and assessment as a constant part of our practice. One of my storytime bibles.

Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs (2013) by Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Melanie A. Hetrick
This is the book to read if you want to incorporate repetition in storytime or learn how to tell a story in different ways. They take 8 books and give 6 weeks worth of activities related to the story. I recommend this one to preschool teachers a lot!

What are your favourite programming planning resources? Let me know in the comments!

2019 Picture Books: Bodily Functions

Look what finally won my Instagram poll!!!!

I am not one of those children’s librarians who think snot and poop are funny. I try, friends, I really try, but it’s just not me. I can assure you that our littlest patrons don’t share my refined taste, so I’ve collected all of the 2019 picture books about bodily functions I could find. Here’s what we got.

See the other posts in my 2019 Picture Book series:

Did they have to make it look so cute?
Do you love saying the word poop? These peeps do.
That’s the fanciest toilet I’ve ever seen.
At least they are telling us!
I *could* have put this on my holiday list, but let’s be real. That’s not why kids will read this.
Looks like they are covering everything here, folks.
Okay, I admit this book is actually about asking questions, but the title will grab their interest.
Babies are kinda gross.
Does anything NOT?

Which ones do you think your library kids will love? Let me know in the comments!

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!