Community Mapping

One of the things I’d like to write more about is community-led children’s librarianship.  A few years ago Dana wrote an introductory post about this topic with great examples. She also pointed to the Bible of community work: The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit.  This model of service positions the community members as experts and asks library staff to examine the different barriers to access users face.  I believe community outreach is a key part of our job, one I’m not willing to outsource to volunteers.  So let’s dive deeper into the toolkit strategies that help me better understand my neighbhourhood. We’ll start with community mapping.

When I moved to my current library branch a year and a half ago I had a fair idea of the demographics. I looked up data from the Human Early Learning Partnership based out of the University of British Columbia which shows me the level of vulnerability and developmental health of the early years and middle years children in my specific catchment.  I knew the types of stores and restaurants in the area because I don’t live far away.  What I didn’t have a good grasp of were the key services for kids ages 0 – 12 years old: daycares, preschools, schools, and out-of-school care facilities. These were the groups I wanted to reach out to but I didn’t know where they were located.

Enter community mapping and Google maps. I’m a visual learner and have a much easier time keeping track of information when I can look at a picture. In the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit one of the strategies for getting to know your area is called community asset mapping. Community asset mapping “focuses on learning about the organised or formal groups in a community. It helps you learn about the services provided in the community and identify potential community partners, providing a launch pad for you to enter the community.” I decided to create a Google map specifically mapping those three groups to better understand the spread of services. Here’s what my map looks like.  The yellow book icon is the library, the blue children are out-of-school care facilities, the purple houses are elementary schools, and the pink babies are preschools and daycares.

To create a map first open Google My Maps then select “Create a New Map.” There are tons of customization options. I didn’t do anything fancy. This website has a short video tutorial if you’d like to see a step-by-step guide. I like how you can colour code points, change the icons, and add notes.

Now I can easily spot daycares and preschools not within walking distance to the library or on an awkward public transit route. It’s also easy to spot the services that are clustered around a school, something I keep in mind when visiting classes.  When I schedule an outreach visit I look at the map and check to see if there is another centre nearby I can visit, either to drop off information, do an informal storytime, or simply collect more information.

There is a notes field attached to each point on the map that allows me to track how often I visit, the centre’s access to books, if the centre has an institutional library card, the socioeconomic status of the families, language spoken in the centre, etc. You can write in anything you find useful! It’s great for an at-a-glance summary of the spaces families are using for childcare and learning in my neighbourhood. Here’s an example:

Community asset mapping can be used for much broader purposes too. In the toolkit, they list the following questions to consider when creating your map:

  • Who lives, works, or visits around here? Where do people go?
  • What do they identify as the best places to shop for groceries, stop for coffee, check a bulletin board, or relax in a park?
  • Are there different “best places” for youth, families, seniors, or specific ethnic or economic groups?
  • What types of services and resources are available in the community?
  • What kinds of places or activities do people feel are missing from the community?

You can also invite the community to help you create your map. I’ve seen libraries make giant maps that they put on display and ask library users to add the places they frequent. You can also have staff go on community walks and come back and add any new developments they spot.

How do you get to know what’s in your library’s community? I’d love to hear about any other ideas!

 

Social Media Changes

Hello, friends. It’s time for some changes. As our intentions in our personal lives change, so will Jbrary.

At the end of this week I’ll be deactivating our Facebook and Twitter accounts. On the plus side, I created a Jbrary Instagram account where I’ll be posting updates, throwbacks, and all sorts of children’s librarianship goodness.  I do hope you follow us there!

I still plan to blog and occasionally upload to YouTube (still need to figure out how to use my new video editing software…).  You can, of course, always reach out to us via email too.

I’m hoping this leads to a more consistent social media presence on one platform, while also allowing me to carve out some time and head space for myself.  It is time for a change.

 

 

New to Storytime: Choosing Songs and Rhymes

Welcome back to my new to storytime series! This series of blog posts breaks down the different components of a storytime and is aimed at people who are just beginning as storytime leaders. Check out the other posts here:

How do you decide which songs and rhymes to sing at storytime? Why do we sing at storytime in the first place? How do you incorporate songs and rhymes into a storytime?  This post will try to answer these questions. It’s important to remember that everybody does things differently and that’s okay! Finding what works for you is part of your development as a storytime presenter.

Singing and rhyming are an important early literacy component of storytime. Not only are songs fun, but they also serve as a learning tool for children as they reinforce early childhood concepts. Songs and rhymes boost memory as children absorb new vocabulary and learn how to follow directions. They also break down language into smaller parts, called phonological awareness, which allows kids to hear the smaller sounds in words as they learn to speak.  Many songs have hand or body movements that accompany them offering kids a chance to be active participants using their bodies. Fingerplays in particular help children strengthen their finger muscles which they need to hold a pen or turn the page of a book. Lastly, singing as a group is a great way to build a sense of community and friendship among your community members. It fosters a sense of belonging and connectedness, one of my storytime goals.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some strategies I’ve learned when it comes to the “how” questions.

Repetition

To me, what you sing at storytime is far less important than how often you sing it. Kids learn from repetition.  They learn sentence structure and vocabulary words when they hear a song again and again.  When I start a storytime session I choose about 8 – 10 songs and rhymes I’d like to feature as my “core” group for the 10 – 12 weeks. I try my best to use these songs every storytime. They make up about 80% of the music I use each week. That extra 20% is saved for other songs and rhymes I rotate in. Sometimes they are connected to a particular theme or book I’m featuring. If I find something that’s a total hit then I make an effort to put it into more frequent rotation.

Providing Lyrics

This depends on your community, but I’ve found that providing the lyrics to the songs either on a flipchart or projected onto the wall/screen helps caregivers participate in storytime. This is partly because I have a high number of ESL caregivers in my community who have asked for lyrics to guide them.  Because I repeat so much though they learn the songs eventually. Just something to consider as you get to know your storytime audience.  Some people provide lyrics on a piece of paper or on a bookmark at the end of a storytime session instead.

Using Felt Pieces to Accompany Songs

I created super simple felt pieces to accompany the songs I do most often. I use these felt pieces to introduce the song’s vocabulary, an especially helpful practice for toddler language acquisition.  Having a visual representation connected to the lyrics helps kids understand the meaning of a song.  Alternatively, you could print a picture and hold it up. Doesn’t have to be fancy! My favourites to use are Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Baby Shark, and my food themed set.

Using Recorded Music

I don’t use a lot of recorded music in my storytimes because I think it’s important to model to caregivers that it doesn’t matter what your voice sounds like, but when you are new to storytime it can help you feel more comfortable. I used to play “Jump Up, Turn Around” by Jim Gill at the end of all my toddler storytimes because it helped kids learn how to follow a few simple directions. Other people play music as families enter the room.  If you’re looking for good recorded music to play in storytime check out Recorded Storytime Music: A Primer.

Multilingual Songs and Rhymes

Don’t be afraid to add in songs and rhymes from languages besides English. Perhaps you speak another language or you have community members who do. They can be a great resource to finding out which songs are popular in another language.  Using  multilingual songs and rhymes exposes kids to a variety of cultures and can help make people from different backgrounds feel welcome in your space. I’ve gathered lots of Spanish song resources on my Bilingual Storytime Resources post, but I also love the multilingual selections on StoryBlocks.

Types of Song

I weave in these five categories of songs into all of my storytimes. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many songs to do from each. Instead, I’m intentional about planning a storytime that involves a variety of songs that match the energy of the group and the early literacy goals I’ve set.  If you’re looking for a certain type of song, please make sure to check out all of our thematic YouTube playlists!

Opening and Closing

I do the same welcome/hello song and the same closing/goodbye song every single week. This helps provides a consistent opening routine to your storytime and signals to kids that storytime is starting.  I wrote about my favourites a few years ago, but I actually do three opening songs in a row because it gives caregivers who are a bit late a chance to get settled before we read the first book. My current rotation is Well Hello Everybody, Can You Touch Your Nose (verses: clap your hands, stomp your feet, jump up high, shake your hips, beep your belly, sit back down), Hello, Friends, and Roly Poly. I make sure at least one of the songs involves movement because I like giving kids a chance to get their wiggles out before I read the first book. My closing song is Goodbye, Friends. There’s so many options though! Check out our Hello and Goodbye Songs playlist.

Fingerplays

Hand rhymes, aka fingerplays, are great for strengthening finger muscles. I usually do one of those right before or after a book and connect it to the content of the book. For example, if we read Mama, Look! by Patricia Murphy I would follow it up with Here is the Beehive to continue the conversation about nature and insects.  Check out our Fingerplays and Tickles playlist for tons of ideas.  I’ve also written about my favourite fingerplays and tickles for babytime and my favourite

Action and Movement Songs

Kids need to get up and move. Not only do they get heir wiggles out but they also learn through movement.  I pull these out mostly during the middle part of my storytime when kids have already sat through a book or two and need a chance to burn off some energy. As mentioned above, I use felt pieces with a lot of my movement songs.  I usually do about 2 -3 in a row before transitioning to a more literacy based activity like a felt story. Sometimes though you end up moving and grooving the bulk of storytime if that’s what is keeping the crowd engaged. Check out our complete Movement and Dancing Songs playlist and my Songs to Get the Wiggles Out and Favourite Dancing Songs blog posts.

Transition Songs

A good stroytime leader knows how to move kids from one activity to the next. That’s where transition songs come in. The hardest transition for me is getting the kids up and moving and then getting them back down on the floor to listen to a story. My go-to transition song is My Two Hands. I also like Everybody Take a Seat.  Dana wrote an excellent blog post with tons of other ideas for songs and rhymes that help kids transition between activities.

Soothing Songs and Lullabies

After we’ve read books and danced and sang and amped ourselves up, I end storytime with a few gentle, soothing songs and rhymes. I like to model taking deep breaths during this part as well. My go-to songs are traditional nursery rhymes like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and the ABC song because they are well known and have a lullaby quality to them. I also use Rain is Falling Down with my felt pieces.  We’ve got some other great suggestions on our Lullabies and Soothing Songs playlist.

How do you choose which songs and rhymes to feature in a storytime? What are your favourite song and rhyme resources? Let me know in the comments!

It Takes a Neighborhood to Nourish a Children’s Librarian: Introducing “The Cardigan”

I can’t even tell you how much excitement I have for this announcement! When Katherine and Allie told me about The Cardigan I immediately asked if they would write about it so I could help spread the news.  Read on to learn about this amazing resource for library staff serving children.

Who We Are and the Vision

We (Allie & Katherine) are two Children’s Librarians working together in a public library in Oklahoma. Katherine primarily works with early childhood kids and Allie works with elementary kids.

Before working with Katherine, I (Allie) worked in a small rural public library in another state. It was my first full-time Children’s Librarian position out of library school. In this new position as a solo Children’s Librarian, it wasn’t long before I began to feel a little alone. I spent my free time researching great resources (like Jbrary!) to help me feel connected and up-to-date, but soon finding the time, support, and energy to research the relevant information left me exhausted.

This is a trend we have both noticed since becoming Children’s Librarians:  finding relevant and current professional development resources can be challenging, tedious to sift through, or costly. So we dreamt up the idea of a newsletter: a visually appealing platform made up of high-quality, bite-sized information related to the profession with real-world implications. Articles posted on social media can be difficult to keep track of, so the newsletter format allows us to preserve all of our resources in one place. Each newsletter will be turned into a PDF and accessible through a Google Drive folder. In this way, we hope to create a repository of the best tools available to help us become excellent at our jobs.

The Cardigan Newsletter

This newsletter is called “The Cardigan” and drops in your inbox on the 20th of every month. In every newsletter, we will explore the following topics with links to professional resources:

  • Learn. Deepen your knowledge on a topic related to Children’s Services.
  • Play.  Play is a right! Learn quick tips to optimize play experiences in libraries.
  • Plan. Learn about an interesting program you can easily replicate at your library.
  • Consider. Libraries are for everyone! Read resources about the importance of inclusive Children’s Services.
  • Connect. Discover new places to find content.
  • Reflect. Where we reflect on the deeper questions regarding Children’s Librarianship.
  • Read.  Check out some of our favorite books.
  • Ask. Where we answer your questions!

After some reflection, we settled on “it takes a neighborhood to nourish a Children’s Librarian” as our motto because we want to center in on the reality that we need each other to be happy, healthy, and effective librarians. We are both relatively new to the profession, and we hope to create a digital “neighborhood” with Children’s Librarians of all strengths and competencies.

This will happen in three ways:

  • Our “Celebrate” section: We want to celebrate your awards, promotions, and hard work!
  • Our “Share” section: You can e-mail us your cool programs and initiatives related to Children’s Services and we will select a few to feature each month.
  • Our Instagram and hashtag: We are going to use our Instagram (@thecardigannewsletter) to feature other ideas and programs, and the “shares” we aren’t able to fit in the newsletter. Tag your library-related Instagram and Facebook posts with #thecardigannewsletter so that we can see what you are up to!

How to Join the Neighborhood

We hope you’ll join the neighborhood and subscribe to The Cardigan! This little newsletter is our humble attempt to contribute to the need for professional development in our field; we know it won’t solve all of our problems, but we are excited to do our part and would love to have you along for the ride.

Here are four action items:

  • Subscribe to the Cardigan here.
  • Contribute to our first “Ask” section. Email us at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com with “Ask” in the subject line with any library-related question.  We will do our best to answer, but if we can’t, we will bring in an expert.
  • Contribute to our first “Celebrate” section. E-mail us at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com, with “Celebrate” in the subject line, along with a brief description (2-3 sentences) of your successes. Celebrating coworkers is also welcomed; please ‘cc them in the submission e-mail so that we can get their permission to be featured. Examples of things to celebrate include: trying something new, practicing radical self-care, getting a job, getting published, being a great coworker… Whatever you deem to be an accomplishment!
  • Contribute to our first “Share” section. You can e-mail us your cool program ideas at thecardigannewsletter@gmail.com, with “Share” in the subject line. Please include at least one photo, along with a short (100-150 word) description.

We can’t wait to see you around the neighborhood!

Katherine & Allie

LSC Journal Club: Fall 2018 Recap: Evaluating Early Literacy Programs

Our Vancouver chapter of the Library Services for Children Journal Club held our fall meeting last week to discuss how and why we evaluate early literacy programs such as Mother Goose and storytime. We read and discussed an article about a research study designed to evaluate the impact Regina Public Library’s Mainly Mother Goose program on caregivers support of the development of early literacy for their children.  Here’s a summary of the article and our discussion.

Article Summary

This article aimed to understand how the Mainly Mother Goose program may contribute to caregivers’ engagement in the development of their child’s early literacy skills. Noting the lack of research related to public library program evaluation, especially with regards to early literacy programs, the researchers gave a brief literature view and pointed towards studies out of Idaho and Ontario that showed positive impacts of preschool programs and parent education initiatives. This study used a quasi-experimental design to survey caregivers before and after the program and conduct interviews a few months later. They asked the following 4 research questions:

  • Do parents report an increased use of the following nine early literacy skill development activities after their participation in the MMG program? (see article for complete list of activities)
  • Do caregivers report an increased number of library visits after participating in the MMG program?
  • Do caregivers report an increased sense of confidence and competence in using storytime materials and activities after participating in the MMG program?
  • Do caregivers use what they learned in the MMG program at home?

The results of their study showed no statistically significant change in the use of the nine early literacy skill activities. Because the study evaluated for changes in frequency of behaviour it was noted that many of the caregivers reported a high usage of the skills on the pre-test thus leaving little room for improvement.  The study included results from the program when it was hosted in the library verses when it was hosted at an outreach site. Caregivers at the outreach sites had higher rates of change in the nine early literacy skills. For the remaining research questions, there was an increase in the caregivers visits to the library, their confidence, and their usage of activities at home. Yay!

Group Discussion

Our group started by discussing the nine early literacy skill development activities the researchers chose to ask about. How did they decide on these nine? The don’t give any information regarding the selection of these skills and we noted that they inquire heavily on the skills of talking and singing. None of the questions had to do with play which we know is how children learn.  Some of the skills were very similar – talking a child vs. asking them a question – that we questioned the usefulness of the nine skills too.  We wish the researchers had given a little background on how they chose those skills and how they were connected to research.

We also discussed the researchers choice to evaluate for a change in frequency of behaviour. Our criticism, which was noted in the article, is that very little change will be observed if the caregivers are already exhibiting the behaviours before the intervention (i.e. the Mainly Mother Goose Program.) Especially when surveying caregivers who are already coming to the library on a regular basis, it’s not surprising that there wasn’t a huge impact on the nine skills. Seeing the results of the outreach site visits differ was a good justification to us that our community outreach efforts are much needed and have the biggest impact. We thought the other three research questions gave more valuable information because they showed a changing view of the library and how our programs can impact caregiver attitudes.

This study led us to think about why we do evaluation in the first place. We came up with a list of reasons to conduct research studies that evaluate our programs including to prove our impact on families, to build credibility with our organizations and community members, to push for more money and funding to increase our capacity, to identify gaps in our programming, to contribute to the body of research literature on evaluation, and to assess for learning outcomes of children and caregivers.  We noted the difference, however, between outcome evaluations and satisfaction surveys. If you are wanting to gauge what your caregivers enjoy, what they’d change, what they don’t like, etc. then that is different from an evaluation that measures learning or knowledge acquisition. Before planning large scale evaluation projects it’s important to consider why you are doing them, what you hope to measure, and what you will do with the data when you are done.

This article evaluated caregivers, but there has been recent research that evaluates children and storytime presenters. We talked about the VIEWS2 research study from the University of Washington and how they observed storytimes to see if children display specific early literacy behaviours. They also designed an intervention for the storytime presenters and proved that it helped them be more intentional about early literacy in storytime which impacted the kids as well.  What are the pros and cons of evaluating these three audiences: children, caregivers, storytime presenters? How would the study change based on your audience? It all comes back to what you are hoping to gain from the evaluation. If you want to improve your skills as a storytime presenter then you wouldn’t necessarily ask for caregiver feedback. That’s something a peer or mentor could provide more meaningful feedback based on observation. It was very exciting to see the new research coming out of the VIEWS2 project and even more exciting to see free training being developed based on this research called Supercharged Storytimes.

We ended the discussion by asking ourselves: As children’s librarians are we researchers? Do we view ourselves that way? Were we taught to do research and value research in our MLIS programs? There is so much data we collect through our children’s programs that has the potential to speak to library boards and donors about the significant impact we have in our community. But much, if not all, of that data remains unanalyzed as we do not have capacity in our jobs to conduct research studies on top of all the other day-to-day priorities.  It’s interesting to note that some libraries are joining with universities, such as Calgary Public Library and Mount Royal, to do this research together. Perhaps that is a model we can use in the future.

If you’re interested in starting a Library Services Journal Club in your area, please let me know and I’d be happy to help!

New to Storytime: Choosing Storytime Books

Welcome to my new series, New to Storytime! One of the most common emails I get is from people who are just starting storytime and need help figuring out where to start.  Sometimes they’ve been thrown into a children’s library position due to an illness or staff vacancy and all of a sudden they’ve got storytime tomorrow! So I’ve decided to write a New to Storytime series where I focus on the basics. Each post will cover a different topic and I will link them all as I write them.  I’m going to start with how to choose books to read at storytime because books remain a key focus of storytime and there are just so dang many of them. I’ve compiled my tips, all of the storytime booklists I’ve written, and additional blog posts and booklists I’ve found elsewhere that are useful.

What other topics would you like to see as part of my New to Storytime series? What tips would you give someone on how to choose books to read at storytime? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Things I Look for in Storytime Books

Clearly Visible Illustrations

Because my storytimes are large (50+ people in one room) I go for picture books that have large pages with vibrant illustrations that are easy to see from a distance.  It’s essential your audience can clearly see the pictures as kids give about 90% of their attention when reading to illustrations.  Two examples of books that I think are ideal storytime size are Blocks by Irene Dickson or I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry. It’s not just about the size of the pages though. Look for illustrations that aren’t busy, detailed, or crammed onto the page. Those types of books are great for one-to-one reading but make a poor read aloud because the meaning conveyed in the illustrations gets lost with distance. Finding the right size book will depend on the size of your group. If you have a small baby or toddler group you can get away with reading a board book sometimes, especially if you walk around the room while reading.

Interactive Elements

Does the book have a repeating phrase I can have caregivers and kids say with me?  Are there actions in the book we can do together as we read?  Can I sing part of the book? Does the story line or illustrations provide good opportunities for me to ask questions as I read? Are there animal sounds we can all say together? Does the book have a good rhythm that caregivers could bounce little ones to as I read? These are the questions I ask when searching for books that build participation during reading, leading to greater engagement.  Excellent examples include Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr. and From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.

Developmentally Appropriate

This phrase is kind of loaded as kids develop at different rates, but there are some things that work best for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Babies love high contrast books and books with pictures of other babies, especially their faces. For example, You and Me, Baby by Lynn Reiser. Toddlers thrive on simple stories with 1-2 sentences per page and objects that are easily labeled. Definitely read my Toddler Storytime Authors to Know post. Preschoolers will enjoy more sophisticated stories filled with interesting vocabulary words, humour, description, and  chances for them to connect personally to the book.  Preschoolers especially love books with a surprise element.

Clear Narrative

For toddlers and preschoolers, I look for picture books with an easy-to-follow narrative. Something with a clear beginning, middle, and end. If I find a book is confusing or goes all over the place then I skip it.  My end-of-the-year storytime favourites booklists are filled with examples of clear narratives.

Everyday Diversity

I look for books that show people from a variety of backgrounds. Due to a lack of diversity in picture books in general it’s really easy to go an entire storytime session featuring books with only white, middle class, typically developing children.  So this is something to be aware of and to seek out in order to reflect many ways of being in the world.  Definitely check out the blog Everyday Diversity for recommendations.

Genre Variety

I’m trying to get better at this one, but I look for storytime books in our fiction and non-fiction section.  Information books make great pairings with story books and can appeal to children who enjoy learning facts. I have a co-worker who starts every storytime with a poem and I think that’s a great way to expose caregivers to our poetry collections.  I’ll be writing a blog post soon with my favourite information storytime books.

Books You Love

When you pick a book you personally enjoy your love for the story will show.  Maybe you are drawn to the artwork. Maybe it’s a book you remember reading as a child. Maybe it made you laugh so loud your partner looked at you like you are from another planet. Choosing books these types of books allows you to bring your enthusiasm for stories into circle time in an authentic way.

Choosing Storytime Books

Want more tips? Check out these blog posts from around the web with additional tips for how to choose storytime read alouds.

Jbrary Storytime Booklists

You can also browse our Pinterest boards for books by theme.

Additional Storytime Booklists

  • Everyday Diversity: This blog is a “tool to help librarians find storytime books that predominantly feature People of Color and Native Americans as main characters in contemporary everyday life.”
  • Storytime Share: This blog hosted by Saroj Ghoting features book reviews and more that include early literacy messages you can pair with picture books when reading them at storytime.
  • New Books for Storytime: A 2017 Infopeople webinar that features “new picture books that will engage the storytime audience.”
  • New Books for Storytime: A 2016 Infopeople webinar by the same presenter, Penny Peck.
  • What’s New for Storytime: A 2012 Infopeople webinar that “give you ideas to refresh your storytimes with new books to engage your audience.”

A Link Extravaganza!

Anyone binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race right now? Just me? Anyways. One of the things I said I would blog about are all the cool things I find online that relate to the field of serving children.  So here is my first link extravanganza! Check out these awesome resources.

Webinars

New Ways to Supercharge Your Storytimes
October 9th, Free! Archived version available.
“With early literacy instructor Saroj Ghoting and other experts in the field, WebJunction recently updated and expanded the training to fully cover the early literacy components, to consider storytimes through an equity lens, and to strengthen assessment of the impact of library storytimes. Find out why HOW you interact with children and families is as important as what you do or how frequently you do it.”

Story-times and Transitions with Heart: Lessons for Early Educators from Youth Librarians
October 24th, Free!
“Participants in this webinar will learn simple ways to make whole group experiences more lively and inclusive by incorporating the power of music, rhyme, and social-emotional concepts. These same building blocks can be used to ease transitions and make for a happier classroom environment.”

Trauma-Informed Care in ECE: Key Strategies for Healing and Behavioral Change
October 17, Free! Archived version available.
“Children with a history of trauma often “act out” their distress through behaviors that are challenging for adults to understand.  This session, presented by Barbara Sorrels, Ed.D., author and child development expert, will focus on understanding the message of challenging behavior and strategies to help children heal.”

Blog Posts

Teaching Poetry to Middle Graders
Chalk full of resources that are super helpful to anyone running a writing program for school-age kids.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) Book Award Finalists Announced
Check out some amazing Canadian children’s books for the 8 award categories.

2019 Picture Book Preview, Part 5
So many good books coming out next year!

Monolingual in a Multilingual World? Let’s Talk (and Maybe Sing) about It
I loved this post on the ALSC blog that pushes us to incorporate a variety of languages in storytime. Videos included!

Feel free to leave a comment with a professional resource you’ve recently discovered!

 

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.